Top Ten Tuesday – Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. This week’s topic is to list my top ten auto-buy authors, that is the top ten authors whose latest books I will always buy no matter what.

This was a pretty cool topic to explore. There are a number of amazing authors out there whose books I will generally try to get each year due to how much I enjoyed their previous works. However, there are a few authors whose books I will automatically buy the moment they come out, many of whom I have been fans of for years. I managed to list my top ten of these authors, with a couple of honourable mentions thrown in as well. Fair warning: this top ten list features quite a large number of historical fiction authors. This is mainly because I previously focused solely on historical fiction for quite a long period of time and have only recently started getting into reviewing other genres such as science fiction or thrillers and have yet to finalise any auto-buy authors in these genres. I have added in a few fantasy authors, mostly because I have been reading these guys since I was fairly young, and their work is still incredibly impressive. Check out my list below:

Honourable Mentions:

 

Conn Iggulden

THe Falcon of Sparta Cover

One of the top authors of historical fiction, Iggulden has written some compelling books, set in some intriguing historical periods. His latest book, for example, The Falcon of Sparta, was pretty epic and focussed on an amazing event from history.

Mellissa Caruso

The Unbound Empire Cover (WoW)

This author’s debut series, the Swords and Fire trilogy, is just outstanding, and I will be adding all of her future books to the top of my reading list. Make sure to check out all the books in this series, including The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire.

Harry Sidebottom

The Last Hour Cover

An author who focuses on Roman history, Sidebottom has recently started blending his books with the thriller genre, creating some intriguing reads, such as his 2018 release, The Last Hour. I currently have his latest book, The Lost Ten, on my shelf and cannot wait to read it.

Top Ten List (No Particular Order):

 

Terry Pratchett

The author of the Discworld series and the master of combining fantasy elements with comedic stories. Before he passed away, I could always expect to receive the latest Terry Pratchett book as a Christmas gift every single year, and I would often finish it off by the end of Christmas day. Since his death in 2015, I haven’t really bought any of his novels, although I did manage to obtain them all on audiobook, which I relisten to all the time. As Pratchett is and probably always will be my favourite author of all time, I had to include him on this list, especially as he was my original auto-buy author

Moving PIcture Cover

The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Raising Steam was the last one of Pratchett’s books I received, while I recently reread Moving Pictures before I reviewed it earlier this year.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Maybe a nice copy of Good Omens, since I really enjoyed the show. I am planning to reread Pyramids next, as I am hoping to review it on the blog at some point.

Simon Scarrow

Simon Scarrow has to be one of my favourite historical fiction authors at the moment. His Eagles of the Empire series is one of the best Roman historical fiction series at the moment, and he has also produced a number of other books, including his Roman Arena and Invader novella series with T. J. Andrews, as well as his incredibly detailed Wellington and Napoleon Quartet. I have read all 17 of the books in his Eagles of the Empire series and am eagerly anticipating the 18th book, which will be out later this year. This has to be one of my favourite historical fiction series at the moment, and I will pretty much grab anything written by Scarrow as a result.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

The Blood of Rome (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Either the 18th book of the Eagles of the Empire series, Traitors of the Empire (out 14 November 2019), or Pirata (out 9 July 2019), the collected edition of the Pirata short stories that was recently released.

C. J. Samson

In my mind, the best author of historical murder mysteries at the moment has to be C. J. Samson. His Matthew Shardlake series is just incredible, as each book contains an extremely clever and detailed murder mystery that perfectly utilises the author’s Tudor England setting to tell a compelling story. Every one of his books generally becomes the best historical fiction releases of the year and will often be my favourite overall book of the year as well. As a result, each of Samson’s books are extremely high on my to-read list, and it’s such a shame there is usually a big gap between each of his books.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Tombland (2018), which not only got a five-star review from me, but which made my Top Ten Reads of 2018 list.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Hopefully the eighth book in the Matthew Shardlake series, although I may have to wait till 2022 for it to come out. I have no doubt it will be worth it, though.

Raymond E. Feist

Raymond E. Feist is one of the best fantasy authors in the world today. His iconic Riftwar Cycle, which ran for nearly 30 years, is considered one of the greatest fantasy series in the world today and features some incredible books. Feist’s Talon of the Silver Hawk was one of the first fantasy books I ever read, and after falling in love with it I went back and read every single previous book he wrote, starting with Magician and moving onto books such as the epic Empire trilogy he wrote with Jenny Wurst. Without a doubt, Feist is one of my favourite authors of all time and I eagerly grab every new book he releases, including the books in his new series, The Firemane Saga, which started last year.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

King of Ashes (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

The Firemane Saga book 2 – (I believe it will be called Queen of Storms)


Lindsey Davis

Lindsey Davis is probably the most prominent authors of the ancient history murder mystery. Her iconic Falco series, which ran for 20 books, placed a character styled after a modern private investigator in ancient Rome, resulting in some entertaining and enjoyable reads. I first started reading the sequel series to Falco books, the Flavia Albia series, back in 2013 and haven’t looked back. Her books are a heck of a lot of fun, and I especially loved the fifth and sixth books in the series, The Third Nero and Pandora’s Boy, which had some extremely epic comedy moments. These Flavia Albia books are a great highlight of my April reading schedule, and I fully plan to keep buying them as long as Davis continues to write them.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

