Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Star Wars Novels (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 week’s Top Ten Tuesday was to provide one-word reviews the last 10 books I have read.  While this was a rather interesting topic, I have done something a little different and instead decided to focus on something more Star Wars orientated.

As many of you may be aware, this week contains the annual celebration of all things Star Wars with May the Fourth, better known as Star Wars day.  I am a pretty massive fan of the Star Wars franchise (just check out my extended Star Wars category on the side of this page), and in recent years have really fallen in love with the various aspects of its extended universe, including the films, television shows, animated series, comics and of course the tie-in novels.  Each year multiple cool and complex novels are released with impressive connections to the extended Star Wars universe covering various periods of the canon and beyond.  I have had an absolute brilliant time reading some of the very best of these tie-in novels over the years and there are some excellent and powerful adventures featured in these awesome books.  Due to how much I enjoy these books, I have decided to celebrate May the Fourth this year by once again highlighting my top ten favourite Star Wars novels.  This is a continuation of several lists I have done in recent years, including two I did last year about Star Wars novels and Star Wars comics.

To pull this list together I looked at all the Star Wars novels I have read (or listened to in its audiobook format) over the years and tried to determine what my absolute favourites were.  I slightly cheated in places by featuring whole trilogies, particularly those with really well-connected storylines, as a single entry, although I don’t feel too guilty about that.  This allowed me to pull together quite a comprehensive list, as well as my typical generous Honourable Mentions section.  I am pretty happy with how this list came together, especially as there are some interesting changes from my previous entries, and I think that this list fully highlights my absolute favourite Star Wars tie-in novels.  So let us see what makes the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

deathtrooperscover

A fun and terrifying Star Wars horror novel that features zombies chasing after Han and Chewie.  An entertaining read best enjoyed in its audiobook format, which has some very disturbing sound effects.

 

Doctor Aphra by Sarah Kuhn

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover

A captivating and well-produced full cast audio production that looks at the unique and always amusing character of Doctor Chelli Aphra, the rogue space archaeologist and conwoman.  An audio reproduction of storylines from the Darth Vader (2015) comic (see my reviews for Volume 1: Vader, Volume 2: Shadows and Secrets, and the Vader Down limited series), Doctor Aphra perfectly captures the titular character in all her conniving glory and it is an extremely amusing listen.

 

Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber

Star Wars - Maul - Lockdown Cover

A brutal and action-packed prison story featuring a young Darth Maul involved in broadcast death fights.  What is there not to love?

 

The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule

Star Wars - Light of the Jedi Cover

A brilliant and powerful introduction to the new High Republic sub-series, set hundreds of years before the Skywalker Saga.  This was an excellent novel and a must read for anyone interested in checking out the current focus of the Star Wars extended universe.

Top Ten List:

Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Trilogy

Let’s start this list off with the epic trilogy of books that follow one of the best characters in the Star Wars extended canon, the Thrawn trilogy.  Made up of Thrawn, Alliances and Treason, these amazing books follow the Imperial career of Grand Admiral Thrawn in the current Disney canon.  Written by the legendary Timothy Zahn, who reinvents his greatest fictional creation for a new age, this series featured a brilliant central character, impressive storylines, and some intense and well-written space battle sequences.  It is so much fun to see the ultimate tactician go against the very worst the galaxy has to throw at him, and this ended up being a particularly awesome trilogy.

 

Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Ascendancy Trilogy Covers

Zahn followed up this initial Thrawn trilogy in a big way with the epic Thrawn Ascendancy prequel trilogy.  Featuring three great books, Chaos Rising, Greater Good and Lesser Evil, the Thrawn Ascendancy novels showcase a younger Thrawn as he battles to save his home system from a relentless and multi-pronged alien invasion.  Containing all the best elements of the Thrawn trilogy, as well as some intensive and detailed universe building that bears noticeable connections to the author’s previous work in the Legends extended universe, this is another exceptional trilogy that is well worth reading.

 

Alphabet Squadron trilogy by Alexander Freed

Alphabet Squadron Cover

Alexander Freed recently wrote one of the strongest and most emotionally charged Star Wars trilogies with his exceptional Alphabet Squadron books.  Made up of Alphabet Squadron, Shadow Fall and Victory’s Price, this incredible trilogy followed five unique New Republic fighter pilots in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi, as they attempt to finish off the Imperial remnant.  This trilogy perfectly follows its five damaged and despairing central characters, as well as several morally grey Imperial characters, as they all seek redemption and deliverance in their own unique way.  Featuring some blistering and epic fighter combat sequences, as well as some of the best Star Wars character development you are ever likely to see, the Alphabet Squadron novels are extremely good, with Victory’s Price (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2021) serving as an intense and unbeatable finale.

 

Dark Disciple by Christie Golden

Star Wars Dark Disciple Cover

Prepare to dive into the Dark Side of the Force with the excellent Dark Disciple from tie-in fiction extraordinaire Christie Golden.  Serving as a follow-up to The Clone Wars animated series (it is based on several unproduced episodes), this novel follows two fan-favourite characters from the extended universe, Quinlan Vos and Asajj Ventress, as they attempt to assassinate Count Dooku.  Containing an intense character-driven narrative that sees both protagonists at their very worst, Dark Disciple provides some intriguing closure to fans of The Clone Wars, as well as an exceptional story.

 

Kenobi by John Jackson Miller

Star Wars - Kenobi Cover

An intriguing and unique Star Wars Legends novel that is probably going to get some more attention in the next few weeks, Kenobi is a new addition to this list, but one that is very well deserved.  Written by the insanely talented John Jackson Miller, Kenobi follows the titular character in the immediate aftermath of Revenge of the Sith, as he attempts to settled down on Tatooine.  However, trouble is always around the corner for this former Jedi, and Kenobi soon finds himself involved in a brewing war between the Tuscan Raiders and local farmers.  Containing a great, outside look as this iconic character during his darkest days, Kenobi is an impressive read that may serve as an influence for the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi show.

 

The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover

While Light of the Jedi serves as a great introduction to the High Republic books, I think that the current best entry in this fantastic sub-series is the intense and captivating The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott.  Continuing many great storylines from the first book, The Rising Storm sees the villainous Nihil raid the high-profile Republic Fair in a brazen public attack.  Containing scenes of utter chaos, as well as some outstanding character development, The Rising Storm serves as a perfect middle novel for the first High Republic phase and was a deeply captivating and powerful read.

 

Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp

Lords of the Sith Cover

An indisputable fact about the Star Wars universe is that some of the very best stories are all about the franchise’s amazing villains, and Lords of the Sith is an impressive example of this.  Following the characters of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine, Lords of the Sith pits these legendary Dark Side users against rebels, monsters and traitors, all of whom are set on killing them.  Featuring an addictive story and some entertaining depictions of the Sith Lord’s destructive powers, skills and malevolence, Lords of the Sith is a brilliant read that will try to tempt you to the Dark Side.

 

Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

Star Wars Scoundrels Cover

While Zahn is best known for his epics around Thrawn, he has also written some thrilling standalone novels, such as the excellent Star Wars Legends novel Scoundrels.  Essentially a Star Wars heist novel, Scoundrels sees Han, Chewie, Lando and several of their villainous compatriots attempt to pull off the ultimate theft, while also facing gangsters, Imperial agents and multiple betrayals from within.  An outstanding novel that showcases just how good a crime fiction novel in the Star Wars universe can be, this is an exceptional read I cannot praise enough.

 

Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray

Master & Apprentice Cover

I am a major fan of this awesome novel from a few years ago by Claudia Gray.  Master & Apprentice tells a powerful story of the early relationship between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they investigate strange occurrences around an upcoming coronation.  Providing a deep dive into both these key characters, this was a moving and intense novel that is really worth checking out.

 

Darth Plagueis by James Luceno

Star Wars - Darth Plagueis Cover

The final entry on this list is the intriguing and comprehensive Star Wars Legends novel, Darth Plagueis.  Written by the talented James Luceno, Darth Plagueis tells the entire story of the mysterious Darth Plagueis the Wise, including his complex relationship with his ambitious apprentice, Darth Sidious.  A clever novel that connects to multiple parts of the now defunct Legends canon, Darth Plagueis is a must read for all hardcore fans who love detailed Star Wars lore, and a potential source of great inspiration for anyone attempting to bring Plagueis to life in the future.

