Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Pre-2022 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.  So, I am going to take this opportunity to start my annual end-of-year lists here by looking at my favourite pre-2022 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 2022 releases, for the last few years, I have also taken the time to list out some of the best novels with pre-2022 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 2022, 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 2022.  This list includes a range of pre-2022 releases, including quite a few 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-2022 novels I read throughout the year, so let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Space Wolf by William King – 1999

Space Wolf Cover

I was lucky enough to find a copy of this book in a second-hand shop and started reading it as soon as I could.  A brilliant start to a great Warhammer 40,000 series about a group of Viking inspired, werewolf Space Marines, Space Wolf was an awesome, classic Warhammer read that I am really glad I got a chance to read.

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Tribe by Jeremy Robinson – 2019

Tribe Cover 2

After having an epic time with Jeremy Robinson’s epic 2021 novels, The Dark and Mind Bullet, I went back to check out the preceding novel, Tribe.  Following a mismatched pair of newly discovered Greek demi-gods as they are chased by a deranged cult, Tribe was a fun and fast-paced read, loaded with so much action and excitement.  I can’t wait to continue this series in the future, as everything Robinson writes is pure fun.

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Dredge Runners by Alec Worley – 2020

Dredge Runners

A compelling and impressive Warhammer 40,000 audiobook presentation, Dredge Runners was a clever listen that followed two dangerous abhuman criminals as they navigate the deadly underbelly of an industrial planet.  Thanks to a clever story and some amazing narrators, this was an outstanding presentation, although I left it as an honourable mention due to it being a short story.  However, it did inspire me to check out Worley’s follow-up release, the 2022 book The Wraithbone Phoenix, which was particularly epic.

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Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie – 2021

Unforgiven Cover

A dark and captivating Australian crime thriller from last year, Unforgiven was an excellent book I checked out towards the start of 2022, which proved to be a gritty and memorable read.

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Top Ten List (by original publication year):

Vampireslayer by William King – 2001

Vampireslayer Cover

This year I made an effort to continue the excellent Gotrek and Felix series that was part of the awesome Warhammer Fantasy franchise.  Following on from such fantastic reads as Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer and Beastslayer, Vampireslayer was a particularly epic entry in this series, that saw the protagonists chase a powerful vampire across the continent to most dangerous place imaginable.  A quick paced and exciting novel that explored vampires in the Warhammer Fantasy setting, Vampireslayer was an excellent read and one I powered through very quickly.

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Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill – 2002

Storm of Iron Cover 2

I was in the mood for some cool siege warfare this year, so I turned to the outstanding sounding Warhammer 40,000 book, Storm of Iron by one of the franchises best authors, Graham McNeill.  Storm of Iron sees a vast futuristic citadel besieged by the Iron Warriors, legendary siege experts, resulting in a massive and bloody battle to the very end.  I had an outstanding time with this elaborate and wildly entertaining read, especially as McNeill did a wonderful job setting the focus on the villains and showcasing their twisted tales.  A highly recommended read, this is easily one of the best siege novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

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Death Masks by Jim Butcher – 2003

Death Masks Cover

After all the amazing fun I’ve been having with Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files (see my reviews for Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Battle Ground and The Law), I had to continue this series in 2022 and I am exceedingly happy that I did.  I started by going back to the fifth book in the outstanding urban fantasy series, Death Mask, which placed the protagonist in the middle of a bloody battle to recover a sacred artifact from criminals and fallen angels.  Tense, powerful and so much fun, this was a particularly epic entry in the series, and I had an exceptional time reading it.

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Blood Rites by Jim Butcher – 2004

Blood Rite Cover

I had so much fun with Death Masks that I immediately listened to the next book in the Dresden Files series, Blood Rites, which saw the protagonist once again tangling with vampires.  While this was one of the more controversial entries in the series, I deeply enjoyed it, especially as Butcher featured several great enemies, a compelling murder mystery, and some major revelations that will haunt the protagonist for books to come.  A very fun and highly addictive read, I can’t wait to get through more of these books in the new year.

