Top Ten Tuesday – Books With a Unit of Time in the Title

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 are required to list their favourite books with a unit of time in the title, such as seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, seasons, years, centuries, eternity, etc. 

This was a rather interesting list topic in the same vein as several other recent lists I’ve done that containing certain types of words in the title including colours, adjectives, character names and numbers.  I usually have a pretty easy time pulling these lists together as I have read a bunch of books with these items in the titles.  However, I really struggled with this list as it turns out authors use units of time a lot less in titles than you’d expect.  I was barely able to find a full 10 items for this specific list and that was after I extended my criteria to include seasons (I originally wasn’t planning to feature them).  Still, I was eventually able to get a descent list together, even though it lacks my customary honourable mentions section.  I am pretty happy with how it all came together so let us see what books I was able to scrounge together.

Top Ten Tuesday:

Day of the Caesars by Simon Scarrow

Day of the Caesars Cover

 

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

The Dark Hours Cover 2

 

One Minute Out by Mark Greaney

One Minute Out Cover

 

The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden

The Third Day, the Frost Cover

 

The Last Hour by Harry Sidebottom

The Last Hour Cover

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Seasons by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo Seasons

 

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Grace Year Cover

 

The Last Second by Catherine Coulter and J. T. Ellison

The Last Second Cover

 

Season of Storms by Andrzej Sapkowski

Season of Storms Cover

 

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

Edge of Eternity Cover

 

 

Well that’s the end of this list.  As you can see, even with the apparent scarcity of appropriately titled books, there are still a few good reads out there that feature a unit of time in the title.  All 10 entries above are pretty fun reads and are worth checking out in their own way.  Let me know which of the above books you enjoyed in the comments below and I will be interested in hearing about your favourite books with units of time in the title.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books With an Adjective in the Title

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 are tasked with listing their top books that have an adjective in the title.  This sounded like a very interesting topic to do so I had a look through all my favourite or recent reads to see which ones had fantastic adjectives in the title.

When I was pulling this list together I decided to make myself a little harder for myself by excluding titles whose adjectives were colours.  This is because I have already done a Top Ten Tuesday list that focused on colours in titles, and I didn’t want to double up on that.   Despite this limitation I was still able to pull together a great list with a ton of entries in it.  I ended up with a massive selection of potential book titles, so I had to do some substantial culling to get it down to 10 (with my usual honourable mentions section).  This resulted in a pretty good list and I was surprised with how many of my favourite novels had adjectives in their title.  I did try and limit how many of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels I featured in the list, although a few still did make it in.  Overall, I was pretty happy with how things turned out, so let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett

Interesting Times Cover

 

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove

Firefly The Magnificent Nine Cover

I could have also used the other James Lovegrove Firefly novel, Big Damn Hero but I love the homage to The Magnificent Seven that this title had.

 

Hollow Empire by Sam Hawke

Hollow Empire Cover 2

 

Song of the Risen Gods by R. A. Salvatore

Song of the Risen God Cover

Top Ten Tuesday:

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Moving Pictures Cover

 

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

The Dark Hours Cover 2

I also had the option to use Connelly’s other Ballard and Bosch novel, Dark Sacred Night, but I liked The Dark Hours a little more.

 

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

 

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra: Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon

Doctor Aphra Unspeakable Rebel Superweapon

There are technically a couple of adjectives in this one, including Unspeakable and Super (in Superweapon) so I had to include this excellent comic.

 

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett

Small Gods Cover

 

The Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom

The Burning Road Cover

 

A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie

A Little Hatred Cover

 

Deep Silence by Jonathan Maberry

Deep Silence Cover

 

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil Cover

I was also tempted to use the preceding novel, Greater Good, but I think Lesser Evil was the best entry in the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy so it’s my choice here.

 

Cold Iron by Miles Cameron

Cold Iron Cover 1

The sequel Dark Forge is also really good and could have easily been used here.

 

 

Well, that’s the end of this latest list.  I had a lot of fun coming up with 10 awesome books with adjectives in their title and I liked how everything came together.  Let me know which of the above novels are your favourites in the comments below and I look forward to see what novels with adjectives in the titles you enjoy.

WWW Wednesday – 9 February 2022

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?