 

 

This latest version of the list looking at my favourite Star Wars tie-in novels contains some fantastic reads and really covers the full spectrum of what a Star Wars story can achieve or contain.  All the entries above are very epic reads and come highly recommended to anyone who wants to get into the Star Wars genre.  This will probably be a list I come back to this time next year and it will be interesting to see how much it changes in the meantime.  There are some outstanding Star Wars books coming out in the next few months (Brotherhood and Shadow of the Sith, for example), as well as some other great Star Wars books from this year I am yet to check out, all of which I could easily see being added to this list next year.  There are also a ton of older Star Wars novels I need to read as I have heard some epic stuff about some of them (Battlefront: Twilight Company, A New Dawn, Outbound Flight, Razor’s Edge and Honor Among Thieves are all high on my to-read list).  I could honestly see this list expanding out to a top 20 list in the future, which is a whole lot of Star Wars books.  Let me know which Star Wars tie-in novel is your favourite in the comments below and as always, May the Fourth be with you!

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Book Covers of 2021

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, where I am going to list my absolute favourite book covers of the last year.  This is actually the second Top Ten Tuesday post I am putting up today, mainly because I wanted to finish off all my best-of-2021 lists before we got too far into the new year.  I have previously highlighted several other amazing books from last year in a range of lists, including My Favourite Books of 2021, Favourite Audiobooks, Favourite Debuts and Favourite Australian Fiction lists, and I think looking at awesome covers is a good way to wrap this all up.

Now, I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I think we can all agree that an awesome piece of cover art can really raise some interest in a novel.  I can personally think of several examples where an epic cover absolutely grabbed me and convinced me to check out a novel that I ended up really loving.  2021 was a great example of this as there were some extremely cool and impressive covers that I thought were visually stunning.  Most of these outstanding covers complemented and emphasised the amazing stories within, and in some places the cover artists really went all out to produce some truly epic statement pieces.  As such, I thought I would quickly highlight some of the best covers here by producing a visually awesome list.  To appear on this list, the book had to be released in 2021 and had to be generally impressive and amazing.  I think I ended up choosing a great range of excellent covers, and I hope you enjoy all the pretty pictures below.  I have tried to find out who did the cover art where possible, although for a couple of books (ones I got on audiobook and don’t have a physical copy of), I couldn’t find out who drew it.  Apologies in advance for any artist I overlooked.

Honourable Mentions:

Lies Like Wildfire written by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, cover by MISHKO

Lies Like Wildfire Cover

 

The Dark written by Jeremy Robinson

The Dark Cover

 

Breakout written by Paul Herron, cover by Patrick Insole

Breakout Cover

 

The Mask of Mirrors written by M. A. Carrick, cover by Nekro and Lauren Panepinto

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

Top Ten Tuesday:

The Shadow of the Gods written by John Gwynne, cover by Marcus Whinney

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

My absolute favourite cover of 2021, this epic piece of art really grabbed my attention and forced me to read this impressive piece of fantasy fiction.  I had a wonderful time with The Shadow of the Gods and the upcoming sequel, The Hunger of the Gods, also has an extremely awesome cover (easily going to be one of the best covers of 2022).

 

Star Wars: Visions: Ronin written by Emma Mieko Candon, cover by Ella Laytham and Kotaro Chiba

Star Wars Visions - Ronin Cover

There were some cool pieces of Star Wars cover art out this year, but nothing could top the artistic masterpiece that appeared on Ronin.  A tie-in to the Star Wars: Visions anime series, the cover of Ronin made perfect use of traditional Japanese artforms to create something exceptional.  I loved the blend of Star Wars iconography and the classic Japanese wave form, and this was an absolute joy to behold.

 

The Pariah written by Anthony Ryan, cover by Lauren Panepinto and Jaime Jones

The Pariah Cover

A clever and subtle bit of art that showcases the roguish protagonist of this fun fantasy novel.  I think the artist did a great job of highlighting what was to come in The Pariah, and the cool detail around the character was very impressive.  While I loved the art for The Pariah, I think that the cover on the upcoming sequel, The Martyr, is even better, and I can’t wait to grab it.

 

The Twice-Dead King: Ruin, written by Nate Crowley

The Twice-Dead King - Ruin Cover

Gosh artists must have so much fun coming up with art for Warhammer covers, as there are some amazing and fantastic elements contained in this extended universe.  I particularly loved this cover from last year, which showcases the ancient and mysterious Necron race in all their glory.  A great cover for a very entertaining tie-in novel.

 

The Warsaw Orphan written by Kelly Rimmer, cover by Christabella Designs

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

A simple and understated cover that does a wonderful job highlighting the upcoming dread and tragedy contained in this moving historical drama novel.

 

Colonyside, written by Michael Mammay, cover by Sebastien Hue

Colonyside Cover

There have been some really great covers for the previous books in Michael Mammay’s Planetside series (Planetside and Spaceside), but I think that the one for Colonyside was the best.  I love the above shot, especially as it perfectly captures the insane jungle planet that was such a distinctive setting of this book.  A very fun cover!

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Tempest Runner, written by Cavan Scott, cover by Katerina Balikova

Star Wars - Tempest Runner Cover

While I also deeply enjoyed one of the covers for Cavan Scott’s other 2021 Star Wars release, The Rising Storm, I think that the cool art that adorned the front of Tempest Runner was even better.  Tempest Runner, which was released as both a full-cast audio drama and a paperback, was a great read, and I loved how this cover did a fantastic job of capturing it’s entertaining and deadly central character.

 

Later, written by Stephen King, cover by Paul Mann

Later Cover

I loved the classic mystery novel feel that the artists choose to utilise for Stephen King’s early 2021 release, Later.  This cover does a fantastic job capturing the unique tone of this cool horror/coming-of-age story and gives it a fun, crime fiction-tinged edge.  This cover, as well as another couple of covers done by Gregory Manchess for the hardcover version, also fit the story really well, especially as they connect to the cheesy adventure novels that the protagonist and his mother produce.

 

Cytonic written by Brandon Sanderson, cover by Sam Green and Tomas Almeida

Cytonic Cover

I have a lot of love for the cool covers that get used in the Gollancz versions of Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward series (so far consisting of Skyward and Starlight).  The cover for the third book, Cytonic, was particularly awesome, and I loved how it showcased parts of the very unique new setting of the third novel.

 

The Art of Death written by David Fennell, cover by Nick Stearn

The Art of Death Cover

A creepy and eye-catching piece of artwork that hints at the disturbing crimes contained in this fantastic 2021 crime fiction debut.

 

Well, that’s the end of this second list, I hope you enjoyed all the cool covers above.  Make sure to me know what your favourite book covers of 2021 was in the comments below and I cannot wait to see what awesome and epic pieces of art will grace the front of 2022’s best reads.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Tempest Runner written by Cavan Scott and performed by a full cast

Star Wars - Tempest Runner Cover

Publisher: Random House Audio (Audio Drama – 31 August 2021)

Series: Star Wars – The High Republic

Script: Cavan Scott

Cast: Jessica Almasy, Dan Bittner, Orlagh Cassidy, Sullivan Jones, January LaVoy, Kathleen McInerney, Tara Sands, Vikas Adam, Jonathan Davis, Neil Hellegers, Saskia Maarleveld, Soneela Nankani, Marc Thompson and Shannon Tyo

Length: 6 hours and 5 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The epic High Republic era of Star Wars fiction continues in Tempest Runner, the brilliant and captivating full-cast audio drama written by impressive author Cavan Scott.

Ever since its beginnings in early 2021, I have been having a lot of fun with the cool new focus of the Star Wars extended universe known as The High Republic.  Set hundreds of years before the Skywalker Saga, The High Republic has featured several impressive novels, comics and other media releases that tell a grim story of destruction and strife in the golden age of the Republic and the Jedi.  One of more interesting pieces of this fiction from late 2021 was this fantastic full-cast audio drama, Tempest Runner, which focused on one of this era’s best villains, the Nihil Tempest Runner, Lourna Dee.  This awesome audio drama was authored by the exceedingly talented Cavan Scott, who not only wrote my favourite High Republic book so far, The Rising Storm, but also a great previous Star Wars audio drama, Dooku: Jedi Lost.