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World War Z by Max Brooks – 2006

World War Z Cover 2

I finally got the chance to listen to the iconic zombie novel, World War Z, by Max Brooks, who previously impressed me with DevolutionWorld War Z lived up to all the hype surrounding it as it explored a world-ending zombie apocalypse through a series of testimonials from survivors on the ground.  Extremely clever and highly inventive, this was an exceptional book, and it is made even better by its epic audiobook format which contains a ton of brilliant actors doing the narration.  Easily one of the best books I have read in a long time, World War Z comes highly recommended and I am exceedingly glad I managed to listen to it this year.

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Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno – 2012

Star Wars - Darth Plagueis Cover

I was in a Star Wars mood earlier this year, so I went back and listened to the deeply intriguing Star Wars Legends novel, Darth Plagueis.  Telling the story of the Emperor’s hidden master, Darth Plagueis, this is a very compelling read that explores a never before seen figure in Star Wars lore, while also giving some insight into his apprentice, Darth Sidious.  Despite no longer being canon, this is a very compelling read for Star Wars fans, and I loved how it filled in several gaps in the Legends lore.  Highly recommended, this is one of the best Star Wars books I have ever read.

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Van Horstmann by Ben Counter – 2013

Van Horstmann Cover

Warhammer Fantasy fiction really does not get much better than the clever standalone read, Van Horstmann by Ben Counter.  A twisted tale of ambition, revenge and change, Van Horstmann gives history to an old-school character from the Warhammer game and showed the reader his complex youth as a student wizard in the enlightened and pure Light Order.  However, Van Horstmann has his own plans, which see him burn the order down from the inside to get what he wants most in the world.  This was a brilliant and very intense read, and I loved all the awesome twists and turns that Counter featured throughout it.

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Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller – 2013

Star Wars - Kenobi Cover

Another excellent Star Wars Legends book I checked out this year was the intriguing Kenobi by John Jackson Miller.  An outstanding, currently non-canon, book that explored the early years of Kenobi’s exile, this great read sees the titular character caught up in all manner of trouble as he tries to settle down on Tatooine.  I mainly read it in preparation for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series this year, but this book really stands on its own and is very much worth a read.

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Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer – 2020

Dragon Mage Cover

The most recent pre-2022 book I read was Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer, a massive fantasy epic that has been on my radar for a while.  Following a gifted protagonist and his friend as they discover their inner magic and learn to ride dragons, Dragon Mage is a highly compelling read with a great, classic fantasy vibe to it.  While it took me a while to get through this book, it was extremely worth it, and I am very happy I managed to cross this off my to-read list this year.

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The Sandman – Act 1 by Neil Gaiman – 2020

Sandman Act 1 Cover

The final entry on this list is the audiobook adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s epic comic series, The Sandman.  Read by an all-star cast, this audiobook production perfectly brought to life the first several The Sandman comics and told the elaborate story of Dream, who is captured and imprisoned by a magician, who must escape and reclaim his kingdom.  I loved the complex and multifaceted narrative contained within this comic, and I cannot emphasise how impressive the audiobook version was, especially as you have some major talented really diving into these insane characters.  Easily one of the best audio productions released in recent years, this is a highly recommended listen that I could not get enough of.

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And that is the end of this list.  As you can see I have managed to check out a bunch of epic pre-2022 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 2023, 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 2022.

Throwback Thursday: Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

Blood Rite Cover

Publisher: Penguin Audio (Audiobook – 3 August 2004)

Series: Dresden Files – Book Six

Length: 13 hours and 5 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.  For my latest Throwback Thursday I keep diving into the epic Dresden Files urban fantasy series with the impressive sixth book, Blood Rites.

Last week, in my review for the outstanding fifth book in the Dresden Files series, Death Masks, I mentioned how I had also started listening to the next book in the series, Blood Rites.  I honestly had so much fun reading Death Masks last week (as I did with the rest of the Dresden Files series, such as Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Battle Ground and The Law), that I had to immediately dive into the next book as soon as I could.  The sixth novel in the series, Blood Rites, was another epic novel which had an impressive and captivating plot to it.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s resident wizard and protector from the paranormal, continues to eke out a deadly living through his chaotic career of odd mystical jobs while also defending the city against the worst monsters lurking in the shadows.  However, his latest job may place him in the most uncomfortable spot yet, on the set of an adult movie, which finds itself under attack from a deadly and relentless curse.

