Warhammer 40,000: Sepulturum by Nick Kyme

Warhammer 40,000 Sepulturum Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 3 March 2020)

Series: Warhammer Horror

Length: 7 hours and 9 minutes

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

Amazon

My obsession with Warhammer continues as I check out the grisly Warhammer Horror book, Sepulturum by Nick Kyme.

Over the last couple of years, I have had a lot of fun diving down into the epic Warhammer 40,000 universe.  This universe features so many epic and unique stories and characters, and I love all the fantastic tales that can be told across the genres.  One sub-genre of Warhammer fiction I’ve only had a little experience with so far is the Warhammer Horror books which, as the name suggest, blend gruesome horror elements with the already grim Warhammer universe.  I have so far enjoyed one Warhammer Horror book, the creepy and clever The Bookkeeper’s Skull by Justin Hill, which was brilliantly written and showcased.  I have been meaning to check out some other horror related Warhammer books, and when I saw that there was a zombie-centric Warhammer book, I knew it was something I would have to read.  This book is Sepulturum, a compelling read written by new-to-me author Nick Kyme.  Kyme is a veteran Warhammer writer, and I’ve got a couple of his other books sitting on my shelf already waiting for my attention.  However, my first experience of him was through Sepulturum, which proved to be a really fun and interesting adventure.

Something dark and deadly, something which hungers for blood and flesh, is stirring in the low-hive of Blackgheist.  The only person who can stop it is Inquisitor Morgravia Sanctus of the Ordo Sepulturum, whose investigation in Blackgheist revealed a terrible presence.  However, before she could act, something happened that destroyed her memories and left her scarred, broken and hunted.  Now with only one acolyte left, Morgravia attempts to find a psyker capable of restoring her mind to let her figure out what is chasing her and what their plans are.

Meeting with a broker from the criminal underworld, Morgravia believes that she has finally found the solution to her problems.  However, before she can proceed, a terrible attack is launched across Blackgheist which no one is prepared for.  The people of the hive have been turned into something violent, no-longer alive, and desperate to devour everything they come across.  These creatures are soon swarming across Blackgheist, destroying all before them and leading to untold chaos and destruction.

Soon, only small bands of survivors are left who hope to escape from the horrors surrounding them.  But as Morgravia leads one such group to safety, she soon discovers that not everything is as it seems.  Other deadly monsters are hunting throughout Blackgheist, while deranged cultists take the opportunity to seize power for themselves.  The truth behind the terrible events unfolding lies only within Morgravia’s mind, but is she truly prepared for the horrific secrets that are about to be unleashed?

Sepulturum was a fantastic and dark read that proved to be an outstanding addition to the Warhammer Horror range.  Kyme has produced a fast-paced and gruesome zombie story in an amazing novel that combines a clever story with some excellent horror elements.  The story itself is a fun zombie narrative as several characters attempt to survive a sudden onslaught of deranged and hungry former humans overrunning the city.  The story primarily focuses on the damaged Inquisitor Morgravia and a couple of her companions as they attempt to escape the horrors unleashed upon them and find its cause, although a second storyline revolves around a normal labourer, Cristo, as he tries to get his daughter to safety.  Both groups first encounter the zombie creatures in some pretty horrifying situations that leave them badly shaken and alone, and they are forced to navigate through the rest of the chaos in a daze.  Their subsequent attempts to evade the zombie creatures lead them further into danger, especially as there are other dark forces out in the city that provide additional awesome complications and conflicts, and there are betrayals, insanities and the feeling that the zombies are only a small part of the larger picture.  Everything leads up to some pretty disturbing final sequences that are loaded with brutal twists and major confrontations, especially as nobody is who they seem, and there is high need of some bloody self-sacrifice.  Readers will come away pretty satisfied with how the story ends, with horror fans no doubt liking the high body count, and the potential hint of a continuation in the future.

I loved how Kyme set out the story in Sepulturum, and it proves to be an outstanding read about survival and desperation in a Warhammer city.  The main setting for Sepulturum is already pretty gritty and unsavoury before the zombies, but everything only gets worse as the story unfolds.  The slow reveal of the zombie creatures is handled well, and I loved the slow-burn panic that sweeps the city.  The blend of character perspectives works well throughout the story, and while Morgravia and Cristo prove to be the main narrators, several other supporting cast members, often in Morgravia’s party, give an excellent alternative edge to the narrative while adding some fun moments to it.  Cristo’s separate storyline also works well in concert with the main narrative surrounding Morgravia and her survivors, and it was interesting to see their two stories play out simultaneously without the groups ever meeting.  Kyme has a lot of fun setting out some excellent elements of the story, and I particularly loved the attention to detail when it came to some of the fight scenes and the horror creatures the protagonists have to deal with.  There are also several great twists and reveals towards the end of the book, and while some are well foreshadowed, there is also one genuine surprise that I thought was pretty damn brilliant.  I did think the big conclusion ended up being a little to over-the-top metaphysical for its own good, but it was most a good ending with a fun last-minute inclusion from a whole other faction.  This ended up being a pretty good self-contained, standalone read within the wider Warhammer 40,000 universe, and not too much pre-knowledge of the Warhammer universe is needed to fully appreciate it, especially with the zombies there.  However, fans of the franchise will have the best time with it, and I felt this was a great inclusion into the wider Warhammer universe.

Naturally the real highlight of Sepulturum is the zombies, and it is always fun to see how Warhammer stories turn out when combined with genres like horror, especially as this universe already has some terrifying and shocking elements to it.  The zombies in Sepulturum are interesting inclusions to the story, especially as Kyme does a good job of brutally introducing them and then unleashing them upon a wider world.  While some members of the Warhammer 40,000 universe do have some concepts of what a zombie is, the vast majority do not, so the inherent panic and horror at what the creatures are is pretty crazy, and you have to love the reactions of the people who don’t know what they are dealing with.  All the zombie scenes are pretty ferocious, and the unstoppable horde coming at you is always pretty freaky to deal with.  I did quite like how the zombies themselves weren’t exactly what you thought they were from a Warhammer 40,000 lore perspective, and their presence heralds another threat, with some creepy alternate creatures.

