Warhammer 40,000: The Twice-Dead King: Ruin by Nate Crowley

The Twice-Dead King - Ruin Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 9 October 2021)

Series: Twice Dead King – Book One

Length: 11 hours and 22 minutes

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

Intriguing new author Nate Crowley presents one of the most complex and fascinating Warhammer 40,000 novels I had the pleasure of reading, The Twice-Dead King: Ruin, an epic and thrilling novel that explores one of the most intriguing races in the canon, the Necrons.

I have been having a lot of fun listening to a bunch of awesome Warhammer 40,000 (Warhammer 40K) novels over the last year, with some great examples including Deathwatch: Shadowbreaker by Steve Parker, Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty by Joshua Reynolds, Fire Made Flesh by Denny Flowers, and First and Only by Dan Abnett.  While I have deeply enjoyed all these novels, I felt that it was time to go outside of the novels that typically focus on this universe’s human characters and instead read something with a more unique subject matter.  As such, when I saw that The Twice-Dead King: Ruin had recently been released, I instantly grabbed a copy, and I am really glad that I did.

Ruin is the first novel in The Twice-Dead King series, which looks set to explore the Necrons and their place in the current Warhammer 40K universe.  This was the second Warhammer 40K novel from author Nate Crowley, who previously released the intriguing Ork-centric novel, Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh!, as well as several short stories/novellas set in the universe.  Crowley makes full use of his talent for getting into the mind of fictional aliens to create an excellent and enjoyable read that I had a wonderful time listening to.

In the chaotic and war-striven future of the 41st millennium, many powerful and dangerous races fight for domination and destruction.  However, no race is more mysterious or feared than the immortal beings known as the Necrons.  The Necrons are an ancient and ruthless race who, thousands of years ago, sacrificed their mortality and humanity to defeat a powerful enemy as well as death itself.  Forced into thousands of years of hibernation after their great victory, the Necrons are now slowly awakening to reclaim their empire by destroying all life in the galaxy.

However, despite their intense belief in themselves, the Necrons are a dying race, gradually being whittled down by time, madness, and the unceasing tide of organic life they are forced to constantly fight against.  None know this better that Oltyx, a bitter and resentful Necron Lord who has been banished to the wretched border world of Sedh.  Once heir to the throne of a mighty and glorious dynasty, he now only has control of a small garrison of degraded warriors who are slowly dwindling under constant attacks from Ork raiders attempting to invade the Necron empire.

As Oltyx dreams about vengeance and reclaiming his birthright, he finds himself facing an immense threat that could spell the doom of his dynasty and the entire Necron race.  The invading Orks are only the precursor of a larger and much more powerful enemy, one his small force has no chance of defeating.  With no other option, Oltyx is forced to return to his dynasty’s crownworld and beg for reinforcements from the court who cast him out.  However, his return uncovers something far more disturbing than he could have ever imagined.  A twisted horror now lies within the heart of Oltyx’s dynasty, bringing only madness and bloodshed with it.  To ensure his people’s survival, Oltyx must face the curse of the Necrons and the pure horror of a twice-dead king.

Ruin is an exceptional and captivating tie-in novel that perfectly combines an intriguing and addictive narrative with large amounts of Warhammer 40K lore and some great character work.  This is a perfectly paced story that does an exceptional job introducing the complex setting and character and placing them into an intense and emotionally rich adventure.  While the initial start of the book is a tad slow due to the necessity of throwing in so much Necron lore, it swiftly picks up speed and excitement within the first few chapters.  I personally became really attached to this novel a couple of chapters in when the protagonist and point-of-view character, Oltyx, attempts to determine the best way to defend his planet against the Ork invaders, while also simultaneously mulling over the failures of his personal history.  There was one amazing extended sequence that saw Oltyx attempting to analyse a vision from his past to come up with a perfect plan, while also watching a massive force of Orks approaching.  This scene perfectly blended a fun Warhammer battle with alien history and a complex character moment, all set to a timer that was counting down to the start of combat.  From there the story gets even more enjoyable, as after getting up close and personal with the real horrors of the Necrons, the protagonist discovers that there is a bigger danger approaching: humans.  From there, Oltxyx is forced to journey back to his home planet to beg for help, but instead finds a secret more terrible and disturbing than he could ever imagine.  After some severe lows, combined with a couple of family reunions of variable enjoyment, the story leads up to an impressive and epic conclusion, loaded with war, destruction and sacrifice.  This satisfying and moving conclusion wraps up this leg of the story extremely well and treats the reader to some outstanding action sequences and some major emotional moments that will define the protagonist for the entire series.  An overall brilliant and deeply memorable narrative, I powered through this cool book and loved every second of it.

Ruin was also a pretty impressive entry in the overall Warhammer 40K canon, especially as it contains an outstanding look at one of the franchises more unique races, the Necrons, who are extremely underrepresented in the extended fiction.  Crowley has done a brilliant job here with Ruin, and I loved the distinctive and compelling Warhammer 40K story it contained.  The author has made sure to load up this book with a ton of detail, information and settings unique to this massive franchise, and fans will no doubt love immersing themselves in this cool lore.  Ruin also contains several massive and well-written battle sequences that will easily remind readers of the table-top games that this franchise is built around and which really increase the epic nature of this novel.  The immense amount of somewhat more obscure lore may turn off readers new to Warhammer 40K fiction.  However, I think that most new readers can probably follow along pretty well here, especially as Crowley has a very descriptive and accessible writing style, and Ruin proves to be an excellent and compelling introduction to the Necrons.

I was deeply impressed by how Crowley featured the Necrons in Ruin, especially as he provides a deep explanation of their history and personalities, while also making this somewhat aloof race extremely sympathetic.  The Necrons are a very interesting race within the Warhammer 40K canon, with a look that can be best summed up as Ancient Egyptian Terminators.  They also have a backstory that is somewhat similar to the Cybermen from Doctor Who, in that they are formally organic beings who were transplanted into metal bodies, with only a few members (mostly the former nobility) maintaining their personalities, memories and emotions.  This makes them a very hard species to get a handle on, and most of their appearances in the expanded fiction feature them as cold antagonists.  However, Crowley really went out of his way to showcase the deep and rich culture, history and personalities contained within this race, and the reader ends up getting an impressive and comprehensive look at them throughout Ruin.

This book contains so many intriguing and compelling details about the Necrons, and the reader gets a real crash-course, including why they gave up their humanity to become metallic monsters.  Crowley attempts to cover every single detail about the Necron way of life in this book, and Ruin is filled with cool discussions about current Necron biology, how their components work, how they communicate, and what the mindset of these immortals truly are.  The readers are left with a vision into the complex and hierarchical minds of this unique race, and you get some compelling insights into who they are and why they do what they do.  In addition, Crowley really attempts to highlight just how tragic the Necrons really are as a race, with a deep and compelling look at what they truly gave up when they become the metal beings we all know.  Crowley paints the Necrons as a dying race, despite the apparent immortality bestowed upon them, as the finite members are slowly being worn down by combat, disrepair, and madness.  There is a particularly fascinating look at how the transition from flesh to metal has deeply impacted the psyche of many of its members, as some have been driven into a deep depression while others are turned into crazed cannibals.  This fascinating and comprehensive examination helps to turn the Necrons into quite a sympathetic race throughout Ruin, and you end up rooting for them as the book progresses, even when they are fighting humans.  While the Necrons have never been my favourite race/faction in the Warhammer 40K canon, I deeply appreciated seeing a novel from their point of view, and Crowley’s excellent writing has helped to alter my opinion about them.  I must admit that it was extremely fun to see their perspective on the events of the Warhammer 40K universe, as well as their opinions about the other races inhabiting it (the protagonist makes a very intriguing comparison between Necrons and Space Marines that really sticks in the mind).  This was a perfect Necron novel, and readers will come away with a whole new appreciate for their backstory and plight.

