My rating: 5 dragons
I no longer have a laptop so this review has been delayed a LOT! My first thought when finishing this book was, “Oh, it’s called Ruin because ‘heartbreak’ doesn’t fit in with the rest of the series naming?” Because my goodness me, it is an assault on the heartstrings! A real pleasure to read, I’m nearing the end of this series and things are seriously picking up!
I’m really making my way through John Gwynne’s “The Faithful and the Fallen” epic fantasy series! You can check out my reviews of book one, Malice, here, and book two, Valour, here.
Ruin is definitely starting to kick things off, as you’d expect book three in a four-part series would. Unfortunately, it still suffers from a glacially slow start – and middle, really – and things don’t kick off properly until the last hundred and fifty pages or so. There are some really outstanding character arcs, and some unforseeable twists, too, which always makes a book enjoyable! Did I like it as much as Valour? Not quite. I won’t spoil anything, but there are several very bittersweet moments dotted throughout that certainly keep you on your toes, and did tarnish my enjoyment just a little. However there is a LOT to like in this book. Even love. Any book that makes me think about it when I’m not reading it is deserving of every star (or dragon) I rate it!
The same things I disliked in the previous two installments were again the same here: too much fighting and too many throwaway characters. But it’s epic fantasy. The whole premise of the books is a God-War that’s going on in the Banished Lands. These are part and parcel of the genre. But I loved enough other characters and plot to gloss over the few things that I didn’t like as much.
Veradis retook his position as my favourite character by the end (though for most of the book I was sat wondering what he was doing and where he was) – with Camlin still strong in second, and Maquin a VERY close third. It’s wonderful to see so many character arcs and plot threads weave together now the tapestry is approaching it’s final entry in the series. Lykos is certainly a character I loathe on a level untouched by many (I suppose Joffrey and Ramsey of ASOIAF spring to mind as equally horrid), and this book does an excellent job of teasing strong emotions from me. I felt joy, relief, tension, fear, sadness, and countless others. It’s a fabulous read – but be patient with it. The last hundred pages make the long wait worth it – but it’s down to personal taste as to whether you want to slog through the slower parts.
I toyed with the rating, but in the end settled for five dragons. Mostly because I’m generous, and mostly because the pacing issues are so part of this genre that I can’t really knock off a dragon for it. I was captured, I looked forward to sitting down to read it, I thought about it when I’d put the book down, and I’m SERIOUSLY looking forward to Wrath (at this point in time I’m almost a hundred pages into that and it is FANTASTIC). So an absolute five star/dragon rating from me!
Things I loved
Characters. That’s this book’s strength. The world building has it’s interesting parts (I like the rich history, the detail of the layout, routes, and rivers, and everything going on with the giant clans), but it doesn’t steal the show like the characters do. It’s fabulous to see Corban grow and mature. He was one of my least favourite characters in Malice, and the development he’s been through in Valour has put him in a great position for me in Ruin. He’s great to watch, and he wrestles with decisions in a very human way. I didn’t always agree with them, but I could see his thinking and empathise, and that was enough to really endear me to him.
But for me, Corban wasn’t the stand out. For a good while, Maquin was. In fact, until the final quarter of the book, Maquin and Camlin were neck and neck for my absolute favourite character. And then Veradis came back. My goodness. I loved Veradis in Malice, and I loved Veradis in Valour, and I REALLY love Veradis in Ruin. The trio – Veradis, Camlin, Maquin – have excellent storylines that I could not have predicted. I loved their chapters so much, seeing their change and development, their trials and successes, and how they each tied into the overarching plotline has been so thrilling and enjoyable. Other notable mentions for me are Craf (as always), Meical, and Fidele – who is incredibly well fleshed-out and really enjoyable to read. Lykos gets a mention as a character I love to hate. I’m not sure if that counts, but he made an impact on me!
Several characters get their just desserts while others keep themselves just out of danger. For the most part, I can’t predict who will live and who will die, who will kill and who will flee. It’s a fabulous way to feel at three quarters of the way into this series.
The treasures. I really love what’s happening with the treasures. They’ve been alluded to, and their importance has been touched on throughout Malice and Valour, but in Ruin they start to come to the fore, and I adore the lore and history surrounding them.
The giants. I actually am really enjoying this aspect of the story. The clan histories, their different cultures, how they shaped the world and survive in it currently. I’ve not really read much with giants and I love what Gwynne has done with his.
As part of the giants, I’m REALLY enjoying the earth power – a kind of magic – that we get to see more of. I really hope Wrath includes a tonne more, because it’s a fascinating, mysterious force that I am desperate to learn more about.
Things I didn’t like
Pacing. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think Ruin suffered more than Malice or Valour with this. It dragged in a LOT of places for me. There were a few twists and surprises to bring me out of the lull, but overall, it was very slow. Too little happened without enough other stuff to keep things going. The last hundred pages were wonderful, but I’d have preferred for things to pick up a bit sooner – perhaps around the halfway point? Again, this is epic fantasy, and they are known to be slow going. It’s personal preference. I don’t mind a slow story, but my mind did start to wander a little.
The ending. I won’t say any more for spoilers. But my god. The ending.
This is still a very solid series that is thoroughly enjoyable. With elements like giant clans, earth magic, angels and demons, and plenty of morally grey characters who go through some intense development, Ruin is a fantastic book that I recommend. I’m genuinely not sure quite how it’ll end, or who will still be alive when the dust settles. That is the mark of a fantastic storyteller in my opinion. I’ve already started Wrath as I simply couldn’t wait, and I feel this series is going to have one incredible finale!