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

Warhammer 40,000 - Hereticus Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 30 July 2022)

Series: Eisenhorn – Book Three

Length: 9 hours and 48 minutes

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 latest Throwback Thursday, I finish off the outstanding and iconic Eisenhorn trilogy by legendary Warhammer author, Dan Abnett, by reviewing the exceptional novel, Hereticus.

I have mentioned several times in the last few weeks that one of my absolute favourite authors of Warhammer fiction lately is the amazingly talented Dan Abnett, whose works have shaped a generation of lore and extended fiction.  I have really enjoyed several of the books in his excellent Gaunt’s Ghosts novels, such as First and Only, Ghostmaker and The Vincula Insurgency, which provide some captivating depictions of the common soldier in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  However, based on what I have read so far, Abnett’s best series is the epic Eisenhorn trilogy, which follows titular character Inquisitor Eisenhorn as he attempts to protect humanity from a range of diabolical threats.  The first book, Xenos, served as an excellent introduction to Eisenhorn and his major supporting characters, while Malleus showed an older Eisenhorn as he attempts to unravel a massive conspiracy painting him as the villain.  I absolutely loved these outstanding novels and they both got a full five-star rating from me, and I immediately dove into the third and final book, Hereticus, as I really wanted to find how everything ended.

For over 150 years, Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn has loyally served the Imperium of Men, disrupting and ending multiple conspiracies and plots by heretics, daemons, and malicious xenos.  Throughout all this time, Eisenhorn has always tried to avoid the lure of the radical path that many of his fellow inquisitors tread, determined not to be corrupted by the forces he has sworn to destroy.  But desperation can drive even the best man towards the brink and Eisenhorn’s previous deal with a dark figure is coming back to haunt him.

Overseeing a Inquisitorial examination of the planet of Durer, Eisenhorn receives news that an old foe, one who cost him the life of a dear friend, is active on world.  Assembling his forces, Eisenhorn is unprepared for the full horror that awaits him, as his enemy unleashes an ancient evil capable of destroying worlds.  Facing tragedy and near death, Eisenhorn is forced to do the unthinkable and use foul rites to summon forth a greater evil in the form of the daemonhost Cherubael to survive.

Shocked and disgusted by his actions, Eisenhorn attempts to recover and atone for his mistakes.  However, before he can begin, his manor house is raided by a dangerous army of mercenaries and all his forces throughout the sector are brutally destroyed in an instant.  On the run with only a few loyal followers left, Eisenhorn needs to discover the identity of whoever is orchestrating his downfall before it is too late.  But to defeat his enemy, Eisenhorn is forced to dive deeper into heresy and call upon dark forces that are best left untouched.  Can Eisenhorn retain his sanity and soul, or is the price of his victory his own utter damnation?

Wow, just wow.  After how epic Xenos and Malleus proved to be, I knew that there was no way that I wasn’t going to love Hereticus.  However, I was unprepared for just how brutal and intense Abnett made this final book in the Eisenhorn trilogy, as Hereticus ended up being an exceptional read that perfectly ends his great series on a very high note.  Loaded with action, intrigue, and some amazingly complex characters, Hereticus gets another five-star rating from me, and this is honestly one of the best trilogies I have ever read.

