The Gates of Athens by Conn Iggulden

The Gates of Athens Cover

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Trade Paperback – 4 August 2020)

Series: Athenian – Book One

Length: 443 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the top authors of historical fiction in the world today, Conn Iggulden, returns with an exciting and deeply impressive novel that chronicles the chaotic formative years of the birthplace of democracy in The Gates of Athens.

In 490 BC, Darius, King of Persia, rules a vast and powerful empire of millions.  None dare oppose him except the city states of Greece who openly defy him and refuse his demands to bow to his authority.  Determined to conquer them, Darius leads a powerful fleet across the sea towards the city of Athens.  However, the people of Athens are unlike any opponent that Darius has faced before.  Having only recently overthrown their own tyrants, they will never again bow down to a single man, no matter the cost.

As Darius’s army lands near the city on the plains of Marathon he finds a host of Athenian hoplites waiting for him ready to defend their home.  This fierce battle will set of a series of events that will not only change the life of everyone in Greece but also serve as the defining moment for several citizens of Athens, including the charismatic and scheming Themistocles, the clever and honest Aristides and the mighty warrior Xanthippus, father of Pericles.

As these leaders of Athens battle for the future of their city the choices they make will have far reaching impacts as, years later, another king of Persia, Xerxes, will lead an immense invasion of Greece in order to satisfy his father’s honour.  However, despite his vast armies and navies, Xerxes will face surprising opposition as a small force of determined Greeks decides to hold against him on both land and at sea at a place called Thermopylae.  Will the bravery of few be enough to save many or will freedom and democracy be crushed before it can truly begin?

Well damn, now that was an epic book.  I have been saying for a while that I thought that The Gates of Athens was going to be one of the best historical fiction books of 2020.  Well, just like the oracle of Delphi when she prophesised the fate of Leonidas, it turns out that I was right, as this new novel turned out to be an exceptional historical tale that proved extremely hard to stop reading.  Mind you, the awesomeness of this prediction is rather tempered by the fact that this was a historical fiction book written by Conn Iggulden, so it was a bit of a given that it was going to be damn good novel.  I am a major fan of Iggulden, having read several of his prior books including entries in both his incredible Emperor and War of the Roses series, as well as his standalone novel, The Falcon of Sparta.  This latest book from Iggulden serves as the first entry in his Athenian series, which is set to be a fantastic series over the next couple of years.

The Gates of Athens contains an extremely impressive and sprawling historical storyline that showcases and recreates some of the early defining moments of ancient Athens.  The story starts off with the battle of Marathon and then explores the aftermath of the war and its many consequences.  This results in a great multi-character narrative which shows how the various decisions of the protagonists impacted the events of the second half of the book, which is set several years later and examines the battle of Thermopylae.  Iggulden utilises a number of different character perspectives throughout the course of the plot, allowing the reader a larger view of the events occurring, while also providing some alternate viewpoints about the same events.  While there is an obvious focus on the major battles against the Persians, The Gates of Athens has a lot of different elements to it and at many points this awesome novel changes focus to examine political intrigue, social struggles, personal relationships and intense character development.  Iggulden does an outstanding job writing all of these different elements and it really comes together into an amazing overarching historical narrative.

In addition to The Gates of Athens’s fantastic story I also have to highlight the book’s detailed and intriguing historical setting.  As the title suggests, The Gates of Athens is primarily set within the ancient city of Athens, and Iggulden has done an incredible job bringing this iconic historical location to life.  The author spends significant time examining several different aspects of the city.  This includes an in-depth look at its history, its recently introduced democratic political structure, its military defences, its economic status and its layout, and an exploration of the day-to-day lives of its citizens.  Iggulden also attempts to dive into the mindset of the people of Athens, showing their collective feelings and opinions, including the immense pride that they had in being a unique and unprecedented society that extols the values of democracy and freedom (you know, except for all the slaves).  All of this comes together into a rich tapestry of culture and society that acts as a love letter to ancient Athens and everything it represented.  All of this proves to be an excellent setting for the story, and I really appreciated the lengths that Iggulden went to in order to show the reader what being an Athenian was all about.

Another fantastic part of this book was the compelling people that the author set the complex story around.  All the major characters in this novel are real-life historical figures who had a significant hand in the history of Athens, including Xanthippus, Aristides and Themistocles.  Each of these three people are extremely fascinating individuals who achieved many great things, and Iggulden does a fantastic job exploring some of the major events that occurred to them during the years that The Gates of Athens was set, including the roles they played in battles and political gambits, their impact on the city and their various rises and falls in fortunes.  I had an amazing time seeing each of their individual stories unfold.  I particularly enjoyed the way that Iggulden portrayed each of these characters, showing Themistocles (a person Iggulden praises very heavily in his Historical Notes sections) as a self-made political climber with limitless ambition, Aristides as a relentless honest person, and Xanthippus as a honourable but hot-headed individual.  Each of these main characters engage in various political battles against each other, adding significant drama and intrigue to the story, although it proved to be rather heartening to see them come together for the good of Athens and its people at various points in the book.

