Inscape by Louise Carey

Inscape Cover

Publisher: Gollancz (Trade Paperback – 27 January 2021)

Series: Inscape – Book One

Length: 426 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The future is a cyperpunk nightmare in Inscape, the fantastic and clever science fiction thriller debut from amazing author Louise Carey.

Years after an apocalyptic event, the world is now run by corporations who battle for control and influence.  One of the most powerful corporations is InTech, which sits on the cutting edge of a variety of technologies and advances and which does not take any prisoners in their war for dominance.  When a valuable piece of information is stolen, InTech sends a team of agents into the unaffiliated zone to retrieve them.  However, only one agent will return alive and unharmed.

Tanta has spent her entire life training to work and fight for InTech.  An orphan who was raised solely because of the company’s good will, Tanta is crushed when her first mission ends in near failure.  Attacked by a mysterious enemy agent with advanced weapons technology, Tanta is barely able to survive and is subsequently tasked with retrieving the information that the thief stole.  Teaming up with an unconventional technical genius, Cole, Tanta begins her investigation, only to discover that someone is attacking InTech’s interests around their city.

Believing the culprits to be working for a rival corporation, Tanta and Cole attempt a dangerous infiltration into their city.  However, their mission quickly runs into problems when their contact is captured and Tanta’s tech appears to be compromised.  Attempting to survive in enemy territory, the two InTech agents engage in a risky heist to find answers.  But with all evidence pointing to a traitor high up in InTech’s ranks, can Tanta and Cole survive their dangerous mission, or will secrets from both their pasts destroy them and everything they love?

I am really glad that I decided to check this cool debut out as it ended up being a pretty impressive science fiction read.  Inscape was the first solo novel from author Louise Carey, who has previously written several novels and comics with her father, comic author Mike Carey, and her mother, Linda Carey.  Carey has come up with an exciting and compelling read in her first novel, especially as it combines an excellent science fiction thriller storyline with some great characters and an inventive and unique cyberpunk setting.

At the centre of this fantastic debut is an outstanding narrative that combines an electrifying spy thriller novel with some compelling science fiction.  Carey starts Inscape off quickly, with Tanta and her comrades brutally attacked by a dangerous enemy agent out while trying to recover some stolen files.  After this great opening scene, which sets up most of the narrative perfectly, Tanta is chucked into the midst of a massive conspiracy which sees her beloved corporation under attack, and which requires her to find who stole the files and for what purpose.  The rest of the novel is captivating and clever, as readers become engrossed by Inscape’s fantastic thriller elements as the protagonists attempt to get to the bottom of the conspiracy, which includes an extended undercover sequence where they infiltrate a rival corporation’s city to discover what they know.  This entire awesome sequence, which takes nearly a third of the novel, is extremely exciting, as Tanta and Cole are forced to rely on the minimal of resources to not only survive but to also pull off a daring prison break.  I really fell in love with this novel during this part of the story, and Carey makes sure to end it with an amazing conclusion which sees some major secrets come out and significant developments moments occur for the main characters.  I felt that the author wrapped Inscape up perfectly and readers will deeply enjoy where the story leaves off, especially as there are some great hints as to where the series will go from here.

One of the key things that I really loved about Inscape was the amazingly inventive and distinctive cyberpunk themed world that Carey created as a background to her awesome story.  The world of Inscape is set several years after an apocalyptic technological event which left much of the world in ruins.  Most civilisation now revolves around massive corporations who manage cities and safe zones while monitoring their citizens and assigning resources to the most useful.  There were also some intriguing pieces of technology introduced in this novel, such as the communications and information devices built into everyone’s heads, known as scapes, which serve as a key part of Inscape’s story.  This was an impressive and well-designed science fiction setting, and I enjoyed the cool blend of advanced technology, changing social norms and predictions of future corporate control.  I felt that Carey did an amazing job of introducing information and key points about the setting and advanced technology as the novel progresses, and it proves to be an excellent backdrop to Inscape.  I also appreciated the way in which technology like the scapes are utilised throughout the story as the instantaneous communication and information they contain help to enhance some of the action orientated scenes as well as amp up the intrigue and connections between characters.  You also occasionally get the opposite effects where this technology is deactivated and the protagonists are forced to rely on their own senses, which can be rather jarring for them.  Carey works in some compelling discussions about over-reliance on technology, free will and corporate greed throughout Inscape, all of which adds a darker and fascinating edge to the entire story.  All of this makes Inscape a very intriguing read that fans of science fiction and cyberpunk will deeply enjoy.

Another wonderful aspect of Inscape was the fantastic characters featured within, particularly the three main point-of-view characters.  Carey makes excellent use of multiple character perspectives throughout the novel to provide compelling alternate viewpoints of key events and character actions, which I felt really added a lot to the overall narrative.  In addition, the author introduces several amazing characters, most of whom either have a compelling base to their unique personalities or who go through some substantial development throughout the course of the novel.

The most prominent of these is central protagonist Tantra, a young woman who was raised by InTech since she was orphaned and who has been training all her life to be an agent for them.  Tantra starts the novel as a particularly zealous and passionate character who is unquestionably loyal to her corporation and her handler, Jen.  A skilled survivor, fighter and intuitive investigator, Tantra serves as a great protagonist for the early part of the novel, as she swiftly and efficiently begins the hunt for the person who is attacking her beloved InTech.  However, as the novel progresses, Tantra goes through some substantial changes, especially after she discovers some harsh truths about InTech and herself.  While this turns her into a much more likeable and free-spirited person, it does raise certain questions about Tantra’s true self and her motivations, which is rather intriguing and captivating to see.  Tantra is a fairly badass character throughout the entirety of Inscape, and I deeply enjoyed her intensity, intelligence, capacity for violence and acting abilities, the last of which results in a couple of fun scenes.  I also enjoyed how Carey made her a lesbian character, and she has a nice and touching relationship with a fellow orphan, Reet, although certain aspects of the narrative make Tantra contemplate how and why their relationship occurred.  This was a fantastic central protagonist, and I am curious to see what happens to her in the future.