Another thing that I deeply enjoyed about Ruin was the complicated protagonist, Oltyx, a disgraced Necron noble who has been banished to a desolate and worthless frontier planet for his transgressions.  At the start of Ruin, Oltyx is an angry and arrogant creature, weighed down by his bitterness and resentment, and is not a particularly fun character.  However, as the story progresses, Crowley adds layer upon layer of complexity to him, using a mixture of flashbacks, personal insights, revelations, and alternate perspectives of his memories.  This slowly turns him into a sympathetic and compelling figure, showing him as one of the few nobles to truly care about the future of his people, whole also exploring his concerns about the madness and apathy that could one day claim him.  As the story progresses, and he reencounters the members of his family and has more visions of his past, Oltyx continues to evolve into a much more likable character, especially as he deals with great adversity and tragedy.  This adversity gives him some great appreciation for his race, even the lower tiers, and he soon comes away a well-rounded figure with an interesting future ahead of him.  This was an overall exceptional introduction to this character and Crowley has set up this figure up perfectly for the future entries in this series.

Aside from Oltyx proper, there were a couple of other fun figures I must highlight in this book.  Five of these characters are actually part of Oltyx himself, as the protagonist has installed five subminds into his head in order to help him achieve his mission.  These five subminds each provide different insights to a range of subjects, including doctrine, aliens, combat, strategy, and analytical analysis.  The various subminds each have their own personalities, based on their design, and it is fun to see them interact with Oltyx in his head and with each other.  While some of the subminds are focused on more than others, they prove to be an intriguing inclusion in the story, especially as they also grow and develop alongside Oltyx, especially once he comes to appreciate them more.  The subminds also help compensate for the general lack of other side characters in the novel, which are a result of both isolated planets and the general lack of remaining sentience amongst the Necrons.

The other major side character I want to talk about is Djoseras, Oltyx’s brother, who the protagonist blames for his exile.  Djoseras is an excellent mentor character who was just as deeply impacted by the transition to a metal body as his brother.  Despite Oltyx’s bitter memories about him, nothing about Djoseras is as cut-and-dry and you initially believe.  Once you encounter him in person and see some additional memories for Oltyx, you really grow to appreciate Djoseras more, especially once you see him lead an army in battle.  Oltyx’s multiple encounters with Djoseras add some outstanding emotional elements to the story, and each of his appearances were complex and compelling.  Other side characters are introduced in this book, although most of them were only featured for a short time.  However, they will probably have a bigger role in the future novels in this series, and Ruin serves as a good introduction to them.

I grabbed a copy of Ruin in its audiobook format, which proved to be an outstanding way to enjoy Ruin, especially as it allows listeners to really absorb all the cool and impressive details contained within this compelling read.  This novel has a decent runtime of over 11 hours and features some brilliant voice work from narrator Richard Reed.  Reed is a talented narrator who has been a major fixture of the Warhammer audiobook scene in the last few years, and I really loved the awesome job he did here with Ruin.  Reed has a great voice for this impressive science fiction epic, and he manages to move the story along at a quick and thrilling pace which allowed me to finish off this novel in a few short days.  Each of the major characters are gifted their own distinctive voice throughout Ruin, which fits them perfectly and ensures that the reader always knows who is talking.  I particularly enjoyed the fun voice work set around the protagonist’s five subminds, especially as they are similar, yet slightly different, to that of the protagonist.  I also really appreciated Reed’s voice work during certain big scenes, such as when attempting to emulate a crowd of mad, chanting Necrons, and his great narration really helped to enhance these scenes.  An exceptional and deeply entertaining audiobook outing, I would strongly recommend this format to anyone interested in enjoying this fantastic epic.

With Ruin, the first The Twice-Dead King book, brilliant author Nate Crowley, has provided Warhammer 40K fans with an exceptional and powerful introduction to the mysterious Necron faction.  Featuring a captivating, action-packed narrative, a complex protagonist, and an excellent examination of the complex Necrons, Ruin is a must read for all fans of the franchise.  This is easily one of the best Warhammer 40K tie-in novels I have had the pleasure of reading and I cannot wait to see what Crowley adds to this franchise in the future.  This series is set to continue with the second entry, The Twice-Dead King: Reign, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

WWW Wednesday – 10 November 2021

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly (Trade Paperback)

The Dark Hours Cover

 

The Twice-Dead King: Ruin by Nate Crowley (Audiobook)

The Twice-Dead King - Ruin Cover

What did you recently finish reading?

Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora's End Cover

 

The Colonial’s Son by Peter Watt

The Colonial's Son Cover

 

2 Sisters Detective Agency by James Patterson and Candice Fox

2 Sisters Detective Agency Cover

 

The Honour of Rome by Simon Scarrow

The Honour of Rome Cover

 

The Bone Ship’s Wake by R. J. Barker

The Bone Ship's Wake Cover

 

Enemy at the Gate by Kyle Mills (based on the books by Vince Flynn)

Enemy at the Gates Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn

Among Thieves Cover

 

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

Waiting on Wednesday – The Starless Crown by James Rollins

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday, I check out a cool upcoming fantasy novel from an intriguing author, with The Starless Crown by James Rollins.

The Starless Crown Cover

James Rollins is a great author who I have had the pleasure of reading before.  I best known Rollins as an author of intense thriller novels, having enjoyed some of his awesome SIGMA Force novels which follow an elite team of soldiers as they face all manner of unique and crazy threats.  I have been meaning to read some more of Rollins work recently, especially as, after finishing the Joe Ledger series by Jonathan Maberry, I have been really in the mood for more weird science stuff.  Not only have I been thinking about once again diving into his SIGMA Force novels (his last book apparently took the protagonists to Tartarus, now that is cool), but I also have a copy of his 2000 thriller/horror novel, Excavation, sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read.  However, before seeing the details of his latest book, I never realised that Rollins previously wrote fantasy fiction.

It turns out that Rollins used to write fantasy fiction under the penname of James Clemens.  Indeed, Rollin’s debut novel was the fantasy novel Wit’ch Fire, which came out a year before his thriller debut, Subterranean.  Rollins ended up releasing two fantasy series as James Clemens, The Banned and the Banished series and The Godslayer series.  However, despite his history as James Clemens, his next fantasy novel will instead be released using the James Rollins name.  This upcoming book, The Starless Crown, is set for release in early January 2022, and will be the first book in the intriguing new Moon Fall fantasy series.