In addition, Kyme also enhances other dark elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and uses that to increase the horror feel of the book.  The author affects a brooding and repressive tone across the entire book, and all the characters are caught up in intense feelings of despair and horror at what they are experiencing and the creatures they are encountering.  Kyme also introduces some gruesome body modification elements that work well with the zombies to create a terrifying read.  Body horror, including some of the more shocking elements around servitors, argumentation and other body modifications, is always close to the surface of any Warhammer story, but it was particularly bad here, especially as some characters are dissected or have elements contained within their bodies that Kyme showcases in distressing detail.  A lot of the horror is also derived from the craziness within people’s minds, as many of the characters break down in different ways after the initial zombie attack.  Watching characters go insane in various ways, whether through suicidal thoughts or with bloody religious fervour, really adds to the overall horror elements of the book, and I felt that Kyme had the right balance between outer and inner horror throughout this book.  The combination of the darker tone, zombies and other cool horror elements, really fits into the Warhammer universe well and I enjoyed the dark tale that Kyme told around it.

As is my usual practice, I ended up listening to Sepulturum on audiobook rather than seeking out a physical copy.  As always, it proved to be pretty epic.  I always love how well the audiobook format works to enhance the fantastic stories in the Warhammer universe.  This was especially good with Sepulturum, as the audiobook version helped to bring out some darker elements of the story and make Sepulturum feel even spookier.  Narrated by veteran audiobook narrator Antonia Beamish, who has worked on several Warhammer Horror books previously, the audiobook ensured that the darker tone and desperation of the characters really came through.  You really get a sense of the characters’ panic and despair through Beamish’s great narration, and I deeply appreciated how gruesome and ghastly all the horror details sounded when she described them.  The additional voices she used for several of the characters were pretty good as well, and you end up getting a good sense of each character’s personality, especially during the terrible encounters they go through.  Beamish’s voice work really helps to bring this entire audiobook together, and this ended up being an outstanding way to enjoy Sepulturum.  With a run time of just over seven hours, you can power through this audiobook quickly, and I deeply enjoyed listening to this gory book in this format.

The Warhammer universe offers further treasures as Nick Kyme has some zombie fun in Sepulturum.  A fantastic addition to the Warhammer Horror subseries, Sepulturum takes some great characters on a particularly dark and shocking adventure loaded with all manner of horror.  It’s an excellent and exciting read for fans of both Warhammer and horror fiction.  I deeply enjoyed this book and can’t wait to try out more awesome Warhammer Horror in the future.

Amazon

Throwback Thursday – Warhammer 40,000: Malleus by Dan Abnett

Warhammer 40,000 - Malleus Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Trade Paperback – 27 December 2001)

Series: Eisenhorn – Book Two

Length: 10 hours and 13 hours

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

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 week’s Throwback Thursday, I continue my extensive dive into the Warhammer 40,000 universe with the awesome, galaxy-spanning thriller, Malleus by Dan Abnett.

For one of my latest Throwback Thursday reviews, I took a look at one of Dan Abnett’s iconic Warhammer 40,000 novels, Xenos, the first book in the incredible Eisenhorn trilogy.  This fantastic book, which followed Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn, a hunter of dark influences in the Imperium of Man, was a clever and compelling read that saw Eisenhorn face off against a range of terrible foes who seek to destroy humanity from within.  I had an outstanding time with Xenos, which really showcased Abnett’s skill as an author (I have also really enjoyed his Gaunt’s Ghosts novels, including First and Only, Ghostmaker and The Vincula Insurgency).  Indeed, I enjoyed it so much that I quickly decided to continue the Eisenhorn trilogy by listening to the second book in the series, Malleus, another exceptional read that takes its protagonist on another dark and engrossing adventure.

In the 41st Millennium, the dark enemies of mankind, whether they be heretical, daemonic, or alien in nature, continue to try and destroy the Imperium of Man from within.  It falls to dedicated inquisitors, such as Gregor Eisenhorn, to battle their malign influences by whatever means they deem necessary.  But what happens when the very institutions that Eisenhorn has long fought to uphold are turned against him?

Whilst battling against deadly alien influences on an isolated planet, Eisenhorn is made aware of certain allegations against his character which suggest that he has been corrupted by the influence of Chaos.  Initially planning to ignore the rumours and continue his vital work safeguarding humanity, his plans are put on hold when a terrible act of destruction unfolds on the planet of Thracian Primaris.  Investigating its causes, Eisenhorn is thrust into another deadly conspiracy, one tied to a foe he last encountered 100 years before, the daemonhost Cherubael.

Chasing after Cherubael and his minions, Eisenhorn attempts to discover what their latest unholy plan is.  However, his investigation reveals that Cherubael is just a pawn, and that the true mastermind of the plot he has uncovered may be a fellow inquisitor.  However, before Eisenhorn can find and confront them, he himself is declared a heretic and renegade by puritan members of his order, forcing him to flee.  Chased by the members of the Ordo Malleus, as well as other deadly hunters loyal to Imperium, Eisenhorn must work outside the bounds of his usual authority to prove his innocence and find the true culprits.  But to defeat his enemies, Eisenhorn may be forced to cross a dangerous line and become the very thing he has sworn to destroy.

Damn, Abnett was on a major roll when he wrote the Eisenhorn novels, as the second book, Malleus, is getting another five-star rating from me.  Brilliantly combining a taut and intrigue-laden plot with the darkest elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Malleus is an addictive and powerful read that proves near impossible to stop listening to.

Malleus has an incredible story that I found to be pretty damn addictive.  Set 100 years after the events of Xenos, Malleus continues to follow Inquisitor Eisenhorn as he investigates several malign cults and figures throughout his sub-sector of space.  The story soon ties into some of the lingering storylines from Xenos as the daemonhost Cherubael makes another appearance, framing Eisenhorn as a heretic.  After a massive and suitably destructive series of events, Eisenhorn is thrust into a whole new investigation, trying to finally hunt down the figures that vexed him during the events of Xenos.  Traversing the sector in pursuit of Cherubael and other rogue inquisitors, Eisenhorn finds himself thrust into battle after hopeless battle, and his constant losses war with his determination to finish the case.  The protagonist faces several major hurdles towards the middle of the book, including capture and imprisonment by a fellow inquisitor for false crimes.  Eventually escaping, Eisenhorn spends much of the book as a fugitive hunted by loyalist forces, which is an exciting new element that Abnett plays to full effect to enhance the plot.  The overarching mystery/conspiracy plot of the book comes together extremely well, and I loved the outstanding investigation angle that follows as Eisenhorn desperately tries to find the evidence that not only ends the threat but exonerates him.  This hunt for answers is actually set over a substantial period of time, mainly due to the delays associated with space travel, but this only increases the power of the plot as you witness Eisenhorn lose years of his life being hunted.  Everything leads up to a massive confrontation with plenty of bloody battles and dangerous decisions that leave several fantastic characters dead or damaged.  The ultimate conclusion is pretty impressive, especially as Abnett really starts to showcase his protagonist’s inevitable fall from grace here, and he leaves the book on a particularly dark note that was so damn awesome.

