Throwback Thursday – Summer Knight by Jim Butcher

Summer Knight Cover

Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia (Audiobook – 3 September 2002)

Series: The Dresden Files – Book Four

Length: 11 hours and 13 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.  In this week’s Throwback Thursday I continue to explore the incredibly fun Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher with the fourth book, Summer Knight.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with my recent exploration of the epic Dresden Files series by the outstanding Jim Butcher, widely considered one of the best urban fantasy series out there.  After having an absolute blast last year with the latest book in the series, Battle Ground (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020), I have spent a bit of time this year checking out the earlier entries in the series.  I have so far had the pleasure of listening to the first three Dresden Files novels, Storm Front, Fool Moon and Grave Peril, each of which got a five-star rating from me, and when I wanted a good audiobook to check out, the next entry in the series made the most sense.  The fourth Dresden Files novel is the impressive and compelling Summer Knight, which sets the protagonist against the fairest and most vicious opponents yet.

Following the events of Grave Peril, the White Council of wizards is at war with the Red Court of the vampires, and it is all Harry Dresden’s fault.  With vampire attacks increasing and his life consumed with finding a cure for the vampirism affecting his ex-girlfriend, Dresden is once again dragged into the conflict when the White Council arrives in Chicago.  Considered by many wizards to be a dangerous maverick, Dresden will need to find a powerful bargaining chip if he is to continue receiving the protection of the council.  Unfortunately for Dresden, the perfect opportunity has been given to him; he just wishes it were anything else.

Harry has been contacted by Winter Queen Mab, the powerful leader of the Winter Court of the Faeries, who offers him a dangerous bargain: in exchange for forgiving a previous debt, and for allowing certain concessions to the warring White Council, Harry must work a case for her.  The Winter Queen desperately needs Harry to find out who murdered a seemingly normal human, and with his life entirely in the White Council’s hands, he has no choice but to comply.  However, when it is revealed that the victim was the Summer Knight, the rival Faerie Summer Court’s mortal champion, Harry begins to realise that this will be no easy case, especially as a great deal of the Summer Court’s power was stolen after the murder.

With the Summer Court and the Winter Court gearing up for war in response to the Summer Knight’s death, Harry must quickly race to find the killer before Earth’s climate is destroyed by these powerful magical forces.  However, this is no simple case, and to solve the murder Dresden is forced to confront some of the most dangerous and malicious magical beings in existence.  Worse, the Summer Court have hired their own investigator, Dresden’s first love, Elaine, the woman who broke his heart and tried to kill him.  Can Dresden solve this murder before it is too late or will the entire world tremble at the destruction of an all-out war?

Summer Knight was another impressive and wildly entertaining release from Butcher, which did a wonderful job expanding his universe in some amazing ways.  Perfectly flowing on from the events of the previous novel, Summer Knight has an incredible story, some great characters, as well as some clever new fantasy inclusions that set up multiple future novels extremely well.  I had an absolute blast listening to Summer Knight’s audiobook format, and unsurprisingly it gets another five stars from me.

Summer Knight Cover 3

This latest entry from Butcher has a pretty amazing story that is extremely easy to enjoy.  Like the rest of the Dresden Files novels, Summer Knight can be easily read as a standalone read, although there are some compelling story threads that are continued from the prior books.  The novel starts with a damaged Harry Dresden dealing with hit squads, angry vampires and his own irritated wizard brethren.  After a fun and action-packed opening scene, Dresden soon gets drawn into another dangerous case as Mab, the Winter Queen, buys Dresden’s debt to his fairy godmother and uses it and the wizards war against the Red Court to trap him into investigating a case.  The subsequent magical murder investigation proves to be pretty fantastic, as Dresden is forced to dive into the murky magical underworld of the warring Fae courts.  After some deadly attacks, fascinating internal wizard politics, and an interesting side story about neutral half-Fae teenagers, Dresden soon uncovers the reason for the victim’s death.  I liked the twist surrounding who was responsible for murder as well as the revelation of their master plan.  Butcher did a really good job of disguising the people behind it and their methods, especially as most of the clues were often cleverly in plain sight.  This all leads up to a massive and epic conclusion, where Dresden and his allies find themselves fighting through two armies of rival Fae to try and stop the end of the world.  There are some awesome moments during this part of the novel, and Butcher throws together some epic clashes, interesting revelations, and a tragic death.  I had a particularly good chuckle at the surprising way in which the big bad was taken down, and it proved to be a great way to end this novel.  I felt that Butcher once again hit the right balance of action, drama, comedy, and character development throughout Summer Knight’s narrative, and this was another exciting and addictive read.

I really enjoyed the way in which Butcher expanded out the Dresden Files’ universe in Summer Knight, with several impressive inclusions turning this fourth book into a significant entry in the series.  Not only are events and inclusions from the previous three novels fit into this book seamlessly, but it also successfully introduces some elements that were a prominent feature of the 17th book in the series.  The most significant inclusions are those surrounding the rival Winter and Summer Courts of the Fae.  Butcher utilises a mixture of Faerie lore and his own pre-existing explanations of magical creatures to create a compelling group of characters, locked in a constant and balanced war between the Summer and Winter Courts.  The author does a good job introducing the various creatures, rules, and roles of these two competing groups of Faeries, which serves as a great basis for much of the narrative.  I also loved the fascinating examination of the differences between the two rival courts, with the Summer Court shown as caring and artistic sorts, while the Winter Court are colder and darker.  Of course, with Faeries, not everything is as it seems, and it was really intriguing the way the various plot reveals around them unfolded.  There was also a great focus on the White Council, the governing body of wizards that Dresden is a member of.  While the White Council has been mentioned in the previous novels, this was the first time that we get a deep look at their inner politics, especially as the more maverick Dresden has dragged them into a war with the Red Court of the vampires (so many Courts, so little time).  There was a particularly great council meeting towards the start of the book where Dresden and his mentor are forced to navigate the politics of the White Council to keep Dresden alive, and it was an interesting part of the book.  I really appreciated the detail that Butcher put into these expansions, and I look forward to seeing how else he expands on them between the fourth and 17th book.

As always, one of the best parts of this Dresden Files novel was the outstanding and well-developed characters, all of whom continue to develop and evolve as the novel continues.  This is particularly true with central protagonist and point-of-view character Harry Dresden.  When Summer Knight starts, Dresden is still reeling from the events of the previous three novels, particularly Grave Peril, where his lover partially turned into a vampire and then left him.  This has left Dresden an emotional mess, especially as he has spent the intervening time ignoring some of the other dangers coming at him while he fruitlessly searches for a cure to vampirism.  Dragged into this case against his will, Dresden soon starts to regain his old personality as he slowly overcomes his grief thanks to his friends and the intervention of some magical beings.  It was great to see Dresden start to heal as the book progresses, and I really appreciated the way in which Butcher explored the trauma surrounding his protagonist.  Even though he is a bit emotionally compromised, Dresden continues to be the main source of the novel’s comedy due to his sense of humour.  It is always fun to see Dresden’s witty take on the insane events occurring around him and I found myself cracking up several times throughout Summer Knight.