Synopsis:

The Nihil storm has raged through the galaxy, leaving chaos and grief in its wake. Few of its raiders are as vicious as the Tempest Runner Lourna Dee. She stays one step ahead of the Jedi Order at the helm of a vessel named after one of the deadliest monsters in the galaxy: the Lourna Dee. But no one can outrun the defenders of the High Republic forever.

After the defeat of her crew, Lourna falls into the hands of the Jedi – but not before she hides her identity, becoming just another Nihil convict. Her captors fail to understand the beast they have cornered. Just like every fool she’s ever buried, their first mistake was keeping her alive.

Lourna is determined to make underestimating her their last.

Locked onto a Republic correctional ship, she’s dragged across the galaxy to repair the very damage she and her fellow Tempest Runners inflicted on it. But as Lourna plans her glorious escape, she makes alliances that grow dangerously close to friendships. Outside the Nihil – separated from her infamous ship, her terrifying arsenal, and her feared name – Lourna must carve her own path. But will it lead to redemption? Or will she emerge as a deadlier threat than ever before?

Tempest Runner ended up being an entertaining and captivating piece of Star Wars fiction.  Featuring another excellent story from Scott that not only dives into the past of great character Lourna Dee but continues the story set up in several of the past High Republic novels.  Perfectly told using a full cast of narrators, this was an outstanding audio drama that I had a wonderful time listening to.

It was clear that Scott was on quite a roll last year when it came to fantastic storytelling.  Tempest Runner is set after the events of The Rising Storm and continues several interesting storylines from this novel, as well as other pieces of High Republic fiction such as Light of the Jedi and Out of the Shadows.  Starting off with Lourna’s capture by the Jedi, the story shows her successfully hide her identity and get imprisoned aboard a Republic prison ship doing hard labour as punishment.  Trapped with some of the worst criminals in the galaxy, as well as former Nihil members who utilise her identity for her own good, Lourna is forced to survive while also coming to terms with who she is, what drives her and what she wants from the future, especially when she connects with one of the prison guards.  However, an enemy from her past has found out where she is and is determined to kill her no matter what.  This leads to several intense and brutal confrontations as Lourna is forced to once again bring out her inner monster to save herself and defeat her opponents, while also setting her path for future endeavours in the High Republic universe.

Tempest Runner’s narrative ended up being pretty intense, and I loved the cool and intriguing plot, especially as there are several fun twists and reveals, including that great one towards the end.  While this is a mostly self-contained piece of Star Wars fiction, there are multiple intriguing connections to other High Republic novels and comics.  I particularly loved how several of the best villains from the main two novels were used here, and it also sets up Lourna’s storyline for the next book in the series.  Scott employs an interesting and roundabout way of telling Tempest Runner’s story, utilising a series of flashbacks and interludes to continue the main plot which occasionally helps compensate for the lack of descriptive words that is characteristic of the audio drama format.  I really need to highlight the book’s great opening section in which the capture of the protagonist is recounted in compelling detail to the novel’s main antagonist, with the storyteller and his audience providing questions and commentary during the dramatisation of the events being discussed to provide context.  The storyline has a great blend of elements, and I loved the fantastic prison story, the intrigue of the Nihil, the fantastic revenge plot surrounding the antagonist, as well as the massive amount of character development that occurs around the main character.

Scott really went out of his way to explore the character of Lourna Dee in Tempest Runner.  Despite being one of the most distinctive and entertaining villains in the High Republic canon, very little was known about Lourna Dee before now, except that she is an unassailable badass who is even capable of hanging with a Jedi in a fight.  Tempest Runner, however, dives deep into the heart of this cool character, and I liked the complex and intriguing development and history around her.  Most of the story is dedicated to the modern Lourna, who, after being captured, attempts to turn over a new leaf in the prison system to survive.  This provides some interesting insights into her mind and motivations, especially as she is not as mindless a killer as some of the previous books would lead you to believe.  Instead, she is quite a complex and tragic figure, something that is made clear when you see the various flashbacks to her past that Scott comes up with.  These flashbacks tell a captivating tale of betrayal and heartbreak, showcasing what led an innocent girl to a life of hardship and crime.  This backstory is extremely fascinating, with some powerful moments of love, loss, and revenge.  In addition, the story also dives into how she became a member of the Nihil and rose in its ranks.  This interesting background weaved into the main plot extremely well, and I think that Scott showcased the character’s past perfectly, ensuring that it explains her current mentality and motivations.  I am deeply happy that we finally got to see this character’s backstory, and it really did not disappoint.

While most of Tempest Runner’s focus was on Lourna Dee, a couple of other characters really stood out to me.  This included Tasia, the former Nihil member who blackmails Lourna to help her survive in prison.  Tasia is a fun secondary antagonist, and it was very entertaining to see her try and make a power play on Lourna once she was no longer in control.  I also loved seeing more of Pan Eyta, a former Nihil Tempest Runner who was betrayed by Lourna in The Rising Storm.  Pan, who is dying thanks Lourna, goes on a big revenge mission here and ends up being the major antagonist of this novel.  I personally thought this was an amazing conclusion to his compelling character arc established in the previous novels and it was great to see him and Lourna have several aggressive and deeply personal confrontations throughout Tempest Runner.  I also enjoyed seeing a young version of High Republic arch-antagonist Marchion Ro, before he took control of the Nihil, as well as a glimpse of his often-discussed father Asgar Ro.  Several other supporting characters in this novel were also pretty fun, and I had a great time seeing some of their storylines unfold.

While I had to highlight Tempest Runner’s cool narrative and great characters, you can’t talk about this amazing piece of Star Wars fiction without mentioning the awesome audio drama format.  I have a lot of love for Star Wars audiobooks and audio dramas (such as Doctor Aphra), and this was a particularly good one.  The team behind this epic audio drama did an amazing job of combining Scott’s great story with a team of brilliant voice actors, as well as the typical Star Wars sound effects and music.  With a run time of just over six hours, this is a very easy audio drama to quickly power through, and I think I managed it in just over a day myself.  While some people unfamiliar with the format might have some issues regarding the full reliance on descriptive dialogue and sound effects rather than expositional text to describe action, I thought that Tempest Runner was adapted extremely well and I had an absolute blast getting through it.

I must highlight the exceptional cast of voice actors that were featured in this awesome audio drama, as the team behind it pulled together a great group of narrators, including several actors well known for their work bringing Star Wars audiobooks to life.  The most prominent actor in this group is probably Jessica Almasy, who voiced main character Lourna Dee.  Almasy brings a great deal of complexity to the role and I loved the semi-French accent she utilised throughout Tempest Runner, which was reminiscent of how Twi’lek characters speak in shows like Star Wars: Rebels.  I thought that Almasy did a brilliant job of highlighting Lourna’s true feelings and personality in this audio drama, and it was great to see her transform the character in several intense, emotional scenes.  This was some brilliant voice work and it was an amazing highlight of this exceptional production.

I also deeply appreciated the great work that the other actors contributed to Tempest Runner and its characters.  While there were a few new narrators here whose work I enjoyed, the ones that impressed me the most were established narrators from other Star Wars audiobooks.  This includes January LaVoy, who voiced the character of Tasia, providing her with some much-needed depth and spite.  LaVoy, who I loved in works such as Star Wars: Victory’s Price (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2021) and Star Trek: Discovery: Die Standing, was just great here and I really appreciated the characterisation her voice added to Tasia.  Marc Thompson, who has previously narrated all the main High Republic novels, as well as the Thrawn Ascendancy books (Chaos Rising, Greater Good and Lesser Evil), was another standout narrator, especially as he voiced three characters, including antagonists Pan Eyta and Marchion Ro.  Having this cool continuation from Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm for these great villains helped me enjoy their appearances in Tempest Runner a lot more, especially as Thompson has come up with some extremely sinister and fitting voices for them.  I also had a lot of fun with Jonathan Davis (who previously narrated Master & Apprentice, Lords of the Sith and Maul: Lockdown), who voiced two characters here.  I particularly enjoyed his work on the mysterious Asgar Ro, and the calm and wise tone he utilises for him (which is reminiscent of another major Star Wars character), works perfectly to give him some great depth.  An overall exceptional collection of narrators, I had an amazing time listening to this audio drama.