Just like with Xenos, Abnett has a fantastic writing style that really helps to enhance Malleus’s narrative and make the book very addictive and exciting.  Perfectly utilising an excellent chronicle style that allows you to see inside Eisenhorn’s head, you are swiftly drawn into the complex plot.  Abnett keeps up a swift and intense pace the entire way through, and you barely have a moment to stop and breathe before the next intriguing event takes over.  The blend of intrigue, Inquisition politics, sector-spanning conspiracies, complex character development, unique Warhammer concerns, and impressive action is a heady mix and you get really get caught up in the hunt for the antagonists and Eisenhorn’s fight to prove his innocence.  I loved how intense and deadly some of the crazy battle scenes got and Abnett has great skill at showcasing his characters in mortal danger.  His attention to detail also results in some breathtaking sequences, and I was really impressed by that epic parade sequence, especially its ultra-chaotic ending.  Abnett also takes the time in Malleus to set up some future storylines and alternate books, with some fun hints at novellas/short stories you should check out, while also quickly introducing his next major protagonist, Ravenor.  All these brilliant writing elements, and more, really help to drag you into this elaborate narrative, and I deeply enjoyed the more intrigue-focused stories that are the hallmark of the Eisenhorn books.  A worthy and powerful sequel to Xenos that really showcases the awesome characters and continues the outstanding and elaborate storylines.

I really loved the elaborate Warhammer 40,000 elements that Abnett featured within Malleus as the author dives right into the heart of the Inquisition and their battles.  Just like with Xenos, you get a great understanding of the various internal threats that the Imperium faces in this universe, as Eisenhorn attempts to combat various conspiracies and threats.  However, there is also a much deeper look at the inner workings of the often hidden Inquisition Ordos, especially as Eisenhorn is forced to work against the factions associated with them, including the Ordo Malleus, who think he has been compromised.  The ensuing hunt for answers leads the protagonist, and by extension the reader, on a mighty chase around various unique planets in the Imperium, including Cadia before the fall, and Abnett has a lot of fun exploring the intriguing elements associated with these locations, as well as the general lore surrounding inquisitors, daemons and more.  I did find it interesting that one of the major McGuffins of the book, the mysterious pylons of Cadia, ended up seeming a little more important in hindsight after the 13th Black Crusade, and you have to wonder if the antagonist’s villainous plan didn’t actually have some merit.  I felt that this was a particularly awesome Warhammer 40,000 book and I deeply appreciated how the universe’s unique elements and lore were able to seamlessly support the elaborate tale that Abnett wrote here.  Due to Abnett’s detailed and compelling writing style, new Warhammer readers could easily start their exploration of the franchise with Malleus and get a rather good idea of the universe.  However, I would really recommend starting with Xenos, as you get a much better introduction to key details and characters there.  An overall exceptional read that makes full use of the massive, extended setting.

A highlight of any Abnett book is always the outstanding and highly complex characters, and Malleus has those in spades.  The focus is once again on series protagonist and narrator, Gregor Eisenhorn, who grows as a character with each passing adventure.  I really liked how Abnett portrayed Eisenhorn in Malleus and his compelling mission for justice and redemption is pretty intense.  The Eisenhorn here is a different creature to that in Xenos, especially as, after 100 additional years in the Inquisition, he is a lot more experienced and skilled in his work.  Now commanding a small army of followers, Eisenhorn has different methods and resources than before, but the same determination, loyalty and kindness (at least compared to other inquisitors) is still there.  However, Malleus sees Eisenhorn go through some major battles, both mentally and physically, as he is forced to confront an enemy within his own order while defending his own methods and character.  Watching him declared a heretic by his fellow inquisitors is pretty brutal, and Abnett throws in a heartbreaking prison scene to keep the readers intrigued.  These events, coupled with some personal losses, and the continued presence of beings far more powerful than him, force Eisenhorn to make deals and cross lines he really shouldn’t.  I love how each of the Eisenhorn books show the protagonist’s slow fall towards radicalism, and Malleus is an interesting starting point for that, as you understand why Eisenhorn is forced to go down this route.  While he ends the book with most of his humanity and integrity intact, that brilliant final scene shows that he is getting awfully comfortable with his feet over a line he previously feared, and I cannot wait to see how far he falls in the next Eisenhorn novel.

On top of Eisenhorn, Abnett features a pretty awesome collection of supporting characters who assist the inquisitor in his investigation and they each add their own distinctive personality to the narrative.  There is a good continuation of character arcs from the first book as several of his followers from Xenos make a return here, including the entertaining Savant Aemos, former Arbites investigator Fischig and his dedicated psychic blank Bequin.  Each of them is a little older, wiser and more familiar with the hardships of being an inquisitor’s acolyte, and I liked the stronger relationships that developed amongst them, particularly Bequin, who really comes into her own in this book as a veteran.  There are several interesting new characters added as well, such as the bounty hunter Nayl or brash pilot Medea Betancore (replacing her father Midas), and I felt that their distinctive personalities added a fun and entertaining edge to the narrative.  I was surprised that new character Gideon Ravenor, who goes on to get his own spinoff series, only had a relatively small appearance in this book, as I figured he would be a pretty major character to get his own story.  Still, he gets a good introduction here and it will be interesting to see how his arc plays out in the future.