In addition to Dresden, Summer Knight contains an excellent group of side and supporting characters, including a combination of existing characters and newer inclusions that were introduced in this novel.  I liked the return of the werewolf gang, the Alphas, who were previously featured in the second novel, Fool Moon.  The Alphas, particularly their leader, Billy, serve as backup to Dresden for most of the novel, and it was really fun to see how much they have grown since their introduction, turning into mystical vigilantes, while also remaining a pack of nerds.  It was also great to see more of police lieutenant Karrin Murphy, who serves as a compelling female opposite to Dresden for most of the novel.  Murphy, who has also gone through a lot in the last few books, is showing a fair bit of trauma in this novel, and she ends up having some deep discussions with Dresden about it.  Despite her lack of magical abilities, Murphy serves as some impressive backup for Dresden, managing to take down several foes, including an ogre with a chainsaw.  There were also more signs of the growing romance between her and Dresden which becomes a big part of the series later, and I like the way in which Butcher is slowly building it up.  I also must highlight the inclusion of Dresden’s first love, Elaine Mallory, who suddenly reappears in his life, working for the Summer Court.  Elaine has been mentioned several times in the previous books and is a cause for a lot of Dresden’s mistrust and romantic failures.  It was great to finally meet her and see the full extent of her complex relationship with Dresden.  Elaine naturally brings out a lot of emotional issues with Dresden throughout the book, and she serves as an interesting supporting character, especially as you have no idea about her true loyalties.  These supporting characters, and more, really add a lot to the overall story and I had a great spending time with them.

Like I have with the rest of the Dresden Files novels, I made sure to grab the audiobook version of Summer Knight, a choice I am extremely thankful for.  The Dresden Files audiobooks are pretty damn awesome, mainly because of their excellent choice of narrator, actor James Marsters.  Marsters has an amazing voice, and he perfectly dives into the various characters featured within the novels, making these audiobooks an absolute treat to listen to.  I especially love the way he gets into the emotional head of the main protagonist, as well as the sheer enthusiasm he exhibits while yelling out spell conjurations.  I also enjoyed the fun voices that he assigns to some of the smaller pixies that appeared in this novel, as well as the very fitting voices that the rest of the cast received.  This voice work is pretty amazing and it ensures that readers can fly through the audiobook in no time at all.  Summer Knight’s run time was just over 11 hours, but it only took me a few days to get through due to how engrossed I got in the story, as well as the audiobook adaption.  As with all Dresden Files entries, Summer Knight comes highly recommended in its audiobook format, and I fully intend to check out the rest of the series in this same way.

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher was another exceptional entry in the awesome Dresden Files series and I had an incredible time listening to it.  With a captivating story, some complex characters and some awesome new fantasy inclusions, I deeply enjoyed this novel, and it is really worth checking out, especially in its audiobook format.  Butcher continues to shine as one of the best authors of urban fantasy and look forward to working my way through the Dresden Files in the next few years.

Summer Knight Cover 2

Book Haul – 23 September 2021

I have been having an absolutely fantastic couple of week for books, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers.  As I am anticipating getting some more books in the near future, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of the recent releases I have received before my new book pile got too big.  These novels include some truly awesome new releases, several of which I have been eagerly awaiting for some time.  I am extremely keen to read all of the books below and I cannot wait to check them out.

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie (Trade Paperback)

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

The first book in this haul is one of my most anticipated reads for the year, The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie.  The third and final novel in The Age of Madness series, The Wisdom of Crowds continues the epic story started in A Little Hatred (one of the best books of 2019) and continued in The Trouble with Peace (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020), bringing the entire series towards a dark and deadly conclusion.  I am reading this book at the moment, and so far it is pretty exceptional.  I cannot wait to see how it ends and I already know that this is going to be one of the top books of 2021.

 

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield (Trade Paperback)

The Apollo Murders Cover

Next on this list we have the awesome and compelling space thriller, The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield. This cool book is set in 1973 and follows a top-secret space mission to the Moon, filled with murder, espionage and a ton of technical detail.  I really like the sound of this novel and I am very excited to check it out.

 

The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker (Trade Paperback)

The Bone Ship's Wake Cover

I was lucky enough to receive The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker, another outstanding novel that I have been looking forward to for ages.  Written by one of the fastest rising authors of dark fantasy fiction, The Bone Ship’s Wake is the third and final novel in The Tide Child trilogy, which follows the condemned crew of a ship made out of dragon bone.  The previous two novels in this series, The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships, have both been epic five-star reads and I have extremely high hopes for this amazing novel.

 

Viral by Robin Cook (Trade Paperback)

Viral Cover

I also received a copy of Viral, a novel about a pandemic by acclaimed medical thriller author Robin Cook.  Containing a very topical narrative, Viral sounds like a fascinating and powerful thriller, and it should prove to be quite an intriguing read.

 

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (Trade Paperback)

The Jasmine Throne Cover

Bestselling fantasy author Tasha Suri returns with the first entry in a brand new trilogy, The Jasmine Throne.  This compelling and exciting new fantasy novel has an interesting sounding narrative filled with magic, wars and complex characters, and I look forward to seeing what awesome ideas Suri fits into this novel.

 

Lies like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez (Trade Paperback)

Lies Like Wildfire Cover

One of the books I recently received that I am particularly curious about is the young adult novel Lies like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez.  This book follows a group of teenagers who accidently start a deadly forest fire and then attempt to cover it up.  I really like the sound of this thrilling and dramatic novel, and I have a feeling that I am going to have a great time reading it.

 

Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer (Trade Paperback)

Treasure & Dirt Cover

The final book I received was the new thriller novel from Australian author Chris Hammer, Treasure & DirtTreasure & Dirt is another fantastic sounding outback thriller, which examines a brutal murder in a corrupt mining town.  This sounds like a very fun read and I look forward to seeing what awesome story Hammer has come up with.

 

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.

The Councillor by E. J. Beaton

The Councillor Cover

Publisher: Daw Books (Hardcover – 20 July 2021)

Series: The Councillor – Book One

Length: 442 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Australian author E. J. Beaton presents an excellent and compelling fantasy debut with The Councillor, an outstanding and impressive read.

Elira is a country still recovering from a fractious war a generation ago spurred on by the tyrannical magic-wielding White Queen.  The heroic Sarelin Brey, known as the Iron Queen, defeated the White Queen and led the subsequent hunt for the elementals, powerful magical users, who were forced into hiding.  Now, Elira once again stands on the brink of ruin when a mysterious assassin manages to kill the Iron Queen, an act that threatens to split and destroy the entire nation.

The queen’s last act before her death was to name her loyal companion, the palace scholar Lysande Prior, Councillor.  As Councillor, it is Lysande’s duty to choose the next ruler of Elira from the four city rulers and to ensure a peaceful transition of power.  As the city rulers arrive at the palace, Lysande is convinced that one of them may have orchestrated the Iron Queen’s murder.  Using her position as Councillor and the upcoming decisions around Elira’s future to her advantage, Lysande begins to investigate each of the city rulers to find who is responsible for her friend’s death.

As the investigation continues, Lysande soon learns much about the city rulers, including the secrets that they harbour.  Forced to balance her investigation with her responsibilities to the people, Lysande begins to revel in the power that she has been granted, even as her problematic addiction to a magical narcotic threatens her self-control.  However, the closer she gets to the truth, the more Lysande begins to understand that there is a dark threat rising, one that could overwhelm Elira for good.  The White Queen is returning, and this time there is no mighty Iron Queen to stop her, only a brilliant scholar with a bright vision for her nation.