The next major character in the novel is Cole, an InTech scientist who finds himself partnered with Tantra on the case to find the missing information.  Cole is a great character, a brilliant man who has recently lost his memories due to a technological mishap.  As a result, he spends much of the novel attempting to work out who he is, which impacts much of his personality and motives.  Cole ended up being a rather fun and interesting addition to Inscape, and I loved the unusual team that he forms with Tantra.  In many ways, Tantra and Cole are complete opposites, as Cole has a bit of an anti-authoritarian streak and sees the other characters and corporations in a different light to his partner.  Cole is also far less trained as a corporate operative and finds himself extremely overwhelmed when out in the field.  In several great sequences he is shown to be very out of his depth and is forced to rely on Tantra’s skill and knowledge, which is particularly jarring for him as he is substantially older than her.  I very much enjoyed seeing Cole finding his feet throughout this book and getting a crash course in espionage and survival from his teenage partner, and I liked the fun and substantive friendship he formed with Tantra.  Several great secrets and reveals come out about Cole as the novel progresses, and it results in some great discussions about whether he is the same person that he was before he lost his memories.  These reveals are likely to have a major impact in some future novels and should result in some intriguing story arcs.

The final major point-of-view character in this novel is Jen, Tantra’s handler at InTech, who Tantra views as a mentor and mother figure.  Jen is an ambitious and driven woman who is determined to climb the InTech ranks, and who sees her control over Tantra as the way to do it.  I really liked the way that Carey portrays Jen through the various perspectives as you get a very different viewpoint of who and what Jen is.  For example, in Tantra’s eyes Jen can do no wrong, and is one of the few people that she loves and respects.  However, when Cole sees her actions, he realises just how manipulative Jen is and how little she actually cares for Tantra.  Jen’s true ruthlessness and uncaring nature is further explored in some of the scenes shown from her perspective, and it is fantastic to see the differing viewpoints about her motives and actions.  Jen serves a great role throughout the novel as Tantra’s motivation and as a dangerous controlling figure and I really enjoyed seeing the entirety of her storyline unfold.  Each of these three main characters were written pretty perfectly and I loved the fantastic development and exploration that Carey did with them in Inscape.

Inscape by Louise Carey was an incredible and addictive debut novel that ended up being a really fun and compelling read.  Carey did a wonderful job of blending an excellent thriller narrative with some great science fiction elements, amazing characters, and a clever examination about humanity’s over-reliance on technology.  I look forward to seeing how this series continues in the future, especially after this amazing first novel, and Inscape is really worth checking out.

WWW Wednesday – 9 June 2021

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Artifact Space by Miles Cameron (ebook)

Artifact Space Cover

This week I started reading an advanced proof I have of Artifact Space by the always impressive Miles Cameron, who has previous written great fantasy reads like Cold Iron and Dark ForgeArtifact Space is the author’s first science fiction novel and is set aboard a massive human trading ship in the future that finds itself under attack from a mysterious enemy.  This book is an epic read in every sense of the word and I am having an amazing time getting through it.  Cameron has done an incredible job coming up with another complex and captivating tale and I cannot wait to see how this excellent novel ends.

 

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne (Audiobook)

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

I also finally started listening to The Shadow of the Gods by highly acclaimed author John Gwynne.  I have not previously read any of Gwynne’s novels before, but every reviewer out there was losing their minds over The Shadow of the Gods, so I thought it would be worth checking out, especially after seeing this book’s absolutely amazing cover. It turns out that the collective review community wasn’t lying when it came to this book, as The Shadow of the Gods is an incredible and outstanding read.  I am halfway through The Shadow of the Gods at the moment and I am already pretty heavily invested in its intense narrative and well-developed characters.  This is easily one of the best fantasy novels of 2021 and I am looking forward to seeing how Gwynne ends this fantastic book.

What did you recently finish reading?

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Trade Paperback)

Project Hail Mary Cover

 

The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence (Audiobook)

The Girl and the Mountain Cover

 

A Comedy of Terrors by Lindsey Davis (Trade Paperback)

A Comedy of Terrors Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Falling by T. J. Newman (Trade Paperback)

Falling Cover

 

 

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

Waiting on Wednesday – Enemy at the Gates by Kyle Mills (based on the series by Vince Flynn)

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  In this week’s Waiting on Wednesday article, I check out an awesome and fun upcoming thriller, Enemy at the Gates by Kyle Mills, which continues the Mitch Rapp series originally written by Vince Flynn.

Enemy at the Gates Cover

The Mitch Rapp series is an intense and compelling collection of spy thriller novels that follow titular American agent Mitch Rapp as he faces off against a raft of America’s enemies.  Originally created and written by Vince Flynn, the Mitch Rapp series started in 1997 with Term Limits.  Flynn ended up writing 14 Mitch Rapp novels throughout his career, including two prequel novels, American Assassin and Kill Shot (the first of which was adapted into a film of the same name).  Following Flynn’s death in 2013, the series was continued by fellow thriller writer Kyle Mills, who has written six Mitch Rapp novels and has a seventh, Enemy at the Gates, on the way.

Like several other thriller series I enjoy, I came to the Mitch Rapp novels a little late in the game, having started with the 2018 release, Red WarRed War was a thrilling and fun novel that followed Rapp as he tried to stop a mad Russian President from starting World War III as a cover for his cancer diagnosis.  Thanks to its awesome and exciting plot, I had a great time reading Red War and I have since gone on to read the latest two entries in the series, Lethal Agent and Total Power.  All three of these Mitch Rapp novels have been really good, containing some excellent and compelling narratives, and I am now committed to checking out every new Mitch Rapp novel as soon as they are released.

As a result, I am quite excited about the upcoming book, Enemy at the GatesEnemy at the Gates, which is currently set for release on 14 September 2021, will be the 20th novel in the Mitch Rapp series and contains an intriguing and interesting narrative about political corruption and abuse of power in Washington.

Synopsis:

Picking up where the “tour de force” (The Providence Journal) Total Power left off, the next thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling Mitch Rapp series follows the CIA’s top operative as he searches for a high-level mole with the power to rewrite the world order.

Mitch Rapp has worked for a number of presidents over his career, but Anthony Cook is unlike any he’s encountered before. Cunning and autocratic, he feels no loyalty to America’s institutions and is distrustful of the influence Rapp and CIA director Irene Kennedy have in Washington.

Meanwhile, when Kennedy discovers evidence of a mole scouring the Agency’s database for sensitive information on Nicholas Ward, the world’s first trillionaire, she convinces Rapp to take a job protecting him. In doing so, he finds himself walking an impossible tightrope: Keep the man alive, but also use him as bait to uncover a traitor who has seemingly unlimited access to government secrets.

As the attacks on Ward become increasingly dire, Rapp and Kennedy are dragged into a world where the lines between governments, multinational corporations, and the hyper-wealthy fade. An environment in which liberty, nationality, and loyalty are meaningless. Only the pursuit of power remains.