A Capitol Death (2019) – review to follow soon.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

The Grove of the Caesars (April 2020)


Stan Sakai

I am a massive fan of many examples of comic books and magna, and I have had the pleasure of reading some amazing series from a variety of different publishers. However, the comic series that I look forward to the most each year is the Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai. There is just something about this series I cannot help but love, and I currently own all 32 volumes of the series, as well as some of the associated books. Sakai’s works are a must-get for me and he easily makes this list.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Usagi Yojimbo, Vol 32: Mysteries (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Usagi Yojimbo, Vol 33: The Hidden (2019). I have already ordered this book and it is hopefully on its way.

Robert Fabbri

For the last few years, Robert Fabbri’s debut body of books, the Vespasian series, has been an extremely entertaining highlight of my reading year. The author did an amazing job of combining a compelling examination of the history of one of the most influential Roman Emperors with some of the wild and extreme stories of Roman excess and insanity. The end result is an amazing series of books that I absolutely devour when I get my hands of them. Fabbri is currently working on a new series of books, The Alexander Legacies, which I am really looking forward to, and I imagine I will grab every book in this future series.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Emperor of Rome (2019). This book recently made my Top Ten Favourite Books from the First Half of 2019 list and is a heck of a lot of fun.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

The Alexander Legacies – Book 1 (2020)


Ken Follett

Ken Follett is an extremely talented author who has been writing since the 1970s. While he was initially known for his clever thrillers, I am a fan of his incredible pieces of historical fiction. Follett has written some truly amazing pieces of historical fiction including his extraordinary book, The Pillars of the Earth. I was first introduced to Follett’s books with his epic Century trilogy, and honestly all I needed to do was read one of his massive books to fall in love with this author’s work. No one blends life stories of fictional characters with iconic moments of history, and I desperately waiting for Follett’s next piece of work

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

A Column of Fire (2017)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Unknown – Apparently a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth

R. A. Salvatore

This is another author I would consider to be one of the top fantasy authors in the world today. Few authors have the sustainability and imagination of R. A. Salvatore, and I have been a massive fan of his for years. After powering through his The Icewind Dale trilogy, the series I really fell in love with was his prequel series, The Dark Elf trilogy. The way that he built up the history of his most iconic characters was just outstanding and made me a fan for life. I have since bought or read every single Salvatore book set in the Forgotten Realms, including The Cleric Quintet and all the books featuring Drizzt Do’Urden, including the latest book Timeless, and will continue to read them as long as Salvatore rights about the character. I have also started getting into his books set in the Corona universe and have read the first two books in The Coven series, which started last year with Child of a Mad God.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Reckoning of Fallen Gods (2019)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Boundless (2019)


Bernard Cornwell

The final author to feature in this list is the author I consider to be at the top of the historical fiction genre, Bernard Cornwell. With over 55 historical fiction novels on his resume, Cornwell has written some incredible pieces of work, and I have been a huge fan of his for years. The first Cornwell books I read were part of The Last Kingdom series, and I quickly graduated to other series, such as The Grail Quest novels. I really love how Cornwell can tell a huge number of different stories from across the historical periods, whether he looks at prehistoric adventures in Stonehenge, battles in America with The Fort or setting an intriguing piece of crime fiction amongst the plays of Shakespeare in Fools and Mortals. His body of work is just amazing and I cannot wait to check out what he writes next.

War of the Wolf Cover

The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

War of the Wolf (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Unknown

 

I hope you enjoyed my list. Are any of the authors featured within on your auto-buy author list? Let me know if the comments below or link through your auto-buy authors so I can check them out.

Nothing Ventured by Jeffrey Archer

Nothing Ventured Cover

Publisher: Macmillan (Trade Paperback – 10 September 2019)

Series: William Warwick series

Length: 323 pages

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One of the biggest names in modern fiction, Jeffrey Archer, returns with Nothing Ventured, an intriguing piece of historical crime fiction that starts up his brand-new William Warwick series.

William Warwick, son of a respected London defence attorney, has always dreamed of becoming a detective in the London Metropolitan Police Force. Despite the opposition of his father, William enrols as a trainee police officer at the start of the 1980s after finishing university. Armed with determination, sharp observation skills, an education in fine art and a can-do spirit, William is unaware of the adventures in store for him.

After quickly making the rank of detective constable, William is assigned to Scotland Yard’s Arts and Antiquities squad. While also investigating of a series of different art crimes and frauds across London, the squad is mainly concerned with capturing Miles Faulkner, a criminal mastermind responsible for the thefts and forgeries of some of the most expensive art in England. All previous attempts to capture Faulkner have failed miserably, as the criminal is always two steps ahead of the police.

As William becomes more and more involved in investigating the various crimes Faulkner is organising, he makes a crucial breakthrough when he befriends Faulkner’s wife, Christina. Christina is willing to return a valuable stolen Rembrandt from Faulkner’s personal collection in return for help from the police. Can Christina be trusted, or will Faulkner once again evade justice and continue his dastardly schemes? In addition, what happens when William falls head over heels in love with Beth, a research assistant at the museum the Rembrandt was stolen from, whose family secrets may drive a terrible wedge between her and William?

