The Faithful & The Fallen book series by John Gwynne

The Faithful & The Fallen by John Gwynne - Anji Books

I’ve already written reviews for the first two books in this series, Malice and Valour, but I’ve decided to write a review for the series as a whole because the four books make a perfect whole. I don’t often give 5-star ratings, but this series deserves it. The Faithful & The Fallen has jumped into my top three favourite series. All four books maintained the high standard of writing, tight story arcs, and great character development, and the series just kept getting better and better with each book.

It’s great to read a series where there are no weak women. Each one is strong and skilled in her own right and holds her own against the strong male characters.

I have a huge book hangover after finishing Book 4 this morning. I may come back and write more, but really there’s nothing else I can think of to say except I am grateful to Petrik whose Goodreads review of Book 1, Malice, made me take a chance on this series.

Away With The Penguins by Hazel Prior

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Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this.

My thoughts

At 86 years old Veronica is the epitome of stubborn and humourless. She leads a life where everything must be just so, although it is down to her long-suffering ‘daily’, Eileen, to achieve this for her. With no children other than a now deceased son that was adopted out shortly after his birth, Veronica realises that at her age she should be considering what to do with her considerable fortune. With Eileen’s help she discovers that the son she didn’t know also had a son, Patrick, and Veronica decides to meet him. Patrick is not at all what Veronica is expecting and their brief meeting leaves them both feeling disappointed. Now feeling as though she now has no outlet for her to devote her life and money to, Veronica decides to turn her full attention to the plight of a dwindling population of Adelie penguins on a remote and inhospitable island in the Antarctic that she has been following in a nature documentary series on television.

This was the point at which the story switched from being enjoyable to being thoroughly entertaining and engaging. We alternate between Veronica’s excursion to visit the penguins, depositing herself into the lives of the three horrified resident scientists on the island, and Patrick’s humdrum, unfulfilling existence in Bolton as he tries to recover from his girlfriend suddenly leaving him for another man. Much of Veronica’s back story is given to us through the journals she wrote as a teenager in war-torn Britain and which she gave to Patrick to read.

This is without doubt the sweetest, most charming book I have read this year. It has made me cry and it has made me laugh out loud. And now that I’ve finished it, even though it concluded perfectly, I am feeling a little bereft because I want to know more about what the future holds for Veronica, Patrick, the scientists and, of course, Pip the penguin!

Valour by John Gwynne



The Banished Lands is torn by war as High King Nathair sweeps the land challenging all who oppose him in his holy crusade. Allied with the manipulative Queen Rhin of Cambren, there are few who can stand against them. But Rhin is playing her own games and has her eyes on a far greater prize… Left for dead, her kin fled and her country overrun with enemies, Cywen has no choice but to try to survive. But any chance of escape is futile once Nathair and his disquieting advisor Calidus realise who she is. They have no intention of letting such a prize from their grasp. For she may be their greatest chance at killing the biggest threat to their power. Meanwhile, the young warrior Corban flees from his conquered homeland with his exiled companions heading for the only place that may offer them sanctuary – Domhain. But to get there they must travel through Cambren avoiding warbands, giants and the vicious wolven of the mountains. And all the while Corban must battle to become the man that everyone believes him to be – the Bright Star and saviour of the Banished Lands. And in the Otherworld dark forces scheme to bring a host of the Fallen into the world of flesh to end the war with the Faithful, once and for all.


“Memory is a double-edged sword, Uthas. It can keep you strong through dark times, but it can also cripple you, keep you locked in a moment that no longer exists.”

My thoughts

A truly engrossing read which continues flawlessly from where the first book, Malice, left off! Good character development and world building. I’m enjoying this series so much I’ve already started Book 3! That speaks volumes as I avoid anything longer than a trilogy these days due to lack of time.

The Minders by John Marrs

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Everyone has secrets. They know yours…

In the 21st century information is king. But computers can be hacked, files can be broken into. So a unique government initiative has been borne. Five ordinary people have been selected to become the latest weapon in thwarting cyber terrorism. A revolutionary medical procedure has turned them into the ultimate secret keepers – the country’s most secretive information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads.

Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every Government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. Only somebody has discovered who the secret keepers are. And one by one, they are being hunted down…

‘One of the most exciting, original thriller writers out there. I never miss one of his book’ – SIMON KERNICK

My thoughts

There’s a really good reason why John Marrs has become one of my favourite authors. Put simply – he writes bloody good books!

The Minders is set in the same futuristic Britain that The One and The Passengers are set in, although it is not a series as such and each book is a standalone. It would be beneficial to understanding the way the direction the world has turned to have read those books first because, although events from those books are mentioned because they are relevant to the plotline in The Minders, this book is a story in its own right and doesn’t dwell on them.