Outcast by Louise Carey (Trade Paperback)

Outcast Cover

I just started reading the cool dystopian science fiction novel Outcast by Louise Carey.  A sequel to Carey’s first book, Inscape (one of my favourite debuts of 2021), this cool novel is off to a great start as its damaged, cybernetically enhanced protagonist attempts to uncover the culprit of a series of terrorist attacks against the company who think they control her. I am loving the cool story of this great book and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

 

Engines of Empire by R. S. Ford (Audiobook)

Engines of Empire Cover

I decided to start this lengthy and compelling fantasy novel a few days ago and boy am I having fun with.  One of the more interesting sounding fantasy releases of 2022, Engines of Empire follows the various members of a wealthy guild family as they get embroiled in war, politics, treachery and magic, throughout their nation and beyond.  Epic in scope and featuring a captivating and addictive narrative, Engines of Empire is proving to be an excellent read.  I have made a fair bit of progress on this audiobook so far and if I make an effort I should finish it off by next week.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom (Trade Paperback)

The Burning Road Cover

 

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

The Twice-Dead King - Reign Cover

 

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len (Trade Paperback)

Only a Monster Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

City of the Dead by Jonathan Kellerman

City of the Dead Cover 2

 

 

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 – 8 February 2022

It has been a while since I have done a Book Haul post, but seeing that I received several interesting books recently, I thought I would quickly do one to highlight some of the best novels I have gotten in the last few weeks.  Each of the below books sound extremely cool and captivating, and I cannot wait to see how they all turn out.

The Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom

The Burning Road Cover

The first book I want to highlight in this haul is The Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom, an awesome and action packed historical thriller.  Set in ancient Sicily, this book follows a father and son team as they attempt to survive a brutal slave uprising that threatens to kill everyone they love.  I have already read and reviewed this fantastic novel and it comes very highly recommended.

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

I was also lucky enough to receive a copy of the latest Star Wars novel, The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray, which is part of The High Republic range of Star Wars fiction.  The Fallen Star continues the major storylines from the previous central High Republic novels (Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm), and sees the vicious Nihil launch a deadly attack against the Jedi aboard Starlight Beacon. This is another book I have already read and it turned out to be a compelling and intense survival story in space.  I will hopefully get a review for it up soon but it is a must read for Star Wars fans.

 

Sierra Six by Mark Greaney

Sierra Six Cover

I was extremely happy to receive a copy of the new Gray Man book, Sierra Six, by Mark Greaney.  Following a lethal spy as he attempts to fix a mistake from his past, this cool novel will show the first mission of awesome series protagonist, Court Gentry, and the many regrets he has from it.  I am already confident that this will be one of the best thrillers of 2022 and I cannot wait to check it out.

 

Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz

Dark Horse Cover

Another awesome thriller I have received a copy of is Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz.  The seventh book in his action-packed Orphan X series, Dark Horse will set Hurwitz’s legendary spy turned vigilante against an entire cartel.  I cannot wait to see how this book turns out but I know I’m in for a very fun ride with it.

 

City of the Dead by Jonathan Kellerman

City of the Dead Cover 2

I just seem to keep getting books from some of my favourite authors as I also received the latest novel from Jonathan Kellerman, City of the Dead.  This new novel from Kellerman will see his fun protagonist duo attempt to solve a brutal double murder.  I am very keen to read City of the Dead, especially as I have really grown to enjoy Kellerman’s excellent and methodical murder mysteries, and this should be a compelling and enjoyable novel.

 

Her Perfect Twin by Sarah Bonner

Her Perfect Twin Cover

I was very excited when I received this cool and unique thriller a little while ago.  Set to be one of the most intense debuts of 2022, Her Perfect Twin follows a woman who kills her twin sister and then takes up her identity to ensure no-one knows she’s dead.  I love the sound of this amazing novel and I am extremely keen to see how it all turns out.

 

The Cane by Maryrose Cuskelly

The Cane Cover

Another awesome debut I recently received is The Cane by Maryrose Cuskelly.  Set in the wilds of rural Queensland, this Australian noir novel will dive into the creepy disappearance of a teenage girl.  The Cane sounds pretty damn dark and I am sure I will have amazing time plumbing the depths of its disturbing story. 

 

Abandoned in Death by J. D. Robb

Abandoned in Death Cover

The final book I received was the latest novel from J. D. Robb (Nora Roberts), Abandoned in Death.  The 54th book in a long running series, Abandoned in Death follows the investigation into a killer who apparently targets bad parents.  I love the sound of this novel and I may have to try diving into this series very late in the game.

