Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Audiobooks of 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this list was Books I Hope Santa Brings, and, while this did sound like a fun topic, I instead decided to continue my annual end of year wrap up of some of the best books of 2022.  In previous weeks I have highlighted some of the best debuts of 2022, as well as the best pre-2022 novels I read in the last year, but this week I am going to look at something near and dear to my hear, the best audiobooks of 2021.

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

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

Honourable Mentions:

Sylvanas, written by Christie Golden and narrated by Patty Mattson

World of Warcraft - Sylvanas Cover

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

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

Steel Tread Cover

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

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

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

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

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Outgunned, written by Denny Flowers and narrated by Phillip Sacramento

Warhammer 40,000 - Outgunned Cover

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


Top Ten List:

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

The Hunger of the Gods Cover

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

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

Ghazghkull Thraka - Prophet of the Waaagh! Cover

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

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

Sierra Six Cover

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

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

Assassinorum Kingmaker Cover

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

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

Kagen the Damned Cover

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

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

The Bullet That Missed Cover

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

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

The Martyr Cover

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

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

The Wraithbone Phoenix Cover

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

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

In the Shadow of Lightning Cover

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

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

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

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

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

In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan

In the Shadow of Lightning Cover

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Audiobook – 21 June 2022)

Series: The Glass Immortals – Book One

Length: 24 hours and 53 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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One of the most inventive and compelling authors of fantasy fiction, Brian McClellan, kicks off an awesome new series with In the Shadow of Lightning, the first book in The Glass Immortals series.

Few authors over the last 10 years have had more of an explosive impact on the world of fantasy fiction then Brian McClellan.  Debuting in 2013, McClellan quickly set the world ablaze with The Powder Mage trilogy, which saw chaos and destruction unravel in a new fantasy world where gunpowder-powered mages face off against an enraged god.  I had a brilliant time with the first book in the series, Promise of Blood, and McClellan followed this initial trilogy off with the sequel, Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy, set in the same universe.  While I still need to finish the Powder Mage novels off, I was very excited to hear that McClellan was starting a new series with In the Shadow of Lightning, the first book in the author’s The Glass Immortals series.  This is an impressive and outstanding read that introduces readers to a distinctive new fantasy world, this time with a fascinating focus on glass magic.

Demir Grappo was once one of the most respected politicians, tacticians and glassdancers in the Ossan Empire.  A rising star in the assembly, a proven governor, and the only son of a prominent family, Demir’s promising career is suddenly shattered in the immediate aftermath of his greatest military victory when his army sacked and destroyed the entire city of Holikan, apparently on his orders.  Mentally broken by the massacre done in his name, Demir abandons his army and vanishes into the provinces, giving up his life of privilege for one of anonymity.

Now, nine years after the sacking of Holikan, Demir is a very different man, having spent the intervening time as a grifter with no true home.  However, everything changes when news reaches him that his mother was murdered, brutally beaten to death in public in an apparent political attack.  Determined to find her killers, Demir returns to the city of Ossa to reclaim his seat as the head of his family.  But not everyone is happy that he has returned, and Demir soon finds himself in the midst of several deadly conspiracies, while Ossa goes to war against its neighbour, all in the name of avenging his murdered mother.

To get to the centre of these conspiracies, Demir must find allies, including old friends and new acquaintances if he is to gain the power and influence he needs find answers, especially those hidden by the powerful guild families who rule Ossa.  However, as he searches, and soon finds a much more troubling secret: godglass, the source of magic within the world, is running out, and when it goes, chaos will reign.  The key to securing the future may lie in a device that could re-power inert pieces of godglass, and only one girl appears to have the skill to create such a device.  But as Demir fights to secure this new vital ally, he finds himself fighting against a mysterious new enemy, one that seems determined to destroy anyone who gets in their way.