As “one of the best thriller writers on the planet” (The Real Book Spy), Kyle Mills has created another nail-biter that not only echoes the America of today, but also offers a glimpse into its possible future.

I really enjoy the sound of the above synopsis, and it looks like Enemy at the Gates is going to be another excellent and exciting read.  The entire plot around an unconventional US President and a powerful rich man has a lot of story potential, and there are some intriguing parallels with certain real life rivalries and power abuses.  I look forward to seeing the author’s take on a pure political thriller, and I am sure it will result in a powerful story.

Based on Mills’s previous novels, I know that I am going to be in for a great time when I grab my copy of Enemy at the Gates.  This latest Mitch Rapp novel has an amazing amount of potential in its cool story premise, and I am very confident I will power through it really quickly.  This is going to be a very exciting and fast-paced read, and I cannot wait to check out all the violence, bloodshed and dangerous politics.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Loved that Made Me Want More Books Like Them

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants are challenged to list books that they loved and which subsequently made them want to read more books like them.  While this is a rather wordy topic, I am choosing to interpret it as any amazing book or comic that, upon completion, immediately made me want to read or enjoy something similar, be it in the same genre, format or by the same author.

This was a rather interesting topic to consider, and for a while I was not certain that I could field a Top Ten List for it.  However, after a long think, I was able to come up with 10 incredible books or comics that awoke something in me and helped to shape what I would read in the future.  Each of the entries on this list really spoke to me for some reason or another, and many of these are responsible for my current reading choices. 

 

Top Ten Tuesday:

 

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

Jingo Cover

Let us start off this list with the outstanding and funny Discworld novel, Jingo by Terry Pratchett, which really ignited my passion for this amazing series.  Funnily enough, I actually read this novel for the first time while waiting in line for a Terry Pratchett book signing in a book shop here in Canberra.  Due to the long line, I was able to get through a good swath of the novel while I waited and found myself deeply enjoying the outrageous and clever story within.  While I had read some of Pratchett’s novels before, such as The Carpet People or The Nome trilogy, I do not think that I ever fully appreciated the Discworld series until that moment as I swiftly got caught up in Jingo’s great humour, clever satire, and fun characters.  After getting my copy of Jingo signed (it remains one of my most prized possessions), I immediately went about reading or re-reading some of the other Discworld novels, and soon I was hopelessly addicted to this fantastic series.  Since that day I have read every entry in this amazing series innumerable times and in my opinion it is the best and most impressive literary series of all time.  I still deeply, deeply love all the Discworld novels (check out my reviews for Moving Pictures and The Last Continent), and I owe my love of this series to Jingo.

 

Deep Silence by Jonathan Maberry

Deep Silence Cover

Next, we have the awesome and exciting Deep Silence by Jonathan Maberry, the 10th and final entry in the crazy Joe Ledger series.  When Deep Silence came out, I grabbed an audiobook copy of this book because I thought it sounded interesting and I wanted to try something different.  However, I was unprepared for just how much I would enjoy Deep Silence’s cool thriller/science fiction hybrid story, as it ended up being one of the best novels I read in 2018.  I loved this amazing book so much that the moment I finished Deep Silence I immediately started reading the first novel in series, Patient Zero.  Since then, I have gone on and read all 10 novels in the Joe Ledger series, as well as the first novel in the Rogue Team International series, Rage (one of the best books and audiobooks I read in 2019), and standalone novel Ink (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020).  I am now a deeply devoted fan of Jonathan Maberry’s writing, and I will be grabbing every single novel that he realises in the future, including the upcoming Relentless.

 

Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee

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The third entry on this list is the epic Batman comic, Hush, which is responsible for my current love of comic books.  Years ago, I happened across a copy of Hush while in the library.  Looking for anything to do other than the very important maths homework I had, I chose to read Hush, figuring it would be interesting.  At that point I really had not read any mainstream comics before, but Batman is Batman, so I thought it would be worth it.  What I found was a really cool Batman story that saw Batman face off against all his greatest enemies, as well as new foe Hush.  I really liked this comic, especially as it serves as an excellent introduction to key elements of the Batman mythos, and I had a wonderful time getting through it one sitting.  Right after finishing it, I immediately started reading some of the other comics the library had, which kept enhancing my love for superhero comics and hooked me for life.  While I have read many comics since then, I fully blame the existence of my multi-shelf comic collection on Batman: Hush.

 

Star Wars: Last Shot by Daniel José Older

Last Shot Cover

Those familiar with my blog will know that I have a certain fondness for Star Wars tie-in fiction, having read and reviewed a ton of Star Wars novels and comics over that last couple of years.  However, the book that started my current obsession with Star Wars media was the fun Last Shot by Daniel José Older.  Serving as a tie-in to the Solo film, Last Shot was an impulse buy I made as I thought it would be an interesting novel to review.  This proved to be correct as I really enjoyed Last Shot and soon after I started grabbing more and more Star Wars books.  This obsession continues to this day, and I have already enjoyed several great Star Wars books this year alone (make sure to check out my recent list of favourite Star Wars novels).

 

Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist

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The next entry on this list is a rather interesting Talon of the Silver Hawk by Raymond E. Feist.  I received a copy of Talon of the Silver Hawk as a birthday present years ago and while I was unfamiliar with the author, I thought it was a great gift and immediately started reading it.  I swiftly became engrossed with this awesome novel and despite it being the 20th book in Feist’s Riftwar Cycle, I had an incredible time reading it.  I had so much fun with this book that I immediately grabbed a copy of Feist’s debut novel, Magician, from the library and from there, every single Riftwar Cycle novel, as well as the tie-in Empire trilogy.  The Riftwar Cycle proved to be an interesting grounding in fantasy fiction, and I fully blame Talon of the Silver Hawk as the reason why I currently have a massive stack of Feist hardcovers in my study, including his latest two novels, King of Ashes and Queen of Storms.

 

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

Battle Ground Cover

Another series that I instantly became addicted to, is the epic Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher.  I had long meant to read this amazing urban fantasy series, but I only got a chance to do so last year when I received a copy of the latest book, Battle Ground.  I had such a great time reading Battle Ground that I went on to read some of the early entries in the series, including Storm Front, Fool Moon and Grave Peril.  This is turning into such an incredible series to explore in full, and I am so very glad that I read Battle Ground last year.

