As you may know, I have made a promise to myself to write a short review for every book I read this year. I’m starting that off in a very odd place, reviewing the final book of a trilogy that follows a four book series. I have not reviewed any of the previous six books but I will not let that deter me here.
A time of courage is (for now at least) John Gwynne’s final book set in the Banished Lands. This is a setting that I have grown to love through these books. It’s not the most different setting and in many ways not the most interesting. It does however serve wonderfully as a world where we get to explore different characters and their slightly different cultural perspectives and quirks.
Of blood and bone, follows three main characters, who start in a multitude of places across the Banished Lands. By book three their stories have began to intertwine, and Gwynne does a good job at interweaving the different plots allowing different storylines to take priority as needed.
If you have never read John Gwynne before you may be shocked by the breakneck pace of this book. Many of his previous books have moved at a fair clip, but a time of courage may just have the fastest pacing of them all. The pace is relentless right up until the climax, after which we get a few chapters to relax and reflect, and man did I need that.
I would argue writing combat is possibly Gwynne’s greatest strength, it is brutal to read and utterly enthralling. Most importantly for me, he manages to use action scenes to introduce and reinforce characterisation in an incredibly natural way. It may then be confusing, if I said that those combat scenes are probably what would make this series most divisive to an audience. Quality is no issue in the action scenes, however there is a hell of a lot of them. A time of courage has more than maybe any other book in the series, and I struggle to think of almost any slower reflective moments except right at the end. For me the quality of Gwynne’s writing makes this a non-issue, but I can see it being a big turn off for some people.
As always, the climax of this book was absolutely on point and left me fist pumping at critical moments. I don’t quite think it reaches the heights of Wrath (the conclusion to Gwynne’s first series), but it is still an incredibly satisfying conclusion to a trilogy that is absolutely non-stop.
If I had to give any other negatives to this series, it would be that the plot is not exactly breaking new ground . I do not think that was the aim however, the world and character work is executed to a level where I didn’t need a twisty surprise plot to pull me through the story. If however you are looking to be in awe at the work of a masterful plotter you may be disappointed here.
In conclusion, this series has been a joy to read, as are all of John Gwynne’s books. I would give A Time of Courage a solid 4.5 stars.
Truth and Courage.
Go forth and read.