I have mentioned before how Jeffrey Archer, or the Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare as a Member of the British House of Lords, is one of the more colourful professional novelists in the world today. Archer has produced over 30 diverse books since 1976, including several standalone novels, a bestselling long-running series, several collections of short stories, three plays, three non-fiction books about his time spent in prison, and four children’s books. I have read several of his books in the past, although I only have his 2018 book, Heads you Win, currently reviewed on my blog at the moment.

Nothing Ventured is a fantastic new novel from Archer and is the first book in a planned eight-part William Warwick crime fiction series. The William Warwick series actually has a very interesting origin, as William Warwick served as the protagonist of a fictional series of books written by the main character in Archer’s most iconic series, the Clifton Chronicles, Harry Clifton. Following the end of the Clifton Chronicles in 2016 and several requests from his fans to expand on the adventures of Warwick, Archer started on this series. The William Warwick series will examine the career of its titular character and show the various cases he investigates that helped him to become a great detective.

This series is off to a good start with Nothing Ventured, as Archer creates a compelling and enjoyable read that does a fantastic job introducing the readers to his new protagonist and showing the early days of his police career. Archer has always excelled at creating historical fiction narratives that focus on the lives of specific characters, and Nothing Ventured is no exception. Within this book, the reader gets a great idea of the character of Warwick and sees the struggles and early influences that drive him to become a successful police detective. The reader is also introduced to a bevy of interesting side characters, many of whom are set up to be major friends, colleagues, love interests or antagonists of Warwick through the future books of the series. Overall, Archer does a superb job setting up his overarching series in Nothing Ventured, and the intriguing mysteries explored within, as well as the introduction of a likeable new protagonist, should ensure readers will check out future instalments of this series.

One of the most intriguing aspects about Nothing Ventured was the focus on the artistic world and the subsequent fraud or theft that accompanies it. At the start of the book, the protagonist studies art history at university and subsequently develops a life-long love for the artistic greats. This appreciation of art becomes an important part of his future career, as it helps him join the Arts and Antiquities squad. Throughout the course of Nothing Ventured, Warwick and his colleagues investigate a number of different instances of art fraud, including forgeries of famous works, fraudulent signatures of historical figures and the forging of fake antique coins, among several other interesting examples. I thought that this was an absolutely fascinating focus for this book, and I really enjoyed reading about all the different ways art fraud could be committed. It also allowed for a number of unique and compelling mysteries, and readers will enjoy seeing the diverse outcomes that result from these cases. I also enjoyed the various discussions about art that permeated the book’s narrative. Archer is obviously very passionate and knowledgeable about classic artworks and antiquities, and this shines through in his writing. I am hoping that this focus on art will continue in future books of the William Warwick series, as it really helped set this book apart from some other historical mystery series.

The focus on the art world in Nothing Ventured also allowed Archer to introduce a great antagonist in the form of Miles Faulkner. Faulkner is a criminal mastermind who specialises in crimes involving art and is the bane of the Arts and Antiquities squad. Faulkner is a great gentleman-thief character, who is in many ways quite similar to Warwick, especially when it comes to his love and appreciation of artistic works. However, unlike Warwick, he uses his knowledge for his own benefit and is a fantastic master criminal. I really enjoyed the various ways that Faulkner was able to outsmart the police in this book, and he proved to be a worthy opponent to Warwick and his colleagues. The reveal of the true depths of Faulkner’s intelligence and deviousness in the last sentence of the book is masterfully done and Archer is clearly setting the character up as one of the major antagonists of this series. I look forward to seeing him return in future entries in this series, and I am sure he will continue to be a great villain.

Readers should also keep an eye out for the chapters in which Archer splits the focus between two separate events occurring at the exact same time. This is done a couple of times throughout the course of the book, and these split chapters are a lot of fun to read. They are mostly done to highlight the differences between two similar events happening in different areas; for example, showing two different police operations occurring at the same time, or two unrelated court cases with implications for the protagonist that are running in separate court rooms. The inclusion of these simultaneous events was done really cleverly in places, and it resulted in a couple of amazing and compelling chapters which I felt were some of the book’s best scenes. I hope that Archer continues to utilise this writing technique in the future books of this series, as it was a true highlight of Nothing Ventured.

Jeffrey Archer has once again created a thrilling and intriguing novel that focuses on the life of an English protagonist in a historical fiction setting. Nothing Ventured is the compelling first instalment of a crime fiction series with some real potential. Within this first book of the William Warwick series, Archer has come up with an intriguing life story to follow, introducing some great characters and producing some captivating mysteries and criminals that readers will love to unravel in future books. The massive planned William Warwick series should ensure Archer remains one of the bestselling historical fiction authors for the next eight years, and I look forward to seeing how the career and life of the titular main character progresses in the next instalment of the series.