McClellan impresses again with another incredible fantasy novel that had me instantly enthralled.  Presenting the reader with a multifaceted narrative that combines great characters with intriguing fantasy elements, In the Shadow of Lightning proved to be an outstanding start to McClellan’s new series and I had an exceptional time reading it.  Epic in scope, ambition and potential, In the Shadow of Lightning gets a full five-star rating from me and I am still reeling from just how good this was.

In the Shadow of Lightning is a particularly addictive novel, especially as McClellan presents the reader with an outstanding and complex narrative that pulls them in on so many levels.  Starting off with a compelling prelude that perfectly introduces central protagonist Demir Grappo and shows his dramatic and bloody fall from grace and sanity, the novel then undergoes a time skip which takes the reader into the current storyline, right as events are kicking off.  The initial focus is on Demir, who, after finding out his mother has been murdered, returns to Ossa to take over the family business and discover her murderers.  However, he soon finds that his mother was involved in complex dealings that might have led to her death, and that her assassination has been blamed on a neighbouring city Ossa is going to war with.  The story then splits as McClellan introduces three additional point-of-view characters, each other whom has their own distinctive story arc, closely related to Demir and the politics of Ossa.

These new characters include Thessa Foleer, a siliceer (godglass worker) from Ossa’s neighbour Grent, the breacher Idrian Sepulki and Kizzie Vorcien, an enforcer for a powerful guild-family who Demir hires to investigate his mother’s death.  Each of these new characters have their own individual storylines that tie into the plot points introduced in Demir’s initial chapters.  While these character arcs go in their own direction, their storylines are loosely connected together and form a great overarching narrative as they are dragged into war, imprisonment, political battles, conspiracies and criminal investigations.  I loved the cool blend of character-driven storylines, and everything comes together extremely well to show that something very rotten is going on within Ossa.  This is a very fast-paced story, and McClellan keeps multiple compelling plotlines running simultaneously to keep the reader’s attention, with some great reveals and amazing fight scenes scattered throughout the book.  Most of these reveals are set up and foreshadowed extremely well, with a couple of exceptions, and I didn’t see some of the twists coming, which was pretty fun.  Everything comes to a head towards the end of the novel, as all four characters find themselves in their own extremely dangerous and concerning situation.  Not only is there a massive battle for the future of Ossa but there are some shocking revelations about who is involved in the conspiracy and why.  The author leaves everything on an amazing note that not only leaves readers satisfied with the conclusion of some of the storylines but which also leaves a lot of questions unanswered and the reader wanting more.  An excellent and impressive story that dragged me in extremely quickly.

I was very impressed with how In the Shadow of Lightning’s story came together, as McClellan presented an epic and addictive offering that I snapped up extremely quickly.  I especially loved the use of four separate narrators to tell this story, and McClellan did an outstanding job of separating out their narratives.  Each narrator has their own unique story to tell, and what is really good is that they also explore a different aspect of the author’s new fantasy world, which often breaks across the associated genres.  For example, Thessa’s story focuses on the magical science behind godglass, and examines the political and social elements associated with this branch of magic.  Idrian’s tale comes across as a war tale as he is forced to participated in the deadly conflict between Ossa and Grent, where his particularly magical expertise makes him a living weapon.  Kizzie’s chapters come across as an investigation arc, as she attempts to uncover who killed Demir’s mother, and is forced to dive into the intrigues and shifting allegiances amongst the Ossan families, uncovering a deep conspiracy.  Demir serves as a bit of a joining figure; while he also has his own unique adventures, especially around Ossan politics, a lot of his arc involves interactions with the other three point of view characters.  Not only does this ensure that we get another viewpoint on the other character’s actions, as he gets involved in the godglass, espionage and the war elements that they are solely focussed on, but he helps to bring the other protagonist’s disparate storylines together into one solid and compelling narrative.