 

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

The Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom

The Burning Road Cover

Publisher: Zaffre (Trade Paperback – 5 January 2022)

Series: Standalone/Warrior of Rome

Length: 344 pages

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

One of my favourite historical fiction authors, Harry Sidebottom, returns with another epic and intense historical adventure, The Burning Road, a fun-filled, action-packed thriller.

There are some amazing historical fiction authors out there now who focus on Roman history to create some excellent and compelling novels.  However, one of the best is the extremely talented Harry Sidebottom, a historian turned author who has been producing some awesome and unique reads.  I have been a major fan of Sidebottom ever since reading his debut novel, Fire in the East (an exceptional siege novel) back in 2008.  I really enjoyed his Warrior of Rome (which followed a Germanic Roman soldier, Ballista) and Throne of the Caesars series, both of which contained some exceptional historical elements.  Sidebottom has also had a lot of success recently with some standalone novels, especially his last three books, which cleverly combined his historical knowledge with elements from thriller subgenres.  This included his 2018 release, The Last Hour, which brought back Ballista and set him on a 24-esque romp through ancient Rome; The Lost Ten, which was reminiscent of special forces thrillers; and The Return, a dark and complex murder mystery that had interesting Scandi noir overtones.  I deeply enjoyed all these previous novels, and I was very excited when I received a copy of Sidebottom’s latest book, The Burning Road, a couple of weeks ago.

Sicily, 265 AD.  Throughout the strategic volcanic island, a call of freedom has been heard as a charismatic slave starts to rally his fellow enslaved workers.  The various estates and towns are in a state of uproar as vicious slaves and captured barbarian warriors rise up to kill their masters.  As the revolution gains strength and results in greater bloodshed, the fate of the island may rest in the hands of a legendary warrior, Marcus Clodius Ballista.

After years of fighting for corrupt emperors and battling deadly Roman politics, Ballista is finally free from his responsibilities, determined to enter retirement.  Whilst travelling with his eldest son, Marcus, to his estates on Sicily, their ship hits a terrible storm, forcing it aground on the west coast of the island.  Barely surviving the rough surf and destructive storm, Ballista and Marcus are soon thrust into even greater danger when a band of armed slaves mercilessly kills the other shipwrecked survivors.

Barely escaping the rampaging slaves, Ballista leads his son inland, hoping to discover what chaos has befallen Sicily.  They soon discover that the entire island is in revolution, with any non-slave at risk at being killed or brutalised.  Determined to keep his son alive and rescue his family on the other side of the island, Ballista and Marcus attempt to cross the entirety of Sicily on foot.  Constantly harassed by marauding bands of former slaves, the two Romans must find a way to survive and reach their family before it is too late.  But can the old veteran and rash youth work together to survive and save all of Sicily, or will one of Rome’s greatest warriors finally be finished off by rampaging slaves?

Wow, now this was a fun and intense novel from Sidebottom, who once again highlights his skill as a particularly inventive author of Roman historical fiction.  I deeply enjoyed The Burning Road, especially as Sidebottom once again combines compelling historical elements with an impressive and action-packed thriller storyline.

I had a lot of fun with the incredible and extremely fast-paced narrative that Sidebottom featured in The Burning Road.  While it took me a little while to get into this book (mainly because I couldn’t find any reading time), once I started, I honestly couldn’t stop, and I ended up powering through The Burning Road in less than a day.  The Burning Road has a brilliant story that pits Sidebottom’s best protagonist, Ballista, and his teenage son right in the middle of an intense slave revolt on Sicily.  Sidebottom sets this all up perfectly, with a quick prologue to establish that the slave revolt has occurred, before focusing entirely on Ballista and Marcus, who are shipwrecked off the coast of the island.  At first, the scenario reminded me of another historical fiction novel, The Gladiator by Simon Scarrow, which featured slaves revolting on Crete.  However, Sidebottom takes this in a very different direction, with a dark and non-stop story that sees the protagonist forced to navigate across the island, encountering all manner of odd characters and a ton of enemies.  The first two-thirds of the book see the protagonists on their own, walking a hellish volcanic landscape filled with murderous slaves, which was so damn cool.  Sidebottom was clearly trying to emulate some post-apocalyptic thrillers here, and there is even a scene that is a brilliant homage to The Road.  This makes for some intense and bloody sequences, and you will find yourself glued to the pages as you wait to see what danger they will encounter next.  The final third of the book sees Sidebottom return to his original writing element as Ballista is drafted into leading the defence of a besieged city.  This leads to an amazing and unique set of siege sequences, as Ballista and a small force of civilians attempt to hold back an overwhelming army of enraged slaves, which leads to a bloody and satisfying conclusion.  I loved this brilliant combination of story elements, especially the brutal walk across Sicily, and it makes for one heck of a story.

