Waiting on Wednesday – The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For this latest Waiting on Wednesday I check out a cool upcoming fantasy novel from bestselling author Christopher Buehlman, The Blacktongue Thief.

The Blacktongue Thief Cover

Christopher Buehlman is an intriguing author who has been writing some fantastic sounding novels over the last couple of years.  His main focus has previously been the horror genre, having authored several compelling scary reads, such as The Necromancer’s House, The Suicide Motor Club and the incredible awesome sounding The Lesser Dead.  However, Buehlman latest project sees him make the move over to the fantasy genre with an amazing upcoming fantasy debut, The Blacktongue Thief.

The Blacktongue Thief, which currently has a release date of 25 May 2021, is very fun and captivating sounding novel which will follow a thief and a knight as they find themselves forced together for an epic adventure.  Set to feature a range of crazy monsters, unique magic and a couple of complex protagonists, The Blacktongue Thief has a ton of potential (as well as an awesome cover), and I am extremely excited to see how this book turns out.

Synopsis:

Set in a world of goblin wars, stag-sized battle ravens, and assassins who kill with deadly tattoos, Christopher Buehlman’s The Blacktongue Thief begins a ‘dazzling’ (Robin Hobb) fantasy adventure unlike any other.

Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants have the fun task of listing their favourite books that made them laugh out loud.

While coming up with list was an enjoyable and entertaining task, this was a topic that I slightly struggled with as I don’t tend to read purely comedic novels.  Instead, I usually get my comedic fix through somewhat more serious books that have funny protagonists or are filled with jokes or excellent humour.  Nonetheless, I was able to pull together a good list in the end filled with some amazing reads that always leave me laughing.  I did end up having to feature multiple books from the same authors to fill this list up, but these guys are just so funny it was hard not to.  So, with that, let us get on to the funny stuff.

 

Honourable Mentions:

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Sarah Kuhn

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover

 

Nuking the Moon: And Other Intelligence Schemes and Military Plots Best Left on the Drawing Board by Vince Houghton

Nuking the Moon Cover

With luminous foxes and exploding bats, this fun non-fiction book is proof that reality is sometimes stranger, and more hilarious, than fiction.

 

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

Early Riser Cover

 

Footrot Flats by Murray Ball

Footrot Flats Cover

An amazing comic strip I loved in my childhood thanks to my fun grandfather.  This cool New Zealand comic still holds up even after all these years and makes me laugh like crazy every time I read it.

 

Top Ten List:

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

Jingo Cover

I do not think that anyone is going to be too surprised that I have featured several books from the utterly hilarious and indefinably clever Terry Pratchett.  Pratchett is easily my favourite author of all time, and I have so much love for his amazing Discworld series, the novels of which I have read and re-read time and time again, and each of them always makes me laugh.  I ended up including five Discworld books on this list, which I honestly think is me showing restraint, as I could have filled up three separate lists purely with Discworld novels.  The first of these books is one I am particularly fond of, Jingo, which sees the Ankh-Morpork City Watch attempt to stop a war.  Filled with all manner of jokes about war, political assassinations and jingoism, while also featuring an hilarious boat chase in unusual weather, Captain Carrot turning into Lawrence of Arabia and an entire battlefield arrested for causing an affray, this book never fails to amuse me, and I always laugh while reading it.

 

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit Cover

The second entry on this list was last years awesome and captivating release from Jasper Fforde, The Constant Rabbit.  Set in an alternate version of England filled with anthropomorphic rabbits, Fforde has come up with an outrageous narrative that is both fantastically funny while also serving as a clever send up of current British politics.  I laughed at so many scenes during this book, including a great court sequence, that The Constant Rabbit easily made this list and is really worth checking out.

 

The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

The Last Continent Cover

The next Discworld novel to appear on this list is The Last Continent, a very amusing novel that pits Pratchett’s main protagonist, the cowardly wizard Rincewind, against the terrors and horrors of that most dangerous of places, Australia (although the author is very clear to state that this is not a book about Australia, it just seems, in some places, very Australian, so no worries, right?).  Naturally, Rincewind manages to run into every single dangerous Australian stereotype you can think of, including road gangs trying to steal a mad dwarf’s hay, talking kangaroos, drop bears, a chronic lack of rain and, worst of all, a local delicacy (a pea soup pie floater, shudder!).  The Australian jokes and references come thick and fast throughout this book, which become even more entertaining when viewed from the point-of-view of someone born and raised in Australia.  At the same time, the wizards of Unseen University engage in their own separate adventure, which sees them lost in the past (potentially killing their own grandparents) and forced to contend with a sex-obsessed god of evolution (once someone explains what sex is to him).  All of this makes for a hilarious and captivating read that is easily one of my favourite Discworld books, and one which I will always have a good laugh at.

 

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

There was no way that I could not include the impressive and captivating Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City on this list.  Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, which was one of my favourite books of 2019, tells the story of a desperate and comical siege of a major fantasy city.  Told from the perspective of a very unreliable narrator, this book sees the protagonist defend his city with the most effective weapon he has, bluffs and lies.  This is an outstanding book, and readers are guaranteed to giggle at every single manipulation, con and elaborate subterfuge that is deployed to save the city.

 

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Moving Pictures Cover

A Discworld book that is perfect for movie buffs, Moving Pictures examines what happens when a new form of entertainment comes to this crazy world, giving a whole new meaning to the term “movie magic”.  There are so many great jokes and references in this compelling and exceptional book, that multiple re-reads are a must to see just how clever Pratchett really was.  Highlights include the introduction of multiple amazing characters, a reverse King Kong moment and a very entertaining Gone With The Wind parody (to this day I cannot hear the words “Blown Away” without thinking about this book and sniggering).  An impressive comedic treat.

 

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Redshirts Cover

A Star Trek parody written by science fiction genius John Scalzi was always going to be an amazing read, and it proves to be utterly hilarious.  I loved all the fantastic jokes made about Star Trek in this book, and it was extremely funny to see the adventures of an Enterprise equivalent ship told from the perspective of the doomed redshirts.  I had some good laughs as I powered through this book and it is an incredible comedy read to check out.

 

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

Pyramids Cover

Another long-time favourite Discworld novel of mine is the outstanding Pyramids, which serves as a comedic adventure in an ancient Egyptian facsimile.  Pratchett came up with some fantastic sequences for this book, and I always chuckle at the scene with the various sun gods fighting for their prize like a football while a priest does commentary: “It’s noon! It’s noon!”.  An utterly hilarious novel.

 

A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss

A Shot in the Dark Cover

This next excellent entry on this list is A Shot in the Dark, Lyne Truss’s novelisation of her genius Inspector Steine radio show.  This serves as an amazing take on this fantastic radio show and I loved the comical premise which sees a new police constable be reassigned to the seemingly crime free Brighton, only to discover something very sinister is lurking just around the corner, ready to offer him a cup of tea.  A very funny and entertaining read that got a lot of laughs out of me.

 

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Guards! Guards! Cover

The fifth Discworld novel on this list is the exceptional Guards! Guards!, which serves as the introductory book in the City Watch subseries.  This is an outstanding read that presents a fantasy parody of classic crime fiction novels, by having a severely understaffed police force attempt to arrest a summoned dragon.  There are so many clever comedic scenes in this book, but I personally laughed the hardest as the descriptions of the heroic and naïve Captain Carrot arresting the head of the Thieves Guild.  One of Pratchett’s best and funniest books, this is a great one to check out if you want to laugh out loud.

 

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

My final entry is How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, the sequel to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City that I featured above.  This excellent and amazing read (which was one of my favourite books of 2020) continues the story started in the first novel, although this time it follows an actor who manages to con his way to the top of the besieged city using stage techniques.  This was another hilarious and exceptional read that really made me chuckle multiple times.



