The Unbound Empire by Melissa Caruso

The Unbound Empire Cover (WoW)

Publisher: Orbit (Trade Paperback – 25 April 2019)

Series: Swords and Fire – Book 3

Length: 508 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the fast-rising authors of fantasy fiction, Melissa Caruso, brings her outstanding debut series to an end with the third book in the Swords and Fire trilogy, The Unbound Empire.

It is always a bittersweet moment when a great book series comes to an end. For the last two years, the Swords and Fire trilogy has been one of my favourite new fantasy series due to its excellent combination of characters, story, intrigue, fantasy elements and world building. I absolutely loved the first book in the series, The Tethered Mage, and I felt that Caruso did an excellent job following this up with The Defiant Heir, which made my Top Ten Reads For 2018 list and my Top Ten Books I Loved with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads list. As a result, I have been eagerly waiting for The Unbound Empire for the last year, and it even featured in my very first Waiting on Wednesday post.

The Swords and Fire series is set on the continent of Eruvia, which is made up of two great nations, the Serene Empire of Raverra and the loosely collected states of Vaskandar. The Serene Empire is the home of our protagonists, and is a land where magic is controlled by the government, led by the Doge and the Council of Nine. All mages who are identified as having enough power are conscripted into the army as a Falcon. Each Falcon is bound to a non-magical handler, a Falconer, who is entrusted to control and protect their Falcon. One such Falconer is Lady Amalia Cornaro, heir to one of the most powerful families in Raverra and future member of the Council of Nine. While the nobility is usually forbidden from becoming Falconers, desperate circumstances forced Amalia to be bound to the powerful and rebellious fire warlock Zaira.

Vaskandar, on the other hand, is a far wilder nation, ruled by the Witch Lords, magicians whose powerful vivomancy literally flows through their land, making them part of everyone and everything in their domain. War is always looming between these two nations, and while Vaskandar as a nation has decided to remain out of the most recent conflict, nothing can stop an individual Witch Lord from attacking. The cruel and ambitious Witch Lord Ruven, the Skinwitch, has long wanted to conquer and rule over The Serene Empire. His most recent ambitions have been stymied by the combined actions of Amalia and Zaira, who managed to stop his plan to unleash a destructive volcano, although it came at great cost to Amalia.

However, Ruven is far from done and is determined to gain new land, either in the Serene Empire or in the domains of the other Witch Lords. Launching a series of attacks against the Empire’s capital, Raverra, as well as several outlying holdings, with a range of horrifying strategies, Ruven is able to cause significant damage. But while he launches his attacks, he is also trying to recruit Amalia to his cause by any means necessary, as her unique heritage gives her the ability to usurp the domains of other Witch Lords. As Amalia and Zaira race to counter Ruven’s actions, Amalia finds herself once again torn between love, duty and friendship, as the responsibilities of her office clash with the friendships she has formed. As Amalia struggles to maintain her humanity in the heat of war, Ruven’s greatest cruelty might be the thing that finally breaks her and leads to the fall of the Serene Empire.

Caruso once again knocks it out of the park with The Unbound Empire, creating a satisfying conclusion to her series that still contains her trademark storytelling ability and character work. The final book in the Swords and Fire trilogy does a great job utilising the previous entries of the series and also attempts to tie up all of the existing loose storylines and plot points. The Unbound Empire is filled with some really emotional storylines, a number of powerful magical action sequences and several surprising plot developments. The end result is another five-star book from Caruso that I powered through in quite a short period.

At the heart of this book lies the series’ main two characters, the narrator and point-of-view character, Amalia, and the fire warlock Zaira. The challenging and evolving relationship between the initially sheltered Falconer and the rebellious and infinitely destructive Falcon has always been a major part of this series. While the two characters have been establishing a better relationship with each book, it was great to see the two of them becoming even closer in this book and helping each other deal with some major issues. I also liked how both characters’ stories come full circle in this book, as Amalia becomes more and more like her mother, while Zaira finally confronts a number of her personal demons and for once starts to consider having a future. The author’s depiction of the doubt and guilt that Amalia is feeling after the events of the last book forced her to kill her cousin added some extra emotional depth to the story, and I liked the inclusion of such a realistic emotional reaction. The character arcs for the two main characters were incredible, and it was great to see how much they had evolved over the course of the trilogy.

Caruso has also developed a number of great side characters for this series, and she continues to expertly utilise them in this final book. The main two side characters of The Unbound Empire were Amalia’s love interests: Captain Marcello of the Serene Empire; and the Witch Lord Kathe, known as the Crow Lord. Throughout the course of the book, Amalia is caught between them; while she loves Marcello, her position makes a relationship impossible, and Kathe presents a more suitable match. Marcello’s storyline in this book is pretty significant, and there are some substantial and emotive changes to his character that really helped make The Unbound Empire extra compelling. I also really liked the deeper dive into Kathe’s personality and backstory, as well as the natural strengthening of the relationship between Amalia and Kathe. Thankfully the book’s love triangle aspect wasn’t too over-the-top or filled with insufferable toxic jealousy, as both the men understand the difficult position Amalia is in. The arc of Zaira’s love interest, Terika, is really sweet, and I liked how she continues to have a positive effect of Zaira’s personality. Other side characters, such as the Amelia’s powerful and unflappable mother; the surprisingly lethal Cornaro servant, Ciardha; and Marcello’s eccentric artificer sister, Istrella, all shine through in this book, and all of them add quite a lot to this book’s story.

No great fantasy story would be complete without a despicable antagonist threatening the heroes, and luckily this book has a truly evil and threatening villain. The Witch Lord Ruven is a powerful Skinwitch, a person with the ability to control and alter other creatures just by touching him. Not only is this power by itself pretty horrifying but Ruven uses it in some fairly novel and evil ways, unleashing all manner of horrors upon the protagonists. I thought that Ruven had some of the best magical powers in the entire series, and his abilities were really fun to see in this book. Caruso also tried to humanise the character in places throughout this book, which was a nice touch and added some new depth to the story, although he does mostly come off as utterly irredeemable. Overall, I feel that Ruven was an excellent villain and his antagonism really helped make this book and the series as a whole.

I have always loved the complex fantasy world and elements that the author came up with for this series. The various forms of magic and resulting rules that form the backbone of this book are very imaginative, and I loved how Caruso was able to utilise them in her story. There are some amazing new versions of the magic and fantasy elements from the previous two books included in The Unbound Empire, as well as some new locations to explore. While the world building is not as intense as the first two books in the trilogy, Caruso still offers some great new elements, and I had a lot of fun seeing these extra expansions to the universe. Hopefully Caruso will come back to this world at some point in the future, as I had a lot of fun there over the course of the series.