I also have to highlight the use of Xerxes, King of Persia, who acts as the book’s main antagonist.  Iggulden spends a good amount of time exploring this fascinating figure and examines his various motivations for invading Greece in the way that he did.  Xerxes serves as intriguing counterpoint view to the major Greek characters, and I liked this more grounded portrayal of him as a man who has inherited unlimited power and does not quite know what to do when he encounters Greeks who refuse to bow down before him.  Overall, Iggulden did an outstanding job with each of these characters, and I also really appreciated how he started setting up several other secondary characters, such as Pericles, who will probably be the protagonists of future books.

This book also has plenty for those readers who love some historical action as The Gates of Athens contains a number of major battle sequences, which showcases the fights between the Greeks and the Persians, including the battle at Marathon, and the conflicts that took place around Thermopylae.  These battle sequences are written extremely well and provide excellent and detailed reconstructions of how these battles are played out.  Iggulden has obviously done his research when it comes to these ancient battles, as each of them are chocked full of historical detail, providing the reader with immense amounts of information.  I really liked all the tactics, equipment, disposition and manoeuvres that featured and the actions of various participants during each of these fights, all of which really helps to paint a picture for the reader.  While the various land battles are very impressive, including great depiction of the Spartans’ stand against the Persians at Thermopylae (with a historically accurate number of combatants), I really have to highlight the fights that occur at sea.  As this is a book about Athens there is a major focus on the Athenian navy and their allies and the combat that they saw at Thermopylae.  Iggulden really dives into all the aspects around these naval battles, including showing all the preparation and training that the Greek sailors did before the invasion, as well as the various tactics and naval combat techniques that were developed.  The eventual fight against the Persian armada is really impressive with some amazing action sequences that show the rival fleets against each other.  These depictions of ancient combat and classic battles were extremely awesome, and they were a key part of why I had such a great time reading this book.

The Gates of Athens by Conn Iggulden is an impressive and expansive piece of historical fiction that proved to be a fantastic book to get lost in.  Iggulden once again shows why he is one of the most talented writers of historical fiction in the world today with this outstanding epic that combines masterful storytelling with compelling historical elements, great characters and some exciting action sequences.  This is easily one of the best historical fiction books of 2020 and it gets a full five-star rating from me.

WWW Wednesday – 22 July 2020

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?

Star WarsShadow Fall by Alexander Freed (Trade Paperback)

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover

The sequel to last year’s Alphabet Squadron, Shadow Fall is another fantastic Star Wars novel that sees two rival groups of pilots face off following the fall of the Empire.  I have made a fair amount of progress with this book and so far I am really enjoying it.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Sarah Kuhn (Audio Drama)

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover

It looks like I’m doing a bit of a Star Wars double feature this week, but there was no way I could resist this new Star Wars audio drama about one of my favourite characters Doctor Aphra.  Featuring a full cast of impressive narrators, this Doctor Aphra audio drama retells the events of the Darth Vader (2015) series where Aphra was introduced and tells it from her perspective.  I am about half an hour in at the moment and I am loving this fun and entertaining audio presentation, which is perfectly capturing the character’s wild and exciting personality.

What did you recently finish reading?

Finding Eadie by Caroline Beecham (Trade Paperback)

Finding Eadie Cover


The Gates of Athens
by Conn Iggulden (Trade Paperback)

The Gates of Athens Cover

I’m hoping to get a review for this book up tonight.


Kill Switch
 by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Kill Switch Cover

I am also hoping to write a review about this book today, will have to see how I go.

What do you think you’ll read next?

Demon in White by Christopher Ruocchio (Trade Paperback)

Demon in White Cover 1

 

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.

Book Haul – 12 July 2020

It has been a bit of a slow month book-wise for me, but I have still received several amazing books to read and review, so I thought I would take the time to highlight them in a book haul post.  While the books have been few, they are actually a pretty impressive collection of novels, and represent some of the top novels of 2020.  I have been  looking forward to a number of these books for a while, and several have recently appeared on my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2020 list and my Winter TBR list.  Each of these books sounds really amazing and I cannot wait to get through all of them.

 

Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution Cover

A horror book about Sasquatches written by the author of World War Z, yes please!  I have already read and reviewed this book and it is pretty damn good.

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit Cover

The Constant Rabbit is a fun and unique new novel that I am currently reading.  Fforde has always come up with some amusing and memorable books (such as his 2018 release, Early Risers), and this new one is pretty crazy, featuring anthropomorphised rabbits in an alternate version of Great Britain.

Star Wars: Shadow Fall by Alexander Freed

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover

The sequel to last years Alphabet Squadron, Shadow Fall looks set to be another action-packed and impressive Star Wars novels that sets two rival groups of pilots against each other.  Guaranteed to be a fun and exciting blast, this should be a great one to check out.