All four character-driven storylines are pretty exceptional in their own right, and this was one of those rare multi-perspective novels where you honestly can’t choose which character arc is the most intriguing or enjoyable.  I was particularly impressed with how McClellan brought these storylines together into one outstanding novel, and it makes for quite the epic read, especially as the author ensures you get the right blend of intrigue, action, magic and mystery throughout.  Despite its longer length, In the Shadow of Lightning has a pretty fast pace to it, and the readers are constantly treated to fantastic scenes that really keep your interest, either by being directly exciting, or featuring excellent examples of character development or world building.  I also really have to highlight the outstanding and amazing action sequences featured throughout this book.  McClellan has an impressive way of making these fight scenes really come to life in your mind, and it so easy to see all the epic events unfold.  These action scenes are particularly impactful when combined with the new magical features that the author has come up with, and I had so much fun seeing them unfold.  This really was an exceptional and highly entertaining read, and I loved how this entire amazing story was presented to the reader.

One of the things that most impressed me about In the Shadow of Lightning was the way in which McClellan envisioned and introduced the reader to an entirely new fantasy realm, equipped with its own distinctive magical system, all of which was substantially different from the elements featured in his previous Powder Mage novels.  While there are some similarities, namely that the Glass Immortals series also features magic, firearms, and a similar level of technology, there are quite a few differences which really make this new series stand out.  Most of the book is set in the Ossan Empire and its capital city of Ossa, which proves to be an excellent background location for the complex story.  Ossa, as well as some of the other nations mentioned reminded me of an Italian city-state, and I felt that it was an interesting change of pace to the French/English influences of Powder Mage universe.  The city is ruled by rival merchant guild families who are constantly battling for dominance, while the influence of the cities extends out to various provinces in the extended empire.  There is an intricate society set up around Ossa, and I loved the compelling interplay of industries, politics and intrigue that resulted.  McClellan examines various aspects of Ossan society, including sports, leisure, the military, and the various social levels, all of which were pretty intriguing to discover, and which painted Ossa and its people in a compelling light.  I particularly enjoyed their innate love for intrigue, contracts and business above everything else, and the fact that their national sport involves two magically enhanced people beating each other with cudgels tells you a lot about them.  Throw in some compelling snapshots of other relevant nations, as well as some sneaky hints at other mysterious beings, and the reader is given a really impressive and detailed introduction to this new world in this first book in the series, which McClellan did an outstanding job setting up.

However, the most distinctive part of this new universe is the cool magical system that forms the basis for much of the plot.  Just like with the Powder Mage novels, there are actually several different variations of magic and magic users in this series, which are connected to various forms of glass.  The first of these is the magical godglass, empowered glass items that give its users various abilities, such as strength, intelligence and enhanced senses, or which can be used to control a person.  Godglass is the most common form of magic in this series, which anyone can use, and indeed the entirety of human society in this world is based around the use of these items.  Pretty much every action a character does in this book is helped out in some way with godglass, resulting in some excellent sequences, especially during fights, and McClellan spends a lot of time exploring how it fits into his new world.  This includes multiple scenes set inside glassworks, where the godglass is forged, and you get an idea of how it is made and the significance it holds to the people of this world, including the fact that many of the characters have piercings that allow them to attach godglass to them.  Godglass actually becomes a key part of the book’s plot, once it is revealed that the supplies of magical cindersand that is used to create it is running low, resulting in an undercover war to control the remnants or finding a means of regenerating it.

The other magical elements of this new series involve the inbuilt talents of several characters, who have various degrees of sorcery in them.  The most prominent of these are the glassdancers, sorcerers who can control glass (except godglass) to an astonishing degree, and use it as a weapon.  There are multiple glassdancer characters featured throughout In the Shadow of Lightning (including the central protagonist), and you get to see multiple fights involving them, which are pretty badass.  You would never consider just how dangerous someone controlling glass could be until reading this book, and the brutal and quick ways in which they kill their opponents are pretty damn impressive.  The other major form of magical user are glazalier, who have more of a passive ability that allows them to resist the negative impacts of godglass (too much magic starts to eat away at someone) while still being able to use them.  These glazaliers are deployed as breachers, heavily armoured soldiers equipped with a ton of godglass that make them unstoppable tanks in battle, capable of killing units of men by themselves.  Acting as both a hammer and shield to their comrades, they are a lot more brutal than the subtly lethal glassdancers, and I loved the compelling contrast between the two major magical soldiers featured in this book.  McClellan does an outstanding job introducing, explaining and showcasing all these different magical elements in this first book, and I deeply enjoyed seeing the many cool ways these magical abilities and the godglass could be used, especially in the book’s many awesome action sequences.  I look forward to seeing how McClellan expands on them in the future, and I am still so impressed by how much magic the author could work into glass.