 

Star Wars: Darth Vader (2015): Volume One: Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca

Star Wars - Darth Vader Volume 1 Cover

In a similar vein to Last Shot and Hush above, I owe my current love for Star Wars comics to one specific release, the first volume of the awesome Darth Vader (2015) series, Vader.  This was an incredible comic that showcased Darth Vader right after the events of A New Hope and includes the moment that he found out that his son was alive.  I have a lot of love for this awesome comic especially as it convinced me to grab the rest of the Darth Vader series, and then several other awesome series.  I have since gone on to read most of the current comics in the canon (check out my list of favourites) and I am eagerly awaiting the next batch of awesome Star Wars comics.

 

The Crystal Shard by R. A. Salvatore

The Crystal Shard Cover

Salvatore is another author whose works I have greatly enjoyed over the years, and my appreciation of his novels begun when I read The Crystal ShardThe Crystal Shard was an impressive fantasy novel released as part of The Forgotten Realms shared fantasy universe and contained a fantastic story that introduced many of Salvatore’s iconic characters.  I really enjoyed The Crystal Shard and after I finished I quickly read the rest of the books in The Icewind Dale trilogy as well as all three books in prequel Dark Elf trilogy.  I have since gone on to read over 30 of Salvatore’s novels, including his recent releases Timeless, Boundless and Relentless, and he remains one of my all-time favourite writers.

 

Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell

Sword Song Cover

While I currently enjoy novels from a great range of different genres, for many years I predominantly read historical fiction novels.  While much of this was a professional choice, the reason I started reading this genre in the first place was because I happened across a copy of Sword Song by Bernard Cornwell.  Sword Song was an excellent historical fiction novel and the fourth entry in The Last Kingdom series.  Despite reading it out of order, I had an incredible time with Sword Song, and I swiftly started reading the rest of Cornwell’s novels, as well as several other great historical fiction reads.  Historical fiction still remains one of my absolute favourite genres to this day, and much of this is thanks to the awesome story contained in Sword Song.

 

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

The final entry on this list is The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.  As I mentioned above, for many years I primarily read historical fiction novels, which meant that my fantasy fiction reading was severely neglected.  However, once I started reading and reviewing recent fantasy novels, I decided that I would be useful to go back and check out some of the bigger fantasy series that I had missed.  One that particularly appealed to me was Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series, including the first novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora.  I had heard amazing things about The Lies of Locke Lamora and this praise was well deserved, as this novel was a clever and outstanding piece of fantasy fiction.  I had such an incredible time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora that I instantly started the rest of the Gentleman Bastards books.  I was also inspired to check out several other great fantasy series I had heard mentioned in the same breath as Lynch’s books, such as The Kingkiller Chronicles, The First Law series, and The Stormlight Archive.  My adventures in these epic fantasy series has proven very enjoyable and I am so glad that reading The Lies of Locke Lamora led me to them.

 

That is the end of this latest Top Ten list.  I think I came up with a really interesting and varied list of books that inspired me to read similar titles and I ended up having a fun time producing this article.  Each of the novels and comics above comes highly recommended and you may be surprised how inspired you may find yourself after checking them out.  Let me know which of the above entries are your favourites and I cannot wait to find out what novels inspired you to read more of the same.

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

Publisher: Gollancz (Audiobook – 25 March 2021)

Series: The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings – Book Two

Length: 20 hours and 6 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Following his epic 2020 debut, one of the fastest rising stars in fantasy fiction, Nick Martell, returns with the second entry in his The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings series, The Two-Faced Queen.

Last year I was lucky enough to listen to a copy of Martell’s incredible first novel, The Kingdom of LiarsThe Kingdom of Liars was a gripping and impressive fantasy read set in Hollow, a crumbling city surrounded by an army of rebels, which followed the misadventures of the infamous Michael Kingman.  Michael is the scion of the legendary Kingman family, a noble clan of heroes and leaders who have guided Hollow for generations, serving as both supporters to the royal family and a check on their power.  However, the legacy of the Kingman family has been severely tarnished in recent years as Michael’s father was executed for the murder of the heir to the throne.  With their family disenfranchised, Michael grew up as an outcast in his own city, acting out against authority.  This changed when a chance encounter allowed him to investigate who was responsible for his family’s downfall and the death of the prince of Hollow.  While he was eventually able to discover the true murderer, his investigation also resulted in the King’s suicide, which subsequently saw him tried for regicide and sentenced to death.  The end of the book saw him manage to escape his execution, while also setting up several of the storylines for future entries in the series.  I deeply enjoyed the cool story of this first entry in The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings, and The Kingdom of Liars ended up being one of my favourite novels, audiobooks and debuts of 2020.  As a result, The Two-Faced Queen was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.

Michael Kingman is a dead man walking.  Still accused of killing the King of Hollow, Michael is now under the protection of the Orbus mercenary company, serving as an apprentice under the mysterious mercenary Dark.  However, even with Orbus’s protection, everyone in Hollow still wants to either kill him or use him for their own dark ends.  The deadliest of these is the one person Michael is sworn to protect above all others, the heir to the throne, Princess Serena.  After spending years away, a vengeful Serena has returned to claim her throne and end Michael’s life.  Wielding great power, a lethal attitude and holding the keys to Michael’s heart, nothing will stand in the way of her wrath.

To restore his family’s position, save his home and convince Serena of his innocence, Michael needs to unravel the various conspiracies that have encircled Hollow and uncover the true motivations of the various power players in the city.  However, to succeed, Michael is forced to go up against a magnitude of foes, from the Corrupt Prince, the unhinged Rebel Emperor besieging the city, enraged royal guards, conspiring nobles, a scheming immortal, an insane serial killer, dangerous assassins and his former foster father, the man responsible for all his family’s ills.

But the more Michael attempts to understand Hollow’s hidden past and the dangerous plots surrounding his city, the more it becomes apparent that his is a mere pawn in a very dangerous game.  Immortals, monsters and mercenaries are all present in Hollow, and each of them has their own nefarious designs for Michael and his family.  Can he save everyone he loves before it is too late or has the Kingman family finally breathed its last?  Michael’s rise to become a Mercenary King continues, but who will truly wield power when the dust settles?

Now that was one hell of a sequel!  Martell absolutely crushed this second entry in this outstanding and exceptional fantasy series, producing a five-star novel that is extremely compelling, intense and so damn exciting.  I was absolutely enthralled with this book the moment I started listening to it and I loved every second.  The Two-Faced Queen is easily one of the best books I have read in 2021 and I think that any other fantasy novel coming out this year is going to be extremely hard-pressed to outdo it.

