It is an unfortunate fact of life that there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. Due to this, every time a reader makes a ‘best of’ list there are invariably going to be some gems that slipped through the cracks simply due to time constraints. This year, Ruin falls into that category. Ruin is the 3rd installment of The Faithful and The Fallen, a quartet by the author John Gwynne. For those unfamiliar, the series is an alternate take on the ‘hero’s journey’ trope. John uses his fast paced writing style and massive cast to create an original and thrilling epic that makes something new out of a tried-and-true story. The Faithful and the Fallen is considered by many fans, myself included, to be an underrated gem. Thus, it is with immense pleasure that I had the opportunity recently to speak with John about his writing style and his future plans. Enjoy!
- One of the best things about The Faithful and The Fallen, to me, is your deconstruction of the “farm boy with a destiny” fantasy trope. I love how you have taken it apart and were able to breathe new life into the story. What was your inspiration to create the new take on this plotline?
I’m really pleased that you’re enjoying Corban’s journey. There is something in his story that is very nostalgic, a harkening back to classic fantasy. I grew up on epic fantasy. I clearly remember my teacher gathering up the class and reading from ‘The Book of Three,’ book one of The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander. I was 7 or 8 years old, and I loved it. After that it was a slippery slope of Hobbits and dragons, magic rings and giant spiders, minotaurs and Holy Grails and swords in stones…
I loved the hero’s journey. When I began writing ‘Malice’ I wanted to try and capture some of that nostalgia, but I also wanted to merge it with more modern sensibilities where there is a lot of grey in between the black and white. So I tried to write a character that could potentially become a hero, but through his own choices, his own internal struggles and code, his own sense of family and friendship and what courage and cowardice meant to him, rather than some pre-ordained ‘royal blood’ type of predestination. It’s a story where choices matter.
- The cast of The Faithful and The Fallen is gigantic. I am extremely grateful to you for your character keys at the start of the books, as it really helped me to remember who everyone is and where they left off. Why did you decide to go with such a large set of characters instead of focusing on a smaller cast?
I wanted to write something that felt epic, where the fate of the world was at stake, not just a case of border disputes and who gets to be be king or queen. So the Faithful and the Fallen has different levels, ranging from personal disputes as small as bullying right up through border rivalries to a conflict that threatens all human life. I tried to choose POV characters that would best be able to tell the different threads of the story, which just seemed to keep growing for a while, and as many of these POV characters were situated in different realms the world around them kept on growing and filling out. There did come a point where I thought ‘whoa, this is too big!’ so I trimmed it back, removed whole realms, kings and queens, merged some characters and trimmed sub-plots.
Now it doesn’t feel that big to me, but I think that is probably because it’s my baby, a world in my head!
- I really enjoyed your shorter chapters and punchy narration while reading the series. I have seen some criticism of the books, namely that some readers feel as though they do not get enough time with each character. I personally felt it made the story move more quickly and raised the excitement. Was this writing style intentional for the story, or something that sort of just happened?
That’s really a case of my own style evolving, and becomes more apparent as you move through the series. When I was writing I was aware that with a large cast the pacing can feel slow, so I made an effort in each chapter just to tell the story, tell the event, let the character do what they needed to do, then move on to the next character POV. I think this has managed to keep the story and pace moving, but it can sometimes feel like POV chapters come and go too quickly, and if you add to that a large cast then there is a risk of the reader forgetting threads. I suppose it’s down to the reader’s preference. Writing’s one big juggling act! Plot, pace, character, world-building, keeping them all moving forward. I do prefer to write in shorter chapters, and without even realising it I will start to feel a bit twitchy if a chapter is dragging on. I’m glad you like it.
- I am very excited for (I believe) the conclusion to The Faithful and The Fallen next year with Wrath, your 4th installment in the series. Do you currently have any plans to do more in The Faithful and The Fallen universe, or do you have plans for any new series in the future?
‘Wrath’ is the final installment in the series. I finished writing it in November 2015. It is with my editor now and is due for publication towards the end of 2016. Finishing it was a very bittersweet experience; wonderful to be writing scenes that I’ve imagined for so long, wonderful to see the end of story arcs that have been in my head for many years, and also wonderful to see a villain or two finally get their comeuppance! But it was also sad, saying goodbye to characters and story.
I am writing something else, though. It’s a trilogy, set in the same world, the Banished Lands, but around a hundred years or so after the events of Wrath. I don’t want to say too much as I wouldn’t want to give away events from ‘Wrath.’ I’ll just say that the central character is a winged berserker named Rae, and that there will be warrior-angels, nomadic, bow-wielding tribesmen, giants, monsters running amok, and demonic serial-killers. Oh, and of course, plenty of betrayal. Book 1 is due for publication in 2017. The working title of the series is ‘Of Blood and Bone.’
Thank you again, John, for taking the time to talk with me. I have marked my release calendar for 2017 and greatly look forward to reading Of Blood and Bone. In the meantime, Ruin is here to tide fans over as a very solid continuation of a series that was already quite good. For those of you who have been waiting to pick up your copy of Ruin, I suggest you stop waiting. In addition, if you haven’t read The Faithful and The Fallen and are looking for a new take on the hero’s journey, I highly recommend you pick up book one, Malice, and give it a read.
Rating: Ruin by John Gwynne – 8.5/10