Another area where McClellan really excels as a writer is with the complex and multi-layered characters he is able to create.  This was really evident in his new novel, where several great point of view protagonists and fascinating supporting characters are perfectly introduced to the reader and become exciting focal points for the brilliant plot.

The most prominent of these is central protagonist, Demir Grappo, a brilliant strategist and politician, whose entire life is shattered in the opening prologue.  Forced back into public life after the death of his mother, Demir takes control of his family and attempts to rebuild his legacy while also finding answers.  Utilising the swindling, bluff and manipulation skills he built in the decade he was away, Demir proves to be a tough political adversary and quite an interesting figure to follow.  I loved his impressive and unique storyline, and watching him regain his political skills and self-confidence was really enjoyable, especially as he acts as a deadly glass sorcerer, businessman, politician, leader and even a general.  There are great sequences that highlight his skills, and I loved how he was able to manipulate everyone in many different ways, from being an agreeable political ally, to acting like a smarmy lord who is able to bluff his way around by sheer force of personality.  While he does come across as arrogant at times, which is partially due to the fear and respect everyone gives him due to his sorcerous abilities, McClellan ensures that the protagonist is aware of it, and works to fix his character flaws as he goes.  However, the biggest character aspect of Demir involves the trauma he carries after his actions apparently led to the massacre of an entire city.  Still haunted by the scenes from that night, Demir is forced to revisit them throughout the course of the book, especially when he meets a survivor while trying to find out who was actually responsible.  His roiling emotions around these events are his one weak spot, and the author slips in some powerful and understandable scenes where he loses control.  McClellan did a great job setting up Demir in this first book, and I have no doubt his story is going to get even more complex and painful.

McClellan ensures that all his intriguing characters have their own distinctive and compelling motivations, as well as a dark history that is explored throughout the course of In the Shadow of Lightning.  This includes Thessa Foleer, whose heartbreaking narrative and past worked perfectly in concert with Demir’s, which was appropriate as their storylines were the most closely linked.  Thessa’s story is one of constant loss, especially as everyone who seems to get close to her dies or suffers in some way, and the character goes through some major grief and trauma as a result.  The author does a good job balancing the focus on her past and her feelings of loss, with the scenes depicting her work as a siliceer, and I liked how you get some of the best insights about this book’s primary fantasy elements throughout her chapters.  McClellan sets up Thessa as quite a major character in this novel, and it will interesting to see how her story progresses in the future.

The other two point-of-view characters are Idrian Sepulki and Kizzie Vorcien, who add a lot more excitement and fun to the story.  Idrian’s scenes are some of the most action-packed, and it is very cool to see him in battle, especially as he tends to plough through entire units of men like a human tank.  However, Idrian is one of the most caring and likeable figures in the entire novel.  Primarily concerned for the lives of his comrades, Idrian goes into the battle to protect them, and the close friendships he builds with his men help define him.  However, Idrian is also battling some inner demons, and it is clear that McClellan has some tragedy planned for him in the future.  This is a little heartbreaking, as you really cannot help but enjoy Idrian’s straightforward nature and natural integrity, and anything bad that happens to him is going to strike the reader twice as hard as a result.  Kizzie, on the other hand, is a scrappy enforcer, forced to survive the intense politics of the city’s guild families.  The bastard daughter of the Vorcien family head, Kizzie desperately seeks legitimisation and acceptance from her father, if only to protect her from vicious brother.  Dragged into Demir’s hunt for his mother’s killers, Kizzie dives into the world of political intrigue and family espionage, only to find herself conflicted by the answers she seeks.  Forced to choose between friends and family, as well as between her desires and what his right, Kizzie has some great moments in this book, and her inner conflicts add a great amount of drama to the plot.

