Review and extract: A Time Of Dread (Of Blood and Bone #1) by John Gwynne (A Time of Dread Blog Tour)

John Gwynne’s new book A Time of Dread has just been released and we are honoured at having been chosen to take part in the book tour for this highly anticipated new story. Also, honoured might be a slight understatement. We are ECSTATIC! There are dates below listing all of the blog stops for those who want to follow along. All of these blogs including ourselves appreciate your support!

ATOD

Next up is a little preview – an extract from A Time of Dread.

The extract contains a few elements from the last events of Wrath (final book of the Faithful and the Fallen)! The review is spoiler-free!

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CHAPTER TWO
DREM

The Year 137 of the Age of Lore, Hunter’s Moon

Drem grunted as he lifted another shovelful of earth and hurled
it out of the pit he was digging. He rested a moment, drank
from a water skin, looked up and saw a cold blue sky through
dappled branches that were swaying in a breeze. Birdsong
drifted down to him; the angle of the sun told him it was close
to sunset. The pit was deep, now level with his head, but he kept
digging, swapping his water skin for a pickaxe that he swung
with practised rhythm. Ten swings with the pickaxe, loosen
the ground, fill his shovel and throw it out of the pit. Back to the
pickaxe. His shoulders and back ached, sweat stinging his eyes,
but he ignored the discomfort, blinked the sweat away and
continued to hack remorselessly at the iron-hard ground.
A sound seeped through the rhythm of his labour and the
noise of the river beyond the pit. Footsteps. He dropped his
pickaxe, grabbing his spear and pointing it upwards.
A shadow fell across him.
‘That’ll do,’ Olin, his da, said, looking down to him through
a mess of iron-grey hair.
‘Not deep enough,’ Drem grunted, putting his spear down
and picking up the axe again.
‘It’s deep enough to hold any elk I’ve ever seen,’ Olin said.
Drem had been digging pits since he was ten summers old.
How deep? He’d asked his da all those years ago. Twice your
height, his da had said to him. Back then his da had been
digging the pit with him, breaking up the soil and Drem doing
the shovelling. Now, though, eleven years later and Drem did
most of the digging himself, his da setting other traps along
their hunting runs with noose and rope. He had to remind
himself that he didn’t need to dig hunting pits twice his height
any more, not now he’d grown into a man, and a tall one at
that. It still made him uncomfortable to stop, though. He liked
to do things the way he was told the first time, didn’t like
change. With an act of will, he slammed the pickaxe into the
ground one last time, felt it connect with something solid that
sent a shiver up his arm.
‘Sounds like you’ve found the mountain’s root,’ Olin said.
‘Come on, let’s eat.’
Drem yanked the pickaxe free, threw it up to his da, then
his shovel; last of all held his spear shaft out. Olin grabbed it
and held tight as Drem pulled himself out of the pit. His da
grunted with the strain, even though he seemed to be made of
muscle lean and knotted as old roots.
Drem turned and looked at his handiwork.
‘You chose a good spot,’ Olin said, looking at a well-worn
path that the pit cut across. It led down out of the foothills they
were standing in towards a fertile plain, the ground around the
river there soft and marshy.
Drem smiled at his father’s praise.
Together they cast a lattice of willow rods over the pit, then
a thin covering of branches and leaves, finally some bark and
lilies.
‘To an elk that tastes nicer than hot porridge and honey on
a winter’s day,’ they said together, the end of their ritual, and
then they turned and made their way up a steep slope towards
their camp, the river foaming white alongside them.
The sun was a line of fire on the edge of the world by the time
Drem was turning a spit over a small fire-pit, fat from a quartered
hare spitting and sizzling as it dripped into the flames.
‘Smells good,’ Olin grunted as he finished tending to their
packhorses and furs, then came and sat down, wrapping a deerskin
about Drem’s shoulders and pulling one tight about his
own. Drem felt cold now that he had stopped digging, the night’s
chill seeping into his bones. Rolls of skins surrounded them,
tied and piled high. It had been a bountiful hunting season,
and now they were almost home.
Drem carved the meat with his favourite knife, the wide
blade was wicked-sharp and longer than was usual for a hunting
knife.
‘They call a blade like that a seax in this part of the Banished
Lands,’ his da had told him when they’d forged it together.
Drem didn’t care what it was called; he just knew that he
loved it, that it felt a part of him, his permanent companion.
The bone-antler hilt was worn to a perfect fit for Drem’s fist.
He shared the meal between them and they sat eating in companionable
silence. They were partway into foothills that led
up to a range of snow-capped mountains at their back, but Drem
was staring in the opposite direction, out over the landscape
that unrolled below them. A great lake dominated the view,
its waters dark and shimmering in the setting sun, about it
a patchwork of tree and meadow that was tinged with red and gold
as autumn slipped into winter. Between Drem and the lake the
lights of a large town flickered into life, tiny as fireflies from
this distance. A sturdy stockade wall ringed the town, dotted with
torchlight. It was Kergard, the most northerly town of the Desolation,
built by hard people to survive in a hard environment. Drem liked
the look of it all, the colours merging, lights glowing soft and warm
like candles. Other lights sputtered into existence beyond the