I really enjoy the way time is taken to fully introduce each character and make sure the reader knows who they are and how they got to be the person they have become before then taking us on their transformational journey with them. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the five main characters but it is never confusing although the story is intriguing and gripped me from the first page. And John Marrs is not afraid of sucker-punching us occasionally.

I’m not sure how he manages to be so productive with such complicated and inventive plots but I’m glad he is. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long until his next book!

The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper



From the author of The Songs of Us. Fans of Jojo Moyes and Lucy Dillon will love The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper.

Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be.
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back.
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways
than they could have predicted…

My thoughts

Ah, Emma Cooper has done it again. She has written another unique and unpredictable romance and nailed it! Sophie’s and Samuel’s characters feel so real that they could be my friends or neighbours, and are written with such warmth and love that I want them to be. Samuel especially was such a great character in the way his struggles were captured. I really felt his despair and frustration and also his moments of pure humour when he was able to laugh at himself. I fell in love with his family and their individual ways of coping with Samuel’s situation, as well as their attempts to help him. This isn’t an easy book to read in places, and in fact it is heartbreaking at times, but I had to know how it all ended. There’s so much I’d love to talk about but can’t because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet, but suffice to say this book put me through a whole range of emotions from one page to the next and had me crying one moment and laughing the next, even if it was through tears sometimes. I absolutely loved her first book The Songs Of Us, and after finishing this one I cannot wait for her third book!

Placed Into Abyss (Mise en Abyse) by Rachel Swirsky

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From Nebula Award-winning author Rachel Swirsky comes a time traveling adventure Placed into Abyss (Mise en Abyse), a Original short story.

Chris would rather be anywhere but here, cleaning out his deceased, hateful grandparents’ house with his relatives. Each room he visits takes him back in time to another traumatic memory. To escape this house and his grandparents and his past, he’ll need to take time travel into his own hands.

***Content warning for fictional depictions of verbal, physical, and sexual child abuse.***

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

My thoughts

This is one of the most harrowing short stories I’ve ever read because it rings so heartrendingly true. It was an uncomfortable read but I couldn’t tear myself away and I suspect will stay with me for a while.

Malice by John Gwynne

(The Faithful And The Fallen, #1)



A black sun is rising …

Young Corban watches enviously as boys become warriors under King Brenin’s rule, learning the art of war. He yearns to wield his sword and spear to protect his king’s realm. But that day will come all too soon. Only when he loses those he loves will he learn the true price of courage.

The Banished Lands has a violent past where armies of men and giants clashed shields in battle, the earth running dark with their heartsblood. Although the giant-clans were broken in ages past, their ruined fortresses still scar the land. But now giants stir anew, the very stones weep blood and there are sightings of giant wyrms. Those who can still read the signs see a threat far greater than the ancient wars. Sorrow will darken the world, as angels and demons make it their battlefield. Then there will be a war to end all wars.

High King Aquilus summons his fellow kings to council, seeking an alliance in this time of need. Some are skeptical, fighting their own border skirmishes against pirates and giants. But prophesy indicates darkness and light will demand two champions, the Black Sun and the Bright Star. They would be wise to seek out both, for if the Black Sun gains ascendancy, mankind’s hopes and dreams will fall to dust.


“I shall stay and tell my tale, hope that it may serve some purpose, that eyes shall see it and learn, that the future will not repeat the mistakes of the past. That is my prayer, but what use is prayer to a god that has abandoned all things . . .”

My thoughts

Well, it took me almost three weeks to read this, due to it being a busy time for me just now, and that did impact on my experience because of lack of continuity. This is not a book that you should stop and start. It’s a decent length (672 pages), has a lot of characters, several locations, and a complex politically-driven story line set in a fantasy world.

That said …. I loved it!😍

I just would have loved it even more if I could have committed to reading through it without so many interruptions. If you like a fantasy you can really sink your teeth into then this ticks a lot of boxes. And I can’t believe it’s a debut novel! It’s the first of four books. Since I avoid anything longer than trilogies these days it says something that I am going to finish this series!

UPDATE 15 Nov 2020:
I needed to come back after completing the final book to say that The Faithful & The Fallen has jumped into my top three favourite series. All four books maintained the high standard of writing, tight story arcs, and great character development. For anyone reading reviews of the first book because they are unsure whether to commit to the series, I say ‘Just do it!” You won’t be disappointed.

The Sister In Law by Sue Watson

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‘You don’t think Jamie and I have secrets, do you? No, we tell each other everything.’ She smiled. ‘Including your dirty little secret. So, thinking about it, maybe it’s time to start being nice to me?’