The Councillor was an impressive debut fantasy novel from Beaton, who combines some intriguing characters with a powerful fantasy narrative laden with political intrigue, espionage and one character’s personal journey from scholar to ruler.

Beaton utilises a pretty awesome story in The Councillor, and it is one that I quickly became quite addicted to.  Told exclusively from the point-of-view of protagonist Lysande, the novel has a powerful start with one of the major characters killed off, leaving Lysande and the entire nation in chaos, especially as it appears that a notorious magical villain has returned years after her famous defeat.  From there the protagonist attempts to identify the agent responsible for her friend’s death, believing it to be one of the four arriving nobles vying for the throne.  This results in a compelling storyline where Lysande investigates the secrets of the city rulers, while also becoming increasingly involved in the politics of the realm after being unexpectedly placed in a position of power.  As The Councillor progresses, it evolves into a very captivating piece of political intrigue as Lysande and the city rulers tour the country, attempting to rule together, initiate plans to stop the growing influence of the White Queen, while also attempting to achieve their own goals.  There are some great misdirects and red herrings featured throughout this part of the book, as Beaton attempts to disguise who the antagonist is and what the agendas of the various other politicians are.  This all leads up to a big and explosive conclusion where the traitor is revealed and several great storylines come together, resulting in some awesome action and clever political storylines.  While I was able to guess who the traitor was in advance, Beaton did a great job setting them up, and I did find the methods of the antagonist very surprising, especially the fun super-weapon that was hinted at throughout the book.  The final scenes wrap up the entire narrative extremely well and do a great job setting up the next novel in the series.  I look forward to seeing where the narrative goes from here and I think that the series has some amazing potential.

I really enjoyed the cool and memorable fantasy world that Beaton introduced in her first novel, and it serves as a great setting for the awesome story.  The nation of Elira is broken up into several distinctive political and climate zones, based around a city state, resulting in fascinating group of different and proud people.  I loved the fun blend of cultures featured within this nation, especially as it results in some compelling and entertaining cultural and political clashes.  There is a great focus on the history of Elira, especially as it relates to the previous war against the White Queen, with the scholar protagonist attempts to uncover the full truth behind the past to determine the country’s future.  There are also a ton of LGBT+ elements associated with the setting, which I really appreciated and which helped to make the setting even richer.  Add to that several hostile nations surrounding Elira, a rampaging magical queen full of vengeance, and a covert network of independent magical users with their own agenda, and you have a fantastic combination of groups and political ideals, which helps to makes the compelling narrative even more exciting.  This all proves to be pretty damn awesome, especially as Beaton does a wonderful job describing the rich and vibrant countryside of her setting, allowing the reader to have an outstanding time exploring this new nation.  I really enjoyed this captivating setting and I look forward to seeing how the author expands it in her next novel.

Easily the best thing about The Councillor are the complex and intense characters featured throughout the story.  This includes main protagonist Lysande, who is forced to endure quite a lot of growth and betrayal during the story.  Beaton weaves a powerful and intense narrative around Lysande, an orphan who was chosen to become the Iron Queen’s companion and who grew into a brilliant scholar and thinker.  After the queen’s death, Lysande is forced to become both a ruler and politician, and she finds herself excelling in the role, especially as it allows her to use her skills as a scholar and researcher to her advantage.  Due to Lysande being the point-of-view protagonist, Beaton takes a lot of time exploring her personality, feelings, and history, and it does not take long for the reader to become attached to her, especially as she finds herself in a dangerous and complex personal and political situation.  It proved to be extremely compelling to see Lysade take the political stage for the first time, and I loved the way she adapted to the intrigue and deceit, especially once she started to revel in it.  It was pretty cool to see a scholar attempt to take the throne, resulting in a very different hero from what most fantasy fans would expect.  I also enjoyed the way that the author ensured that Lysande is a bit of a flawed protagonist, especially as she is controlled by her addiction to Chimera Scale, a magical narcotic that gives her energy and different insights to the world.  This growing reliance on Chimera Scale impacts her severely throughout the novel, especially as it covers up some deeper secrets about her, which come to fore later in the novel.  An overall exceptional main character, I am very intrigued about where this story will take Lysande next.

Aside from Lysande, The Councillor features a fantastic collection of supporting characters, each of whom add a lot the story.  The main four supporting characters are the city rulers who arrive in court to put their cases for being the next monarch.  Beaton spends a bit of time building up each character, and it proves quite enjoyable learning their flaws, personalities and secrets, especially as any of them could potentially be villainous.  The most prominent of these city rulers is the mysterious and manipulative Luca Fontaine, a dangerous bastard son who became city ruler after killing his family.  Presented as a dark figure with a love of intrigue, espionage and advanced politics, Fontaine has some outstanding back and forth with Lysande, which were extremely enthralling and compelling, and Fontaine swiftly becomes one of the more entertaining and likeable characters in the novel.  I did think that Beaton could have toned down Fontain’s manipulative side just a little, especially as it made him too obvious a suspect for being the traitor, however, I don’t think this had too much of a negative impact on the narrative.  Aside from the city rulers, the book has some interesting focus on Lysande’s advisors and guards, each of whom hep her in their own unique way.  I particularly enjoyed Lysande’s new maid, Litany, especially once her real purpose in the court is revealed.  This great supporting cast proves to be a lot of fun to follow, and I really appreciated the time and detail that the author put into setting them up.

Overall, I found The Councillor to be an outstanding and deeply entertaining fantasy read with a really addictive and compelling narrative.  Australian author E. J. Beaton did an excellent job with her first book, and this is a must read for anyone who loves a fantasy tale laden with clever political intrigue.  A highly recommend fantasy debut, I cannot wait to see where Beaton takes this series next.

WWW Wednesday – 22 September 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?

Unholy Murder by Lynda La Plante (Trade Paperback)

Unholy Murder Cover

I managed to start the latest novel from legendary crime author Lynda La Plante, Unholy Murder, and I am so far really enjoying it.  The latest novel in her Tennison series (which features such great reads as Good Friday, Murder Mile, The Dirty Dozen and Blunt Force), this latest book has a great mystery involving a murdered nun who was apparently buried alive.  I am about halfway through this book at the moment and I cannot wait to see how this compelling mystery ends.

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie (Audiobook)

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

I was very excited to start the audiobook version of The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie this week.  The Wisdom of Crowds is the third and final book in The Age of Madness trilogy, which has so far featured the excellent grimdark fantasy novels A Little Hatred and The Trouble With Peace.  This was one of my most anticipated reads for 2021 and so far it has not disappointed, continuing the awesome story from the first two books and placing most of the characters in the middle of a brutal peasant uprising.  I am making some good progress with this audiobook and I deeply excited to find out how Abercrombie will end this incredible trilogy.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Riviera House by Natasha Lester (Trade Paperback)

The Riviera House Cover


Summer Knight
by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Summer Knight Cover

What did you recently finish reading?

The Bone Ship’s Wake by R. J. Barker (Trade Paperback)

The Bone Ship's Wake 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 – An Empty Throne by Robert Fabbri

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 latest article, I continue to explore one of the most entertaining and distinctive historical fiction series currently running, with the upcoming novel, An Empty Throne by Robert Fabbri.