The Gates of Athens by Conn Iggulden

The Gates of Athens Cover

The Gates of Athens is the latest novel from one of the top historical fiction authors in the world, Conn Iggulden.  I am a major fan of Iggulden’s writing (check out my review for his last book, The Falcon of Sparta), and this looks set to be one of the best historical releases of 2020.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

The Night Swim Cover

This next book is a fantastic sounding murder mystery novel from Australian author Megan Goldin, who wrote the awesome 2018 release, The Escape RoomThe Night Swim has an amazing concept behind it and I am really looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower Cover

The final entry on this list is the impressive sounding fantasy novel, The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso, a copy of which I picked up today.  I really enjoyed Caruso’s debut series, the Sword and Fire trilogy (made up of The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire), and this latest book is set in the same universe.  I think that this has a lot of potential and I am very excited for it.
That is the end of this book haul and as you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do.  I am hoping to get some great new books in the next couple of weeks, and will hopefully be able to do another book haul post soon.  Until then let me know which of the above books most interests you and I’ll try to read them first.

Top Ten Tuesday – Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For this latest Top Ten Tuesday participants need to list their top anticipated releases for the second half of 2020.

2020 has so far been a pretty amazing year for books, with some outstanding and impressive novels coming out and blowing me away. However, the year is far from over, and there are a number of incredible and epic-sounding novels set for release in the second half of 2020. In order to fill out this list I have scoured my list of anticipated upcoming releases and tried to work out which of the books coming out between the start of July and the end of December I am most looking forward to.

This proved to be a rather hard list to finalise, mainly because of how many awesome novels are coming out in the next six months. I had to make some hard decisions for this list, and I ended up cutting out several upcoming releases that I am really looking forward to. Despite this, I am rather happy with the eventual choices that I made, and I think that this upcoming list reflects which upcoming novels I am going to have the most fun reading. Due to how impressive they sound and because they have already caught my attention, several of these books in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday articles, and some of them also appeared on my recent Winter TBR list. However, there are also some interesting new books that I am discussing for the first time here, so that should give this list a bit of variety. So let us get to my selections and find out which upcoming novels are my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2020.

Honourable Mentions:


Total Power
by Kyle Mills – 15 September 2020

Total Power Cover


The Devil and the Dark Water
by Stuart Turton – 1 October 2020

The Devil and the Dark Water Cover


Hollow Empire
by Sam Hawke – 26 November 2020

Hollow Empire Cover 2

Hollow Empire was a book that I was really hoping to read last year, but it has faced some delays. Luckily it looks set for release in a few months time and I am rather excited to check it out, especially after how much I enjoyed Hawke’s first novel, City of Lies.


Colonyside
by Michael Mammay – 29 December 2020

This is the third book in the incredible Planetside series of science fiction thriller novels that I have been having an outstanding time reading the last couple of years. The first book in this series, Planetside, is one of my favourite debuts of all time, and last year’s follow-up book, Spaceside was also really impressive. Colonyside is set to be another amazing addition to this series, and I cannot wait to see what sort of complex and clever space mystery Mammay cooks up this time.

Top Ten Tuesday (By Release Date):


Demon in White
by Christopher Ruocchio – 28 July 2020

Demon in White Cover 1


The Gates of Athens
by Conn Iggulden – 4 August 2020

The Gates of Athens Cover

I actually got a copy of this book last week and I am planning on reading it soon. Gates of Athens is set to be one of the top historical fiction releases of the year, and it should prove to be an epic and detailed read.

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker – 18 August 2020

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It


Thrawn Ascendancy
: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn – 1 September 2020

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising Cover

The Evening and the Morning
by Ken Follett – 15 September 2020

The Evening and the Morning Cover


The Trouble with Peace
by Joe Abercrombie – 15 September 2020

The Trouble with Peace Cover 2

I used The Trouble with Peace’s more recent cover for this article because it looks extremely cool and is a nice contrast to the cover I used in the linked Waiting on Wednesday article.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini – 15 September 2020

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars Cover


Assault by Fire
by Hunter Ripley Rawlings IV – 29 September 2020

Assault by Fire Cover

I just want to point out that Assault by Fire is the only debut novel that I have featured in this article. Not only does it have an awesome and exciting story concept behind it, but I really loved the book that Rawlings cowrote with Mark Greaney last year, Red Metal. If Rawlings’ first solo book is anything as good as Red Metal, then this should prove to be a fantastic read that I know I am going to enjoy.

 

The Law of Innocence by Michael Connelly – 10 November 2020

I have been really enjoying Michael Connelly’s books over the last couple of years, including Dark Sacred Night and The Night Fire, both of which were exceptional pieces of crime fiction. I am also in the middle of reading his latest book, Fair Warning, which is so far pretty amazing. Because of this, I was rather excited when I heard that Connelly had another book coming out later this year. The Law of Innocence sounds extremely interesting as it sees the return of the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller, as he faces the trial of his life. Also set to feature his most iconic protagonist, Harry Bosch, The Law of Innocence should be a particular impressive read and I am very much looking forward to it.