Part of the reason why I enjoyed Hereticus so much is because it has an exceptionally epic story to it that really drags you in from the offset.  Set 50 years after the events of Malleus (150 years since the start of the series), Hereticus starts off big and never really slows down.  The book has a calamitous introduction that sees Eisenhorn and his comrades forced to confront a Chaos Titan which decimates them and forces Eisenhorn to call upon his captured daemonhost Cherubael.  This fantastic introduction not only perfectly continues the story from Malleus but also shows Eisenhorn’s progression towards radicalism as he uses his new knowledge in some pretty dark ways.  Following this introduction, which splits his main team up, the story continues strongly, as there is a major and extended battle sequence in the heart of Eisenhorn’s sanctum, which sees him forced out on the run.  Becoming a fugitive from new enemies, old foes, and the Inquisition itself, the rest of the novel is a very captivating and intense character-driven read that shows a desperate Eisenhorn continue to make radical decision after radical decision, all in the name of defeating his enemies, no matter the cost.  There are some extremely moving and powerful scenes scattered through the second half of the book, as Eisenhorn comes to terms with many of his long-running comrades, many of whom do not agree with his methods, as well as some deadly confrontations.  Everything leads up to a trippy and action-packed finale, as Eisenhorn finally faces down an old enemy.  While the ultimate confrontation is short and the main antagonist only has a brief appearance in the book, the real joy of the story is the hunt to find out who they are and what they are after, with a focus on investigation, intrigue, and ethics.  The conclusion leaves everyone extremely satisfied, and Abnett leaves the series open for follow-up, even if a ton of character-centric storylines are permanently closed by a series of deaths and destruction.

The author once again does an amazing job presenting the complex story contained within Hereticus and I have a lot of love for the writing style that Abnett utilised in this series.  Blending tense galaxy-spanning intrigue with the hunt for dark forces, massive mysteries, complex revenge plots, and a focus on the corruption of the spirit, there is a ton of fun for a lot of readers in this book, and I loved the elaborate conspiracy that was the fantastic focus of the plot.  I especially enjoyed the overall theme of Hereticus that saw Abnett try and bring a lot of storylines and character arcs full circle back to the original novel in the trilogy, Xenos.  The history of all the characters in the book, as well as multiple prior events, are essential parts of Hereticus’s plot, and I loved how the author was able to tie together a ton of compelling overlying storylines that really highlights the importance of the first two novels.  The primary storytelling method, a chronicle style from Eisenhorn’s perspective, adds a lot of power and flair to the overall book, especially as it enhances the character-driven aspect of the story and gives you some intriguing insights into the conflicted protagonist’s mind.  There are a ton of great scenes showcased as result of this first-person perspective, from multiple massive battles, to intimate conversations and even a very well-written psychic interrogation sequence.  Abnett has a great eye for detail and some of the resulting action sequences and unique locations are painted in such a way that the reader fully grasped every action or cool element of the setting.  This, and so much more, really helps Hereticus’ exceptional story shine through and I had so much fun seeing how this entire novel unfolded.

Like most of Abnett’s books, Hereticus can be read as a standalone novel, especially as the author does an exceptional job of recapping key events, characters, and relationships from the previous Eisenhorn entries.  However, to get the full emotional impact of epic narrative, I would strongly recommend checking out Xenos and Malleus first, as you really understand how the character has changed over the course of the series, as well as how well the storylines have continued.  I also felt that Hereticus proved to be a particularly good entry into the wider Warhammer 40,000 canon as Abnett continues to explore some of the most intriguing parts of this grim universe, including the dark cults that are constantly a threat to the Imperium’s stability and the Inquisitors who hunt them.  The fantastic dive into the different types of Inquisitors and their different ways of fighting the enemy is pretty cool and I loved seeing the various rivalries and discussions that eventuated, especially as Eisenhorn has an opinion on everything.  This book also takes the reader to a variety of unique locations within the Warhammer universe, with several unique planets becoming key settings for the plot.  I loved seeing the variety of worlds out there in this massive universe, and Abnett has fun tying the events of this book into some of the wider canon aspects of the franchise.  I would say that overall the Eisenhorn trilogy really is one of the best series to start reading Warhammer 40,000 fiction with, especially as you get a completely different and more elaborate story than the classic military fiction plots that make up the majority of the genre.

As always, I can’t go away from an Eisenhorn book without talking about the exceptional character work that Abnett brings to the table.  This is especially true in Hereticus, as Abnett brings so many compelling character arcs to a tragic and moving end, while also ensuring that his impressive protagonist is changed forever.

