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

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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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Warhammer 40,000: Grim Repast by Marc Collins

Warhammer 40,000 - Grim Repast Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 25 September 2021)

Series: Warhammer Crime

Length: 9 hours and 52 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Prepare for a gruesome and dark murder mystery novel in the gritty Warhammer 40,000 universe with the incredible and awesome Warhammer Crime novel, Grim Repast by Marc Collins.

I have made no secret of the fact that I am currently in the middle of a big Warhammer reading frenzy, having recently reviewed several awesome books, including two novels in my last Throwback Thursday posts (Xenos by Dan Abnett and Deus Encarmine by James Swallow).  However, I am still not done with the tie-in books in this very cool franchise as I have just finished another outstanding read, this time a book which is part of the Warhammer Crime sub-series.

The Warhammer Crime books are a fantastic and captivating series which, as the name suggests, blends crime fiction storylines with the epic Warhammer 40,000 universe.  All set within the tortured and sprawling human city of Varangantua, these great novels tell a range of entertaining and complex crime stories, including dark murder mysteries and elaborate thrillers, which make great use of the gothic futuristic setting.  I have so far enjoyed two Warhammer Crime entries, Dredge Runners and The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley, both of which were pretty epic reads.  These initial awesome reads really sold the Warhammer Crime series to me, and I have been interested in enjoying another entry.  I ended up choosing the great sounding read, Grim Repast, by rising Warhammer author Marc Collins.  One of Collins’s first full-length novels, Grim Repast is an exceptional read with one of the darkest crime narratives I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

“This city eats men….”

Veteran probator Quillon Drask thinks that he has seen all the dangers, depravities and villains that Varangantua has to offer, but he is about to discover a whole new level of horror.  Already traumatised and ostracised after his last lethal case and the betrayal that accompanied it, Drask’s first new investigation is not the simple job he was hoping for, as a body has been found in the dying district of Polaris.  The victim, a businessman on the wrong side of town, has been gruesomely mutilated, the implications of his injuries have frightening implications.

As more bodies are discovered, Drask finds himself chasing after a deadly killer who murders and dismembers without compunction and who has a sudden obsession with tormenting Drask.  Forced to play a deadly game that uncovers the corruption of his own organisation and sets him against the city’s elite, Drask finds himself alone and afraid against an enemy he doesn’t understand.  Only his twisted insights into the criminal mind, as well as the lessons of his career and devious dead mentor, offer the answers that he needs to solve the case and stop the killer.  However, not even Drask’s dark mind can comprehend the true horrors that lie beneath his city, one that connects to Varangantua’s past and a dangerous hunger that has always controlled people like him.

Wow, Marc Collins really came out swinging with this epic and outstanding Warhammer Crime entry.  Grim Repast is probably one of the best pure mystery novels set in the Warhammer universe that I have so far read, and I loved how seamlessly Collins was able to blend a dark, psychological crime fiction narrative with the grim and repressive atmosphere of a Warhammer 40,000 city.

Collins has cooked up a pretty wicked story for Grim Repast, which brings together multiple elements from across the genres to really highlight just how epic and complex a Warhammer story can be.  Following the compelling and damaged protagonist and narrator Probator Quillon Drask through the deadly streets of Varangantua as he chases after a lethal serial killer, Grim Repast is first and foremost a crime novel, and one that really grabs the reader’s attention.  Coming off as a dark psychological thriller with classic noir detective elements to it, the protagonist is forced to delve into the darkest heart of his massive, gothic city when he investigates several connected murders whose victims have been butchered in inventive and dark ways.

Collins sets up the case extremely well and then adds some intriguing complications to it where Drask is forced to investigate against the opposition of his bosses and their corporate controllers.  Bringing together a ton of character growth, disturbing developments in the murder case, as well as some fun action as Drask comes face-to-face with the killer in disguise, the plot moves quickly, and you are soon very hooked on finding the killer and the people pulling the strings behind them.  Forced to contend with the interference of a giant corporation, the protagonist finds himself in the middle of a dark conspiracy and, after the typical cop requirement of being suspended without his gun or badge, investigates on his own.  The mystery itself is well-set out and slowly unfolds, even if the overall culprit behind it isn’t too surprising.  However, the obvious suspect isn’t a narrative weakness, as the power of the story revolves around the protagonist fighting through the corruption and the insanity to confront his suspect, as well as the wider implications and horrors his investigation reveal.  The last third of the story is particularly brutal and grim as the protagonist uncovers some pretty horrendous crimes tied into the dark past of Varangantua, and is forced to face them by himself.  Everything ends in a pretty bloody manner, and I had a wonderful time seeing how this entire awesome crime narrative came together.  I loved the cool conclusion of this book, and the hints at some potential adventures for this character is something I would be extremely keen for.

This was a very well written book, and I really appreciated how Collins was able to tell such an effective and powerful story.  Featuring a quick pace and a brilliant focus on a very damaged protagonist, Grim Repast keeps you on your toes the entire time, and I loved how well it blended multiple crime fiction elements for the story while also making full use of the grim Warhammer setting.  The crime itself has some outstanding elements to it, and I was getting some major Jack the Ripper vibes from the plot as Drask receives several taunting notes from the killer.  Collins really brings about a dark and desperate tone around the characters and the city itself, and this lends itself perfectly to the complex crimes, especially as the murders have far deeper meaning and consequences than are initially seen.  The use of corruption and dangerous corporations helped to ensure that the character had even more mysteries and obstacles to overcome, which I thought was an outstanding bonus hook to the story.  The fantastic focus on murder and mystery rather than on wider universe elements ensures that Grim Repast also serves as a pretty good entry into Warhammer 40,000 fiction, especially for crime fiction lovers.  While some elements of the story hint or briefly discuss larger events or bits of the universe’s wider lore, you really don’t need to understand it to enjoy this book, and anybody who loves a complex and gloomy crime fiction can easily have their first taste of Warhammer fiction here without any issues.

Perhaps one of the best elements of Grim Repast that Collins featured was the setting of Varangantua itself.  While the continent-spanning city of Varangantua has appeared in the other Warhammer Crime books, I don’t think I fully appreciated just how good a setting it is until reading Grim Repast.  Collins sets out to make the city as dreary, deadly and dark as possible, and you find yourself getting lost amongst its constricting streets, compelling people and many hidden dangers.  The author honestly sets the city up as a character in itself, and it is quite powerful to see the protagonist move amongst its streets as Varangantua works to consume him, mind, body and soul.  To just make things a little grimmer, Collins chooses to set most of the story in the section of the city known as Polaris, an icy, desolate part of town that is slowly dying due to a lack of commerce.  I love how Polaris’s fortunes seem to match that of the protagonist himself, and Collins really amps up the noir vibes of Polaris with a ton of neon signs, dingy apartments and corrupt cops, making it feel that little bit more like a classic police story.

However, no matter how dingy and gothic Varangantua may be, it is still a futuristic city, so the universe’s advanced technology and other wider Warhammer elements are integrated into the city as well.  There are some great scenes where the city’s law enforcement utilises interesting investigation methods to solve the brutal murders, and I liked seeing the set up of a police force within the Warhammer 40,000 setting, especially as it is as corrupt or degraded as most things within the Imperium of Man.  I also really enjoyed how Collins was able to tie the mystery into the history of the city itself, with key parts of Varangantua’s past coming to the surface during the course of Grim Repast.  This gives the book a lot more substance when it is fully revealed, especially as it increases the overall stakes of the book, and I really appreciated and enjoyed how Collin’s utilised this brilliant setting throughout his book.

I also have to highlight the outstanding central protagonist and point-of-view character, Quillon Drask.  Collins created a wonderful character in Drask, a beaten down and emotionally damaged cop, reminiscent of classic pulp or noir detectives and investigators.  Still emotionally traumatised by the betrayal of his mentor during the last case, Drask attempts to find some normalcy in his work.  However, Drask is now isolated from the rest of his force, not just because of his propensity for finding the weirdest cases, but because of the taint surrounding his mentor.  Drask channels much of his anger and trauma into the new case, but he soon confronts forces that even he can’t fight through.  His obsession with this new case, his well-founded hatred of the aristocracy, and his desire for redemption, lead him to continue his investigation despite his boss’s orders, which leads him into all manner of trouble.  Collins did an outstanding job showcasing this character’s intense mental trauma throughout Grim Repast, and he really comes across as a complex and dark individual.  Despite being a troubled soul, you can’t help but like Drask, as his grim stubbornness just keeps forcing him towards the abyss, and nothing he does in the book, not even solving the murders, brings him any real comfort.  I loved how Collins also explored his penchant for getting into the darkest parts of the human mind and empathising with killers, and he reminded me a bit of Will Graham from the Hannibal Lector franchise, which isn’t too surprising considering that there are some major Thomas Harris influences in this book.  Drask gives a great running commentary on his dark observations of the city around him, and Collins really dives into the mind of his character throughout the course of the book.  This really adds to the book’s overall tone and quality, and I absolutely loved how Collins set out his central protagonist.

If I were to make one major complaint about Grim Repast, it would be that Collins relied a little too much on people reading his short story, Cold Cases, first.  Appearing in the Warhammer Crime anthology book, No Good Men, Cold Cases was the previous (and first) appearance of Quillon Drask, in which he hunted down another notorious killer.  Collins brought up Cold Cases multiple times throughout the course of Grim Repast, as the events helped form the protagonist and led to his mental/profession state in Grim Repast.  While I appreciate that Collins was trying to tie his new book back into this introductory story, I found it a bit confusing and irritating at times, mainly because I haven’t read Cold Cases.  I kind of got a little tired of the continued references to Cold Cases throughout Grim Repast, as it messed with the initial flow and enjoyment of this novel.  While you can pick up the events of Cold Cases through context as Grim Repast continues, I felt that Collins could have either eased up on the references a little or featured a better summary of this short story at the start, especially as it was such a big part of the protagonist’s motivations.  While this wasn’t a massive issue in my enjoyment of Grim Repast, it bugged me the entire way through, and it is something readers interested in Grim Repast should be aware of.  Overall, though, this was a pretty epic read, and I would recommend it, even with this issue.

To no-one’s surprise I ended up listening to the Grim Repast audiobook, which was pretty damn awesome.  I have so much love for Warhammer 40,000 audiobooks, especially as they are always so successful at capturing the dark tone of the settings as well as the complex stories.  I felt that Grim Repast was a particularly good example of this, as its audiobook really drew the reader into the cold surrounds of Varangantua and refused to let you leave.  It helped that Grim Repast was narrated by the highly talented Richard Reed, who previously impressed me with his narration of Nate Crowley’s The Twice-Dead King books, Ruin and Reign.  Reed has a naturally tough and rugged voice that does Grim Repast’s story a lot of justice, as his tones perfectly fit the noir-esque city of Varangantua.  I especially enjoyed how he portrayed Quillon Drask throughout the book, giving him a very gravelly tone that showcased his gruff exterior, while also expertly conveying the protagonist’s inner turmoil and pain.  You really get the full sense of who Drask is through Reed’s great voice work, and I really cannot emphasise how much value Reed’s narration added to this awesome audiobook.  With a runtime of just under 10 hours, Grim Repast is an easy audiobook to quickly power through, and you will really find yourself getting dragged into this elaborate and powerful tale in this format.

Fans of crime fiction, Warhammer fiction and everything in between should look no further than Grim Repast by Marc Collins for their next epic read.  Bringing together a complex and twisted murder mystery with the iconic setting of Varangantua in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Grim Repast is an outstanding amalgamation of mystery, a dark psychological thriller, and the madness of the grim Warhammer 40,000 future, all of which makes for one hell of a dark and emotionally charged story.  I had an amazing time reading this powerful read, and it comes very highly recommended.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Córdova

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

Publisher: Del Rey/Penguin Random House Audio (Audiobook – 15 November 2022)

Series: Star WarsThe High Republic

Length: 13 hours and 28 minutes

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

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The next phase of the High Republic is in excellent form as outstanding author Zoraida Córdova presents a particularly awesome new tie-in novel with Star Wars: Convergence.

