In 2012, John Gwynne’s debut novel Malice took the publishing world by storm. Epic, exciting and detailed, it garnered thousands of positive reviews and cemented Gwynne’s position as an original new voice in fantasy. Now, four books later, he’s back with his next book, A Time of Dread. Set in the same universe as his original series, The Faithful and the Fallen, I was extremely excited to read it- and even more excited to be a part of the blog tour.
But what inspired Gwynne this time around? I’ll leave it to the author to explain.
Thoughts on beginning my new series.
I went into writing my second series with both a sense of freedom and a sense of pressure. Both of them were self-imposed in my own head.
I’ve tried to learn from my first series. I’d say that every edit has been a learning curve, and I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to work with some incredibly talented editors – Julie Crisp and Bella Pagan I’m thinking of you.
Mostly what I’ve tried to do in my second series is stay true to my writing mantra – write what you love, and I LOVE epic fantasy and ancient history. I’ve also tried to learn some lessons from my first series, trying to put down the story in my head in a more streamlined, pacier and emotionally moving way. That is always the goal, to improve the writing, to sweep the reader up in an emotional rollercoaster of love, friendship, battles and betrayal, all cast within an evocatively epic world. I’m not sure if it’s happened, or to what extent I’ve succeeded, but that is the goal.
So, I’ve tried to capture the things that were enjoyed and or loved from my first series – one of the great joys and surprises since I’ve been writing is the amount of contact I’ve had from readers, messaging to let me know their thoughts on my books. It’s been lovely to hear from so many people, some of whom have become genuine friends, and the feedback has proved so useful. More often than not the positives I hear that readers have been enjoying in my writing are relatable, flawed characters, interweaving point-of-view threads and bone-crunching combat, so these are elements that I have actively tried to continue. At the same time, I’ve tried to come up with a story that feels both fresh and familiar. But not too familiar. What I don’t want to do is just retell the same story with the same characters but with different names. This second series has felt a little like second film syndrome – where people want the same but better. That’s a tall order, rarely achieved in movies – the Godfather I and II, and Alien and Aliens being the notable exceptions.
The main thing I can say is that it’s been a lot of fun writing this new series (I’m two books in now with one more to go). I love the world of the Banished Lands, and feel that there is a lot more that can happen there before things start to feel old. I’m enjoying the new characters and their different perspectives, and I’ve enjoyed seeing the characters, plots and all round general terror and destruction that is being played out across the Banished Lands.
I hope that you will enjoy it too.
Review: A Time of Dread, by John Gwynne
A Time of Dread follows on from Gwynne’s blockbuster original quartet of novels, building on the world that he’s created to create a rich, nuanced and exciting new story arc for people that loved Malice.
It’s set a hundred years after the events of Wrath, in the same world- which has changed dramatically in the time since. No more epic battle between the demonic Karoshim and the angelic Ben-Elim: now, the Karoshim have scattered to the edges of the world, whilst the Ben-Elim, the angel-like race of creatures that came to Corban’s aid in the original books, have established a kind of quasi-Empire, the capital of which, Drassil, is a training camp where they are training the next generation of White Wings: human warriors.
One of the best things about this book, though, is that you don’t have to have read Gwynne’s original series to feel engaged and excited by his new one. Though his story draws and builds on some elements of the events in the previous books, that just serves to make his universe feel richer and more lived-in, giving it a tangible history that makes for an interesting read even if you are a newcomer to his work. Interesting new characters are introduced, and while the story is very Lord of the Rings in that it’s a straight thematic- almost Biblical- battle between good and evil, Gwynne also muddies the waters here, making this book feel a lot more political as new factions vie for control of land, soldiers and a mysterious new Starstone Sword- and that makes for a really interesting read, as the true motivations of the Ben-Elim are explored in more detail.
Gwynne’s characters are also great: I especially liked Sig, the giantess from the first book (who is a badass female and also excellent at hunting down Kadoshim) and Drem, the trapper from the Desolation in the north who becomes embroiled in the evil brewing in the forests near his home.
Gwynne’s characters are really well-developed: they’re well-rounded, their motivations and actions are believable, and they’re easy to care about- so by the end of the book I was reading just as much to make sure they were okay as to keep on top of their adventures. The characters come from different enough backgrounds as well, and offer completely different and engaging perspectives on everything from the Ben-Elim to the balance of power.
All of that made for a great plot, as you might imagine: the plot threads are skilfully built up and tied together as the plot progresses, making for a rich and nuanced story about good vs evil. Though some of the signposted plot twists were rather obvious- especially in the case of Riv, the trainee White Wing, whose plot thread felt rather rushed and half-baked, especially towards the end- the overall effect was to create a gripping, compelling narrative that kept me hooked.
In his piece above, John Gwynne discussed second film syndrome- where he thought people wanted the same, but better. I think he’s definitely delivered. More please!
So those are my thoughts, but what’s everybody else been saying? Have a look below…