The Unbound Empire was another incredible piece of fantasy fiction from author Melissa Caruso that expertly wraps up her debut trilogy. This has got to be one of the best debut fantasy trilogies I have had the pleasure of reading, and it has been a lot of fun absorbing the excellent tales of magic, adventure and intrigue that Caruso has woven over the last two years. I have really loved the Swords and Fire trilogy, and while I am sad to see it go, I am excited to see where Caruso goes next as this author has amazing potential for the future. I highly recommend each and every book in the series and encourage you to get wrapped up in the magic and characters of this series if you have not had a chance to read it.

Waiting on Wednesday – Duplicity by Richard Evans

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.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.

For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday, I am going to look at an upcoming piece of Australian fiction that I think is going to be a thrilling, realistic and deeply intriguing read, Duplicity by Richard Evans.

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Duplicity is the second book in Evans’s Democracy trilogy and follows on from his 2018 release, Deceit, which presented the reader with a tale of corruption and political intrigue inside the halls of Australia’s Parliament House. Evans himself is former Australian politician whose detailed knowledge of parliamentary procedure and the day-to-day aspects of Australian politics turned this book into an exceedingly realistic read (depressingly so, in some cases). It was so accurate and clever it earned a five-star review from me last year and received an honourable mention in my Top Ten Reads of 2018 list. As a result, I am quite keen to check out Duplicity, especially as it is set to focus on a very topical part of Australia’s political system: the election.

Simon & Schuster Synopsis:

When ruthless political operative Jonathan Wolff is assigned the task of overthrowing corrupt Australian Prime Minister Andrew Gerrard in the federal election campaign, no one is safe from the line of fire.

Wolff’s tactful manipulation and political prowess guide the opposition towards election success, but fearing they will not win, Hawk must initiate his own explosive campaign to defeat the Prime Minister and remain loyal to the Mercantiles – a long-established group of high-taxpaying business owners out to manipulate the halls of Parliament House.

With investigative journalist Anita Devlin hot on his trail, Wolff oversees a storm of violent demonstrations in a strategic ploy to advance the cause of independent candidate Jaya Rukhmani.

Devlin is determined to be the whistle-blower, but does she have what it takes to expose Wolff and the Mercantiles? Or will political power overcome truth in this gripping Australian political thriller?

This sounds like it could be quite the interesting story, and it is definitely a change from the plot of the first book in the series. In Deceit, the story focused on the corrupt Prime Minister attempting to manipulate the parliament and the people to commit an illegal act. In this one, it’s two corrupt politicians attempting to manipulate the system for their own ends, and I expect the machinations and power plays to double in volume as a result.

The timing of this book is quite impeccable. Australia has only just finished up a federal election period that was filled with controversy, surprises and, at times, blatant stupidity. With that fresh in our minds, this book is going to take on a lot of extra potency and meaning, although I imagine quite a few people will be frustrated by any similarities it will share with real life events.

Duplicity is set to be released in September, and I am quite looking forward to seeing how Evans spins this election in his book. I am expecting another fantastic and thrilling read and I am very curious to see what additional aspects of Australian politics the author brings to life this time.

Top Ten List – What Upcoming Television Shows could Replace Game of Thrones?

Like many people, I spent last night watching the Game of Thrones finale. While many are currently debating the quality of the final season, and will probably keep debating it for many years to come (I think I’ll keep my own opinion about this final season secret for my own safety), you cannot deny the impact that this show has had on worldwide television.

We are living in a moment of time where there are some incredible television shows out there, and the cultural impact and popularity of Game of Thrones is partially responsible for it. Not only did the show introduce the world to a whole new group of actors, many of whom are going to be major stars for years to come; it also showed world that television can be just as big, if not bigger than movies. Game of Thrones contained a huge amount of CGI, drama, dialogue and action sequences that put many major films to shame, and the quality of the CGI and action improved when the show’s budget ballooned out. I would argue that the popularity of shows such as Game of Thrones has encouraged more actors who gained fame in movies to jump back into television shows, often to great effect. It is also interesting to note that the success of Game of Thrones has allowed for more fantasy shows to be made, as studios were more eager to back fantasy series, such as American Gods, after seeing how many people were interested in Game of Thrones. Now, with Game of Thrones gone, there is a substantial void in the television line-up that many networks are working to fill.

That’s where this article comes in. Ever since the end of the show has been announced, I have been wondering what television show is going to step up and be the next big epic television show. What is going to be the next Game of Thrones? As it happens, there are quite a few big and intriguing television shows on the horizon and this is a Top Ten List that I came up with that talks about which series I think have the most potential to fill the void left by Game of Thrones.

This sort of an article is a bit of a departure from what I usually write about; however, I’m going to justify it by saying that most of the shows I will be talking about are adaptations of books or comic books. I will be excluding shows that have already been airing for a while, although I did consider some of the sequels, prequels of spin-offs that have been announced. I am not saying that future seasons of shows such as Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale, American Gods or The Walking Dead are not epic; it’s just that I am more interested in what new stuff is coming out. I admit, this is also a bit of a list of shows I am probably going to watch in the future, but I think they could all have the potential to emerge from Game of Throne’s significant shadow.

  1. Upcoming The Lord of the Rings Television Show

For the No. 1 position, I put the show that many people think has the most potential to outshine Game of Thrones, the new planned television adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Without a doubt, The Lord of the Rings has to be the most iconic and popular fantasy book series of all time. The book series have already produced some incredibly epic movies, as well as the somewhat enjoyable The Hobbit movies. Naturally, any television show based on The Lord of the Rings books is going to be massive, and there is so much potential for massive battles and elaborate sequences, especially if the series is done right. Added in to that is the fact that the various production companies (mostly Amazon) are pouring some serious money into the show, and it will apparently be the most expensive television show ever made, taking the spot currently held by Game of Thrones.

There are not too many details about the show at the moment. A press release indicates that the show will look at “previously unexplored stories based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s original writings”, which indicates that they will be looking at stuff set way before the events of The Hobbit. Many people believe that this could mean that the series will cover Sauron’s first attempt to take over Middle Earth in the Second Age, as well as the forging of the One Ring, and you have to admit there are some amazing storylines that could be explored there. There is currently no release date for the show, nor has anyone been officially cast, but I think that no matter what happens, the sheer potential and appeal of The Lord of the Rings, as well the massive production budget, will turn this into a show really worth watching, and one which will prove to be the biggest challenger to Game of Throne’s reign as biggest television show of all time.

