Gwynne introduces a handful of new point of viewpoint characters to the already large cast, some who we have already met before, and others that are brand new. These include certain antagonists such as Lykos, King of the Vin Thalun who has been significant to Calidus and the Black Sun's plans so far, and Uthas, a giant of the Benothi and servant to Queen Rhin. I love how Gwynne explores both sides of the conflict, and it is hard not to feel something for each of these characters, be it good or bad. Lykos is vile but charming at the same time, while Uthas is ambitious but hesitant, and of the belief that only he can reunite the giant clans and save his people.
For any readers who were disappointed by the lack of female viewpoint characters in the first book, they will not be here as Gwynne gives us two great characters here in Coralen, the giant-slaying sister of Halion and Conall, and Fidele, Queen of Tenebral and mother to the Black Sun. Whereas the former's story is very much interwoven with that of Corban's and the main events of the novel in the west of the Banished Lands, the latter's brings us back to the heartlands of Tenebral. Still grieving the loss of her husband, High King Aquilus, and unware of her son's destiny, Fidele must keep the peace between her people and the Vin Thalun. I found myself drawing links between this conflict and the Viking invasions of Anglo-Saxon Britain. Her story also explores Halvor's prophecy and the God War with a great supporting character in the form of the scholar and Veradis' brother, Ektor, who readers might remember briefly meeting in Malice.
As I mentioned above, the main events of Valour take place in the north-west of the Banished Lands. Queen Rhin is very much the main antagonist with Nathair taking a backseat for most of the book. Her cunning and manipulation led to chaos in the first book, and here she takes centre stage as she openly makes her move to become the High Queen of the West. Rhin is a great character and just as dangerous as the Black Sun.
The main protagonist continues to be Corban. It was a joy to watch him grow over the course of Malice and the same applies to Valour as he struggles to come to terms with being the Bright Star and starts becoming a man. This is commented upon by many, including his mother Gwenith and another new great character who happens to be the father of one of Corban's closest friends and mentors. I love that Gwynne continues to keep family at the heart of the story. Corban is driven by loyalty and love and this leads to an epic showdown at the end and the first real insight to what the God War entails. Nathair on the other hand continues to believe he is the Bright Star, unbeknownst that he is truly the Black Sun. Where Gwynne leaves him at the end of the book will no doubt make for great reading in the third book, Ruin. We also venture into the Otherworld where Elyon's Ben Elim and Asroth's Kadoshim wage eternal war. Not only is it a change of setting, but also reminds the readers that there is a far greater threat looming than the likes of Rhin and Nathair just beyond the veil. Judging by the ending, no doubt we will get to see more of this in the sequel.
For readers who love a good scrap, Valour has plenty to enjoy, from massive open battles to brutal sieges and running forest skirmishes. Gwynne knows how to write fight scenes, capturing the fear and chaos of battle while paving a clear path through it for the reader to envision it all.
Overall, Valour is a phenomenal book two that continues to remind me of what makes the fantasy genre so special. I am very much invested in this story now and will continue to the end, with the intention of picking up the sequel series. Truth and Courage.