As you would expect, the focus of Hereticus is on protagonist Gregor Eisenhorn, who serves as the book’s primary narrator.  I mentioned during my previous reviews of these books that I have loved the complex and powerful story that Abnett has woven around Eisenhorn.  Starting off as a relatively innocent and uncontroversial Inquisitor who was just trying to do what is right, Eisenhorn has slowly slipped down the path of the radical by employing the methods and powers of his heretical foes.  Abnett has showcased this gradual fall perfectly in the first two books, and while he made some questionable decisions out of desperation in Malleus, you still believed that he could be redeemed.  Hereticus really has you doubt this as he begins to employ darker methods during this book, which not only cost him but impact the people around him.  However, this is not entirely his fault, as forces outside of his control drive him to do so.  Pretty much every mistake that Eisenhorn has made in his past seems to come back to bite him in Hereticus, and these events, and more, force him to make hard decisions to survive and defeat foes who are even worse than him.  While he does bad things, you can fully understand and appreciate why he feels he needs to do so, even if you don’t agree with them.  Despite these bad things, Eisenhorn remains a sympathetic character for most of the book, and his own realisation that what he is doing is wrong just makes the entire story that much sadder.  However, there is a layer of arrogance over this that makes you slightly concerned about Eisenhorn’s actions, and you’re never quite sure just how far he has truly fallen.  Abnett covers Eisenhorn’s overall character arc pretty damn perfectly, and while the author throws the protagonist’s decline into overdrive in this book, it felt pretty natural and showcases just how destructive desperation is as his good intentions lead him to hell.

On top of Eisenhorn, Hereticus features a bevy of compelling supporting characters who add their own complex spin to the story.  Many of the supporting characters from the first two books are once again featured in this third Eisenhorn novel, and I really appreciated how Abnett sought to bring many of their arcs and storylines full circle here.  Unfortunately for fans of the series, wrapping up their storylines results in most of the supporting character’s deaths or severe injury, and quite a substantial number of supporting figures from the first two books have their final appearance here.  While I won’t go into too much detail, several of these deaths are pretty damn tragic, especially after they follow on from some noble self-sacrifices or major character moments.  I was honestly shocked at how brutal Abnett was when it came to killing off his supporting characters, but all of these instances really worked in the context of the story and ensured that Hereticus ended up being particularly memorable.  Before these major deaths, though, the author dives into the powerful relationships that each of these supporting characters has with Eisenhorn, and there are some deeply emotional moments scattered through, especially as each of them have their own opinion about Eisenhorn’s recent actions and whether he has gone too far.  Watching his oldest friends become disgusted or outraged by his actions really hammers home how far Eisenhorn has fallen, especially as he drags several characters down with him.  Throw in some outstanding central antagonists, all of whom have a complex history with Eisenhorn, and some intriguing cameos from the previous novels, and this was an exceptionally character rich novel designed to hit you in the feels.

As with all of Abnett’s books to date, I grabbed the audiobook version of Hereticus, which was once again an exceptional way to enjoy this amazing novel.  Coming in at just under 10 hours and featuring the impressive narration of Abnett’s go-to audiobook narrator, Toby Longworth, this format was an excellent way to enjoy this book, and I managed to power through this entire story in no time at all.  Longworth really brings the entire story to life with his excellent narration, and he makes sure to infuse all the characters with a ton of personality, while also tailoring their voices to match their history and physical (or metaphysical) attributes.  I also thought that several of the best scenes of this book, including some desperate battles, a cool interrogation scene, and some particularly poignant character interactions, were made even more epic in this format, as the exceptional acting from Longworth showcased them in a way they truly deserved.  I was utterly enthralled the entire way through Hereticus’s audiobook and this was easily the best way to experience Abnett’s compelling tale.

Overall, I felt that Hereticus was a pretty amazing book and a suitably epic finale to Dan Abnett’s original Eisenhorn trilogy.  Bringing together a powerful story with some unique Warhammer 40,000 elements and an exceptional dive into the mind of a fallen inquisitor, Hereticus was utterly addictive and ended up being one of the best Warhammer books I have ever read.  I was really impressed with how Abnett concluded this incredible trilogy, and I felt that Hereticus was an excellent final entry that tied together some of the complex storylines from the first two books.  I cannot recommend this entire trilogy enough; it truly is one of the cornerstones of Warhammer 40,000 fiction.  I look forward to reading more from Abnett in the future, especially as there are several spin-offs associated with this trilogy, as well as a recently released fourth Eisenhorn book in The Magos.  However, I think I will try and get through some Gaunt’s Ghosts books first, before diving back into Abnett’s Inquisitor stories, although if I ever want a powerful Warhammer thriller, I know where to look.