Call of the Bone Ships
by R. J. Barker – 24 November 2020

The final book on this list is a book that I know that I am absolutely going to love, and which is pretty much guaranteed to get a full five stars from me. Call of the Bone Ships is the upcoming sequel to one of the best books of 2019, The Bone Ships, by the always amazing R. J. Barker. This new book will continue the epic nautical fantasy adventures started in The Bone Ships, and I for one am extremely eager to see what outstanding and inventive new narrative that Barker comes up with this time.

 

That’s the end of this list. I am extremely happy with how my latest Top Ten Tuesday article turned out, and my Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2020 list contains an intriguing list of upcoming books that should prove to be incredible reads. I think that every one of the books I mentioned above has the potential to get a full five-star rating from me and I cannot wait to see what amazing and exciting stories they contain. While I am waiting to get my hands on these books, why not let me know if any of the above interest you, and let me know what your most anticipated releases for the next six months are in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on My Winter 2020 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 week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list the top ten books on their Winter 2020 (or Summer 2020 for those up in the Northern Hemisphere) to be read (TBR) list.

There are some rather fantastic-sounding novels coming out in the next couple of months, and I am quite excited for a number of them. Surprisingly, producing this list did not go as smoothly as some previous TBR lists that I have done. This is because several books I was hoping to include have been delayed since the last time I looked them up, presumably due to the coronavirus outbreak. While this is a little disappointing, I was still able to come up with a good list of Winter TBR books, and the entries below are some of my most anticipated releases coming out in June, July and August 2020. I have previously addressed several of these books before in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday posts, and there is also likely to be some crossover between this list and some of my previous Top Ten Tuesday lists, such as my Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020 list and my Predicted Five Star Reads list. I have also chosen to exclude any books that I have already read or have started reading (such as Stormblood by Jeremy Szal). Overall, I think I came up with quite a diverse list of books.

Honourable Mentions:

Devolution by Max Brooks – 16 June 2020

Devolution Cover


Star Wars: Shadow Fall
by Alexander Freed – 2 July 2020

Star Wars - Shadow Fall Cover


Out of Time
by David Klass – 21 July 2020

Out of Time Cover

Top Ten List (By Release Date):


The Obsidian Tower
by Melissa Caruso – 9 June 2020

The Obsidian Tower Cover


The Return
by Harry Sidebottom – 11 June 2020

The Return Cover


The Constant Rabbit
by Jasper Fforde – 30 June 2020

The Constant Rabbit Cover

This is a really quirky and entertaining novel that I received earlier this week, which I think could be a lot of fun to read. Jasper Fforde is an author who I have enjoyed for years, and I had a great time reading his last book, Early Riser. His latest book, The Constant Rabbit, sounds absolutely bonkers as it features anthropomorphic rabbits moving into a human town and facing prejudice in a satire of racism in the UK. I am sure I am going to laugh myself silly with this book, and it should be a really unique read.

Queen of Storms by Raymond E. Feist – 14 July 2020

Queen of Storms Cover


World of Warcraft: Shadows Rising
by Madeleine Roux – 14 July 2020

Shadows Rising Cover


Demon in White
by Christopher Ruocchio – 28 July 2020

Demon in White Cover 1


The Gates of Athens
by Conn Iggulden – 4 August 2020

The Gates of Athens Cover

Conn Iggulden is an extremely talented historical fiction author who has produced some amazing novels throughout his career, including his last book, The Falcon of Sparta. His upcoming novel, The Gate of Athens, is the first entry in his new Athenian series, which will take a look at the major wars of ancient Athens. This is probably going to be one of the best historical fiction books that I am going to read in the next few months, and I cannot wait to check it out.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – 4 August 2020

Harrow the Ninth Cover

Last year I was blown away by the incredible Gideon the Ninth, which was part fantasy, part science fiction, part murder mystery and 100% non-stop fun. Gideon the Ninth was easily one of my favourite debuts of 2019, and I am extremely excited to read the sequel, Harrow the Ninth. This upcoming novel seems set to continue the crazy adventures of the first book, and I am really looking forward to seeing where the story goes after Gideon the Ninth’s shocking conclusion.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin – 4 August 2020

The Night Swim Cover

The Night Swim is the next intriguing release from Australian author Megan Goldin, and it looks set to be one of the most compelling mystery novels of 2020. I really enjoyed Goldin’s previous book, 2018’s The Escape Room, which I ended up reading in a single night, and I am looking forward to getting through the author’s next compelling story.

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by K. J. Parker – 25 August 2020

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

The final book on my list is How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It by bestselling fantasy author K. J. Parker. Parker is a really clever writer who has produced a huge number of impressive fantasy novels over the year. His previous book, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, was an incredible read and it was one of my favourite books of 2019. Due to how much I enjoyed his last book, and because How to Rule and Empire and Get Away with It might have some intriguing connections to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, I have extremely high hopes for this upcoming novel, and I think it is going to be absolutely amazing.

