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?

 

 

Reading Challenge: 20 in ’20

I love me a reading challenge.  I rarely finish them but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying.  And sometimes they do help motivate me.

I’m borrowing this challenge from the Captain at The Captain’s Quarters.  I’m using it to help me catch up on books and authors I should have already read a very, very long time ago.  I listed the number of ratings each book has on GoodReads after the title and author.  I thought it would be fun to see how many others have read them before me.  Spoiler: Eight of them have more than 100,000 ratings, and all but one have more than 10,000 ratings.

Simpsons Shame

These are books that seem destined (or maybe already are) considered to be classics of the genre.  Books that for some reason or other I keep putting off.  Maybe the blurb doesn’t speak to me the way I want it to or I already attempted them multiple times (I’m looking at you The Name of the Wind) and just never finished, but didn’t dislike enough to officially DNF.

11-22-63 Stephen King

11/22/63 by Stephen King : 386,635 – This is the oldest book on my TBR.  I own it.  It was one of the first I added to GoodReads back in 2015.  I think it’s the time travel that’s putting me off.  I realized a couple years ago time travel and all it’s wonderfully mind bending paradoxes sort of puts me off.

The Name of the Wind Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss : 642,245 – I’ve started listening to this multiple times.  I even made it like halfway through on a road trip to Ohio once.  It’s just so long.  Also- I’m putting it back on Rothfuss since there’s no third book in sight.

Blood of Elves by Andrzej Spakowski Witcher 3

Blood of Elves (The Witcher #3) by Andrzej Sapkowski : 62,301 – I was reading these before the show was a thing.  Right after I sank like 500 hours into the very wonderful Witcher 3: Wild Hunt video game.  I don’t know why I keep putting it off.  I was excited for this too since it’s the first full length novel set in the Witcherverse.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson : 83,654 – This one is just intimidating because of it’s length.  And the fact that it’s hard science fiction.  Which always goes over my head.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells : 45,161 – There’s a lot of Murderbot love circulating out there.  But I heard that Murderbot likes to watch TV (who doesn’t?) and I became a little concerned it wasn’t going to be what I wanted it to be.  My expectations have been reset, which is a good thing, but also caused me to drag my feet in picking it up.

The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell

The Winter King (The Warlord Chronicles #1) by Bernard Cornwell : 34,056 – I don’t even have a good reason for not having read this one.  Favorite author.  Favorite subject.  Good reviews.  It was actually pretty hard to find (I wanted to purchase it and no bookstore ever seemed to have it).  I did finally track down a copy, I just need to make the time.

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) by James S.A. Corey : 142,112 – Why are there so many books in this series?  The thought of reading all nine is a little daunting, but I know this is well loved by several readers I trust.  And hey- maybe by the time I finish the series will be complete.

Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erickson 1

Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) by Steven Erikson : 82,296 – I’ve heard this book comes with a steep learning curve, which is why I’ve put it off for so long. But now that I’m thinking of it, the same could be and has been said of two of my other favorites: Too Like the Lightning and Ninefox Gambit.  So who knows.  Maybe it’ll be a surprise favorite.

The Shining and Doctor Sleep by Stephen King : 1,027,773  & 165,444 – I wanted to read both before seeing the new Doctor Sleep movie (and maybe The Shining).  I’ve started The Shining at least twice that I remember.  It’s just so darn slow.  But it’s hard to feel like a real Stephen King fan when I haven’t read it.  So.  2020 will be the year.

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Children of Time (Children of Time #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky : 43,448 – I started this during a bad reading slump and just never finished.  Not because it wasn’t good, I got further with this than I did any other book during that reading slump.  But somehow it’s always harder to go back to something you’ve started previously.  Anyway- this book gets lots of love in my virtual book club so it’s becoming a priority.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.jpg

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1) by Margaret Atwood : 207,217 – Here’s a super shameful secret.  I’ve never read a single thing Margaret Atwood.  A lot of it has to do with her attitude toward genre fiction and her insistence that she doesn’t write it.  It just feels really disrespectful to her readers, not to mention seriously out of touch.  Anyway- I don’t have much interest in The Handmaid’s Tale though I would like to check it out someday so I’m going with this one.

Malice by John Gwynne

Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen #1) by John Gwynne : 13,583 – After coming to the sad conclusion the Abercrombie is not quite what I’m looking for, I’m hoping Gwynne will fill the void.

Brian McLellan Sins of Empire

Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #1) by Brian McClellan : 9,573 – Military Fantasy.  I realize it’s not something that everyone gets excited about, but when the action scenes are written well I think it’s probably one of my favorite subgenres.  I have high hopes for this.

Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb : 212,259 – She has written so much that I think I really just didn’t know where to start with Hobb.  This might not be the best place, but I already own it, so…

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson : 255,777 – I’ve never read Sanderson.  And honestly just the blurb has me cringing away in fear.  But it has all these awards and a super high rating and like everyone has read it except me… So I’m obligated, right?

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow #1) by Anthony Ryan : 66,267 – Ryan has been on my radar a long time.  I finally read something by him last year, A Pilgrimage of Swords.  It was a quick novella and not necessarily one of my favorites, but it was because I wanted more of what I’d read.  Hoping this scratches that itch.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (Inheritance Trilogy #1) by N.K. Jemisin : 46,482 – This series isn’t nearly as popular as Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy, but I tried The Fifth Season and it just didn’t grab me the way I wanted it to.  I think the abused children sucked a lot of the joy out of it for me.  But I do like her style and I think this one might be more my speed.

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

The Collapsing Empire (The Interdependency #1) by John Scalzi : 30,774 – Nope.  Haven’t read Scalzi either.  This is likely to be a group read for February, so I might as well read him in a group setting and see what all the fuss is about.

The Word For World Is Forest by Ursula K Le Guin

The Word for World is Forest (Hainish Cycle #5) by Ursula K. Le Guin : 14,121 – I actually have read Le Guin before.  I wasn’t a huge fan of A Wizard of Earthsea – but it was a middle grade book and I don’t have a great history with YA or children’s books anyway, so I’m willing to give her another shot.  Especially knowing how well loved she is.  I picked this one to continue with because I love a good forest setting.

And there it is!  My 20 in ’20.  I’m really excited for some of these and feeling pretty hesitant on others, but either way, I hope to be more educated in my two favorite genres come 2021.  Many thanks again to the Captain for letting me tag along with my own Ports for Plunder.

Have you read any of these?  Are there any super popular books out there you haven’t read yet?