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Book Haul – 2 February 2023

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Book Haul post so I figured I would try quickly update everyone on all the awesome books I have recently received.  I have been having an absolutely fantastic weeks for book, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers.  These include some truly awesome new releases, including some of the top releases from 2023.  I am extremely keen to check out all of the books below and they should make for some amazing reads.

Burner by Mark Greaney

Burner Cover

The first book that I recently received is Burner, the latest Gray Man novel from the master of the spy thriller Mark Greaney.  This is one of my most anticipated books of 2023 and I cannot wait to see what crazy adventure the character ends up in.

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Downfall by Louise Carey

Downfall Cover

The next book I have received is the epic cyperpunk thriller from intriguing new author Louise Carey, Downfall, which follows on from the outstanding novels, Inscape and Outcast and wraps up the very cool Inscape series.  I am currently reading Downfall at the moment and it is proving to be an excellent and deeply enjoyable read.

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Dead of Night by Simon Scarrow

Dead of Night Cover

One of my favourite historical fiction authors Simon Scarrow returns with another fantastic historical murder mystery Dead of Night.  Following on from the awesome book, Blackout, Dead of Night sees the last honest cop in Berlin try to solve a series of murders against the wishes of his Nazi masters.  I always have an outstanding time with Scarrow’s writing, so I know I am going to love this book.

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The Voyage of the Forgotten by Nick Martell 

The Voyage of the Forgotten Cover

I also received a physical copy of the new Nick Martell book, The Voyage of the Forgotten.  I actually listened to the audiobook version of this book last year, and it ended up being one of the best books I enjoyed in 2022, although I really need to get a review up for it soon.  However, it is nice to get a paperback copy of this book ahead of the Australian release, especially with that stunning cover.

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Fire With Fire by Candice Fox

Fire With Fire Cover

One of Australia’s best murder mystery writers, Candice Fox, returns with another intriguing crime fiction novel, Fire With Fire.  Following two desperate parents who hold a LAPD crime lab hostage in order to find out what happened to their daughter, Fire With Fire sounds pretty damn awesome and I look forward to reading it.

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The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz

The Last Orphan Cover 2

My year wouldn’t be complete without another entry in the epic Orphan X series, so I was very excited to get a copy of Hurwitz’s new book, The Last Orphan.  Following Hurwtiz’s government assassin turned vigilante as he is forced to participate in one more mission for the president, The Last Orphan promises to be pretty exceptional and I look forward to reading it.

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I Will Find You by Harlan Coben

I Will Find You Cover

One of the major crime fiction authors who I have never had a chance to read before is the highly regarded bestselling writer, Harlan Coben, who has been killing it recently with amazing books.  I managed to get an early copy of his new novel, I Will Find You, and I am hoping to read it next, not only to experience Coben’s writing style, but also because it has an amazing plot behind it of a man escaping prison to find the son he is accused of murdering.  I cannot wait to get to the bottom of this cool mystery and I am sure I will love it.

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The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan

The Tyranny of Faith Cover

Richard Swan follows up his beloved 2022 novel, The Justice of Kings, with the intriguing sequel The Tyranny of Faith, which sees the series’ supernatural lawmen attempt to unwrap political intrigue in the capital.  I had a wonderful time with the first book and I cannot wait to see how Swan follows it up.

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3 Days to Live by James Patterson

3 Days to Live Cover

I have really been enjoying some of James Patterson’s fantastic novels lately, so I was very happy when I received a copy of his short story collection 3 Days to Live.  Featuring three intriguing short stories, each of which contains its own unique crime, 3 Days to Live is sure to be an exceptional read and I am hoping to dive into soon.