That is the end of this list.  I think it came together really well and I liked the different novels I decided to feature, even if it was a tad Pratchett heavy (not that there is anything wrong with that).  All the above novels come highly recommended and are definitely worth reading if you are in the mood for a funny and laugh provoking read.

WWW Wednesday – 17 February 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Trade Paperback)

The Girls I've Been Cover

I managed to start reading The Girls I’ve Been this week and I am extremely happy that I did.  The Girls I’ve Been is a young adult thriller that follows a former teen con artist who must utilise her unique set of skills to escape a deadly bank robbery.  I was deeply intrigued by this cool sounding book when I first heard about it and so far it is living up to its hype.  This amazing book has a lot of fascinating layers and I am having an outstanding time reading it.  I am about halfway through this book at the moment, although I am hoping to finish this it off in the next day or so.  If it keeps being as awesome as it currently is I am probably going to give this book a full five-star rating because it is pretty damn incredible.

 

Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty by Josh Reynolds (Audiobook)

Kal Jerico - Sinner's Bounty Cover

I was in the mood for something a little different the other day, so when I came across this intriguing book I missed last year I just had to grab a copy to check out.  Kal Jericho: Sinner’s Bounty is an awesome science fiction novel that is part of the extended Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Set deep underneath a massive hive city, this book follows the notorious bounty hunter, Kal Jerico, as he attempts to capture the biggest prize of his career.  Filled with fun action, magnificent depictions of a chaotic underground world, a wildly entertaining protagonist and an inordinate amount of backstabbing, Sinner’s Bounty is an extremely entertaining read that is an absolute treat to read.  I have been powering through this audiobook pretty quickly and hopefully by the end of tomorrow I will know how this twisty and captivating novel ends.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Last Convict by Anthony Hill (Trade Paperback)

The Last Convict Cover

 

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz (Audiobook)

Prodigal Son Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Hunting by Stephen Leather (Trade Paperback)

The Hunting Cover

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Waiting on Wednesday – The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  In this week’s Waiting on Wednesday, I highlight an awesome upcoming fantasy novel that is sure to be a real blast, The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston.

The Maleficent Seven Cover

Cameron Johnston is a fantastic dark fantasy author who came onto the scene a couple of years ago and made an immediate impression on me.  Johnston’s first novel was the remarkably cool 2018 release, The Traitor God, which followed a dangerous wizard as he returned to his home city to find and exact bloody revenge on the people who killed his friend.  This was an awesome and clever book, and I absolutely loved the intense and epic fantasy story that Johnston produced in this debut.  The author followed up this excellent first novel with God of Broken Things, which served as an outstanding sequel to The Traitor God and ended up being one of my favourite releases of 2019.  Due to how much fun I had reading his first two novels, I have been keeping an eye out for any additional releases from Johnston and I was quite excited when I heard about The Maleficent Seven.

The Maleficent Seven is a fun and exciting-sounding upcoming fantasy novel that has the potential to be one of the most entertaining reads of 2021.  Currently set to be released on 10 August 2021, The Maleficent Seven has an awesome-sounding story that sees seven of the most dangerous villains in the world become the last hope of a besieged town.

Synopsis:

When you are all out of heroes, all that’s left are the villains.

Black Herran was a dread demonologist, and the most ruthless general in all Essoran. She assembled the six most fearsome warriors to captain her armies: a necromancer, a vampire lord, a demigod, an orcish warleader, a pirate queen, and a twisted alchemist. Together they brought the whole continent to its knees… Until the day she abandoned her army, on the eve of total victory.

40 years later, she must bring her former captains back together for one final stand, in the small town of Tarnbrooke – the last bastion against a fanatical new enemy tearing through the land, intent on finishing the job Black Herran started years before.

Seven bloodthirsty monsters. One town. Their last hope.

Ok, so there is no way that I am not going to enjoy this fantastic upcoming book.  I absolutely love, love, love the idea of a warped Seven Samurai/The Magnificent Seven story, where some of the absolute worst fantasy villains come together to fight an even greater threat and defend a small innocent town.  This narrative has so much potential for intense action sequences, fantastic character interactions and cool magical fights, and I am really looking forward to seeing all the chaos unfold.

I am also excited to see what sort of complex characters Johnston comes up with in The Maleficent Seven.  One of the best things about the author’s first two novels was the amazing antihero that served as the series’ protagonist.  I always thought that Johnston did an amazing job crafting a complex and conflicted mage with powerful and unethical mind magic in these previous novels, and I am really intrigued to see what he does with the titular seven protagonists of his next book.  All of the seven sound pretty cool already and I love the fun blend of villain archetypes mentioned in the summary.  Johnston will no doubt dive into each of these characters, especially their leader, Black Herran, examining their pasts, personalities and motivations, and I am anticipating that he will come up with some really fascinating and deep characters here.  I am particularly intrigued to see what event stopped Black Herran’s initial invasion all those years previously, as well as what drives her to get back in action and fight to defend a town.  No doubt there will also be some impressive and deadly drama as these seven characters are reunited for the first time in years, and I am anticipated so many awesome sequences between them.

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston looks set to be an incredible and exceptionally entertaining dark fantasy read and I am extremely keen to see it come out.  The story hinted at in the summary has so much potential for awesomeness, and I already know that I am going to have an outstanding time getting through it.  This has all the markings of a spectacular read and I have some very high hopes for The Maleficent Seven.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Prodigal Son Cover

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Audiobook – 2 February 2021)

Series: Orphan X – Book Six

Length: 13 hours and 42 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the most exciting and impressive thriller series out there returns with the sixth entry in Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series, Prodigal Son.

Over the last couple of years I have really been expanding my love for the thriller genre and I have been getting into several cool series, many of which have been spectacular reads.  One of my favourites at the moment is the fantastic Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz.  The Orphan X series follows protagonist Evan Smoak, the titular Orphan X, a lethal and highly capable special operator who was recruited out of an orphanage when he was 12 and trained in every conceivable aspect of combat and spycraft.  After breaking from the Orphan Program and moving to Los Angeles, Evan has taken on a new moniker as The Nowhere Man, a vigilante who helps those in desperate situations as penance for his former life as an assassin.  I had a lot of fun reading the fourth book in the series, Out of the Dark, which saw Evan go up against the corrupt President of the United States.  I also deeply enjoyed the fifth book, Into the Fire, which was one of my favourite books from the first half of 2020 and one of the best audiobooks of the year.  As a result, I have been really looking forward to reading the new Orphan X novel for a while now and I was excited to see what sort of fascinating story Prodigal Son would have.

After successfully taking down the shadowy forces behind the Orphan Program, Evan Smoak is ready to retire.  With an unofficial pardon from the new President, all Evan has to do to stay off the government’s radar is to stop his activities as The Nowhere Man and live a normal life.  However, the past once again returns to haunt Evan when he receives a phone call from a woman claiming to be his long lost mother, asking for his help.

Shocked and rattled by the revelations, Evan’s curiosity and need for family drives him to meet with this woman and discover what she wants.  After tracking her down, Evan is surprised at the woman’s one request: to find and help Andrew Duran, a nobody living in LA whose life has gone off the rails.  Working a dead-end job at an impound lot, Andrew witnesses the mysterious death of a former drone pilot, and now finds himself being hunted by a pair of brutal killers.

While initially reluctant to take the case and risk his pardon, Evan’s interest is piqued when he barely survives a hellfire missile strike on Andrew’s house.  Digging deeper in the circumstances around the murder at the impound lot, Evan begins to uncover a deadly conspiracy involving a ruthless weapons contractor and his next generation drone weaponry.  However, the biggest dangers to Evan may come from a direction he would never expect, as his new client, Andrew, brings up unwanted memories from his traumatic past.  What is Andrew’s connection to Evan’s mother and his childhood and how will an emotionally compromised Evan save everyone important to him?

