God-wars usually is a big trigger for me in fantasy books: I love books that exploit this concept, it is old (so much that Homer used it in his Iliad!) yet it is so modern. I want to venture even into saying that it is quite a difficult one and to be able to successfully use this theme takes skills! And John Gwynne knocked it out of the park with this one!
Let's start from the writing style. In my opinion, the book is very well written and suspense is built at every corner also by using the end of the chapter to leave the story line at a crucial point! In addition to that, the plot spans over many years and it allows also with character development, another outstanding element of this book. The story is intense, packed with action and sword battles, it has many deaths including important characters – yet, he does not get at the same level of George R.R. Martin.
In addition to that, the story develops through several points of view but they are few so the narration flows extremely well and it is not too confusion. One of the points of view is also a female character and this gives a little more diversity to the cast of characters and I enjoyed that too!
As to the plot, it pretty much the plot revolves around the God-War; this world has two gods, Elyon and Asroth, respectively representing light and darkness. Each also has a champion, respectively Bright Star and Black Sun. And I am rooting with my entire self for the Bright Star!
The development of the characters is absolutely sublime. There are several points of view, as I mentioned before, but each point of view allows the introduction and further development of so many characters. And it is difficult to choose who are my favorites - this book is full of my ideal fantasy character: Swordsman, humble, strong, quiet yet thoughtful, and I could continue for hours really! Let me highlight some of these characters though for you - and they are not even part of the category described before!
Corban – he is the one that was the shakiest in my opinion. I ended up liking his development and the maturity process he goes through. So I am glad that the author chose to go through a longer time span for his novel because it really allows character development which is linked to a person becoming more mature - or going through several ordeals.
Camlin – I loved him. He might be considered the thug with a heart. He is a good guy who was given bad options and made bad choices but he has a moral compass and sticks to it throughout the story.
Cywen (did you notice all these guys have “C” initials?!) – she is the only woman with a point of view and I really could relate to her. I really liked how strong and opinionated she is, how dedicated she is to her job and to her family. She might be a little predictable but I always like this kind of characters so I enjoyed her character a lot!
In light of the plot and battle swords I mentioned before, there is also a significant amount of characters which are royals, kings primarily, and warriors. I really like Tull, an incredibly talented swordman, captain of the guard of a queen and loyal to a fault. But the list is very packed and one of my favorites was Kastell – young aristocrat with a mysterious past, an uncanny ability with the sword, humble and lonely. I am also hoping his cousin drops dead.
Ah, there are also kingslayers! Yes, you heard it right, more than one! The Lannisters would be very proud here!
As for the villains, let me quickly conclude by saying that they are really well portrayed and I would not want to be near some of them – and especially Evnis. He really is really rotten but I cannot wait to see what the future books will tell about his hideous actions! And I also cannot wait for him to fall. There is also another truth there, which is people who think they are the champions of Elyon really are not and they are completely deceived and this aspect of the story telling is just one of the mind-blowing elements of this book!
Let me also point out a couple more things, provided that I do not want to spoil a single second of the book for you, I just really hope you will pick this book up!
I mentioned before that this is a pretty “traditional” fantasy book. Even magic does not appear too much. Yet, there are some very peculiar aspects which I found refreshing! There is plenty of action, for example, involving giants! Yes, you heard that right, some of the main foes in this story are giants. Humans even go as far as having an elite band of soldiers dedicated to fight against giants, prerequisite to be accepted though is to have killed a giant which is not too easy to achieve!
Also, I mentioned before that there is a fairly “simple” religious system, of light (Elyon) against darkness (Asroth). And there are two peculiar aspects here. One is the Jehar, a mythic population living in a remote and secluded location. They are dedicated to Elyon and the book best describes them as follows: ‘The Jehar are of Old Blood; they are fanatical and live to serve Elyon, considered warriors without equals”. But are they really serving Elyon?
The second aspect is called Ben-Elim who are warrior-angels of Elyon! One of them is even a crucial character in one of the story lines but his actions make me wonder if he is really still serving Elyon. But I guess that I will see that in the next books!
I truly can recommend this book to all and any fantasy lovers, it is an amazing first book followed by three more! I really encourage you to pick it up, you will not be disappointed!