Name: A Time of Dread
Author: John Gwynne
Number of Pages: 480 (Hardback)
Published: January 11th 2018 by Pan MacMillan
The Ben-Elim, a fierce race of warrior-angels, burst into the Banished Lands over a hundred and thirty years ago. They were in pursuit of their eternal enemy, the Kadoshim demon-horde. On that day a great battle was fought, the Ben-Elim and Kadoshim joined by allies from the races of both men and giants, and a great victory was won.
Now much of the Banished Lands is ruled by the Ben-Elim, who have made this world their home, extending their influence and power as they swallow ancient kingdoms into the protective grasp of their ever-extending borders. But peace is fragile within the realm and the Kadoshim that remain are now amassing on the edges of the empire….
Threats long in the shadows are about to strike. – from Goodreads
This is the first book by John Gwynne I’ve ever read, but I doubt it will be the last.
I do wonder if I missed out a little by not having read The Faithful and the Fallen first, as characters and events were referenced that I guess would have given long-time readers that special hit of nostalgia. I knew that going in, but I can never resist a brand new book, and there was enough detail provided early on that I never felt totally lost.
The long history before this story began is something I would certainly like to read more about now I’ve discovered the Banished Lands for myself, so I’ll probably pick up the first Faithful and the Fallen book at some point, because if those books are anything like this then I’m sure I’d enjoy them.
The tale begins with a greatly described battle which drew me right into the action. Two feuding clans break the peace and the price is high when the Ben-Elim, a race of warrior-angels, arrive to restore order and exact a price for the blood spilled on both sides.
Bleda is a young boy at the time of the initial battle and is taken by the Ben-Elim as their ward, as is Jin, a young girl from the opposing clan. This is the consequence of breaking the peace, and the pair are taken to Drassil.
The main story picks up several years later as the Ben-Elim and their White-Wing forces aim to maintain peace and discover the threat from the dangerous Kadoshim.
Amidst the violence, the bone-crunching, blood-splattering, and limb-lopping, there are some wonderful characters and relationships in A Time of Dread. Four main character viewpoints all offer something totally different as the overall threat of the fearsome Kadoshim draws closer. Loyalty, friendship, honour, and betrayal all play a part in the narrative.
I loved Drem and his father Olin, and Riv, her sister Aphra, and their mother Dalmae. The family ties are strong, showing the great lengths these parents will go to to protect their children, even when the children are mostly grown up.
My favourite viewpoints were Bleda and Riv.
Riv is human, born into the White-Wings at Drassil, and wants to follow her mother and sister into battle and glory in the fight against their enemies, but she has a terrible temper, and her rage so often overcomes her, leading to fights with those who should really be her allies. Unpredictable, and a little wild, she’s well aware that she needs to get it under control or risk never passing her warrior trial and becoming a full-fledged White-Wing. I had a guess how her story would develop and happily was right (doesn’t happen often!), and now I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the next book.
I also liked the way her relationship with Bleda grows over the course of the story.
The tension mounts as the various story threads come together. There are revelations and epic battles which make for fast-paced and exciting reading. I almost couldn’t put the book down for the last hundred pages or so. I’m definitely going to look out for the next book in this series and very much look forward to returning to the Banished Lands.