For last couple of years, the focus of the Star Wars extended universe has been The High Republic, an intriguing prequel series of tie-in media that expands and explores the iconic Star Wars universe in the centuries before the Skywalker Saga.  Set hundreds of years before The Phantom Menace, the High Republic series examines the Republic and the Jedi at the height of their influence, as well as the many dangers they encountered during this time.  I have had an awesome time with the High Republic series, and there are some excellent stories contained within this elaborate prequel sub-series, written by a great collection of writers.  Highlights so far include the main novels Light of the Jedi, The Rising Storm and The Fallen Star, as well as great young adult novels such as Midnight Horizon, all of which come very highly recommended.

The latest batch of High Republic books are currently part of the second phase of the series, which acts as a prequel to the first and upcoming third High Republic phases.  Set even further back in the Star Wars timeline, the second phase provides intriguing context to the previous entries, including the origins of the main antagonists and the reason for their hatred of the Jedi.  I have so far read the preceding second phase novel, The Path of Deceit, a fantastic young adult read, and I have been excited for Convergence for some time.  Written by talented new Star Wars author Zoraida Córdova, Convergence was an amazing read that I had a wonderful time listening to.

It is a time of great expansion, exploration and diplomatic strides in the galaxy as the Republic seeks to expand its influence.  Led by the Jedi, Republic pathfinder teams are constantly journeying out into the furthest reaches of the galaxy, seeking out new civilizations and planets.  However, not everyone is excited to see the Republic or the Jedi, and chaos is always around the corner.

Nowhere is this clearer than the closely neighbouring planets of Eiram and E’ronoh, which have been at war for generations.  Bound to the fighting by hatred and years of conflict, the end of both planets looks to be near, as the war has resulted in nothing but drought, starvation and despair.  However, after an unexpected tragedy brings the two heirs of Eiram and E’ronoh together for the first time, a solution to the ongoing war comes clear and the mediating Republic are able to broker a marriage alliance between the two royal families.

But before wedding preparations can begin, an attempt is made on the lives of the young couple, which once again brings the planets close to war.  Determined to keep the peace, young Jedi Knight Gella Nattai is chosen to act as the couple’s bodyguard and journeys across both planets with them as they attempt to sell the peace to their people.  A serious and dedicated Jedi, Gella is unprepared for another companion for the journey as Republic Chancellor Kyong also sends her son, Axel Greylark, to represent the Republic.  A rogue and cad of the highest quality, Axel swiftly gets under the group’s skin, especially as his disdain for all Jedi, including Gella, is plainly evident.  However, the new companions need to work as a team, as they find themselves caught in a deadly conspiracy that can impact not only the warring planets but the entire Republic.  Can they get to the bottom of this plot before it is too late, and are they truly ready for the consequences if they do?

Damn, now this was a pretty awesome Star Wars novel from a very talented author.  Córdova came up with a remarkable and powerful narrative for Convergence that not only contained its own brilliant character-driven plot, but which also sets up some awesome narrative threads for the future.  I had an amazing time getting through Convergence, and it was one of the better Star Wars books I read in 2022.

Córdova brings out an impressive and complex story for Convergence that drags you in quickly and hits you with a ton of great elements from this new High Republic era.  Primarily set around the war-torn twin worlds of Eiram and E’ronoh, Convergence starts off with the two once again on the brink of war after an unfortunate space battle.  However, the battle leads to the intervention of the Jedi and the Republic, who attempt to force peace, as well as the chance meeting between the planet’s two royal heirs.  What follows is a compelling bout of political intrigue, as the two planets negotiate, while various elements with ulterior motives try to sabotage it.  This early part of the book is pretty damn compelling, as the author spends a good amount of time introducing the complex characters as well as the well-crafted background setting and war story arc.

Thanks to some mysterious murders and sabotages, the middle of Convergence evolves into an exciting road-trip narrative, as the two royals, their new Jedi bodyguard and the unrepentant party boy Axel Greylark, embark on a goodwill mission to both planets, which results in further action and adventure, while also taking the time to build up the four main characters and establish some intriguing relationships between them.  After some excellent and often heartbreaking sequences, the story enters a whole new phase as the deadly outside influences trying to disrupt the peace process are revealed.  There are series of great twists and turns around here, including one massive reveal that severely impacts a major character, and everything you think you know about the plot is changed as hidden motivations are revealed.  The last third of the book is easily the most exciting, as you wait for the various characters to explode when everything is brought to the light and the full scope of the various plots are revealed.  The author really amps up the action towards the end, including one of the most chaotic wedding sequences in Star Wars history, and there is no shortage of intense interactions as certain characters come face to face.  Everyone walks away from Convergence with their emotional and excitement buckets filled and I really appreciated the fantastic swings that Córdova took in this major High Republic book.

I deeply enjoyed how this excellent narrative came together, and Córdova has a great writing style that lends itself to an intense character-driven plot.  Told from multiple compelling character perspectives, Córdova has produced an excellent narrative that combines adventure, intrigue and character growth with the lore-heavy Star Wars universe.  While there is plenty of action and some great universe building featured here, most of the book is constructed around intense character emotions as the central protagonists attempt to overcome their pasts and the dangerous secrets they all hide.  The author keeps the pace of Convergence’s narrative pretty constant throughout, and there were no major areas that slowed down or got stuck, and I enjoyed the continued build-up of disasters and betrayals that occurred.  The various action scenes featured throughout a very well written and make sure to highlight both the emotion behind each battle, but the iconic Star Wars elements such as the Jedi.  There is also a great sense of mystery and betrayal throughout the book that gives it a powerful overarching tone, and you really get drawn in trying to see how the characters are going to implode with their own inner chaos.  It really proved quite impossible not to enjoy this captivating read, and I really think that Córdova showcased just how impressive her writing ability is with this outstanding read.

In addition to having an outstanding story, Convergence also serves as a great entry in the second phase of the High Republic and I loved how it continued certain awesome storylines as a key novel in this sub-series.  I have mentioned a couple of times previously on my blog that I was surprised they started off the second phase of this sub-series with the young adult book, Path of Deceit.  However, after getting through Convergence, I now completely understand why they did this, as the more subtle Path of Deceit really helped to set up certain key overarching plot elements, as well as the wilder aspect of this period of the Star Wars timeline.  Convergence had a narrower narrative focus which, which really benefited from not having to introduce a whole new batch of major antagonists in too much detail.  Córdova was able to expertly utilise and then expand some of the elements from Path of Deceit throughout Convergence’s narrative, which I think really enhanced the overall story, and made it a bit more gripping and connected with the wider series.  I do think that at this point in the High Republic, Convergence is a very hard novel for those non-Star Wars fans to easily jump in and fully appreciate.  A lot of the joy of Convergence and the other books in the prequel second phase is in seeing the origins of key characters, organisations or events that are featured or discussed in the first phase.  As such, you can only fully appreciate this book if you have read a few of the key novels from the first phase, and this makes Convergence a little less accessible as a result.  Luckily, Convergence really is geared towards established fans of the franchise, who are guaranteed to have a wonderful time with this book.

I really must highlight the outstanding settings that were such a key part of Convergence’s narrative and tone.  Part of this comes from the even earlier timeline that the book is set in, as this period of the High Republic is a lot wilder and less civilized in places, more resembling a space western than the golden age seen in the first phase.  While the story doesn’t spend a lot of time in the wider Star Wars universe, you get an idea of the different society and times in this new phase, and it really feels like a period of flux and new ideas.  However, the story primarily takes place on the twin worlds of Eiram and E’ronoh, both of which have been featured to a degree during the first phase (Into the Dark and The Fallen Star for example).  Both planets are shown in even more detail in Convergence, especially as the characters spend most of the book there.  Stuck in an endless cycle of war and destruction, both Eiram and E’ronoh are in very dire straits when Convergence begins, which adds a great layer of politics, strife, and desperate characters to the narrative.  The protagonists are forced to dive into the history and culture of both planets to resolve the war, which reveals some major emotional edges as the dark similarities and differences between them make peace seem impossible.  Córdova does a remarkable job highlighting both planets throughout the course of Convergence and I really cannot emphasise how impressive they were as a background setting, especially as there is a tangible tension and threat of violence permeating both.  I deeply enjoyed this cool setting and I look forward to seeing another author’s take on these planets, and the wider Star Wars universe at this time in the next High Republic books.

While I loved the epic story and impressive Star Wars elements, the best part about Convergence for me was the exceptional characters that Córdova introduced and strongly featured throughout the course of the narrative.  Each character is pretty intriguing in their own way, and many are clearly set to become central figures in this second phase and will no doubt be reutilised again by other authors in the future.  The plot of Convergence, however, primarily rests around four complex and well-written protagonists who tend to serve as the main point-of-view characters of the book.

The first two characters I need to talk about are Jedi Knight Gella Nattai and political scion Axel Greylark, who form an intriguing odd-couple pairing for much of the book.  Gella is naturally the more serious and stoic Jedi character, who is dealing with regrets and uncertainty after a failed mission that saw the order lose confidence in her.  Now forced to work under more experienced Jedi Masters, Gella is uncertain what her future holds, but her impulsive nature brings her into the middle of the conflict on the two warring planets.  She is eventually relegated to the role of bodyguard for the royal characters and is teamed up with Axel, who is easily the most entertaining and fun character in this entire book.  The son of one of the Supreme Chancellors, Axel is a pampered rogue and troublemaker who spends most of the book gambling, flirting and doing irresponsible things (think Lando dialled up to 11).  Introduced in a very entertaining early chapter which ends with him shooting up an illegal casino, Axel is sent by his mother to the twin planets as her envoy and is recruited as an extra bodyguard when things go bad.  He immediately goes to work annoying Gella, not just because of her uptight personality, but because he also has a great dislike of the Jedi in general after they failed his family as a child.  While it is easy to see Axel as a one-note character, he is one of the most complex figures in the entire novel and he has one of the best character arcs.  I loved the unique partnership he formed with Gella, which initially begins with great antagonism but eventually morphs into something else, that really changes both for the better.  Of course, there is a further great twist around Axel that changes the entirety of his story, and it will be fascinating to see how that evolves in some future books.

The other two major characters are the heirs to Eiram and E’ronoh, Princess Xiri A’lbaran of Eiram and Prince Phan-tu Zenn of E’ronoh, who suddenly find the fate of both worlds resting on their shoulders when they have a chance meeting.  Both are very different from each other as Xiri is a tough and practical warrior from a proud lineage, while Phan-tu is a kind and somewhat gentle former orphan who was adopted into the royal family.  Despite their differences, both are dedicated to their respective planets and initiate the peace process through an arranged marriage that will unite their houses.  While initially uncertain of each other, the two begin to grow closer as the book continues, not only because of their duty but because of their legitimate feelings as they prove themselves to their future spouse.  The author features a slow-burn romance between the two that builds throughout the course of the story and has a lot of roadblocks to it, including both characters’ families and pasts filled with tragedy.  Xiri and Phan-tu prove to be exceptional partners as the book proceeds, and I also really enjoyed the fantastic friendship group they formed with Gella and Axel during their travels, as the four stay to play off each other perfectly.  These four end up really carrying the book on their shoulders, and I really must compliment Córdova on how well they were crafted and the amazing stories woven around them.  Backed up by an amazing supporting cast of big personalities, this was an amazing character-focused book, and I cannot wait to see how some of these figures are featured in future High Republic works.