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The Helpdesk by Shane Dunphy

The Helpdesk Cover

A fun sounding thriller about a husband and wife duo who lose everything due to a sinister help-desk agent.

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How to Kill a Client by Joanna Jenkins

How to Kill a Client Cover

A compelling debut from Australian author Joanna Jenkins, How to Kill a Client sounds like an amazing book and I look forward to checking it out.

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In the Upper Country by Kai Thomas

In the Upper Country Cover

A moving historical fiction novel about an escaped slave on trial for murdering a bounty hunter in Canada.  This book is set to dive into the Underground Railroad, and more, and I look forward to finding out more about this fascinating piece of history.

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Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

Spice Road Cover

Another awesome debut novel I recently picked up was the compelling young adult fantasy novel, Spice Road, by Australian author Maiya Ibrahim. Set in a magical desert kingdom, Spice Road will follow a desperate magical warrior as she tries to find her rogue brother and regain her reputation.  An epic sounding read that I am very intrigued to try out.

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The Ugly Truth by L. C. North

The Ugly Truth Cover

Another outstanding 2023 debut is the twisty and unique crime fiction read The Ugly Truth by L. C. North.  This tricky novel will dive into the troubled lives of celebrities and follow a unique drama as the whole world watches.  I love the concept behind this book and I am sure it is going to be an outstsanding read.

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Promise Boys by Nick Brooks

Promise Boys Cover

The final book on this list is the compelling and insightful young adult murder mystery, Promise Boys by Nick Brooks.  Following three troubled teen boys who must find out who really killed their principal, Promise Boys dives into a ton of tough topics and should prove to be both exciting and moving.

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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.

WWW Wednesday – 1 February 2023

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?

Downfall by Louise Carey (Trade Paperback)

Downfall Cover

I have just started reading the amazing science fiction thriller, Downfall by Louise Carey.  The third and final book in Carey’s debut Inscape series, Downfall follows on from the fantastic books Inscape and Outcast and follows a small group of cyperpunk rebels as they attempt to save an entire city from the malign control of an evil corporation.  I have made a descent amount of progress on Downfall so far and it is proving to be an excellent and exciting read that perfectly follows on from Outcast’s great cliffhanger ending.  I am very excited to see how this entire trilogy ends and it should end up being an exceptional overall book

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Warhammer 40,000: Hereticus by Dan Abnett (Audiobook)

Warhammer 40,000 - Hereticus Cover

After how epic the first two books in Dan Abnett’s incredible and iconic Eisenhorn trilogy turned out, there was no way I could leave this series unfinished, so I just started listening to the third and final book Hereticus.  An intriguing and powerful conclusion to the complex stories told in Xenos and Malleus, Hereticus shows Inquisitor Eisenhorn’s next major adventure, one that will tip him over the edge and make him the very thing that he has sworn to fight.  I have made a fair bit of progress on this book so far, and I am absolutely loving it, especially after that intense and heartbreaking opening sequence.  I have no doubt that the rest of Hereticus is going to be outstanding and I look forward to seeing just how far the protagonist falls.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Warhammer 40,000: Sepulturum by Nick Kyme (Audiobook)

Warhammer 40,000 Sepulturum Cover

A zombie horror book in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, need I say more.

Amazon

 

Warhammer 40,000: Flesh and Steel by Guy Haley (Audiobook)

Flesh and Steel Cover

An excellent, thrilling and deeply moving Warhammer Crime novel that I absolutely flew through.  Review to follow soon.

Amazon

 

Warhammer 40,000: Kingsblade by Andy Clark (Paperback)

Kingsblade Cover

A fantastic novel that focuses on mecha-on-mecha fighting in a major Warhammer 40,000 battlefield. Kingsblade was a very fun and exciting read that I am planning to focus in my next Throwback Thursday review.

Amazon

What do you think you’ll read next?

I Will Find You by Harlan Coben

I Will Find You Cover

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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.

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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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