Synopsis:

An alliance embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the secrets of the distant past and save their world in this captivating, deeply visionary adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling thriller-master James Rollins.

A gifted student foretells an apocalypse. Her reward is a sentence of death.

Fleeing into the unknown she is drawn into a team of outcasts:

A broken soldier, who once again takes up the weapons he’s forbidden to wield and carves a trail back home.

A drunken prince, who steps out from his beloved brother’s shadow and claims a purpose of his own.

An imprisoned thief, who escapes the crushing dark and discovers a gleaming artifact – one that will ignite a power struggle across the globe.

On the run, hunted by enemies old and new, they must learn to trust each other in order to survive in a world evolved in strange, beautiful, and deadly ways, and uncover ancient secrets that hold the key to their salvation.

But with each passing moment, doom draws closer.

WHO WILL CLAIM THE STARLESS CROWN?


The Starless Crown
sounds like it is going to be a very fun and compelling novel, and I really like the cool plot synopsis that has been released.  Having four unique protagonists come together to survive and save the world is classic fantasy fare, and their separate and distinctive storylines will probably come together into a big epic narrative.  I am rather intrigued about the idea of the key protagonist predicting the apocalypse and then getting hunted for it, and I am sure that will result in quite a cool story.  The three supporting characters also sound suitably eclectic, and it will be great to see four disparate personalities come together as the book continues.

Overall, I like the sound of The Starless Crown and I have a feeling it is going to be an awesome and captivating read with some cool fantasy elements to it.  I must admit that I am mostly keen to grab this book to see how a Rollin’s fantasy novel turns out, although I am extremely confident that this talented author will produce something truly amazing.  This upcoming book does have a great sounding story, and I honestly believe that it has an awful lot of potential.  I am very excited to check The Starless Crown out, and no doubt it will be a great start to Moon Fall series, which I am hoping will be a major feature of the fantasy genre for the next few years.

The Honour of Rome by Simon Scarrow

The Honour of Rome Cover

Publisher: Headline (Trade Paperback – 9 November 2021)

Series: Eagles of the Empire – Book 20

Length: 431 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

One of the best authors of Roman historical fiction, Simon Scarrow, returns with another exceptional adventure back in time with The Honour of Rome.

2021 has been a particularly good year for Simon Scarrow readers, as this acclaimed historical fiction author has released two fantastic novels.  The first of these, Blackout, was a clever historical murder mystery novel set in pre-war Nazi Germany, which contained a fantastic and impressive story.  While I deeply enjoyed Blackout, I was a little more excited for the next awesome entry in Scarrow’s long-running Eagles of the Empire series.  The Eagles of the Empire books follow two officers in the Roman army, Centurion Marco and Prefect Cato, as they fight in multiple battle fields across the Roman Empire.  I have been a major fan of this series for years and have had the pleasure of reading every prior entry in it, while also reviewing some of the latest entries, including The Blood of Rome, Traitors of Rome and The Emperor’s Exile.  As such, I was very excited when I received the latest entry in this series, The Honour of Rome, a couple of days ago, and instantly started reading it.  The Honour of Rome is the 20th novel in this series and takes its great protagonists on another intense adventure.

Britannia, 59 AD.  After retiring from the Roman Legions, former Centurion Marco has travelled back to Britannia 15 years after he helped conquer it.  Now a married man, Marco is hoping for a quiet life, enjoying the fruits of the successful inn in Londinium that he half-owns with his mother.  However, not everything is as calm as he hoped.  There are rumours about the tribes being restless once again, and the streets of Londinium are alive with criminal gangs.

Upon arriving at his mother’s inn, Marco discovers that she is being extorted for protection money by a ruthless gang.  Determined to stop this, Marco attempts to resist the gangsters, only to find himself outmatched and a potential pawn into the middle of a vicious gang war.  At the same time, Marco finds himself drawn into the defence of the colony, especially when one of the local tribes refuses to pay any more taxes.

After a bloody punitive raid with a group of veteran reserve soldiers, Marco returns to Londinium, only to face the consequences for his defiance.  Beaten and bloodied, Marco is unsure how to fight back until his old friend Cato appears.  Cato, who has left Rome without leave to hide Nero’s exiled mistress, is always willing to back Marco up in any sort of fight, and he has an ambitious plan to end the gang problem once and for all.  Will the team of Marco, Cato, and their veteran allies be enough to overcome the city’s vicious gangs, or have these proud war heroes finally met their match?

This was another awesome novel from Scarrow, who has once again produced an exciting and fast-paced historical fiction read that perfectly envisions the landscape of Roman-occupied England.  The Honour of Rome is a great read, and I loved the cool combination of historical and crime fiction elements throughout it.  I ended up reading this book in only a few short days and loved every second of it.

Scarrow has come up with another amazing and entertaining story for this compelling book, which takes his long-running protagonists on another intense and bloody adventure.  One of the things that I have always enjoyed about the Eagles of the Empire series is the range of different subgenres that can be blended with its historical fiction elements.  The Honour of Rome is a great example of this as Scarrow utilises a crime fiction based storyline that blends with the overarching historical elements extremely well.  The protagonist is swiftly drawn into a vicious confrontation with two warring gangs of criminals upon his arrival in Londinium, which proves to be an outstanding basis for the main storyline.  At the same time, he once again becomes involved in the Roman garrison’s ongoing conflicts with the local Britons.  This combination of crime and military elements is very effective throughout the novel, and I liked seeing the conflicts with both gangsters and rebellious natives.  This also allows Scarrow to bring in several solider characters into the main crime-fiction storyline as backup as the story progresses, and it was pretty fun to see a bunch of retired soldiers taking on the antagonists.  The author really sets up everything extremely well in this book, and there isn’t a moment of calm or quiet throughout the entire novel, as the protagonist gets involved in several intense and well-written fights and battle sequences.  I found the last third of the novel to be particularly exciting, especially as the protagonists attempt an ambitious and risky strategy.  This results in the predictable satisfying, if bloody, conclusion, and Scarrow has made sure to set up some cool new storylines that will no doubt be the basis for the next few books.  An enjoyable and action-packed thrill-ride from start to finish, I had a fantastic time reading this latest historical adventure.

One of the more interesting things about The Honour of Rome was the noticeable change in character focus that helped set it apart from the other Eagles of the Empire books, namely that it spent most of the narrative focusing on only one of the series’ protagonists.  This is not too surprising, especially as the previous book in the series, The Emperor’s Exile, focused on Cato to such a degree that I kind of assumed that Scarrow was planning to permanently retire Marco.  However, I’m pleased to say I was wrong about this, as two-thirds of this latest book is exclusively told from Marco’s perspective.  I had a great time following Marco in this novel, and it is always a lot of fun to see the gruff and hard-headed Centurion in action.  There are some great moments surrounding Marco in this novel, from being out of his depth when it comes to combating criminals rather than enemy soldiers, to his great camaraderie with the fellow veterans in the colony.  You also have to love the fun interactions that occur around him as he finds himself stuck between his strong-willed wife and his equally strong-willed mother.  This ended up being a really good Marco novel, and I deeply enjoyed it.  Of course, Cato does show up towards the end of the book, and the novel is soon back to its typical dynamic, with Cato taking tactical lead.  There are also some interesting long-term storylines surrounding Cato, especially as he has fled from Rome with the Emperor’s exiled mistress.  It was great to see this team in action once again, especially as they enact another madcap scheme, and I had another fun time following them.