Malleus also features several intriguing antagonists, each of whom test Eisenhorn and his colleagues in different ways.  While there are the usual array of cultists, aliens and other creatures, most of the antagonists in this novel prove to be other inquisitors, who are either working on their own radical plots or who believe that Eisenhorn is the true heretic who needs to be stopped.  This adds a very interesting dynamic to the story and it was fascinating to see the varied philosophies and plots amongst the rival orders and factions.  I did find it interesting that the main villain of the story, a mysterious inquisitor acting from the shadows, only had a very minor appearance in the book, and while you feel his presence, a bigger appearance from him might have been in order.  However, this character is more than made up for by his principal minion, the daemonhost Cherubael, who returns after his fantastic appearance in Xenos.  Cherubael is a brilliantly sinister character who steals every single scene they are in thanks to their menacing monologues and intriguing insights.  The outstanding obsession he forms with Eisenhorn is a great deal of fun and I loved seeing this evil figure toy with the inquisitor and force him to go to great lengths to defeat him.  Abnett really knows how to write an outstanding character, even in a limited amount of time, and it will be fascinating to see what happens to these characters in the next Eisenhorn book.

I of course chose to listen to Malleus on audiobook, as it is my preferred way of enjoying great Warhammer books, and I was not disappointed with how it turned out.  This fantastic format once again deeply enhanced the quality of the story and you can practically see the awesome battle scenes and other breath-taking elements of the wider Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Narrator Toby Longworth, who is the go-to narrator for all of Abnett’s Warhammer audiobooks, does another outstanding job with Malleus, and I loved how he was able to keep the pace of the production going.  He also has an outstanding voice that really conveys the dark and dangerous nature of the universe, while also perfectly bringing the characters to life.  I deeply appreciated how Longworth made sure to utilise the same character tones that he previously featured in Xenos here, and it gave the Malleus audiobook a great sense of continuation.  All the new characters are also given excellent voices, and I loved how awesome he made them sound, especially the more supernatural or alien beings that the protagonist comes across.  I was frankly hooked on this audiobook from the very start, and it is an exceptional way to enjoy this epic narrative.  With a run time of just over 10 hours, I managed to power through this audiobook very quickly, and this is definitely the best format for the Eisenhorn series.

Dan Abnett continues to showcase why he is one of the absolute best Warhammer authors out there with the second book in his superb and beloved Eisenhorn trilogy, Malleus.  Featuring a powerful and incredibly captivating narrative of conspiracy, heretics and desperation, Malleus takes Abnett’s compelling protagonist on an even darker journey of despair, compromise and hard choices.  Brutal, intense and impossible to put down, Malleus is easily one of the best Warhammer books I have ever read, and I cannot get over how exceptional it was.  A very highly recommended book, I plan to check out the third and final Eisenhorn book soon as I can to see how this epic series ends.

Amazon     Book Depository

Waiting on Wednesday – The Will of the Many by James Islington

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, I look at an awesome upcoming fantasy novel with a dark magical school setting, The Will of the Many by James Islington.

The Will of the Many Cover

Amazon     Book Depository

One of the things that I love about fantasy fiction is that there are so many awesome potential settings that can be used as a backdrop for an epic tale.  Fantasy can incorporate anything from modern urban settings to outrageous alien communities, and everything in between, and you can get some amazing reads out of that.  However, if I had to choose one of my absolute favourite settings for a fantasy, it would have to be a magical school.  Maybe its because the Harry Potter books were such a big part of my childhood, or maybe because there have been some outstanding recent novels set in fantasy academies (check out a Top Ten Tuesday list I did on the subject), but I have always loved these novels in a big way.  As such, when I see that a talented fantasy author is releasing a cool new book with a magical school setting later this year, it really gets my attention.

This upcoming book is The Will of the Many by new-to-me author James Islington, which is currently set for release in May 2023.  Set to combine mystery, intrigue, politics and the future of a nation with a dark magic school, The Will of the Many sounds particularly epic, and I am actually really excited to check it out.  The plot synopsis below has some very intriguing details to it, and the entire magical system, which is based on people ceding their Will into someone else to give them power, is very unique and opens up a raft of possibilities.  I look forward to seeing how Islington will bring everything together and I have feeling that The Will of the Many is going to end up being one of the most interesting and compelling fantasy novels of 2023.

Plot Synopsis:

At the elite Catenan Academy, where students are prepared as the future leaders of the Hierarchy empire, the curriculum reveals a layered set of mysteries which turn murderous in this new fantasy by bestselling author of The Licanius Trilogy, James Islington.

Vis, the adopted son of Magnus Quintus Ulcisor, a prominent senator within the Hierarchy, is trained to enter the famed Catenan Academy to help Ulciscor learn what the hidden agenda is of the remote island academy. Secretly, he also wants Vis to discover what happed to his brother who died at the academy. He’s sure the current Principalis of the academy, Quintus Veridius Julii, a political rival, knows much more than he’s revealing.

The Academy’s vigorous syllabus is a challenge Vis is ably suited to meet, but it is the training in the use of Will, a practice that Vis finds abhorrent, that he must learn in order to excel at the Academy. Will—a concept that encompasses their energy, drive, focus, initiative, ambition, and vitality—can be voluntarily “ceded” to someone else. A single recipient can accept ceded Will from multiple people, growing in power towards superhuman levels. Within the hierarchy your level of Will, or legal rank, determines how you live or die. And there are those who are determined to destroy this hierarchal system, as well as those in the Academy who use it to gain dominance in internationally bestselling author James Islington’s wonderfully crafted new epic fantasy series.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Australian Books of 2022

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 were supposed to list their top new-to-me authors that they read in 2022, however, I am going to do something differently here at The Unseen Library.  I already completed and published this list last week as I knew in advance that I would be doing an alternate list today.  The reason for this, and the reason I delayed putting this list up by a day, is because tomorrow, 26 January, is Australia Day, so I thought I would take this opportunity to once again highlight some of the top pieces of fiction written by Australian authors that I read in 2022.

Each year, a ton of talented Australian authors produce an impressive and exciting range of fiction from across the various genres, many of which I am lucky enough to get copies of from the local publishers.  I tend to read and review a lot of novels by Australian authors, most of which turn out to be some outstanding reads that I deeply enjoy.  As such, for the last few years on Australia Day I have taken to highlighting my favourite pieces of Australian fiction for the last few years (check out my 2019, 2020 and 2021 lists).  I really love how much awesome Australian fiction there is now, and this list is the perfect way to highlight some of the best recent Australian authors.