An Empty Throne Cover

Robert Fabbri is a talented author who has done some amazing and exciting work in the historical fiction genre over the last 10 years.  Debuting back in 2011 with Tribune of Rome, Fabbri went on to write a wildly entertaining series that explore a somewhat fictionalised life of the future Roman Emperor Vespasian.  Filled with some wild scenes that chronicled the excesses of the various Roman Emperor’s, the Vespasian series was a particular favourite of mine and featured such awesome reads as Rome’s Sacred Flame, Emperor of Rome and the short story collection Magnus and the Crossroads Brotherhood.

Since the Vespasian series ended in 2019, Fabbri has moved onto a different period of ancient history, the Macedonian era, with his compelling Alexander’s Legacy series.  Set after Alexander the Great’s sudden death, the Alexander’s Legacy books follow the chaotic civil wars that occurred in the following years as Alexander’s generals, advisors and family members all fought to gain control of great Macedonian empire through war, politics, and shaky alliances.  Based on some insane real-life historical events, the Alexander’s Legacy series is extremely detailed and very bonkers, and I have deeply enjoyed exploring a period of history I was mostly unfamiliar with.  This series has so far featured two great novels, To the Strongest and The Three Paradises, which have been both fascinating and exceedingly entertaining.  Due to how much I enjoyed Fabbri’s previous books, and because The Three Paradises ended with Alexander’s crazed mother Olympias taking control of Macedonia, I have been really keen to see how the series continues, and it looks like the next book is going to be another fun piece of historical fiction.

The third Alexander’s Legacy novel is the awesome upcoming release, An Empty Throne.  This third book, which has a current planned release date for early April 2022, looks set to continue the series with another intense and fun examination of historical events, as the various participants still alive, prepare to take vengeance for Alexander’s murder.  No doubt this upcoming book will continue the trend of following multiple historical figures as they attempt to gain power for themselves, and it will be interesting to see who survives the next book, as well as which new characters are introduced.


Synopsis:

The third instalment in a huge, bloody and brutal new series from Robert Fabbri, set after the death of Alexander the Great. Who will win the fight to control the largest empire the world has ever seen? Let the battles begin…

The cause of Alexander the Great’s sudden death is no longer in doubt – it was murder. But by whom? As his former followers struggle for power, the bonds of family, friendship and political loyalties are tested to the limit. As is the strength of the formidable empire that Alexander had wrought.

Never before has the Western world seen such turmoil, such a threat to civilisation. As battles rage, armies, cities and thousands of lives are destroyed by the ruthless scheming of those who would be King. Or Queen. Could a marriage be the one thing to bring the broken strands of the empire back together, preventing years of further warfare?

Will a woman succeed where no man can?


Based on the previous novels in this series, I know that An Empty Throne is going to contain a detailed and powerful tale, loaded with some crazy events from history.  Fabbri has so far done a wonderful job of examining this unique period in the first two Alexander’s Legacy books, and I have absolutely no doubt that An Empty Throne will be just as entertaining and intriguing.  I am deeply excited for this upcoming novel, and I cannot wait to find out who will reign supreme after the next series of political and military conflicts.

Top Ten Tuesday – Favourite Anime 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.  The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday required participants to list their top 10 novels for the upcoming three months.  However, as I did that list a few weeks ago, I thought I would take this opportunity to do something fun and have a go at listing my favourite anime series instead.  This is a bit of an extension of some recent posts I have done that looked at my favourite animated comic movies and animated comic television shows, and I am excited to see how this list comes together.

Considering how much I talk about my love for animated series, it should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of the distinctive and wildly entertaining form of Japanese entertainment known as anime.  There are some absolutely amazing anime series out there, with stories across all the different genres, including fantasy, comedy, science fiction, and everything in between.  Anime has long been working its way into mainstream Western culture, and I personally have been watching it since I was a kid, with shows like Pokémon, Dragon Ball Z, Digimon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and more.  In recent years, I have found myself becoming even more of an anime fan and I have started exploring some of the other outstanding series out there.  While I am still relatively inexperienced compared to other fans out there, I have managed to check out some great series and I think I have watched enough for this list.

To pull this latest Top Ten Tuesday together, I pretty much listed every anime series I have every watched and slowly started culling it down.  This proved to be a bit of a difficult process as it turns out I have enjoyed quite a few great series over the years, and I had to lose several of these off the list to ensure that my absolute favourites where captured.  While I have also watched some great anime films, I decided to only focus on anime series, so these films were excluded, although I may cover them in a future list.  Despite this, I was eventually able to come up with a Top Ten list I was happy with, as well as a good honourable mentions section.  I think that the list below captures the best series I have had the pleasure of so far watching, so let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Fairy Tail

Fairy Tail Poster

A show I only started watching recently when it showed up on Netflix, Fairy Tail is an entertaining and exciting fantasy anime with an awesome story to it, even if it is a bit derivative of several other series.  Still, it was a great show to check out, although, as I have only watched the first season so far, I am just going to leave it on the honourable mentions section for now.

 

Pokémon

Pokemon Poster

Probably the most famous anime series of all time, Pokémon was the first anime that I ever watched as I was a kid when it was initially released.  While I have not watched this series that much recently, I had to include it for nostalgia reasons and being a fun way for kids to first get into anime.

 

Yu-Gi-Oh!

Yu-Gi-Oh Poster

Another nostalgia series I had to include, Yu-Gi-Oh! was a fun and crazy show I watched when I was younger, which took a lot of my money and turned it into pretty cards.  This was the ultimate card-game show and ended up spawning several sequel series, some of which are great, although they seem to get more ridiculous with each passing sequel.

 

Attack on Titan

Attack on Titan Poster

A brilliant post-apocalyptic series that features giant monsters called Titans who have eaten most of humankind and have pushed them back to one walled city.  Following the exploits of a group of heroic soldiers who are attempting to fight back, this is a beautiful and highly regarded series.  I really enjoyed this series’ unique plot and brutal animation, although I am only partially through it, so I might leave it as an honourable mention until I finish the whole thing off.

Top Ten List:

One Piece

One Piece Poster

First on this list we have one of the longest-running anime series, One Piece.  Based on the extensive manga series of the same name, One Piece is an entertaining pirate anime series, that features a somewhat insane crew of pirates with different abilities as they sail around the world, getting into trouble.  I first fell in love with this series when I watched the 4Kids dubbed version back in the day, and I quite liked the fun story it contained.  A few years later I went back and watched the proper, uncut version which is so much better, and it swiftly became one of my favourite anime series.  There is a lot to love about One Piece, from its great collection of characters, the amazing humour, the massive universe with its deep lore, and the unique action sequences featured within.  With nearly 1000 episodes, this series is still going strong, even if it requires a massive time investment to check it out.  I reckon it is worth it though, and you will have an amazing time falling in love with this epic show.

 

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Poster

One of the absolute best anime series out there, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, is the second adaption of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga and is generally considered the stronger series.  This show follows two brothers with the ability to use the creation magic known as alchemy, as they become involved in a massive conspiracy threatening to destroy their entire nation.  Thanks to its incredible story, which expertly combined tragedy, action and comedy, this series was near perfect, and made great use of some awesome animation, deep characters, and clever plot twists.  A must watch for anyone interested in anime.

 

Death Note

Death Note Poster

Another incredible and highly regarded series that I deeply enjoyed is the supernatural thriller series, Death Note.  This series follows a brilliant teenage student, Light Yagami, who finds a mysterious notebook that allows him to kill anyone whose name he writes inside.  Deciding to use the awesome power of the notebook to become a god of justice, Light begins to eliminate anyone he feels deserves to die.  When his actions catch the attention of the police, Light finds himself involved in a fantastic game of cat-and-mouse with the mysterious detective known as L.  This was an immensely clever series that manages to achieve a lot in only 37 episodes.  While the story does lose some punch after a major character is killed off about two thirds of the way through, this was still one of the best written anime series out there, and you will become addicted to its great story.