I also rather enjoyed the cool historical setting featured within this great novel, as the protagonists once again return to Britannia.  Historical Britannia is a well-utilised setting in the Eagles of the Empire books, having been the location of several of the earlier novels, including the first five entries in the series.  It made me a little nostalgic to see this damp and gloomy setting once again, especially as it proves to be just as chaotic and violent as ever.  This book makes full use of its clever move from the more traditional battlefields of Britannia to the city of Londinium, and I loved the inclusion of a crime-ridden, early London, especially as Scarrow tries his best to show it in all its dark and rapidly expanding glory.  I also enjoyed the inclusion of the veterans’ colony that was a major secondary setting for much of the book.  It proved to be fascinating to follow these characters who have chosen to settle in this harsh country and spending time conquering it, and I liked their inclusion in the novel.  It was pretty cool to see these retired soldiers in reserve taking on enemies, both on a proper battlefield and against the criminal element, and I thought it was a fun and compelling inclusion to the story.  I also appreciated that, after several books, we finally get a continuation of the Boudica storylines that were set up in some of the earlier novels.  Scarrow is also clearly setting up Boudica’s rebellion for later in the series, and I cannot wait to see how our protagonists, with their established history with Boudica and her people, will fit into it.

With this awesome 20th entry in his amazing Eagles of the Empire series, Simon Scarrow continues to highlight why he is one of the absolute best authors of historical fiction in the world today.  The Honour of Rome has a brilliant and compelling story that perfectly blends historical and crime fiction elements together into one thrilling tale.  I had a wonderful time reading this great book, and I deeply appreciated the way in which Scarrow continues the adventures of his compelling characters by once again returning them to the familiar setting of occupied Britannia.  The Honour of Rome is another highly recommended historical read, and I cannot wait to see what happens next in this series.

2 Sisters Detective Agency by James Patterson and Candice Fox

2 Sisters Detective Agency Cover

Publisher: Century (Trade Paperback – 28 September 2021)

Series: Standalone/Book One

Length: 382 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The powerhouse crime fiction team of James Patterson and Candice Fox returns for 2 Sisters Detective Agency, an intense and clever novel that sets two unlikely protagonists on a dark, character-driven case.

In recent years crime fiction icon James Patterson, best known for his Alex Cross novels and other bestselling series, has been collaborating with a range of talented authors to produce a vast library of crime fiction, murder mystery and thriller novels.  These range from major series such as The Women’s Murder Club to multiple standalone novels such as Lost (co-written by James O. Born) which I read last year.  These collaborations have allowed Patterson to release multiple books each year; including several in 2021 (examples include The President’s Daughter, which was co-written with Bill Clinton, or The Noise, which was co-written with J. D. Barker).

This latest book was co-written with Australian author Candice Fox, a writer whose crime fiction novels I have been rather enjoying over the last couple of years.  Fox is a well-established author who first made her mark with her Archer and Bennett murder mystery series set in Australia.  Since then, Fox has written several other novels, including her Crimson Lake series, and two standalone books, Gathering Dark and The Chase, both of which I had a wonderful time reading.  Fox has also previously collaborated with James Patterson several times to write the intriguing Detective Harriet Blue series, another interesting Australian crime series.  2 Sisters Detective Agency will be the fifth novel written by the team of Patterson and Fox, and it serves as an excellent standalone read with potential to start a great new series.

Rhonda Bird is a criminal defence attorney in Colorado, specialising in helping young offenders and juvenile delinquents being crushed by the criminal justice system.  A strong and independent figure, Rhonda is unprepared for the call informing her that her estranged father has died, especially as his death brings with it certain caveats that will change her life forever.

Travelling to Los Angeles, Rhonda discovers that despite abandoning her years before, her father has decided to leave behind two major surprises.  The first is his shady private detective agency; the second is a teenage half-sister she never knew existed named Baby.  Reeling from these revelations, Rhonda attempts to bond with the rebellious and strong-willed Baby, while also trying to determine what shady actions led to her father concealing a massive stash of cash in his office.  As Rhonda attempts to deal with both these strange circumstances, she suddenly finds herself drawn into a case when a young man walks in, claiming he was abducted.

The young man is a member of a teenage group of self-serving vigilantes, who specialise to bringing their own violent brand of justice to anyone they feel crosses them.  However, when their latest spree of terror goes horribly wrong, they suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of a violent former assassin, determined to get revenge.  As Rhonda and Baby start to investigate, they find themselves caught between a desperate group of violent teens and a skilled killer, neither of whom are going to have any trouble putting a bullet in two interfering sisters.  Worse, the Bird sisters are soon targeted by the Mexican cartel, who are determined to reclaim the money stolen by their father.  Can Rhonda and Baby survive their first case, or will these two sisters end up dead before they even get to know each other?

This was an outstandingly entertaining novel that takes the reader on a wild and addictive ride.  Patterson and Fox have come up with a pretty awesome story in 2 Sisters Detective Agency, and it was one that I had an extremely hard time putting down.  I ended up getting through this cool book in several intensive sessions, and I ended up finishing off the final half in one fun-filled night.  2 Sisters Detective Agency is an interesting and exciting crime fiction read told from multiple character perspectives and containing an entertaining and accessible character driven story.  Written as a standalone novel, this book also serves as a potential opening to a whole new Patterson/Fox series focused around some unique and compelling characters.  I really liked how this book was composed, with a large collection of short chapters.  These short chapters not only ensure that the author keeps the story nice and concise, but it also serves to keep the audience engaged, especially if they know that the next chapter only has a few pages in it.  It also helps that this is a pretty non-stop action novel, as the various characters are constantly in the midst of something very interesting, such as attempted murder, psychotic planning by rich teens, or near-fatal family bonding.

The authors do an amazing job of setting up everything really quickly in this book, with all the major storylines starting out in short order.  This includes the introduction to the Bird sisters, the preparation surrounding the teenage gang known as the Midnight Crew, and the start of the former assassin turned parent, Jacob, as he starts his mission of vengeance.  Once everyone has been introduced, all these storylines start off at the same pace, with the short chapters and multiple perspectives ensuring that readers are constantly updated with what is happening in the various storylines.  Rhonda and Baby’s storyline forms an entertaining and relatable half of the novel, and it was a lot of fun seeing these very mismatched siblings meet for the first time and eventually start to work together.  Their investigation into the other major storyline is only a small part of their initial narrative, with a bigger focus initially placed on their relationship and their attempts to deal with some murderous cartel members.  While I did enjoy the Bird storyline, I ended up having a lot more fun with the Midnight Crew vs assassin storyline.  This is a more intense and exciting narrative thread, and there are some outstanding moments involving this single-minded assassin taking apart the group of entitled teens one at a time.  However, this storyline really does not go as you would expect, especially as one of the teenagers really cannot be considered helpless.