Now I tend to take a bit of a different approach to Australian fiction than some other bloggers, as I focus on books written by Australian authors rather than novels purely set in Australia or featuring Australian casts.  To qualify for this list, a novel had to be released in 2022 and written by an Australian author, which I am defining as anyone born in Australia or who currently lives here (Australia is very good at adopting talented people as our own).  This resulted in a long list, including several novels that I considered to be some of the best reads of last year.  I was eventually able to whittle this novel down to the absolute cream of the crop and came up with a fantastic top ten list (with my typical generous honourable mentions).  I really enjoyed how this list turned out, especially as it features novels from a range of different genres, all of which were very awesome Australian books.

Honourable Mentions:

Retribution by Sarah Barrie

Retribution Cover

Following on from her brilliant 2021 thriller, Unforgiven, Sarah Barrie continued to impress with her dark and compelling new release, Retribution, which follows an unconventional rookie cop as she takes on the worst of Sydney’s underworld.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan

The Justice of Kings Cover

One of the hottest fantasy debuts of 2022, The Justice of Kings, was written by English expat turned Australian author Richard Swan.  An excellent blend of fantasy fiction, political intrigue and crime fiction, The Justice of Kings lives up to its hype and comes highly recommended.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

36 Streets by T. R. Napper

36 Streets Cover

A gripping and truly unique cyberpunk thriller set in futuristic Hanoi, 36 Streets is a great read from an awesome Australian talent.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Crimson Thread by Kate Forsyth

The Crimson Thread Cover

Kate Forsyth continued her dominance of the historical drama world with an amazing novel set on Crete during World War II.  Providing a compelling examination of the Nazi occupation of Crete while following two Australian soldiers who both fall for the same woman, The Crimson Thread was an outstanding and powerful read that is really worth checking out.

Amazon     Book Depository

Top Ten List:

Headcase by Jack Heath

Headcase Cover

Let’s start this list off with one of the best crime fiction books of 2022, the grizzly and deeply entertaining novel Headcase by the always impressive Jack Heath.  Heath is swiftly becoming one of my absolute favourite authors, and his amazing books, Hideout and Kill Your Brother have appeared on my 2020 and 2021 top Australian book lists respectfully.  His latest novel, Headcase, might be one of his best and while I still need to write a review for it, it is an exceptional read.  Following Heath’s cannibalistic protagonist as he investigates the mysterious death of an apparent Chinese astronaut in the NASA facility in Houston, Headcase is a brilliant and shocking read that is an absolute blast from start to finish.  I had so much wicked fun with this book, and it is a very worthy addition to this list.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Call of Empire by Peter Watt

Call of Empire Cover

The latest book from one of my favourite historical fiction authors, Peter Watt, is another easy inclusion on this list as he continues his outstanding Colonial series with Call of Empire.  The fifth book in the Colonial series (which has previously featured The Queen’s Colonial, The Queen’s Tiger, The Queen’s Captain and The Colonial’s Son), Call of Empire continues to follow an intriguing Australian family whose members are drafted into several major wars towards the end of the 19th century.  Providing an intriguing view at Australia’s earliest military actions, Call of Empire was another awesome action-adventure novel from Watt that is a ton of fun to read.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Stay Awake Cover 2

Talented Australian thriller writer Megan Goldin continued to impress in 2022 with another complex and powerful read, Stay Awake.  Building on the success of such books as The Escape Room and The Night Swim, Stay Awake featured a unique story of a woman who awakens in New York covered in blood and with no memory of the last two years.  Hunted by a killer and unsure of what has happened to her life, the protagonist must uncover who is behind the murders before she falls asleep and loses her memories once again.  Clever, powerful and deeply intense, Stay Awake was another exceptional read from Goldin and I cannot wait to read her next book later this year.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold

One Foot in the Fade Cover

Actor turned fantasy author Luke Arnold returned in 2022 with a particularly awesome urban fantasy novel, One Foot in the Fade.  The third book in his Fetch Phillips series, One Foot in the Fade perfectly continues the story started in Arnold’s previous books The Last Smile in Sunder City and Dead Man in a Ditch.  Set in a dark fantasy world where all the magic has been destroyed, One Foot in the Fade continues to follow Arnold’s damaged and obsessed protagonist, Fetch Phillips, as he tries to bring back the magic and save the former magical creatures he doomed.  Taking the character on a deadly adventure where he battles monsters, greedy humans and his own dark determination, One Foot in the Fade was one of Arnold’s best books yet and I cannot wait to see how he continues to grow as an author.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis

The Unbelieved Cover

Next up we have The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis, which was a very easy choice to include on this list.  An extremely powerful and captivating read, The Unbelieved follows a tired detective who investigates a series of sexual assaults in a quiet Victorian town, only to come up against sexism, corruption, and a long-established code of silence.  Petraitis did something really special with The Unbelieved and I was instantly hooked by its complex story and intense examinations of how sexual crimes are perceived by rural Australians.  Not only was this one of the best debuts of 2022, but it also appeared on my top books of 2022 list as well.  A highly recommended read from an exceptional new talent.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer

The German Wife Cover

Another book by an Australian author that appeared on my top books of 2022 list was The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer.  Rimmer, who deeply impressed me in 2021 with her outstanding novel, The Warsaw Orphan, once again dove into the darkness of Nazi Germany with The German Wife.  Following the struggles of a German family transported to America as part of Operation Paperclip, The German Wife explores their complex life, from the prejudice they suffer in America for being former Nazis, to the terrible truth about how their country betrayed them and forced them to become monsters.  One of the best historical dramas of 2022, The German Wife is such a great book, and I cannot wait to find out how Rimmer’s next book will break my heart in 2023.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Wake by Shelley Burr

Wake Cover

While there were quite a few good Australian crime debuts in 2022, one of my favourites was the awesome and captivating Wake by Shelley Burr.  Set in a dying rural town, Wake sees a private investigator and a damaged survivor attempt to solve an infamous mystery of a missing girl who disappeared from her bedroom years ago without anyone noticing.  However, nothing is as it seems, and the characters are dragged through an emotional roller coaster as they attempt to discover the truth.  An insanely great debut, Wake was an epic read with a very clever mystery to it.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Only a Monster Cover

Another hot debut of 2022 from an awesome new Australian author was the powerful and complex young adult fantasy book, Only a Monster by Vanessa Len.  Following a teen protagonist who discovers she is really a monster who can travel through time, Only a Monster is a powerful and surprisingly dark read which I could not get enough of. 

