Valour by John Gwynne
There’s often a concern with the second book in a series that it might not meet up with the expectations raised by its predecessor. Fortunately, that isn’t the case here.
The second book in John Gwynne’s The Faithful and the Fallen tetralogy picks up more-or-less exactly where the first left off, and does so seamlessly. It doesn’t take long for the writing to become comfortably familiar, and as a result it is very easy to fall back into the flow of the story, and the travails of the various characters.
Without giving away any spoilers, there are a few characters from the first book that don’t make into the second. The gaps left by those who have fallen are soon filled by others, and the cast of this truly epic series grows considerably by the end of this volume. It’s a lot to keep up with, but Gwynne somehow manages to make it easy for us, without making it too simple.
One of the things I genuinely love about how this series is shaping up is the way that it becomes very easy to sympathise with the villains as well as the heroes. One character in particular is painted as a bit of a naive idealist, making him the perfect patsy for the real bad guys to exploit, and the way this is handled in the narrative, especially in the last quarter or so of this second book, is just glorious.
With the first book, I mentioned that there were no real twists or surprises in the narrative, and that continues here. Again, this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, if anything, it makes the series so far very readable. You know what you’re getting and can just sit back and enjoy the ride. It’s the art of the writing that matters, not the artifice of the story.
There’s considerably more action in this book than in the first, as well as more actual plot being laid before us, and I’m very curious to see where the story goes from here. I will almost certainly be cracking the spine on book three sooner rather than later.