The Kremlin Strike by Dale Brown – Audiobook Review

The Kremlin Strike Cover

Publisher: HarperAudio (7 May 2019)

Series: Patrick McLanahan series – Book 23

Length: 13 hours and 18 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Bestselling author Dale Brown, perhaps one of the best current writers of military thrillers in the world today, returns with another exciting instalment of his Patrick McLanahan series, which takes America’s battle with Russia up into high orbit.

Following the recent defeat of his deadly combat robots in Texas, Russian President Geenadiy Gryzlov is desperate to strike back against the hated Americans. However, he no longer faces the inept US administration he enjoyed over the last couple of years. Instead, his failed attack on America has resulted in the election of a strong new president, John Dalton Farrell. With Farrell once again backing the innovative and resourceful private companies of former US President Kevin Martindale and former general Patrick McLanahan, Sky Masters and Scion Aviation International, America’s future looks bright. One of Farrell’s first priorities is the immediate resumption of America’s research into space flight and defence, resulting in Iron Wolf Squadron members Brad McLanahan and Nadia Roz being recruited by Sky Masters to head up their revamped space initiative.

However, the Americans are not the only ones with an eye to space. Knowing that Russia’s future world dominance depends on controlling the stars, Gryzlov has ordered the construction of a high-tech space station, Mars 1. Armed with devastating plasma weapons capable of shooting down every US satellite orbiting the planet as well as missile launchers that can rain down fire anywhere on the world, Mars 1 is an absolute game changer that will ensure Gryzlov finally achieves victory over the United States.

America’s only hope once again rests in the hands of the men of Sky Masters and Scion. As the Scion operatives attempt to determine a weakness in Mars 1’s defences, Sky Masters have created a number of advanced space planes and weapons that will allow Brad and Nadia to take the fight to the Russians in space. Will this new equipment be enough, or will Russia’s grip on high orbit propel them to a final, devastating victory?

Brown has been one of the best and most prolific authors of military fiction for over 30 years, having written 29 military thrillers in this period, as well as co-writing 18 books in the Dreamland series with Jim DeFelice. I only recently got into Brown’s books last year, when I read his 2018 release, The Moscow Offensive. After being drawn in by the promise of advanced military robots fighting it out in the American heartland, I fell in love with the awesome plot, intense action and analyses of real-world political strife, and as a result, The Kremlin Strike was one of the military thrillers I was looking forward to the most this year. The Kremlin Strike is the 23rd book in Brown’s Patrick McLanahan series, which follows the titular character and his allies as they attempt to keep America safe from a series of high-tech military threats. This book could also be considered to be sixth book in the Brad McLanahan series, as the overarching plot of the series started to focus more on Patrick’s son, Brad, in Tiger’s Claw, especially after Patrick McLanahan’s supposed death.

I absolutely loved the central concept of The Kremlin Strike, which looks at the potential of Earth’s high orbit to host the next major military conflicts that we see. This is not a new focus for Brown, as some of his previous books in this series, including Executive Intent and Starfire, have looked at the potential of space-born weapons. Before the story even starts, Brown makes it clear that he believes the United States needs to focus more on the possibility of a future war in space, and even includes some real-world news excerpts that look at recent advances in military technology that can be used to fight battles in space or destroy satellites orbiting the planet.

Based on this, Brown is able to come up with an incredibly intriguing military thriller that looks at the battles that could occur in the near future. I found it absolutely fascinating to see the author’s theories about how space warfare could be conducted, and the tactical advantages of having control of Earth’s orbit. While some of the technology in featured in the story, such as the Cybernetic Infantry Devices, are probably more advanced than what Russia or America can currently use (probably), Brown does examine a number of weapons and vehicles that are currently being tested in space. The various laser weapons, plasma launchers (OK, these are slightly less likely), missiles and other cool weapons or technology used in the battle in space make for some interesting reading. There were also some intriguing looks at the various limitations or downsides of the space technologies featured in this book, such as energy issues, fuel consumption or the gravitational backlash some weapons may experience. I especially liked how Brown was able to capture a more accurate view of space combat, with invisible laser beams rather than the colourful blasts you see in most science fiction movies.

All of the focus on combat in space is a superb basis for a story, and Brown backs that up with some first-rate storytelling to make this an outstanding read. The Kremlin Strike was an excellent blend of action, advanced technology and spy fiction that also has some intriguing mirrors to current world politics. The author tells the story from a range of different character perspectives, allowing for a widespread story that works incredibly well. I especially liked seeing the opposing views of the protagonists and antagonists, as it allowed the reader to see multiple sides of the overall conflict. For example, the reader gets to see the Russians plan their moves, and then you get to see the American countermoves. This view of the different sides of the conflict also works because neither the Americans nor the Russians have a solid idea of what the other side is planning. The reader is the only person who knows what is going on in both camps, and it is really fun to see the opponents slowly work out each other’s tactics during the course of the narrative, and then panic when they realise what their enemy is planning.