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Daughters of Eve by Nina D. Campbell

Daughters of Eve Cover

Few Australian crime fiction reads of 2022 contained as many shocks and intriguing examinations of gender as Daughters of Eve by debuting author Nina D. Campbell.  A series of murders in Sydney quickly turns into a nation-wide crisis once it becomes known that violently abusive men are being killed off by a women’s movement known as the Daughters of Eve.  Sharp, fast-paced, and featuring a cynical, if accurate, examination of how men would react in this situation, Daughters of Eve was an outstanding book from an amazing new talent.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone Cover

The final Australian book on this list is the very fun and utterly hilarious murder mystery book, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson.  Set at a very hostile family reunion in an isolated Australian ski resort, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is clever and addictive homage to classic whodunnits, only this time every suspect is already a killer in some way.  Stevenson really taps into his comedy background to produce an amazingly entertaining novel that perfectly combines mystery, humour, and awesome references to the golden age of crime fiction.  A masterful novel that perfectly showcases Stevenson’s talents as a rising Australian author.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

 

Well, that is the end of this latest list and I am really happy that I got a chance to highlight some of the cool Australian releases of 2022.  The above books represent an outstanding collection of fiction from talented Australian authors, and each of them comes highly recommended by me.  I had a lot of fun coming up with this list and I cannot wait to find out what the best Australian books of 2023 are going to be.  Until then, stay tuned for more epic reviews and lists, and make sure you let me know who your favourite Australian authors are in the comments below.

Quick Review – Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone Cover

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Trade Paperback – 29 March 2022)

Series: Ernest Cunningham – Book One

Length: 384 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

One of Australia’s fastest rising crime fiction stars, comedian turned mystery writer Benjamin Stevenson, returns with an outstanding standalone book that might be one of the best Australian crime fiction reads of 2022, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone.

One of my favourite Australian crime fiction authors now is the exceedingly talented Benjamin Stevenson, who has written some amazing works over the last couple of years.  Stevenson’s writing career began in 2018 when he released the amazing murder mystery Greenlight (which was subsequently released as Trust Me When I Lie and She Lies in the Vines outside of Australia).  A fantastic Australian crime fiction book with true crime elements to it, Greenlight followed a successful television producer who reinvestigates a murderer who was freed thanks to his show.  Stevenson followed Greenlight up in 2020 with the epic sequel, Either Side of Midnight, which saw the same protagonist investigate an impossible murder in what was one of my favourite Australian books of 2020.  Both these readers were pretty damn impressive, but Stevenson has saved his best work for the 2022 release, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone, which luckily has an outstanding story that matches the very cool title.

Plot Synopsis:

Everyone in my family has killed someone. Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once. I’m not trying to be dramatic, but it is the truth. Some of us are good, others are bad, and some just unfortunate.

I’m Ernest Cunningham. Call me Ern or Ernie. I wish I’d killed whoever decided our family reunion should be at a ski resort, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Have I killed someone? Yes. I have.

Who was it?

Let’s get started.

EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY HAS KILLED SOMEONE

My brother

My stepsister

My wife

My father

My mother

My sister-in-law

My uncle

My stepfather

My aunt

Me

As the title and the intriguing plot synopsis above suggests, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is an awesome read that sees Stevenson serve up an addictive narrative that is one part insane family drama and one part homage to classic detective novels.  I had an incredible time reading this book early on in 2022 and I honestly should have written a review for it well before now.

The plot of Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is pretty bonkers as it follows a very damaged protagonist, teacher and crime fiction mega-fan Ernest Cunningham, as he attends one of the most awkward family reunions in history.  Written from Ernest’s perspective as part of an in-universe book, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone sees Ernest reunite with the fellow members of the infamous Cunningham family at an isolated ski resort.  The black sheep of a dark family with criminal connections, Ernest has been invited to attend a special event: the release of his brother Michael from jail after Ernest testified against him.  However, once his brother arrives, a series of murders start to strike the resort, killing off several people.  With the ski resort cut off from the outside by the snow, it falls to Ernest to discover who is killing the remaining guests at the lodge.  However, everyone in his family is a suspect, as all of them have killed someone before, including Ernest, who has just as much motive as the rest.  As the book continues, it becomes very clear that someone in the Cunningham family has killed again, it’s just a matter of finding out which one did it.

I have to admit that I was pretty in love with this book from the opening pages, especially as it becomes clear early on that Stevenson planned to blend the book’s mystery with some great humour and brilliant homages to classic murder mysteries.  Stevenson lays out this story in a fun way that simultaneously focuses on the infamous main family, their complex past and relationships, while also presenting a compelling murder investigation that intentionally steals a lot of cues from classic whodunnits.  Stevenson introduces an outrageous cast of complex characters for the story, and they were very intriguing to follow, especially as they all have deeper issues brought on by the deaths they are responsible for.  The story at time transforms into a very moving and entertaining family drama, which helps to make the story richer and even more amusing.  The mystery itself is very clever, and I loved the multiple compelling twists and reveals that accompanied it as the protagonist is forced to dive back into every terrible event his family has been involved in, including murder, robbery, police corruption and kidnapping, all of which leads to final, devastating solution.  While the identity of the killer is a tad obvious, the reveal of why they are committing their crimes more than makes up for it, and Stevenson came up with one doozy of a motive.  However, the real highlight of the book is the way in which Stevenson sets out Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone in the manner of an in-story chronicle written by the protagonist, which simultaneously takes on every established trope and rule of old-school detective novels and moulds it into itself.