Taking the case as a favour to his vampire friend and suspicious ally Thomas Raith, Dresden goes undercover on set and attempts to discover who is responsible for cursing the movie’s cast and crew, and why.  However, Dresden’s heroics on set make him a target, and he soon finds the curse striking at him, attempting to end his investigation before he can find the magical murderer.  Worse, enemies old and new are bursting out of the shadows, as two separate courts of vampires attempt to strike Dresden down.

As Dresden continues to search for the murderer wielding the curse, he is forced to fend off attacks from the lethal Black Court.  Led by a powerful elder vampire with a serious grudge against Dresden, the Black Court will stop at nothing to destroy him and any of his friends that gets in their way.  However, the greatest threat may reside in the White Court, to which Thomas belongs.  The White Court vampires are manipulative and subtle killers, using their alluring presence to suck the life out of everyone they touch.  Caught between warring members of the White Court family, Dresden must use all his wits to escape their wrath and uncover hidden truths if he is to survive.  But what secret from the past connects Dresden to the White Court and their machinations, and is Dresden really ready for the dark knowledge waiting for him?

Whelp, it seems that it is pretty impossible for Butcher to write a dud novel.  Blood Rites is an exceptional addition to the wider Dresden Files series, and it was another one that I have no choice but to give a full five-star review to.  Featuring an intense and deeply captivating narrative, Blood Rites was an incredible read and I quickly got sucked into its unique story, compelling mysteries and dark, damaged characters.

I just loved the elaborate, dark and powerful narrative that Butcher featured in Blood Rites, as the author comes up with a complex tale that expertly brings together a dark urban fantasy with a thrilling murder mystery storyline.  Like the rest of the Dresden Files books, Blood Rites exclusively follows protagonist and point-of-view character Harry Dresden as he finds himself forced to face off against a series of dangers and threats at the same time.  The most prominent of these includes an investigation into a deadly curse aimed at the female employees of an adult entertainment studio, which sees Dresden go undercover on set to try and save the remaining cast and determine who the killer is.  This also leads him into a confrontation with the White Court of the vampires, especially when his vampire friend, Thomas Raith, requests his help.  At the same time, vampires from the Black Court are after Dresden for his actions in Grave Peril, which forces him to call in some major backup to take them on.  Unfortunately, this also leads him into conflict with his supposed allies, as well as his former mentor, when secrets from the past are revealed.  Dresden is also hit with a whole bundle of personal drama, especially when he discovers unfortunate truths about his long-dead mother, and there is an interesting growth in the relationship between him and several supporting characters.

As a result, there are many plot elements scattered around Blood Rites, which makes for quite an elaborate overall story.  Luckily, Butcher does an excellent job of introducing all these separate narrative threads to the reader, and you swiftly get drawn into all of them.  After a good and necessary bit of setup, the story roars off at a quick and captivating pace, and the reader has a great time jumping from storyline to storyline.  Everything starts to come together near the middle of the book, where you get some excellent action scenes, including a particularly funny death sequence involving a vampire and a frozen turkey, and the fallout of these scenes leads to some great dramatic moments with big personal revelations.  Following this, the story zooms along, and you soon find a partial and problematic solution to the murder case, while the protagonist is also forced to deal with an all-out assault on the Black Court, while also dealing with dark secrets from his allies.  The attack on the Black Court was one of the best sequences in the book, and the surrounding drama results in some major revelations that fans of the series will lap up.  The remaining storylines then come together perfectly for the finale, as Dresden solves the murder and faces off against its overall architect in a brilliant and extended dark sequence.  I loved how this entire narrative unfolded, and some of the concluding notes will leave you wanting to dive into the rest of the series to see what happens next.