Martell has come up with a pretty incredible and intense narrative for The Two-Faced Queen, one that proves to be extremely addictive and insanely good.  Starting shortly after the events of The Kingdom of Liars, this novel starts fast and hard, with Michael following up on a number of storylines and revelations from the previous novel.  There is already so much going on right from the start of the novel, as the protagonist finds himself surrounded by enemies and conspiracies, both old and new.  While several secrets were revealed at the end of the first novel, there is still so much that Michael needs to understand.  However, as he attempts to learn these additional secrets, he must also try to avoid the deadly attentions of his beloved princess, end the rebellion plaguing the city, restore his family, defy a dangerous immortal, and make up with his betrayed friends.  While this is already a substantial amount of story, Martell keeps adding to it, as Michael also soon encounters a deadly assassin with a contract on him, and a deranged and unnatural serial killer.

While this may seem like too many story elements for one novel, it actually works extremely well, and the reader quickly becomes engrossed in Michael’s various adventures throughout the city.  I loved the inclusion of the serial killer storyline, as not only does it add some fantastic mystery elements, but it also proves to be a gateway to some intriguing world building, revealing more of the dark, immortal forces manipulating events from the shadows.  This storyline also results in several epic action scenes that place the protagonist and his friends in mortal danger from some unusual foes.  I had an outstanding time getting through this complex and well-constructed narrative, especially as every single scene has an intriguing revelation, intense character development or subtle clue to the future of the series.  Several key mysteries and secrets from the first novel are answered, partially or wholly, in this novel, although many more are introduced.  This really helps to keep the reader’s attention focused on The Two-Faced Queen’s plot, and I am not exaggerating when I talk about how addictive the secret-ridden narrative proves to be.  Readers are hammered with large amounts of lore and history in places, so I would recommend reading the first novel in the series, The Kingdom of Liars, before reading this book, although binge-reading this series is hardly a chore.  Overall, The Two-Faced Queen’s narrative is epic story writing at its best, and readers will love this terrific tale.

I absolutely must highlight the awesome and well-developed characters featured within The Two-Faced Queen.  The most prominent is series protagonist Michael Kingman.  Michael is an intriguing and distinctive figure through whose eyes most of the plot unfolds.  I have to admit that Michael was not my most favourite character in the first book, mostly because of his impetuous nature and selfish behaviour at times.  However, it was revealed that the reason for some of his annoying behaviour was due to some magic affecting his memories and personality.  As a result, Michael’s behaviour is substantially changed in The Two-Faced Queen and he comes across as a more considerate figure in this book.  He still has quite a few flashes of recklessness and stubbornness, but many of the rougher edges from the first novel are worn away here.  Still, a lot of people call Michael out for his crap in this book, including his friends and family, and it was great to see him finally heed their words.  There was also some additional exploration of how Michael deals with the legacy of being a Kingman; he is forced to live up to some big expectations.  There is a rather good scene where Michael is exploring the crypt of his ancestors with some of his friends, describing why some of them are famous and others are considered failures because they never achieved anything remarkable but just lived a normal life.  Seeing this, Michael’s friends, both of whom have been some of his greatest critics, start to understand just how much pressure he is under.  I really appreciated the way in which Martell continues to develop his protagonist, and it will be very fascinating to see how Michael’s story continues in the future novels.

Aside from Michael, there is an impressive collection of interesting supporting characters, each of whom have some fascinating storylines, as well as secrets or details from their past which helps to move the story along.  They also have their own motivations and plans to shape Hollow and the rest of the world to their advantage, which results in additional plots and conspiracies that the protagonists have to overcome.  The most prominent supporting character is probably Serena, the titular Two-Faced Queen.  Serena is Michael’s childhood friend and the royal he was sworn to, meaning that he was always destined to be her protector, advisor, and conscience.  However, after the death of her brother and Michael’s family were declared traitors, their relationship effectively ended.  Now returned, Serena is determined to destroy Michael for the apparent murder of her father, even if it leads to her own ruin.  The novel starts up with Michael visiting Serena only to find that she has hand-dug a grave for him, showing her resolve for killing him.  This forces Michael to attempt to change her mind, which is no easy prospect, and results in great calamity.  Naturally, these two characters share thorny romantic feelings for each other, which complicates Michael’s plans to stay alive, as Serena is a major blind spot in his defences.  Their entire joint character arc in this novel is extremely good, and I really appreciated the author’s take on their complex relationship.

Another key character is Dark, Michael’s mercenary master, who, aside from having his own mysterious past and motivations, is the son of Michael’s nemesis, Angelo Shade.  Due to Michael and Dark working together closely, the protagonist learns several of Dark’s secrets, especially those related to his troubled childhood and his encounters with the Heartbreaker serial killer.  While you don’t learn everything about Dark’s past in this novel (Martell is the master of dolling out just enough character detail to keep you interested, while also keeping plenty back for future novels), you do find out quite a lot, and what is revealed is extremely memorable.  Dark has a real dark side to him, no pun intended, and while Michael initially believes that Dark is his ally, he is soon faced with the possibility that he might have placed all his trust in a monster.  This results in a very interesting mentor/student relationship between the two, filled with much conflict and mistrust.  I really enjoyed learning more about Dark in The Two-Faced Queen, and it will be fascinating to see how the rest of his story unfolds in the future.

Other intriguing characters in this novel include Michael’s best friend Trey, who is attempting to forge his own path and take down both the nobles and the rebels, even if this leads him into conflict with Michael.  Trey has a fantastic arc as dangerous antihero in this book, taking control of the city’s criminal element in order to protect its citizens.  While a lot of his hostility towards Michael has ended, Trey and the protagonist still have a strained relationship, although Trey does go out of his way to help his friend.  Despite their friendship, it is clear that there is a major schism between the two planned in the future, which no doubt will result in all manner of pain and regret.  The ruthless immortal Charles Domet is still a firm favourite of mine, and it was fun to see his attempts to manipulate Michael, especially as Michael is now well aware of his true nature.  There are some interesting hints to Domet’s past in this novel, and he is clearly working up to something big.  The ambitious social climber Naomi also returns, although now she is suffering from a bad drug addiction which makes her even more entertaining, especially as she decides to torment Michael through embarrassment.  I also quite liked the expanded use of the chronicler, Symon.  Symon, who is determined to record and analyse every secret of Michael and his family, has taken to stalking them by living at the Kingman family home, and it is always entertaining to see his take on the events occurring before him.  He ends up actually narrating several interludes in The Two-Faced Queen, which are laid out as parts of his in-novel chronicles as part of a very clever and amusing supplement to the main story.  Symon really endeared himself to me in this novel, especially after his insulting descriptions of Michael in his proposed history book, and I deeply appreciated his increased presence.