I doubt that anyone who is familiar with my blog and my love for Star Wars novels is going to be too surprised that I chose to check out Convergence on audiobook rather than reading the physical book I received.  I love, love, love all the Star Wars audiobooks, especially as the production team behind them always features iconic Star Wars sound effects and music throughout the runtime, which I find adds to the overall ambience and emotional impact of the plot.  Convergence was another exceptional example of this, and I especially enjoyed how the awesome music made every major scene feel that little more epic.  At the same time, Convergence also featured the outstanding voice work of Marc Thompson, who is easily one of the best Star Wars audiobook narrators of all time.  I always enjoy Thompson’s brilliant voice work in Star Wars fiction (such as in the audiobooks for Thrawn, Chaos Rising, Greater Good, Lesser Evil, Scoundrels, Dark Disciple and more), and he once again hit it out of the park in Convergence, giving each of the characters their own distinctive voice that really brought out their personalities and inner emotions.  I really loved some of the cool voices that Thompson brought out for Convergence, especially as they were well tailored for the relevant characters and their backgrounds, and this ended up being an epic performance from him that allowed listeners to power through the audiobook.  Coming in with a runtime of roughly 13 and a half hours, Convergence has a decent length, but dedicated listeners should have no trouble powering through it quickly.  I personally thought this was an outstanding way to enjoy this amazing book, and I even featured Convergence on my favourite audiobooks of 2022 list before I’d even finished it.

The brilliant High Republic series of Star Wars fiction continues to roll on at an unstoppable pace with the latest epic read, Convergence by Zoraida Córdova.  Featuring an exceptional plot, amazingly complex characters and serving as an intriguing prequel to the previous run of High Republic books, Convergence was an outstanding read that I cannot recommend enough.  One of the best Star Wars books of 2022, Convergence was extremely impressive and captivating and I am now very excited to check out all the High Republic entries of 2023.

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

Warhammer 40,000 - Xenos Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 1 May 2001)

Series: Eisenhorn – Book One

Length: 9 hours and 55 minutes

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.  In my latest Throwback Thursday I continue to review the awesome Warhammer 40,000 works of Dan Abnett with his impressive and dark space thriller, Xenos.

For my Throwback Thursday last week, I talked about legendary Warhammer fiction author Dan Abnett and his Gaunt’s Ghosts series, which is one of the pillars of Warhammer 40,000 fiction.  I have already had a lot of fun reading several of the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels (including First and Only, Ghostmaker and The Vincula Insurgency), so I thought I would take the opportunity to check out one of Abnett’s other major Warhammer entries, the Eisenhorn series, which I have heard some extremely good things about.  Set in a different area of the Warhammer 40,000 universe than the Gaunt’s Ghosts books, the Eisenhorn books are a darker and more intense series that follows a troubled Imperial Inquisitor hunting down a deadly conspiracy at the heart of humanity.

In the dark future, the Imperium of Man is under constant attack from aliens, monsters and daemons who seek to destroy or corrupt all within.  However, the greatest threat to the Imperium comes from within as diabolical heretics, witches and cultists work from the shadows to weaken the Imperium, worship the forces of Chaos, and bring humanity crashing down around them.  The only protection humanity has against these nefarious and hidden threats are the members of the Inquisition, deadly agents who wield great power and authority to pursue their investigations by any means necessary.

Gregor Eisenhorn is a talented and experienced Inquisitor who has long fought against the shadows constantly threatening stability and order.  When he finally corners and kills an old adversary amid a dark ritual, Eisenhorn hopes that his actions have permanently ended an ongoing source of Chaos and despair in the Imperium.  However, evidence he recovers from the crime scene hints at a greater conspiracy that threatens several local systems.

Travelling to a prosperous system hub, Eisenhorn restarts his investigation, determined to get to the bottom of this new danger.  However, he is unprepared for the full scope of the hidden forces of Chaos that wait for him, as a massive and hidden cabal rises in opposition against him.  As multiple planets within the system burn due to the action of the Chaos cultists, Eisenhorn works with a series of unique allies to bring this cult to heel before they cause irreparable damage to the Imperium.  However, the more sinister danger may come from the prize that his enemies are seeking, an ancient and dark tome of knowledge, known as the Necroteuch, which has the potential to burn the universe and turn the entire Inquisition against Eisenhorn.

Xenos was another exceptional novel from Abnett, and one that really showcases his ability to tell a varied and complex tale.  This is a dark, powerful, and impressive character-driven read, and I loved the switch to dark intrigue and heretical investigations, which made for such an incredible story.  I was an instant fan of Xenos’s clever and highly addictive plot, and I must give it a full five-star rating for how awesome it was.

I was deeply impressed with the outstanding and compelling story that Abnett featured in Xenos, especially as it was very different in style and substance to his previous works I have enjoyed.  While the Gaunt’s Ghosts novels are gritty war stories that focus on the common soldier, Xenos was a powerful and twisty space thriller that saw a determined Inquisitor attempt to root out the manipulations of Chaos far away from the battlefields.  The story itself is extremely clever and well-paced, and it swiftly draws you in with its dark events, especially its intense and action-packed introduction.  Despite killing his nemesis early in the story, Eisenhorn is forced to keep digging even further as he uncovers more conspiracies and plots.  Utilising undercover methods, interrogations, obscure evidence and a series of bloody fights, Eisenhorn and his unique comrades follow the trail across the sub-sector, attempting to discover the true plot of their enemies.  This leads to several large and memorable set pieces, and I loved the constant change of locations, especially as it allowed you to get a whole new idea of the scope of their foes plans and the desperate battles being fought to stop them.  I also enjoyed the quieter scenes that were laid out between them as they not only added some great intrigue, but also highlighted the personal nature of the protagonist’s quests and the bonds he forged along the way.  The plot is eventually resolved after several major battles, including some very trippy sequences, and I came away from this book very satisfied and wanting more, especially as Abnett laid some intriguing hints about deeper conspiracies towards the end.  I was absolutely hooked the entire way through this narrative and I had such an amazing time reading this exciting and compelling story.

Xenos was an extremely well written Warhammer novel, and I really appreciated how Abnett was able to seamlessly change writing style and tone for this darker read.  The author makes excellent use of a first-person perspective for Xenos, as the story is in a chronicle format being written by the central character of Inquisitor Eisenhorn.  This allows for a much more personal and protagonist-centric narrative which really draws you into the hunt as you see the protagonist’s obsession with capturing the heretics and ending the threat to the Imperium.  Abnett keeps the pace pretty fast and intense throughout the entirety of Xenos, even during the sequences between the main action-packed scenes, and you are constantly engaged with the hunt or the intriguing relationships between the characters.  I was personally very impressed with how Abnett was able to blend a lot of distinctive story elements together throughout Xenos to produce an excellent story.  The way that the author combines Warhammer, thriller, mystery, science fiction and even horror (the Chaos creatures can get pretty bad at times) elements together is just amazing, and it opens up the appeal of the book to a wide range of readers.  I loved the continued and powerful hunt throughout the Imperium, especially as all the protagonist’s actions and attempts to end the threat result in major consequences for those around him.  This was a deeply captivating and intense read, and I cannot empathise how addictive and fun I found it.

One of the main reasons I chose to check out Xenos and the Eisenhorn series, aside from generally loving Abnett’s writing, is it is generally considered to be one of the best series to start a dive into Warhammer fiction.  After powering through Xenos, I can confirm this as Abnett uses the lore and the darker side of the Warhammer universe to its full advantage throughout this fantastic thriller tale.  While some slight knowledge of the large Warhammer 40,000 universe might be helpful to understand parts of Xenos, new readers unfamiliar with the franchise can easily dive into this book and follow the story with no problem, and any science fiction fan can have an amazing time reading it.  Abnett patiently and competently explores key details of the Warhammer universe as the story continues, although never in a way that interferes with the captivating flow of the book.  As such, you get a good view of the overall state of humanity and the Imperium during this novel, with a particular focus on the Inquisitors and their mission.  The Inquisitors have always been a fascinating and complex part of Warhammer 40,000 lore, and this series really highlights just how dangerous their tasks are, as well as the fine line they walk in their hunt for justice and purity.  Naturally, this dive into the Inquisition will also make this book very appealing to experienced Warhammer readers as well, and Abnett is considered to be one of the best franchise authors for a reason.  I have a deep appreciation for all the cool lore elements that were featured here, and I particularly enjoyed how Xenos offers a very different story to many of the other Warhammer 40,000 books out there, and really highlights just how complex the universe can be.

I was also very impressed by the exceptional character work that Abnett featured with Xenos, as this compelling read features some great characters.  The primary figure of this book is naturally Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn, who serves as the main protagonist and narrator of the story.  I felt that Xenos served as a particularly good introduction to this iconic Warhammer figure, and I found myself getting quite attached to his journey.  A no-nonsense and extremely practical Inquisitor, Eisenhorn is seen by many as a cold and calculating man, although deep down he is a caring individual who feels great attachment to his friends and comrades.  Abnett portrays Eisenhorn as a pretty reasonable figure, preferring subtle investigations, which makes him appear a bit radical to some of his fellow Inquisitors whose preferred methods are to kill anyone with any potential for evil.  It was very interesting to see him as a pretty strait-laced guy in Xenos, especially as I have heard of how radical he gets in the future, and I think it was very smart of Abnett to showcase him in this way first to enhance the impact of his future actions.  However, Eisenhorn does go through a lot in Xenos, including mental, psychical and spiritual tortures, and you can really see the damage done to him and how his desire for vengeance and getting the job done by any means grows.  I cannot wait to see how his story advances in the next few books, as I know that Abnett has damaging days in store for him.

In addition to Eisenhorn, Abnett loads Xenos with a ton of interesting supporting characters, all of whom are seen through Eisenhorn’s eyes.  This includes Eisenhorn’s eccentric entourage of follows and agents, including a data-obsessed scholar, a skilled pilot, a grim justice operative and his newest associate, Bequin, a psychic blank who is drafted into the war against Chaos against her will.  This unusual team prove to be great backup to the dour Eisenhorn, and I liked the genuine connection that Eisenhorn forms with them, especially as it shows that he really isn’t the monster many people think he is.  Other characters of note include the varied and distinctive fellow inquisitors that either assist or oppose Eisenhorn, and the various deadly enemies he goes up against.  Rather than have one specific antagonist in Xenos, Abnett featured a cabal of Chaos worshipping foes, each of whom despises Eisenhorn for what he represents.  While there isn’t a massive focus on any specific villain, each of the major players in the cabal are pretty distinctive, and I liked the overall effect that Eisenhorn is fighting a multi-faced beast in Chaos, rather than a specific evil.  These outstanding characters really enhanced this epic and captivating narrative and I look forward to seeing what other insane figures show up in this series as it progresses.

Unsurprisingly, I chose to enjoy Xenos in its audiobook format, which is frankly the best way to experience any Warhammer novel.  With a run time of just under 10 hours, I absolutely powered through this audiobook and I found that it perfectly conveyed all of Abnett’s elaborate and compelling story elements.  This was partially due to the brilliant narration of veteran voice actor Toby Longworth, who has lent his fantastic vocal talents to most of Abnett’s Warhammer books.  Longworth did another remarkable job here with Xenos, and I loved his take on this slighter darker narrative.  I deeply appreciated all the voices he provided to the characters in Xenos, especially as he is not just recycling the voices he uses in the Gaunt’s Ghosts books.  Each of the voices here are pretty fitting to their respective character and there is some fantastic variation based on plot details such as the speaker’s planet of origin, species, inclination, and personality.  This excellent voice work really enhanced my enjoyment of this captivating read and I would strongly recommend this format to anyone interested in reading Xenos.

The first entry in Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn series, Xenos, lives up to all the hype surrounding it as it proved to be an exceptional and highly addictive read.  Perfectly combining an elaborate thriller story with the dark Warhammer 40,000 universe, Xenos was a joy to read from start to finish.  I cannot recommend this novel enough and my plan is to listen to yet another book from Abnett in the next couple of days.

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

Warhammer Ghostmaker Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – January 2000)

Series: Gaunt’s Ghosts – Book Two

Length: 10 hours and 15 minutes

My Rating: 4.75 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 my latest Throwback Thursday, I check out another Warhammer 40,000 novel with an epic entry from Dan Abnett’s classic Gaunt’s Ghosts series, Ghostmaker.