With a great cast, a brilliant story and a great focus on an incredible central character, Tempest Runner was an outstanding addition to the High Republic range of Star Wars fiction.  The always impressive Cavan Scott came up with an awesome narrative for Tempest Runner and I loved learning more about fun character Lourna Dee.  A must-listen for all fans of The High Republic, you really won’t regret checking out Tempest Runner.

Book Haul – 5 October 2021

I have had a pretty awesome week book-wise, having been lucky enough to receive several amazing novels that I am quite excited to read.  I have been waiting for several of these novels for some time now, with multiple being amongst my most anticipated reads for the second half of the year.  I have some extremely high hopes for all of them and I imagine that many will be some of the best books I read this year.

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

The Man Who Died Twice Cover

One of the best books I recently received was the incredibly awesome The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman.  Serving as a sequel to The Thursday Murder Club, one of the best books, audiobooks and debuts of 2020, The Man Who Died Twice continues to follow four senior citizens who investigate crimes that impact their sleepy retirement community.  Featuring another great story with a fascinating group of characters, I have already finished this book off and will hopefully put a review up in the next few days.

 

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

The Last Graduate Cover

Another epic sequel I got this week, The Last Graduate is the follow up to the fantastic 2020 read, A Deadly Education.  I have already started reading The Last Graduate, which follows an extremely powerful teenage magic user as she tries to survive inside an extremely dangerous magical school.  I am already deeply enjoying this cool book and it is turning out to be an exceptional piece of fantasy fiction.

 

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

The Dark Hours Cover

After being lucky enough to have two Michael Connelly books come out last year (Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence), I have just received an advance proof of this great author’s next novel, The Dark HoursThe Dark Hours will continue the amazing Ballard & Bosch sub-series that teams up two of Connelly’s best protagonists.  I have really loved the last two Ballard & Bosch novels (Dark Sacred Night and The Night Fire) and I am really excited to see what compelling story is featured in this latest book.  There is currently a review embargo on this book until November, so it might be a little while until I can post anything about it, however, once able, I will report on how much fun I had with this fantastic mystery.

 

Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn

Among Thieves Cover

I was particularly happy to grab a copy of Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn.  Featuring a fun story about a fantasy heist, Among Thieves is one of the most anticipated debuts of 2021 and I am extremely excited to see what happens in this awesome sounding novel.

 

Cold Justice by Ant Middleton

Cold Justice Cover

I was also pretty happy to receive a copy of this fun sounding thriller, Cold Justice by Ant Middleton.  Cold Justice has an awesome plot which follows a damaged former special operator as he attempts to save a life in South Africa.  Sure to be an intense and electrifying read.

 

2 Sisters Detective Agency by James Patterson and Candice Fox

2 Sisters Detective Agency Cover

Another impressive thriller I recently received was 2 Sisters Detective Agency, which combines the talents of legendary thriller author, James Patterson, with Australian author Candice Fox.  This cool sounding novel sets two newly introduced half-sisters on a dangerous investigation as they find themselves working at their dead father’s detective agency.  I really enjoyed Fox’s latest novel, The Chase, and I look forward to seeing what these two great authors produce.

 

Star Wars: Darth Vader (2020) – Volume Two: Into the Fire by Greg Pak, Raffaele Ienco and Neeraj Menon

Star Wars - Darth vader - Volume Two - Into the Fire Cover

I also received a couple of fantastic Star Wars comics that I have been hoping to grab for a while.  The first of these is the second volume of the impressive Darth Vader (2020) series, Into the Fire.  Following on from the outstanding first volume, Dark Heart of the Sith, Into the Fire sets Vader against the Emperor as the Sith master and apprentice finally come to blows over the lies and tragedy surrounding the discovery of Luke Skywalker’s parentage. An emotionally charged and powerful comic that I read the moment I got my hands on it, Into the Fire is an epic read which I will hopefully review soon.

 

Star Wars: The High Republic – Volume One: There is no Fear by Cavan Scott and Ario Anindito

Star Wars - The High Republic - There is no Fear Cover

The other Star Wars comic I recently got was the first volume of the new The High Republic comic series, There is no Fear.  Set in the latest era of Star Wars history, the High Republic, There is no Fear introduces the readers to some cool new storylines and some great characters.  An emotional and action packed comic, this was a great volume for those readers interested in the High Republic era, especially as it was written by Cavan Scott, author of the amazing 2021 book, Star Wars: The Rising Storm.

 

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

WWW Wednesday – 15 September 2021

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Riviera House by Natasha Lester (Trade Paperback)

The Riviera House Cover

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

 

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Summer Knight Cover

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

What did you recently finish reading?

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

The Devil's Advocate Cover

 

The Dark by Jeremy Robinson (Audiobook)

The Dark Cover

 

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

Star Wars - Tempest Runner Cover

 

The Gray Man by Mark Greaney (Audiobook)

The Gray Man Cover

 

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

Corporal Hitler's Pistol Cover

 

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

The Widow's Follower

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie (Audiobook)

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

 

 

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

Waiting on Wednesday – Star Wars: The High Republic: Tempest Runner by Cavan Scott

Star Wars - Tempest Runner Cover

I also wanted to do a quick Waiting on Wednesday article on the upcoming Star Wars audio drama, Star Wars: The High Republic: Tempest RunnerTempest Runner, which will be written by the amazing Cavan Scott, will be the latest entry in the intriguing High Republic range of Star Wars fiction and will be released later this month.  I briefly mentioned this upcoming audio drama in another Waiting on Wednesday article, however, I was waiting to get some more details, such as the cool cover art above, before I discussed it.

For those unfamiliar with it, The High Republic is one of the most interesting and compelling current focuses of Star Wars fiction now.  Set around 200 years before the events of The Phantom Menace, High Republic media focus on a golden age of the Republic which is facing some major troubles, mainly in the form of the pirate group known as the Nihil.  Starting early this year with Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, this era of Star Wars lore is proving to be a lot of fun, and there have been some great entries in the series, including Into the Dark by Claudia Gray and The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott, the later of which was particularly good.

Scott looks set to continue his awesome run of High Republic fiction with Tempest Runner, which appears to be a character specific sequel to The Rising StormTempest Runner will focus on one of the major High Republic antagonists, Lourna Dee, Tempest Runner of the Nihil, and has a very interesting story set around her.

Synopsis:


In this Star Wars audio original, delve into the cutthroat world of one of the High Republic’s greatest foes, the merciless Lourna Dee.

The Nihil storm has raged through the galaxy, leaving chaos and grief in its wake. Few of its raiders are as vicious as the Tempest Runner Lourna Dee. She stays one step ahead of the Jedi Order at the helm of a vessel named after one of the deadliest monsters in the galaxy: the Lourna Dee. But no one can outrun the defenders of the High Republic forever.

After the defeat of her crew, Lourna falls into the hands of the Jedi – but not before she hides her identity, becoming just another Nihil convict. Her captors fail to understand the beast they have cornered. Just like every fool she’s ever buried, their first mistake was keeping her alive.

Lourna is determined to make underestimating her their last.

Locked onto a Republic correctional ship, she’s dragged across the galaxy to repair the very damage she and her fellow Tempest Runners inflicted on it. But as Lourna plans her glorious escape, she makes alliances that grow dangerously close to friendships. Outside the Nihil – separated from her infamous ship, her terrifying arsenal, and her feared name – Lourna must carve her own path. But will it lead to redemption? Or will she emerge as a deadlier threat than ever before?

I really love the cool synopsis above.  It looks like Scott has a pretty fantastic story in place for this audio drama and I am pretty keen to see a villain-centric story, especially one that focuses on Lourna Dee, who has been particularly fun in some of the High Republic novels.  A prison drama in space has a lot of potential, especially in the Star Wars universe (Death Troopers and Maul: Lockdown are great examples of this), and I am very keen to see what compelling narrative Scott has planned.

I am also really keen to check out another full-cast Star Wars audio drama.  There have been two previous audio dramas in this current canon, Dooku: Jedi Lost, which was also written by Scott, and Doctor Aphra.  Both audio dramas have been particularly fun, and I have deeply enjoyed hearing the outstanding array of narrators and voice actors featured in them.  This latest audio drama has another particularly good cast, which includes some of my favourite Star Wars audiobook narrators.