In addition to the combat in space, Brown also displays his detailed knowledge of modern warfare and military throughout the course of The Kremlin Strike. There are a huge number of scenes where modern military technology, techniques, strategies or standard operating procedures are featured, all topped off with a good helping of military terminology and acronyms. Brown utilises all of these extremely well, and there is nothing too overwhelming for readers who have a low understanding of the relevant jargon. All the action in this book is written incredibly well, and it was just plain thrilling to see some of the battles in the sky or in space take place. There were also some cool espionage sequences thrown in throughout the story as well, emphasising the benefit of human intelligence in current conflicts. All of these various aspects come together into a wonderful military thriller narrative, which proved extremely hard to stop listening to.

Another part of The Kremlin Strike that I enjoyed was the use of the fantastic prime antagonist, Russian President Geenadiy Gryzlov. Gryzlov has been a key villain in the last few books of the Patrick McLanahan series, and his angry, vindictive nature and his sheer inability to admit his own mistake makes him an amazingly easy character to dislike. I always find that a great antagonist can add so much to a story, and this is especially true in this book, where you can’t help but root for the protagonists and enjoy when the antagonist’s plots come to naught. You also cannot help but feel sorry at times for Gryzlov’s subordinates, who are forced to obey his wild orders, despite knowing that they will be punished when they fail. I really enjoyed a fun story development that occurs around this character in The Kremlin Strike, which I thought that Brown planned out very well, and which was one of my favourite highlights of this book.

While I absolutely loved The Kremlin Strike, the author has included a few right-wing political issues that might not be appealing to every reader. Right at the start of the book, Brown is very supportive about recent decision by the current US administration to form a specific armed force for space warfare, and this book examines the necessity of such a force. In addition, if you read between the lines a little, the US president in The Kremlin Strike, Farrell, could be a partial stand in for the current real-life United States president, while the previous incompetent president, Stacy Anne Barbeau, could be seen to represent this president’s real-life opponent at the 2016 election. Farrell is a political outsider, disliked by the media, whose tough talk and determination to cut through the bureaucracy of Washington (drain the swamp, if you will), won the support of the American people. The book’s apparent support of the current US president and some of his controversial decisions may be off-putting to some readers, although I do not believe that it harmed the entertainment value of the story. I personally found it interesting that in this scenario Brown once again painted Russia as America’s greatest enemy, which is something the current US president appears extremely reluctant to do, although perhaps I am reading into this too much.

I ended up listening to the audiobook version of The Kremlin Strike, which is narrated by William Dufris. The audiobook version of this book runs for a moderate 13 hours and 18 minutes, and I found it to be a great way to enjoy this exciting and detailed military thriller. Having only read Brown’s work before, I felt that having the audiobook book version playing in my ear helped ramp up the action sequences as well as increase the sense of urgency of the events occurring in the book. Dufris is also an excellent narrator, coming up with a huge number of great voices for the various characters that make up the cast of this book. The voices he attributed to these characters were really good and captured their personalities extremely well, such as, for example, the anger, ruthlessness and paranoia exhibited by Gryzlov. Dufris also did a good job with the character accents, continuing utilising a number of Russian accents throughout the book, as well as accents from other Eastern European countries such as Poland. I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of The Kremlin Strike and I think I will check out this format for any future books in the Patrick McLanahan series.

In this latest book in his long running Patrick McLanahan series, Dale Brown has once again created a first-class military thriller that is an absolute treat to read. The author’s focus on the future conflicts that may occur in our planet’s orbit were extremely fascinating, and the story created around it was a captivating and electrifying read. Easily accessible to those readers who have not previously had the pleasure of reading the Patrick McLanahan series before, The Kremlin Strike was a deeply enjoyable book, and a must for all fans of both the science fiction and military thriller genres.

Book Haul – 12 July 2019

I haven’t had the greatest book haul in the last couple of weeks, but I have still managed to pick up a few excellent titles that I am excited to check out.

Star Wars: Thrawn: Treason by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Treason Cover

Treason is the fourth Star Wars book out so far this year that I have been lucky enough to get my hands on and I have really been looking forward to this book.  Not only did I feature it in a Waiting on Wednesday article, but Treason also made my recent Top Ten Most Anticipated July-December 2019 Releases list.  I had an amazing time reading and reviewing the previous two books in the Thrawn trilogy, Thrawn and Alliances, and I hope this book contains a satisfying conclusion to the titular character’s story arc.

Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation Lost Cover

This book only just rocked up today and I am extremely happy that I managed to get such an advanced copy of it.  Salvation Lost is another book that I featured both in a Waiting on Wednesday entry and in my Top Ten Most Anticipated July-December 2019 Releases listThe first book in the series, Salvation, was easily one of the top books I read in 2018 and I cannot wait to check out the sequel.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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Wilder Girls is an intriguing sounding young adult thriller and I am looking forward to checking it out.

Blood in the Water by Jack Flynn

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This is a pretty cool sounding crime thriller set in the author’s native Boston, should be good.

Knight of Stars by Tom Lloyd

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This sounds like a really fun and entertaining fantasy novel and I hope I get the chance to read it.

Uncanny X-Men: Volume 1 – Wolverine and Cyclops by Matthew Rosenberg and Salvador Larroca

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Two of the most iconic and antagonistic mutants teaming up again after the X-Men were completely destroyed, yes please!