I have been in a real Warhammer 40,000 mood lately so I thought I would continue to explore some outstanding books from legendary Warhammer author Dan Abnett.  Abnett is one of the most prolific and highly regarded contributors to the extended Warhammer universe, having created a huge range of compelling series and unique standalone books, most of which are considered the gold standard of Warhammer tie-in novels.  One of his most significant contributions to the Warhammer 40,000 universe is the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, which follows a ragtag group of human soldiers as they are dragged from deadly battleground to deadly battleground.  Made up of 15 novels, a ton of short stories and some other intriguing inclusions, the Gaunt’s Ghosts is a very iconic series in Warhammer 40,000 lore, which has spawned some awesome spinoffs and stories.  I had an outstanding time reading the first entry in the series, First and Only, and I also recently read the prequel novel, The Vincula InsurgencyGhostmaker was another impressive early entry in this series, and I had a wonderful time listening to it last week.

Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt and the men of the Tanith First-and-Only, also known as Gaunt’s Ghosts, are some of the toughest soldiers serving the Imperium of Man.  The only survivors of the now dead world of Tanith, the Ghosts bear a substantial grudge against the forces of Chaos, as well as a complex relationship with their commander who saved their lives by abandoning their planet.  Now deployed to the jungle world of Monthax, the Ghosts prepare for their next inevitable battle against the Chaos host.

As the Ghosts await their next confrontation, Gaunt walks the lines, reliving the events that made his regiment what it is, while also growing close to the unique individuals he commands.  Each member of the Ghosts has their own story, and all have been forged in the crucible of war alongside their fearless commander.  But when battle is joined again the Ghosts find themselves in a unique confrontation that pulls on their tragic history and forces them to relive the worst day of their lives.  Is this the event that will forge the Ghosts into a legendary regiment, or will the survivors of Tanith break when they are needed most?

Abnett once again showcases why he is one of the very best Warhammer authors out there with this brilliant second entry in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series.  Bringing together several fantastic narratives into one character-driven plot, Ghostmaker is a key and compelling entry in this wider series that I absolutely powered through in a couple of days.

Ghostmaker is a compelling and powerful Warhammer 40,000 novel that continues to explore the intriguing members of the Tanith First-and-Only regiment.  Abnett spins a unique narrative in Ghostmaker, as this book reads more like a short-story collection than a typical novel.  Broken up by several brief sequences in the present on Monthax, most of the book revolves around a series of self-contained, character-driven background stories that showcase the history of the regiment and its members.  This includes a dive into the tragic formation of the regiment and the death of the planet Tanith, and you also get a view of some of the earliest battles the Ghosts fought in.  As Ghostmaker continues, the next series of stories each contain a more focussed narrative that dive into specific members of the regiment.  These shorter stories usually showcase one of these focus characters’ key battles or moments as a Ghost, while also diving into their personality and personal histories.  This deep dive into the key characters really helps you bond with the cast of this series in a whole new way, and I liked seeing more of these unique figures.  Everything comes to a head in the final quarter of the novel, when the story is dragged back to the conflict on Monthax as the Ghosts advance into battle.  Several key plot threads and recurring characters from the previous short stories make a reappearance here, and I loved how Abnett was able to connect this storylines together to make a cohesive and captivating overarching plot.  The final sequences are loaded with some of the deadliest fights in the entire novel, while also resolving a ton of character arcs and personal storylines raised in the previous entries.  The end result is a powerful and compelling overall story that really drags you in while giving you additional insights into some of Abnett’s best characters.

I really appreciated how Ghostmaker came together, and Abnett really showed off his writing skill by combining these shorter stories together the way he did.  I especially enjoyed how the multiple short stories gave Ghostmaker various tones as the reader continued through it.  For example, while most of the stories featured battles and war, there were also some more subtle stories of politics and investigations.  Abnett also featured some dark psychological stories as well as some deeply personal and brutal survival tales.  This variation in narratives and settings gave the book an eclectic feel, but I think that was very appropriate considering the regiment that Abnett was writing about.  All the shorter stories contained within Ghostmaker were entertaining in their own way, although a few definitely stood out over the rest.  Each story was extremely well written, concise, and fast-paced, and any leftover narrative threads are clipped off in the final entry, so the reader isn’t left wondering about anything.  The book also features a ton of awesome battle sequences in nearly every chapter and Abnett has a great skill at showing the horrors the men face during their dangerous battles, especially when they go up against supernatural or horrific foes.  Abnett also presents this book as a gritty war novel, with many of the stories focusing on the damaged and traumatised common troops who have been dragged into a series of terrible situations.  I have often said that some of the very best Warhammer novels focus on the common human soldiers (for example Steel Tread or Krieg), and Ghostmaker was one of the better examples of this I have seen in Warhammer fiction.  You really can sense the characters pain through the various chapters, especially when reminded of their home, and this makes for quite an emotionally rich read at times.

As I have mentioned a few times above, one of the major strengths of this book, and indeed the entire Gaunt’s Ghosts series, are the outstanding characters that Abnett focuses his stories around.  Throughout the course of the series, Abnett has introduced a great core of complex central protagonists who you really grow attached to.  However, Ghostmaker perhaps gives the best look at these characters, as it showcases their histories while also chucking them into deadly and deeply personal situations.  You really grow attached to these protagonists as the book proceeds and Abnett crafts some outstanding and wildly entertaining narratives around many of the cast, which are really fun to read.

As with most books in the series, a lot of Ghostmaker’s plot is focussed on the central character of Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, the Ghost’s commander.  Abnett continues to paint Gaunt as a caring and charismatic leader who recognises the sacrifice his men have made and is determined to keep as many of them alive as possible.  Most of Gaunt’s personal history before the events of Tanith was covered in the last book, and Abnett doesn’t rehash that in Ghostmaker.  Instead, you get to see Gaunt’s actions during and after the fall of Tanith, and I loved the examination of the guilt and responsibility he feels for abandoning the planet.  While the first chapter of this book primarily focuses on Gaunt, he also appears as a major figure in all the other protagonist’s stories, and it was fascinating to see the other Ghost’s opinions of him, especially as many have both resentment and respect for him.

Ghostmaker also spends a ton of time exploring several other key Ghosts, and Abnett does an excellent job of perfectly utilising all these great characters.  There are some brilliant tales surrounding these figures, and many also appear as supporting characters in other chapters, with some storylines crossing over.  Naturally, some of the characters stand out a little more than others, due to having personal plots that were particularly fun or intense.  Colm Corbec, the regiment’s second-in-command, is a major figure throughout most of the book, and I liked how Abnett expanded on him and focused on his different leadership style to Gaunt.  The story surrounding the seemingly stupid Trooper Bragg was extremely funny, especially with the slow-burn reveal of the character’s deep cunning, and you must love how funny and likeable Bragg is.  The story around the Ghosts’ medical officer, Tolin Dorden, was also very good, as it not only highlighted his position as the oldest Ghost, but also his refusal to sacrifice a life.  Other highlights include the trippy story of ace sniper Hlaine Larkin, who loses his mind during a mission, or the intense and compelling tale of elite scout Sergeant Mkoll, whose keen senses serve him well in the most hostile of environments.

However, I felt that the best two stories in Ghostmaker revolved around the characters of Major Rawne and Brin Milo.  Rawne is a murderous and slippery character who bears a great deal of hate and disdain towards Gaunt following the destruction of Tanith.  His story sees himself and Gaunt trapped together on an ice planet, which forces the two to work together.  Seeing the hateful Rawne trying to work out whether to kill Gaunt in cold blood or resolve their differences another time, makes for some compelling reading, and Rawne is probably one of the most complex and intense figures in the series.  Milo on the other hand is Gaunt’s young adjutant and the only civilian who survived the destruction of Tanith.  Milo serves a unique position in the Ghosts, and I really appreciated how Abnett explored how the rest of the regiment views him.  Milo’s story was particularly good, as politics sees him getting investigated by an Imperial Inquisitor for potentially having psychic abilities.  The scene where Milo manages to outplay the Inquisitor during his interrogation is one of the best scenes in the entire book and it really shows you just how clever he is, while also hinting at a potentially deeper secret.  All these characters, and more, help to turn Ghostmaker into a particularly enjoyable and fun read and I was very glad that Abnett gave us a closer look at the main supporting cast in this novel.

I felt that Ghostmaker was a great addition to the wider Warhammer 40,000 canon, as well as a great entry in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series.  While it is the second novel in the series, readers can easily get into Ghostmaker without any knowledge of the prior books, especially as Abnett spends so much time exploring the characters and the unit’s history.  While some of the narrative is set after the events of First and Only, Abnett does a great job reintroducing any relevant elements again in Ghostmaker and you don’t need too much pre-knowledge to enjoy the plot.  Ghostmaker would also serve as an interesting entry point for those who aren’t familiar with the Warhammer 40,000 franchise.  Abnett makes his novel very accessible to new readers, and I liked how he carefully and subtly introduced key elements of the wider universe, mainly those that concern the common soldiers.  The continued expansion of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade made for an interesting background to the book, and Abnett introduces or references several factions or regiments here that will go on to have a bigger role in later novels.  For example, Ghostmaker introduces readers to the Royal Volpone regiment (better known as the Bluebloods), who serve as rivals to the Ghosts and who recently got their own novel.  I had an incredible time diving back into the Warhammer 40,000 universe in Ghostmaker, and Abnett did a great job of expanding this already elaborate universe.

As with most Warhammer novels I enjoy, I chose to listen to Ghostmaker’s audiobook version, which was an excellent way to dive into this compelling read.  The audiobook format really allows the reader to get transported into the middle of the epic fights that are the hallmark of this fantastic series, while also ensuring that the reader absorbs all the key information about the surrounding universe.  Coming in at just over 10 hours in length, this is an easy audiobook to get through quickly, and I tore through the Ghostmaker audiobook in short order.  It helped that Ghostmaker was narrated by the very talented Toby Longworth, who voices most of Abnett’s Warhammer audiobooks.  Longworth has an excellent voice that fits the intense, character-rich tone of Ghostmaker extremely well, and he can move the plot along at a fast and compelling pace.  In addition, he has a brilliant take on all the key characters featured within the series and he provides everyone with a unique and fitting voice.  He also has the fantastic ability to capture the emotions and personality traits of the various characters with his tones, and you really get inside their heads when he talks.  This was an outstanding audiobook and I would strongly recommend it as the best way to enjoy this amazing novel.

Overall, Ghostmaker was a fantastic and impressive read by Dan Abnett and I am really glad I took the time to read another Gaunt’s Ghosts novel.  Featuring a distinctive format and some amazing character-driven stories, Ghostmaker beautifully expanded on the groundwork Abnett laid down in First and Only and this serves as an excellent and powerful addition to the series.  I deeply enjoyed this book, and I can think of no better way to illustrate this than to mention the fact that the moment I finished Ghostmaker I immediately started listening to the other Dan Abnett audiobook I had loaded on my phone, Xenos.  I really cannot recommend this series enough, and if you are interested in trying out some Warhammer 40,000 fiction, then the Gaunt’s Ghost series is the perfect place to start.

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Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Audiobooks 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.  The official topic for this list was Books I Hope Santa Brings, and, while this did sound like a fun topic, I instead decided to continue my annual end of year wrap up of some of the best books of 2022.  In previous weeks I have highlighted some of the best debuts of 2022, as well as the best pre-2022 novels I read in the last year, but this week I am going to look at something near and dear to my hear, the best audiobooks of 2021.

Readers of my blog only need to check out my extensive audiobook category to know that I have a lot of love for the audiobook format.  In my opinion, the audiobook is often the best way to experience a good book, and in many cases, this format makes a book a lot more enjoyable for me.  As a result, I listened to quite a few audiobooks this year, and while several of them are books that had been released before 2022 and featured in my Throwback Thursday posts, a large majority of them were released this year. There were some truly outstanding and impressive audiobooks released this year, and I already know that I am going to have an extremely hard time coming up with the final version of this list. 