These central protagonists are well rounded out by an impressive and enjoyable series of supporting characters, each of whom add to the plot in their own unique way.  McClellan does a great job introducing all the key supporting characters featured in the plot, and there are some amazing and distinctive characters featured here, from long-time friends of the characters, to bitter enemies with their own agendas.  My favourite supporting character would probably be Baby Montego, Demir’s adopted brother who returns to help Demir with his exploits and find out who killed their mother.  A massive brute of a man and a former cudgeling world champion, Baby is considered to be the deadliest man on the planet, even though he doesn’t have any magical abilities and can’t use godglass.  He more than lives up to this reputation throughout the book, and he has some of the most exciting and action-packed sequences in the entire novel as he casually deals out violence.  At the same time, he is also a cunning thinker, and his dry humour and complete self-confidence really make him standout.  It was fantastic to see amazing characters like Baby interact with the point-of-view characters, and you get some impressive moments as a result.  Honestly, every character featured in this book was amazing in their own way, and I cannot emphasise enough how well McClellan wrote them.

As I tend to do with most massive fantasy novels, I chose to check out In the Shadow of Lightning in its audiobook format, which proved to be pretty damn awesome.  Coming in with a runtime of just under 25 hours, this is a lengthy audiobook to listen to (it comes in at number 15 on my latest longest audiobooks I have listened to list), and it took me a decent amount of time to get through it.  However, I felt that was time well spent, as I was relentlessly entertained every single second I spent listening to In the Shadow of Lightning, and there were times I wished it was even longer.  This epic novel really came to life in the audiobook format, and I loved how impressive and cool some of the big action sequences and confrontations felt when being listened to.  While I did initially struggle to keep track of the side characters in this format (having the ability to easily go back and figure out who people were would have been helpful), I was soon able to figure out who everyone was, while also absorbing a heck of a lot more detail about the new universe and its unique elements.

I was also deeply impressed with the outstanding narration In the Shadow of Lightning featured, thanks to the work of Damian Lynch.  Lynch is a veteran audiobook narrator with several epic fantasy series under his belt and he swiftly made me a big fan with his great voice work here.  He really dove into the various characters featured in the book, and you got a great sense of their personalities, emotions and actions as he narrated them.  I had fun with several of the voices he provided in this book, and I thought that protagonists like Demir, Idrian and Baby Montego, were really good, especially as you get notes of weariness in the old veteran Idrian, and the barely contained violence that resonates off Baby every time he talks.  I particularly liked the cool European accents that Lynch gave to the various characters, which helped to reinforce the Italian city-state nature of the main location, and people from other nations or cities had subtly different accents, which I thought was a very nice touch.  All this, and more, makes for an outstanding audiobook and this is easily the best way to enjoy In the Shadow of Lightning.  I had a wonderful time with this exceptional audiobook and I will definitely be grabbing the next book in this format when it comes out.

As you can no doubt see from this lengthy review, I deeply enjoyed In the Shadow of Lightning, which was such an epic book.  Brian McClellan did a remarkable job with this new novel, and he really proved his ability to set up another distinctive and exceptional fantasy series.  Loaded with so many amazing story elements, a cool new fantasy world with unique magical elements, and some impressive and complex characters, In the Shadow of Lightning was so very addictive, and I really could not stop listening to it.  A highly recommended read, especially in its audiobook format, In the Shadow of Lightning was one of the best books of 2022 and is a must read for all fantasy fans, especially those who have enjoyed McClellan’s work in the past, and I am exceedingly excited to see how The Glass Immortals series progresses from here.

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