Stay tuned to see my reviews of these books.  I’m hoping to get a bunch of really good books in the next couple of weeks as well, so looking forward to that.

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed

Alphabet Squadron Cover

Publisher: Century (Trade Paperback – 18 June 2019)

Series: Star Wars

Length: 408 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Star Wars expanded universe continues to grow as Alexander Freed presents a new and exciting adventure in the Star Wars canon, Alphabet Squadron.

Following the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star during the Battle of Endor, the Empire has fragmented. Without the Emperor’s leadership, the various Imperial commanders have devolved into infighting and are faltering in the face of opposition from the united forces of the Rebel Alliance, who have renamed themselves as the New Republic. However, pockets of Imperial power still exist throughout the galaxy, many of which have the destructive potential to fulfil the Emperor’s final order, Operation Cinder, the devastation of as many planets as possible.

Yrica Quell is a former Imperial TIE fighter pilot who deserted in the face of the Emperor’s final order. Living in exile with other Imperial deserters, Quell is recruited by Caern Adan from New Republic Intelligence to hunt down the remnants of the 204th Imperial Fighter Wing, Quell’s old unit. Known as Shadow Wing, the 204th, under the command of Colonel Nuress, has taken command of the planet of Pandem Nai, and is using it as a base to launch raids against New Republic targets.

In order to find and defeat Shadow Wing, Quell and Adan bring together a group of talented pilots who have experienced loss at the hands of the 204th pilots. Flying an assortment of starfighters and given the name of Alphabet Squadron, these pilots must learn to work together if they wish to have a chance against Shadow Wing. As Alphabet Squadron launches under the command of New Republic General Hera Syndulla, they must face not only some of the most skilled pilots in the galaxy but also some dangerous secrets from Quell’s volatile past.

Those readers who have followed my blog for a while will know that I have been really getting into the new Star Wars expanded universe in the last year. Alphabet Squadron has been high on my to-read list for a while now, and I had high hopes that this book would represent the start of an intriguing new series within the overarching Star Wars franchise. I have to say that I was in no way disappointed. Freed, who has written several Star Wars novels in the past, creates an intriguing new addition to the franchise which was a real pleasure to read.

Alphabet Squadron is set shortly after the events of the third original Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi, and focuses on the chaotic aftermath of the Rebels’ victory at Endor. In addition to that, Alphabet Squadron also crosses over with Marvel Comics’ latest Star Wars comic, TIE Fighter, which follows the exploits of the elite TIE fighter flight known as Shadow Wing. The trade paperback version of Alphabet Squadron even contains the first few pages of TIE Fighter Issue #1 in the centre of the book. The artwork in it actually looks pretty cool, and I think I will pick up a collected edition of it in the future.

This latest addition to the Star Wars universe contains an entertaining and at times emotional story that not only expands on the Star Wars universe, but which also features examinations of the horrors of war, the emotional toil of combat and characters attempting to find their place in a new reality. Alphabet Squadron is split among a huge range of perspectives, including of protagonists and antagonists, which really works to tell a complex and multifaceted story. In addition to this fantastic original story, Alphabet Squadron also features exciting starfighter combat, a new and at times darker perspective on the franchise lore and some excellent character work. There is also a lot of potential for the story to continue into additional books in the series, which I think would be good.

One of the big focuses of this book is the starfighter combat between the protagonists flying as Alphabet Squadron and the antagonists flying as Shadow Wing. The space combat in this book flies thick and fast, and there are a number of high-energy and action-packed sequences as the various starfighters engage in all sorts of combat. There are some great space fight sequences in this book, such as the protagonist fleeing from her old squadron or the continuous attacks of Shadow Wing against a New Republic cruiser and its fighter escort over a sustained period of time. Freed also does an exceptional job using multiple character perspectives to show various sides of the battle, which really helps to make these action sequences even more impressive. This all leads up to a massive final battle sequence that has some pretty epic moments and a whole lot of destruction.

One of the aspects of the focus on the starfighters that was particularly intriguing was the makeup of the titular Alphabet Squadron. Alphabet Squadron was so named because each of its five members fly a different Rebel Alliance fighter, each of which has been featured in the various movies. These include: (add photos)

Yrica Quell – X-wing. X-wings are the iconic fighter seen in most of the movies and serve as the main fighter of the Rebel fleets.

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Nath Tensent – Y-wing. Y-wings were seen in all three of the original movies and are the Rebel Alliance’s bombers.

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Wyl Lark – A-wing. A-wings have appeared in a couple of the movies and television shows and were the fastest ships in the Rebel Fleet.

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Chass na Chadic – B-wing. One of the more usual ships in the Rebel arsenal, these are slower ships with a huge amount of firepower.

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Kairos – U-wing. The Rebel Alliances troop transports. A couple of them first appeared in Rogue One and have been a feature of the Rebel Fleet ever since.

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Having all five different ships in one squadron was a really cool concept that I really liked. Not only did it give a cool name for both the book and the squadron, but it showcased the various pros and cons of the various Rebel starfighters. Having a group made up of one of each of these ships makes for some intriguing problems, as well as giving the protagonist some unique advantages. The various tactics these mixed ships can employ in battle are really interesting, and it was a great concept that Freed did a good job exploring. The focus on starship combat was a real highlight of this book, as it allowed for some extremely exciting and enjoyable scenes that really set this book apart from some other Star Wars novels.

