Wrath is in my opinion the best out of the four book in the series, which means the series always get better with each installment and with its completion I’ve decided to include John in my list of favorite authors of all time. That made him one of my really few auto-buy authors along with Brandon Sanderson and Pierce Brown, I’ll be content with buying every works they write.
“It will be a dark day, a bloody day, a proud day, for this is the day of our wrath.”
I'll start off my review with two simple questions.
1. Does this series provide something new to the genre?
No, almost every single plot device here has been done before.
2. Is it good?
No, good is a really huge understatement. It’s damn near perfection for its genre. The series is written close to hit home for every epic fantasy lover of Good vs Evil theme, it triggered a strong sense of nostalgia to why I love the the theme in the first place with a slight changes that this time the undertone is darker in a sense that it's quite similar to 'A Song of Ice And Fire' series by GRRM.
I won't go into any details on what the plot is about so don't worry, you're safe to read this review if you haven't started the series. I'll let you know some basic outline of the series such as the entire series revolves around the concept of 'Good vs Evil' which grew in complexity as the series progressed. The entire story span around 5 years and during this period of time, a lot of characters development and monumental events transpired. After the bloody cliffhanger of Ruin, Wrath started right off straight from where it ends and managed to conclude everything that were initiated from Malice with a satisfying and emotional ending. It's a fantastic written culmination of the entire series and if that still doesn't convince you read it, please continue reading this review.
Although throughout the series the story only get darker as it progressed, I must remind you that this dark fantasy never goes into the 'Grimdark' territory. The main reason for this is because all the main characters are really compelling and lovable, other than one or two character, none of them is on the grey moral code. Once you reach the second book, it's really clear who belongs to which side of the coin in the story.
The entire series is really massive in its scope with Ruin & Wrath being the biggest, it's the only series I read so far to use the entire map, literally ALL locales are visited throughout the series and it's also filled with uniquely huge casts of characters. I'm not exaggerating, there's literally more than 100 characters to remember. This may intimidate some readers but don't be afraid, John's writing made it really easy to remember all of them once you managed to get through the first book, plus, starting from the second book and so on, there’s a glossary of character list right at the beginning of each book with a brief summary of what happened to each of them in the previous installment. Although we follow more than 15 perspectives throughout the entire series, it's amazing that none of the narrative ever sounds the same, they’re all unique and intriguing. ALL these characters will evokes all kind of emotions for the readers such as love towards the protagonists, you'll care about them, fear for them and for the villains, you'll hate them and you can't wait to see vengeance poured upon them. They are all so well written that it’s almost impossible to be ignorant about their fate.
“To my thinking, though, it's what happens before death that's important. All of us die. How many really live?”
The Faithful And the Fallen contain tons of actions spread out throughout the series and all of them are superbly written. Now, sometimes when there’s too many actions in a series, it gets harder to connect with the characters. This is what the first book is for, it's a foundation, it provides nourishment for the rest of the series. Malice is a really slow paced and character driven book, exploring every important character background and personality that made us truly care about them. We'll see the growth of the surviving characters and there's a plenty of amazing developments lies in store for them. Valor, Ruin and Wrath is really plot and actions oriented with the characters development on the secondary pedestal. This means that the pacing goes faster and faster as the series goes by, not only chapters ended with cliffhangers most of the time, it’s practically war after war since the second book until the conclusion of Wrath, inflicting a strong sense of addiction in reading the series.
The greatest praise I could give towards Wrath will have to be towards its climax sequences. The final war in Wrath literally involved all armies in the entire world of the Banished Lands in one single location. Humans, animals, giants, and mythical creatures all clashed and the POV shifts between both opposing sides causes a tremendous result in bringing forth a phenomenal manifestation of chaos and destruction. As I mentioned before, the whole series itself has always been full of action sequences with great climax in each installments but Wrath managed to take it up to a whole new level within its mind-blowing 160 pages climax sequences. A myriad of coup de grace were delivered to both good and evil sides. It’s relentless, poignant, brutal, savage and epic in the true meaning of the word. It’s really one of the best action sequences I ever read in my whole life and it’s pretty obvious that John’s knowledge of close quarter combats is really vast here, the battle details are superb, intricate, highly imaginative and exhilarating, providing a rich and immersive experience.
John's writing has always been impeccable since the first book and it always improves with each installment. At a lot of circumstances, the words actually transformed into literal scene in my head. It's like I don’t even read anymore, I really lived inside the letters. I watched all the scenes play out from the characters POV vividly, I’m actually inside the story and that, is one of the best sense of immersion I could ever receive as a reader. It's the kind of experience I'm looking for in a book.
For the past 19 days, I spent most of my life in the Banished Lands. Other than working for my basic needs consumption, I literally spent all my time reading this series and it's totally worth it. It’s bittersweet really, Wrath wrapped up everything with a really satisfying and emotional conclusion and I’m filled with gratitude for getting the chance to read this series, even discuss about it with the author himself as I progressed through it. However, I’m left with sorrow that my time in the Banished Lands is at its end for now and it’s really depressing to know that a lot of other underwhelming series are famous as hell while here, we have a work of excellence which are clearly overlooked.
It’s time for me to say goodbye to the Banished Lands, at least for now, until John’s next series ‘Of Blood and Bone’ get published this November. 'Dread', the first book in the new series, will take place around 130 years after the events of Wrath and I can’t wait to read it already. The nostalgia factors that this new series hold will be huge and judging from the time gap, I envision we will get to see all our beloved characters as legendary figures.
For those of you who haven’t read this series, do yourself a favor, time to catch up and enjoy this emotional roller-coaster ride. The Faithful And the Fallen provides one hell of an experience and there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t read this series if you love Dark Epic Fantasy genre. I’m going to recommend the shit out of this series to every fantasy readers I know as right now, in my opinion John Gwynne is the king and the most underrated author of all time in dark fantasy genre. The Faithful And The Fallen managed to go down not only as the number one best dark epic fantasy series I ever read but also as one of my top five best series of all time. Welcome to the big league John. You deserve it, completely.
Truth and Courage!
Malice: 4.5/5 Stars
Valor: 5/5 Stars
Ruin: 5/5 Stars
Wrath: 5/5 Stars
The Faithful And the Fallen: 19.5/20 Stars