Published March 2016
Page count: 746
Goodreads: See here
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Plot at a Glance:
The world is broken… and it can never be made whole again.
Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how? With a disparate band gathered about him – his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun.
John Gwynne, how could you hurt me like this?
I’m going to need some time to heal after this one. Engaging, fast-paced, and thoroughly brutal, I feel like Ruin certainly lived up to its name, because that’s what it tried to do to my heart a few times over.
One of my favorite aspects of this series since the beginning has been the characters. John Gwynne has an exceptional ability to craft distinct and diverse characters that feel real and grow with each turn of events. Comparing the characters who have managed to survive the dangers and betrayals that are so rife in their world, to the people they were in book 1 is like night and day. It’s been like watching my own little book babies grow up, from naïve children, to driven and oftentimes dangerous adult characters who will do whatever it takes to survive another day as their entire political system descends into the chaos of war. Regardless of what side the characters fall on, they are deeply layered and richly drawn. They all feel real.
I’m trying to shy away from actually naming names here, because I don’t want to spoil who lives and who dies, but I do want to give a shoutout to my particular faves, Maquin and Fidele. For two side characters that I didn’t expect much of after the first book in the series, both have come so far and quickly risen the ranks in terms of likability. This is a prime example of why I love this series so much. Not many authors are skilled enough to take side characters and build them up so well that you come to root for them as though they are minor protagonists themselves. John Gwynne is exceptional at cranking out those finer details in the characters’ lives and interpersonal relationships that makes it so easy to connect with them and come to care about them, as well as to understand where they’re coming from in their motives too.
I fully believe that as this series continues to find its audience over the years, John Gwynne will build a lasting reputation in fantasy that could easily stand beside the likes of George R.R. Martin. His storytelling skills rival Martin’s in terms of scale and scope of the story, as well as the sheer brutality he unflinchingly forces on the characters again and again over the extent of the series. Each time I pick up one of these books I try to remind myself not to get too attached to anyone, because they’re all vulnerable and they’re all at risk. Of course, I’m terrible at actually putting that into practice, which makes for some extremely tense reading! Make no mistake, the stakes in this world are incredibly high. Life and death hang in the balance of every decision made. I actually found myself getting a little bit heated when my favorites were placed into dangerous situations, or when the bad guys would manage to pull off some sort of nefarious scheme.
If I had any complaint about this series at all it’s probably connected to the last paragraph – in that at times the sheer despair the characters face seems a bit too high. There were moments here that I actually found myself wishing the series had been 3 books instead of 4, because it’s become a bit difficult to continue watching the bad guys win and the good guys suffer at their hands. I’m very hopeful that we’re going to see them all get their comeuppance in the final entry to the series though, so I have heart John Gwynne knows what he’s doing here and is planning on making it worth it in the end.
At times it feels a bit masochistic to continue watching my favorites subjected to terrible horrors, but on the other hand, this is how this series has developed so many great, strong and memorable characters. So it’s a bit of a toss-up. Those of you who know you like that aspect of Game of Thrones would probably find a lot to love in this series. Honestly, I could see this being adapted to a television series one day and becoming quite successful on its own in a similar way to Martin’s series. That’s how epic the story continues to be.
Gwynne’s writing style is continuing to refine itself as well, and I feel like he’s done well at adapting a style that both flows, and befits the pace of fantasy on this epic a scale. The prose takes the time to describe the necessary things that set each scene, but the action flows at you in ever increasing pace until that final confrontation scene which I felt was much more intense than anything Gwynne has written thus far.
This remains an epic and truly enjoyable journey. I’m shocked that more people haven’t read and reviewed this series yet.
If you’ve noticed a lot of your friends proclaiming that this series is awesome, there is a definite reason for it. If you like well-developed characters, fully realized plot and action sequences, and some bomb fantasy creatures, this series is one for you!
Onwards to book 4!
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 = 5/5 stars!
Have you read this series? What do you think of it thus far? Recommend me your favorite fantasy in the comments section below!