One of the best things about The Burning Road was the compelling central characters, especially as Sidebottom used it to tell a touching an enjoyable father-son story.  The first of these is Ballista, the protagonist of the Warrior of Rome series, who returns for another gruelling adventure.  As a former Germanic prince turned Roman soldier, siege expert and noble, Ballista is an old hand at danger and once again rises to the challenge even with his advancing age.  However, this time Ballista is forced to undertake his battled filled journey with his young teenage son, Marcus (also called Isangrim).  Setting Ballista and Marcus up as the main point of view characters, Sidebottom tells a fascinating tale that not only follows their desperate journey but which dives into their relationship and personality.  Due to Ballista’s military career, these two aren’t particularly close, with Marcus slightly resenting his barbarian father.  However, over the course of the book the two slowly grow closer as they face constant ordeal.  Sidebottom paces this growth in their relationship perfectly and you soon get really invested in seeing how much they begin to trust and rely on each other.  I enjoyed seeing this paternal side of Ballista, which enhanced his already complex character, and Marcus grows to become an enjoyable companion, especially as he begins to realise everything his father has done for him and how he has tried to prepare him.  This great father-son relationship becomes a major part of the book’s plot, and it put me in mind of some other similar adventures such as The Road, or even the recent God of War game (I may have imagined Ballista speaking in Christopher Judge’s voice).  This was a brilliant and powerful heart to the entire book, and it will be fascinating to see how much Marcus is featured in any of Sidebottom’s future novels.

I was also very impressed with the interesting historical detail that Sidebottom featured throughout The Burning Road.  The author has clearly done a ton of research on the various subjects contained within and there is a comprehensive reference section at the back, including a history book written by Sidebottom himself.  As such there is an amazing sense of authenticity to the setting and figures featured within The Burning Road which really helps to drag the reader into the story.  This period of Roman history has always been a rich ground for Sidebottom’s novels, and it was fascinating to see some more detail about the politics of the time.  I loved all the awesome detail about Sicily, which proves to be an exceptional and fascinating background setting for the story.  Sidebottom, who has visited Sicily many times, does a great job of filling in the historical blanks around the island and he portrays it as it would have appeared during Roman times.  All this impressive attention to environmental detail results in some cool romps through forests, mountains and ancient towns, and I think that the author really captured the historical soul of this island.  One of the big historical elements that Sidebottom invests a lot of time exploring is slavery during the Roman era.  The author includes a fascinating examination of how slaves are treated during this period, as well as some of the philosophical thought surrounding the entire process, both from the masters and the slaves.  The subsequent slave revolt really helps to highlight the Romans’ reliance on a large population of slaves to maintain their society and having the outsider Ballista explore this provided an interesting alternate perspective to the practice.  I also deeply appreciate the desperation and anger that the various slave characters had, which helped to turn them into a sympathetic enemy, even if you want the protagonists to survive more.  All this really added a lot to the overall story, and I look forward to seeing which area or historical period Sidebottom will explore next.

The Burning Road was another exceptional and epic read from Harry Sidebottom, who continues to flourish as one of the most inventive and exciting authors of historical fiction out there.  This latest novel features an intense and unique historical fiction tale chock full of action, character growth and some fascinating bits of period detail.  I had an absolute blast getting through this amazing novel, and The Burning Road comes very highly recommended as a result.

WWW Wednesday – 2 February 2022

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom (Trade Paperback)

The Burning Road Cover

I haven’t had a chance to do much reading this week so I am still stuck towards the start of The Burning Road.  Hoping to dive into more in the next few days.

 

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

The Twice-Dead King - Reign Cover

I have made better progress with Reign and I should  finish it off in the next day or so.

What did you recently finish reading?

I have to leave this section blank for now, but hopefully I will have a few finished books to chuck in here next week.

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Noise by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

The Noise Cover

 

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

WWW Wednesday – 26 January 2022

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom (Trade Paperback)

The Burning Road Cover

I just started reading this cool new novel from one of my favourite Roman historical fiction authors, Harry Sidebottom.  The Burning Road brings back Sidebottom’s main protagonist and places him in the middle of a brutal slave rebellion on Sicily.  I am only a little bit in this book at the moment but I having fun with it so far.

