It’s always tricky to follow up on a beloved series, such as is The Faithful and the Fallen – but John Gwynne’s medieval-fantasy “truthfully” does a “courageous” job. The Faithful and the Fallen series is my favourite of all time; returning to the same world a little over a century later was uncanny. It was familiarly unfamiliar. To see how the world had geographically and socially evolved was charming.
A Time of Dread comes from four different perspectives – Bleda, Drem, Riv, and Sig – that swap chapter-to-chapter. Often with a format like this, you will fall upon a character’s narrative that you find dull, or annoying, or that you want to skip completely. The four perspectives in A Time of Dread, however, are all vastly different and thrilling to read.
Drem is no warrior; his struggles are different and typically internal. The frozen Desolation he resides in is a contrast to the other perspectives and makes me wonder how Britain collapses after 2cm of snow. Sig is a nicely added tribute to the original The Faithful and the Fallen series and allows the reader to reminisce through the eyes of Sig over old characters and battles. Moreover, she is a giant, which thus gives us more of a glimpse into that of the Giant lore and ways of life. Next is Bleda of the Sirak Horse clan, and ward in Drassil. Finally, Riv: a trainee hot-tempered, trainee White-Wing. What’s fun about Bleda and Riv’s narratives is how they entwine with one another, as both characters reside in Drassil, one as a warrior, one as a “hostage”. Thus, through these four points of view, we get to explore various areas of the Banished Lands, we get to partake different journeys – rather than it strictly being warrior training and travelling – and we get to see diverse relationships.
She is like the Sun when she is happy, like a furnace when she is angry. I have never known anyone so utterly opposite to my people.Bleda, Page 189.
I worried that I wouldn’t be able to fall as in love with Gwynne’s new characters as I did the old – and although noone could ever replace Corban, Camlin, Cywen, Storm and co. the characterisation in the Of Blood and Boneseries has improved. Which is impressive, seeing as it was outstanding to begin with.
The character’s in A Time of Dread are wholly three-dimensional, with Gwynne having adapted more humane characteristics. My personal favourite character, Drem, is compelled to check his pulse, to correct people, to know everything. It’s invigorating to read characters with struggles similar to us. A vast number of us will not have bee to war, or faced the extreme cold of Kergard, or been trained by the Ben-Elim, but we may know what it is to feel the compulsion to do things that we do not need to do, such as feeling our pulse. Thus, the character’s feel that little bit more real and relatable to us – and us readers love being able to imagine ourselves as character’s in a book and being able to connect ourselves to them.
Absently, he lifted two fingers to his throat, searching for his pulse.Drem, Pages 42-43.
A Time of Dread is a remarkable start to Gwynne’s latest series. Despite it being a follow-up series from The Faithful and the Fallen, it can be enjoyed without reading the latter – although it may help to read the original series in terms of lore. Of Blood and Bone comes with an extra added ounce of tension, a pinch of mystery, and a whole-fucking-lot of epicness.
A Time of Dread as available to purchase here.
By Isabel Tyldesley