I had a lot of fun with both cool storylines, and I felt that they really complemented each other.  While these two storylines have some crossover throughout the book, they really don’t join up until two-thirds of the way through, especially in the lead-up to a couple of epic showdowns.  I really liked the way in which both storylines ended, although the big and brutal confrontation at the hospital was pretty exceptional.  The story ends up in a rather cool place, and leaves the novel open to a potential sequel, which is something I would be quite eager to see.  I absolutely loved how this awesome story unfolded, and Patterson and Fox really came up with something special here.

One of the best parts of 2 Sisters Detective Agency were the awesome and distinctive group of characters featured throughout it.  Thanks to the excellent use of multiple character perspectives, the reader is given an up-close view to several of the more interesting members of this cast, and you quickly get drawn into their compelling arcs, even though you shouldn’t get too attached to some of them.

The main character is Rhonda Bird, the maverick criminal defence attorney who travels to Los Angeles to sort out her estranged father’s business, but then gets stuck minding a teenage half-sister.  Even though she only appears for around half the novel, Rhonda is set up as the central protagonist of 2 Sisters Detective Agency, especially as her chapters are the only ones told from the first-person perspective.  There are a lot of interesting things about Rhonda, especially as the authors have gone out of their way to make her as unique and memorable as possible.  Rhonda is described as a larger woman, who is obese but also extremely well-muscled, able to bench 350 pounds.  In addition, she has bright pink hair, outrageous clothes (which she wears in court), tattoos, a daring attitude, daddy issues, and destructive combat abilities.  While I would say that so many odd distinctive features might be a bit over the top (if she had any more tawdry quirks, she could open up a tawdry quirk shop), it actually ends up working really well, much to my surprise.  Despite how strong her unique features were layered on, I quite liked this distinctive character and the way she takes care of business and gets involved in any case that could potentially involve children in trouble.  Add in her massive family drama, especially as she nearly meets her match in Baby, and you have quite an interesting character who ended up being the emotional heart of this deeply exciting narrative.

Baby Bird is the wildly independent teenager who, after suffering through the sudden death of her father, is forced into the care of an older sister she never knew.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of Baby when the book started, especially as her attitude and demeanour were that of an over-exaggerated and stereotypical disrespectful teen.  However, she did grow on me as the story progressed, thanks to her keen detective insight and slowly developing relationship with her sister, which is what the authors probably intended.  Baby ends up being a lot more complicated than you would imagine, and you swiftly see that she badly messed up by her father’s lax parenting and the sudden loss of the only family she knew, and this makes for some intense and moving dramatic moments.  If this novel continues into a major series, I have a feeling that Baby is going to develop the most, and I would be quite interested in seeing that.

The rest of the characters in this novel are also exceeding distinctive, with several outrageous and over-the-top figures who help to amp up the entertainment factor of this fun novel.  These include the members of the Midnight Crew, a group of violent, rich teenagers who get their thrills breaking into houses and assaulting the residents to settle their petty grudges.  The members of the Midnight Crew are essentially a more psychotic and deranged version of the Bling Ring, and Patterson and Fox really spend time portraying them as exceedingly spoiled rich kids, more concerned with status and thrills than ethics (with one exception).  Out of all the members of the Midnight Crew, easily the best is their leader, Vera.  Vera is the entire driving force behind them, and the authors do a really good job of building her up throughout the novel, especially as she is far more psychotic and murderous than you would expect.  The entire storyline around her is exceptional, and it opens some interesting narrative threads that could be explored in any future entries in this series.  I also really liked the assassin character, Jacob, who gets violently drawn into the Midnight Crew’s obit.  The authors do a great job with Jacob, and I deeply appreciated their portrayal of him as a former killer who is dragged back into his former life and has very few regrets about it.  Finally, I must highlight the fun Dr Perry Tuddy, a world-renowned chemist who keeps getting kidnapped to make drugs. The entire storyline around Tuddy is pretty hilarious, especially as he has developed a weird fetish for getting held captive, the explanation of which makes for one of the weirdest and most entertaining scenes in the entire book.  I had a lot of fun with all these characters, and they helped turn 2 Sisters Detective Agency into something special.

Overall, 2 Sisters Detective Agency ended up being an amazing and deeply compelling read that I found to be particularly addictive.  The brilliant team of James Patterson and Candice Fox really did a great job with this clever book, and I still cannot believe how much I enjoyed its fantastic story.  I really loved the unique narrative and characters contained within this novel, and I hope that this amazing team will strongly consider providing us with a sequel to this cool and captivating read.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Want to Read Before the End of 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday the official topic involved listing your favourite memorable things that characters have said.  However, I am going to do something a little different and instead I am going to list the top ten novels I want to read before the end of 2021.

This is a bit of a continuation of a list I did this time in 2019 and 2020, when there were only approximately 50 days left in the year and I was freaking out about all the books I still wanted to read.  Well, once again the year is nearly over, and there are currently only just over 50 days left in it.  While I am rather keen to escape 2021, I am very mindful of the big pile of novels from this year currently sitting on my table (and a couple of bookshelves, and the floor).  So, with that in mind, I thought I would do another version of this list to inspire me to read these books and knock them out before this year comes to an end.

For this list I have had a look through my many book piles and reading lists to work out which novels I really need to read before the year ends.  To focus this on the books that are cluttering up my house or my phone storage, I decided to exclude novels that I do not currently have copies of (such as Never by Ken Follett, which is hopefully on its way) or have not yet been released.  I also decided to exclude novels that I am definitely going to read before the end of the year, as I have plans to review them for some Canberra Weekly holiday columns (such as Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson or Kill Your Brother by Jack Heath).  I am also going to exclude some novels from the big haul I got on Saturday, as I am hoping to get to them soon, and I am excluding The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly, as I am currently reading it.  Using these parameters, I was able to come up with a list of 10 books (with some honourable mentions), that I would really like to read before the year ends.  This list includes an interesting range of novels, including some big 2021 releases and some other novels that came in under the radar.  All 10 sound really good and I desperately hope I have time to read them all.

Honourable Mentions:

Red Wolves by Adam Hamdy

Red Wolves Cover

 

The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Keeper of Night (2)

 

Cave Diver by Jake Avila

Cave Diver Cover

Top Ten List:

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

Empire of the Vampire Cover

The first book on this list is the awesome and fantastic sounding Empire of the Vampire by Australian author Jay Kristoff.  I have only just finished reading Kristoff’s awesome Aurora’s End (co-written by Amie Kaufman), and I am keen to read some more of his stuff.  In particular, I really want to read his awesome adult novel, Empire of the Vampire, which came out a little while ago.  Empire of the Vampire is set in a world with no sunlight and ruled by vampires, who are hunting down the remaining humans.  I have heard some impressive things about this book, and I really hope I get a chance to read it.  I currently have the audiobook loaded up on my phone, although the trick will be fitting it into my listening schedule as it has a pretty substantial run time.

 

Gamora & Nebula: Sisters in Arms by Mackenzi Lee

Gamora and Nebula - Sisters in Arms Cover

I also really want to check out this cool young adult comic tie-in novel from Mackenzi Lee.  I had a lot of fun with Lee’s previous novel, Loki: Where Mischief Lies, and her latest book has an intriguing story involving the two warring sisters, Gamora and Nebula.  I am planning to grab a copy of this book when I can, and I am sure that I will have a great time with this interesting story.