stockade walls, homesteads scattered across the land. Drem’s eyes
searched out their own home, a little to the north and nestled amongst
the fringes of woodland, though he knew there would be no fires lit,
no torches or candles burning at a window.
Home, if I can call anywhere that, when I’ve spent most of my life
travelling from one place to the next. This will be our fifth winter in
the same place, though, and that’s the longest I can remember staying
anywhere since Mam . . .
He was looking forward to returning home after half a year
of hunting and trapping in the Bonefells. He liked his life in the
Wild with his da – loved it even – but his da was right: winter
was almost upon them, and that was not the time to be sleeping
on root and rock.
As he stared at the speckled landscape he saw a new cluster
of lights appear, further north and east from his home, close to
the northern bank of the lake.
‘That wasn’t there when we left,’ he said to his da, pointing.
‘No.’ Olin frowned. ‘Looks like Kergard’s grown. Hope
they know what a winter this far north is like. The land won’t
be green like this for much longer.’ His da looked from the
panorama before them and then up and over his shoulder at the
snow-capped mountains and darkening sky, watching his breath
mist before him. ‘Winter’s following close behind us.’
‘Aye,’ Drem grunted, pulling his deer-skin tighter. ‘Strange
that this land is called the Desolation,’ he murmured, struggling
with imagining the landscape before him as an uninhabited
wasteland of rock and ash.
His da grunted, licking fat from his fingers.
‘And that lake was once a crater?’
‘Aye, it was,’ Olin said. ‘The Starstone Crater, where a rock
fell from the sky. Started a lot of trouble, did that rock.’
Drem knew all about that, had listened to the tale-tellers
speak of how the Starstone had crashed to earth, though he
struggled to imagine such a thing happening. The tales told of
Seven Treasures that had been forged from the Starstone, and
that the first war had been fought over those Treasures, men
and giants shedding a river of blood. It had taken a god to stop
it; Elyon the Maker had unleashed his legions of Ben-Elim,
raining a judgment of death and destruction upon the world
and its inhabitants. Elyon had only stopped when he realized
that he had been tricked, lured into the plan of his great enemy,
Asroth, Demon-Lord of the Fallen. Elyon had walked away
then, abandoning the world of flesh and banishing both his
own Ben-Elim as well as Asroth and his Kadoshim hordes to
the world of spirit, the Otherworld, where they remained
trapped for two thousand years as men and giants slowly rebuilt
their shattered world.
Until just over a hundred years ago, when the Kadoshim found a
sorcerous way to break their bonds in the Otherworld. They had
returned to the Banished Lands in an explosion of hatred and slaughter,
but the Ben-Elim had followed them, their eternal
war spilling into the world of flesh.
‘Much has changed since the coming of the Ben-Elim,’ Drem said.
‘Aye,’ Olin grunted. ‘And not much of it good.’ Drem’s da was not a
supporter of the Ben-Elim. It was rare that he would even mention
them, despite Drem’s attempts to lure him into that conversation.
‘Turning the Desolation into this is good, though,’ Drem said,
waving a hand at the vista before them. ‘This is good,’ his da agreed,
‘but the Ben-Elim didn’t do this. They’ve done it,’ he said, pointing
to the settlement beside the lake, ‘and others like them. People like us.’
‘We’re trappers, hunters.’
‘Aye, well, I mean people that have travelled north and settled
here, irrigating, farming, planting, growing.
The Desolation has become this because generations of people like
us made it a better place. Though I suppose the Ben-Elim are the
reason behind that as well, their protection in the south was
what drove many here.’
Drem thought about that a while. Stars prickled into life in the crow-black
of night as darkness seeped into the world around them.
‘They’ll come here, too, though, won’t they?’ Drem said
into the night. ‘The Ben-Elim. Sooner or later, as they have
elsewhere, to hunt the Kadoshim.’
He’d said that last word quickly, knowing his da did not like
to hear it uttered.
Kadoshim. Dread demons of Asroth who had escaped their
bonds in the Otherworld and entered Drem’s world to become
creatures of flesh and blood, monsters come to destroy all that
lived in these Banished Lands. His da hated them, hated the
very sound of their name.
Because they’d slain his mam.
He didn’t like to upset his da, could hear his breathing was
sharper, his frame tense, just from those few words, but if he
could get him to talk of the Kadoshim, maybe he would then be
able to talk of Drem’s mam, too . . .
‘Aye,’ Olin growled, spitting on the floor beside him. ‘The
Ben-Elim will be here one day. But later rather than sooner, I
hope. May they linger in Drassil another hundred years. And
every day until then shall be better for their absence. I’ve
searched many a year for a place where we can live free.’ He
drew in a breath, seemed about to say something more, but
only silence followed.
Drem breathed deep, the scent of pine trees and winter
heavy in the air.
‘Have you seen Drassil?’ he asked, a new tactic.
Olin gave him a sidelong look.
‘I have, as you well know.’
Drem opened his mouth to ask another question.
‘Enough,’ his da snapped as he stood quickly. ‘A long day
on the morrow, I’m for my bed.’ He stamped his feet, stood
there hesitantly for a moment, looking down at Drem. Then he
walked away and lay close to the fire. Drem heard the rustle of
furs and popping of a cork as a skin of mead was unstoppered.
Drem sat and stared into the darkness, listening to the
sounds of the night.