For this list I have only included audiobooks released in 2022 that I have listened to and completed, so I am excluding a few audiobooks that were probably pretty awesome, but which I didn’t have a chance to listen to.  Despite this, I still ended up with a long list of extremely good audiobooks, all of which were extremely worthy of appearing on this post.  To help cut this down, I too into account a range of consideration, including quality of the original novel, skill of the narrator, production value, pacing and other factors, including any featured music or sound effects.  Looking at all this I was eventually able to cut the list down to the absolute best 10 audiobooks (as well as an extended honourable mentions section).  I had to make some very hard decisions here, and I ended up losing several extremely good audiobooks from this list.  Still, I think it really represents the best audiobooks I enjoyed this year, and there are some amazing productions down below.  So let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Sylvanas, written by Christie Golden and narrated by Patty Mattson

World of Warcraft - Sylvanas Cover

An outstanding tie-in audiobook to the Warcraft video game franchise, Sylvanas provides a fresh retelling of the origins of one of the game’s most complex characters, Sylvanas Windrunner, all narrated by the voice of Sylvanas herself, Patty Mattson, in an awesome performance.

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Steel Tread, written by Andy Clark and narrated by Remmie Milner

Steel Tread Cover

The first of many Warhammer 40,000 novels that are going to appear on this list, Steel Tread is a dark and gritty war story that follows a ragged tank crew into the hell of war, all of which is deeply enhanced by a fantastic audiobook format.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star, written by Claudia Gray and narrated by Marc Thompson

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

Star Wars audiobooks are always pretty damn awesome, but the one for The Fallen Star, which details a disastrous day in the High Republic, was exceptionally good, especially as the music, sound effects and excellent narration, helped to bring the listener right into the heart of the chaos.

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Outgunned, written by Denny Flowers and narrated by Phillip Sacramento

Warhammer 40,000 - Outgunned Cover

Denny Flowers continues to grow as an author with his second Warhammer 40,000 novel, Outgunned, this time following a propaganda expert as he follows a chaotic pilot into a strange new warzone.  This entire compelling scenario, as well as the distinctive main characters, are perfectly showcased in this audiobook, which is really worth a listen.

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Top Ten List:

The Hunger of the Gods, written by John Gwynne and narrated by Colin Mace

The Hunger of the Gods Cover

After really wowing me with the first book in The Bloodsworn Saga series, The Shadow of the Gods (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2021), John Gwynne returns with the epic sequel, The Hunger of the Gods.  Perfectly continuing the incredible narrative from the first book, The Hunger of the Gods was an exceptional book, which really comes to life in the audiobook format.  Featuring amazing narration by Colin Mace, The Hunger of the Gods was a remarkable listen that I cannot recommend enough.

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Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh!, written by Nate Crowley and narrated by Kelly Hotten, Paul Putner and Jon Rand

Ghazghkull Thraka - Prophet of the Waaagh! Cover

I had a lot of success listening to Warhammer 40,000 novels in 2022, so it is no surprise that a few are going to show up on this list.  Easily one of my favourites would have to be the new novel by Nate Crowley, who previously did such a great job with The Twice Dead King books, Ruin and Reign.  His latest release was Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh!, which retold the tale of the legendary ork warlord from a crazy new perspective.  While the story itself is pretty damn clever and highly entertaining, the real joy came from the amazing audiobook production which featured three talented narrators.  I loved how the narrators switched around multiple times throughout the production to correspond with which character was telling the story and it made for a distinctive and highly exciting listen that was a great deal of fun.

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Sierra Six, written by Mark Greaney and narrated by Jay Snyder

Sierra Six Cover

Mark Greaney had a very good year in 2022 as, in addition to his Gray Man movie and action-packed novel, Armored, he also produced another impressive Gray Man thriller with Sierra Six.  I have had an amazing time with Greaney’s previous Gray Man novels, including The Gray Man, Mission Critical, One Minute Out and Relentless, and Sierra Six was another excellent addition to the series.  Featuring an intense and highly addictive narrative that set protagonist Court Gentry against a dangerous threat in India while also diving into his deadly, tragic past, Sierra Six was an exciting and powerful read that I had a wonderful time listening to.  The audiobook format of this book was extremely good, primarily thanks to the excellent narration of Jay Snyder, and I was dragged right into the middle of the action when I listened to Sierra Six on audiobook.

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Assassinorum: Kingmaker, written by Robert Rath and narrated by Gareth Armstrong

Assassinorum Kingmaker Cover

Another exceptional Warhammer 40,000 audiobook I enjoyed in 2022 was the brilliant and high-octane Assassinorum: Kingmaker by Robert Rath, which saw three elite assassins travel to a feudal Knight World and attempt to reign in the mecha-suit wearing elite by killing a deranged king permanently bonded to a massive war machine.  This book was as awesome as it sounds and Rath wove together an exceptional and complex story of politics, conspiracies and assassins, focused around several impressive characters.  I deeply enjoyed the elaborate and powerful plot of this great book, which was further enhanced by the exceptional audiobook format.  Not only did narrator Gareth Armstrong perfectly encapsulate the fantastic characters, but his amazing tones allowed you to envision all the epic carnage in amazing detail.  I had so much damn fun listening to this audiobook and it is a must read for all Warhammer fans, as well as anyone who is interested in seeing assassins go up against mechas.

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Kagen the Damned, written by Jonathan Maberry and narrated by Ray Porter

Kagen the Damned Cover

One of my absolute favourite authors, Jonathan Maberry, made an interesting leap this year from science fiction thrillers to dark epic fantasy with Kagen the Damned.  Combining his typical writing style with a compelling new fantasy world, Maberry wove together the captivating tale of Kagen Vale, a once noble warrior and hero who is broken and damned after the royal children he was sworn to protect are ruthlessly murdered during a sudden and destructive military invasion.  An exceedingly intense and brutal fantasy read, I got extremely hooked on this impressive novel, especially as I made sure to grab the audiobook version.  I have always had an exceptional time with Maberry’s audiobooks and I was very excited to see that one of my favourite audiobook narrators, Ray Porter, was returning for this book.  Porter always captures the dark tone of Maberry’s writing perfectly, and Kagen the Damned was no exception as he imparts every gruesome detail of this story in his powerful tones.  At the same time, Porter effortless inhabits the multiple complex characters in this book, and really brings them to life in some amazing ways.  I absolutely loved this amazing audiobook and I cannot wait to grab the sequel, Son of the Poison Rose, in a few weeks time.

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The Bullet That Missed, written by Richard Osman and narrated by Fiona Shaw

The Bullet That Missed Cover

There was no way that the new Thursday Murder Club audiobook by Richard Osman, The Bullet That Missed, was going to be excluded from this list.  Following on from his awesome first two novels, The Thursday Murder Club (one of my favourite books, audiobooks and debuts of 2020), and The Man Who Died Twice, The Bullet That Missed sees your favourite group of crime solving pensioners return for another complex mystery.  Osman came up with another exceptional mystery storyline in this third book and I loved seeing his delightful and utterly hilarious protagonists once again use their unique insights and skills to solve it.  The audiobook version was once again exceptional, and I deeply enjoyed new narrator, Fiona Shaw, who I have been a fan of for years.  Shaw does a remarkable job narrating this third Thursday Murder Club book, and I loved how she provided a great range of fitting accents and tones for the distinctive characters, while also moving the plot along quickly with her fantastic voice.  An incredible audiobook that is near impossible to turn off.

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The Martyr, written by Anthony Ryan and narrated by Steven Brand

The Martyr Cover

Next up we have the outstanding second book in Anthony Ryan’s Covenant of Steel fantasy series, The Martyr.  The sequel to Ryan’s excellent 2021 novel, The Pariah, The Martyr continues to tell the unique story of Alywn Scribe, a former bandit turned scribe, who finds himself in the middle of tumultuous events that will change the world forever.  This time he must accompany his religious fanatic master on a deadly military mission to a foreign land, which will see him get involved in politics, espionage, assassinations and two epic sieges.  I actually held off reading this book until I got the audiobook copy, mainly because of how much I enjoyed the audiobook version of The Pariah last year.  Steven Brand provides some amazing narration for this compelling read and I really found myself absorbing more of the complex details of this fantasy word when listening to it.  Easily the best way to enjoy this exceptional read, I cannot wait to get my hands on the third Covenant of Steel audiobook.

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The Wraithbone Phoenix, written by Alec Worley and narrated by Harry Myers

The Wraithbone Phoenix Cover

The final Warhammer 40,000 audiobook on this list is the gripping Warhammer Crime book, The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley.  Set in a massive and crime-ridden city, The Wraithbone Phoenix follows an unlikely duo of abhuman criminals as they attempt to pay off their debts by recovering an ancient artefact from decommissioned space ship.  However, when the entire city becomes aware of their scheme, they are soon forced to go up against a range of over-the-top killers, thieves and bounty hunters, all determined to kill them and take the prize for themselves.  This was an extremely fun and captivating read, which was even more enjoyable as an audiobook as narrator Harry Myers had to voice a ton of unusual characters.  I had an outstanding time listening to The Wraithbone Phoenix and I look forward to more fun and fantastic Warhammer Crime audiobooks in the future.

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In the Shadow of Lightning, written by Brian McClellan and narrated by Damian Lynch

In the Shadow of Lightning Cover

One of the best fantasy books of 2022 had to be the epic and captivating In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan.  McClellan, who already created magic with his Powder Mage novels (such as Promise of Blood), did a remarkable job of creating a new elaborate fantasy universe where all magic is tied into glass.  Following several complex and damaged protagonists as they attempted to navigate war, politics and a dark conspiracy, In the Shadow of Lightning was a remarkable book that perfectly set up McClellan’s planned Glass Immortals series.  I had a wonderful and incredible time with In the Shadow of Lightning, and I absolutely loved how well it came out in its audiobook format.  Featuring the amazing voice of Damian Lynch, who dove right into the complex roles before him, this audiobook is extremely addictive and I powered through it extremely quickly.  A highly recommended audiobook, I am so damn excited for the sequel.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence, written by Zoraida Córdova and narrated by Marc Thompson

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

Finally, I had to feature at least one Star Wars book on a list about great audiobooks (it is an Unseen Library rule), and boy was I spoiled for choice this year.  While books like Path of Deceit, Midnight Horizon and Brotherhood all had excellent audiobooks, I ended up going with the Star Wars book I am currently listening to, Convergence by Zoraida Córdova.  Despite the fact that I still have a little more to listen to (I’m probably going to finish it tonight), I have been deeply impressed with Convergence and I think it has the best combination of narrative, characters and audiobook features of all the Star Wars novels I listened to in 2022.  The first adult book in the second phase of The High Republic, Convergence has a great story that explores a deadly war between two planets, while simultaneously introducing elements from an earlier period of Star Wars history.  This excellent story is greatly enhanced by the usual outstanding Star Wars production values of cool sound effects, emotionally charged music, and the fantastic voice work of Marc Thompson, who is one of the best audiobook narrators in the world today.  This was a remarkable read and I look forward to seeing how this new phase of The High Republic continues in 2023.

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Well that is the end of this latest Top Ten list, and as you can see, I have been lucky enough to listen to some awesome audiobooks this year (although I clearly focussed a little too much on Warhammer fiction).  All the above audiobooks are extremely good and I would highly recommend each of them in their audiobook format.  There is still a little time for me to listen to a few more great audiobooks this year, and I cannot wait to see how they all turn out.  Let me know what your favourite audiobooks of 2022 were in the comments below, and I will have to try and check them out as well.

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

The Bullet That Missed Cover

Publisher: Viking/Penguin Audio (Audiobook – 15 September 2022)

Series: Thursday Murder Club – Book Three

Length: 11 hours and 17 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Murder, comedy and the most badass team of investigators you are every likely to read about come together perfectly in the new Thursday Murder Club novel, The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman.