 

The Righteous by David Wragg

The Righteous

Last year I had a lot of fun reading Wragg’s debut dark fantasy novel, The Black Hawks, which followed a rogue band of mercenaries on an impossible quest.  I was really keen to read the sequel, The Righteous this year, but I haven’t had a chance to grab a copy yet.  I am very curious to see what happens after the big cliff-hanger at the end of The Black Hawks, and I cannot wait to see what happens in this series next.

 

Star Wars: Visions: Ronin by Emma Mieko Candon

Star Wars Visions - Ronin Cover

There is no way I can end 2021 without reading every single Star Wars tie-in novel that has been released, and at the moment the only one I haven’t had an opportunity to read is Star Wars: Ronin by Emma Mieko Candon.  Ronin is a tie-in to the Star Wars: Visions anime series, and this book tells the tale of the Ronin character.  I am hoping to get to this one in the next week or two, and I cannot wait to see what cool story Candon has come up with.

 

The Noise by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

The Noise Cover

I was recently lucky enough to receive the curious sounding novel, The Noise, written by James Patterson and J. D. Barker.  The Noise has an interesting and compelling sounding story about Government conspiracies, mysterious explosions and an unexplained sound haunting the countryside.  This one really caught my attention, and I really want to see what The Noise is about before the year ends.

 

Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn

Among Thieves Cover

2021 has been a great year for debut novels, and I have been lucky enough to enjoy several fantastic debuts that have really showcased the talents of some new authors.  However, there are still a couple of debuts I want to read before the year is out, and the main one of these is Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn.  Among Thieves is a brilliant sounding fantasy book that follows several desperate characters as they attempt to undertake a daring heist.  I have already heard some great things about this book, and I think it has loads of potential.  I am actually planning to read this book next, and hopefully nothing will come up preventing that.

 

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield

The Apollo Murders Cover

One of the more intriguing novels of 2021 that I have not had the chance to read is the cool science fiction thriller, The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield.  The Apollo Murders is a science fiction epic set in 1973, that involves a secret and deadly mission to the moon during the height of the Cold War.  I love the sound of this awesome book, and I am hoping to listen to its audiobook format later this week, especially as it is voiced by one of my favourite audiobook narrators, Ray Porter.

 

The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes

The Last Watch Cover

Another impressive sounding debut I have been meaning to check out is the science fiction epic The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes.  I have been hearing some incredible things about The Last Watch from some other reviewers, and this has made me pretty curious.  Set out in the depths of space, this book follows a small group of criminals and exiles as they attempt to save the galaxy.  Based on the buzz around this book, I think I am going to have a great time reading it, and I really hope I get the chance to do so before the end of 2021.

 

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

The Blacktongue Thief Cover

Throughout 2021, I have seen innumerable reviews about The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman, a cool sounding fantasy novel with an intriguing plot to it.  Most of these reviews have been pretty positive, and it seems like every fantasy reviewer I follow has managed to check this book out.  As such, I am really keen to read The Blacktongue Thief before the end of the year, just to see what all the fuss is about.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to fit it into my reading schedule, but I will try to do so before the end of the year so I can be ready for any upcoming sequels.

 

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

The Maleficent Seven Cover 2

The final book on this list is probably the 2021 book that I regret not reading the most, The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston.  Johnston, who has previously written the awesome dark fantasy novels, The Traitor God and God of Broken Things, is a talented author, and I am very keen to see how his latest novel has turned out.  The Maleficent Seven follows a group of former fantasy villains who reunite to defend a town from an evil army.  Essentially a dark, magical version of The Magnificent Seven, I think this book has so much potential, and I am so annoyed with myself that I haven’t read it yet.  Hopefully I will rectify this soon, and I already know I am going to love this book.

 

 

That’s the end of this week’s Top Ten list.  I am extremely happy with how this list turned out as I am really keen to read each and every one of the novels listed above.  All of them have an amazing amount of potential and I think several could end up being some of my favourite books of 2021.  Make sure to check back in a few weeks to see if I have managed to get around to reading any of them yet.  In the meantime, let me know which books you really want to read before the end of 2021 and best of luck getting through them.

Book Haul – 7 November 2021

I have just had a particularly awesome and amazing book day after receiving a massive parcel from Hachette Australia (see below):

InkedParcel Shot 1_LI

Inside in this big parcel was an impressive collection of current and upcoming releases, including several amazing books that I have been looking forward to for a very long time.

Parcel Shot 2

As these books are likely to be some of the main reads I check out in the next few months, I thought I would take this opportunity to gloat about, I mean highlight, what I got and why they are so awesome.

Each of the following books are really amazing, and I cannot wait to see how each and every single one of them turns out.

The Honour of Rome by Simon Scarrow

The Honour of Rome Cover

The first of these new books is the awesome historical fiction read, The Honour of Rome by Simon Scarrow.  This is the latest entry in Scarrow’s long-running Eagles of the Empire series, which chronicles the adventures of two Roman officers in a range of different conflicts (see my reviews for some of the other Eagles of the Empire novels, The Blood of Rome, Traitors of Rome and The Emperor’s Exile, as well as Scarrow’s other 2021 release, Blackout). This latest book has more of a historical crime fiction angle to it, with the protagonists facing off against gangsters in ancient London. I have already started this cool book and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.

 

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Cytonic Cover

Next, we have one of my most anticipated novels for 2021, Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson.  Cytonic is the third novel in the epic Skyward series, a particularly awesome young adult science fiction series. The first two novels in this series, Skyward (one of the best books of 2018) and Starsight (one of the best books of 2019), were extremely awesome and I have no doubt that Cytonic is going to be another exceptional read.

 

Leviathan Falls by James S. A. Corey

Leviathan Falls Cover

I was also lucky enough to receive Leviathan Falls by James S. A. Corey, easily one of the biggest science fiction releases of the year. Leviathan Falls is the final book in the iconic Expanse series, and looks to wrap up this massive series.  I had a lot of fun with the last few entries in this series (check out my review for Tiamat’s Wrath), and I am extremely curious to see how this exceptional series comes to an end.

 

All of us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman

All of us Villains Cover

One of the more interesting novels I recently received was the cool sounding All of us Villains by the writing team of Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman. This intriguing novel features a magical battle royal between teenagers in a small town, and I am very curious to see how everything turns out.

 

Blindspace by Jeremy Szal

Blindspace Cover

The next book I want to highlight is the compelling science fiction epic, Blindspace by Australian author Jeremy Szal. This is the sequel to one of the best debuts of last year, Stormblood, which contained an amazing and elaborate narrative about an alien-based conspiracy on a giant space station. This next book, Blindspace, looks to continue the impressive story from Stormblood, and I look forward to seeing where Szal’s story goes next. This is a pretty massive book, so I am going to have to make a fair bit of room in my reading schedule to check it out, and I think it is going to be worth it.