Narrated by a Full Cast:

Jessica Almasy as Lourna Dee
Dan Bittner as Councilor Wittick
Orlagh Cassidy as Ola Hest
Sullivan Jones as Bala
January LaVoy as Tasia
Kathleen McInerney as Councilor Fry
Tara Sands as Sestin
Vikas Adam as H7-09 and Raleigh
Jonathan Davis as Andrik Keller and Asgar Ro
Neil Hellegers as Kassav, Yudiah Dee, and Jano
Saskia Maarleveld as Parr and Avar Kriss
Soneela Nankani as Muglan and Keeve Trennis
Marc Thompson as Pan Eyta, Sskeer, and Marchion Ro
Shannon Tyo as Quin and Nib Assek

The above cast sounds pretty impressive and I am very keen to see how they perform together.  It looks like Jessica Almasy is going to be the feature performer of this audio drama, and it will be great to see her take on Lourna Dee.  I am also very excited to hear more of January LaVoy (who did an amazing job narrating Star Wars: Victory’s Price earlier this year), Jonathan Davis (Master and Apprentice, Lords of the Sith) and Marc Thompson (Thrawn, Chaos Rising, Greater Good, Dark Disciple, Scoundrels), all of whom have done some great work recently.  There is also a very fun combination of characters there, and it will be interesting to see how they are worked into the plot.

Overall, Tempest Runner looks set to be a very exciting and compelling new addition to the Star Wars canon.  I am extremely keen to listen to this upcoming audio drama, especially as it features an exceptional cast, and it will probably be one of the standout pieces of Star Wars fiction in 2021.  I look forward to hearing this cool story unfold later this month, and I think this audio drama has an immense amount of potential.

WWW Wednesday – 21 July 2021

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

 

What are you currently reading?

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (Trade Paperback)

She Who Became the Sun Cover

I recently started reading She Who Became the Sun, a fascinating historical fiction novel that is getting a lot of buzz throughout the review community. She Who Became the Sun is the debut novel from Australian author Shelley Parker-Chan and it follows a young woman in 14th century China who steals her brother’s identity in order to survive and forge her own destiny.  I am around 100 pages in at the moment and I am quickly becoming addicted to the awesome and compelling story it contains. Parker-Chan is a very talented author and I look forward to seeing how this outstanding novel ends.

 

Relentless by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Relentless Cover

I was very excited to start listening to the latest entry in the Rogue Team International series by Jonathan Maberry, Relentless.  The Rogue Team International series, which follows on from the Joe Ledger series, are among some of my favourite books at the moment, and Relentless was one of my most anticipated reads for the year.  This latest novel follows on after the devastating conclusion of Rage and see’s protagonist Joe Ledger go on a one-man rampage while some of his worst enemies plot another massive attack.  I have made some pretty good progress with this audiobook so far and I am hoping to finish it off in the next week or so.  Unsurprisingly, I am deeply enjoying this latest novel and Relentless is proving to be an exceptional new addition to this great series.

What did you recently finish reading?

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott (Audiobook)

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover

 

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry (Trade Paperback)

The 22 Murders of Madison May Cover

 

State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe (Trade Paperback)

State of Fear Cover

 

The Enemy Within by Tim Ayliffe (Trade Paperback)

The Enemy Within Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

#MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil (Hardcover)

#MurderFunding Cover

 

 

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

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover

Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio (Audiobook – 6 July 2021)

Series: Star Wars – The High Republic

Length: 15 hours and 32 minutes

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

Prepare to dive back down into one of the most unique parts of the current Star Wars canon, as bestselling author Cavan Scott presents the next exciting adventure in The High Republic era, The Rising Storm.

The High Republic is a massive collaborative multimedia Star Wars project that started earlier this year and which represents a new area of focus for the Star Wars franchise.  Set in the Golden Age of the Republic, hundreds of years before the events of the Skywalker Saga, The High Republic currently contains several amazing pieces of tie-in fiction, with unique tales making up an overarching storyline.  I have so far read two entries in this series, the introductory novel Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule and the great young adult book Into the Dark by Claudia Gray.  The next major entry in this series is the fantastic and exciting The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott, which continues several storylines from Light of the Jedi.  Scott, who previously wrote the fantastic Dooku: Jedi Lost audio drama, has come up with a fascinating and compelling novel that I really enjoyed.

Two hundred years before the events of The Phantom Menace, the Republic was at its zenith, with the Jedi leading the expansion outwards to the Outer Rim.  However, following the Great Hyperspace Disaster, the Republic’s safety and security looks uncertain.  Even after the creation of Starlight Beacon, the Outer Rim is still a dangerous place, especially with the machinations of the notorious pirate group, the Nihil, as well as the spreading attacks from the plant monsters known as Drengir.

Determined to show that the Republic and the principles that govern it are still strong, Chancellor Lina Soh has organised the Republic Fair on the planet of Valo.  The fair will bring together cultural displays, new technology, Jedi artifacts and other wonders of the galaxy in a massive celebration to demonstrate the possibilities that an expanding Republic will have on the entire galaxy.  Attended by high-ranking Republic dignitaries, visiting diplomats, celebrities, leading scientists and prominent Jedi, all eyes in the galaxy will be on the fair and its participants.  However, some of these watching eyes have far more hostile intent and are determined to see the Republic Fair fail at all costs.

The most dangerous of these is Marchion Ro, the mysterious and unpredictable Eye of the Nihil.  Under his leadership, the Nihil have achieved much infamy and caused inordinate destruction throughout the Outer Rim, and Ro is determined to keep the Republic and the hated Jedi out of his territory.  As the fair begins, Ro orders a devastating attack that will shake the very galaxy to its core.  As Jedi such as Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar and Elzar Mann attempt to hold back to the tide of evil descending on Valo, they are about to discover that there is something far more dangerous afoot in the galaxy.  Marchion Ro has uncovered an ancient evil and the entire galaxy, and every Jedi in it, is about to fear his wrath.

Now this was an awesome book, and one that is really starting to make me fall in love with The High Republic.  Scott has produced an intense and powerful story that continues to develop some of the best The High Republic characters, while also advancing some great storylines established in the previous novels and comics.  I had a wonderful time getting through this book, and this may be one of my favourite The High Republic novels so far.

This book has an awesome and captivating narrative to it.  Set about a year after the events of the first High Republic novel, The Rising Storm quickly introduces several intriguing storylines that each follow a different key character.  This includes a great storyline surrounding Elzar Mann as he attempts to decipher a warning given to him by the Force, as well as the tale of the conflicted and distracted Jedi apprentice Bell Zettifar.  There is also great storyline that follows a new character, mercenary Force user Ty Yorrick, as she takes on a new contract, and several storylines that follow key characters in the Nihil.  All these initially separated storylines are quite fun and do a good job setting up the various main characters, as well as establishing the current relevant events occurring in the galaxy.  While these individual storylines are quite fun and feature a mixture of intriguing characters, they swiftly come together into one combined narrative, when all the participants arrive at Valo for the Republic Fair.  Based on the book’s synopsis and the initial planning by the Nihil, you know that the fair is going to be attacked in some way, and Scott makes sure to ramp up anticipation for the upcoming carnage, showing multiple scenes that could lead into it.  However, even after all that, I was still not quite prepared for how amazing the main part of the novel turned out to be.

The eventual raid on the fair ended up lasting for quite a substantial part of the novel, as a coordinated attack separates the key characters.  With communications down and chaos reigning all around them, the protagonists are on their own, with each of their separate storylines focusing on their own encounters with the Nihil.  The entire raid is utter bedlam and proves to be a hotbed of action, intense moments, and dangerous character development.  I was honestly surprised at how dark parts of this book got, and readers are guaranteed a thrilling experience as there are several outstanding and intense action sequences.  Each of the main characters is effectively highlighted during this period, and readers will quickly become engrossed in their storylines and their attempts to navigate the dangers they encountered.  The entire raid sequence comes to an end with a decent part of the novel still left, which I initially thought was a bit of a mistake, as Scott could have ended the novel perfectly in the attack’s aftermath.  Instead, he constructed an incredible final sequence that really tied the entire narrative together, resulting in a memorable conclusion that sets up the next wave of novels perfectly.  While I did feel the story could have used a little bit of trimming, this was an overall excellent narrative, which I think was stronger than the preceding Light of the Jedi, mainly because it did not require the universe setup that Soule was required to chuck in.