 

Well that’s my latest top ten list. I am very happy with the final list that I pulled together, especially as this is a great mixture of impressive-sounding novels. I think each of the books listed above have incredible potential, and I cannot wait to read each and every one of them. Let me know which of these books interests you the most in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – Autumn 2020 TBRs

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list the top ten books on their Autumn 2020 (or Spring 2020 for those up in the Northern Hemisphere) to be read (TBR) list.

There are a huge number of novels coming out in the next couple of months which I have my eye on. Many of these are very impressive sounding books, and I am extremely excited for several of them. As a result, I was able to come up with a good list of Autumn TBR books, and each of the entries below are some of my most anticipated releases coming out in March, April and May 2020. I have previously addressed several of these books before in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday posts, and there is also likely to be some crossover between this list and some of my previous Top Ten Tuesday lists, such as My Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020 list and my Predicted Five Star Reads list. So let’s get to it and see which books I am most looking forward to reading in the next three months.

Honourable Mentions:


Providence
by Max Barry (31 March 2020)

Providence Cover


Execution
by S. J. Parris (30 April 2020)

Execution Cover


Lionheart
by Ben Kane (14 May 2020)

Lionheart Cover

Top Ten List (By Release Date):

Cyber Shogun Revolution by Peter Tieryas (3 March 2020)

Cyber Shogun Revolution


The Grove of the Caesars
by Lindsey Davis (2 April 2020)

The Grove of the Caesars Cover


Usagi Yojimbo
: Bunraku and Other Stories by Stan Sakai (21 April 2020)

Usagi Yojimbo Bunraku and Other Stories Cover

There was no way that I wasn’t going to include the new Usagi Yojimbo on this list (especially after I just did Throwback Thursday posts for the first three volumes in the series, The Ronin, Samurai and The Wanderer’s Road). This has been one of my favourite series for years, and I really enjoyed Sakai’s last two entries, Mysteries and The Hidden. This upcoming volume, Bunraku and Other Stories, has a lot of potential and some cool features to it. Not only is it the first volume to be released completely in colour but it sounds like it is going to have some fantastic stories, including one that revisits the very first Usagi Yojimbo comic.

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett (21 April 2020)

Shorefall Cover


Firefly
: The Ghost Machine by James Lovegrove (28 April 2020)

Firefly The Ghost Machine Cover


The Kingdom of Liars
by Nick Martell (5 May 2020)

The Kingdom of Liars Cover


The Lion Shield
by Conn Iggulden (14 May 2020)

The Lion Shield Cover

Iggulden is one of the top historical fiction authors in the world today, and he has created some exceptional novels in the past, including his Emperor and War of the Roses series, as well as the 2018 standalone novel The Falcon of Sparta. I have deeply enjoyed Iggulden’s work in the past, and I cannot wait to check out his new novel later this year. The Lion Shield is the first book in a new series that will focus on the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta. This is an extremely fascinating historical conflict that is criminally underutilised in the historical fiction genre. I cannot wait to see what outstanding novels Iggulden weaves around this conflict, and I am sure that The Lion Shield is going to be an impressive first entry in this series.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (19 May 2020)

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Cover


Eagle Station
by Dale Brown (26 May 2020)

Eagle Station Cover


Fair Warning
by Michael Connelly (26 May 2020)

Fair Warning Cover

Michael Connelly is an author that needs very little introduction, having produced some amazing and creative murder mysteries over the years. I have only recently started reading his books, but I loved his last two novels, Dark Sacred Night and The Night Fire (the latter of which was one of the best books I read in 2019, as well as one of my favourite audiobooks of 2019). As a result, I am extremely keen to check out his next novel, Fair Warning, which will be his third Jack McEvoy novel. Fair Warning sounds like it is going to be a thrilling and exciting novel, and I cannot wait to see Connelly’s reporter protagonist go up against a deadly and well-hidden serial killer.

Well that’s my latest top ten list. I am very happy with the final list that I pulled together, especially as this is a great mixture of impressive sounding novels. I think each of the books listed above have incredible potential, and I cannot wait to read each and every one of them. Let me know which of these books interests you the most in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. This week’s topic is to list my top ten auto-buy authors, that is the top ten authors whose latest books I will always buy no matter what.

This was a pretty cool topic to explore. There are a number of amazing authors out there whose books I will generally try to get each year due to how much I enjoyed their previous works. However, there are a few authors whose books I will automatically buy the moment they come out, many of whom I have been fans of for years. I managed to list my top ten of these authors, with a couple of honourable mentions thrown in as well. Fair warning: this top ten list features quite a large number of historical fiction authors. This is mainly because I previously focused solely on historical fiction for quite a long period of time and have only recently started getting into reviewing other genres such as science fiction or thrillers and have yet to finalise any auto-buy authors in these genres. I have added in a few fantasy authors, mostly because I have been reading these guys since I was fairly young, and their work is still incredibly impressive. Check out my list below:

Honourable Mentions:

 

Conn Iggulden

THe Falcon of Sparta Cover

One of the top authors of historical fiction, Iggulden has written some compelling books, set in some intriguing historical periods. His latest book, for example, The Falcon of Sparta, was pretty epic and focussed on an amazing event from history.