Wow, that was impressive.  Hurwitz has once again come up with an epic and exciting Orphan X novel that combines high-octane action, with a fantastic plot, some excellent characters and an intense amount of growth and emotional turmoil surrounding the series’ protagonist.  The combination of this results in a deeply addictive and extremely captivating read that ended up getting a full five-star rating from me, and it proved extremely hard to put Prodigal Son down.

This latest Orphan X novel contains a particularly clever and enjoyable narrative that sees Evan once again engage in a deadly mission as The Nowhere Man, although this time he is drawn in for far more personal reasons than usual.  Hurwitz starts Prodigal Son off with a fun introduction, as Evan attempts to live a peaceful life in retirement (which goes about as well as expected), before his curiosity at the cliffhanger ending of the previous novel, Into the Fire, drives him to seek out the woman claiming to be his mother.  This in turn leads him to attempt to save another lost soul from dangerous forces, as he goes up against a sociopathic tech genius and their ruthless assassins (as well as some repugnant bastards he encounters along the way).  The rest of the story progresses at an intense and enjoyable pace as Evan attempts to get to the bottom of the plot that his client finds himself in.  This results in several really impressive fight scenes, including a particularly brutal sequence in a impound lot (I will never, ever think about putting a torch in my mouth again).  Hurwitz really has a talent for writing action scenes, and I loved all the ruthless detail and fun moments that he features within them (never bring a Tesla to a gun fight).  In addition, there are some cleverly written infiltration scenes that I had fun with, especially when it comes to Evan breaking into some very high-security places with some elaborate disguises and a vape pen.  All of this comes to a head with an explosive conclusion which, while a tad predictable, was still a fun way to end the book and should make for some interesting future entries in the series.  I really enjoyed getting through Prodigal Son’s story and I found it to be particularly addictive and fun.

One of the most impressive and distinguishing highlights of the Orphan X series has always been its compelling and complex protagonist, Evan Smoak.  Evan is a highly trained professional assassin who learnt a meticulous code of honour and responsibility as a child and now seeks to redeem himself by helping those in trouble.  Thanks to his troubled and complicated past, as well as some mild OCD (brought on by a need for perfection in his work), Evan has been a particularly compelling character to follow, and there has been an intriguing subplot about his troubles connecting to other people.  However, the emotional turmoil hidden within the character really comes to a head in Prodigal Son when Evan is reunited with the woman who abandoned him as a baby.  Hurwitz really dives deep into the character’s psyche for this latest novel, presenting an intricate and powerful picture of a conflicted person, one who is torn between his long-repressed desire for family and to fit in and his training to be independent and alone.  This emotional turmoil becomes even more pronounced when several secrets and revelations come to the surface, and this really throws Evan for a lot of the book.  These added emotional distractions prove to be an intriguing part of the book’s plot, especially as it dulls Evan’s usual keen senses and amps up the risk during his missions.  Hurwitz also spends time diving back into Evan’s childhood, including through a series of flashbacks to when he was first recruited to the Orphan Program, and it was fascinating to see more of his early life, especially when it impacts on his current state of mind.  I also quite enjoyed the way in which Hurwitz explores Evan’s relationship with several other characters, and it was fascinating to see more of this killer’s paternal instincts and cravings come to life, especially after he finally comes face to face with his mother.  In addition, Hurwitz also explores his protagonist’s mentality when it comes to retirement, and it proved interesting to see how Evan reacts when he is once again exposed to danger and violence.  This is easily some of the best character development and exploration that Hurwitz has ever done, and I really appreciated the dramatic edge that it gave to Prodigal Son’s story.

Aside from Evan, this novel is filled with a selection of amazing and well-developed characters.  The most prominent of these are probably Evan’s client, Andrew, and his long-lost mother, Veronica.  Both serve as intriguing catalysts to Evan’s own development, and it was fascinating to see how their introduction to the plot impacted the protagonist’s mentality, especially when their various secrets come to life.  Andrew in particular proves to be a great addition to the plot, and I liked to see another one of Evan’s clients whose life is both upended and improved by his interactions with The Nowhere Man.  Several recurring characters from the previous Orphan X series also have some fantastic roles in this book, and I really enjoyed seeing more of Joey, a former Orphan Program participant and master hacker, who Evan treats like a little sister/daughter.  Joey is a very fun character whose style, personality and expertise in all things technological strongly clash with Evan, but together they form a great team, and they have some amusing interactions throughout the book, especially when Evan finds out that Joey is dating and instantly enters protective dad mode.  There is also the usual inclusion of the other residents of Evan’s apartment complex, including his love interest Mia and her young son Peter.  While many of the characters in this complex seem a bit weird or one-dimensional, they actually prove to be an intriguing part of the book’s plot, especially as Evan is able to reconcile his own emotional issues with some of the problems they are facing.  This is particularly true when it comes to Mia and Peter, and there are some interesting developments on that relationship throughout Prodigal Son.

Aside from these excellent side characters, Hurwitz has also come up with some fun villains for this latest novel that Evan needs to contend with.  The main three villains of the story are a pretty unique group of antagonists, including the brother-sister team of Declan and Queenie Gentner, contracted assassins who have been hired to kill Andrew and other witnesses to their boss’s plot.  Declan and Queenie are an interesting and sadistic pair of killers who prove to be a bit of a challenge for Evan throughout the book.  I really appreciated that Hurwitz spent the time developing both of them, especially Declan, who has some major childhood traumas, and I felt that their arc throughout Prodigal Son was rather clever.  The main villain of this story is the Gentner’s employer, known as the Doctor, who has access to some rather dangerous technology.  The Doctor has a very James Bond villain feel to him, right down to having an odd and distinguishing physical characteristic and a sinister vision for the future.  While a little more mystery or a twist about who the Doctor ultimately was might have worked out well, I still thought they were a great villain.  I particularly liked the inclusion of all the drones that they used, and it was really fascinating to see how the author envisioned the future of warfare and how a trained agent like Evan would deal with them.  Overall, there are some great side characters in this novel, and I look forward to seeing how Hurwitz utilises them in future Orphan X entries.

Like I did with the previous novel in the Orphan X series, I ended up choosing to listen to Prodigal Son’s audiobook format.  This was a fantastic decision as this version of Prodigal Son was well put together and proved to be an excellent way to enjoy this amazing story.  Prodigal Son has a decent run time of 13 hours and 42 minutes, which dedicated listeners can get through fairly quickly, and was narrated by the talented Scott Brick.  Brick is an exceptional narrator who has lent his voice to an impressive catalogue of audiobooks, including several excellent thrillers, such as the Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series (I enjoyed his narration for The Malta Exchange and The Warsaw Protocol) and the rest of the Orphan X novels.  For Prodigal Son, Brick once again gives an excellent performance, providing the characters with some tough voices which fit each of the perfectly and helped to bring the story to life.  I ended up getting really wrapped up in this audiobook and I felt that it was an amazing way to experience and step inside of this fantastic novel.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz is an exceptional and powerful read that serves a great new addition to the amazing Orphan X series.  I had an outstanding time listening to this fantastic new book, especially with its epic story and terrifically deep characters, and this is swiftly becoming one of my favourite thriller series.  Prodigal Son comes highly recommended and I cannot wait to see how Hurwitz continues this in the future.

Top Ten Tuesday – Most Viewed Posts of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was to list a participant’s favourite purple, yellow, and/or green Book Covers in honour of Mardi Gras, however, I really did not have any great book covers to feature on this list so I am going to do something a little different and list my top viewed posts of 2020.

Over the last month or two I have been having fun listing some of the top releases I enjoyed in 2020, including my favourite debuts, audiobooks, new to me authors, pre-2020 novels and books that I read last year.  However, it is probably time to finish this line of Top Ten Lists off and move onto different topics, so I thought that I would do something new as a closing act and decided to take a quick look at which of my posts got the most views in 2020.  Not only this a fantastic way to finish highlighting some of the best novels released last year, but I am also genuinely curious to see which posts people were most interested in last year as this may some impact on what I try and read going forward.