As I mentioned a few times above, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone also acts as a homage to classic crime fiction novels, as Stevenson goes out of his way to simultaneously parody and revere the iconic detective genre.  The book starts with two intriguing elements: the membership oath of the Detectives Club (a secret society of classic crime fiction writers), and Ronald Knox’s ’10 Commandments of Detective Fiction’.  Both of these inclusions acknowledge the general tropes and rules of golden-age detective fiction, and they actually end up being used by the protagonist, and by extension Stevenson, as the main guideline for the mystery.  The author continuously refers back to this list as the novel continues (he even suggests folding this page down so you can revisit it when needed), and I loved how this mystery came together as the author tried to avoid breaking any of these rules.  The author also cheekily informs the reader in advance when in the book someone is going to die with an accompanying page number, ostensibly to allow the reader to jump ahead if needed.  However, as most people will continue through at the normal pace, it heightens the suspense a little as you get closer and closer to the page on which you know a death is going to occur.  Various elements like this, as well as a ton of self-referential internal monologues and discussions about the rules of whodunnits, gives this book an incredible meta feel, which Stevenson uses to full effect to tell a particularly hilarious story.  The author’s background as a comedian is on full display here as he creates an incredibly funny book, even with the continued murders and human tragedy.  These clever references are a great love letter to the classic detective novels, especially as he addresses them in such a satirical way, and all mystery lovers will get a real kick out this book as a result.

Overall, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is an absolutely outstanding book that I cannot recommend enough.  While I have enjoyed Benjamin Stevenson’s mystery novels in the past, I think that Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone is where he finally reveals his full potential.  Not only is the mystery itself brilliant, loaded as it is with compelling characters and a dark family history, but Stevenson finally showcases his impressive comedy skills and uses them to produce a truly delightful and incredibly addictive novel.  The combination of mystery, humour and a clever homage to the classics, is an intoxicating mixture, and it was near impossible to put this book down once you started reading it.  As such, I must give Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone a full five-star rating, and it was one of the most entertaining books I read in all of 2022.  I have so much love for this book and I was very excited when I heard that Stevenson is releasing a sequel in October titled Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect.

Amazon     Book Depository

Quick Review – Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Only a Monster Cover

Publisher: Allen & Unwin Australia (Trade Paperback – 1 February 2022)

Series: Monsters – Book One

Length: 410 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

Only a Monster by Australian author Vanessa Len is a particularly wonderful debut highlight of last year that I have been meaning to talk about for some time.  A brilliant and awesome young adult fantasy read, Only a Monster is an impressive novel that sees a shocked girl realise that everything she thought she knew about her family was a lie and that deep down she really is a monster.  Intense, incredibly clever, and beautifully inventive, Only a Monster was pretty damn epic and proved to be one of the best debuts of 2022.

Plot Synopsis:

With the sweeping romance of Passenger and the dark fantasy edge of This Savage Song, this standout YA contemporary fantasy debut from Vanessa Len, is the first in a planned trilogy.

It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother’s eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

But she soon learns the truth. Her family aren’t just eccentric: they’re monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers. And Nick isn’t just a cute boy: he’s a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She’ll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .

. . . she is not the hero.


Only a Monster
has an awesome story that takes a teenage girl on a dark journey of self-discovery and magical adventure as she tries to figure out who she is and what lies within her.  Len starts this book quickly, with a good introduction to central protagonist and point-of-view character Joan Chang-Hunt, who is part of the unusual Hunt family.  A shuddering moment of unreality reveals that she is really half monster, someone who has the ability to steal time from humans to power their time-travelling abilities.  Though Joan initially tries to avoid this revelation and enjoy time with her crush, Nick, an encounter with the malevolent Oliver family of monsters forces her further into their hidden world, especially when it is revealed that Nick is secretly a monster slayer destined to kill every monster in existence, including Joan.  After a brutal series of events that sees most of her family and the other monsters of London killed in a single, coordinated massacre, Joan flees into the past with her surviving cousin Ruth and the youngest member of the Oliver family, Aaron, hoping to find a way to save their families.  Their quest leads them to try and recover a legendary artifact that will allow them to rewrite time.  But to do so, they will need to go up against the mysterious King of the Monsters and his dangerous plot to control reality.  Caught between monsters and monster slayers, the characters are forced into a series of deadly encounters which will force Joan to choose whether to retain her humanity or embrace her inner monster.

Len really came up with something special in Only a Monster, and I personally loved how this outstanding debut unfolded.  The author keeps a pretty fast pace throughout the entire book, and you are constantly thrown from intense moment to intense moment as the protagonist and her companions attempt to stay ahead of their enemies and find a way to bring back their families.  I felt that Len did a great job introducing her compelling world, fantastic characters and unique magical elements, and you quickly learn to appreciate the author’s inventive ideas.  This is actually a pretty dark read, especially as it starts with a massacre and focuses on a group of magical beings who can suck the life force out of normal humans to power their abilities.  I personally deeply enjoyed this darker tone, as Len balances it well with her unique creative ideas and the emotional character development to create an intense and addictive read.  The magical time travel elements of this book are very well done, and the darker ideas behind the absorption of people’s time span helped to make it a malevolent gift that the protagonist is forced to use by necessity.  Despite this, it does produce some fun time travel jokes, and I had a laugh at some of the pop culture references that were utilised in the identification of the period.  Len also lays down a series of interesting twists throughout the story which are revealed at perfect moments and which help to produce a pretty amazing story.  However, the absolute highlight of this book had to be the epic ending that Len decided to traumatise her readers with.  While I’m not going to give away anything here, let’s just say it is pretty insane, and I was deeply impressed with how Len set it up and executed it.

The final thing I really need to gush about when it comes to Only a Monster is the deeply complex and damaged characters featured within.  Only a Monster features a fun crew of central protagonists, each of whom are going through their own epic journeys.  The primary focus is on central character Joan Chang-Hunt, a sweet and nerdy character who, in the course of a day, finds out she is a half-monster with life-sucking time travel abilities, and then witnesses her entire extended family getting massacred.  This naturally causes her to experience a lot of emotions and trauma as she constantly tries to come to terms with how her life has unravelled and changed forever.  The main focus of her character arc is the examination of her inner monster as Joan tries to get to grips on whether she wants her abilities, especially as they force her to drain away people’s time.  She is also dealing with intense guilt over her role in the massacre that destroyed her family, partially thanks to her relationship with Nick, and this clashes hard with her own concerns about being a monster.  All this, and more, ensures that Joan is forced to grow up a lot throughout the course of Only a Monster, and she must keep making harder and harder decision as she gets closer to crossing lines she doesn’t want to.  Her final actions in this book bring all these deep feelings close to the surface as she is forced to make a terrible decision in a heartbreaking and powerful scene.  Len did an outstanding job when it came to Joan in this book, and I look forward to seeing how she continues to develop in future entries in this series.