Over the last three years, some of the most impressive and outright entertaining murder mystery novels have been part of the Thursday Murder Club series by British television personality Richard Osman.  Set in a luxury retirement village in the English countryside, the Thursday Murder Club books follow the adventures of four outrageous pensioners who spend their free time solving cold cases.  However, their lives get even more complicated when several murders occur around their village, and they endeavour to find out who committed them.  The series started with The Thursday Murder Club in 2020, which had an outstanding blend of mystery, great characters and humour, all of which came together in a perfect and deeply addictive read.  The Thursday Murder Club ended up being one of my favourite books, audiobooks and debuts of 2020, and I cannot rave about it enough.  Osman followed this first book up last year with The Man Who Died Twice, an excellent sequel that presents the reader with another great mystery, while also exploring the characters even further.  I had another amazing time with The Man Who Died Twice, and it also ended up being one of the best things I read all year, making my top books and audiobooks of 2021 lists.  Needless to say after the first two epic books, I have been very excited for the third Thursday Murder Club novel, and The Bullet That Missed has been one of my most anticipated reads for 2022 for a while now. 

After their last exciting adventure, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, are continuing to solve murders in their spare time.  Their latest case sees them dive into an infamous cold case in which a young, highflying television reporter was murdered just before breaking a story on a major crime ring, with her body never recovered from the ocean.  Teaming up with the reporter’s famous presenter colleague, the Thursday Murder Club eagerly begin their investigation, hoping to shed light on her murder while having fun with their new high-profile friends.

However, it soon becomes apparent that the people behind the reporter’s death might still be active and are attempting to cover their tracks.  Their only witness in the case is found dead in her prisoner cell shortly after the club attempts to question her, and even the notorious crime lord many believe responsible for killing their original victim is afraid to talk.

Not ones to be deterred, the club continues their investigation and soon long-hidden secrets from the past come spilling out.  However, as they close on the killer, a completely different threat emerges from Elizabeth’s past.  A mysterious new nemesis wants Elizabeth to return to her assassin roots and kill an old contact from her spy days, if she does not, everyone close to her will die.  Forced to choose between her friends and her conscience, Elizabeth needs to find a way to defuse the situation before someone gets hurt.  But is this new encounter just the thing the Thursday Murder Club needs to solve their latest crime before the murderer strikes again?

Well damn, what another brilliant and impressive read.  Richard Osman went all out for his third book and I honestly think that The Bullet That Missed is some of his best work yet, possibly even eclipsing the original The Thursday Murder Club.  Bringing together an elaborate and deeply enjoyable mystery storyline with some brilliant characters, outstanding humour, and a heck of a lot of great twists, I was instantly addicted to this latest book from Osman and couldn’t wait to find out how everything ended.  An extremely captivating read, The Bullet That Missed gets a very emphatic five-star rating from me, and I had an incredible time reading it.

I loved, loved, loved the exceptional story that Osman came up with for The Bullet That Missed, especially as Osman provided a perfect blend of mystery, character growth and genuine human moments that the reader can’t help but eat up.  Starting off shortly after the events of the last book, The Bullet That Missed sees the Thursday Murder Club using their usual charm and manipulative practices to investigate another cold case, gaining insight through the victims’ old colleagues, while also dragging in their usual friends and police colleagues.  They soon find themselves in the middle of a cracking mystery and use their connections and well-earned insights to examine the various clues and persons of interests associated with the case.  At the same time, Elizabeth is quite literally dragged into a dark place by a mysterious new figure who knows about her past and who forces her to choose between killing an old colleague from her spy days or watching Joyce and the rest of her friends die.  This side plot adds quite a bit to the overall story, especially the introduction of several awesome new characters, and I really enjoyed how Osman tied it into the main mystery. 

Combined with the various scenes that show the day-to-day lives of the many characters in the book, as well as some genuinely heartbreaking moments of love and loss, this proves to be one heck of a story that I was particularly rivetted to.  I loved the unique investigation that resulted from the mystery, and the characters have so many clever and hilarious ways of getting to the truth.  Osman throws in an appropriate number of red herrings and suspects, which serves to effectively muddy the water and keep the readers in suspense as they try to work out which of the many suspicious characters might have had a hand in the killings.  I was able to pick out the main villain a fair bit in advance, although the journey to getting there and the eventual reveal was really good, and I loved every single second of it.  I also didn’t see a bunch of the final twists coming, and you really appreciate all the cleverly hidden hints and clues that Osman seeded throughout the book.  I came away from The Bullet That Missed exceedingly satisfied with how the story unfolded, and I really cannot emphasise just how amazing and awesome the plot was.

On top of this, Osman has an awesome writing style that I feel really enhances the elaborate and powerful narrative of The Bullet That Missed.  I particularly enjoyed how the author made great use of multiple character perspectives throughout the book to tell the elaborate narrative.  While the focus is generally on the four members of the Thursday Murder Club, the perspectives of all the other characters in the book are shown several times throughout the story.  Not only does this allow you to get multiple intriguing views of the main mystery and the club’s actions, including from the book’s many suspects, but it also ensures that the reader gets closer to all these characters by learning their motivations, feelings, and personal histories.  This makes for a much more compelling narrative, especially as you grow attached to the new characters quickly, while also getting to experience the powerful human developments impacting the main cast.  Osman does a great job of keep the pace pretty consistent and enjoyable throughout the entirety of The Bullet That Missed, and you are constantly exposed to intriguing mystery developments, deeper emotional moments from the characters, or a ton of entertaining humour which can’t help but make you chuckle.  This keeps up throughout the entire book, although it does pick up at several points, especially when the club are making some big moves, and it always works out well. 

While one of the best things about The Bullet That Missed is the compelling mystery, a discussion of this book really would not be complete without mentioning the fantastic humour loaded into it.  Osman is undeniably a very funny man, and he puts his excellent comedic skills to great use in this series, and particularly in The Bullet That Missed, with nearly every page containing some subtle, fun, comedic elements that I absolutely loved.  A large amount of this humour revolves around the various ways in which the older characters of the book manage to outwit and manipulate the younger people they come across, whether it be by acting senile, or forcing them to accommodate them out of politeness.  At the same time, the main characters’ very diverse and highly amusing viewpoints of the world around them, especially involving modern society or pop culture, are extremely funny, and it is entertaining to see an older perspective on this crazy modern world.  Osman fits in quite a huge number of references to British culture throughout the course of the book, and I had a lot of fun hearing all the clever references to iconic shows and products that the character’s mention throughout the book, especially as they often talk about them in a very clever way.  Throw in some fantastic coincidences, a lot of jokes about turning old, several hilarious self-referential jabs about the trouble with writing crime novels, and the perfect banter that occurs between the four main protagonists and their exasperated cohorts, and The Bullet That Missed was an exceedingly funny read that is guaranteed to keep you wildly amused with its various antics.

As always, one of the strongest parts of this latest Thursday Murder Club novel is the characters.  Osman has created an amazing group of protagonists for this series, and he continues to build on them with each book, showcasing their strengths, personalities, and inherent vulnerabilities, as the find themselves in dangerous and unique situations.  Most of the focus is again on the four members of the Thursday Murder Club who, by this third book, are really quite well established, and the reader is already very attached.  Osman keeps up the wonderful interpersonal dynamic that was such an impressive feature of the first two books, and it continued to work extremely well in The Bullet That Missed, with several great new developments added in.  Elizabeth and Joyce are once again set up as the book’s main characters, with a huge chunk of the book dedicated to them.  Elizabeth, the former spy, proves to be an excellent manipulator, and it is always fun to see her talk about her days as a trained assassin, especially when her past comes back to haunt her.  Joyce, on the other hand, is a legitimate sweetheart, and she really is the heart and soul of the book.  I love how Osman changes the perspective in all her chapters to reflect her journalling the events of the story, and she provides some of the best descriptions of the events going on in the book.  It is also very fun to see her in action as, despite appearing to be a harmless, sweet old lady, she is a tough as nails and can be just as manipulative as Elizabeth when she needs to be (the scene in which she meets the Viking was perfect). 

Ron and Ibrahim are also used to great effect in The Bullet That Missed and both have some impressive outings in this book.  I loved the many scenes featuring Ron, especially as he really stands out from the rest of the crowd by being a blue-collar rabble rouser who holds on to the old-school tough guy mentality.  A lot of Ron’s story in The Bullet That Missed revolves around the other characters breaking through his tough exterior, especially as he has a new love interest in this book who gets him to open up in several amusing ways.  I also loved the sense of vulnerability that surrounds Ron when he starts to realise that a lot of the men of his generation are starting to go and he suddenly doesn’t have as many people to connect with anymore, which gets used to great effect when he manages to get information by playing snooker with an old criminal with a similar mindset to him.  The final main character is Ibrahim, who is honestly one of the nicest, most genuine characters you are ever likely to meet in fiction.  Ibrahim gets an outstanding showing in this book, and it was really a relief to see him recovered after the terrible beating he received in The Man Who Died Twice.  I loved how he was able to use his psychology skills in this book, and he even spent time working with the woman responsible for his beating, which results in some excellent scenes.  All four of these main characters continued to impress me in this latest book and I cannot wait to see how their next adventure unfolds.

Aside from these major characters, The Bullet That Missed also contains a substantial supporting cast of entertaining characters who Osman uses to great effect throughout the course of the narrative.  These characters include a combination of some entertaining new figures, as well as many returning characters who made such an impact in the previous novels.  Many of these returning characters have been built up in a big way in the previous books, and it was great to see a lot of their character development continue, especially as they are generally better off after having met the Thursday Murder Club.  I really loved that the three main supporting characters from the first novel, DCI Chris Hudson, PC Donna De Freitas and Bogdan, each come into The Bullet That Missed with some positive storylines surrounding them, and the new romance between Donna and Bogdan was so damn nice. 

All the new characters in The Bullet That Missed were also very entertaining: an older makeup artist who takes a liking to Ron, a gigantic Scandinavian crime lord known only as the Viking, an eccentric local TV news host, and the local Chief Constable who also moonlights as a less-than-successful mystery writer.  These great characters added a lot of flavour to the narrative, and it was fascinating to see how many were worked into the plot, especially as Osman was setting several of them up for returning appearances.  I particularly loved the retired KGB officer turned criminal finance advisor, Viktor Illyich, who is an old contact of Elizabeth and who finds himself being hunted.  He was a brilliant and entertaining addition to the plot, especially with his great methods of manipulation.  You have to love that amazing scene where he applies his techniques to a young Virgin Media representative. 

However, the best recurring character has to be Elizabeth’s husband, Stephen, who has been a bit of a tragic figure throughout the series due to his dementia, which Elizabeth tries to hide from the world.  Stephen is perhaps the best character Osman has written, as the author provides a deep and extremely powerful view of the impacts dementia has on the sufferer and those closest to them.  Watching Stephen slowly lose himself while Elizabeth suffers beside him has provided some of the most heartbreaking parts of this series.  Stephen still proves himself to be a brilliant and caring figure, and Osman writes some great scenes for him in the series, especially when he plays chess with Bogdan, and it is always fun when he provides fantastic insights into Elizabeth’s cases.  He was particularly effective in this book, especially after being kidnapped, and his knowledge and surprising criminal contacts allow Elizabeth to outsmart one of their enemies in several amazing scenes.  Of course, these scenes are also loaded with sadness; with every positive step Stephen takes, he also loses a little, and every time he forgets a detail or a person it breaks your heart a little bit more.  Honestly, every character in this book is pretty damn epic, and clearly creating amazing characters is one of Osman’s biggest strengths as a writer.  I look forward to all the amazing character work that is bound to appear in the next Thursday Murder Club, and I am sure that I will fall in love with every single cast member once again.