To fill out this list I checked out the nifty stats section of my WordPress website to see which of my posts got the most views last year.  While some of the posts I wrote before 2020 did get a lot of attention last year, I decided to limit this list to those blog entries that I published in 2020 and I only ranked them by views received last year.  This resulted in a rather interesting collection of posts and I was so intrigued by this I decided to expand the selection out to my top 20 posts rather than 10, which I think created a much more varied and captivating list.  The final list contains a great combination of different posts, including reviews, Waiting on Wednesday posts and even a few other Top Ten Tuesday lists.  I am really happy with how this latest list turned out, so let us see which posts made the cut.

Top Twenty List:


Waiting on Wednesday – The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett – 940 views

The Evening and the Morning Cover

The top scoring post was the Waiting on Wednesday post I did for the latest Ken Follet novel, The Evening and the Morning.  I was a little surprised that this Waiting on Wednesday did so well last year, especially as a lot of the views on it occurred after the book got released, but the view count on this post has continued to grow and grow.  A lot of this is probably down to how impressive each of his massive novels are, as readers know they are in for a good time and keep an eye out for the latest Follett book.

House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas review – 449 views

House of Earth and Blood Cover

After the fantastic first entry there is a bit of a drop in views, but second place is held strongly by my review for House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas.  This is not too surprising, considering that Maas has a pretty substantial fanbase, and House of Earth and Blood was one of the most anticipated fantasy releases of 2020.  This was only the second novel from Maas that I have read (the other being Catwoman: Soulstealer) and the first adult fantasy novel from an author that specialises in young adult fiction.  I ended up really enjoying the complex and lengthy story that Maas created for House of Earth and Blood and I am looking forward to seeing how the series continues in the future.

Lost by James Patterson and James O. Born review – 317 views

Lost Cover

Number three on this list was a bit of a surprise.  While I enjoyed Lost, I must admit that it was not one of my favourite books of 2020 and I did not expect my review of it to get as much attention as it ended up getting.  Still, with Patterson’s immense number of fans and followers, I guess it makes sense that people would be interested in seeing how one of his books would turn out, and I really need to check out some more of his novels this year.

Waiting on Wednesday – Relentless by R. A. Salvatore – 265 views

Relentless Cover

The next entry on this list is the Waiting on Wednesday article that I did for legendary fantasy author R. A. Salvatore’s second 2020 novel RelentlessRelentless was a particularly cool fantasy novel from last year which followed on from Salvatore’s previous novels Timeless and Boundless.  There ended up being a good amount of interest in this post, and it looks like there are a lot of fans of Salvatore and his amazing fantasy novels.  I actually just posted a slightly belated review of Relentless, and it will be interesting to see how much attention it gets this year.

Waiting on Wednesday – 2021 Thrillers – 229 views

Thriller Covers

Next up we have a Waiting on Wednesday post of three thrillers released in early 2021.  Each of these novels, Relentless by Mark Greaney, The Kaiser’s Web by Steve Berry and Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz, are the latest entry in a popular and established thriller series, and each of these authors already have a lot of dedicated readers.  I have already read Prodigal Son (review coming soon, but in short it is pretty awesome), while I have copies of Relentless and The Kaiser’s Web currently sitting on my table.  It will be interesting to see how they turn out, but I am predicting some epic and amazing reads from them.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik review – 224 views

A Deadly Education Cover

Naomi Novik is a talented fantasy author with a lot of buzz surrounding her, so it is no surprise that a lot of people were interested in her latest book, A Deadly EducationA Deadly Education was an outstanding and captivating read that proved to be extremely inventive and addictive.  I deeply enjoyed reading and reviewing A Deadly Education last year, and Novik’s upcoming sequel, The Last Graduate, is one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.

Top Ten Tuesday – Favourite Books of 2020 – 223 views

Trouble with Peace and Battle Ground Cover

This post listed my absolute favourite books of 2020.  Featuring 20 novels, including impressive reads like The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie and Battle Ground by Jim Butcher, this was always going to be a post that a lot of people would be interested in, and I was very happy with how many views it got in closing days of 2020.  I cannot wait to list my favourite books of 2021 in 10 months’ time.

One Minute Out by Mark Greaney review – 222 views

One Minute Out Cover

Considering how much attention that the above Waiting on Wednesday for Greaney’s next book got last year, it is not surprising that a lot of people also checked out my review for One Minute Out.  Serving as the ninth book in Greaney’s impressive Gray Man series, this was a fantastic read that got a full five-star rating from me.  I cannot wait to read the next book, especially if turns out to be as good as One Minute Out.

Top Ten Tuesday – Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020 – 208 views

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It and Call of the Bone Ships Covers

Another Top Ten List with a lot of major and popular entries in it, including How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It by K. J. Parker and Call of the Bone Ships by R. J. Barker.  This was a fun and intriguing list to pull together, especially as I ended up reading and loving every book featured on it.

The Gates of Athens by Conn Iggulden review – 205 views

The Gates of Athens Cover

It looks like a lot of people were interested in historical fiction last year as my review for The Gates of Athens by the always impressive Conn Iggulden got viewed more than 200 times.  The Gates of Athens was a particularly awesome novel as well, and I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Protector, soon.

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly review – 196

The Law of Innocence Cover

I actually reviewed two books from iconic crime fiction author Michael Connelly last year, Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence.  While both were fantastic reads, it seems more people were interested in my review of The Law of Innocence, which saw the return of the Lincoln Lawyer.  This was a particularly fun and enjoyable read and I am glad that so many people were keen to see what I thought about it.

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 34: Bunraku and Other Stories by Stan Sakai review – 173 views

Usagi Yojimbo Bunraku and Other Stories Cover

I did quite few reviews of Usagi Yojimbo comics in 2020, all of which proved to be rather popular, which was great considering how niche these comics are.  Out of all these, the one that got the most attention was for the 2020 release, Bunraku and Other Stories.  I had an amazing time writing a passionate review for this comic, the first to be released completely in colour, and it was great to see so much interest in it.  My Waiting on Wednesday article for the next Usagi Yojimbo volume, Homecoming, has already gotten a substantial number of views in 2021, so hopefully readers will also enjoy my review for this upcoming volume.

Top Ten Tuesday – Longest Audiobooks That I Have Listened To – Part II – 166 views

WAY OF KINGS MM REV FINAL.indd

A continuation of a previous Top Ten Tuesday list I did, I spent a bit of time working out the longest audiobooks I have ever read.  This is a post I will probably revisit again this year, although I very much doubt that the current longest audiobook, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, is going to be unseated from its top position on the list.

Waiting on Wednesday – Colonyside by Michael Mammay – 150 views

Colonyside Cover

Another Waiting on Wednesday that got a lot of attention last year was one I did for the cool science fiction thriller, Colonyside.  Serving as the third book in Michael Mammay’s Planetside series (which also includes Planetside and Spaceside), this article got a bit of attention after a timely retweet from Mammay.  I recently read and reviewed Colonyside a few weeks ago and it really lived up to the hype.

Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio review – 143 views

Demon in White Cover 1

Now, this was a fun book to review.  Demon in White is the third epic entry in impressive new science fiction author Christopher Ruocchio’s outstanding Sun Eater Sequence, which previously featured Empire of Silence and Howling Dark.  Considering how amazing this latest entry in the Sun Eater series was, I am very glad that my review for his book got some attention last year, and I would strongly recommend this impressive, gothic read.