Two other major characters I need to highlight are Joan’s accidental companion, Aaron Oliver, and her crush/personal nightmare, Nick.  Both characters have pretty dark introductions to the story, especially as they end up trying to kill Joan in the starting chapters, but Len develops them separately as the book continues.  Aaron ends up working with Joan as they try to stay alive and find a way to save their families, and they become an intriguing and combative duo throughout the book.  While Aaron is initially arrogant and antagonistic, you soon see that this is a façade, as Aaron is also incredibly damaged due to the actions of his cruel family.  Len does a wonderful job of slowly uncovering this deeper side of Aaron throughout the course of Only a Monster, and the eventual bond he forms with Joan is a touching and moving part of the book, even if it isn’t destined to last.  Nick, on the other hand, is an outstanding villain for this story, especially when it is revealed that he is an unflinching and implacable monster hunter.  Despite the connection he had formed with Joan before the events of this book, mainly because he sees her as more human than monster, Nick soon starts fanatically hunting her throughout time and becomes determined to stop her at all costs.  Clever and dark reveals about Nick come to light as the book continues, painting him in a somewhat sympathetic light, but this doesn’t stop him from hunting Joan, which leads to an exceptional and shocking confrontation towards the end of Only a Monster that perfectly changes everything.  The powerful character work contained in these central characters, as well as the intense bonds they form with Joan, are such a key part of Only a Monster, and you will come away heartbroken and moved with how their storylines unfold.

Overall, I had an incredible time with Vanessa Len’s Only a Monster, and not only was it one of the best debuts of 2022 but one of the best young adult books of the year as well.  This brilliant and powerful fantasy read had an amazing story and you will be impressed and excited by the complex characters and deeply inventive fantasy elements that are worked into this compelling narrative.  Intense, dark, and full of hope, Only a Monster is an incredible read that comes highly recommended to anyone interested in seeing the start of an extremely promising career in fantasy fiction.  I am very excited to check out the sequel, Never a Hero, later this year, and if Len keeps up the amazing writing from Only a Monster, it is going to be particularly epic and exceptional.

Amazon     Book Depository

Quick Review – Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Stay Awake Cover 2

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Trade Paperback – 16 August 2022)

Series: Standalone

Length: 352 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

One of Australia’s most talented crime fiction writers, Megan Goldin, returns with another powerful and captivating read, Stay Awake, a unique and gripping novel that deals with memory, murder and a ton of traumatic suspense.

Over the last few years, crime fiction fans have been getting more and more impressed with the outstanding writings of Australian author Megan Goldin.  Goldin has so far written several epic and clever thrillers, and I have had a lot of fun reading two of her most recent books, The Escape Room (one of the best Australian books of 2018) and The Night Swim (one of the best Australian books of 2020).  Both of these books had outstanding plots, whether it was The Escape Room’s twisty tale of revenge or The Night Swim’s deep and emotionally charged story of justice for women, and I cannot recommend them enough.  After having such an epic time with her previous novels, I was very excited when I received a copy of Goldin’s latest book, Stay Awake, last year.  Featuring an outstanding story with an awesome hook to it, Stay Awake was an epic read that lived up to all my expectations.

Plot Synopsis:

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.

In the vein of SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Christopher Nolan’s cult classic Memento, Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake is an electrifying novel that plays with memory and murder.

This was a fantastic and captivating read by Goldin that really highlights her amazing ability as an author.  Stay Awake is a fast-paced and exceedingly addictive novel that grabs your attention early on and refuses to let go thanks to its very clever story.  Starting off with the main character, Liv Reese, finding herself covered in blood and with everything she thought she knew gone or altered around her, Goldin sets up an incredible introduction that sets up an amazing follow up story.

The book gets even more interesting once the author introduces Liv’s peculiar situation: thanks to a past trauma, her mind resets itself each time she goes to sleep and she cannot remember anything from the past two years.  This results in a brilliant story, which features three separate intriguing perspectives of events.  Not only do you get the exciting main story of a confused Liv running through New York City, attempting to get to grips with her lost life, but you also see events from two years in the past which led up to the trauma that claimed her memory.  At the same time, the book also follows Detective Darcy Halliday, who is assigned to investigate a dead body connected to Liv, and soon becomes obsessed with finding the amnesiac protagonist.  These three major plot lines are expertly weaved together as the book continues and you soon find yourself drawn into the exciting mystery of who Liv is and whether she committed the murder that Darcy is investigating.  Goldin also amps up the story by having Liv being chased by a mysterious figure who is intent on finding and killing her to protect their secret.

However, the real highlight of Stay Awake’s story has to be the continued memory lapses experienced by the protagonist throughout the course of her chapters in the present.  Due to her condition, Liv actually loses her memory several times throughout the course of her storyline, causing her mind to completely reset to two years in the past.  This is a very fascinating character element, and I felt the author used it extremely well.  It is very compelling and a little scary to watch Liv make the same mistakes and visit the same people repeatedly, especially as she has no knowledge of the last two years, such as certain deaths or relationships.  Watching her come to grips with her chaotic life, only to lose it again in the next chapter, is simultaneously heartbreaking and fascinating, and you honestly cannot tear yourself away from this gripping book.  Thanks to the killer using Liv’s condition against her, the story further devolves into a dark and unique game of cat and mouse, with Liv forced to find answers about her life while avoiding a danger that she unaware exists.  Everything comes together extremely well as the book concludes, and I loved the clever solution to the main mystery of Liv and the various murders, especially as the hints to it are subtly laid down in the three alternate plot lines, even if the protagonists doesn’t remember them.  A truly awesome crime fiction narrative that is expertly written by its talented author, who has produced another very unique crime story.

Overall, I was once again deeply impressed with Goldin, and I felt that Stay Awake was a particularly great novel from her.  Goldin really pulls together a distinctive crime fiction story in this standalone thriller, and I was really glad that the amnesia angle of her plot paid out so effectively.  Stay Awake really helps to cement Goldin as one of Australia’s, and the world’s, most inventive new authors, and I cannot wait to read her next book, Dark Corners, which is set for release later this year.

Stay Awake Cover

Amazon     Book Depository