While I did receive a physical copy of The Bullet That Missed, I chose to instead grab the audiobook version of this novel, as I had such an amazing time listening to the first two books in this format.  As it was, I ended up being surprised and slightly disappointed to discover that Lesley Manville, who narrated the first two Thursday Murder Club books, wasn’t returning for this third entry.  However, my disappointment was exceedingly short lived when I found out that she had been replaced by the amazing Fiona Shaw, who I have loved for years in things like the Harry Potter films, Killing Eve and Andor.  Unsurprisingly, Shaw did an outstanding job narrating The Bullet That Missed, and she masterfully portrayed all the characters in a very fun and entertaining way.  I loved all the great voices she used for this awesome audiobook, and each character got their own distinctive tone that allowed the reader to easily pick up who they were.  Shaw brings a huge range of different accents to the table, and while her Swedish accent was purposely a little silly, it still fit the character extremely well.  However, what really impressed me was the effort that Shaw took in matching the voices of most of the recurring characters with Lesley Manville’s previous take on them.  All the four main members of the cast, as well as supporting characters like Donna and Bogdan, sounded extremely like their appearances in the previous two audiobooks, and while Shaw did do her own take on a couple of figures, I personally deeply appreciated her attempts to keep some continuity with the previous audiobooks.  Shaw also kept the audiobook rolling along at a brisk pace, and the 11 hour and 17 minute runtime passed along in no time whatsoever, especially as you get deeper and deeper into the plot.  Throw in another lovely interview with Richard Osman at the end and I felt that this was an absolutely incredible audiobook, and definitely the best format by which to enjoy The Bullet That Missed.  I will be extremely happy if Shaw chooses to come back for the fourth Thursday Murder Club audiobook next year.

Richard Osman continues to show the world just how much talent he has a murder mystery writer with the third exceptional entry in the amazing Thursday Murder Club series, The Bullet That Missed.  Continuing to follow his brilliant pensioner protagonists as they solve a complex murder in some clever and funny ways, The Bullet That Missed was an incredible addition to the series that is guaranteed to have you hooked from start to finish.  I cannot recommend this book enough, and if you haven’t started reading the Thursday Murder Club books yet, you are really missing out.

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Quick Review – The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan

The Justice of Kings Cover

Publisher: Orbit/Hachette Audio (Audiobook – 22 February 2022)

Series: Empire of the Wolf – Book One

Length: 13 hours and 45 minutes

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

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Richard Swan makes his highly acclaimed fantasy debut with the much loved The Justice of Kings, a slick and compelling novel that combines a murder mystery with epic fantasy and political thriller elements in some very impressive ways.

Few authors have gained the respect of the fantasy community as quickly as Richard Swan did this year as he made the jump from science fiction to fantasy in a very big way.  The Justice of Kings is an intriguing and awesome novel that serves as the author’s first entry in his new Empire of the Wolf series.  Following a magical lawman as he investigates a terrible murder while also attempting to keep the political peace in the realm, The Justice of Kings has a lot of great parts to it and it received a lot of kudos as a result.  I read it several months ago and neglected to write a review for it, which I making up for now.  I had a great time getting through The Justice of Kings and it lives up to a lot of the hype surrounding it.

Plot Synopsis:

NO MAN IS ABOVE THE LAW

The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest. Rebels, heretics and powerful patricians all challenge the power of the imperial throne.

Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers and skill as a swordsman. In this he is aided by Helena Sedanka, his clerk and protege, orphaned by the wars that forged the empire.

When the pair investigate the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt must make a choice: will he abandon the laws he’s sworn to uphold in order to protect the empire?

Introducing an unforgettable protagonist destined to become a fantasy icon, The Justice of Kings is an unmissable debut where action, intrigue and magic collide.


The Justice of Kings
is an excellent book which manages to bring together a lot of different genres for an excellent story.  Told from the perspective of Helena Sedanka, the Justice’s protégé and clerk, the book follows Sir Konrad Vonvalt, a Justice of the Empire who acts as a travelling judge, lawyer, investigator and executioner.  Able to wield unique magic, Vonvalt and his staff arrive in a small provincial city to investigate the murder of a local noblewoman.  As they dive into the case, the Justice and his team discover that this is no simple murder, instead the victim was killed as part of an elaborate conspiracy infecting the town, forcing them to dive into a dark web of blackmail, bribery, religious corruption and assassination to find the killers.  At the same time, Vonvalt finds himself going up against some deadly politics of the realm as a group of religious zealots with an ambitious and ruthless leader attempt to make a play for power in the Empire, specifically choosing to target the Order of Justices.  These two separate concerns come together as the story unfolds, and the characters find themselves in an intense battle to save themselves.

Swan came up with a particularly strong narrative for The Justice of Kings, and I deeply enjoyed the interplay of the different elements.  Not only does it perfectly introduce an outstanding and impressive fantasy series and realm, but it also presents the reader with a complex story of politics, intrigue, war and religious turmoil, overlaying an intense murder investigation.  Swan starts the story off strong, introducing the protagonists, as well as the deliciously evil series antagonist, and the reader is soon quickly enveloped in the main mystery, finding out who is behind the brutal murder.  The investigation embarks at a rapid pace, and it was fascinating to see how the magical protagonist and his cohorts attempt to solve the murder.  At the same time, the protagonists get involved in some of the more urgent politics of the realm as they attempt to bring a group of religious zealots to justice.  Things really intensify in the second half of the book, as the narrator is dragged into a disastrous undercover operation and the culprits of the murder are uncovered, resulting in a cool court trial sequence which gives the book an additional legal thriller edge.  However, solving the case brings everyone further misery as the culprits are connected to the wider antagonists who arrive, seeking their own version of justice.  This leads to a major and brutal confrontation, which really amped up the intensity and ensured you really could not put the book down.  I had a brilliant time getting through this captivating narrative, and Swan really ensures you will come back for the next read, especially following some epic character developments and major confrontations.  I cannot emphasise how amazing this story was, and Swan did a brilliant job of bringing so many different elements together into one exciting story.

I was pretty impressed with the detailed and compelling new fantasy universe that Swan created for this series.  The divided, multi-nation Empire of the Wolf provided rich ground for the many conspiracies and plots that were uncovered in this book and readers are going to have a lot of fun exploring it.  I also really loved the interesting magic elements of the book, especially as it revolves around the Justices.  The idea of magical roaming lawmen bringing justice to the outer reaches of a massive empire is exceedingly cool, and Swan introduces it extremely well in this book.  I also enjoyed the fantastic magical abilities that Swan featured in The Justice of Kings, although they are subtle compared to other fantasy books.  Magic in this universe lies primarily with the Justices and each of them can wield one or two abilities at a time.  Since there are only two Justices featured in this book you only really see a few of these abilities in action, although they are impressive in their own way.  The main ability is The Emperor’s Voice, which is a bit of low-level magical mind control, forcing unsuspecting and weak-minded suspects to the tell the truth and admit their crimes.  This ability is used to great effect throughout the book, and I loved the idea of a magical lawman’s primary power being the ability to force out a truthful confession.  The other major ability was a bit of necromancy that Vonvalt can do which allows him to talk to recently deceased people to gain extra information from them.  The scenes that feature Vonvalt talking to the dead are terrifying and they hint at some darker forces in the universe, which are no doubt going to be featured later in the series.  I felt that these magical abilities and the wider world were perfectly introduced in The Justice of Kings and you really get an idea of how impressive the Justices are, as well as how unstable the Empire is.  I look forward to some more worldbuilding in the future, which will hopefully feature some deep examinations of the Justices, perhaps in a magical school setting.  No matter what, though, Swan really showed off his aptitude for fantasy fiction here and I very much enjoyed his magical inventiveness.

I will admit that I had a bit of a mixed reaction when it came to the characters in The Justice of Kings, which really did impact my overall enjoyment of the story.  This mixed reaction was mainly down to the main character of Helena Sedanka, the book’s narrator and point of view character.  While Helena was an interesting character and her unique perspective on the events as the Justice’s clerk moved the story along, I personally did not connect with her as a character.  No matter how hard I tried, I found a lot of her actions to be annoying and I was constantly groaning at her dialogue and narration.  While I realise that many of her actions were done to highlight the character’s youth and inexperience, I had a hard time enjoying the story when events where focused on her, and my dislike never abated.  Considering that she was the only voice of the book, this naturally affected my overall experience of The Justice of Kings and it was the major hurdle in my enjoyment of the novel.  I am really hoping that Swan will tone down the characteristics of Helena I disliked in the future books, and perhaps I will have a much better time with the next book in the series.

Luckily, the other major character in The Justice of Kings were pretty damn awesome, and I felt that they did a great job offsetting my dislike for Helena.  This character was the Justice, Sir Konrad Vonvalt, who serves as the complex and intense protagonist of the story.  Vonvalt is pretty damn epic from the very start of the book, and even before it (he looks very cool on the cover above).  A tough but fair Justice, Vonvalt is one of the few honest men left in the Empire and his primary concern is his duty and the administration of the law to anyone, no matter their station.  You honestly can’t help but like Vonvalt throughout this book, as his straight forward and honest approach to the situations, as well as his general kindness and deeper fury at injustice, really struck a chord with me.  Unfortunately, after getting you to like him, Swan ensures that Vonvalt goes through a lot of pain, which slowly start to change him, especially when his own naivety about the state of the Empire and his own order comes back to bite him in a big way.  This really wounds Vonvalt, and you really see him change, especially towards the end of the book, where he becomes harsh, bordering on cruel, in his search for justice and revenge.  All of this is extremely hard to watch for the reader, and you have to both hate and love Swan for making Vonvalt such a great character that these events also hurt you.  This change in character is obviously going to be a major part of Vonvalt’s character arc in the future, and I can’t wait to see the more vengeful version of this once noble night. 

I grabbed The Justice of Kings on audiobook, which was a fantastic and fun way of enjoying this intriguing read.  Coming in with a run time of a little under 14 hours, The Justice of Kings audiobook has a descent length to it, although dedicated listeners can easily power through it quickly.  I felt that this format did a great job of enhancing the complex story contained within this book, and you really appreciate some of the compelling details of the new universe when they are read out to you.  I also quite enjoyed the narration of Lucy Paterson, who brings the story to life with her excellent voice.  Paterson gives some amazing voices to all the key figures in the book, especially Helena, and I appreciated her take on all the characters.  As such, this was a pretty awesome format to enjoy The Justice of Kings on and I will definitely be grabbing the next book on audiobook when it comes out.

Overall, The Justice of Kings was a particularly cool and enjoyable book that has rightfully put Richard Swan on the fantasy fiction map.  Swan was deeply impressive with his fantasy debut here and it is hard not to love the amazing blend of mystery, magic, politics and the search for justice that were contained within.  While I did have some dislikes when it came to The Justice of Kings, I felt that this was a wonderful book and I plan to come back to the series in the new year, especially as there is an awesome, potential laden sequel out very soon. 

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Warhammer 40,000: Kasrkin by Edoardo Albert

Warhammer 40,000 - Kasrkin Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 22 October 2022)

Series: Warhammer 40,000

Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Get ready for some high-concept action in the latest awesome and exciting Warhammer 40,000 novel by Edoardo Albert, Kasrkin.

While I might be repeating myself a little, I must once again talk about the particularly amazing year I’m having when it comes to Warhammer 40,000 fiction.  There have been some outstanding Warhammer 40,00 books out in 2022, and I have done my best to listen to as many of them as possible.  Some of my personal highlights include The Wraithbone Phoenix, Outgunned, Assassinorum: Kingmaker, Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh! and Day of Ascension, just to name a few.  All these have been a ton of fun, and so when I had an open slot in my reading schedule, I naturally chose another recent Warhammer 40,000 book, Kasrkin.  Written by a new-to-me author, Edoardo Albert, who has previously created some interesting pieces of Warhammer fiction, Kasrkin is an action epic that pits a band of elite warriors on a deadly mission into the dark heart of a desert planet.

Welcome to the deadly desert world of Dasht i-Kevar, an Imperial planet currently under siege by the advanced xenos, the T’au, who have turned the usually baren planet into a bloody battlefield.  But the war is about to get even more interesting as the T’au have succeeded in shooting down an Imperial Valkyrie containing an important Astra Militarum general, whose knowledge of the Imperial Guard strategy and disposition could cause the planet to fall.