 

Food Wars!

Food Wars! Poster

From the ultra-serious, to the wildly ridiculous, the next entry on this list is the comedy series, Food Wars!Food Wars! follows a young master chef who is sent to the best culinary academy in the world, where he must battle against a series of opponents in elaborate cooking contests for fame, glory, and the love of his friends.  This is an outstanding and outrageous series, and the main appeal of it is how over-the-top they can make a cooking competition.  Featuring some hilarious comedy, this show proves to be incredibly addictive, and I found myself laughing myself silly the entire way through, while also salivating over all the amazingly looking animated foods.  This is such a fun show, although viewers should be warned that the character’s reactions to the food can be a bit extreme.

 

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure

JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Poster

The next entry on this list is the show that I am currently watching, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.  Despite only being halfway through this series, it has quickly become a favourite anime of mine (especially the episodes after Phantom Blood) and I have really gotten into the story.  JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure follows the adventures of various generations of the Joestar family, who are destined to fight supernatural foes with a range of different powers.  Outrageous and exceedingly weird, this series features a mostly serious story that also makes great use of some great humour and comedic moments.  Containing some of the most unique opponents and abilities you are likely to see, this is a very fun and memorable series, which I am having an absolute blast watching.

 

Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop Poster

A cowboy inspired science fiction show with an outstanding musical score, do I need to say more?  Cowboy Bebop is one of the most influential and highly regarded anime series out there, and there was no way I could not include it on my list.  This series follows a group of bounty hunters as they chase after the worst criminals in the galaxy, while also trying to resolve their own dark personal issues.  This was a brilliant and poignant series, and despite only having one season, it will go down as an absolute treasure of the anime world.  Set to be adapted into a live-action series in the future (which actually looks pretty good), this show is one that all anime fans need to watch.

 

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.

The Disastrous Life of Saiki K. Poster

Next on this list we have one of the funniest anime series I have watched, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.  This show follows Kusuo Saiki, a high school student with amazing psychic abilities.  Despite his vast power, Saiki just wants to live a normal life, and attempts to keep his abilities hidden from the world.  Unfortunately, he constantly gets into trouble thanks to his chaotic classmates, each of whom find themselves drawn to the quiet and mysterious Saiki, which forces him to use his powers in inventive ways to try and avoid them.  This is a very entertaining and light-hearted comedy series, and I love the fun reversal of the classic trope of a powered teenager.  This series contains some clever, and often self-deprecating humour, most of which is tied into the impressive supporting cast that exists solely to exasperate the protagonist.  This is a great anime to check out if you want a clever comedy, and there is also a sequel series on Netflix, The Disastrous Life of Saiki K.: Reawakened, which features some fun follow-up storylines.

 

Dragon Ball Z

Dragon Ball Z

The all-time classic Dragon Ball Z was another series that got me into anime when I was much younger.  Thanks to the entire series appearing on the Australian morning television (thanks Cheez TV), I grew up with Dragon Ball Z, and there was no way I could exclude it from this list.  Easily one of the most identifiable series out there, Dragon Ball Z follows a group of martial artists as they fight increasingly powerful aliens, monsters, and demons to keep Earth safe.  Known for its over-the-top fight scenes, memorable characters and cool animation, this series was a lot of fun and no doubt kickstarted many people’s journey into anime appreciation.  While prone to some unnecessary filler episodes and some ridiculously long fight-scenes (the Goku vs Frieza fight lasts for 18 episodes, although considering it has the first Super Saiyan reveal midway through, it is more than worth watching), this is still a great series that nearly every anime fan will have seen.  I really need to check out the sequel series, Dragon Ball Super, which I have heard is really good, and which might replace this original series the next time I update this list.

 

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba

Demon Slayer Poster

One of the more recently released shows to appear on this list, Demon Slayer is a beautifully animated series that follows a group of sword-wielding heroes as they hunt demons across Taishō-era Japan.  Despite only having one season so far, this is already considered one of the best anime series out there, thanks to its excellent story, fantastic fight scenes, compelling characters, and stunning art style, especially surrounding the dazzling sword abilities.  I absolutely powered through the first season when it came onto Netflix last year and it swiftly became an all-time favourite show for me.  You also cannot talk about this series without mentioning the brilliant anime film, Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba the Movie: Mugen Train, the most successful Japanese film of all time, which continues the story from the first series and is beautiful, horrifying and tragic, all at the same time.

 

One-Punch Man

One-Punch Man Poster

The final entry on this list is the hilarious and cool superhero parody series, One-Punch Man.  Set in a world constantly beset by monsters, villains, and massive threats, and inhabited by a massive organisation of superheroes, this series follows Saitama, an unassuming and comedic man who is actually the world’s strongest hero.  Able to defeat any foe with a single punch, the bored Saitama is constantly attempting to find a stronger opponent and finds himself forced to intervene in a series of dangerous battles and conspiracies, which he usually finishes in seconds.  This is a deeply entertaining series which lovingly makes fun of elaborate anime fights and the superhero genre with its immature protagonist.  The first season of this show was pretty perfect, and you can easily enjoy the great blend of clever humour and fun characters.  Despite a weaker second season, this is still a fantastic show with an immense amount of potential.

 

 

And that is the end of this latest list.  I think that it turned out pretty well, and I liked the cool collection of series that are featured above.  Each of the above shows are very entertaining in their own unique way, and all are worth a watch.  I have a feeling that this will be a list that I will come back to in the future, especially once I check out some more anime series.  There are several I currently have on my to-watch-list, including My Hero Academia, Hunter X Hunter, Dragon Ball Super and more.  I am also quite excited for the Star Wars Visions anime series that is coming out later this week.  Once I check a few more of these out, I will no doubt be able to update this list and I look forward to seeing what makes the cut next time.  Until then, let me know which anime series you enjoy the most in the comments below.

Throwback Thursday: The Gray Man by Mark Greaney

The Gray Man Cover

Publisher: Audio Studios (Audiobook – 29 September 2009)

Series: Gray Man – Book One

Length: 11 hours and 11 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.  For this latest Throwback Thursday I check out the debut novel of impressive thriller author Mark Greaney, The Gray Man.

Over the last few years, I have been really enjoying some of the latest novels from the amazing Mark Greaney, one of the leading authors in the spy thriller genre.  Having previously worked with Tom Clancy on his Jack Ryan series, Greaney is probably best known for his awesome Gray Man series.  I have managed to check out the last three novels in this great series, which have been some pretty awesome reads, including Mission Critical, One Minute Out (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020) and Relentless (one of the best books and audiobooks I have so far read this year).  I also really enjoyed the outstanding military thriller he did with H. Ripley Rawlings, Red Metal, which ended up being one of my top books and audiobooks of 2019).  I have long been meaning to go back and check out the earlier books in the Gray Man series, especially as there is a big Netflix adaption coming out soon (directed by the Russo brothers and starting Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans).  I finally got the chance a few days ago to read the first Gray Man novel, which was also Greaney’s debut book, and I am extremely gad that I did as The Gray Man proved to be an exceptional novel with boundless action.