Alphabet Squadron is an interesting new addition to the overarching Star Wars canon that ties into the movies and other additions to the expanded universe and also helps set up a new series of books. One of the main things I enjoyed about the book was that the story was set in a fascinating part of Star Wars history, immediately following the events of Return of the Jedi. During this period the Rebel Alliance is achieving victory after victory while the Empire fragmented. I found this examination of the aftermath of the original film trilogy to be extremely enjoyable, especially as the ending of Return of the Jedi always seemed to imply that the Rebels won completely and the Empire was no longer a threat. Alphabet Squadron instead shows it as a far darker period, filled with mass desertions from the Imperial Army, uncertainty and lawlessness throughout the galaxy and the devastating results of Operation Cinder. Freed does and amazing job examining this period, for example, I really liked how he highlighted the sense of victory coming of the Rebel Alliance characters and the hints of desperation and despair that the Imperial characters were feeling. Freed also does a good job examining the general feeling of weariness that both sides are feeling by this point in the extended war.

This book ties into a bunch of entries in the current Star Wars expanded universe. It is going to run side by side with the TIE Fighter comic book series, and it has links to the Star Wars: Battlefront II video game and the Star Wars Rebels television show. The whole concept of Operation Cinder was first introduced in Star Wars: Battlefront II, as the protagonists were trying to stop it. Alphabet Squadron shows more of this intriguing piece of Star Wars lore, as the main character Quell was there when Operation Cinder was undertaken at one of the planets, becoming a key motivation for her. Having not played the Battlefront games, I thought this was an incredibly interesting and dark inclusion to the overarching Star Wars story, and I really enjoyed how Freed explored it. I was particularly intrigued by the inclusion of the Sentinel droids, scary red droids that project the Emperor’s face on a screen and which were sent out after his death to deliver his final order. Not only are these droids a cool and sinister inclusion from the Battlefront game, but I find anything that could potentially explain the Emperor’s presence in the upcoming film, The Rise of Skywalker, to be extremely fascinating.

As I stated in the Waiting on Wednesday I did for this book, one of the things I was excited for was the presence of Hera Syndulla. Hera was one of the main characters in the Star Wars Rebels television show, serving as the group’s pilot and the leader of a Rebel fighter squadron. Since the end of Star Wars Rebels, Hera has had a number of small appearances in other pieces of Star Wars media, including the Star Wars comic book series and cameo mentions in the Rogue One movie. Hera was a good supporting character in this book, serving as the New Republic General overseeing Alphabet Squadron’s missions and as a confidant for several of the main characters. Fans of Rebels will love seeing more of Hera in this book, and I know I was happy to get another snapshot of this character’s history. I was slightly disappointed there were no mentions of the other surviving characters from the show, but there were probably restrictions on what the author was allowed to say about them in case of contradictions with a future show.

For this book, Freed drew together a great bunch of central characters to serve as the heart of the story and as the book’s various narrators. Each of Alphabet Squadron’s members has their own intriguing story to tell, including Yrica Quell, Alphabet Squadron’s leader. Quell is a former Imperial TIE pilot who is still haunted by the events surrounding her defection and the guilt of participating in Operation Cinder. Thanks to her status as a former Imperial, Quell is a bit of an outsider in the New Republic forces but is determined to stay and fly for them. However, her connection to Shadow Wing and certain secrets she is hiding become a major part of her character and a really intriguing central focus for this book. Quell was a good central protagonist for this book with a really cool story arc about her past and her attempts to find redemption. I also liked seeing her thoughts on the pros and cons of the various Rebel starfighters compared to the TIE Fighters she was used to flying, which really helped with the book’s focus on starfighter combat.

Alphabet Squadron also includes Nath Tensent, who acts like a bit of a rogue operator, with his own objectives and cons to run. He is recruited into Alphabet Squadron because Shadow Wing killed his entire squadron and he wants revenge. There are also Wyl Lark and Chass na Chadic, the surviving members of two squads of fighters devastated by Shadow Wing earlier in the book. Both of these characters are impacted by the recent losses of their previous squads, which affects how they act within this book. They are also somewhat antagonistic towards each other due to the guilt and anger they feel over being the sole survivors of their group. Both Wyl and Chass have their own fun personalities and unique quirks, including Chass’s love of music while she flies. The final member of the squadron is Kairos, a mysterious alien of indeterminate species who is covered in bandages. Kairos’s lack of past or connection to Shadow Wing are an intriguing anomaly within this book that I hope is explored in future books.

As an overall group, Alphabet Squadron is an intriguing bunch of characters who the reader finds themselves getting rather attached to. Each of them has their own emotional or personal damage, and it is great watching them try to redeem themselves by flying as part of this mismatched group, and each of them has a certain Rebel spirit to them. I really liked how Freed spent time looking at their various motivations for joining the Rebel Alliance in the first place, especially as they each have some interesting stories about the oppression of the Empire or inspiration from certain characters. The Squadron also has a certain everyman or outsider status to them, and I found it pretty interesting to hear their various opinions or takes on the events that happened in the movies or about Luke Skywalker’s Jedi abilities.