I honestly could go on and on about the various characters featured within this novel; indeed, I have only just scratched the surface of the support cast in the paragraphs above.  However, it is more than clear that Martell does an excellent job in introducing and developing complex characters, and I loved the detailed and intriguing depictions of them throughout the novel.  Nearly every character featured within The Two-Faced Queen gets at least one big moment, and there are plenty of revelations and compelling backstories that are really cool to uncover.  I will say that you should probably not get too attached to the characters; however, I am very much looking forward to seeing what happens to each of the survivors, especially as Martell has set up some deeply captivating and powerful character arcs around them.

In addition to the fantastic story and amazing character work, Martell has also invested a lot of time in expanding his enthralling fantasy world.  The first entry in The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings did a great job setting up the key elements of Hollow, such as the noble families, the people of the city and the various problems they faced.  This unique setting of a besieged city filled with scheming nobles and set on a world where pieces of a shattered moon fall to the ground was so cool, and The Two-Faced Queen continues to expand on these previous elements, while also adding to the history and geography of the city and its surrounding nations.  Not only do you learn of several outside nations and locations but you also get to see how the key characters of this novel, or their ancestors, have impacted them, as well as the various dangers these realms represent.  However, some of the most substantial world-building revolves around some of the unusual creatures residing in this world, including a range of dangerous and destructive immortal creatures.  In the previous novel we only encountered one immortal (that we knew of), whose plots and schemes were a major part of the book’s plot.  This second novel, in contrast, is loaded with many more immortals, each of whom has their own unique abilities and plans for the world.  Martell introduces the lore around these immortals extremely well, and their various traits and schemes are worked into the plot extremely well.  It sounds like we are going to encounter a whole raft of intriguing and monstrous immortals in the future of this series, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what happens there.  The next book also looks like it will be set in a whole new location, and I will be extremely intrigued to see how that impacts the narrative.

One particular bit of world-building that I really enjoyed was the excellent expansions of Martell’s unique magical system.  The main magic of Hollow is known as Fabrication, which allows its users certain control over certain elements or phenomena at the cost of their own memories.  This is a really cool magical system, and Martell uses it to great effect throughout his novels, ensuring that there is all manner of destruction and manipulation throughout the narrative.  The Two-Faced Queen features multiple new Fabrication types, as Martell introduces unique Fabrications throughout the story, including several that even the protagonists have never heard of.  Examples include a particularly dangerous telekinetic Fabrication, which forces everyone to their knees (perfect for its user), while I was also very impressed with the disturbing blood Fabrication that one of the supporting characters pulled out.  In addition, Martell also introduces some different forms of magic from some of the other countries in his fantasy world.  While you only get to see one or two of these new magical abilities, they are still fun to see and they stand as an intriguing counterpoint to the already established magical abilities.  It looks like Martell is setting up some sort of mystery around the origins of all these different powers and it should prove pretty interesting to see how that turns out.

Martell also does an incredible job fitting the downsides of this magical Fabrication into the plot, as several characters experience memory loss, which affects their plans, reactions and relationships.  This is most obvious in Michael; as narrator, he loses several days of his life, resulting in him being unaware of plans he puts into motion or certain secrets that he learnt in these missing days.  Because the reader does not see these missing pieces of time either, this adds an extra amount of mystery and uncertainty into the narrative, as you try to work out both what is being deliberately hidden from Michael and what he has simply forgotten.  These bigger lapses in memory are a fantastic part of The Two-Faced Queen’s narrative, and it helps to make the flow of this book unique and compelling.  However, you also have to appreciate some of the smaller examples of memory loss throughout the book, some of which are quite heartbreaking in nature as the characters forget elements of their friends and families without realising it.  There is one extremely poignant scene in which Michael confesses to forgetting something very important to him, with the reader only then realises that a certain normal-sounding character description was evidence of memory loss all along.  Some of these subtle details are really impressive, and I deeply enjoyed seeing the hurtful side effects of this magical system.

To enjoy this awesome book, I ended up grabbing its audiobook format, mainly because I had such a great time listening to the first novel.  There were actually two audiobook versions of The Two-Faced Queen, and I ended up grabbing the Joe Jameson narrated version.  Jameson is a fantastic audiobook narrator who has previously lent his voice to amazing fantasy novels like King of Assassins by RJ Barker.  I loved his narration for The Kingdom of Liars last year and I was really keen to continue to listen to him in this sequel.  Jameson has a great voice for this complex fantasy read, and you swiftly become enthralled by the way he narrates the events occurring, as well as the fantastic voices he comes up with for his characters.  All the characters are given a unique voice in a variety of different accents, and each of them really helps to capture the character’s emotions and personality perfectly, whether it is the constant confusion and hurt in Michael, the raging anger of Serena, the cold menace of Dark or the calculating and manipulative voice of Charles Domet.  All this voice work is perfect and spot on and I really appreciated the effort that Martell put into this book.  Despite its runtime of 20 hours, I got through this audiobook in no time at all and I honestly wished it was a lot longer by the end.  This was another outstanding audiobook, and this format comes highly recommended to anyone interested in this fantastic novel.

With this epic and captivating second novel, Nick Martell has cemented his position as one of the best new fantasy authors out there.  The Two-Faced Queen was absolutely incredible, and I loved the complex and addictive story, set in a unique fantasy world.  There are just so many cool elements to this awesome novel and it really does not take long for the reader to become hooked on every single mystery, secret and hidden past that Martell features within this great read.  I cannot wait to see what happens next in this series, but it is already perfectly clear that The Legacy of the Mercenary King books are going to be one of the defining fantasy series of the next few years.

The Two-Faced Queen Cover 2

Waiting on Wednesday – Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For my latest Waiting on Wednesday article I check out one of the most anticipated releases of 2021, the third awesome novel in Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward series, Cytonic.

Cytonic Cover

Brandon Sanderson is an outstanding author who is one of the best, if not the absolute best, fantasy and science fiction authors in the world today.  Ever since his debut in 2005, Sanderson has been a leading figure in both genres, creating an immense number of compelling, detailed and highly regarded reads.  With amazing novels like the Mistborn series, The Stormlight Archive and The Reckoners series, as well as finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, Sanderson has already left his mark on the literary world and is showing no signs of slowing down.  I must admit that I have not read as many of Sanderson’s books as I perhaps should have, with my first foray into his work only occurring a few years ago when I read The Way of Kings.  While I absolutely loved The Way of Kings, I haven’t found the time to read any of the other books in The Stormlight Archive.  I have, however, made some effort in reading one of his other excellent bodies of work, the Skyward series.