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On to the review!

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Rating : 10/10!

A Time of Dread is a breathtaking beginning to what will surely be another utterly brilliant series by John Gwynne. 

It is no secret that John Gwynne’s debut series, The Faithful & the Fallen, is one of my all time favourite reads. I regularly recommend it to anyone looking for a great read and I have marked him down as a permanent entry on my list of auto-buy authors. Therefore it should come as no surprise that I was MORE than excited to get an early chance of reading his latest book, A Time of Dread, the first book in the Of Blood and Bone trilogy.

Set in the same world as his debut series, A Time of Dread (AToD) takes place about 130 years after the events of the Faithful & the Fallen (tFatF). Avoiding all spoilers for the first series leaves me without the ability to say just about anything about AToD and on the current state that The Banished Lands are in, but suffice it to say that a new peril is emerging and we are given four different POV characters from which to see the events unfold, three of which are new, the other being a minor character in tFatF.

When John Gwynne announced this new series, I was both overjoyed at getting to visit this world and it’s characters again, but at the same time very worried. Starting any new series in the same world as an established series always strikes me as a highly precarious prospect. Comparisons are inevitable and having the task of writing characters that can hold up to the love you have for those who came before is not one I envy any author. Fortunate for Mr. Gwynne, he is a rock star when it comes to characterization and always writes memorable, fully rounded characters that you can easily love and hate, root for or against.