Mellissa Caruso

The Unbound Empire Cover (WoW)

This author’s debut series, the Swords and Fire trilogy, is just outstanding, and I will be adding all of her future books to the top of my reading list. Make sure to check out all the books in this series, including The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire.

Harry Sidebottom

The Last Hour Cover

An author who focuses on Roman history, Sidebottom has recently started blending his books with the thriller genre, creating some intriguing reads, such as his 2018 release, The Last Hour. I currently have his latest book, The Lost Ten, on my shelf and cannot wait to read it.

Top Ten List (No Particular Order):

 

Terry Pratchett

The author of the Discworld series and the master of combining fantasy elements with comedic stories. Before he passed away, I could always expect to receive the latest Terry Pratchett book as a Christmas gift every single year, and I would often finish it off by the end of Christmas day. Since his death in 2015, I haven’t really bought any of his novels, although I did manage to obtain them all on audiobook, which I relisten to all the time. As Pratchett is and probably always will be my favourite author of all time, I had to include him on this list, especially as he was my original auto-buy author

Moving PIcture Cover

The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Raising Steam was the last one of Pratchett’s books I received, while I recently reread Moving Pictures before I reviewed it earlier this year.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Maybe a nice copy of Good Omens, since I really enjoyed the show. I am planning to reread Pyramids next, as I am hoping to review it on the blog at some point.

Simon Scarrow

Simon Scarrow has to be one of my favourite historical fiction authors at the moment. His Eagles of the Empire series is one of the best Roman historical fiction series at the moment, and he has also produced a number of other books, including his Roman Arena and Invader novella series with T. J. Andrews, as well as his incredibly detailed Wellington and Napoleon Quartet. I have read all 17 of the books in his Eagles of the Empire series and am eagerly anticipating the 18th book, which will be out later this year. This has to be one of my favourite historical fiction series at the moment, and I will pretty much grab anything written by Scarrow as a result.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

The Blood of Rome (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Either the 18th book of the Eagles of the Empire series, Traitors of the Empire (out 14 November 2019), or Pirata (out 9 July 2019), the collected edition of the Pirata short stories that was recently released.

C. J. Samson

In my mind, the best author of historical murder mysteries at the moment has to be C. J. Samson. His Matthew Shardlake series is just incredible, as each book contains an extremely clever and detailed murder mystery that perfectly utilises the author’s Tudor England setting to tell a compelling story. Every one of his books generally becomes the best historical fiction releases of the year and will often be my favourite overall book of the year as well. As a result, each of Samson’s books are extremely high on my to-read list, and it’s such a shame there is usually a big gap between each of his books.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Tombland (2018), which not only got a five-star review from me, but which made my Top Ten Reads of 2018 list.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Hopefully the eighth book in the Matthew Shardlake series, although I may have to wait till 2022 for it to come out. I have no doubt it will be worth it, though.

Raymond E. Feist

Raymond E. Feist is one of the best fantasy authors in the world today. His iconic Riftwar Cycle, which ran for nearly 30 years, is considered one of the greatest fantasy series in the world today and features some incredible books. Feist’s Talon of the Silver Hawk was one of the first fantasy books I ever read, and after falling in love with it I went back and read every single previous book he wrote, starting with Magician and moving onto books such as the epic Empire trilogy he wrote with Jenny Wurst. Without a doubt, Feist is one of my favourite authors of all time and I eagerly grab every new book he releases, including the books in his new series, The Firemane Saga, which started last year.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

King of Ashes (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

The Firemane Saga book 2 – (I believe it will be called Queen of Storms)


Lindsey Davis

Lindsey Davis is probably the most prominent authors of the ancient history murder mystery. Her iconic Falco series, which ran for 20 books, placed a character styled after a modern private investigator in ancient Rome, resulting in some entertaining and enjoyable reads. I first started reading the sequel series to Falco books, the Flavia Albia series, back in 2013 and haven’t looked back. Her books are a heck of a lot of fun, and I especially loved the fifth and sixth books in the series, The Third Nero and Pandora’s Boy, which had some extremely epic comedy moments. These Flavia Albia books are a great highlight of my April reading schedule, and I fully plan to keep buying them as long as Davis continues to write them.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

A Capitol Death (2019) – review to follow soon.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

The Grove of the Caesars (April 2020)


Stan Sakai

I am a massive fan of many examples of comic books and magna, and I have had the pleasure of reading some amazing series from a variety of different publishers. However, the comic series that I look forward to the most each year is the Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai. There is just something about this series I cannot help but love, and I currently own all 32 volumes of the series, as well as some of the associated books. Sakai’s works are a must-get for me and he easily makes this list.