Court Gentry was the very best operative the CIA ever had, and for years he helped take down vital targets the world over.  However, his career in government espionage came to a violent end when Gentry was set up and burnt, becoming one of the most wanted men in the world with a shoot-to-kill order on his head.  With the entire intelligence community gunning for him, Gentry disappeared into the shadows, becoming a private assassin.  Despite his murky profession, Gentry keeps his humanity by only accepting contracts on those people he believes deserve to die.  After years of taking out the very worst gangsters, war criminals and terrorists in impossible situations, Gentry has gained a legendary and is known throughout the business as the Gray Man.

However, after his latest job sees him assassinate a high-ranking member of the Nigerian cabinet, Gentry suddenly finds himself under attack like never before.  The outgoing president of Nigeria now wants the Gray Man dead, and with a powerful French company on the hook for a billion-dollar contract, he has the perfect tool to get his vengeance.  Led by former CIA officer Lloyd, the French company have organised for a team of hitters to take Gentry down for good, but when their first strike fails, they must get inventive.

Taking Gentry’s handler and his family hostage, Lloyd gives Gentry an ultimatum, travel to their compound in Normandy within the next day or he will kill the hostages, including two young girls.  Determined to save his friend’s family, Gentry is forced to traverse the entirety of Europe to get to his target.  However, between him and his destination are 12 elite kill teams from around the world, each of them competing for a massive bounty on his head.  With every eye on the continent watching out for him and no possible backup, Gentry will need to fight his way through more than 100 killers if he is to succeed.  For most men this would an impossible task, however, the Gray Man is anything but ordinary and he is about to show the world why he is the absolute best.

Well damn, now this was an incredible thriller.  I actually managed to power through the audiobook version of The Gray Man in two days especially once I got stuck into the incredible story.  Loaded with a ton of action of spy thriller excitement, this was such a fun and action-packed read that gets a full five-star rating from me.

I deeply enjoyed The Gray Man’s exciting and compelling narrative, which takes the reader on a wild ride through death and destruction.  While I wasn’t the biggest fan of how the book started, as the slaughter of Taliban soldiers in Iraq seemed a tad over-the-top for an introduction scene, it honestly does not take long for the rest of the story to get incredibly addictive and fun.  The moment that the antagonists start targeting Gentry, all bets are off and what follows is an incredible blend of action, adventure and spy tradecraft that is very hard to put down.  I loved the central story concept of Gentry forced to fight his way across Europe, and Greaney did a great job setting this entire scenario up.  This results in an awesome central section of the novel, where Gentry slowly moves through Europe towards his goal, with everyone in the way trying to kill him.  The action and intensity of these scenes are first rate, and I loved the slow, deliberate war of attrition that the antagonists wage against Gentry, with the protagonist forced to contend with a lack of equipment, allies, and later in the book, blood.  This exceptional story eventually leads up to a massive conclusion, with a wounded Gentry storming the castle and facing off the people who have expended a lot of effort into killing him.  The entire story is wrapped up extremely well, and readers are left very satisfied and happy with how everything turns out.  I had a fantastic time getting through this outstanding story, and there was honestly not a single second that I wasn’t amazingly entertained.

Due to its status as the initial novel in the series, The Gray Man has a very self-enclosed narrative, which ensures that all the main storylines are wrapped up by the final page.  While it does serve as a really good introduction to the protagonist and his unique situation, I found The Gray Man works well as a standalone novel, and it does not rely too heavily on details revealed in the later novels.  There are a lot of great features to this book, and I must highlight the incredible action sequences.  The intense violence and powerful fight scenes are beautifully written, and the reader gets a good sense of the characters interactions with his foes.  I also really appreciated the author’s depiction of tradecraft and spy skills, with the characters using all manner of intelligence tricks and assets to try and win.  Greaney makes really good use of multiple character perspectives throughout The Gray Man to highlight the battle of wits between the various players, and I liked how it also increased how impressive and brutal some of the action scenes were.  While I could have probably done without the sections told from the perspective of one of the eight-year-old granddaughters, the rest work extremely well to create a detailed and richer spy thriller.  I loved seeing the opposition put their plan into action to hunt down Gentry, and it was really great to see all the sides of this adventure.  It was particularly fun to see the antagonist’s reactions as Gentry continues to survive against the odds, and the added note of desperation was pretty entertaining.

I also must highlight the great characters featured within The Gray Man, which really helped to enhance this already awesome story.  They are led by impressive action hero Court Gentry (a great name, BTW), who is perfectly built up throughout the novel as a superhuman spy, thanks to his skill, intelligence, and pure stubbornness.  Gentry has a hell of an ordeal in this novel, forced to fight against impossible odds while being hunted by literally everyone in Europe.  Greaney does a good job introducing the key parts of his protagonist’s personality and history throughout the novel, and you really get a good sense of who Gentry is.  I also loved how Greaney showed Gentry slowly getting worn down as the novel progressed, which felt pretty realistic, especially after all the opponents who try to kill him.  These various injuries slow him down and make him sloppy as the narrative progresses, so much so that he is barely standing by the time he gets to the final showdown.  It was fun to see the other characters debating the truth behind Gentry’s previous missions, especially as he has built up a reputation for impossible tasks.  The constant discussion about what he achieved is really entertaining, especially as it causes several antagonists some major apprehensions.  While substantial parts of his history, such as why he was betrayed by the CIA, are not examined here, you still get some great details about him, and I look forward to seeing what else is revealed in the books I haven’t read yet.  In some ways Gentry was a little one-dimensional in The Gray Man and could have used some more depth, especially around his motivations and his feelings about his betrayal from the CIA.  However, this was a great introduction to this ruthless killer with a heart of gold, and readers will enjoy this first great adventure.

In addition to Gentry, Greaney came up with an excellent group of supporting characters who serve as alternate point-of-view characters throughout the novel.  Due to the plot being about Gentry being hunted by everyone in Europe, most of the alternate perspectives are antagonists, and I had fun with the cool group of villains that Greaney featured in this novel.  Each of these antagonistic characters are well utilised and introduced, even if they have a short shelf-life, and I appreciated some of the time put into building them up.  My favourite, or least favourite, of these is central antagonist Lloyd.  Lloyd is a former CIA analyst turned private-sector lawyer who, after stuffing up and forcing his company to work for the Nigerians, sets his company after Gentry.  Greaney went out of his way to make Lloyd as unlikeable as possible, with the character being extremely arrogant, petty, insecure, and vicious, especially as the novel proceeds and he faces setback after setback.  Every scene he is in is a lot of fun, mainly because he is such an annoying figure in them, and this ensures that the reader is constantly barracking for Gentry, hoping that he wins so that he can punch Lloyd in the face.  I had a wonderful time hating Lloyd throughout this book, and I cannot wait to see Chris Evans’s take on him in the upcoming film adaption.

As I mentioned above, I ended up checking out The Gray Man on audiobook, which proved to be an awesome way to enjoy this excellent book.  The Gray Man audiobook has a decent run time of just over 11 hours, and I found myself flying through it in no time at all.  This audiobook format proved to be the perfect way to enjoy this great book, especially as the many intense action sequences come to life extremely well while being narrated.  I absolutely must highlight the book’s amazing narrator, Jay Snyder, who has since narrated all Greaney’s Gray Man novels.  Snyder has an amazing voice for thrillers, and he ensures that the plot of this book moved along at a quick and exciting pace.  I also deeply enjoyed the various voices that he produced, as every character featured within this novel had a very fitting and distinctive voice.  I particularly appreciated the slimy and cocky voice that he gifted to main antagonist Lloyd, which gave the man a cowardly, bureaucratic voice (it honestly reminded me a little of Cyril from Archer), and really helped to make him even more unlikeable.  Snyder also does some fantastic accents for the various international characters featured in the novel, and each of them worked extremely well.  Overall, this was an exceptional way to check out this book, and I would strongly recommend the audiobook format to anyone interested in this novel.