To bring Blood Rites’ great story to life, Butcher utilises his typical style and techniques, which I always immensely enjoy.  The entire narrative is paced perfectly, and you quickly get drawn into the various plotlines, especially with their great combination of characters, intriguing plots, fantasy elements, and dramatic moments.  All of this is overlayed with Butcher’s distinctive humour, most of which is expelled through his cocky point-of-view protagonist, and it helps to enhance the overall powerful and entertainment of the book, especially when the protagonist tries to deflect from his many issues with comedy.  The narrative pretty much goes non-stop, and you get bounced through multiple excellent and powerful scenes, all of which are very fun to see.  I loved how the author balanced out action, character growth, universe building and more in each of the sequences, and there is something quite entertaining and fun for all manner of readers.  I wasn’t as keen on Butcher’s continued attempts to spice up the story with more adult themes, such as the adult film set or the lust-inducing White Court vampires, although it was pretty tame compared to some of the scenes in the last book (that bondage scene, yikes!), and Butcher wove some very compelling narratives around all of them that I deeply enjoyed.  I did enjoy how inclusive Butcher made this novel to new readers, and anyone could easily jump into Blood Rites and enjoy it, even if they haven’t read a Dresden Files book before.  However, there is also a lot to appeal to established fans of the series, especially as there are multiple major reveals and secrets featured here, many of which will lead to big story moments down the track.  As such, I deeply appreciated how this story came together, and pretty much everyone will have a great time getting through it.

I really enjoyed some of the cool fantasy elements featured throughout Blood Rites as Butcher seeks to expand on the lore and magic of his unique universe.  There are some great and intriguing fantasy inclusions here, with the obvious focus being on the various Vampire Courts.  The three main factions of Vampires have all been featured in previous books, although most of the focus has been on the Red Court, whom Dresden is at war with.  Blood Rites, however, has a far bigger spotlight on the two of the other courts who have major differences in powers and appearances.  Most of the focus is on the White Court, who are essentially this universe’s version of succubi, extremely beautiful and seductive creatures who feed off the life energy of those who desire them.  The White Court go on to become a major faction in the Dresden Files series, but this is one of the first books that fully explores them in substantial detail.  As such, you quickly get across their unique abilities, strengths, weaknesses and powers throughout this book, and they come across as quite a distinctive group as a result.  You really get to understand their entire society and worldview, as well as seeing some very different members of the factions, and Butcher writes some compelling storylines around them, while also putting in some very vivid depictions of their powers in action.  I loved how sinister and villainous members of the White Court appear at times, and there is something quite insidious about their abilities that creeps out the protagonists and reader.  A truly complex and excellent group that I had a lot of fun exploring.

Almost in direct comparison to the White Court is the Black Court.  The Black Court are a completely different group of living dead, portrayed more like the classic vampires from Bram Stoker’s novel (indeed, the Dracula novel was an elaborate propaganda attack by their enemies).  Shown as ugly, decaying, blood-hungry creatures that are more monsters than their original human forms, the Black Court are a much more obvious threat with much clearer motives.  There are some brutal and powerful scenes featuring the Black Court in this book, and it was really interesting to see Dresden and his allies go up against them with some classic vampire-hunting weapons, albeit with some fun modern twists to them.  I also deeply appreciated the fantastic parallels between the Black Court and the White Court vampires featured in the Blood Rites; whilst they are both extremely dangerous, their diverse methods and powers troubled Dresden in different ways.  These cool vampires, plus some other great new supernatural threats, added a lot to the complexity of the narrative and I loved the excellent detail and lore that Butcher imbued them with.

As usual, one of the highlights of this Dresden Files book is the compelling and impressive characters the story revolves around.  Butcher features an intriguing and fantastic group of characters in this book, with a compelling blend of established supporting characters and several new figures, many of whom will go on to have substantial roles in the rest of the series.  I had a brilliant time with all these characters, especially as Butcher endeavours to write some outstanding and distinctive storylines around them.

As usual, the most prominent character is Harry Dresden, the wizard protagonist and point-of-view character of the series.  Like most of the recent books, Blood Rites is an emotionally damaging book for Dresden.  Not only is he forced to deal with another harrowing case that racks his sanity, but he also finds out some long-buried secrets that prove quite damaging to behold.  In particular, there is a deep dive into his past and his missing family, both of which are hard subjects for him, and he finds himself with some unexpected connections that he has long been missing.  It was truly fascinating to see this long buried and painful part of Dresden’s past explored, and Butcher ensures that the reader gets struck in the feels with some of the powerful scenes that are explored.  Other interactions and reveals see Dresden re-evaluate some of his relationships in this novel, and there were some intriguing and harsh discussions between him and other characters as a result.  I did think that Butcher is over-playing the whole chivalrous-to-a-fault aspect of Dresden, as he continues to be a tad sexist and constantly underestimates woman, usually to his own detriment.  It’s honestly getting a little old, and I hope it gets phased out a bit in future books.  Still, I deeply enjoyed the fantastic development around Dresden in Blood Rites, and it greatly enhanced the narrative.