Waiting on Wednesday – Ink by Jonathan Maberry – 124 views

Ink Cover

I always really enjoy reviewing or promoting anything written by Jonathan Maberry, and this Waiting on Wednesday I did for his standalone horror novel, Ink, ended up getting a lot of attention in the end.  Maberry has a new novel coming out in a few months, Relentless, which I am very excited for, and I anticipate a lot of views for that review when I get it written up.

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde review – 113 views

The Constant Rabbit Cover

One of the funniest books of 2020, The Constant Rabbit was a lot of fun to review and I am glad that a lot of people checked it out last year.

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett review – 111 views

The Evening and the Morning Cover

While it may not have gotten as many views as its Waiting on Wednesday article, my review for The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett did make the Top Twenty list.  Serving as a prequel to Follett’s iconic The Pillars of the Earth, this was one of the best historical fiction novels in 2020 and is a strongly recommended read.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Horror Novels – 110 views

Into the Drowning Deep Cover

The penultimate post on this list was an interesting Top Ten Tuesday I did for Halloween, listing my favourite horror novels I have ever read.  I honestly am not the biggest fan of the horror genre, but I was able to rustle up a good Top Ten list for this post, including some great reads like Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant and Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry.  It looks like a lot of horror fans were out in force last Halloween as people were quite interested in this list, and I hope I recommended a few good reads for any fans of the genre out there.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books from the First Half of 2020 – 107 views

Song of the Risen God Cover

The final entry on this list was a Top Ten article that highlighted some of the best books from the first half of 2020.  Featuring some particularly cool reads, including Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz and Song of the Risen God by R. A. Salvatore, this one got a bit of attention early in the year and it was interesting to see which of the books featured eventually made their way onto my overall favourite reads of 2020 list later in the year.

While mainly a conduit for my ego, I think this list turned out pretty well, and I really enjoyed seeing which of my posts got the most views last year.  I had a lot of fun pulling this list together and I think this might be something I will revisit in the future.  In the meantime, I hope everyone has a happy and safe Mardi Gras.

Relentless by R. A. Salvatore

Relentless Cover

Publisher: Harper Audio (Audiobook – 28 July 2020)

Series: Generations – Book Three

Length: 15 hours and 9 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Legendary fantasy author R. A. Salvatore brings his latest trilogy of novels to an epic conclusion with his 2020 release, Relentless, the third and final book in the Generations trilogy.

War has once again come to the Forgotten Realms, as the Drow hordes of Menzoberranzan march to reclaim the soul of one of their own, the previously dead sword master Zaknafein Do’Urden.  Centuries ago, Zaknafein sacrificed his life to save his son, Drizzt Do’Urden, allowing him to become the greatest hero the lands had ever seen.  Thanks to the help of a mysterious Drow priestess, Zaknafein has been returned to life and finally reunited with his son.  However, their reunion has been far from perfect, as Zaknafein has trouble understanding some of his son’s choices, including his unusual companions and his marriage to a human.  Worse, Drow fanatics, utterly loyal to the dark god of Chaos, Loth the Spider Queen, have declared war on the surface, determined to capture and kill Zaknafein and Drizzt and everyone who stands with them.

A massive army of demons has invaded the dwarven kingdom of Gauntlgrym, trapping Zaknafein, the rogue Jarlaxle, Drizzt’s life-long friends and the legendary Companions of the Hall inside, while dark forces attack their allies on the surface.  At the same time, the massed armies of the Drow city of Menzoberranzan have been forced to war and now occupy the tunnels surrounding Gauntlgrym, cutting off any chance of escape.  However, all of this pales in comparison to the greatest tragedy that has occurred in the lands outside of Gauntlgrym, where a demonic device of great power tracked and disintegrated Drizzt as he tried to destroy the mechanical creature.

While things seem dire, the Companions of the Hall are far from defeated, and every man, dwarf, halfling and rogue dark elf is ready to fight.  As Zaknafein, Gauntlgrym’s dwarf king Bruenor and their allies attempt to hold back the hordes besieging them by any means possible, the barbarian warrior Wulfgar works to reclaim the city of Luskan with a small force of warriors.  As the battle begins in earnest, heroes will rise, empires will fall, and the world will change forever.  However, the fate of everyone involved in this battle may lay in Zaknafein’s secret history, as demons from his past come back to haunt him once again.

R. A. Salvatore has produced another incredible and wonderful fantasy read that takes several of his most iconic characters on a dark and dangerous journey. Salvatore is one of my favourite fantasy authors, having produced an immense and awesome collection of novels over the years. While he has written several series, such the novels set in his Corona universe (including his other 2020 release, Song of the Risen God), his main body of work is set within the shared Forgotten Realms fantasy universe and primarily follows the adventures of the Drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden and his heroic companions.  Relentless is the third entry in the latest Drizzt Do’Urden trilogy of books, known as the Generations trilogy, which includes the preceding novels Timeless and Boundless.  This series continues the adventures of Drizzt and his companions, but features an intriguing new angle in the return of Drizzt’s father, who died in the 1990 novel, Homeland.  This has so far proven to be an impressive and exciting trilogy from Salvatore that contains an intriguing new narrative and pays homage to his earlier novels in the overarching series.  I have been looking forward to Relentless for some time, especially after the really cool cliffhanger that Salvatore featured at the end of Boundless.

In this latest book, Salvatore tells a complex and action-packed story that makes use of multiple character perspectives to tell an epic and exciting tale, especially after establishing so many excellent plot points in the previous two novels.  As he did in the other entries in this series, Salvatore features two distinct timelines throughout this impressive book.  Relentless is broken up into four separate parts (not including the prelude), with two of these parts set during in the universe’s modern era, depicting the current day battle for Gauntlgrym and the lives of the author’s beloved protagonist, while the other two parts of the novel are set deep in the past.  These two parts of the novel are set hundreds of years before the current events and follow Zaknafein, Jarlaxle and several other Drow characters during their younger days.  Both of these distinctive storylines have their own appeals, and I had a fantastic time reading both of them.

I probably enjoyed the prequel storylines the most, as I really enjoyed the deeper look at Zaknafein’s past and its intriguing implications on the events of Salvatore’s earlier books.  These prequel storylines are loaded with fantastic depictions of life in the chaotic and evil Drow city of Menzoberranzan, and it was extremely entertaining to see all the backstabbing, politics and brutal battles for supremacy that are a distinguishing feature of day-to-day Drow life.  These prequel storylines also contain some of the best action sequences in the book, mainly because they focus on the character of Zaknafein, the greatest sword fighter in the world, and Salvatore always portrays his epic fight sequences in intricate detail, capturing the sheer majesty of the character’s fighting ability.  I also quite enjoyed seeing more of the young, up-and-coming version of the Drow mercenary and conman, Jarlaxle, as he manipulates the entirety of the city, and all of his scenes are extremely fun.  This earlier storyline in Relentless is a great continuation of the other prequel storylines that appeared in the previous entries in the Generations trilogy, and I really enjoyed how this entire expanded storyline concludes.  It was fascinating to see how the events of Zaknafein’s past impacted the main storyline, and I felt that this was an outstanding addition to Relentless’s story.

While I did prefer the prequel storyline, the contemporary story contained within the other two parts of the book is still pretty epic in its own right, as it features a desperate fight for survival against the antagonists of the series.  Salvatore goes big for these parts of the book, featuring massive battles for supremacy, major character moments and some universe-changing twists and turns.  Like the prequel storyline, this main narrative thread flows on extremely well from the previous Generations books, and the author provides a satisfactory conclusion to the war which was set up in the last two novels.  The author more strongly utilises multiple character perspectives in these parts of the book, which I felt helped to tell a richer and more exciting story, especially as you got to see the action unfold from the eyes of many established characters.  A lot of the plot points established in the prequel storylines were masterfully exploited throughout these main parts of the book, and I think that the combination of time periods worked extremely well to create a powerful and memorable narrative.  The major events that occurred at the end of Relentless were rather interesting, and it looks like Salvatore has some intriguing plans for any future novels set in this universe.  Overall, this was an extremely enjoyable tale filled with some great action, well-established characters, and an incredible combination of compelling and varied storylines.