Only one group of Imperial soldiers have a chance of journeying into the harsh desert of the planet, an elite squad of Cadian Kasrkin.  Led by Captain Bharath Obeysekera, the Kasrkin are tasked to travel deep into the Great Sand Sea behind enemy lines to find the general and either recover him or kill him to keep him out of enemy hands.  The best of the best, the Kasrkin are trained to operate in any terrain and face off against any enemy.  But none of them have every encountered anything as endless, hot, or deadly as the deserts on Dasht i-Kevar.

Cut off by sandstorms and forced to journey over impossible obstacles, the Kasrkin are firmly on their own and can only rely on themselves.  But the deeper they journey in the wastes, the more they begin to realise that they are not as alone as they thought.  Other hunters are searching for the missing general, and the mysterious locals have their own games to play.  However, none of them are prepared for an ancient evil lurking far beneath the desert sands, determined to kill everything it encounters.

Another week, another exceptional Warhammer 40,000 novel that I had so much damn fun listening to.  Kasrkin was an excellent, fast-paced read that follows a compelling group of characters on an epic adventure tale.  Loaded with action, compelling characters, and a story that makes perfect use of its setting and the fantastic lore of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Kasrkin in an epic read from Edoardo Albert that I absolutely powered through.

The story itself starts off pretty simply, with Albert introducing the reader to the Kasrkin squad and quickly setting them on their mission to find the missing general.  The early parts of the book are really focussed on allowing the reader to get their heads around the book’s premise, the characters, and the impressive desert setting, which honestly takes on a life of its own.  Initially a little slow going to build up tension and camaraderie amongst the Kasrkin, the book starts to get interesting about a third of the way in, when Albert introduces some unique world elements which show how cool and weird the Warhammer 40,000 universe can be.  From there, the story takes the protagonists closer to their objective, and I was initially a little surprised at how soon then managed to get where they were going.  However, this proves to be a bit of a ruse from Albert, as he chooses this moment to really shake everything up.

About halfway through, the entire structure of the book changes with the appearance of a new group of point of view characters, a kindred of Kroot aliens, determined to capture the general for the T’au.  This results in an awesome split in focus between the human and Kroot characters, and I loved the sudden introduction of an excellent rival group who appear equal to the Kasrkin in terms of combat ability.  However, this is not the only surprise that Albert has in store, as both the Kasrkin and the Kroot find themselves facing off against an even more deadly enemy in a fantastic new setting.  While I won’t go into too much detail about what happens next, it was a pretty epic move from Albert and one that I deeply appreciated.  The rest of the story is particularly intense and dark, and there some real horror vibes going for part of it, which fit in perfectly with the powerful narrative and darker setting.  Albert really layers on the action in the second half of the book, and I loved all the shocking and bloody places that he took his story, especially as there are several great twists and some truly engaging scenes featured throughout.  Everything comes to an excellent end, and this proves to be a particularly powerful and gripping Warhammer 40,000 read that really stands on its own.

I felt that Albert’s strong writing style helped to enhance the compelling narrative of Kasrkin and I really appreciated how the author’s style brought everything to life.  Like most Warhammer 40,000 novels, Kasrkin is a great standalone read that is very appealing for established fans of the franchise.  However, this book can also be easily enjoyed by most general science fiction or military fiction fans, especially as the author covers all the relevant lore details that you need to understand the world you are diving into.  Albert blends together some excellent storylines in this novel, and he keeps the pace steady, with a ton of brilliant action and dangerous occurrences.  I liked how the narrative kept morphing as the book progressed as what started as a compelling, if slower, desert adventure eventually turned into a high-octane war novel, before finally transforming into a desperate survival novel in a horror setting.  Albert manages these changes in style really well, and I think the constant alterations helped to keep the reader’s attention glued to all the craziness of the book. 

At the same time, the book remains a soldier’s story at heart, which is something that Warhammer fiction always excels at showing (good recent examples include Steel Tread, The Vincula Insurgency and Catachan Devil).  Watching these elite soldiers face impressive odds makes for an awesome read, especially as Albert also dives into their deeper concerns and features some deeper betrayals and intrigues.  I also cannot highlight enough how outstanding the combat sequences were in Kasrkin as Albert features some pretty hairy action scenarios.  I was particularly impressed with how well these combat scenes were enhanced by the book’s multiple character perspectives, especially once the Kroot were introduced.  Having the perspectives changed between the opponent groups as the firefights was ongoing was just brilliant, and it was amazing to see both sides of the battle, as well as the reactions from the rival teams.  All this, and more, really brought the best out of Kasrkin’s narrative and I deeply enjoyed how it was showcased.

Perhaps one of the most notable features of Kasrkin are the distinctive and memorable locations.  The reader is dragged to several great settings throughout the course of the plot, and the author takes particular pleasure in presenting them in exquisite detail.  The main location is the endless, featureless desert of Dasht i-Kevar, which the characters are forced to traverse for a good part of the book.  I got some great Dune vibes from this setting, and Albert makes this desert out to be a soulless, crushing place of shifting sands, massive unstable dunes, and intense heat, with the ability to strip the resolve and strength from the strongest of men.  Just listening to the characters traverse it made me thirsty, and you could really imagine the harsh journey they are going through.  At the same time, Albert also introduces some very unique aspects to the desert, including impossibly smooth patches of sand that move like water and mysterious water that lives deep under the surface which gives the planet some unusual life.  All these elements are very memorable, and you find yourself really feeling the intense desert surroundings as the characters push through it.  I think that Albert did a remarkable job of introducing and then utilising this harsh setting and it definitely stood out as a landmark part of the book.  A second, darker location becomes the key setting for much of the second half of Kasrkin and while I will again be brief to avoid spoilers, it was pretty damn epic.  Serving as the lair of a notable enemy, this location was a haunting and deadly setting, and one that the characters all struggled to survive in.  There are so many surprises and foes lurking in this location, and the strain of it really showed on the characters who find themselves with very little chance of survival.  I had such a great time with this location, and it, as well as the outside desert, helped to turn Kasrkin into a particularly noteworthy book.

On top of the new setting, I was also really impressed with the outstanding Warhammer 40,000 elements contained within this great book.  As I mentioned before, Kasrkin is a book a range of readers can enjoy, and part of the reason why is that Albert spends a lot of time exploring the unique lore elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe that come into play during the plot.  Not only does this help to introduce the universe to new readers but established fans will appreciate how deep Albert dives into the subject.  As the name of this book suggests, quite a lot of the focus revolves around the Cadian Kasrkin, the most elite special forces group in the whole Imperial Guard.  Albert showcases them perfectly throughout the book, and it was so damn epic to see them in action, especially as they live up to all the hype and work together as a particularly effective unit.  The author dives into all their particularly quirks, training and operational preferences that sets them apart from the common Astra Militarum units, and you come away with a greater appreciation for who they are and what they can do.  In addition, there is a great underlying look at how the Kasrkin are doing following the destruction of their home world of Cadia, and I loved the deeper grief that they are all suffering after their failure and the hardships they have faced.

On top of the Kasrkin, Albert also spends a substantial amount of time examining and featuring other Warhammer 40,000 factions throughout the story.  The most prominent outside of the Kasrkin are the kindred of Kroot that become the protagonist’s opponents.  During their multiple scenes, Albert dives deep into the biology, beliefs and society of the Kroot, and the reader is soon given a crash course in who they are and what they can do.  There is a particular focus on their biological abilities, with Albert exploring their avian traits, their ability to communicate in different frequencies (giving off high-pitched whistles, which made several hunting scenes particularly cool) and more.  The real focus is on the Kroot’s ability to absorb the genetic traits of anything they consume, which is a big part of their society, as they live to hunt and consume prey that can give them a greater edge in battle.  Albert really examines this hunting and eating part of their culture, and it was fascinating to see how diverse the Kroot are after eating different creatures during their travels.  This ability plays a big role in the plot, with horrific consequences, and I loved having the Kroot featured so heavily in this book, especially as I haven’t seen them in too many other pieces of Warhammer 40,000 fiction.  I also loved how Albert did some fun contrasts between the Kroot and the Kasrkin and showed that they were very similar in their abilities and mentalities (and they both refer to their groups as kin).  Watching the two sides face off against each other is a thing of beauty and it results in some complex and exciting battle scenes.

On top of the Kasrkin and the Kroot, a third major faction from the Warhammer 40,000 universe are also featured, and they become an exceptional part of the books plot in the second half of the book.  Just like with the other groups featured within Kasrkin, Albert examines and features this group extremely well, and you get a good idea of who they are and what motivates them, even if they are a little more unusual then the general examples you see in Warhammer fiction.  I was particularly impressed with how Albert used one distinctive unit from this third faction throughout the course of Kasrkin, and they prove to be brutal and terrifying hunters that haunt the point of view characters in some epic and dark ways.  I cannot emphasise how well Albert featured all these different factions throughout Kasrkin, and fans of the franchise are going to have an outstanding time seeing them all in action and facing off against each other.

I had a lot of fun with the characters featured in Kasrkin as the author features some interesting interactions and character development in a short amount of time.  Most of the book focuses on the members of the Kasrkin team, including their leader, Captain Bharath Obeysekera, a veteran officer with a lot of regrets behind him.  Albert showcases this character a lot and Obeysekera proves to be a bit more of a radical thinker than your typical Imperial soldier, which I felt fit rather well in this unusual tale of survival, and it was heartbreaking to see him try and fail to keep his squad alive.  Other great characters include Sergeant Shaan Malick, the squad’s veteran NCO, who serves as a rock for most of the book, while also playing his own selfish game.  Watching him manipulate the other characters added a great edge to the plot, and I really appreciated his realistic and understandable motivations once they were revealed.  I was also very impressed with the character of Roshant, a newly minted Commissar with family connections who joins the mission and proves to be a bit of a pain for most of it.  Initially despised by the men and seen as a coward, Roshant goes through some real soul searching in this book, and it was fascinating to see this privileged character contrasted against the rough and tough Kasrkins, especially in some dangerous situations.  The rest of Kasrkin’s cast are also pretty impressive, and Albert does a good job of balancing the narrative around a large group of characters.  There is some excellent character work in this book, and I really appreciated seeing such a fun and damaged cast go to war against each other.

Like most Warhammer 40,000 books, I chose to enjoy Kasrkin in its audiobook format, which was an absolute ton of fun.  Coming in at just over 11 hours, the Kasrkin audiobook was an excellent and quick way to experience this fantastic narrative, especially as all the many cool action sequences really seemed to pop in this format.  The real highlight of this audiobook was narrator David Seddon, whose work I previously enjoyed in the short production Dredge Runners.  Seddon did a remarkable job with the narration in Kasrkin, and I loved how he swiftly moved the book along and perfectly controlled the pacing of the audiobook.  I was also deeply impressed with the huge range of voices that he brought to the production, and he effectively captured all the characters featured in this book and gave them all distinctive and fitting voices that showcased their personalities and emotions.  Not only does he capture the various gruff and thoughtful human characters, but he also provides some great alternate voices for some of the alien characters contained within.  The avian-inspired voices of the Kroot characters reminded me a little of the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal, which was really fitting considering the Kroot’s evolutionary origins.  I also loved the deeper and more ancient voice that was used for another character, revealed later in the book, especially when combined with the various voices used for this character’s computer servant.  This outstanding voice work really helped with my enjoyment of this book, and I had a wonderful time listening to the Kasrkin audiobook.  This was easily the best way to enjoy this fantastic book, and I would strongly recommend this format to anyone interested.

The Warhammer 40,000 universe continues to enchant and amaze me with this latest tie-in book Kasrkin.  Edoardo Albert wrote a powerful and deeply intense read that sees an iconic regiment from the game go up against all manner of trouble in some exceptional settings.  Extremely addictive, relentlessly exciting, and very clever, Kasrkin was an outstanding read that I am really glad I decided to check it out.  Highly recommended, especially for fans of Warhammer 40,000 fiction.  You are guaranteed to have a great time with this excellent tie-in book.

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