 

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

The Twice-Dead King - Reign Cover

I also started listening to another awesome Warhammer 40,000 novel this week with the second book in The Twice-Dead King series, Reign, by Nate Crowley.  Serving as a sequel to his great 2021 novel, Ruin, this is a brilliant and compelling tie-in novel that follows the ancient Necron race as they attempt to survive both external and internal attacks.  I am making some major progress on this novel and at the pace I’m going, I should finish it off in the next few days.

What did you recently finish reading?

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie (Trade Paperback)

Unforgiven Cover

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray (Audiobook)

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Noise by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

The Noise Cover

 

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

WWW Wednesday – 19 January 2022

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?

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie (Trade Paperback)

Unforgiven Cover

I started the awesome Australian thriller Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie this week.  This is a dark and shocking novel that follows a former child molestation victim turned vigilante as she is forced to once again confront the serial killer that tormented her as a child.  A grim but captivating novel, I cannot wait to see where this novel goes next.

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray (Audiobook)

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

I am still going with The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray.  It is a pretty awesome Star Wars story, I just haven’t had as much time to listen to it.  I should hopefully finish it off in the next week or so.

Never by Ken Follett (Audiobook)

Never Cover

I still haven’t made any progress with Never yet, but I am hoping to get to it this week.

What did you recently finish reading?

Beastslayer by William King (Paperback)

Beastslayer Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Burning Road by Harry Sidebottom

The Burning Road Cover

 

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

Top Ten Tuesday – Favourite Pre-2021 Novels

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 participants of Top Ten Tuesday get a freebie to list whatever topics they want.  I am planning to take advantage of this by doing two lists.  Not only have a done a movie-related list ranking the James Bond movies, but I am also going to start my annual end-of-year lists here by looking at my favourite pre-2021 novels that I read this year.

Each December I have a lot of fun looking at some of the best and most impressive books and comics that I have read throughout the year in a series of Top Ten Lists.  While these lists usually focus on 2021 releases, for the last few years, I have also taken the time to list out some of the best novels with pre-2021 release dates that I have read in the last 12 months.  There are some excellent older novels out there that I haven’t had the chance to read before this year, and it is always fun to go back and explore them.  I ended up reading a bunch of awesome older books throughout 2021, including some pretty incredible novels that got easy five-star ratings from me and are really worth checking out.

To come up with this list I had a look at all the novels I read this year that had their initial release before 2021.  This included several 2020 releases I only got a chance to check out this year, as well as a few older novels that I had been meaning to read for a while.  I was eventually able to cull this down to a workable Top Ten list, with a descent honourable mentions section.  This new list ended up containing an interesting combination of novels, although there was a bit of an overload of entries from the Dresden Files’ series by Jim Butcher, as well as some Warhammer 40,000 novels, both of which I really got into throughout this year.  Still this honestly reflects the best pre-2021 novels I read throughout the year, so let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Trollslayer by William King – 1999

TrollSlayer-john-gravato-Gotrek-and-Felix-1st-edition-cover

I have been meaning to check out the awesome Gotrek and Felix series of Warhammer Fantasy novels for ages and the recent release of the early entries on audiobook gave me the perfect opportunity to finally do so this year.  The first book in this series was the fantastic, Trollslayer, which introduced the two mismatched companions, Gotrek the dwarven Slayer and Felix the human poet, and highlights some of their earliest adventures throughout the Warhammer Fantasy world in a series of exciting and fun short stories.  This was an excellent initial entry by William King and it made me a massive fan of the unique tandem of Gotrek and Felix.

 

Skavenslayer by William King – 1999

Skavenslayer Cover

I ended up loving Trollslayer so much that I immediately read its sequel, Skavenslayer, which proved to be just as fun as the first book.  Skavenslayer has a more connected story that shows Gotrek and Felix getting caught up in a Skaven invasion of Nuln.  I had an absolute blast with the humour in this novel, especially surrounding the bickering and backstabbing Skaven, and I powered through it in a couple of days.

 

The Return by Harry Sidebottom – 2020

The Return Cover

An epic and clever historical read by the impressive Harry Sidebottom, The Return is a compelling read that sees a damaged Roman soldier return home only to encounter a series of dark murders.  I was really glad that I got a chance to read The Return this year after missing out on it in 2020, and it ended up being a compelling read.

 

Either Side of Midnight by Benjamin Stevenson – 2020

Either Side of Midnight Cover

Another 2020 novel I read towards the start of the year, Either Side of Midnight is a compelling Australian murder mystery that serves as a sequel to Stevenson’s first book, GreenlightEither Side of Midnight had a brilliant thriller storyline, and it was one of the cleverest crime fiction books I had the pleasure of checking out this year.