While I deeply enjoyed The Rising Storm’s addictive story, this novel is a bit of a niche read and is mostly going to appeal to established fans of the franchise.  The Star Wars extended universe is an interesting and enjoyable place to explore, but it can be easy to get a little lost while checking out these books.  This is especially true with the new High Republic range, which takes the reader to a fictional period that has not been introduced to a wider universe either in a film or television series.  Due to its position as a second wave High Republic novel, you really need to check out some of the earlier works in the series before you try this one out, especially Light of the Jedi, which sets up most of the storylines and characters featured in this novel.  It is also important to add that this novel ties into several of the other High Republic comics and novels.  Events from these books and comics are referenced throughout The Rising Storm as Scott’s key characters interact with the protagonists of these other works, such as the junior novel, Race to Crashpoint Tower.  Knowledge of some of these contemporaneous pieces of fiction is not 100 per cent necessary, although several plot points and references become a lot clearance once you recognise the connection.  While Scott did do his best to make story accessible to new readers, I think that most High Republic newcomers would be better served reading Light of the Jedi first, which will make it so much easier to enjoy this awesome novel.

One of the more difficult things about reading a High Republic novel is the lack of any recognisable characters from the Star Wars films or television shows, as the only character from them alive at this point is Yoda (who keeps disappearing).  However, I found myself getting really invested in the complex and intriguing characters featured in The Rising Storm, as Scott makes use of both original characters and characters introduced in previous pieces of High Republic fiction.  This novel focuses on a huge selection of supporting characters, each of whom have their own adventures and stories.  One of my favourites was damaged Jedi Elzar Mann.  Mann is a troubled being who spends most of this novel haunted by both a dark vision from the Force and his unrequited and forbidden love to his friend and fellow Jedi Avar Kriss.  Because of this, Mann spends most of the novel walking the very edge of the Jedi code, breaking nearly every rule he can, including that major one about not falling in love or having a physical relationship with someone.  This sets him on a knife’s edge, and when the Nihil come, he is pushed dangerously close to the Dark Side (which mirrors Anakin’s fall in several ways) with some spectacular results.  This portrayal of Mann is one of the most compelling and exciting in the entire novel, and I appreciated the inclusion of a rogue Jedi.  Another complex Jedi character that I enjoyed was apprentice Bell Zettifar, who was a major point-of-view character in Light of the Jedi.  Bell is still reeling from the events of the first book where his master was apparently killed by the Nihil.  Because of this and other traumatic events, Bell spends much of the novel doubting the Force and his place in it.  I found myself really drawn to this character, and I appreciated the tough journey he was going on.  Unfortunately, it looks like Bell is going to go into some very dark places in the future, which should make for some excellent and moving storylines.

Aside from Mann and Bell, another great character I liked was Stellan Gios, a Jedi recently elevated to the Jedi Council.  Stellan, who had a minor role in previous pieces of High Republic fiction gets a lot more focus in this novel and proves to be a fantastic point of view character.  He is another complex figure, especially as he also has doubts and regrets, despite his position as a Council member.  I saw Stellan as the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the High Republic (partially because of the voice used by the audiobook narrator) and I liked his mostly calm demeanour, unrelenting friendship with the wilder Elzar Mann and the way he acts as straight man to several unusual Jedi characters.  Stellan goes through a lot in The Rising Storm, and it was fantastic to see him continuously overcoming adversity as he becomes more use to his place on the Council.  I also deeply enjoyed the character of Ty Yorrick, who was probably the best original character in this novel.  Ty is a former Jedi apprentice turned rogue mercenary who uses her Force abilities and spiked purple lightsaber to hunt monsters.  Despite her aversion for getting mixed up with the Jedi, Ty finds herself at the Republic Fair and must contend with both Jedi and Nihil.  While Ty was not the most developed character in this novel, I really liked her unique style and the fantastic mentor-student bond she eventually forms with Elzar Mann.  She has a lot of potential as a character, and I can see her becoming a major figure in the High Republic novels.

Some of the final characters I need to mention include Rhil Dairo, a spunky reporter who finds herself in the middle of all the key events of the book, recording with her cam droid.  Rhil is a fantastic and fun reporter character, much in the vein of Lois Lane, who can kick ass and get the scoop at the same time.  I also loved the scenes that featured Orbalin, a Jedi archivist and history buff.  Despite his more academic inclinations, Orbalin is quite a fun character who proves to be a real badass, especially as he manages to hold off several Nihil characters, including the lethal Lourna Dee, while giving a history lesson.  Finally, it was also great to see more of Wookie Jedi Burryaga, the cuddliest and nicest Jedi of all time, who everyone loves and who the reader feels inordinately protective of.  All these protagonists and more add so much to The Rising Storm’s narrative, and it was absolutely great to see all of their storylines unfold.

I am also deeply enjoying the villains of The High Republic, the Nihil.  The Nihil are a collection of murderous and self-centred pirates, who use their unique technology and tactics to bedevil the Republic and the Jedi.  With their own unique look and style, which is a mixture of spacefaring Vikings and Mad Max villains, the Nihil are a pretty fun group of characters to follow.  After a very strong introduction in Light of the Jedi, they have another amazing showing in The Rising Storm, achieving some major acts of destruction.  Thanks to their weird weapons, violent attitude and being constantly high on a cocktail of drugs and stimulants, the Nihil prove to be pretty dangerous opponents, even to the Jedi.  This makes for some very unique fight sequences, and it was fascinating to see the Jedi overwhelmed by these criminals.  At the same time, there is also an intriguing focus on the leadership of the Nihil, as the top commanders, the Tempest Runners, fight for dominance against each other and Marchion Ro.  Ro is proving to be a particularly intense and fascinating villain and Scott really builds on the character in this novel, showing more of his flaws, his motivations and his abilities to deceive and destroy.  There are several amazing storylines following Ro throughout this novel, including one where he obtains a mysterious evil item from the past.  The eventual partial reveal of this plot device results in The Rising Storm’s memorable conclusion and the High Republic creative team clearly has some fantastic plans for Ro in the future and they are turning him into one of the more complex and dastardly villains in the entire Star Wars canon.

As is becoming my recurring habit, I ended up listening to an audiobook version of this Star Wars novel.  This of course was a wonderful experience, as the team behind these books ensured that this latest Star Wars audiobook was the usual audio treat that I have come to love.  Featuring a decent run time of just over 15 and a half hours, The Rising Storm audiobook was an exceptional listen that I managed to power through in just over a week and which proved to be an exceptional way to enjoy this Star Wars adventure.  The entire narrative of The Rising Storm is enhanced and supported by a range of awesome and iconic Star Wars sound effects and music, which are intended to draw the listener into the story.  Both the sound effects and music are used to incredible effect throughout, and I think that they both added so much to my overall enjoyment of The Rising Storm.  The sound effects do a remarkable job presenting the ambient noise of every single scene, with crowd noises, the hum of a lightsaber, the engine noises of a ship or the sounds of blaster fire, constantly played in the background.  I was particularly impressed by the chaotic sound effects used during the Nihil attack on the fair, as you are treated to background noises of terror and destruction for several hours, which helps to highlight just how devastating the entire affair is.  In addition, the always impressive John Williams musical score is so much fun to hear, and it was put to particular good use in several significant scenes to enhance dramatic impacts.  I was extremely moved when I heard some of this music, as it either pumped me up during key action scenes (Duel of the Fates always gets me hyped), or to be deeply saddened when the more tragic musical cords struck up.