As for the world that these characters are presented in – it is much the same and yet much changed from what we came to know in tFatF. Time changes everything, and it was very interesting to hear different views on how events from tFatF are believed to or said to have unfolded. As many a fantasy lover will know, world-building is the lifeblood of fantasy’s storytelling and in this case it is a resounding success, largely thanks to the groundwork the author has laid in tFatF and subsequently built on in AToD. He has gracefully and effortlessly managed to pen a new and exciting tale, whilst still grounding it in the familiar, rich and evocative history of the Banished Lands, giving fans of the the Faithful & the Fallen much to wax nostalgic about. While most of our heroes have passed on and taken their journey over the Bridge of Swords, there are still a few familiar faces to be seen among the new, and it was a joy reading about both the old and new even as the mentions of some of those absent characters occasionally invoked a strong sense of poignancy. Take a bow for making us care so much Mr Gwynne. This seamless interweaving of two different times is done so masterfully, that I am almost tempted to proclaim that reading the first series is unnecessary if you want to start with this book first. That would be a mistake of two parts though. Firstly, tFatF series is an awe-inspiring achievement in fantasy writing and should be read by EVERYONE. Plainly said, it’s THAT good. Secondly, whilst AToD is still a great read if it is your first John Gwynne book, the added benefit of having read the tFatF series elevates this book from great to absolutely brilliant! There are so many small details and mentions that just give everything occurring that extra little bit of magic, making it so much more fun.

The homage Mr Gwynne pays is truly befitting of the ineffable love his fans have for the stories that came before.

The pacing is juuuuuust perfect. It might still be early on in his career, but the author seems to have perfected the art of the slow reel, starting leisurely and pulling you in, building up the tension, before yanking you to the edge of your seat. While the early tone set for AToD feels much darker than the one of tFatF, themes of love, friendship, honour, family, and of course truth and courage are still ever present, and still form the foundation of this writing that has grown from strength to strength, book, by book. And the action… John Gwynne keeps on reminding us that he is second to none in the this department, whether it is large scale battles or mano a mano, his writing is so immersive and vivid that you cannot help but be transported to the scene of the violent, gory action. I more than once found myself ducking a sword or axe meant for a POV character. And the mentioned dread… it is at first a mere whisper of foreboding, fleeting, hinted at, creeping but ever present. Page after page though, this sense of unease slowly escalates as the story marches on to it’s pulse-pounding climax, relentless, never wavering. By the time the breathtaking closing sequences are done, the dread spoken of in the title is indeed a palpable, living thing that permeates the pages. You can almost feel it’s visceral grip on you as you close the book and fear what the future has in store for our protagonists.

Fuil  agus  cnámh, rud  éigin  nua  a  dhéanamh’

A Time of Dread is a highly recommended and wonderful first book in the Of Blood and Bone trilogy and has delivered everything I hoped for and more. If you were not yet convinced before, the truth of it is now undeniable:

John Gwynne is an official member of fantasy’s the best of the best club.

Grab the book hot of the press my friends – you cannot go wrong with this one!

Amazon UK / Amazon US

Thank you to John Gwynne & Pan Macmillan for giving me the opportunity to read this wonderful book in exchange for an honest review.

You can follow John Gwynne on Twitter and Facebook and Pan Macmillan as well over here and here .

Now can I please, please, please get first dibs on A Time of Blood? 😀

PS: A very special mention for that breathtakingly gorgeous cover and bonus points for the Old Norse runes on the hilt that spell DREAD! So cool Mr Gwynne, so cool!

Reviewed by: Eon
You can also see this review on Goodreads

 

2 thoughts on “Review and extract: A Time Of Dread (Of Blood and Bone #1) by John Gwynne (A Time of Dread Blog Tour)

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