 

The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Emperor Cover

Another great sequel I have received is The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart. This fantastic novel is the intriguing sequel to The Bone Shard Daughter, a great debut from last year that featured a compelling fantasy realm and some unique magic. This sequel has a very interesting story to it and I cannot wait to see how everything unfolds.

 

The Judge’s List by John Grisham

The Judge's List Cover

I also received the latest book from crime fiction legend John Grisham, The Judge’s List. While I have not had the pleasure of reading any of Grisham’s works in the past, this one sounds very fun, as it features a serial killer who also happens to be a judge. I am sure that this is going to be an outstanding read and I cannot wait to check it out.

 

Galaxias by Stephen Baxter

Galaxias Cover

I was also lucky enough to grab a copy of the new Stephen Baxter science fiction novel, GalaxiasGalaxias is an awesome and fun sounding novel that tries to envision what would happen to the world if the sun suddenly went out. I love the fantastic concept contained in this book, and I think that Galaxias is going to be a pretty wild ride.

 

Warriors of God by Andrzej Sapkowski

Warriors of God Cover

One of the more unique books I recently received was the latest translated novel from fantasy legend Andrzej Sapkowski (of The Witcher fame), Warriors of GodWarriors of God is the second book in his Hussite trilogy, an interesting fantasy/historical fiction hybrid series, and it follows on from his 2020 release, The Tower of Fools.  The first book in this series was really crazy and very entertaining, and I look forward to seeing what happens to Sapkowski’s unique protagonists next.

 

World’s Edge by David Hair

World's Edge Cover

The next book I received is the second entry in David Hair’s Tethered Citadel series, World’s Edge. This cool fantasy series follows a group of explorers who find themselves in all manner of trouble as they attempt to find a legendary source of magic.  I rather enjoyed the first book in this series and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

 

Asterix and the Griffin by Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad

Asterix and the Griffin Cover

The final read I received from Hachette was the latest Asterix comic, Asterix and the Griffin.  I have been a big fan of this series since I was a kid, so I was pretty excited when I saw that the publisher had included a copy for me.  This latest comic has a fun sounding story about the heroes journeying to Eastern Europe in search of a legendary monster, and I am sure that it will be a fun and amusing read.

 

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

The Colonial’s Son by Peter Watt

The Colonial's Son Cover

Publisher: Macmillan (Trade Paperback – 26 October 2021)

Series: Colonial’s Son – Book One

Length: 367 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

One of Australia’s best historical fiction authors, Peter Watt, returns with The Colonial’s Son, the first book in a new series that follows on from his exceptional Colonial trilogy.

Peter Watt is a fun and talented author whose work I have been deeply enjoying over the last few years.  Watt specialises in historical fiction novels with a focus on Australian characters and has so far written three great series.  This includes his long-running Frontier series, which followed two rival Australian families throughout the generations as they got involved in some of the defining moments of Australian history (check out my reviews for While the Moon Burns and From the Stars Above).  He also wrote the fantastic Colonial trilogy that followed an Australian blacksmith who joined the British army as an officer during the mid-19th century.  This was an amazing and action-packed historical series, and featured three great books, The Queen’s Colonial, The Queen’s Tiger and The Queen’s Captain.  Watt’s most recent novel, The Colonial’s Son, is a direct sequel to the Colonial series, set several years after the conclusion of The Queen’s Captain.

Sydney, 1875.  After leaving the army and returning to Australia, former British army captain, Ian Steele, better known by the moniker his troops gave him, the Colonial, has settled down and started a successful business empire.  Now the father of three children, Ian is hoping for a quiet life, but is still facing several problems, including the fact that his oldest son, Josiah Steele, is determined to follow in his footsteps and join the British army as an officer.

When an old friend from his army days requests his help, Ian takes Josiah to Queensland to visit the notorious goldfields near the Palmer River.  There, Josiah gets his first taste for action as he and his father find themselves beset by bushrangers, hostile Indigenous tribes and warring Chinese criminal organisations.  Despite experiencing the terrors and tragedies of combat, Josiah is more determined than ever to join the army and travels to England to enrol in a prestigious military academy.  However, rather than gaining a formal training, he is immediately drafted into England’s latest war as a junior officer.

Travelling to Afghanistan, Josiah and his men engage in a series of bloody battles to hold onto the dangerous land for the empire.  Gaining the attention of his commanders, Josiah is chosen for a different sort of mission and sent to the newly united Germany where an old friend may hold the answer to the future of British/German relations.  Back in Australia, Ian Steele finds himself fighting a new enemy, one whose insidious ways could bring down everything he has struggled to build.  Can Ian survive this latest threat, especially when it drives him to do the unthinkable, and will Josiah be able to live up to the impossible military legacy of the Colonial?

This was another exciting and very enjoyable novel from Watt, who has proven himself one of the best authors of Australian historical adventure novels.  The Colonial’s Son is an amazing sequel to Watt’s prior series, and I really enjoyed seeing all the characters, both new and those from the prior series, engage in this latest series of adventures.  I ended up getting through this entire novel in one day, and I had a wonderful time reading it.

This latest novel has a very Watt narrative to it, utilising his typical style of multiple character perspectives to tell a compelling overarching tale of adventure and intrigue.  The Colonial’s Son primarily follows new protagonist Josiah and previous protagonist Ian as they find themselves in all manner of dangerous situations, together and separately.  This includes facing dangers and criminal conspiracies out in the goldfields, deep personal attacks in Sydney, or the various battles and political intrigues Josiah encounters once he joins the army.  At the same time, multiple other perspectives from side characters are utilised to enrich the narrative, with everyone from villains, love interests and friends adding to the story.  Watt tells a very interesting tale in this novel, combining a coming-of-age tale with the dynastic style of his previous Frontier books, and I really appreciated the way in which the author continues several storylines from the previous trilogy.  The combination of military action, criminal activity and intrigue makes for quite a fun narrative and The Colonial’s Son proves to be extremely addictive and easy to read.  I loved the many intense fight sequences featured throughout this novel, and Watt has a real flair for bringing brutal battles to life.  While fans of the Colonial trilogy will probably get a bit more out of this book due to the connected storylines, The Colonial’s Son is very accessible to new readers.

Just like he has done with all his prior novels, Watt makes sure that The Colonial’s Son features a range of intriguing and dangerous historical locations serving as fun backdrops to this awesome story.  There is a bit of a time skip between this novel and the previous Colonial trilogy, which opened up some different wars and settings for Watt to explore.  I particularly enjoyed the scenes set in the goldfields of North Queensland, a particularly grim and unforgiving bush setting full of fun antagonists.  The second half of the novel contains several other historical locales, all of which are shown in quick succession.  This includes Victorian London, Afghanistan, Germany and even Africa, all of which are the setting for some form of conflict.  The scenes set in Afghanistan during the British occupation of this land are very interesting, especially when you consider contemporary events, and there are some noticeable similarities between the historical conflict and more recent battles.  There is also a very fascinating look at Germany, which in 1875 had only just recently been unified into a single country with a more militaristic outlook.  Watt also ensures that The Colonial’s Son contains several hints about future conflicts that the protagonist may find himself involved in.  For example, the inclusion of several prominent Chinese characters in the first half of the novel will probably result the characters getting involved in the Boxer Rebellion, which would be pretty fascinating.  Overall, there are some great historical settings in this novel, and I cannot wait to see what conflicts the characters venture into next.