In addition to the exceptional use of sound effects and music, I also was deeply impressed with the incredible voice work featured in this audiobook.  Leading Star Wars narrator Marc Thompson once again lends his voice to this audiobook, continuing the work that he did in the Light of the Jedi.  Thompson has previously narrated some of my favourite Star Wars audiobooks, including Thrawn, Chaos Rising, Greater Good, Scoundrels, Dark Disciple, and the Doctor Aphra audio drama.  I also really enjoyed the awesome work he did in The Rising Storm, as Thompson not only revises the many voices that he introduced in Light of the Jedi but also adds in several new ones for the new characters.  I felt that various voices that Thompson did fit each of the characters extremely well, and he was able to perfectly personify their personality and written nature using a variety of fun accents.  I also found that Thompson was able to highlight the various emotions that the characters were feeling, giving the listeners a great sense of what they were feeling through his tone.  It was also cool to hear the combination of sound effect and Thompson’s voice when it comes to several alien characters featured within the audiobook, especially those whose voices were altered by technology.  All this outstanding voice work, combined with the awesome sound effects and music, helps to turn The Rising Storm into an absolutely incredible and addictive audiobook, and this is easily the best way to enjoy this fantastic Star Wars book.

The High Republic continues to expand as the amazing Cavan Scott adds his own unique spin on events with the exciting and memorable Star Wars: The Rising Storm.  This latest addition in the intriguing High Republic range does a fantastic job introducing the next stage of this unique Star Wars time period, complete with a devastating event, some major changes and some outstanding new characters.  I had an incredible time reading this great novel, and The Rising Storm is a must read for all fans of the Star Wars franchise, especially in its audiobook format.  If you have not gotten into the High Republic yet, you are missing out, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.  I will also have to make sure to grab a copy of Cavan Scott’s next Star Wars audio drama, Tempest Runner, a High Republic entry which is set for release in a couple of months and which will tell the tale of one of the more intriguing Nihil characters, Lourna Dee.

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover 2

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my Winter 2021 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list the top releases that they are looking forward to reading this summer (or winter for us down here in Australia).  This is a fun exercise that I have done for each of the preceding seasons, and it is always interesting to highlight the various cool-sounding books and comics that are coming out in the next few months.

For this list I have come up with 10 of the best novels that are coming out between 1 June 2021 and 31 August 2021.  I have decided to exclude novels that I have already read, or I am currently reading, so that took a couple of key books off the list.  Still, this left me with a rather substantial pool of cool upcoming novels that I am excited for, which I was eventually able to whittle down into a great Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have previously discussed a number of these books before a number of my Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be some really impressive and enjoyable reads.

Honourable Mentions:

The Coward by Stephen Aryan – 6 June 2021

The Coward Cover

 

The Councillor by E. J. Beaton – 20 July 2021

The Councillor Cover

 

The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox – 27 July 2021

The Dying Squad Cover

 

Star Trek: Picard: Rogue Elements by John Jackson Miller – 17 August 2021

Star Trek - Rogue Elements Cover

 

Top Ten List:

Gamora & Nebula: Sisters in Arms by Mackenzie Lee – 1 June 2021

Gamora and Nebula - Sisters in Arms Cover

 

The Righteous by David Wragg – 10 June 2021

The Righteous

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott – 29 June 2021

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover

 

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry – 30 June 2021

The 22 Murders of Madison May Cover

I am really looking forward to reading the extremely fun-sounding science fiction thriller, The 22 Murders of Madison May by Australian author Max Barry.  This fantastic novel will feature an amazing narrative about a reporter who hunts a serial killer across various alternate realities.  I am very keen to check this great novel out, and I am expecting a compelling and entertaining read.

 

It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts – 6 July 2021

It Ends in Fire Cover 2

I am very, very keen to get my hands on this book, especially after how much I have enjoyed some of Shvarts’s previous novels (such as City of Bastards and War of the Bastards).  However, I may have to wait a little longer to read it down in Australia as it is coming out here a little later than in the rest of the world.  Still, I am sure it will be worth the wait, as It Ends in Fire has the potential to be one of the best young adult books of 2021.

 

Relentless by Jonathan Maberry – 13 July 2021

Relentless Cover

 

Billy Summers by Stephen King – 3 August 2021

Billy Summer Cover

 

Starlight Enclave by R. A. Salvatore – 3 August 2021

Starlight Enclave Cover

 

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston – 10 August 2021

The Maleficent Seven Cover 2

I have to say that I absolutely love the new cover for The Maleficent Seven which looks absolutely crazy and really fun.

 

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan – 31 August 2021

The Pariah Cover

The final entry on this list is the intriguing upcoming novel from bestselling author Anthony Ryan, The Pariah.  While I have not previously had the pleasure of reading any Ryan’s books before, I have heard some incredible things about his pervious series, and I fully intend to check them out at some point in the future.  In the meantime, I am keen to read his next book, The Pariah, especially as it contains an amazing sounding narrative about a former outlaw turned soldier.  Based on how beloved Ryan’s previous novels are I am fairly confident that The Pariah will turn out to be one of the top fantasy reads of 2021 and I cannot wait to check it out.

 

Well that is the end of my Top Ten list.  I think it turned out pretty well and it does a good job of capturing all my most anticipated books for the next three months.  Each of the above should be pretty epic, and I cannot wait to read each of them soon.  Let me know which of the above you are most excited for and stay tuned for reviews of them in the next few months.

Waiting on Wednesday – Star Wars Novels – Second Half of 2021

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday I take a look at several intriguing Star Wars tie-in novels that are set for release later this year.

2021 has so far been a pretty spectacular year for Star Wars tie-in fiction (my favourite so far is easily Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed).  However, the year is far from over and there are still an intriguing collection of upcoming Star Wars novels set for release in the next few months.  Considering it was only just Star Wars day yesterday (and it’s probably still May the Fourth somewhere in the world), I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight which Star Wars novels I am looking forward to in the second half of 2021.  There a several really cool-sounding books set for release before the end of the year, and I am confident that one or two will find their way onto My Favourite Star Wars Novels list next year.

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover

The first entry in this Waiting on Wednesday article is the next adult novel in The High Republic range, The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott.  The High Republic is an intriguing multimedia project that is getting a lot of attention at the moment.  Set 200 years before the events of the Skywalker Saga, the High Republic series is made up of semi-connected novels, comics, young adult books, junior novels, anime, and other pieces of Star Wars media.  I have been rather enjoying some of the early entries in this series so far, including the cool first book, Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, which introduced a lot of the key settings and storylines that will be explored in future High Republic entries.  This next book looks set to follow up some of the storylines started in Light of the Jedi, and I look forward to seeing how Cavan Scott continue this interesting plot, especially after I previously enjoyed his awesome audiodrama, Dooku: Jedi Lost.

Synopsis:

The heroes of the High Republic era return to face a shattered peace and a fearsome foe, following the dramatic events of Light of the Jedi.

In the wake of the Great Hyperspace Disaster and the heroism of the Jedi, the Republic continues to grow, bringing more worlds together under a single unified banner. Under the leadership of Chancellor Lina Soh, the spirit of unity extends throughout the galaxy, with the Jedi and the newly established Starlight Beacon station at the vanguard.

In celebration, the chancellor plans The Republic Fair, a showcase of the possibilities and the peace of the expanding Republic—a peace the Jedi hope to foster. Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar, Elzar Mann, and others join the event as ambassadors of harmony. But as the eyes of the galaxy turn toward the Fair, so too does the fury of the Nihil. Their leader, Marchion Ro, is intent on destroying this unity. His storm descends on the pageantry and celebration, sowing chaos and exacting revenge.

As the Jedi struggle to curb the carnage of the rampaging Nihil, they come face-to-face with the true fear their enemy plans to unleash across the galaxy—the kind of fear from which even the Force cannot shield them.

This sounds like a pretty fun novel and it looks like Scott has come up with a really interesting story that will continue some of the fantastic threads from the previous novels.  The fight between the Jedi and the mysterious and chaotic Nihil has so far been pretty cool, especially as there is very little information about their past or ultimate motivations.  Scott is also bringing back several of the key characters introduced in the previous High Republic works, and it will be interesting to see how their story continues.  I have a feeling that several questions previously raised in Light of the Jedi are going to get answered here, although I’m sure that Scott will come up with some more mysteries and reviews.  Because of that, I am quite looking forward to reading The Rising Storm, which is currently set for release in late June 2021.  Scott also has another entry in the High Republic coming out later this year, an audiodrama called Tempest Runner, although I may hold off talking about this too much until some more details are revealed (such as the voice cast).