This book also featured a great appearance from previous supporting characters Karrin Murphy and Thomas Raith, who both play a major role in Blood Rites.  This proved to be quite a pivotal novel for both characters, and I really appreciated the way that Butcher built on their previous appearances and used them to write some impressive and powerful storylines around them.  This proves to be one of the more intriguing looks at Murphy so far in the series, especially as it dives into her complicated family life, and I liked the early hints here about the future relationship between her and Dresden.  Murphy gets dragged far further into Dresden’s magical activities than ever before here, and she is forced to balance her responsibilities as a cop with the necessity of killing monsters, something she has great difficulty with.  An overall badass character, Murphy has some brilliant and action-packed scenes in Blood Rites, and I love how well she serves as a foil to the more ridiculous Dresden.

Thomas, on the other hand, gets quite an intense and deeply personal storyline here as you get the most in-depth look at this elusive and compelling vampire character.  Not only do you get a great look at the rest of his family as the book explores the White Court, but you finally find the reasons why he is always helping Dresden, which leads to some emotional and compelling scenes.  A lot of time is also spent exploring the battle between Thomas’s humanity and the monster within, especially when it comes to feeding on those around him.  This comes to a head when his need to feed and survive hurts someone close to him and he has trouble coming to terms with what he’s done, especially when Dresden harshly confronts him.  Throw in his complicated family and intense daddy issues, and Thomas goes through the emotional wringer in this book, which proves to be very illuminating.  Butcher sets Thomas up as quite a substantial supporting character in this book, and I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.

Aside from these main characters, there is also a great collection of supporting characters who add a lot to the story, and there are some awesome appearances here.  I really enjoyed seeing more of mysterious mercenary Kincaid in this book, especially after his fun appearance in Death Masks.  Kincaid is a badass killer who is hired by Dresden to kill the Black Court, only to end up being a bigger threat to Dresden when the wizard lacks to money to pay him.  Kincaid has some excellent and action-packed scenes, and I was intrigued by his backstory, especially the hints at his dark, dark past.  I also loved the use of Dresden’s mentor, Ebenezar McCoy, an older wizard who raised him and taught him magic.  Butcher writes some amazing scenes around McCoy, especially once Dresden finds out just how many secrets the old man has been keeping from him.  Throw in a batch of great vampire characters (including the sinister Lord Raith and the compelling Lara Raith), some entertaining members of the adult film industry (including the fantastic diva Trixie Vixen), and the first appearance of Mouse, Dresden’s puppy, and you have an amazing cast of characters here that Butcher gleefully and impressively wraps the story around.  Each of these characters is very fun and intriguing in their own way, and I loved the elaborate and moving scenes that they star in.

Naturally I chose to check out Blood Rites on audiobook, which I maintain is the absolute best way to enjoy the Dresden Files books.  The captivating story and excellent characters really fit into this format extremely well, and I find myself absorbing the narrative and the author’s fantastic style a lot better this way.  With a runtime of just over 13 hours, Blood Rites is the noticeably longer than the previous books in the series (they get progressively longer and longer as the series goes, with some later books like Cold Days reaching nearly 19 hours in length).  Despite the increased run time, I still found myself knocking this audiobook off in no time at all, especially once I got stuck into the excellent and powerful story.  I must also highlight the incredible voice work of the always awesome James Marsters, who did another spectacular job narrating this fantastic novel.  At this point in the series, Marsters has really hit his stride when it comes to narrating, and he voices each audiobook with some impressive passion, effortlessly bringing the dark events and complex characters to life and ensuring that everything sticks in the listener’s mind.  All the characters are voiced extremely well, with the highlight again being protagonist Harry Dresden, who Marsters inhabits effortlessly.  He really understands the character’s anguish, pain, and dark humour, and this comes across in his narration perfectly.  Thanks to his epic performance in Blood Rites, and the other Dresden Files audiobooks, Marsters remains one of my favourite audiobook narrators, and I cannot recommend the Blood Rites audiobook enough as a result.