  1. The Mandalorian

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Now, this may be because I am a massive Star Wars fan, but oh boy, oh boy, am I keen for The Mandalorian. The Mandalorian is an upcoming live-action Star Wars television show, set to be released on 12 November 2019 as one of the starring shows of the new Disney+ streaming service. Set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the show will be set in the outer reaches of the galaxy and focus on the criminals and bounty hunters living out there. The show will primarily focus on the Mandalorian, a lone gunslinger with the iconic Mandalorian amour and weapons that Bobba Fett made famous.

While some of the latest Star Wars movies have been less than stellar, there have been some outstanding television shows, books and comics set in the Star Wars extended universe (check out my reviews of some of these here). The Mandalorian will be the first Star Wars live-action television show and has a huge amount of potential. Not only is Disney pumping in $100 million for the first 10 episodes but the show is being written and produced by showrunner Jon Favreau, whose previous production credits include Iron Man, The Jungle Book and The Lion King. They are also bringing in some significant talent to act and direct the various episodes. Favreau is directing an episode, but so is Takia Waititi (whom I worship after Thor: Ragnarok), Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa and Deborah Crow.

Let’s also talk about the cast: you have Game of Thrones and Narcos star Pedro Pascal as the titular Mandalorian, which is going to be pretty awesome, even if he’s wearing a helmet for most of the show. You also have Gina Carano, from Deadpool, as the female lead; Nick Nolte; Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito; Apollo Creed himself, Carl Weathers; as well as a bunch of other great actors, including Taika Waititi voicing a murderous droid, which should be fun.

All of these add up to one hell of a show, and the recently leaked trailer and footage look pretty damn awesome. Expect movie quality graphics here, as well as some top-level acting and direction. I was extremely tempted to put this as my No. 1 show, and I am so very keen to check this out.

  1. Watchmen

Watchmen

Watchmen, by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins, is considered by many to be one of the greatest comic book series of all times, and HBO is pinning their post-Game of Thrones future on a television adaptation of the series. Most people would already be familiar with Zack Snyder’s movie adaptation of the series (which is a bit mixed, but I liked it), and this upcoming television adaptation has some real potential as well.

Set to be released in late 2019, the new Watchmen adaptation already has a large and impressive cast put together, including Regina King, Don Johnson, Tim Blake Nelson and Jeremy Irons. Not a lot of plot details have been revealed, although I believe it is going to be set after the events of the comic series and movie, especially as Jeremy Irons is playing an older version of Ozymandias. The first trailer showed a group of people dressed up like Rorschach, and it is possible they want to reveal the truth told in Rorschach’s journal that was sent to the New Frontiersman. I also believe that part of the plot will be pulled from the current series, Doomsday Clock, minus all the DC characters.

If done right, this Watchmen show can easily become one of the top shows of 2019, and the showrunners can take the series pretty much anywhere they want to. With the huge comic book fanbase already interested in this show, expect Watchmen to attract a huge audience.

  1. Upcoming MCU series

Quite honestly, nothing is hotter at the moment than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With Avengers: Endgame only just recently blowing everyone’s mind and getting closer and closer to becoming the highest grossing film of all time, fans are eager to see where the story goes from here. For many of the characters, their story will be continued not in a movie but in a television show on Disney+, which I am jointly making my No. 4 choice. I admit I am cheating a little here, but as it is likely that these series will be somewhat connected (I am sure there will be crossovers and the like) and Marvel are creating a massive television universe, I am going to look at them together.

There are currently four planned live-action shows set to be released in 2020 and 2021, including The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Loki and a currently untitled Hawkeye series. There is also an animated Marvel’s What If…? series that will air on Disney+ but will not be connected to the other series.

With cast members from the movies leading each of these shows, there is no way that this will not be an amazing bit of television. By themselves, each of these shows has more potential than any other comic book television show currently out there thanks to their connection to the MCU, but when considered together these shows will be incredibly awesome. Expect Disney to spring for all manner of cameos from the MCU for the series, as well as some other impressive casting decisions (what big-name actor isn’t going to want to get involved in this?). I am also looking forward to seeing where all of these characters go after the events of Endgame, and there should be some awesome storylines happening here.

It looks like my Marvel comics/MCU addiction is going to be well taken care of in the next few years, and I am really looking forward to each of these shows, although I have some slight concerns about how much I’ll enjoy WandaVision. I think I am looking forward to Loki the most, mainly because Tom Hiddleston is just outstanding as the character. The Hawkeye series and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will also be great, and I am especially keen to see how Falcon and Bucky go without Cap holding them together (hoping for a bunch of Chris Evans cameos there).

  1. The Witcher

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You can bet your bottom dollar that Netflix is more than keen to get in on the fantasy game, especially after losing all their Marvel series. They actually appear to be set to have one of the first series to fill the hole that Game of Thrones leaves in the fantasy genre with their adaptation of The Witcher. Andrzej Sapkowski’s The Witcher books are a well-loved series, especially in Europe, but their adaptation into the outstanding videogame series of the same name has also made them an extremely popular series in America.

The Witcher series follows Geralt of Rivia, a magically empowered monster hunter who wanders the land by himself, shunned by most other people. He encounters all manner of people on his journey, including a mysterious princess and a powerful sorceress, and he is constantly fighting for his own survival. As a result, this is a television series that can take its story practically anywhere and can adapt stuff from the books and games, as well as making new storylines as required.

The series is set to be released later this year, and the lead role has already been filled by Superman himself, Henry Cavill (who rocks the character’s trademark silver hair fairly well). I am a fan of this series (check out my review for the last The Witcher book here), and I have a feeling that this could be a massive series. It’s definitely going to have a huge and varied audience, with casual viewers, fantasy fans and gamers all keen to see this. I have not seen any footage of this show yet, but if the creators can get some good storylines and graphics going with this show, it could easily become one of the best fantasy television series on the market.

  1. Avatar: The Last Airbender (Live Action)

OK, before I talk about this, let us just agree that M. Night Shyamalan’s movie adaptation, The Last Airbender, never happened. OK? Good!