Freed has also included a few great characters from outside of Alphabet Squadron. For example, there is Caern Adan, the New Republic intelligence agent who recruits Quell at the start of the book. Despite being a member of the New Republic, Adan is something of an antagonistic in this book, as his obsession with finding and neutralising Shadow Wing drives him to control and manipulate members of Alphabet Squadron. Adan is accompanied by IT-O, a repurposed Imperial torture droid, who acts as a therapist for Alphabet Squadron and who provides Adan with psychological analyses of the various members of the squadron. Freed also seeks to tell the story from the perspective of the Imperials by including Colonel Nuress as a point-of-view character. Nuress, who is a character in the TIE Fighter comic book series, offers an interesting counter viewpoint into the fall of the Empire, especially as she views the Empire as more of a stabilising force than a destructive one. Her desire to rebuild the Empire and serve the will of the deceased Emperor is rather intriguing to read, and I liked how the author has included a character from the comic. While they were never specifically named, I assume that the group of highly skilled TIE fighter pilots that the protagonists faced off against where the main cast of the TIE Fighter comics, and I look forward to seeing them in any future books in this series.

Alphabet Squadron is an outstanding piece of Star Wars fiction that was an absolute blast to read. Not only has Freed created a compelling story filled with electrifying starfighter action and a great array of characters, but he has made some truly intriguing additions to the Star Wars canon. Like all pieces of the Star Wars expanded universe, Alphabet Squadron will be most enjoyed by fans of the franchise. However, I would say that readers who are not familiar with Star Wars fiction will find a lot to love in this book, and no real prior knowledge of other expanded universe entries is required to follow the exciting story. This is another amazing addition to the Star Wars canon that comes highly recommended. I am looking forward to seeing if Freed will continue the storylines he started here in any future books and I hope that Alphabet Squadron flies again.

Waiting on Wednesday – Warrior of the Altaii by Robert Jordan

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 entry, I am going to look at a very special book that is coming out in a few months, Warrior of the Altaii, a previously unpublished piece of fantasy fiction by the late, great Robert Jordan.

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Robert Jordan has to be considered one the greatest fantasy authors of all time, due to his creation of the legendary high fantasy series, The Wheel of Time. The Wheel of Time was a massive fantasy series, made up of 15 books (14 main novels and a prequel), which followed an epic battle between good and evil in a unique fantasy world. Jordan unfortunately passed away before he was able to conclude his series, however, fellow fantasy author Brandon Sanderson was brought in to complete the last three books in the series.

The Wheel of Time novels are an amazing example of the fantasy genre, and features complex heroes, terrible villains, magic, battles, intrigue and all manner of adventure. The series is one of the bestselling fantasy series of all times and has a substantial popular following. Unsurprisingly, a live action adaption for these books is in the works, as Sony and Amazon are currently developing a The Wheel of Time television series right now with Rosamund Pike cast as the lead, no doubt trying the fill the post Game of Thrones void. The Wheel of Time books were one of the first fantasy series I really got into, although it has been quite a few years since I have had the opportunity to read any books. I am hoping to do a big re-read all of The Wheel of Time books at some point in the future, although that is a pretty substantial time commitment with 15 separate books.

As you can imagine with such a popular fantasy author, there is always a clamouring to see more of their writing material. That is why I was so excited when I learned that Warrior of the Altaii was coming out. Not only is an opportunity to see some of Jordan’s earlier work, as he actually wrote this novel before he started on The Wheel of Time books, but it is also likely to be the last piece of fiction written by Robert Jordan’s that is ever published.

Warrior of the Altaii is set to be released on 9 October 2019 and should be a pretty interesting read. I believe that it is set in a different world to The Wheel of Time books and will, due to circumstances, be a standalone novel. A plot summary of the book has been released, and it definitely sounds like this will be an intriguing novel:

Goodreads Synopsis:

Draw near and listen, or else time is at an end.

The watering holes of the Plain are drying up, the fearsome fanghorn grow more numerous, and bad omens abound. Wulfgar, a leader of the Altaii people, must contend with twin queens, warlords, prophets and magic in hopes of protecting his people and securing their future. Elspeth, a visitor from another world, holds the answers, but first Wulfgar must learn to ask the right questions.

But what if the knowledge that saves the Altaii will also destroy them?

This is a pretty cool plot synopsis and there are several intriguing elements within it that could lead to an amazing story. I will be interested to see the new setting that Jordan has created for this book, and it sounds like the story will be filled with a good combination of conflict, magic and politics.

Overall, I am really looking forward to Warrior of the Altaii. I honestly would have grabbed this book no matter what as I am extremely curious to see how Jordan’s earlier work compares to The Wheel of Time books. However, I do like the sound of the plot synopsis above and I will be keen to explore one of the first fantasy worlds that Jordan ever created. I imagine a lot of fantasy fans will be in the same boat as me, and I look forward to not only checking out this book, but seeing what other reviewers think about it.