by John Gwynne
14/25 (56%) – 2.5 stars.
Unpopular opinion time once again.
Second read of the year, second highly anticipated series of the year, second disappointment. And this time it’s definitely not a thing of taste: in my opinion, Malice, a book I’ve heard mostly gushing reviews about, is just mediocre. Obvious plot, boring characters, terrible tropes I hate.
It’s not all bad: the fighting scenes are well-written, the pacing is impressive, but that’s it in my opinion. Reading this was often more a chore than fun for me. Let’s start with the things that irritated me the most: the lackluster beginning and the terrible ending scenes.
This is told by multiple POVs. I’m fine with that, that’s the narrative style I like reading and writing the most. However: I think it’s done badly here. There are too many different narrators in too many different places here. And too many of these POVs read similarly: Veratis and Kastell are both simply warriors, with the exception that Veratis is even dumber than Kastell. He’s so dumb that he may be the Dumbest Protagonist I’ve Ever Followed in a Book (TM).
Kastell’s only purpose in this book is to add some more action scenes to the mix until Corban is old enough to do some fighting of his own. And my issue isn’t that all of these characters are warriors – look at Joe Abercrombie’s characters, at these fleshed-out, torn warriors who are still completely unique. If I read a page without names on it from a First Law book, I know if it’s from a Jezal or Logen chapter. Because their voice is so strong – and I think that the characters‘ voices in this one are too quiet, too similar to each other. Except for Corban and Cywen maybe.
Well, that’s my problem with the beginning and the writing style in general. What pissed me off more was that it was so obvious who the real villain is within this one. It’s completely obvious for anyone except Veratis, the DPIEFIAB. Seriously, how is it that Veratis can even breathe? He’s so stupid, he could be Gregory Goyle and Pansy Parkinson’s lovechild. The thing with the villain is closely connected with another problem I had: the chosen one trope. It can work, but most times, it doesn’t, especially not here. Gwynne tries to introduce a Monsieur Faux-Chosen-One and… it’s obvious that the little, self-righteous, arrogant piece of shit is the villain, not the hero. Everyone else is just bland and stereotypical: there are highschool bullies (Rafe and Jael), love interests (Ronan and Edana), and the mysterious mentor (Gar).
And oh boy, that terrible ending. I’m not giving spoilers, but there’s a fight and someone who’s close to one of the protagonists gets killed, and yet they stare at that duel and don’t take their revenge, because reasons. That duel happens after that army spawns at the gates of the castle so suddenly that it could’ve been a page out of A Reaper at the Gates. What’s definitely out of another book is the whole ‚Corban and his wolven‘-thing. Storm is basically Ghost and Nymeria in one, and there’s even that nice „you have to leave or they’ll kill you“-scene, right out of A Game of Thrones. Not very original, Mr Gwynne. Also, there’s a lot of those nefarious villain speeches in this one where the villains get to explain their motives in the midst of a battle and stuff… sigh
Er, the worlbuilding? It’s a normal, medieval European setting, some Viking traditions and Germanic myths thrown into the mix. There’s some people that can do magic, and it’s the people you expect of doing magic… it was just all too obvious and boring for me.
All in all: a disappointment. Won’t pick up the sequel in the next months, will read Best Served Cold instead… Joe, I really need a five-star read now. Jade City just wasn’t my taste, but this one is simply not as good as I’ve heard.
Writing Style 3