Overview (No Spoilers):
If I could sum Valour up in only one sentence, it would have to fall somewhere along the lines of: “Evil will triumph 99.9% of the time”. I still loved Gwynne’s writing and thoroughly enjoyed this story, but this is a brutal book for our protagonists. Picking up in the aftermath of the tragedy at Dunn Carreg, Gwynne establishes a ruthless pace for Corban and his crew as they seem to never stop running throughout all of Valour. Each member of this party is reeling from the betrayal and most have lost loved ones, but they are forced to process this pain while in constant motion, which yields different reactions from all. Throughout the majority of this novel this flight has the air of fleeing for their survival, however as Corban comes into his own and accepts his role as the Bright Star, their running soon switches to pursuit and rescue.
While I enjoyed the worldbuilding in Malice, Valour in no way reads like the second book of a series as the many characters are all locked in their own battle for survival, with no one feeling safe from Gwynne’s pen. This added suspense only serves to draw the reader ever further into the novel’s fold, fully investing them into the story’s twists and turns. It has been quite a while since I’ve cried while listening to an audiobook, (which is surprising in and of itself), but Valour drew tears twice in short succession.
My favorite aspect of Valour has to be the depth and variety of characters throughout this winding and complex story. There are budding romances between a few of our main characters that Gwynne firmly keeps in the inconveniently interrupted tease stage, especially with Corban who is entertainingly oblivious. With the awkwardness of youth being palpable, the parties try repeatedly to have more serious conversations naming their emerging feelings, especially as the story draws to a close, but the timing is never quite right. The other key romance is just in the early stages of attentiveness but feels more like it will be used to lure one beloved character away from the enemy lines. Aside from love, we see the power of vengeance and loyalty warring in Maquin as he survives tribulations and horrors only to have the price of freedom be one that might break him completely. Nathair is one villain that could be easy to set up for the reader to hate, however the manipulation behind his false belief he is on the side of good conjures only pity from the reader. How long can Nathair deceive himself and what will he do once the con is revealed?
As I was reviewing the events of Valour to prepare for writing this post, it is stunning the number of key events that Gwynne packs into these pages without losing quality or allowing the reader to grow numb to the critical nature of most exchanges. Overall, Gwynne significantly expands his literary world in this second installment of The Faithful and the Fallen series, while simultaneously revealing more about motivations behind the larger conflict taking shape in the shadows of the petty battles of kingdoms. So yes, there are fantastically choreographed battles, lots of death, brilliant characters, and evil mostly triumphs, which mostly captures the essence of Valour.
Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):
- I couldn’t help but draw connections between Valour and The Wheel of Time with regard to the merchant being an agent of darkness. That twist seemed so much more obvious that the ones Gywnne typically plots.
- Will Brina go back to teaching Corban the earth magics?
- Where was Vonn sneaking off to?
- How did Brina keep up with all the running?
- How did the book hold up with all this frantic travel?
- With the chaos of the end did Nathair finally realize that he is the Black Sun?
- What happened to King Brenin’s brother-in-law that Cywen allowed to escape from Evnis’ dungeon? What did Evnis do when he found out?
- Did Meical survive the duel with Calidus?
- Did Halion survive? Can his brother be turned? Did the Queen really kill their mother?
- What will happen to Edana now that so many of her party have died?
- Evnis disappeared as events moved out of Dunn Carreg. What has he been up to?
- Where will Nathair’s mother and Maquin go now that they’ve escaped? Will Maquin find out that the other little princeling that he sacrificed so much for did indeed survive and he is not alone?
- The plight of Nathair’s mother was so frustrating and hopeless. I can’t express enough how thankful I was that she escaped her torture from Lykos. Did he survive? Lykos is seriously the worst.
- Will Coralen and Corban finally express their feelings? What about Cywen and Veradis? Will their attraction evolve? Will Veradis realize he is serving the side of evil?
- What is making Rhin look older? Why is everyone hooking up with her? What are her next steps?
- I loved the reunion with Tukul and Gar!
- Camlin might be my favorite character. He has grown so much. I was so worried he would be defeated by Braith. Did the thief somehow survive the cliff?
- Why is Alcyon a servant to Calidus? It seems like there is more to this giant than meets the eye, such as his friendship with Veradis and Cywen.