THE WIFE: Clare is ready for a break. It’s been a tough year and now she wants to put her feet up. Arriving at the Italian villa for their summer holiday, she decides it’s high time her husband and his family did some of the work. After all, her husband owes her…

THE HUSBAND: Even though Dan had his head turned by someone else, he’s realised the error of his ways. He’s here now, and he says it’s for keeps. Clare can trust him, can’t she? At least he’ll have his brother there, to keep him in line…

THE BROTHER: Jamie is the prodigal child, back in the family fold again, after years of travelling abroad. But when he gets to the villa, he’s not alone. He’s brought a wife, someone none of them have met before.

THE SISTER-IN-LAW: Ella is everything Clare isn’t. Glamorous. Young. Influential. But she knows a secret about Clare. Something that has the power to break the whole family apart.

And there’s someone who will do whatever it takes to make sure that this deep secret never comes to the surface.

An utterly unputdownable, gripping, twisty psychological thriller perfect for fans of Before I Go To Sleep, The Girl on the Train and Date Night.

My thoughts

My goodness, this was a page turner!

Clare’s marriage is already under pressure when Ella, the sister in law no one knew about, arrived at the villa where Clare and her husband’s family are staying for their annual joint holiday. Almost from her first words to Clare Ella makes it clear that she has no interest in being friends, and sets about subtly alienating Clare from her family and causing tension in the villa.

In Ella, the author has created a truly awful but somewhat admirable antagonist. You have to read through to find out her agenda, while becoming more and more angry at her tactics and (in my case) more than a little angry at Clare for her handling of things.

I really liked the ending. It tied things up well and redeemed Clare and drove home that every action has consequences, even when you think you’ve got away with something.

Façade by Helen Matthews

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A drowned child. Estranged sisters. A once-perfect home.

Silence echoes louder than truth.

When seventeen-year-old Rachel’s baby brother drowns and her older sister, Imogen, escapes to live abroad with Simon, her musician boyfriend, Rachel must face the family’s grief and disintegration alone.

Twenty years later, Rachel is a successful businesswoman, with a daughter of her own, supporting her parents and their elegant Georgian home, The Old Rectory, that shackles them to the past.

Simon’s sudden death in Ibiza brings Imogen back, impoverished and resentful. Her family owes her, and she will stop at nothing to reclaim what she believes is rightly hers.

The rift between the sisters seems permanent. While Imogen has lived a nomadic life, filled with intrigue, in Spain and Tunisia, Rachel’s has appeared stable and successful but, behind the veneer, cracks are appearing. Now, she is vulnerable.

As the wall of silence and secrecy crumbles, danger stalks Rachel’s family. She must re-examine her baby brother’s death, find out what happened in Tunisia, and fight to hold onto everything she’s achieved –or risk losing it all.

Façade is a gripping tale of loss, guilt and danger.

My thoughts

The title is perfect for this story of a family presenting themselves to the world and to each other only as they want to be seen. The story is told in alternating points of view – Rachel, the care worn daughter, sister and mother who is trying to juggle a lot of balls, and Imogen the free spirit who carries a chip on her shoulder her shoulder and sees life as a glass half empty.

I felt a bit distant from this very privileged family for a short while until the cracks slowly started to show us what was hiding behind the façade, but the family members slowly gained individual identies as their struggles were shown. The secrets were revealed slowly throughout the book and the story was cleverly done and definitely had an air of suspense in places. I was genuinely worried for one character!

The author’s last book was a good read and I think this one is even better!

The Searcher by Tana French


One of the most compulsive psychological mysteries since Donna Tartt’s The Secret HistoryTHE TIMES

Cal Hooper thought a fixer-upper in a remote Irish village would be the perfect escape. After twenty-five years in the Chicago police force, and a bruising divorce, he just wants to build a new life in a pretty spot with a good pub where nothing much happens.

But then a local kid comes looking for his help. His brother has gone missing, and no one, least of all the police, seems to care. Cal wants nothing to do with any kind of investigation, but somehow he can’t make himself walk away.

Soon Cal will discover that even in the most idyllic small town, secrets lie hidden, people aren’t always what they seem, and trouble can come calling at his door.

Our greatest living mystery writer weaves a masterful tale of breath-taking beauty and suspense, asking what we sacrifice in our search for truth and justice, and the dangers of finding what we seek.

My thoughts

The last book by this author that I read was Broken Harbour and it was so good that I worried I might be disappointed. But, if anything, I enjoyed this book even more! The book is written in present tense so the plot feels dynamic and atmospheric. The setting of rural Ireland is beautifully described and the characterisation is flawless. I love her writing. She can draw such incredible imagery with her words that scenes, and even the emotions of them, stay with me after I’ve finished reading. I’d say this book was more about the character development and the writing than the plot. The mystery tied up well at the end but I enjoyed this book more for the reading of it than for the resolution, and that for me is a five star read.