The Gray Man is an incredible and deeply entertaining debut from Greaney and it is one that I had an outstanding time listening to.  This great book had an awesome narrative, loaded up with a ton of action, mayhem and fun characters, and it swiftly turned into an intensely addictive and thrilling read.  Greaney sets up a lot of elements for his future series, and I am really glad that I went back to see where this fantastic series started.  This book comes highly recommend, and if you are a thriller fan, you will love this book.  I am definitely going to have to check out the rest of the Gray Man novels I am missing, and I am looking forward to seeing what over incredible stories that Greaney has in store for me.

WWW Wednesday – 15 September 2021

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Riviera House by Natasha Lester (Trade Paperback)

The Riviera House Cover

I just started reading a fantastic historical drama with The Riviera House by Natasha Lester.  The Riviera House is a compelling and exciting multi-generational story that follows the attempts of some brave women as the attempt to safeguard France’s art from the Nazis.

 

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Summer Knight Cover

I was in the mood for something fun to listen to, so I decided to head back to the awesome Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher.  After previously enjoying Storm Front, Fool Moon and Grave Peril, I knew I would have a great time with the fourth book in the series, Summer Knight.  This fourth book sees Dresden caught between two warring faerie courts and forces him to investigate the murder of one of their champions.  I am making some good progress with this book and should hopefully finish it off in the next few days.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Devil’s Advocate by Steve Cavanagh (Trade Paperback)

The Devil's Advocate Cover

 

The Dark by Jeremy Robinson (Audiobook)

The Dark Cover

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Tempest Runner by Cavan Scott (Audio Drama)

Star Wars - Tempest Runner Cover

 

The Gray Man by Mark Greaney (Audiobook)

The Gray Man Cover

 

Corporal Hitler’s Pistol by Tom Keneally (Trade Paperback)

Corporal Hitler's Pistol Cover

 

The Widow’s Follower by Anna Weatherly (Trade Paperback)

The Widow's Follower

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie (Audiobook)

The Wisdom of Crowds 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 – Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday, I look at an awesome upcoming science fiction horror novel that is sure to be an outstanding read, Dead Silence by S. A. Barnes.

Dead Silence Cover

Dead Silence, which is currently set for release on 25 January 2022, is an intense and compelling sounding novel with a killer plot to it.  This will be the first book I have read by S. A. Barnes, who also writes under the pen name Stacey Kade, and I look forward to checking out her writing style.  This upcoming book looks sets to be quite amazing and I will be keen to enjoy out a fun horror/science fiction hybrid.  Dead Silence will be set in the far future and will follow a salvage crew who discovers the fabled remains of a long-lost spaceship out in the black.  Naturally, the abandoned ship will be filled with currently unspecified horrors that will attack the crew and result in a captivating and deadly adventure.  I cannot wait to see what happens on this ship, and I have no doubt that this will be a great novel to check out.

Synopsis:

At the edge of the solar system, no one can hear you scream.

The Aurora, a luxury space-liner destined for a cruise of the solar system, has been missing for twenty years. Among the hundreds of presumed dead were passengers from society’s finest – celebrities, tech giants, influencers. Every last one… vanished.

So when Claire’s crew picks up an emergency signal in deep space, the long-lost Aurora is the last ship they expect to find. The salvage claim could be their best chance at extraordinary wealth, but it might mean missing their transport back home, and nobody can stand another minute out in the darkest corner of the universe – nobody, except Claire.

Once onboard the ship, the crew realizes something is terribly wrong. Unspeakable horrors lurk in every shadow of the massive ship, and soon they each start experiencing violent hallucinations.

Claire must fight to keep her sanity and get her crew back to safety – before they all meet the same ghastly fate as the Aurora passengers.

The Devil’s Advocate by Steve Cavanagh

The Devil's Advocate Cover

Publisher: Orion (Trade Paperback – 27 July 2021)

Series: Eddie Flynn – Book 6

Length: 403 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Bestselling thriller author Steve Cavanagh returns with another exciting and over-the-top fun legal thriller, The Devil’s Advocate, an awesome read with a very entertaining plot.

Randal Korn is an evil man, a dangerous killer, and an unrepentant corrupting influence on everyone around him.  Unfortunately for the residents of Sunville County, Alabama, Randal Korn is also their District Attorney, who uses his skills and influence to get the legal system to commit his killings for him.  Known as the King of Death Row, Korn has sent more men to the electric chair than any other district attorney in US history, deriving great pleasure from every life his prosecutions have taken.  However, not all of Korn’s victims have been guilty, a fact that Korn knows and deeply relishes.

When a young woman, Skylar Edwards, is found brutally murdered in Buckstown, Alabama, the corrupt sheriff’s department quickly arrests the last person to see her alive, her innocent African American co-worker Andy Dubios.  After the racist cops quickly beat a confession out of him, Andy is set to stand trial with Korn prosecuting a seemingly airtight case.  With the entire town already convinced of his guilt and with no chance of a fair trial, Andy’s death looks certain, until Eddie Flynn arrives in town.

Hired after Andy’s previous lawyer goes missing, former conman turned brilliant New York lawyer Eddie Flynn heads down to Alabama with his team to try and save Andy’s life.  However, the moment he arrives, Eddie begins to understand just how stacked the deck is.  Thanks to Korn’s immense influence, the entire town is hostile to him, the police are refusing to cooperate, witnesses are threatened or arrested by the sheriff, the judge is already on the prosecutor’s side, and any potential juror will already believe that Andy is guilty.  To save his client’s life, Eddie will have to use every single trick he has to con the jury into finding Andy not guilty, but even that might not be enough.  Worse, it soon becomes apparent that the killing of Skylar Edwards was only the start.  A dangerous murderer still stalks Buckstown, killing whoever gets in their way to achieve their own sinister agenda, and their sights are now firmly set on Eddie.

This was a pretty awesome and wildly entertaining novel from the talented Steve Cavanagh.  A lawyer himself, Cavanagh burst onto the crime-fiction scene a few years ago with his debut novel, The Defence, the first book in his Eddie Flynn series.  There have since been several other Eddie Flynn books, each of which places the protagonist in a unique legal situation.  I have been meaning to read some of Cavanagh’s books for a while now due to the awesome sounding plot synopsis and I currently have a couple of his novels sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read.  Unfortunately, I have not had the chance yet, although I think I will have to make a bit of an effort after reading The Devil’s Advocate, which I was lucky enough to receive a little while ago.  The Devil’s Advocate was an outstanding and captivating novel and I swiftly got drawn into the exciting and amusing narrative.

