Author: John Gwynne
Series: The Faithful and the Fallen
Genre: Epic Fantasy
First Published: 2015
Pages: 746 (Pan Books edition, 2016)
My Rating: 5 stars
The third instalment in John Gwynne's epic fantasy saga, The Faithful and the Fallen, is the series' longest, bloodiest and most epic yet.
The end of Valour saw the beginning of the God War with a host of Asroth's servants, the Kadoshim, being summoned to the Banished Lands. While Nathair comes to grips with the revelation that he is actually the Black Sun, Corban and his warband have fled Murias and journey towards the fabled fortress of Drassil in the depths of Forn Forest to prepare for the coming battle. Meanwhile, Edana returns to Arden to take back her homeland from the treacherous Evnis and merciless Queen Rhin, while Maquin and Fidele stoke the flames of a growing rebellion in the heartland of Tenebral.
With a story spanning the length and breadth of a continent, Ruin consists of a cast of fourteen viewpoint characters, from ancient giants to vengeful queens to heroic warriors. Each one is a thrill to read and Gwynne does an exceptional job in developing their interpersonal relationships and weaving their various plot strands together. I really like how he continues to focus on characters on both sides of the God War. It is not often we get to spend time with the villain(s) in a story and listen to their reasoning and justification for their dark deeds. It makes for compelling reading.
I have been engrossed in Corban's story from the start but by Ruin's end I realised just how much I love Camlin and Maquin's stories. Indeed they are my favourites. Like Corban, both have gone through some incredible character growth since Malice. I also really enjoyed reading the new point of view perspectives from Haelan, the true heir to Isiltir, and Ulfilas, the first sword of Isiltir's usurper king. The focus of their story naturally feeds into the greater plot.
Speaking of the greater plot, Gwynne delves deeper into the history and lore of the God War with some jaw-dropping revelations that took me completely by surprise. Gwynne continues to embrace some of the fantasy genre's most common clichés and turn them on their heads. There are more trips to the Otherworld where the Ben Elim and Kadoshim fight their eternal war, which I delighted in. It is a place of deep myth and mystery that is just ripe for exploring. We also finally get to see the fabled fortress of Drassil and it is as incredible as you might imagine.
Considering this is the God War, one would expect there to be plenty of war, and by Elyon, Gwynne does not disappoint. Ruin is by far the bloodiest book in the series, boasting the most battles and epic showdowns. There is a more fantastical element to the action than ever before with flesh-eating demons and bear-riding giants joining the fray. Gwynne continues to put readers in the front line of the shieldwall beside Veradis and right in the heart of the bloodshed. The way he writes action is superb, striking a fine balance between vivid detail and an unrelenting pace.
John Gwynne is a master storyteller. There is no doubt about it. Malice and Valour are brilliant books and I gave each a five-star rating on Goodreads. Ruin, on the other hand, is on another level, and deserves a solid six stars. It left me in ruins (pun totally intended), ending on a nail-biting cliffhanger that had me immediately reaching for the fourth and final book in the series, Wrath.