In my opinion, Avatar: The Last Airbender is easily one of the best animated shows of the last 20 years. Featuring some first-rate storylines and a style heavily inspired by Japanese anime, Avatar is set in a world where certain people, known as benders, have the ability to control the various elements: earth, fire, air and water. Only one person, the Avatar, has the ability to control all four elements, and they take up a peacekeeper role for the various nations. But when the Avatar, a young airbender called Aang, disappears, the ruler of the Fire Nation engages in a genocidal war against the other nations, wiping out the Air Nomads and all the airbenders. After being trapped for 100 years, the still young Aang emerges and, with the help of his new friends, must train in the remaining three elements in order to become powerful enough to oppose the Fire Nation.

Netflix announced they were doing a live-action remake of this series last year, and fans were excited to finally get the live-action version of the show they deserved. Both of Avatar: The Last Airbender’s creators, Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, are set to be executive producers and showrunners, and if anyone can produce a great Avatar live action series, it is those two. They have already announced that they will be casting a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast, which is already a huge step ahead of Shyamalan’s movie.

The series is currently set to be released in 2020, and I think it will be one of the best shows of next year. I absolutely loved the animated show and cannot wait to see where DiMartino and Konietzko take this series. This is one that will appeal to a younger audience than the other shows on this list, although all those people who are already fans of the animated series are bound to watch this as well. I think this new Avatar adaptation will be an easy hit, and if the creators can replicate the magic of their animated series, then this could be massive.

  1. Game of Thrones spin-off series

I cannot talk about potential successors to Game of Thrones without mentioning the various Game of Thrones spin-off shows that are currently being planned by HBO. I know some people might not be keen on these after the last season of the main show, but there are a huge number of spinoff shows out there that proved to be very successful, and if any series is capable of producing an iconic spin-off series, it is Game of Thrones.

There are currently three Game of Thrones series in early production at the moment. Two are currently being written, although their setting is yet to be confirmed. George R. R. Martin has suggested that some of these new series would be based on stories from his companion book, Fire and Blood, which chronicles various stories about the Targaryen dynasty. Readers can possibly expect stories about their initial conquest of Westeros, their fight to maintain it, the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons, or perhaps an adaptation of the Tales of Dunk and Egg.

There is also one series that is currently being filmed. This series is going to be a prequel series set around 10,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, in the Age of Heroes, and is likely to focus on some of the major events that occurred during this time, such as the foundation of some of the great houses and the first time the White Walkers attacked Westeros. This series has already pulled together a massive cast, with Naomi Watts as the lead. A huge range of up-and-coming British talent has also been cast, as well as a few veterans like Miranda Richardson and John Simm (Queen Mab and the Master in Westeros, should be interesting). I’m not sure when this series will be released, but if they are filming at the moment, expect a 2020 release.

I honestly do not see why these series could not be just as awesome as Game of Thrones, and I am sure that many fans will be keen to see different periods of this fantasy world’s history. I think that the writers of this series will really have to up their game in the face of the criticism of Game of Thrones season 8, and it remains to be seen whether there is a certain fatigue from Game of Thrones fans that affects viewer numbers for this show.

  1. Snowpiercer

For the eighth show on my list, I am looking at the upcoming television adaptation of Snowpiercer. This show might be a tad too niche and out there to fill the Game of Thrones gap, but I think it has the potential to appeal to a certain audience. Snowpiercer is an adaptation of a 1982 French graphic novel, Le Transperceneige, which was previously adapted into the 2013 movie Snowpiercer starring Chris Evans. This show will be a fresh adaptation, unrelated to the movie, aside from the overarching premise of humanity escaping frozen conditions on a giant moving train. There will also be similar themes of class warfare, social injustice and the examination of politics aboard the train, as well as certain secrets coming to the surface.

Snowpiercer has already put together a pretty massive and impressive cast, including Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly, and the various character descriptions that have provided sound like a lot of fun. The show is set to premier in 2020, and I think that Snowpiercer could turn into quite an entertaining and popular series.

  1. Star Trek: Picard

There has been a bit of a Star Trek television revival in the last few years, with Star Trek: Discovery coming out in late 2017, and several additional series planned for the horizon. While Discovery has had a pretty solid run, the show that many Star Trek fans have been looking forward to is Star Trek: Picard, which sees the return of Patrick Stewart in his most famous role of Jean-Luc Picard.

Picard is set to be released later this year and will be set 18 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. Plot details about this series are still a bit vague at this point, but it sounds like in the intervening years Picard has left Starfleet, possibly under controversial circumstances. However, events such as the destruction of Romulus (as shown in the 2009 Star Trek film) have forced him back to Star Fleet. Not only will this story focus on Picard’s present but it will also act as a sequel to Star Trek: The Next Generation, showing why Picard is no longer the captain of the Enterprise. It also sounds like this will be a much darker story, with more morally ambiguous supporting characters and a much more different Picard.

Out of all the upcoming Star Trek series, this has to be the most interesting one, and the one most likely to attract a massive following. Having Patrick Stewart return is a real coup for the Star Trek creators, and I am really interested in seeing how much the character has changed. This one promises to be a really good show, and I think it has some real potential to be one of the best Star Trek shows of all time.

  1. The Kingkiller Chronicle.

I finish my list off with a show that I think could be as popular as Game of Thrones if it gets off the ground. I previously mentioned how much I loved Patrick Rothfuss’s epic book series The Kingkiller Chronicle, which is probably one of the best fantasy book series out there at the moment.

A planned television adaptation has been in the works for some time, with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda attached as an executive producer and composer. Unfortunately, like the third book in The Kingkiller Chronicle, an adaptation of this series has yet to appear, and no real details about it are available at the moment. I’m a little uncertain if this one will actually happen, and if there were some more details this would be way higher up on this list. Still, if it does eventuate, I think it could be absolutely amazing and could be exactly what those fantasy fans waiting for the next Game of Thrones are looking for.

 

Honourable mentions:

Y

Based on the amazing series, Y: The Last Man by comic legend Brian K. Vaughan, Y is set to be released in 2020. I loved the comic, which features a post-apocalyptic world where every male mammal, with the exception of one human and his monkey, suddenly died. The comic it is based on was pretty epic, but a promised adaptation of this series has been in development hell for years. If this one does get released next year, it should prove to be very good and attract a large fanbase.

Good Omens

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Out in a few days, and featuring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, this one should be really fun, but it might have a much more limited audience than most of the other shows on this list.