While I usually find all of Salvatore’s books to be extremely accessible to general fantasy fans who are unfamiliar with his prior works, Relentless is book probably best enjoyed by people who have read the rest of the entries in the Generations trilogy and who have some decent knowledge of the other Drizzt Do’Urden novels.  This is mainly because Relentless serves as the conclusion to the connected storylines established in Timeless and Boundless, and the story has gotten quite complex at this point, especially with the prequel storyline focusing on the young Zaknafein, which was carefully cultivated in the prior two novels.  While new readers can probably still follow and enjoy Relentless, fans of Salvatore’s work are going to be the ones who get the most out of it, especially as this latest book ties into some of the author’s earliest works.  For example, the prequel storyline has some extremely strong connections to one of the author’s earliest books, Homeland.  The Generations trilogy’s past-based storyline has primarily served as a compelling prequel to Homeland, and this latest book contains several scenes that shed new light on this previous book.  Indeed, some of the best scenes in Relentless serve as a direct precursor to key events of Homeland or provide alternate viewpoints to them, allowing for some fascinating new context and information.  I personally have always had a lot of love for Homeland, which is one of Salvatore’s best novels, and I really appreciated seeing this new take on the plot.  As a result, this is a must-read for fans of Salvatore’s fantastic series and readers are in for a real treat.

Another great part of this book were the excellent characters featured throughout the various time periods.  As has been the case with the other books in the Generations trilogy, much of the character development revolves around Zaknafein, as both time periods have a fascinating focus on him.  Salvatore continues to explore various parts of Zaknafein’s character throughout Relentless, both in the past and present, and it was great to see how he has evolved throughout the course of the trilogy.  I particularly enjoyed seeing Zaknafein’s development in the prequel storyline, especially as you get several extra scenes discussing Zaknafein’s conflicted feelings when Drizzt was born.  Salvatore spends a lot of time establishing how Zaknafein became the person who would eventually sacrifice his own life for his son, and it was great to see this whole new side of this iconic and fantastic character.

Several other characters featured throughout Relentless really stood out to me.  Foremost of these is of course the rogue Drow criminal and conman, Jarlaxle, who is a prominent character in both timelines.  Jarlaxle is so much fun to see in action, whether he is manipulating someone or getting involved in a fight with his fantastic arsenal of insane magical weapons and tools.  Drizzt, who is nominally the main character of this trilogy, and indeed most of Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms novels, was notably absent throughout this book, having been disintegrated at the end of Boundless.  Salvatore works his apparent death into the story extremely well, creating some emotionally deep moments as his friends mourn his passing and try to work out how to move on.  I think that Salvatore utilised his absence from the story to full effect, especially as it allowed other characters to have their moment to shine.  Drizzt’s eventual resurrection, which was so predictable it is not even really a spoiler, was set up beautifully and I really liked how it tied into some of the more mystical events of some previous Salvatore novels.  Aside from these Drow characters, the rest of the Companions of the Hall have major moments throughout Relentless, and each of them has a key storyline set around them.  Bruenor, Wulfgar, Regis, Catti-brie, Artemis Enteri and more are all utilised throughout the story, and it was great to see all of them in action.  Salvatore also focuses on several other side characters who have appeared in prior novels, and there are some notable storylines and character arcs scatter amongst them that will no doubt bear fruit in future Drizzt Do’Urden novels.  Overall, Relentless continues Salvatore’s exceptional character work, and it was fantastic to see all these complex personalities come to life.

Rather than grab a physical copy of Relentless I ended up getting this cool fantasy novel on audiobook, which was a fantastic way to enjoy Salvatore’s latest release.  The audiobook format of Relentless has a run time of just over 15 hours, which, while fairly substantial for an audiobook, is easy enough to get through once you become engrossed in the excellent narrative and is definitely worth the time investment.  I really enjoyed listening to this great book and I found that it was the perfect way to absorb all the unique fantasy elements and Salvatore’s intriguing twists.  Part of the reason why I enjoyed this format so much was the excellent voice work from narrator Victor Bevine.  Bevine is a veteran audiobook narrator who has provided his vocal talents to a huge number of Salvatore’s previous novels, including the other two entries in the Generations trilogy.  It is cool having the continuity of Bevine’s voice after enjoying so many Salvatore audiobooks, and I really enjoy the tone that he uses for this story.  Bevine moves Relentless along at a quick pace, and the listener never finds themselves stuck in a slow part of the novel.  I also quite enjoyed the excellent voices that Bevine utilised throughout the book.  Not only did these voices perfectly fit the characters they were assigned to, helping to bring them to life, but I loved all the fun accents he used for the various races featured within the book, such as the Scottish brogue that each dwarven character had.  All of this really enhanced my enjoyment of Relentless and this is a fantastic novel to check out on audiobook.

Relentless is another exceptional and epic read from the master of fantasy fiction, R. A. Salvatore, as he wraps up another amazing trilogy with a remarkable and memorable bang.  Salvatore remains at the top of his game for Relentless, providing the reader with a complex, multifaceted storyline, studded with intense action, fantastic characters and some really clever story elements.  I had an outstanding time reading this awesome book and I cannot wait to see what magic and mayhem Salvatore comes up with in his next captivating read.  Highly recommended.

The Last Convict by Anthony Hill

The Last Convict Cover

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Trade Paperback – 2 February 2021)

Series: Standalone

Length: 368 pages

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Acclaimed Australian author Anthony Hill once again dives into the unique history of Australia’s colonial past with a fascinating examination of a truly remarkable individual in The Last Convict.

Perth, 1938.  Samuel Speed in an old man living his last days in a dreary public-run home for destitute old men, with no family or friends to take him in.  At 98 years old, Samuel knows that he does not have long to live and is content with his lot in life, but an unexpected opportunity to tell his tale has been given to him.  A local newspaper has requested an interview with him after they discover that he is the last person left alive who was transported as a convict to Australia.

As Samuel begins his interview, he is transported back to his past to a fateful day in Oxford in 1863 when, as a young, starving teenager, he helped set a barley stack alight in the hopes of being arrested to receive food and a warm bed in prison.  However, he is unprepared for the full consequences of his actions when a judge harshly sentences him to seven years hard labour on the other side of the world.  Boarding the transportation ship, Belgravia, everything from his past is taken from him, including his name, and he begins the long, arduous journey to Fremantle Prison in Western Australia.

Forced to endure years of backbreaking labour, isolation and enforced routine on his life, Samuel’s only relief is a newfound love of reading, as he enjoys escapism in several classic novels.  Eventually obtaining his ticket of leave in 1867 and full freedom in 1871, Samuel seeks to forge a new life for himself.  However, as he continues to work hard, he soon begins to understand that even though he is no longer in prison, he is still very much trapped by circumstances outside of his control.  What kind of man will Samuel become, and how deep does a person’s life sentence truly run?

The Last Convict is a fantastic and powerful historical novel from Anthony Hill that provides an impressive examination of an intriguing figure from Australia’s history.  Hill is an intriguing author from my home city of Canberra who has written several historical novels throughout his career, all of which examine unique individuals from Australia’s past, such as his novel Captain Cook’s Apprentice which followed a cabin boy aboard the Endeavour as it made its journey to Australia, or Soldier Boy, which followed Australia’s youngest-known soldier during WWI.  This latest novel from Hill continues this trend as the author takes a look at Samuel Speed, the last known surviving convict transported to Australia from England.