Top Ten List (by original publication date):

First and Only by Dan Abnett – 1999

First and Only Cover

2021 was the year that I really dove into the Warhammer extended universe, a decision that I am very happy about as there are some exceptional works there.  While the Gotrex and Felix novels were my go-to series for Warhammer Fantasy, when it came to Warhammer 40,000 the clear choice was easily First and Only by legendary Warhammer fiction author Dan Abnett.  First and Only is the first book in the acclaimed Gaunt’s Ghosts series, which follows a group of Imperial foot soldiers as they fight and die across the myriad dangerous battlefields of the 41st millennia.  This first novel introduced the reader to the key Ghosts and takes them on a compelling and deadly series of adventures featuring war, death, and conspiracy.  A wonderful and deeply exciting read, I cannot wait to enjoy the rest of the series next year.

 

Storm Front by Jim Butcher – 2000

Storm Front Cover

Another series that I decided to really dive into this year was the exceptional Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher.  Generally considered the gold-standard of urban fantasy novels, this series blends fantasy and crime fiction elements in the city of Chicago.  I fell in love with this series last year when I checked out the awesome 17th novel, Battle Ground (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020) which convinced me to go back and read some of the earlier entries.  As such, I read the initial novel, Storm Front, towards the front of 2021 and I had a wonderful time with it.  Storm Front contains an excellent story that introduces the protagonist, rogue wizard Harry Dresden, and follows his investigation of a series of magical murders around town.  I had an absolute blast with this novel, and while it isn’t Butcher’s best work, it was an excellent debut that serves as a great first entry in this iconic series.

 

Daemonslayer by William King – 2000

Daemonslayer Cover

Out of the three Gotrek and Felix novels I have so far had the pleasure of reading, I think that Daemonslayer is probably the best.  This cool novel sees the titular protagonists journey to the most dangerous place in the entire Warhammer Fantasy universe, the Chaos Wastes, to face daemons, monsters and warriors of Chaos.  This novel has a more complete and linear story than the preceding two entries, which makes for a stronger tale.  An extremely exciting and action-packed epic, I look forward to reading more of these novels in the future.

 

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher – 2001

Fool Moon Cover

The second Dresden Files novel I checked out in 2021 was the fantastic Fool Moon, which I found to be one of the strongest overall entries in the series.  Fool Moon pits the protagonist against multiple tribes of werewolves, each of whom have their own magical origins, as he attempts to solve the murder of a friend and clear his name.  This was a very clever and intense novel, and I deeply enjoyed the excellent story and powerful scenes that Butcher was able to craft together.

 

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher – 2002

Grave Peril Cover

I really got into the Dresden Files novel this year and quickly read Grave Peril right after finishing off Fool MoonGrave Peril was another exceptional read that saw Dresden face off against vampires, elves and a nightmarish being of pure evil.  This was another awesome novel that added in some great key characters, new antagonists, and substantial universe expansion.  Featuring some truly dark moments and some major character development, this was an outstanding novel that I had a lot of fun with.

 

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher – 2002

Summer Knight Cover

The fourth and final Dresden Files book I managed to get through this year was the awesome Summer Knight.  This book sees Dresden forced to work for the Winter Court of the elves who need him to solve a murder.  Summer Knight has a great story that moves at an extremely quick pace and takes the protagonist to some awesome new places.  I had an excellent time with Summer Knight, and indeed all the Dresden Files books I read in 2021 and I look forward to further exploring this series next year. 

 

The Gray Man by Mark Greaney – 2009

The Gray Man Cover

Another series that I decided to go back and check out this year was Mark Greaney’s epic Gray Man spy thriller series.  I have been deeply enjoying Greaney’s more recent Gray Man novels, such as Mission Critical, One Minute Out and Relentless, and I thought that it would be good to back and check this series out from the start, especially as there is a movie adaptation coming out next year.  I ended up having an incredible time with The Gray Man which set’s the protagonist, Court Gentry, against a horde of professional hit teams.  An exceptional and action-packed thrill ride, I cannot wait to see how the movie version of this turns out.  I am also extremely excited for some other Greaney books coming out in the next couple of months, as they should be pretty damn awesome.