Star Wars: Cassian Andor series

Another upcoming Star Wars series, this planned series which will appear next year on Disney+ will act as a prequel to Rogue One and fill focus on the character Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna. A spy thriller with the complex character of Cassian Andor sounds incredibly awesome, especially as Alan Tudyk is set to return as the voice of K-2SO. I think The Mandalorian will be bigger at this point, but I am sure this will also be incredibly fun and pick up a lot of viewers, provided we are not saturated by Disney live-action series at that point.

 

I hope you enjoyed my list. What shows do think could be the next Game of Thrones. Let me know if the comments below.

Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher

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Publisher: Century (Trade Paperback – 4 June 2019)

Series: Stranger Things

Length: 411 pages

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

With the third season of the sensational and entertaining television show Stranger Things fast approaching (4 July cannot come fast enough), another tie-in novel, Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher, has been released and offers another intriguing look into the wider Stranger Things universe. This story heads back into 1970s and focuses on the life of Hawkins police Chief Jim Hopper, portrayed in the show by David Harbour, and presents a thrilling and curious new adventure.

Stranger Things is one of the hottest televisions shows on at the moment, featuring a captivating plot, some incredible characters, amazing young actors and the fun use of 1980s nostalgia, all of which come together into one hell of a show. With the final season of Game of Thrones just wrapped up, the third season of Stranger Things is the next big release I am looking forward to (with the possible exception of Good Omens), and I fully intend to binge-watch it the weekend it comes out. It is not surprising that some tie-in material has been released to capitalise on the success of the show, and, truth be told, they have actually been a little restrained with it, with only one tie-in novel and one comic book series released so far. While I have not had a chance to the read the comic book series, The Other Side, which looks at Will Beyers’ time in the Upside Down in Season 1, I did previously read and review the first official Stranger Things tie-in novel, Suspicious Minds by Gwenda Bond, a few months ago. Suspicious Minds was set back in 1969 and looked at how Eleven was born and then subsequently stolen by the US Government, and it proved to be quite a thrilling read which explored some fascinating backstory to the television show.

As a result, I was very keen to check out what the next Stranger Things tie-in novel was like and what secrets it might reveal about the show. Darkness on the Edge of Town is set to be released on 4 June 2019, exactly one month before the release of Stranger Things’ third season, which is going to be set around Independence Day in 1985. Another Stranger Things book, which I will also try to get a copy of, Runaway Max, is also due out on 4 June, and this book will be aimed at a young adult audience.

Darkness on the Edge of Town was written by New Zealand-born author Adam Christopher, who has some experience with tie-in novels, having previously written three books that tie in to the Dishonoured video game and two books that tie in to the Elementary television show. Christopher is probably best known for his 2012 debut novel, Empire State, as well his Ray Electromatic Mysteries and Spider Wars series. I have not previously read any of Christopher’s work before, but several of his books, especially Empire State (a noir superhero thriller with parallel words, yes please!), sound like a lot of fun and I may have to check them out in the future.

Darkness on the Edge of Town’s story starts in December 1984, around two months after the end of the second season of Stranger Things. While enjoying a quiet Christmas with his adopted daughter, Eleven, Jim Hopper is suddenly brought back to his past when Eleven pulls out a cardboard box marked “New York”. Despite his reluctance, Hopper begins to tell Eleven the story of the greatest case he solved before tragedy forced him back to Hawkins.

On Independence Day in 1977, after returning from the Vietnam War, Jim Hopper is living in New York City with his wife, Diane, and his daughter, Sara. While the city deals with bankruptcy and a heatwave, Hopper, a rookie NYPD detective, finds himself investigating a series of brutal, ritualistic murders with his new partner, Rosario Delgado. The murderer has already killed three people, leaving a mysterious card at each crime scene. Before Hopper and Delgado can make any progress, their investigation is shut down by shadowy federal agents who order them off the case. Disobeying orders and putting his career on the line, Hopper continues to investigate the murders and is able to connect the deaths to the mysterious leader of the Viper gang, who is reputed to have paranormal powers. Going undercover to infiltrate the Vipers, Hopper makes some startling revelations about the scope and devastation of the gang leader’s sinister plans, and he must do everything he can to protect his city from an upcoming evil.

This was quite an interesting and engaging novel from Christopher, who not only manages to examine some interesting aspects of the Stranger Things television show but also creates his own intriguing story set during an interesting time in American history. The story is split between two separate time periods. Some of the story is set in December 1984 and follows the older Hopper as he tells the story to Eleven, while the majority of the book is set back in 1977 and follows Hopper and his partner as they investigate the brutal murders and the Vipers. Most of the book comes across as a dark murder mystery thriller that also spends significant time examining the psyche of its protagonist. I quite liked the murder mystery angles of the 1977 storyline, and it provides an interesting counterpoint to the more science fiction/horror/young protagonist focus of the television show.

The previous Stranger Things novel, Suspicious Minds, explored in detail events that featured in the show in flashbacks. Darkness on the Edge of Town, however, is a character study that may not have too much relevance to franchise’s overall story. While this might not appeal to some Stranger Things fans, it does allow Christopher a lot more freedom to explore the character of a younger Hopper. The result is a fantastic story that dives deep into the psyche of this great character and really lets the reader see what drives Hopper and what initially convinced him to become a police officer. There are some amazing parts to this examination of the character, but I personally liked the way that Christopher decided to focus on the lasting effects of Hopper’s service in Vietnam. This is explored in some detail, and the reader gets a really good idea of how emotionally vulnerable Hopper was even before his daughter became sick and his wife left him. I also thought that the author did a great job showing Hopper’s relationship with Eleven in the 1984 storylines, and their oddball father-daughter relationship comes across quite well.

In addition to the focus on the character of Hopper, this book also contains a few plot points that tie into the wider Stranger Things universe. The contents of the mysterious box Hopper had hidden in his house, which Eleven uncovered in Season 2, becomes a major part of this book’s story. In addition, there are several things that could potentially become significant in the future, and which the reader can leave to their own imagination. The first thing that comes up is a physic prediction about clouds or tendrils of darkness covering the world, mentioned a few pages in and repeated throughout the book. While events that occur later in the book do fit in with some of these predictions, the imagery of the Mind Flayer from the show comes to mind every time this vision is mentioned, and in some ways, it fits the predictions a little better. In addition, quite early in the book the antagonist is rumoured to have mental abilities as a result of government experiments. For a large part of the book, the reader is left wondering whether he actually has abilities like Eleven and, if he does, how he is connected to the institute that Eleven was being tested in. All of these, plus some other great references, will prove to be deeply appealing to fans of the television show, and I will be really intrigued to see if any of these references might appear in the third season of the show (do these authors have the inside track on the series?).

