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Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!

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Stone of Farewell
Tad Williams
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Book Review: Ruin by John Gwynne! Let's get personal..

Ruin - John Gwynne

Corban has been swept along by the tide of war. He has suffered, lost loved ones, sought only safety from the darkness. But he will run no more. He has seen the face of evil and he has set his will to fight it. The question is, how?



With a disparate band gathered about him - his family, friends, giants, fanatical warriors, an angel and a talking crow he begins the journey to Drassil, the fabled fortress hidden deep in the heart of Forn Forest. For in Drassil lies the spear of Skald, one of the seven treasures, and here it is prophesied that the Bright Star will stand against the Black Sun.





Reviewed From ARC.


Live tweets reside here.



POVs: Multiple

Narrative: Third Person, Past Tense, Subjective, Limited


When you start reviewing the third book in a series (of at least four), from a consistent writer such as John Gwynne, you begin to realise you've said most of everything that's important in previous reviews! So, if you feel the need, read my past reviews of Malice and Valour and then we shall continue...


Back with me? Excellent! So this time, I am going to talk about something completely different, and dig about in the depths of what I want from a book, rather than how well it presents from a 'reviewers' stand point. Let's get all D&M.. 


In my old age (451 in August! Feels that way at any rate..), I am finding that what I require most from a fantasy is that the characters evoke a strong emotional response in this cold, coal heart of mine.


Gwynne already has all the Epic Fantasy boxes ticked: great adventure, extreme tension and massive conflicts. My comfortable shoes! The box checked with many a tick, is the ability to create strongly written characters that can arouse a true visceral and emotional response in moi.


Corban impels a sense of scepticism, the burning cheeks of shy pride, the stubbornness of honour and that gut wrenching pain of not being infallible. 


Maquin drives my eyes to well with tears in nearly every chapter he's in, like I've acquired some sort of hormonal imbalance. And I really don't know why yet!


Turkul, possibly one of my favourite characters in the book, forces my chest hurt with the pride he has for Gar and Corban.


Coralen effects a hard-headed strength, and the confusion of justifying that strength against the vulnerability of longing.


And so it goes on with each and every point of view, and quite often with the secondary characters.


Now Veradis, he gets a special mention, because my reaction isn't with him, it's for him..


There have been times during this series that Veradis has had me in a near rage of annoyance. One moment I want to hug him and give him a big ole shoulder punch for being such a loyal, dilligent and humble man. The next I want to cuff him around the head for being a blind-sighted ninny. Other times I want to pull his brains out his nose, jump up and down on them a bit, then insert them back into skull through his ear.


Let me get one thing straight though, that does not in any way make him a badly written character. In fact, I would go as far to say that writing a character like Veradis is possibly harder to pull off than the usual stereotypes; and by making me spit chips, he's provoked the strongest of my emotional responses. My bloody annoyance! Thus, his job is done, and done well!


Not including certain characteristics, (such as dumbfounding ignorance) simply because they don't fit within a stereotype, leaves a very small pool of traits to dabble in. In my opinion, that dank, tiny pool is considerably more insulting to me, than characters not obeying my preconceived rules of extreme intelligence and foresight!


So, in conclusion, Veradis might not be the sharpest tack, but I can still appreciate his role in the series and love his poor confused soul.


Plus, the others wouldn't look half as intelligent..


There is one other thing that has given me pause for thought, and given creed to my emotional investiture! Now that everybody is converging on the one point, and one army is much larger and considerably stronger; there are a lot of little skirmishes going on, tactical games rather than all out battle slaughter. So, to make this more cohesive in a non-omnipresent story, Gwynne has employed the tactic of showing a skirmishes result from one side, then rewinds, and switches to the other army to show how the result is achieved. I have read similar devices before (it probably has a name?), but I've never enjoyed going back and seeing the replays from another angle, as I am nothing if not an impatient type of person!


In the case of Ruin, I relished them. I think the difference here is, that I want to see what all the characters are doing, as I am invested in their actions. When it's just a few un-named warriors running about, I don't care enough to want to see it play out again, the result is enough to satisfy me. However, in Ruin I want to see these particular characters achieve their goals, experience their frustration, watch their brains tick and listen to their little hearts beat faster, whether on the side of The Bright Star or The Black Sun.


SO! I would say: The maw of my emotional hollow has been fed heartily!


Ruin did lose half a star from me, for a really specific reason. The ending. In reviewer mode it probably wouldn't have, but in D&M mode it has. It's not actually an inferior ending; in fact it's an explosive one, and the cliffhanger is creating a strong need in me to invent a time machine so I can read Wrath now rather than later! But, If you need to know why and can handle spoilers...



It brings you back full circle. You end up feeling like you have landed smack bang right in the middle of Valour. Corban is alone in the clutches of the enemy again, his followers are most likely lost, his belief in where he stands in the grand scheme is again inconceivable, and evil is back in control of the game.


And bloody Maquin is enslaved again!


It felt like it had doubled back on itself too much. That all that has happened after Corban is rescued the first time in Valour, hasn't actually advanced or detracted from that initial state of everything being 'up in the air'. Having Corban kidnapped again and Maquin re-enslaved just pushed me over the precipice.

(show spoiler)


 But! Verdict:

The Faithful & The Fallen is still standing in my imaginary top ten, and Ruin has made it climb in the imaginary rankings! If you've loved the series so far, Ruin will make you SQUEE with joy! 


My 'Ruin' Playlist

If you can work out who/what these refer to, you get mega points!


Four Seasons in One Day - Crowded House

Have You Got In You? - Imogen Heap

Centuries - Fall Out Boy

Soldier - Samatha Jade

Strange Little Girl - Tori Amos

Paper Bag - Fiona Apple

Elastic Heart - Sia

Angry Johnny - Poe