Book Review: A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone #1) by John Gwynne

A Time of Dread by John Gwynne

Rating:  ★★★1/2

Blurb (from GoodReads):  A race of warrior angels, the Ben-Elim, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands, but their peace is brutally enforced.

In the south, hotheaded Riv is desperate to join the Ben-Elim’s peacekeeping force, until she unearths a deadly secret.

In the west, the giantess Sig investigates demon sightings and discovers signs of an uprising and black magic.

And in the snowbound north, Drem, a trapper, finds mutilated corpses in the forests. The work of a predator, or something far darker?

It’s a time of shifting loyalties and world-changing dangers. Difficult choices need to be made. Because in the shadows, demons are gathering, waiting for their time to rise…

I picked this up because I’ve been meaning to read Gwynne for awhile.  I meant to start with the first book set in this world: Malice, but I was trying to decide whether I wanted to request the third book in this series for review.  One of my GoodReads buddies told me I really should have started with Malice in order to fully appreciate this book.

But I’m not really sure it would have helped any.  When I first started reading, I was very happy.  We started with a battle and lots of action, the characters felt unique and fun, the pacing and chapter length were perfect for me.

However, the novelty wore off relatively quickly.  The action slows down after those initial few chapters, and Gwynne’s writing style isn’t one that necessarily agrees with me. For starters, I should mention the reason I’ve dragged my feet on this one for so long:  angels and demons have never really been my thing.  I find the black and white line of “good” and “evil” between them superficial and incredibly boring. I like my villains with a soft side and my heroes with shades of gray.

To be fair to Gwynne, his angels, or Ben-Elim, aren’t necessarily pure of heart.  They don’t preach endless forgiveness and do react with extreme cruelty to “lore-breakers”.  But then, evangelism really sort of irritates me too.  And the demons are exactly as one note as you would expect.

I did enjoy some of the characters, namely Drem and Sig.  Riv and Bleda’s storylines felt extremely YA to me- the warrior training, the lore learning, petty rivalries, and of course, the stupid love triangle.  I feel like there might be a fifth perspective I’m missing, and that sure does say a lot doesn’t it?  Considering I only finished a week ago.

Gwynne’s writing isn’t bad, and my issue with it comes strictly from a personal preference.  The characters all have inner monologues, which we are told, and which are italicized.  I know it’s not the first time I’ve seen inner monologues written down, however, here, for some reason they felt highly unnecessary and broke the flow of the writing.  Worse still, they seemed to become more frequent as the book went on.  I just didn’t like it.

What I did like about this book, aside from the angels and demons, was that the world-building is a lot of fun.  There are different tribes and regions, giants riding bears, magical swords, rich histories… And Gwynne more or less delivers it without it feeling info dump-y.  Newcomers to Gwynne can easily pick up this book and read it as if it was first book set in this world, even if returning fans might appreciate it a little more.

There are some gut wrenching emotional moments, so he succeeded in making me care at least.  I am still undecided as to whether I will continue the series.  I borrowed book two alongside book one, and with my local libraries closed, I’m able to keep it much longer than expected, so I might.  I don’t think I’ll be requesting the ARC because I want to be free to leave these books behind if book two doesn’t agree with me.

I know this series is well loved by many, and it’s entirely possible that I wasn’t in the right mood to read this, so take my review with a grain of salt.  A Time of Dread can be found on GoodReads if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

Have you read A Time of Dread?  What did you think?



9 thoughts on “Book Review: A Time of Dread (Of Blood and Bone #1) by John Gwynne

  1. The duality angels/demons did worry me a little at first, because it’s not one of my favorite themes, but for some reason I was captivated by Gwynne’s storytelling and enjoyed losing myself in this world. The shades of grey you are looking for (you’re not the only one wanting that in characters) will become more evident in book 2, from both sides, so since you already have the second volume, you might give it a chance. I look forward to your comments! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well that’s good to know! Perhaps I will give it a shot. It’s not an ARC so if I end up DNFing I won’t feel too bad about it.

      It could also have been my mood- I’m sure I’m not alone here but social distancing, working from home, feeling sort of isolated, it’s like I can’t concentrate on anything.


  2. Oh, and here I’m back to square one with Gwynne, as it seems most of the bloggers I follow either love his books or are meh about him. Very divisive! I think I’ll give him a try at some point, but for now, it gets bumped down on my TBR 😉
    Btw, The Last Kingdom reading goes pretty well this time around! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well- with everything going on in the world I was having a hard time concentrating and a difficult time reading. So I wouldn’t necessarily go by my review. I am in a weird mood right now with all the bad stuff happening in the world.

      That being said- I keep hoping I’ll find a fantasy version of Cornwell- so I’m glad you are enjoying it!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh! *weird happy noises* Based on everything you’ve written here, I really think you would enjoy the Descentverse series by S.M. Reine. The action keeps up, no one is really good or bad, the love stories are compelling and believable difficult. There are angels and demons, but again, neither are good vs. evil. I’m 6 books into this series and have loved every one. Check out my review of the first book again to see if you are interested. You can get the entire first series for $10 on Amazon (ebooks), all in one file, but they are NOT in the suggested reading order, so let me know if you decide to jump on board! Here is my review of the first book:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks – I’ll check it out! I think I’m actually going to take a break from fantasy for a little while, I suspect part of the problem is just burn out. But I can still toss them on the TBR pile.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hmm, it looks like this one is probably not for me based on your review. At least it had some good points but sorry it was a bit of a disappointment. I also like more shades of gray in my characters, especially for these types of stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think a lot of the characters had shades of gray- it’s really just the antagonists and the supposed “good guys” that seem black and white. But yeah- I still don’t know that I’d recommend it. I think it’s probably a good book that just isn’t for me.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Month in Review: March 2020 | Hamlets & Hyperspace

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