My dive into the early Dresden Files novels continues to be incredibly epic, as I once again fell in love with one of Jim Butcher’s unique reads, Blood Rites.  This fantastic novel has so much going for it, and I had a brilliant time exploring the powerful urban fantasy/crime fiction based narrative.  Featuring a deeply compelling mystery, a ton of intriguing parallel storylines, and some impressive and emotionally charged character development, Blood Rites is another exceptional book that is so much fun to get through.  Honestly, if I didn’t have such a backlog of awesome recent audiobook releases, I would probably be diving into the seventh Dresden Files novel right now, but hopefully I will get a chance later this year.  If you haven’t checked out the Dresden Files books after my previous glowing reviews, then you really need to get your butt into gear and start reading them now!

WWW Wednesday – 24 August 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?

Blowback by James Patterson and Brendan Dubois (Trade Paperback)

Blowback Cover

I just started reading a particularly fun and captivating novel with the impressive Blowback.  Written by the team of the legendary James Patterson (author of such great recent books as 2 Sisters Detective Agency and Death of the Black Widow) and Brendan Dubois, Blowback is a very fun read that sees two CIA agents attempt to stop the evil machinations of an insane and brilliant American president.  I am about 50 pages into Blowback and the moment and so far I am deeply enjoying its intriguing and elaborate spy thriller plot.  I am extremely curious to see how this story develops, but this is already turning out to be a particularly awesome read.

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Glacier’s Edge by R. A. Salvatore (Audiobook)

Glacier's Edge Cover

I also recently started the new fantasy epic from the iconic R. A. Salvatore, Glacier’s Edge.  The sequel to last year’s excellent Starlight Enclave, Glacier’s Edge is the second book in The Way of the Drow series, which falls into Salvatore’s larger collection of Drizzt Do’Urden books.  Glacier’s Edge follows on from the previous book which ended with several of the protagonists in mortal danger, with help very far away.  Now it will fall to their one surviving member to recruit a new force of adventurers to rescue them, while a civil war brews deep underground in the Drow home city.  I haven’t made a lot of progress with Glacier’s Edge yet, but it is shaping up to be a pretty classic Salvatore fantasy adventure.  I am deeply intrigued to see what happens to the long-running characters in this book and I am expecting some amazing things from this cool book.

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What did you recently finish reading?

The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis (Trade Paperback)

The Unbelieved Cover

Wow, I finished off The Unbelieved a little while ago and I am still impressed with how amazing and moving it turned out to be. Featuring an extremely powerful and addictive crime thriller narrative, The Unbelieved was one of the best Australian novels I have read this year, as well as being one of the most distinctive and captivating debuts of 2022. Vikki Petraitis wrote something particularly special with The Unbelieved and it comes very highly recommended.  Review to follow soon.

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Death Masks by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Death Masks Cover

I finished Death Masks very quickly last week and it turned out to be just as epic and fun as I thought it would be.  An essential early entry in Jim Butcher’s iconic Dresden Files (check out my reviews for Storm FrontFool MoonGrave PerilSummer KnightBattle Ground and The Law), I had an absolute blast with Death Masks‘ outstanding and compelling story that saw wizard protagonist Harry Dresden caught between demons, vampires, holy knights, gangsters and more as he attempts to recover a holy artifact.  I have already reviewed this epic book (check out the link above) and ended up giving a full five-star review.  A must read for all fantasy readers and fans of this exceptional series!