Usagi Yojimbo Mysteries Cover

The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Usagi Yojimbo, Vol 32: Mysteries (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Usagi Yojimbo, Vol 33: The Hidden (2019). I have already ordered this book and it is hopefully on its way.

Robert Fabbri

For the last few years, Robert Fabbri’s debut body of books, the Vespasian series, has been an extremely entertaining highlight of my reading year. The author did an amazing job of combining a compelling examination of the history of one of the most influential Roman Emperors with some of the wild and extreme stories of Roman excess and insanity. The end result is an amazing series of books that I absolutely devour when I get my hands of them. Fabbri is currently working on a new series of books, The Alexander Legacies, which I am really looking forward to, and I imagine I will grab every book in this future series.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Emperor of Rome (2019). This book recently made my Top Ten Favourite Books from the First Half of 2019 list and is a heck of a lot of fun.

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

The Alexander Legacies – Book 1 (2020)


Ken Follett

Ken Follett is an extremely talented author who has been writing since the 1970s. While he was initially known for his clever thrillers, I am a fan of his incredible pieces of historical fiction. Follett has written some truly amazing pieces of historical fiction including his extraordinary book, The Pillars of the Earth. I was first introduced to Follett’s books with his epic Century trilogy, and honestly all I needed to do was read one of his massive books to fall in love with this author’s work. No one blends life stories of fictional characters with iconic moments of history like Follett does, and I am desperately waiting for his next piece of work

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

A Column of Fire (2017)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Unknown – Apparently a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth

R. A. Salvatore

This is another author I would consider to be one of the top fantasy authors in the world today. Few authors have the sustainability and imagination of R. A. Salvatore, and I have been a massive fan of his for years. After powering through his The Icewind Dale trilogy, the series I really fell in love with was his prequel series, The Dark Elf trilogy. The way that he built up the history of his most iconic characters was just outstanding and made me a fan for life. I have since bought or read every single Salvatore book set in the Forgotten Realms, including The Cleric Quintet and all the books featuring Drizzt Do’Urden, including the latest book Timeless, and will continue to read them as long as Salvatore rights about the character. I have also started getting into his books set in the Corona universe and have read the first two books in The Coven series, which started last year with Child of a Mad God.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

Reckoning of Fallen Gods (2019)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Boundless (2019)


Bernard Cornwell

The final author to feature in this list is the author I consider to be at the top of the historical fiction genre, Bernard Cornwell. With over 55 historical fiction novels on his resume, Cornwell has written some incredible pieces of work, and I have been a huge fan of his for years. The first Cornwell books I read were part of The Last Kingdom series, and I quickly graduated to other series, such as The Grail Quest novels. I really love how Cornwell can tell a huge number of different stories from across the historical periods, whether he looks at prehistoric adventures in Stonehenge, battles in America with The Fort or setting an intriguing piece of crime fiction amongst the plays of Shakespeare in Fools and Mortals. His body of work is just amazing and I cannot wait to check out what he writes next.

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The Author’s Latest Book I bought/read:

War of the Wolf (2018)

What is the Next Book from this Author that I will Auto-buy?

Unknown

 

I hope you enjoyed my list. Are any of the authors featured within on your auto-buy author list? Let me know if the comments below or link through your auto-buy authors so I can check them out.

The Falcon of Sparta by Conn Iggulden

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Publisher: Michael Joseph

Publication Date – 3 May 2018

 

One of historical fiction’s very best authors is back with an enthralling story that follows history’s greatest warriors on one of their most legendary journeys.  Without a doubt, Conn Iggulden is one of the top authors of historical fiction in the world today.  Since 2003 he has consistently produced some of the most in-depth, detailed and engrossing chronicles of several different historical periods and cultures.  His previous work includes lengthy examinations of Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan in his bestselling Emperor and Conqueror series, and he has also produced the definitive fictional account of one of the bloodiest civil wars in English history with his extraordinary War of the Roses series.  Now, following his 2017 fantasy debut Darien, Iggulden has once again returned to his historical fiction roots by exploring another new realm of history, the Spartans.

In 401 BC, the new Persian king, Artaxerxes II, rules the largest empire in the known world.  With an empire sprawling from the Aegean Sea to the north of India, the king of Persia is the undisputed ruler of 50 million people.  However, despite all their wealth and power, the kings of Persia have never conquered Greece.  From Thermopylae to Marathon and Platea, the Persians have suffered the ferocity of the Greeks, and none are more feared than the men of Sparta.  As a result, it has been many years since the Persians have attempted to invade Greece, and many Spartans now serve as mercenaries in the Persian army.