The Devil’s Advocate has an awesome story to which is extremely addictive and enjoyable.  When I picked up this book, I initially intended only read around 50 pages in my first sitting, however, once I started I honestly could not put it down, and before I knew it I was halfway through and it was well past my bed time.  Cavanagh produces an extremely cool narrative that starts with an awesome scene that introduces the main antagonist and ensures that you will really hate him.  From then, Cavanagh quickly sets up the initial mystery, the introduction of the legal case, and the plot that brings the protagonist to Alabama.  The rest of the narrative neatly falls into place shortly after, with the full details of the case, the corruption of the main setting, and the massive injustice that is taking place, coming to light.  From there, the protagonists attempt to set up their case while facing sustained and deadly opposition from pretty much everyone.  While the initial focus is on the legal defence aspect of the thriller, the story quickly branches out into several captivating storylines, including an examination of the antagonist’s corrupting influence on the town, planned action from a white supremacist groups, attempts to run off or kill the protagonists, as well as mystery around who really killed Skylar.  All these separate storylines are really fascinating and come together with the plot’s central legal case to form an exceptionally fun and electrifying story.  The reader is constantly left guessing about what is going to happen next, especially with multiple red herrings and false reveals, and I ended up not predicting all the great twists that occurred.  While I did think that Cavanagh went a little too political with the overall message of the book, The Devil’s Advocate had an outstanding ending and I had an exceptional time getting through this thrilling story.

One of the best parts of this entire story is the outrageous and unfair legal case that the protagonists must attempt to win.  This case forms the centre of The Devil’s Advocate’s plot, with most of Eddie and his colleagues’ appearances focused on their upcoming legal battle.  Cavanagh really went out his way to create a truly unique and compelling set of legal circumstances for the protagonists to wade through, with the case so tightly sewn up against their innocent client before they even get there.  Despite this, the protagonist goes to work with a very effective, if unconventional, legal strategy that plays to the antagonist’s underhanded tactics.  The entire legal case soon devolves into crazy anarchy, with both sides doing outrageous actions to win, which Cavanagh writes up perfectly.  I found myself getting quite invested in the case, especially after witnessing several blatant examples of the prosecution’s corruption, and these terrible actions really got me rooting for the protagonist, who had some entertaining tricks of his own.  This all leads up to an excellent extended trial sequence, where the various strategies and manipulations in the first two-thirds of the novel come into play.  There are some brilliant and entertaining legal manoeuvrings featured here, with the protagonist initially focusing more on pissing off the prosecution and the judge rather than producing alternative evidence.  However, there are some great reveals and cross-examinations towards the end of the book, as Eddie has a very good go at dismantling the case.  The way it finally ends is pretty clever, and I really liked the way some of it was set up, even if it relied a little too much on a minor character’s conscience finally flaring.

Cavanagh also featured some great and entertaining characters in The Devil’s Advocate, with a combination of new characters and returning protagonists from the previous novels.  The author makes great use of multiple character perspectives throughout this novel, especially as it allows the reader to see the various sides of the battle for Buckstown’s soul.  Seeing the moves and counter-moves of the protagonists and antagonists enhances the excitement of the novel, especially as it shows the creation of several traps that could potentially destroy Eddie and his client.  Most of the characters featured in the novel are very entertaining, although I think in a few cases Cavanagh went a little over-the-top, with some of the villains being a bit cartoonish in their evilness.

The main character of this novel is series hero Eddie Flynn, the former conman who now works on impossible cases as a defence attorney.  Eddie was an awesome central protagonist, especially as his unique sense of justice and criminal background turns him into one of the most entertaining and likeable lawyers you are likely to ever meet.  I loved the very underhanded way in which he worked to win his case, and the variety of tricks and manipulations that he used were extremely fun to see in action, especially as it rattles the police antagonists and completely outrages the other lawyers and judges.  I loved his style in the courtroom scenes, especially as most of his appearances eventually end up with him thrown in jail for contempt (it is a pretty wise legal strategy).  Eddie has a very fun code in this novel, and I think that I will enjoy seeing the earlier novels in which he transitions from conman to lawyer.

Eddie is also supported by a fantastic team from his small law practice, each of whom get several chapters to themselves and who serve as great alternate characters who in some way overshadow the main protagonist.  These include his wise old mentor character, Harry; the younger lawyer, Kate; and the badass investigator, Bloch.  Each of them brings something fun and compelling to the overall story, and I liked the way that Cavanagh ensured that they all get their moment throughout The Devil’s Advocate.  I really enjoyed some of the great sub-storylines surrounding these three supporting protagonists.  Examples of this include Harry, a genuine silver fox with the ability to attract a certain type of older lady, who serves as the team’s heart and soul, although he’s not opposed to some improper legal tactics.  I also enjoyed Kate’s appearances as a secondary trial attorney, especially as she serves as a good alternate to the flashier Eddie, while also finding her feet in a murder case that has rattled her.  I personally enjoyed the gun-toting investigator Bloch the most, mainly because of her hard-assed attitude and inability to be intimidated by the various monsters lurking around town.  Bloch has some very intense and exciting scenes, and it was really entertaining to see her stare down rabid militiamen and crooked cops.  These protagonists end up forming an impressive and cohesive team, and it was a real joy to see them in action.

I also must highlight the outstanding villain of the story that was Randal Korn.  Korn is a truly evil and terrifying creation who is pretty much the direct opposite of the more heroic Eddie.  Cavanagh has clearly gone out of his way to create the most outrageously despicable antagonist he could, and it really works.  Korn, who apparently is a bit of a pastiche parody of five real-life American prosecutors who always seek the death penalty, is a man who became a lawyer solely so he would have a legal way to kill people.  The pleasure he receives from controlling people and ensuring that they die, even if they are innocent or undeserving, is terrifying, and it ensures that the character will go to extreme lengths to win his case.  The author does a fantastic job painting him as a despicable figure, including through several point of view chapter, and there are some interesting examinations about his psyche and his desires.  Having such an easily hated villain really draws the reader into the narrative, mainly because the reader cannot help but hope that he gets what is coming to him.  Despite that, I think Cavanagh went a little overboard in some places (the self-mutilation and the rotting smell are a bit much), and the whole soulless creature angle is layered on a bit too thickly.  Still, the author achieved what he wanted to with this antagonist, and I had a wonderful time hating this character from start to finish.

The final point-of-view character that I want to mention is the mysterious figure known as the Pastor.  The Pastor is another antagonist of this novel whose identity is kept hidden from the reader for much of the book.  This is mainly because he is the real killer of Skylar Edwards, whose death was part of an elaborate plan.  The Pastor is another great villain for this novel, due to his crazed personality, murderous tendencies and horrendous motivations for his crimes.  I think that Cavanagh did a great job utilising this second villain in his novel, and I liked the tandem usage he had with Korn.  I was especially impressed with the clever mystery that the author had surrounding his identity, which was kept hidden right till the very end.  It took me longer than I expected to work out who the Pastor was, thanks to some clever misdirects from the author, but the eventual reveal was extremely good and helped tie the entire story together.  Readers will have a lot of fun trying to work out who this character is, and I really enjoyed the extra villainy that they brought to the table.

The fantastic Steve Cavanagh has once again produced a captivating and intense legal thriller with The Devil’s Advocate.  This latest Eddie Flynn thriller was an amazing ball of crazy fun that I powered through in two sustained reading sessions.  With some over-the-top characters, a clever legal case, and an exciting overarching conspiracy, The Devil’s Advocate proved to be next to impossible to turn down and is really worth checking out.  I will definitely be going back and reading some of Cavanagh’s earlier books, and I look forward to seeing what insane scenarios he comes up with in the future.