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Series: The Faithful and the Fallen #1
Author: John Gwynne
Rating: 2.5 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Edition
A thousand years ago there was a god-war between the Creator and his highest created being, Asroth. Asroth and his allies came to the physical world to destroy what they could. In the god-war Asroth and his minions were banished to the realm of the spirit. Not content to exist, Asroth sent a star from heaven to the earth from which both giants and men fashioned items. Being from Asroth, such items corrupted their bearers. Eventually, giant warred against giant and man against man and each against the other. The Creator finally had enough and sent a cataclysm that destroyed much of the world.
The remnant of humanity that survived washed up on the shores of the Banished Lands and started the 7 kingdoms. Now, 1000 years later, a prophecy is found that foretells of another god-war in which the Creator will have his champion of Light and Asroth his Dark Champion. It also reveals that Asroth will try to return to the physical realm to completely destroy it to simply spite the Creator.
One of the Princes’ of the land is convinced he is the Champion of Light and determines to unite the various kingdoms into an Empire, the better to fight Asroth. We also follow a young village boy who is growing up and his challenges as he works toward becoming a warrior.
Eventually the Prince murders his father, attacks the giants and takes one of the objects of power and the readers realize, even while the Prince does not, that he is the Dark Champion. The young boy saves a small company from treachery by the Prince and it is obvious that he is the Champion of Light.
This book went all over the place in terms of rating from me. I enjoyed parts tremendously and would think “Oh, 4 stars easily” then I’d consider dnf’ing and at other points I thought “Not even Robert Jordan and Sanderson were this arrogant in their books”. So this might turn into something a bit longer than I intended.
I deliberately cut the synopsis down to it’s absolute minimum because Gwynne doesn’t. Gwynne makes things as complicated as possible in several ways. First off, he introduces over 35 named characters within the first 10% of the book. I counted and listed them on Librarything because it was NEVER obvious who was a main character and who was just somebody that Gwynne gave a name and backstory to. The second part of the complication was Gwynne’s shifting of Point of View every chapter. Sometimes a chapter would be 2 pages and at others 20. But it was always from somebody else than the previous POV. Finally, Gwynne had no problem with world building. He’d give as much character time to some one who we’d never see again as to some of the more central characters.
I found all of these authorial choices frustrating and incredibly anger inducing. The thread of the story was obscured by all the loose ends and dead ends, etc. I WILL NOT pay attention to 45 characters (that was my rough count by the end of the book) just because the author wants to be clever. It was overwhelming and even now, writing this, I’m getting steamed all over again. Even the Malazan books were easier to keep track of than this and that is not any sort of praise if you’ve read my Malazan Re-read reviews. I felt like I was juggling 45 balls never knowing which one had the live grenade inside that I needed to pay attention to. Juggling 45 live grenades is very stress inducing, let me tell you! I also felt like Gwynne was wasting my time as this book was almost 700 pages. Why did I need to know about Jack the boy farmer and his whole family when he dies 3 chapters later? It just came across as the author telling me that every idea he had was more important than the time I was spending on reading about them.
On the positive side, I absolutely loved the story. Two Chosen Ones is awesome. It is obvious to the reader that the Prince is the dark champion but to those around the Prince it seems like he truly is the Champion of Light. He is trying to unite the humans, comes up with new fighting tactics, achieves goals no one thought possible and wants to protect the land from Asroth. Knowing that Asroth is the arch-deceiver, it is no surprise that no one thinks they’re the bad guy. I like Epic Fantasy and this is definitely Epic Fantasy. The politics going on between the kingdoms is great and adds a real depth to the story too.
A few final negative thoughts though. I’d been warned that Gwynne takes his time and that reviewer wasn’t kidding. This meanders, but once again that is a product of Gwynne placing world building above all else. Secondly, this book doesn’t have a beginning, middle and end plot point. There is no goal. Even Robert Jordan and his first Wheel of Time book, The Eye of the World, told a complete story. This was just 1/4th of a story artificially cut into a separate book.
I do plan on reading the next book. I am desperately hoping that there is not another list of 40 new characters to juggle. If there is, then I’ll be parting ways from Gwynne after that. All of the before mentioned issues might not bother you, but they bother me immensely.