One of the most interesting parts of Darkness on the Edge of Town was its setting in 1970s New York City. The 1970s, especially 1977, were a pretty chaotic period in the city’s history, which serves as an excellent backdrop to this dark and gritty tale. Not only was the city suffering through a severe economic downturn but there was also a tremendous heatwave, especially in July of 1977, when the vast majority of the storyline is set. The Son of Sam killer was also active during this time, a fact commented on in several parts of the book, which also ties into the darker ‘70s crime nature of this book. I liked the way that Christopher was able to bring the atmosphere of this period to life in his book, as well as the way he was able to tie the story into a certain major event that occurred in New York in July 1977. This great use of setting really added a lot to the story and helped turn Darkness on the Edge of Town into quite a compelling read.

One of the reasons why Stranger Things is such a success is the show’s writers and creators have such an amazing ability to channel its viewers’ nostalgia for the 1980s into each episode. Writers of these tie-in novels also attempt to capitalise on this nostalgia by highlighting aspects of that decade’s culture in their writing. I previously felt that Gwenda Bond did an amazing job of that in Suspicious Minds, and Christopher also did his job exploring parts of that culture, specifically when it relates to New York City. As a result, there are several fun references to relevant movies, television shows, books, sports and music for fans of the 1970s to notice and reminisce about. Whether the characters are having fun thoughts about M*A*S*H or cheeky discussions about whether Princess Leia will end up with Luke or Han in Star Wars, there are some really fun inclusions throughout the book, and Christopher luckily does not go too overboard loading his story up with these references. I personally quite liked the way that the author envisioned the New York City gangs at this point, and the main one that Hopper encounters has a very Warriors vibe around it. An extended sequence later in the book kind of put me in mind of Escape from New York (although that was released in ’81). I really enjoyed the strong nostalgia included in the book, and it added a certain amount of fun to the book that fans of the show will greatly appreciate.

Darkness of the Edge of Town is a fantastic new addition to the burgeoning Stranger Things extended universe, and Adam Christopher does an amazing job of exploring one of the show’s main characters. The author’s examination of Jim Hopper is a deep and emotional dive into the character’s psyche, and it proves to be an effective and compelling centre to this book. Christopher is also able to utilise ’70s nostalgia and fan interest in the franchise quite effectively and turn this into an excellent tie-in novel to this complex and enjoyable show. The end result is an excellent character-driven story that will greatly appeal to fans of Stranger Things. This book is really worth checking out, especially before the third season of the show is released, and I look forward to seeing what other tie-in novels Christopher produces in the future.

The Last Second by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison

The Last Second Cover

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (Trade Paperback – 26 March 2019)

Series: A Brit in the FBI – Book 6

Length: 449 pages

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Looking for a fun action thriller with a madcap villainous plot? Look no further than the latest book in the electrifying A Brit in the FBI thriller series, The Last Second, from bestselling author Catherine Coulter and her collaborator on this series, J. T. Ellison.

In the world of private space enterprise, no company is shining brighter than Galactus. Under the stewardship of its CEO, former NASA astronaut Dr Nevaeh Patel, Galactus makes its money launching communications satellites into orbit. However, Dr Patel has just secretly placed a nuclear-triggered electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device into the latest satellite Galactus has launched into space. If triggered, the EMP could not only knock out power on the planet’s surface but also devastate the satellites surrounding Earth, throwing humanity back to the Stone Age.

Dr Patel believes that while in space she was contacted by a race of aliens, known as the Numen, who have chosen her to introduce them to the world. Forced out of NASA, Dr Patel is convinced that if she destroys the satellites encircling the planet then the Numen will be able to journey down to Earth and proclaim her as their prophet. However, before she triggers the device, Dr Patel requires one specific item: the Holy Grail.

Dr Patel’s boss, the owner of Galactus, Jean-Pierre Broussard, is an avid treasure hunter who believes he has found the location of the Holy Grail off the coast of Malaysia. Dr Patel wants to use the grail to gain immortality so she can rule Earth together with the Numen. However, her attack on Broussard draws the attention of FBI Special Agents Nicholas Drummond and Michaela Caine, who quickly tie the assault with rumours of the impending detonation of an EMP. Racing against the clock, and competing with terrorists, spies and fanatics, Drummond and Caine must find a way to stop Dr Patel before it is too late and the world as we know it ends.

The Last Second is the sixth book in the A Brit in the FBI series, which spins off from Coulter’s long-running FBI Thriller series. Catherine Coulter is a true veteran of the fiction world, having been writing since 1978 with her debut novel, The Autumn Countess (or just The Countess). Since then she has written over 80 books, including her long-running The Sherbrooke series and the Baron, Night, Legacy and The Magic trilogies.

Coulter’s most famous work is probably her FBI Thriller series, which she has been writing since 1996. Currently featuring 22 novels, with a 23rd book on the way, the FBI Thriller series focuses on FBI agents solving a range of different crimes throughout the United States. A Brit in the FBI is a spin-off series that Coulter co-writes with fellow murder mystery and thriller writer J. T. Ellison. Ellison already has a number of her own books and series, including her Dr. Samantha Owens and Lieutenant Taylor Jackson series, but has been collaborating with Coulter since 2013.

A Brit in the FBI is set in the same universe as the FBI Thriller series and has featured some the characters from the FBI Thriller series in the past. The A Brit in the FBI books contain much more over-the-top adventures than the FBI Thriller books. For example, the fifth book in the series, The Sixth Day, features drones being controlled by a descendent of Vlad the Impaler assassinating major political figures throughout Europe.

I read the latest book in the Coulter’s FBI Thriller series, Paradox, last year and really enjoyed the clever and compelling murder mystery and thriller storyline it contained. As a result, I was interested to see what Coulter’s second series was like, especially after seeing some of the crazy-sounding plot synopses that the series has. The plot synopsis for The Last Second in particular also sounded pretty fun (aliens, EMPs and the Holy Grail, oh my) and I found myself in the mood for an exciting and over-the-top thriller. Luckily, I was not disappointed by this latest offering from Coulter and Ellison.

The Last Second is a deeply entertaining thriller with one heck of a crazy story that I had a very hard time putting down. It is chocked full of action, as the two main protagonists attempt to uncover the devastating plot in front of them and go through all manner of opponents and danger to save the world.