The Skyward series are incredible young adult science fiction novels that follow a bold young pilot, Spensa, as she attempts to save her people from alien fighter ships.  Set on a desolate world where the remnants of humanity have managed to survive and slowly fight back against their alien oppressors, this series has been a highlight of my reading experience over the last couple of years.  So far two novels have been released, the epic Skyward and the equally impressive Starsight, both of which were amongst the best books of 2018 and 2019 respectfully.  Sanderson cruelly left Starsight on a great cliffhanger in 2019 and I have been eagerly waiting to read the third entry in the series for some time.  It looks like my wait is nearly over as details about the third novel, Cytonic, have recently been released.

Cytonic, which is currently set for release in November 2021, will continue Spensa’s adventure as she ventures into a bold new frontier.  There are some great details about this novel’s plot out, as well as two excellent covers, and it sounds like this third novel is going to be pretty intense.

Synopsis:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Reckoners series, the Mistborn trilogy, and the Stormlight Archive comes the third book in an epic series about a girl who will travel beyond the stars to save the world she loves from destruction.

Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.

Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.

Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.

The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.

To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.

Wow, based on the above synopsis, it sounds like Cytonic is going to be an amazing and compelling read that will set its protagonist on a whole different type of adventure.  There are some interesting story threads coming together for this novel, and it will be quite fascinating to see what sort of adventure Sanderson has come up with, especially considering his protagonist is stuck in a dark new landscape.  I am extremely curious to see where the story goes from here, and I am especially keen to see what happens to the various characters I grew close to in the original novels.  Starsight left the fate of some great characters in doubt, and I hope that the best ones manage to come back in this latest book.  Based on the compelling storyline set up in the previous novels, I think that Cytonic’s narrative will go in some intriguing directions, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

One of the things that I have really enjoyed about the previous Skyward entries were the unique and memorable alien worlds Sanderson introduced and utilised.  Both Detritus and the Superiority home world were extremely impressive, with their distinctive culture and people proving to be excellent settings to their novel’s narratives.  However, I have to say that I am extremely intrigued by Cytonic’s upcoming setting, the Nowhere, which sounds like a bit of a blank void.  It will be particularly interesting to see what sort of story or people Spensa finds within there, and I am envisioning a culture of weird dimension hopping beings, which has some potential.  I cannot wait to see what trials, dangers and strangeness occur in Cytonic, and I look forward to seeing Sanderson’s creative mind in action again.

Overall, I am quite excited for Cytonic to come out and I think that it has an enormous amount of potential.  Based on Sanderson’s insanely good writing ability and the incredible contents of the first two Skyward novels, I am utterly confident that Cytonic is going to be one of the best reads of the 2021 and I fully expect that I will end up awarding it a full five-star rating.  This is going to be such an awesome novel, and I am very, very keen to get my hands on it.

Cytonic Cover 2

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Comic Series

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday participants get a freebie when they get to do any topic of their choice.  While there were a few interesting topics that I was tempted to write about, I decided to write a list about my favourite comic book series.

We are currently in a golden age of comics and creativity and there are some truly amazing comics coming from all the various publishers.  Over the years I have had the great pleasure of reading or collecting quite a few different series, including quite a few superhero comics.  While I tend to easily enjoy most comics that I come across, there are several great series that I would consider my absolute favourites, either because they are exceptionally written and drawn, or because something about that series draws me back in time and time again for a reread.  So I thought that this freebie week would be a good opportunity to highlight these epic and addictive comics, especially as there are some real gems that all comic fans should really try out.

To pull this list together, I went through some of the best of most entertaining series that I have read and picked out my 10 absolute favourite comics, with a generous honourable mentions section.  For this list, I chose to focus purely on ongoing series rather than one-offs or limited series, although I will probably feature a different list for them in the future.  I also avoided several great long-running series, mainly because I have not read all the entries in them.  I think that I came up with a rather good list in the end, containing an interesting collection of comics from several different publishers and universes.  I quite like how this list turned out and I think it encapsulates what my favourite comic series are.

Honourable Mentions:

Batman (Volume 3)

Batman The War of Jokes and Riddles

One of the series I have most recently gotten into was this recent Batman series.  Starting in 2016, this great comic follows Batman as he faces off against some of his most iconic foes, while really getting to the heart of the Dark Knight and his relationship with his rogues’ gallery.  I have not finished this series off yet, but I have deeply enjoyed several key storylines within it, including the exceptional The War of Jokes and Riddles, and it will be interesting to see where this series lies once I finish all the main volumes in it.

 

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra

Doctor Aphra Volume 1

I had to include the excellent and amazing Doctor Aphra series in this article somewhere as it is one of the most impressive Star Wars comics in recent years.  Featuring the outstanding adventures of original character, Doctor Aphra, this series contains a huge number of heists, betrayals, and deep introspection from the titular character as she spreads chaos across the galaxy.  I loved this outstanding series, and it has some amazing volumes in it, such as Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon and A Rogue’s End.

 

Y: The Last Man

Y - The Last Man Cover

Anyone who has read this iconic series from Brian K. Vaughan will appreciate why I had to feature it in this article.  Following the last man left alive after a disease kills every male on the planet, Y: The Last Man is an intense and powerful comic with an amazing story to it.  This was one of the first non-DC or Marvel comics I ever read and it has definitely stuck with me over the years as one of the best comics out there.  If they ever manage to get around to adapting this series into a television show, it is going to be the next big hit.

 

All-New Wolverine

All New Wolverine Cover

A brilliant and self-contained series that follows one of my favourite comic characters, X-23, as she claims her place as the new Wolverine after her father’s death.  This was an amazing series with a unique feel, fantastic emotional edge and outrageous humour, which I loved it so much I kind of wished that Wolverine would stay dead for just a little bit longer.

Top Ten List:

Usagi Yojimbo

Usagi Yojimbo Bunraku and Other Stories Cover

So I very much doubt that anyone is going to be surprised that the first entry on my list is Stan Sakai’s masterpiece series, Usagi Yojimbo.  Following a rabbit samurai as he adventures through an alternate version of Feudal Japan, the Usagi Yojimbo series is easily one of the best comics I have ever read, and I am currently reviewing every single volume of it (for example check out my reviews of the 11th volume Seasons or the 34th volume, Bunraku and Other Stories).  I absolutely love this simple but powerful and exciting comic, especially as Sakai pours all his love for Japan and Japanese culture into it and produces some epic adventures. 