 

Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber – 2014

Star Wars - Maul - Lockdown Cover

2021 was a great year for new Star Wars novels, many of which were pretty damn exceptional.  However, one of the downsides of this was that I had less time to read some older Star Wars novels.  I did however get a chance to read Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber, whose previous Star Wars novel, Death Troopers, was an awesome horror read.  Lockdown has an awesome (and currently non-canon) story about Maul being sent to infiltrate a maximum-security space prison that runs a series of death fights.  This was a great and compelling read, and I loved all the fun elements featured within.  I am hoping to check out a couple more earlier Star Wars novels next year, and there are a few that I currently have my eye on.

 

State of Fear by Tim Ayliffe – 2019

State of Fear Cover

Another excellent book I checked out this year was the 2019 novel State of Fear by Australian author Tim Ayliffe.  I had been hoping to read this one for a while, especially after enjoying Ayliffe’s first novel The Greater Good, and I finally got the chance this year in the lead up to Ayliffe’s third novel, The Enemy WithinState of Fear was a great Australian thriller that set the protagonist against a dangerous terrorist threat both in Sydney and in London.  Featuring some intense emotional moments and an impressive story, State of Fear is an excellent read and I look forward to checking out more of Ayliffe’s novels in the future.

 

Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty by Josh Reynolds– 2019

Kal Jerico - Sinner's Bounty Cover

The final entry on this list is the incredibly awesome Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty, which is part of the Necromunda sub-series of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Sinner’s Bounty was initially released in 2019, but an audiobook version came out last year, which was a lot of fun to listen to.  Featuring one of the best characters in the Warhammer 40,000 canon, notorious bounty hunter Kal Jerico, this novel takes the protagonist and his team to an obscure Underhive town to get a rich bounty.  Forced to contend against monsters, religious zealots, rival bounty hunters and an army of mutants, the protagonists have a cool and fun adventure, filled with intense action, fun humour, and a ton of treachery.  An amazing and deeply enjoyable read, I am very glad I decided to check this book out.

 

 

And that is the end of this list.  As you can see I have managed to check out a bunch of epic pre-2021 novels this year.  Each of the above were exceptional and fun reads and I would strongly recommend them, especially if you are in the mood for some fun fantasy or science fiction adventures.  I look forward to reading some other older books in 2022, and it will be interesting to see what makes my next version of this list then.  I imagine it will end up looking a little similar, especially as I have plans to continue several of these series, especially the Dresden Files, as well as examining some other outstanding Star Wars and Warhammer novels.  Make sure to check back in next week for some other end-of-year lists as I continue to highlight some of my favourite reads from 2021.

 

Quick Review – The Return by Harry Sidebottom

The Return Cover

Publisher: Zaffre (Trade Paperback – 11 June 2020)

Series: Standalone

Length: 307 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Bestselling historical fiction author Harry Sidebottom takes you on a dark and compelling adventure into the mind of a haunted Roman soldier as he returns home only to find more death waiting for him with, The Return.

Harry Sidebottom is an impressive author specialising in exciting and detailed Roman historical fiction novels, whose work I have been enjoying for years.  Sidebottom has so far written two amazing series, the Warrior of Rome series, which followed a barbarian turned Roman general, Ballista, as he attempts to survive the machinations and wars of the Empire, and The Throne of the Caesar’s novels that examined some of the more obscure and chaotic Roman Emperors.  In recent years Sidebottom has started experimenting with some compelling standalone novels.  The first of these, The Last Hour, brought back Ballista and set him on a fast-paced adventure through Rome in a manner reminiscent of the television series 24.  His next novel The Lost Ten, featured a group of 10 mis-matched Roman soldiers who are sent on an infiltration mission into enemy territory to break a high value target out of prison.  His third standalone novel was The Return, which came out last year.  I read it a little while ago and failed to provide a timely review for it.  However, as Sidebottom’s latest novel, The Burning Road, has just been released, I thought I would take this opportunity to quickly review The Return so I have a clean slate when I get my hands on a copy of his latest book.

Synopsis:

He came home a hero.
But death isn’t finished with him yet . . .

145BC – CALABRIA, ANCIENT ROME. After years of spilling blood for Rome, Gaius Furius Paullus has returned home to spend his remaining days working quietly on the family farm.

But it seems death has stalked Paullus from the battlefield. Just days after his arrival, bodies start appearing – murdered and mutilated. And as the deaths stack up, and panic spreads, the war hero becomes the prime suspect. After all, Paullus has killed countless enemies on the battlefield – could he have brought his habit home with him?