The story is told from a range of different perspectives, as nearly every major character in the book has at least one point-of-view chapter, often with a countdown timer at the front of it to let the reader know how much time remains until the EMP goes off. In addition to the stories set in the present, there are also a number of chapters that dive back into the past of the antagonist, Dr Patel. These chapters show how Dr Patel’s descent into madness began, and the factors that led her to launching an EMP into space.

Dr Patel’s backstory is pretty entertaining, and the reader is left wondering for a large part of the book whether the aliens Dr Patel believes she encountered, the Numen, are actually real or just in her head. The result was pretty much what I was expecting, but it was still a lot of fun to see where Coulter and Ellison took her story. I also liked the chapters which focused on her revenge against the people from her past who wronged her and got her kicked out of NASA, as well as the scenes where she worked to obtain the EMP. Dr Patel’s bodyguard/lover Kiera is another interesting inclusion. Adding a red haired, Irish terrorist trained lesbian to an already crazy story could be seen as overkill, but I quite liked it, especially as she had an amazing fight sequence with one of the protagonists near the end of the book.

Fans of the A Brit in the FBI Thriller series will love to see the two FBI agent protagonists, Drummond and Caine, back in action and the authors have made sure to bring back several recurring characters from the previous books in the series. Those readers who have not read any of the previous novels in the FBI Thriller or the A Brit in the FBI series should have no problem getting into this book. Coulter and Ellison ensure that their story is quite accessible to new readers, and anyone interested in enjoying a new thriller will easily be to have fun with this book.

The Last Second by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison was everything that I hoped it would be and more. The authors make great use of their fantastic and crazy plot to create an electrifying and captivating novel that does an amazing job of entertaining the reader. A fantastic new addition to the A Brit in the FBI Thriller series, I cannot wait to see what sort of crazy adventure or plot Drummond and Caine will find themselves in next time.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Available Light by Dayton Ward – Audiobook Review

Star Trek - Available Light Cover

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (9 April 2019)

Series: Star Trek

Length: 11 hours and 59 minutes

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

For my latest review, I dive back into the massive universe of extended books that surround the Star Trek television and movie series, with the latest novel from legendary Star Trek fiction author Dayton Ward.

When I reviewed my first piece of Star Trek fiction, The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack, a couple of months ago, I mentioned how substantial the extended book universe around Star Trek was. With a huge number of series that cover various points of the Star Trek universe and over 840 novels to accompany the various movies and television shows, there are so many additional stories and characters out there for dedicated fans to enjoy. Star Trek tie-in novels and comics were not something that I had really gotten into before The Way to the Stars, but after enjoying it, I thought that Available Light would be a good opportunity to expand my knowledge of the Star Trek universe. I also decided that I would try my first Star Trek audiobook; I chose to listen to the audiobook format of Available Light, narrated by Robert Petkoff.

Quite a large amount of the extremely large Star Trek extended universe can be attributed to the author of this book, Dayton Ward. Ward is a prolific author who has been writing Star Trek fiction since 1998 with his inclusions in the long-running Strange New Words collections of Star Trek short stories, becoming the first author to contribute to three separate volumes of this series. Since then he has written more than 20 additional inclusions in the Star Trek universe, including last year’s Star Trek Discovery: Drastic Measures, which made my Top Ten list of Books I Wish I Read in 2018.

Available Light is the latest book in a series of novels which are set after the events of the last Star Trek: The Next Generation film, Nemesis. Available Light takes place in the year 2386, set seven years after the events of Nemesis and continues to follow the adventures of the USS Enterprise E, under the command of Captain Picard. Ward has written the last three books in this specific Star Trek series and Available Light continues several of the storylines established in these previous novels.

For over 200 years, covert organisation Section 31 has policed and protected the United Federation of Planets from the shadows. Following the designs of an artificial intelligence, Control, Section 31 has committed attacks, assassinations, political interference and all manner of illegal actions to preserve the security of the Federation, without any oversight. However, thanks to the actions of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine character, Dr Julian Bashir, all of Section 31’s secrets have been published and are now out in the open for everyone to see. With the entire Federation of Planets now aware of Section 31’s actions, the Federation government and Starfleet move to arrest and prosecute all known Section 31 agents for treason against the Federation.

While numerous crimes and atrocities have been revealed, perhaps none is more controversial than Section 31’s assassination of Federation President Min Zife following his secret deposition by a group of Starfleet officers. More shocking is the revelation that one of the Starfleet officers responsible for the illegal coup d’etat that unseated Min Zife was none other than Jean-Luc Picard, the captain of the USS Enterprise E.

While the politicians and remaining commanders of Starfleet argue about the future of Picard, the Enterprise continues its exploration of the distant and uncharted Odyssean Pass. The Enterprise has come across an incredibly large and ancient spaceship adrift in the middle of nowhere and apparently abandoned. When the Enterprise’s away team boards the ship, they discover that the ship might not be as abandoned as first believed. As Picard and the Enterprise attempt to help the mysterious beings who inhabit the ship, they find their plans complicated by the arrival of a band of salvagers with designs on the massive ship.

I really enjoyed Available Light, as Ward presents the reader with a compelling adventure in space that really reminded me of an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Ward goes deep into the Star Trek lore to produce an intriguing story for the fans, and it was quite interesting to see how the events of Available Light help shape the wider Star Trek book universe. The book makes exceptional use of advanced science and a large amount of action to make the story even more interesting and fun. I especially enjoyed the various wonderful examples of ship-to-ship combat that occurred throughout much of the book, and I found them to be extremely entertaining and exciting. Overall, this is a pretty fun read, although there are some issues when it comes to its intended audience and the distribution of its two main storylines.

One of the things that I always try to cover when reviewing novels related to movies, television shows and video games is whether a book is suitable only for fans of the original media or whether readers with limited background knowledge of the franchise will be able to appreciate the book. Available Light falls into the category of books which is primarily aimed towards those readers with some knowledge and appreciation of the Star Trek franchise, especially those who are fans of the books, as Ward makes use of a number of storylines that originated in other books. For example, Available Light continues to showcase the Enterprise’s exploration of the region of space known as the Odyssean Pass, which has been covered in Ward’s last three novels, Armageddon’s Arrow, Headlong Flight and Hearts and Minds. It also dramatically follows storylines started in David Mack’s 2004 novel, A Time to Heal, which detailed the assassination of Min Zife, and his 2017 Star Trek: Section 31 novel, Control, which featured the publication of Section 31’s secrets. The book also contains a huge number of references to previous Star Trek adventures that happened in other books, the movies and the television shows. This does not just include those works associated with The Next Generation, as events from other shows, such as Deep Space Nine, are also heavily referenced. As a result, fans of these existing pieces of Star Trek fiction will have a much deeper appreciation for what is going on, and they may already be invested in the storylines that have been established in these previous books.

