Tough to critique this book. On the one hand, allowances should be made as this is the author’s debut. On the other hand, well, read on.
I liked the pacing in this book and didn’t find it a difficult read at all. The pages just kept turning, which is to be commended for a debut novelist. The canvas is pretty large too, and if Malice just stopped (rather than ended) that’s because Gwynne clearly has his sights set on a larger scale.
Unfortunately the large cast of characters and the epic nature of this tale meant the characters were fairly thinly drawn. And apart from one or two characters, they don’t really change at all over the course of what is a lengthy novel.
My other major problem with Malice is the lack of originality. We have characters who play the guardian role only to be revealed later as being of noble birth. We have many battles in forests, on river banks, in caves and in a fortress, with frequent ‘explosions of blood and bone’. We have the maturing protagonist taming a wolven (dire wolf?) and all the threats the various characters face are on a grand scale; for example, giants, wyrms, draigs (or enormous lizards) and wolven. And we have angels and demons, which are sometimes referred to as exactly that, even though there is frequent mention of gods and creation, but not of a heavenly afterlife. Oh, and a magic system that is virtually unexplained.
Overall, this is a promising debut but I’m not sure I’d shell out another $25 Australian dollars to buy the next installment when there are so many other options in the Epic Fantasy genre. Still, if you want a fast-paced read that entertains but doesn’t challenge, Malice might be for you.