Star Wars - Out of the Shadows Cover

The next book I am going to look at is another High Republic novel, Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland.  Out of the Shadows is a young adult novel set for release on 22 July 2021, which will explore a different part of the High Republic universe.  I have so far had some great experiences with High Republic young adult novels, as I really enjoyed the last example, Into the Dark by Claudia Gray, which was released earlier this year.  This will be my first book from author Justina Ireland, although I have heard some good things about her Dread Nation series.  Ireland has previously written several junior Star Wars novels, including Lando’s Luck and A Test of Courage, and it will be interesting to see what unique tale she comes up with for Out of the Shadows.

Synopsis:

The darkest secrets are the hardest to bring to light….

Sylvestri Yarrow is on a streak of bad luck with no end of sight. She’s been doing her best to keep the family cargo business going after her mom’s death, but between mounting debt and increasing attacks by the Nihil on unsuspecting ships, Syl is in danger of losing all she has left of her mother. She heads to the galactic capital of Coruscant for help, but gets sidetracked when she’s drawn into a squabble between two of the Republic’s most powerful families over a patch of space on the frontier. Tangled up in familial politics is the last place Syl wants to be, but the promise of a big payoff is enough to keep her interested…

Meanwhile, Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh has been summoned to Coruscant, but with no idea of why or by whom. She and her Padawan Imri Cantaros arrive at the capital along with Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus and his Padawan, Reath Silas―and are asked to assist with the property dispute on the frontier. But why? What is so important about an empty patch of space? The answer will lead Vernestra to a new understanding of her abilities, and take Syl back to the past…and to truths that will finally come out of the shadows.

I have to say that I really like the sound of Out of the Shadows, and I think that this cool novel will prove to be an incredible addition to the High Republic.  I like how Out of the Shadows is planning to bring back several of the awesome characters introduced in previous High Republic novels, such as Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh, who Ireland created in her previous novel, A Test of Courage, and Cohmac Vitus and Reath Silas, who were introduced in Into the Dark.  At the same time, this novel is also going to introduce a fun new character in Sylvestri Yarrow, and I am intrigued about the interactions between her and the four Jedi characters.  I am quite intrigued about where Out of the Shadows’ story is going to go, and it will be interesting to see how it ties into the rest of the High Republic range.  Ireland also has another piece of High Republic fiction coming out later this year, and I will have to grab the cool manga series she is doing with Shima Sinya and Mizuki Sakakibara, The Edge of Balance, when it comes out later this year.

Star Wars - Queen's Hope Cover

One of the other Star Wars books I am quite keen for is the young adult book, Queen’s Hope by E. K. Johnston.  Queen’s Hope will be the third entry in a fun series Johnston has been writing that follows the adventures of Padmé Amidala and her handmaidens.  The first two novels in this series, Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril, have followed very different parts of Padmé’s life, including early days of being Queen and her transition to life as a Senator.  This upcoming book, which will be released in early November 2021, will be set during the Clone Wars.

Synopsis:

A peace-loving senator faces a time of war in another thrilling Padmé Amidala adventure from the author of the New York Times best-sellers Queen’s Peril and Queen’s Shadow!

Padmé is adjusting to being a wartime senator during the Clone Wars. Her secret husband, Anakin Skwyalker, is off fighting the war, and excels at being a wartime Jedi. In contrast, when Padmé gets the opportunity to see the casualties on the war-torn front lines, she is horrified. The stakes have never been higher for the galaxy, or for the newly-married couple.

Meanwhile, with Padmé on a secret mission, her handmaiden Sabé steps into the role of Senator Amidala, something no handmaiden has done for an extended period of time. While in the Senate, Sabé is equally horrified by the machinations that happen there. She comes face to face with a gut-wrenching decision as she realizes that she cannot fight a war this way, not even for Padmé.

And Chancellor Palpatine hovers over it all, manipulating the players to his own ends…

I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see that Johnston was still continuing this series.  While I did enjoy her previous Padmé Amidala novels, it felt a little played out after the second book, mainly because the publishing order was a little disjointed.  However, this next book does sound pretty awesome, and I am rather keen to check it out.  Thanks to shows like The Clone Wars, this period of Star Wars history is pretty well chronicled, although there are plenty of great opportunities for stories and tales, especially around Padmé.

I am rather curious to see more of Senator Amidala during this period, and I am looking forward to learning more about her political exploits, especially with future Rebel Alliance leaders (as seen in some of the deleted scenes of Revenge of the Sith).  This will no doubt be complicated by the inclusion of Sabé, Padmé’s handmaiden and body double, who serves as a fantastic secondary protagonist in this series, and having her covering for her mistress for a long period of time should result in some thrilling moments. I am also really keen to see more of Chancellor Palpatine’s manipulations and machinations, and it should prove interesting to find out how he is playing everyone.  One thing that I am not too keen on is the inclusion of Anakin Skywalker in this story.  While there are many fine aspects to Anakin as a character, his romance with Padmé never really worked in the film, thanks to too much whining, murder and sand (the sand, not the sand!), and hopefully that won’t be too prevalent in this upcoming book.  It will be interesting to see how Queen’s Hope turns out and I think it should end up being an excellent read.

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil Cover

The final book I really want to feature is the third and final book in the awesome Thrawn Ascendancy series, Lesser Evil, by Timothy Zahn.  The Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy is a great collection of books that examine the early life of one of the best characters in the entire Star Wars canon, Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Serving as a prequel series to Zahn’s Thrawn series (made up of Thrawn, Alliances and Treason), the Thrawn Ascendancy novels are a fascinating series heavy in Star Wars lore.  The series has so far consisted of Chaos Rising and Greater Good, which only came out a few days ago.  Due to its recent release date, I have not had a chance to read Greater Good yet, but I already know I am in for an excellent time with it.  However, Zahn has clearly been on a writing roll (like everyone, he has probably had a lot of spare time in the last year), and his next book is set for release on 16 November.

Synopsis:

The fate of the Chiss Ascendancy hangs in the balance in the epic finale of the Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

For thousands of years The Chiss Ascendancy has been an island of calm, a center of power, and a beacon of integrity. Led by the Nine Ruling Families, their leadership stands as a bulwark of stability against the Chaos of the Unknown Regions.

But that stability has been eroded by a cunning foe that winnows away trust and loyalty in equal measure. Bonds of fidelity have given way to lines of division among the families. Despite the efforts of the Expansionary Defense Fleet, the Ascendancy slips closer and closer toward civil war.

The Chiss are no strangers to war. Their mythic status in the Chaos was earned through conflict and terrible deeds, some long buried. Until now. To ensure the Ascendancy’s future, Thrawn will delve deep into its past, uncovering the dark secrets surrounding the ascension of the First Ruling Family. But the truth of a family’s legacy is only as strong as the legend that supports it. Even if that legend turns out to be a lie.

To secure the salvation of the Ascendancy, is Thrawn willing to sacrifice everything? Including the only home he has ever known?

Now, it is hard to talk about this upcoming novel when I have not even read the preceding book yet, but I can guess that I am really going to enjoy Lesser Evil.  This book will no doubt contain Zahn’s amazing storytelling and impressive development of his most notable character, and I look forward to more outstanding space battles.  This will probably be one of the best Star Wars novels in 2021, and I cannot wait to see how Zahn rounds out this fantastic series.

Aside from the four above novels, there is also a potentially interesting book coming out called Ronin by Emma Mieko Candon.  Ronin will be connected to an upcoming Star Wars animated series, Star Wars: Visions, which will contain several animated shorts from various Japanese anime studios.  Ronin will apparently tie into one of these upcoming shorts, and I look forward to seeing what the short film is like and how this intriguing novel will be connected.

As you can see from the above, there are some really cool Star Wars novels coming out later in the year, and I am quite excited.  All of the above books sound incredibly awesome and I fully intend to read and review each of them.  Based on my overwhelming love of Star Wars, I have no doubt that I will love them all.  It does look like I am going to be busy with Star Wars stuff this year though, especially as I am going to also check out the Star Wars comics, including some High Republic comics, as well as the audiodrama and manga I mentioned above.  Still, this should be a lot of fun and I cannot wait to get to it.  First step is start reading the second Thrawn Ascendency book, which I am going to start doing right now.