I really enjoyed the excellent narrative that Hill pulled together for his latest novel, and The Last Convict proved to be an exciting and fascinating tale of survival and determination.  Thanks to a trove of intriguing historical information and articles (all of which is either provided or referenced at the end of the novel), Hill provides the reader with a detailed and compelling bibliographic tale of Samuel’s life.  The story is set around a real-life interview that Samuel Speed had with the Mirror in 1938, and The Last Convict showcases both the elderly Speed sitting down for the interview and his visions of the past as he gets wrapped up in his captivating memories.  The resulting tale is a powerful and stirring narrative that combines historical fact, obtained from both the interview and other sources, as well as some dramatisation from the author.  I really enjoyed the clever narrative that resulted and I think that Hill did his historical protagonist justice, painting him as a conflicted and entertaining figure with both regrets and contentment about how his life turned out.  While many of the events that occurred in this novel have a strong historical basis, Hill did make several leaps (which he acknowledges in his notes) throughout the book.  I think that a lot of these literary creations of the character’s life worked well, and I like to think that Samuel was the amiable bibliophile that Hill made him out to be.  I found myself really getting drawn into this epic and captivating tale, especially as the author did a fantastic job portraying a number of fascinating scenes, locations and events from history, and it painted a vivid picture.  I also quite enjoyed the way in which Hill told the story through an excellent combination of flashback sequences and scenes featuring the older Samuel telling his tale to the newspaper.  All of this results in a fantastic and enjoyable narrative and I am really glad that I got the chance to experience this interesting take on the intriguing figure that was Samuel Steel.

One of the things that I loved the most about The Last Convict was the exceptional amount of historical detail that the author chucked into this book.  Hill is a massive history buff who has done an impressive amount of research for this novel, and he goes out of his way to populate this novel with all manner of facts and fascinating depictions of day-to-day life that a person like Samuel Steel would have experienced.  As a result, the reader gets a captivating, comprehensive and authentic-feeling examination of the convict experience in the latter half of the 19th century.  This includes fantastic depictions of how a person would be tried; their incarceration in England, including some of the horrendous bits of hard and painfully repetitive labour they would be required to undertake; all the way up to their transportation across to Western Australia.  The author also dives into the experiences of a convict living in Western Australia in the second half of The Last Convict, and there are some fantastic and intriguing discussions about what a person would have experienced once they arrived in a vast new land.  I found all the discussion about the various tasks, the intricate tickets of leave and day-to-day life of a convict locked up in Freemantle Prison (which is a cool building to visit) to be exquisitely done, and the reader gets an amazingly wide-ranging amount of knowledge on the subject.

Another fun historical aspect of the novel was the range of entertaining historical anecdotes that the character of Samuel Steel told to the reporter during the story regarding major historical figures that Samuel would have had knowledge of.  Not only do these anecdotes help to flesh out the story and help to fit into a couple of minor references featured in the Mirror interview, but they also proved to be a rather intriguing inclusion.  Hill goes into substantial detail recounting tales of several outrageous and famous Western Australian historical figures and their major moments, which included infamous prison escapes and other shenanigans.  I found these parts of the book to be incredibly fascinating, especially as I was unfamiliar with several of the stories that were mentioned, including one mass escape of Irish convicts that nearly started an international incident between the colony of Western Australia and the United States.  These stories added some great context to Samuel’s tale and helped the reader to envision the lives of other convicts or people in power that may have had some influence over the protagonist’s way of life or who he may have gossiped about.  I also quite liked the author’s decision to make Samuel a fan of classic novels, which was added in due to a passing reference to a Mark Twain story that Samuel made during his interview, and because Samuel had an association with the Braille Society, who ended up burying him.  Hill expands on this to paint Samuel as a lover of other novels, especially Dickens, and suggests that he would have started reading whilst a convict looking to pass the time.  Not only is this a rather likeable and relatable character trait, but it allowed the author to explore what sort of literary works a person like Samuel might have been interested in and may have had access to.  I enjoyed the author’s depictions of this classic novels and the protagonist’s potential reaction to them, and it proved to be an intriguing part of the book’s plot.  Overall, I felt that all these cool historical elements really helped to elevate Hill’s story within The Last Convict and readers are in for a fantastic blast of information about colonial Western Australia that is extremely fascinating and interesting.

The Last Convict is another clever and meticulously researched Australian historical fiction novel from Anthony Hill that provides the reader with a powerful and compelling window into the life of an interesting figure from history.  Loaded with Hill’s usual intense levels of fascinating historical detail, I had a lot of fun reading The Last Convict.  I look forward to seeing which Australian historical figure Hill looks at in his next book and I will be grabbing a copy to read.

WWW Wednesday – 10 February 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Last Convict by Anthony Hill (Trade Paperback)

The Last Convict Cover

 

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz (Audiobook)

Prodigal Son Cover


What did you recently finish reading?

City of Vengeance by D. V. Bishop (Trade Paperback)

City of Vengeance Cover

 

The Imitator by Rebecca Starford (Trade Paperback)

The Imitator Cover


What do you think you’ll read next?

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Trade Paperback)

The Girls I've Been Cover

 


That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Waiting on Wednesday – 2021 Historical Fiction Reads

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For my latest Waiting on Wednesday article, I have a look at some epic upcoming historical fiction novels that I think could be amongst some of the best releases of 2021.

I have long been a lover of the fun, intriguing and often action-packed genre that is historical fiction, especially as I cut my reviewing teeth primarily on historical fiction novels for several years.  Even now that I review a wider range of novels, this still remains one of my favourite and preferred genres, and I always have an amazing time getting through a compelling historical read.  Last year proved to be an exceptional year for historical fiction, including The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett, The Emperor’s Exile by Simon Scarrow and Execution by S. J. Parris, and several historical fiction novels were easily amongst the best books I read in 2020.  Now that we are into 2021, I thought I would take this opportunity to look at three historical fiction releases from some of the leading voices in the genre that are coming out soon.  All three of these upcoming novels have an immense amount of potential and will probably be some of my favourite books of 2021.

A Comedy of Terrors Cover

The first of these books is A Comedy of Terrors, the latest entry in the incredible Flavia Alba series by one of my all-time favourite authors, Lindsey Davis.  Davis is an impressive and exceptional author who has been writing historical murder mysteries for years, first with her long-running Marcus Didius Falco series and then with the sequel Flavia Albia series.  Set in ancient Rome, the Flavia Albia books follows the titular protagonist as she investigates several grisly murders which are often tied to a unique element of the city or Roman history.  I have had an amazing time reading all the Flavia Albia novels over the last several years and I deeply enjoy the cool mix of fantastic mysteries, intriguing historical detail, and some outrageous humour.  All the previous entries in this series (including The Third Nero, Pandora’s Boy, A Capitol Death and The Grove of the Caesars) have been exceptional reads, and every new Flavia Albia novel is an amazing treat in my reading calendar.

Luckily for me, a brand-new Lindsey Davis Flavia Albia is just around the corner with the ninth entry in the series, A Comedy of Terrors, currently set for release on 1 April 2021.  A Comedy of Terrors looks set to be another entertaining historical crime novel with a series of crimes taking place during a rowdy Roman festival.  There is a great synopsis out for this book already, as well as two fantastic looking covers.

Synopsis:

Saturnalia, the Romans’ mid-December feast, nominally to celebrate the sun’s rebirth but invariably a drunken riot. Flavia Albia needs a case to investigate, but all work is paused.

The Aventine is full of fracturing families. Wives plot to leave their husbands, husbands plot to spend more time with their mistresses. Masters must endure slaves taking obscene liberties, while aggressive slaves are learning to ape dangerous masters. But no one wants to hire an investigator during the holiday.

Albia is lumped with her own domestic stress: overexcited children and bilious guests, too many practical jokes, and her magistrate husband Tiberius preoccupied with local strife. He fears a Nut War. Nuts are both the snack and missile of choice of tipsy celebrants, so there is a fortune to be made. This year a hustling gang from the past is horning in on the action.