When Prince Cyrus, Artaxerxes’s brother, is nearly executed by the new king following the death of their father, the young prince is determined to claim the throne of Persia for himself.  After hiring an army of skilled Greek mercenaries led by an elite core of Spartan warriors and the revered Spartan General Clearchus, Cyrus marches against his brother.  But battles can be lost with a single blow, and when Cyrus is killed on the battlefield the Greeks suddenly find themselves trapped in the middle of the Persian Empire.

With Clearchus and the other Greek generals having been killed through treachery, it falls to a young solider, Xenophon, to lead the surviving Greeks to safety.  With limited supplies and no knowledge of the land before them, Xenophon must find a way to lead 10,000 soldiers and an additional 10,000 camp followers back to Greece.  Forced to endure constant attacks from the Persian army as they travel through deserts and across mountains, their journey will become legendary.

The Falcon of Sparta is a standalone novel primarily based on the classic Greek text, Anabasis, which was written by the historical Xenophon.  Iggulden’s novel focuses on the events of the first four of the seven books of Anabasis.

While The Falcon of Sparta does not contain the full version of Anabasis, in some ways it is a much more complete and detailed story that focuses on the people who featured in this great adventure.  Xenophon related his tale in a rather simple and direct manner, and Iggulden has compensated for this by providing his own storytelling and dramatic writing.  Many of the key characters now have significant backstories fictional justifications for many of these characters’ actions and motives.  For example, Iggulden attempts to provide a more complex and dramatic explanation for the schism between Artaxerxes and Cyrus, rather than the historical story that Cyrus simply desired the throne.  Iggulden also provides additional context for one of the main villains of the Anabasis, the Persian noble Tissaphernes, who led the Persian armies against the retreating Greek forces.  In The Falcon of Sparta his role as a villain is greatly expanded.  Not only is he portrayed as a former friend of Cyrus who betrayed him for power but also as one of the main reasons Cyrus fails to seize the throne and the protagonists are placed into such peril.  Iggulden’s additional backstories and character traits make for a much more compelling and complete story with thrilling and absorbing motivations and antagonists.

These additional story elements are greatly enhanced by the author’s use of character perspectives.  For the first two thirds of the story, narration is split between a number of characters, including Cyrus, Clearchus, Tissaphernes, Artaxerxes and Xenophon.  Not only does this split narration help to build up the respective characters’ histories and allow the audience a better view of their personalities, but it also adds significantly to the story as these characters provide various perspectives on the events occurring in the formative parts of the main story.  Through the narrators we are given glimpses into a range of interesting things, including Artaxerxes’s and Cyrus’s thoughts on the war for their father’s throne, as well as the events and feelings that led up to the conflict.  We also see the respect that Cyrus and Xenophon have for their Spartan allies, as they see examples of their effectiveness in combat and their legendary self-discipline.

The scenes told from Tissaphernes’s point of view further highlight his role as a villain as his inner monologue reveals his selfish motivations and ambitions.  The story told from Tissaphernes’s viewpoint helps turn him into an embodiment of the distain that the ancient Persians had for the Greeks and their soldiers.  Despite seeing the Greeks’ substantial battle prowess, Tissaphernes and many of the Persians viewed the Greeks as second-rate soldiers, and it is fascinating to see how deeply held this belief was.

After the first two thirds of the book, the story is told exclusively from the point of view of Xenophon and starts to mostly represent Book III and Book IV of the Anabasis.  This part of the book allows the reader a closer view of the Spartan and Greek forces as they participate in their epic march and is very entertaining.  Even as the story becomes confined to only one narrator, Iggulden is still able to provide the necessary detail and drama in the final part of the book to keep the story going strong and maintain the reader’s attention and enjoyment.

Special attention needs to be given to the masterful portrayal of the Greeks and Spartans in battle.  Iggulden has an incredible eye for detail and an amazing writing style that brings the reader right into the heart of the book’s large-scale action sequences.  In particular, he spends a significant amount of time focusing on the Greeks and the Spartans and does an amazing job of capturing their battle techniques, tactics and mentality.  There are a large number of battle scenes within this book, and Iggulden uses every opportunity to show off the prowess of his heroes in as much detail as possible, allowing the reader to easily witness the events in their minds.  The Persian soldiers are also examined in the scenes narrated by Cyrus, and it is interesting to see the differences in the fighting style and mentality of the Greeks and Persians.  Those interested in reading about this part of history will love the amount of attention given to the Spartans and find many of the associated descriptions deeply fascinating.

Conn Iggulden has once again produced a masterful and absorbing fictional account that focuses on an utterly intriguing historical event.  Bringing the reader right into the middle of the march of the Ten Thousand, Iggulden expands on Xenophon’s Anabasis and provides a more dramatic and elegant story of betrayal, endurance and survival.  The Falcon of Sparta is a love letter to one of history’s most legendary race of warriors, and it provides the reader with a detailed exploration of Spartan warfare, lifestyle and mentality.  This is a breathtaking and highly recommended piece of historical fiction that is guaranteed to drag you in for the long haul.

My Rating:

Five Stars