 

Teen Titans (Volume 3)

Teen_Titans_v.3_1

There is no way I could do a list about my favourite series without talking about one of the earliest comics I ever got into, the third volume of the outstanding Teen Titans series.  Staring in 2003 and helmed by Geoff Johns, this series featured former members of Young Justice, Robin, Superboy, Wonder Girl and Impulse, as they step up and join long-term members Starfire, Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Raven in a whole new incarnation of the team.  This was an exceptional series which revitalised a lot of interest in the team, especially as they ended up playing key roles in the Infinite Crisis crossover.  While the series did dip a bit in quality after Geoff Johns left, this was an overall epic series, and it is one that I have read an insane number of times.

 

The Punisher (2004)

The Punisher Cover

While there are many great Punisher series out there, the best one in my opinion is the dark and violent 2004 series, also known as The Punisher MAX.  Primarily helmed by Garth Ennis, of Preacher and The Boys fame, this was an epic series that followed a grizzled Frank Castle as he pursues his bloody, never-ending war on crime.  Released under the adult MAX imprint, this Punisher series was particularly over-the-top and gruesome in places, but it is so much fun to read, especially as Ennis comes up with some insane and utterly compelling storylines.  This is the definitive series for all fans of The Punisher, and you will not regret checking this comic out.

 

Green Arrow (Volume 3)

Green Arrow Quiver

Another incredible DC comic that I really love is this Green Arrow series.  Starting back in 2001 with Quiver, this series resurrected classic comic character Green Arrow, taking him back to his roots and providing him with an epic and captivating series.  Featuring an array of great writers, including Kevin Smith, Brad Meltzer and Judd Winick, this was an outstanding series that really revitalised the Oliver Queen Green Arrow, brought in some great new characters and contained some impressive and powerful storylines.  I have so much love for this series and one of the storylines, The Archer’s Quest by Meltzer, is one of the best comics I have ever read.

 

X-Factor (Volume 3)

X-Factor Cover

X-Factor is a long-running X-Men title that has had many incarnations with varying success.  However, one run on the comic ended up becoming an amazing and powerful series that I was lucky enough to stumble across some years ago.  Running between 2005 and 2013, this X-Factor series followed X-Factor Investigations, a combined mutant superhero team and private investigation firm, as they become embroiled in some weird conflicts and adventures around New York.  Primarily written by Peter David, this was a very unusual and clever series that was overshadowed by the major Marvel titles but ended up lasting longer than most and producing some exceptional storylines.  Featuring fantastic, if underused mutant characters, including Multiple Man, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, M, Rictor, Siryn and the mysterious Layla Miller, this was a great, character driven comic that really dived into the hearts of its diverse and unique cast.  I loved this comic so much, and it is one of the best X-Men comics that has ever been written.

 

Darth Vader (2015)

Star Wars - Darth Vader Volume 1 Cover

I had no choice but to feature the outstanding Darth Vader series by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca on this list due to how impressive and amazing it is.  This series follows one of the greatest villains of all-time right after the events of A New Hope as he fights against rivals and old enemies to secure his place within the Empire.  This was easily one of the most consistent and epic Star Wars series out there, especially as it also includes the spectacular Vader Down crossover.  There are so many cool elements to this series, such as the introduction of Doctor Aphra or the intense scene where Vader finds out Luke’s true identity and realises that the Emperor has been lying to him for years.  I love this great series and it is the reason I am currently so in to Star Wars comics.

 

Runaways

Runaways Cover

I have long been a major fan of the iconic Runaways series by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona.  Following a group of teens who find out their parents are supervillains, this series, which mostly avoids the main events and characters of the Marvel universe, is a fantastic and powerful comic with some real heart to it.  Introducing a colourful team of teenage heroes with some great powers, this is one of the most distinctive comics to come out of Marvel and is always going to remain a huge favourite of mine. 

 

Robin (Volume 4)

Robin_Vol_4_1

One of my favourite Batman associated comics is the long-running fourth series of Robin comics that followed my favourite version of the character, Tim Drake.  Set shortly after the death of Jason Todd in the infamous A Death in the Family, this comic introduced a whole new Robin, who swiftly won fans over.  Tim Drake, who relied more on his intelligence than his fighting ability, was an outstanding hero, and the creative team came up with some great stories for him which ensured he kept his spot at Batman’s primary sidekick for 20 years.  This entire comic is pretty epic, and while I deeply enjoy the post-Infinite Crisis Robin comics (all the way up to the really good Red Robin sequel series), his earlier stories are also pretty good and are very much worth checking out.  A great series that will appeal to comic fans young and old, I love this take on the classic sidekick.

 

New Avengers

New_Avengers_Vol_1_1

Over the years there have been an immense and wide-reaching collection of Avengers comics, from the classic storylines to weird and short-lived spin-offs, all of which I have tended to buy and read.  So for an Avengers comic to really stick out to me, it would have to be pretty damn exceptional, and that is exactly what the New Avengers was.  Created by Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch, this series brought back a cooler and more modern version of the iconic team after the Avengers Disassembled storyline.  Bringing in beloved characters such as Spiderman, Wolverine and Luke Cage, this series helped to redefine the Avengers.  There are several amazing phases to this comic over the years, especially as it ran through some of the key crossovers like Civil War, Secret Invasion and Dark Reign, and it was an absolute joy to read from start to finish.

 

Secret Six (Volume 3)

Secret Six Volume 3 Cover

The final comic on my list is the often overlooked but incredibly fun Secret Six series.  Following on from the Villains United limited series, Secret Six follows a dysfunctional team of supervillains, including Deadshot, Bane, Scandal Savage, Ragdoll and Catman, as they engage in several morally grey mercenary jobs around the world.  Helmed by Gail Simone and featuring some rather insane, if touching, storylines, this was an amazing series that is near and dear to my heart, especially as Simon manages to turn eternal joke character, Catman, into the biggest badass ever.

 


Well, that is the end of my latest Top Ten List.  I think that I came up with an interesting list of comics, especially as it features such a wide range of titles.  I will admit that I did stick heavily to the Marvel and DC titles, and I also seemed to have primarily featured comics from the early 2000s.  Despite this obvious preference form me, I think this turned out to be a great and diverse list, and it definitely represents the comics I enjoy the most.  I think this might be a list I come back to in the future, especially as I will read some additional comics in the next year, and it will be interesting to see how this list changes.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite series are in the comments below.