As the deadly menace strikes even close to home, and with law and order paused for partying, Albia and Tiberius must go it alone. The Emperor has promised the people a spectacular entertainment – but Domitian himself is a target for the old criminals’ new schemes. Can the Undying Sun survive the winter solstice, or will criminal darkness descend upon Rome?

This sounds like it has all the ingredients for an incredible Flavia Albia novel, and I am extremely keen to check it out.  The whole concept of the protagonist attempting to solve crimes during a lawless and chaotic festival with no official law enforcement backup sounds really fun, and having a gang trying to corner the market on festival nuts should be very entertaining.  I am particularly hoping that the author includes another large-scale comical scene, such as has appeared in several of her prior novels, and the whole festival seems like an ideal set up for such an event.  A Comedy of Terrors may also have some intriguing connections to Flavia’s past as the criminal organisation mentioned above possibly relates to an antagonist who kidnapped Flavia as a child (during the Falco book, The Jupiter Myth) and who was hinted to have returned in Pandora’s Boy.  All of this should lead to an entertaining and intense novel for the protagonist, and I look forward to seeing what sort of impressive mystery Davis comes up with this time. 

A Comedy of Terrors Cover 2

The next cool upcoming historical fiction novel that I want to highlight in this article is Crusader by Ben Kane.  Kane is another well-established historical fiction author who is probably best known for his impressive Roman historical fiction books, such as The Forgotten Legion trilogy, the Hannibal series, and The Eagles of Rome series.  Last year, Kane turned his attention to a different period of history with his captivating and exceptional novel, Lionheart, which showcased Richard the Lionheart’s rise from rebellious prince to King of England as seen through the eyes of his loyal squire, Rufus.

Crusader Cover

Crusader will be the second entry in the Lionheart series, and it will follow the newly crowned King as he begins his iconic crusade to the Holy Lands to face off against Saladin.  This second novel, which is currently set for release on 27 April 2021, will have a wide and impressive focus on vast swathes of Richard’s unique history and I look forward to seeing how it all comes together.

Synopsis:

KING
1189. The long-awaited goal of Richard Plantagenet, the Lionheart, comes true as he is crowned King of England. Before he can set off on crusade and retake Jerusalem from the Saracens, he must set his own kingdom in order, and deal with his half-brother Geoffrey and younger brother John, both of whom pose threats to the throne.

POLITICIAN
These matters settled, Richard’s incredible journey to Outremer, the Holy Land, begins. With him at every step is Ferdia, also known as Rufus, his loyal Irish follower. From southern France to Italy they travel, and on to the kingdom of Sicily, ruled by the scheming Tancred. Delayed on the island for military and political reasons, Richard must deal not only with its ruler but also King Philippe of France, his erstwhile ally on the crusade and long-time bitter rival. There is occasion for some levity, however; in Sicily, the king marries Berengaria, daughter of a Spanish king.

WARRIOR
Voyage continuing, he comes into conflict with the ruler of Cyprus, the self-styled emperor Isaac. Richard’s tactical brilliance sees the island fall to the crusaders in a whirlwind campaign. At last he is poised to sail to the Holy Land. There a bitter two-year-long siege awaits his army, at Acre. Waiting for him too, is Saladin, the iconic Saracen leader responsible for the loss of Jerusalem.

CONQUEROR
Triumphant at Acre, Richard must again play politician before the crusade can continue. Philippe of France seeks to thwart him at every turn. No one can agree who should fill the empty throne of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. When at last the king is able to lead his army south, Saladin’s huge army shadows its every move. In the height of summer, the conditions are brutal, the temperatures boiling. On the dusty field of Arsuf, the Lionheart and his soldiers will face the ultimate test. Battle is inevitable, but victory is not.

This next Lionheart novel sounds pretty damn awesome and it looks like Kane is planning to explore a huge amount of Richard’s life during this book.  Based on what was featured in Lionheart, Crusader will contain all the politics, battles, family drama and betrayals that were in the background of these exciting events, and I am really looking forward to seeing the author’s fascinating take on what happened during this period.  From some pre-released chapters of Crusader, it looks like Kane will also continue the compelling story of Richard’s fictional companion Rufus, who serves as the series’ main point-of-view character.  Rufus was an outstanding protagonist to follow in Lionheart, and it will be interesting to see how his tale continues in Crusader, especially as he is engaged in a deadly rivalry with fellow knight Robert FitzAldelm.  This rivalry was an exciting addition to Lionheart’s plot, and I look forward to seeing it get ramped up in Crusader, especially now that FitzAldelm knows that Rufus murdered his brother.  So far this has been one of the most impressive series to focus on Richard the Lionheart that I have read, and I cannot wait to see where Kane’s outstanding new series goes next.

The final book to be featured is Protector by Conn Iggulden.  Without a doubt, Iggulden is one of the best authors of historical fiction in the world today, having written some spectacular novels across a range of different historical periods.  This includes his epic Emperor series, which explored the life and death of Caesar, his Conqueror series, which followed the creation of Genghis Khan’s empire, his War of the Roses series which catalogued all the insanity that occurred during the titular English civil war and the outstanding standalone novel, The Falcon of Sparta.  All of his previous novels have been truly exceptional reads that showcase the author’s mastery of all things historical.

Protector Cover

His latest body of work is the Athenian series, which charts some of the most significant moments in the history of ancient Athens.  This series started last year with the sensational The Gates of Athens, which focused on the war against the Persians, with this novel examining the origins and outcomes of the battle of Marathon and Thermopylae.  The Gate of Athens was an incredible read that I deeply enjoyed, and I have been eagerly waiting to see how Iggulden would continue the cool story he set up in this first novel.  The second Athenian novel, Protector, will be released on 18 May 2021, and while the official cover is not out yet, the synopsis makes it clear that this upcoming book will feature some fascinating battles and conflicts.

Synopsis:

TWO LEGENDARY BATTLES.
ONE FEARLESS WARRIOR . . .

THE BATTLE OF SALAMIS
Persian King Xerxes stands over the smoking ruins of Athens, an army of slaves at his back. Come to destroy, once and for all, everything that the city stands for, he stares pitilessly at the hopelessly outnumbered Greeks.

Veteran soldier Themistocles cannot push the Persians back by force on land, and so he so does so by stealth, at sea. Over three long days, the greatest naval battle of the ancient world will unfold, a bloody war between the democracy of Athens and the tyranny of Persia.

THE BATTLE OF PLATAEA
Less than a year later, the Persian return to reconquer the Greeks. Tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides ready themselves for war. For the Spartans, Plataea is chance to avenge their defeat at Thermopylae. For the people of Athens, threatened on all sides, nothing less than the survival of democracy is at stake. And once again Themistocles, the hero of Salamis, will risk everything – his honour, his friendships, even his life – to protect his country.

Protector looks set to be an exciting and captivating read that will continue to explore some of the most fascinating periods of Greek history.  It looks like each of the novels in the Athenian series will focus on two battles, in this case the battles of Salamis and Plataea, and Protector will no doubt contain Iggulden’s trademark deep dive into the intriguing history behind both epic conflicts.  The previous entry in the series, The Gates of Athens, contained an impressive examination of the politics, key events and preparation each side did before the battle, as well as the impacts the battles had on both nations, and I think we can expect the same for Protector.  I am deeply excited to find out more about each of these battles and I cannot wait to see the background battles for supremacy that occurred between some of the leading men of Athens.  This novel has so much potential to be incredible, and I know that I am going to get through this novel extremely quickly.

As you can see above, 2021 is looking extremely awesome on the historical fiction front.  All three of novels featured in this article are going to be absolutely incredible and, based on my prior experiences with each of these amazing authors, they all have the potential to easily receive a five-star rating from me.  It is already certain that I am going to love all three of these cool books and I am extremely keen to read them as soon as possible.