With the psychological effects of combat clouding every thought, Paullus must use all his soldier’s instincts to hunt the real killer. Because if they are not brought to justice soon, he may become the next victim.

The Return was an intriguing and compelling novel that contains a brilliant and dark historical murder mystery.  Like some of his previous novels, Sidebottom has blended some unique crime fiction/thriller elements with his traditional historical settings and storylines.  As such, The Return reads like an interesting combination of historical fiction and a darker crime novel, specifically Scandi noir.  This results in a clever and compelling character driven narrative that follows a dark and conflicted Roman protagonist who is forced to investigate a series of murders in his grim and forbidding village.  The author does a wonderful job of blending his historical elements with the compelling crime fiction storyline, and the reader is soon treated to a harrowing and exciting murder investigation.  There is some brilliant use of a darker location, including a forbidding forest, as well as a lot of focus on his haunted protagonist, especially through a series of flashbacks.  All this comes together into an excellent narrative, and it was fascinating to see Sidebottom’s damaged protagonist dive head long into danger while trying to solve the murder and prove his own innocence.  While I did think that the solution to the mystery and the culprits behind the murder was a little obvious, this ended up being an excellent and impressive novel.  Sidebottom really takes the readers on a harrowing and enjoyable ride here, and I ended up getting through it in a few short days.

I was deeply impressed with the dark and guilt-ridden protagonist who Sidebottom set this great story around.  Paullus is a recently returned soldier who received much acclaim during Rome’s war with ancient Greece, but he is also haunted by his actions there, particularly around the fates of two of his comrades.  Thanks to his guilt he constantly sees the Furies, the Roman goddesses of vengeance and retribution, who remind him of the wrongs he commits.  To avoid seeing them Paullus dives headfirst into danger, as the threat of death is the only thing that alleviates his guilt.  This helps turns Paullus into a fascinating and deeply complex figure who has some interesting interactions with his own emotions and the people from his pre-war life who don’t understand what he is going through.  Sidebottom utilises a series of flashbacks to showcase Paullus’ military career and you slowly get the entire story of the protagonist’s heroic past, as well as the event that led to his intense guilt and heartache.  While I did think that Sidebottom might have been a tad heavy-handed with the flashbacks (it makes up nearly half the novel), I did really appreciate the sheer amount of work he put into his great protagonist.  The author did an impressive job of simulating the guilt, fear and anger of a war veteran attempting to re-enter society and it was really compelling to see.  I also deeply appreciated the author’s trick of personifying this guilt into visions of the supernatural Furies, especially as it is never fully established whether they are there or just figments of his damaged mind.  The use of Paullus as the central protagonist really enhanced The Return’s excellent story and he was an outstanding investigator for this fantastic murder mystery.

I also really enjoyed the cool historical fiction elements contained within this novel.  The Return takes place in 145BC, which is one of the earliest times that Sidebottom has explored in his historical fiction novels.  I deeply enjoyed the exploration of this time, especially as Sidebottom features more obscure conquests and locations.  The central location of the story, Calabria in Southern Italy, proved to be a fantastic and interesting setting, especially as this region of Italy contained two distinctive social groups, the Roman settlers and the original inhabitants.  Due to their historical support of Hannibal during the Punic Wars which saw them forced to give up their lands, the locals are treated as second-class citizens by the Romans, who use them as slave labour.  This adds some extra drama and intrigue to the story as these local tribes get caught up in the paranoia and despair around the hunt for the murderer.  I also really appreciated Sidebottom’s examination of the Roman invasion of Greece that the protagonist fought in.  This is one of the more obscure conflicts from Roman history and the author provides a detailed account of the causes, battles, and eventual consequences of the conflict.  I deeply enjoyed exploring this period in the flashback chapters, as there were some detailed and powerful battle sequences which featured some distinctive clashes between Greek and Roman military styles.  Throw in some Greek and Roman mythology as a potential cause for the murders or the protagonists’ actions, and you have quite a brilliant historical tale.  These grim and bloody historical elements blended perfect with the darker story that Sidebottom was telling and it was absolutely fascinating to see how they were incorporated into The Return’s compelling, multi-genre style.

Overall, The Return was an epic and complex novel that continued to showcase Harry Sidebottom’s amazing talent as a writer.  This fantastic novel ended up being one of the more unique historical fiction books I have ever read and I deeply enjoyed the cool combination of classic Roman history and darker crime fiction elements, especially when shown through the eyes of an extremely damaged protagonist.  This book comes highly recommended, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Sidebottom’s latest novel, The Burning Road.