Watt makes sure to feature a ton of intriguing and memorable characters throughout The Colonial’s Son, each of whom adds some interesting details to the story.  This latest novel contains a great combination of new characters and protagonists from the Colonial series.  I rather enjoyed this cool mixture of characters, especially as you get to see new protagonists develop, while also learning the fate of the surviving characters from the original trilogy.  I particularly appreciated seeing more of original protagonist Ian Steele, and it was fun to see what happened to him after all his adventures in the Colonial books.  I was honestly surprised how much of a focus Ian got in this new trilogy, but I wasn’t complaining too much as I had gotten invested in his development in the original trilogy.  New protagonist Josiah also proved to be a great addition to the plot, even if there are a lot of similarities between him and the younger version of his father from the previous trilogy.  It was kind of fun to see history repeat itself, and I like the interesting developments that occur around Josiah attempting to live up to the legacy of his father, while also making all the same mistakes he did.  There were some other fun new characters featured in this book, including a charismatic young man of Chinese descent on the road to becoming a revolutionary and a young German countess who Josiah befriends.  I also appreciated some of the compelling and unlikable antagonists featured in the novel, as Watt has a real talent for writing scummy villains for the reader to root against.  I deeply enjoyed getting to know this new batch of characters, and I look forward to seeing what happens to all these excellent figures, both new and existing, in the future books.

With his latest novel, The Colonial’s Son, Peter Watt continues to highlight just why he is the leading author of Australian historical adventures.  Featuring an incredibly fun and action-packed plot, The Colonial’s Son does not slow down throughout its entire length, and readers are treated non-stop battles and intrigue.  I loved how this latest novel continued the cool storylines from Watt’s Colonial series, and I cannot wait to see what battles and character developments occur throughout the rest of this series.

Waiting on Wednesday – Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 36: Tengu War! by Stan Sakai

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday I check out the next upcoming volume in the superb Usagi Yojimbo comic series by Stan Saki, Tengu War!

Usagi Yojimbo - Tengu War!

It is finally that time of the year when I get to gush over the next upcoming entry in the amazing Usagi Yojimbo comic series.  Readers of this blog will know of my great love of the Usagi Yojimbo series, which I consider one of the best ongoing comic book series out there.  Written and drawn by the talented Stan Sakai, the Usagi Yojimbo comics follow Miyamoto Usagi, a wandering rabbit ronin who adventures through an alternate version of feudal Japan inhabited by anthropomorphic animals.  This epic series features some impressive storylines that are filled with cool and complex characters, amazing Japanese cultural elements, intense battle scenes and some outstanding and beautiful artwork.  I deeply enjoy this amazing series, and I have read every single volume multiple times.

The next entry in the Usagi Yojimbo series with be the 36th volume, Tengu War!, which is currently set for release in February 2022.  Tengu War! will be the third volume published by IDW, and will also be the third volume released completely in colour.  I am quite excited by the synopsis that has been released, and I love the cool sounding stories that will be contained in Tengu War!  The stories in this upcoming volume will follow through some of the recent storylines featured in the IDW volumes, Bunraku and Other Stories (one of my favourite books of 2020) and Homecoming (one of my favourite books from the first half of this year), while also calling back to some of the older entries in this series.

Synopsis:

Volume Three collecting Usagi’s newest adventures finds him fighting in a war with an old teacher and strange new allies–and helping a new friend complete a mission!

Usagi seeks out an old teacher, Sojobo, but upon finding him, learns that a new brand of Tengu mountain goblins have invaded the Western Peak. Savage and relentless, they are determined to drive the established Tengu out and prey upon the people of the area. For the first time, Usagi must ally himself with yokai against an even greater enemy, in “Tengu War!”

Then, in “The Master of Hebishima,” Usagi delivers a basket of lizards to an eccentric monk who lives on a remote island infested with snakes, where he learns they share a history that goes back to the Great Wars and the Battle of Adachi Plain where Usagi became a ronin.

In the final story, “Yukichi,” Usagi encounters a young swordmaster carrying out the dying wish of his master. Yukichi must deliver Itsuki-Sensei’s swords to his nephew, Daido, who will take over his school, however, they must pass through the territory of a rival school intent on preventing them from completing their mission.

Collects issues #15–21 of the all-new full-color Usagi Yojimbo series published by IDW.

I really like the sound of the cool stories contained within this upcoming volume.  It looks like Sakai has come up with three great new adventures, and I am sure that I will have a wonderful time with all of them.  The first story regarding the warring Tengu (from which this volume will get its name), sounds pretty interesting especially as it will show some fantastic new elements of Usagi’s early life.  We have had some hints at Usagi’s experiences with the Tengu before, specifically in a story contained in the 18th volume, Travels with Jotaro, which detailed Usagi’s first ill-fated meeting with a Tengu swordmaster.  This new story will no doubt detail his mysterious training under the Tengu, and I am quite intrigued about what happened during these experiences.  I am also excited to learn more about the Tengu, especially as this story will feature two separate varieties of them, and it will be fun to see Usagi, who usually slays all the Japanese monsters (yokai) he encounters, team up with some mystical creatures for the great good.

The other two stories contained within Tengu War! also sound extremely fun, and I am very keen to read them.  The first of them, The Master of Hebishima, sounds like one of the more unique entries in this volume, and I think it will be and interesting blend of drama and comedy.  Usagi forced to deal with an eccentric monk on an island filled with snakes has a lot of potential with fun, but add in a connection to his past and you have a much more serious story.  The Battle of Adachi Plain has been featured in several previous comics, including the main story of Volume 2: The Samurai and the story Return to Adachi Plain from the 11th volume, Seasons, and these prior occurrences have brought great grief and melancholy to Usagi.  This should result in some great, emotional moments, and it will be interesting to see how this ties into some recent storylines where Usagi has been contemplating his continued loyalty to his long-dead master.  I look forward to seeing what sort of tale is contained within The Master of Hebishima, and I am very curious about the whole island of snakes aspect of it (are they sentient, evil, do they have some connection to the mysterious villain, Lord Hebi? I need to know).

The final story, Yukichi, also sounds very awesome, as Usagi and another swordsman are forced to cross a hostile landscape to deliver a pair of valuable swords.  Out of all the stories in Tengu War!, this one has the most potential for intense action sequences, as Usagi and his new friend will be forced to face off against a horde of rival swordsman and students, intent on stopping them.  I imagine there will also be some interesting talk about duty and honour, and I look forward to seeing Usagi lending his experiences to a younger, less worldly student.

As you can from the above, I am extremely excited about this upcoming volume in the Usagi Yojimbo comic series.  I absolutely love the sound all three stories that will be contained within Tengu War!, and I think that they all have an immense amount of potential for impressive action sequences and fantastic character moments.  Based on all my previous experiences with Sakai’s work and this amazing Usagi Yojimbo, I already know that I am going to deeply enjoy this upcoming volume, and Tengu War! will be one of the best things I read in 2022.