Dedicated fans of The Next Generation television series and movies will probably be surprised about the extensive storylines established in these books. Since the events of Nemesis, the books included in these series cover a huge range of adventures and character developments of the crew of the Enterprise. Those Star Trek television and movies fans coming into this book will be surprised at events like Picard and Beverly Crusher getting married and having a son. These fans should also be prepared for the fact that only a few of The Next Generation’s main characters are really featured in Available Light. While Picard, Worf, Geordi La Forge and Beverly Crusher are still aboard the Enterprise, major characters such as Deanna Troi, Data and Wesley Crusher do not appear at all, while the character of William Riker (now an Admiral) only appears in one chapter. In their place, several new, original characters have taken on their roles and become point-of-view characters for the Enterprise. While these characters are quite intriguing, fans of the original crew may be a little disappointed not to see how the missing characters are going. Ward has also included some characters that appeared in minor roles in both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. These include Admiral William Ross (who appeared in 13 episodes of Deep Space Nine), Worf’s brother Martok (who also appeared in Deep Space Nine) and Philippa Louvois (the Judge Advocate General from The Next Generation episode The Measure of a Man). Not only are these characters quite interesting in their own right, but there are some significant developments for some of these characters that fans of the franchise will be deeply intrigued to see.

That being said, while a large amount of the story is quite heavy on Star Trek lore, references and tie-ins to previous storylines, Ward does an exception job making this story accessible to a wide range of readers. I am not a particularly dedicated Star Trek fan and I only have an average knowledge of the lore and the various series and movies. However, I was able to follow the story quite closely, as Ward did a fantastic job explaining and describing the events that occurred in the previous storylines and episodes that Available Light’s story follows on from. While some readers whose knowledge of Star Trek is lesser than mine might struggle a little with the book, I feel that Ward has made this book extremely accessible to most readers. However, this book will really appeal to those readers who have a prior appreciation of the Star Trek franchise.

I should mention that that this book, like many licensed Star Trek novels, is not actually considered to be canon in relation to the television shows or movies. While some books, such as the recent Star Trek Discovery books, are considered to be canon (indeed, events in The Way to the Stars were mentioned in the show), Available Light and the books that it follows on from are not. That means that events that occur in this book are unlikely to affect what happens in upcoming movies or television shows, such as the upcoming show featuring the return of Captain Picard. While reading a non-canon book like this might not appeal to some fans of the franchise, I still quite enjoyed the story, and I am intrigued to see how this separate Star Trek universe will continue.

Available Light features two separate storylines that mostly remain separate from each other. The first storyline focuses on the fallout of the events of Control, including the revelation about Section 31’s actions and the attempts by the Federation to round up and prosecute all those who worked with or for the covert organisation. The second storyline focuses on the Enterprise as they encounter the new alien ship and the various inhabitants of this new region of space. Despite the huge amount of detail used to describe the Section 31 part of the book in both the official synopsis and the synopsis I wrote above, this storyline only really takes up around one-third of Available Light, with the remaining two thirds focusing on the Enterprise and her crew. I found both storylines to be extremely fascinating and a lot of fun. The Enterprise storyline felt like a classic episode of a Star Trek television series, with the crew working together to explore an intriguing phenomenon and overcome the odds to save an innocent party. The Section 31 storyline is also really cool, and I really enjoyed seeing what happens when the existence of this organisation becomes public knowledge.

While Ward does try to bring these two separate storylines together, such as by examining Picard’s guilt at the role he played in Min Zife’s ousting and assassination and having it affect his actions in the Enterprise storyline, I did at times feel like I was reading two unrelated books. I really think this would have been a better book if Ward had focused on only one storyline. I would have really loved a book completely dedicated to the aftermath of the Section 31 reveal, including having Picard stand trial for his crimes, and I am sure that the story of the Enterprise discovering the massive ship could have been even better with some additional storytelling. Instead, the story of Picard’s trail will occur later this year in David Mack’s upcoming novel, Collateral Damage. While it was slightly disappointing to find out that Available Light’s Section 31 storyline was mostly included to set up a future book, it was still really interesting and helped created a book that was a lot of fun to read.

Ever since Section 31 was first introduced, it has been a deeply intriguing plot point. The idea of a secret Federation security organisation that goes against nearly everything that Starfleet stands for is really clever, and it opens up a lot of possibilities. Section 31 is getting a lot of focus at the moment, as not only did they appear throughout the second season of Star Trek Discovery (which utilised the AI program Control, who appeared in several novels linked to Available Light as an antagonist) but there are apparently plans to do a Section 31 television series featuring Michelle Yeoh’s character from Discovery. As a result, it was really interesting to see this book universe version of Section 31 start to unravel in Available Light. The shock and outrage that results throughout the book are deeply intriguing, and I really liked seeing how the Federation and Starfleet reacted to the news. This really was a cool plot point, and I am extremely curious to see what happens to the organisation in future books.

As I mentioned before, I chose to listen to the audiobook version of Available Light. At just under 12 hours in length, it did not take me too long to get through this book, and I found it to be a great format to enjoy the intriguing, Star Trek based plot. I did find that listening to the story helped me pick up a lot more of the previous storylines and Star Trek references that Ward had littered throughout the book, which probably gave me a better base to enjoy the story. I found Robert Petkoff to be a really good narrator, and I really enjoyed the way that he told the story. Petkoff does a pretty good impersonation of the male characters from The Next Generation, including Picard, Worf and La Forge, and I found his Picard voice to be extremely convincing. Petkoff also did a great impersonation of Vulcan and Klingon characters throughout the book, and I thought the voices he attributed to these alien characters were quite excellent. As a result, I would strongly recommend the audiobook version of Available Light, and I am extremely glad it was the version of the book I chose to enjoy.

In the end, my second dive into the Star Trek universe was a little bit of a mixed bag. While there are some great and enjoyable story inclusions throughout Available Light, this is a book that is more aimed towards extremely dedicated Star Trek fans and features a split story that at times is more concerned with setting up future books rather than standing on its own. But I found the storylines explored within the books to be a lot fun, and I had an absolute blast listening to this captivating Star Trek tale. I am still really keen to check out additional Star Trek novels, and I hope to see where the various plots explored in this book go from here.