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Blood Rites by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Blood Rite Cover

I was having such an incredible time with the Dresden Files series last week that the moment I finished Death Masks I immediately started listening to the next book in the series, Blood RitesBlood Rites was another outstanding entry in this great series and featured an amazing and layered narrative I had an exceptional time getting through.  This time the protagonist has to investigate a dangerous curse on an adult movie set while also opposing the machinations of two deadly groups of vampires, all the while dealing with some major family issues.  This was another ultra-impressive Dresden Files book and I swiftly got sucked into its epic tale.  Another book that is going to get a full five-star rating from me, Blood Rites is a fantastic and clever read that I cannot hype up enough.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Upgrade Cover

The next book I am planning to read is the intriguing science fiction thriller, Upgrade, by acclaimed science fiction author Blake Crouch.  Following a man who is genetically modified against his will, Upgrade has an awesome story behind it, and I am extremely eager to see how it unfolds.  I already know that Crouch is an exceptional author, and I am exceedingly curious to find out what happens in his latest book.  I have a feeling that Upgrade is going to be one of the better books of 2022 and I am very excited to get into it.

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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.

Throwback Thursday – Death Masks by Jim Butcher

Death Masks Cover

Publication: Penguin Audio (Audiobook – 1 August 2003)

Series: Dresden Files – Book Five

Length: 11 hours and 17 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.  For my latest Throwback Thursday, I highlight another excellent entry in Jim Butcher’s iconic Dresden Files series, with Death Masks.

Fans of this blog will know that I have been having a magical time (pun intended) discovering and getting into the long-running Dresden Files series by acclaimed fantasy author Jim Butcher.  Set in Chicago, the Dresden Files novels follow the adventures of Harry Dresden, wizard for hire and protector of the city against any supernatural threat that comes its way.  This has been Butcher’s major series for years, but I only got into it back in 2020 when I checked out the 17th entry, Battle Ground.  Due to its exceptional plot and the all-out magical war for Chicago that it depicted, this was a pretty epic novel that was not only one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020 but also an excellent recruiting tool for new Dresden Files fans.  It didn’t take me long after reading Battle Ground to check out some of the earlier entries in the series, such as Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril and Summer Knight, as well as the novella, The Law.  I have had such an epic time with this series that when I felt like a guaranteed five-star book, I immediately decided to check out the next book in the series, with the fifth Dresden Files entry, Death Masks.

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s resident professional wizard, is once again thrust into the middle of far more trouble than he ever dreamed of when a television panel show introduces him to an array of people who want something from him.  Not only does he find himself forced into a duel against a powerful Red Court vampire noble but he is also hired by a Vatican priest to recover a revered stolen holy relic, the Shroud of Turin.

Determined to make the most of these new events, Dresden takes the case and begins to search for the shroud while also preparing for his upcoming fight to the death.  However, many people are interested in obtaining the shroud for their own use, and Dresden finds himself under attack by hitman, gangsters, criminals, and far, far worse.  The Denarians, an ancient and despicable group of fallen angels, have designs on the shroud, and not even Dresden’s most powerful and holy allies, the Knights of the Cross, may be enough to save him.

As Dresden attempts to recover the shroud, he finds that the Denarians and their deadly leader, Nicodemus, have a nefarious plot for the shroud that could destroy everything that Dresden holds dear.  Working with allies old and new, Dresden must overcome the Denarian threat before it is too late, while also managing to defeat the Red Court vampire gunning for him.  With everything on the line, has Dresden finally bitten off more than he can chew?  And what happens when the lost love of his life returns to town, battling her own demons?

Wow, Butcher just cannot strike out!  This is yet another book from him that I have no choice but to award a full five-star rating to.  Death Masks has a deeply addictive narrative that grabs your attention from the very first page and refuses to let go, and some complex and entertaining characters to match.

Death Masks has a pretty awesome story to it that got really addictive very quickly.  Starting off a few months after the events of Summer Knight, Death Masks contains several, great layered storylines, all of which are pretty exciting and intense in their own way and which cross over well to create a complete and powerful narrative.  The first of these immediately places Dresden in the path of several dangerous enemies and opponents as he is dragged into a new case, recovering the stolen Shroud of Turin.  Despite being warned off by his allies, the Knights of the Cross, Dresden naturally pursues, which sets him against established foes, like Chicago’s gangster king, and a powerful new cadre of enemies, who represent one of the biggest threats that Dresden has gone up against at this point in the series.  At the same time, the protagonist is forced to accept a formal duel to the death against a powerful vampire lord, as part of the ongoing storyline about his war with the Red Court, and he also helps the police investigate a disfigured corpse that seems to have been simultaneously infected by every disease known to man.  These events are further complicated by the re-emergence of Susan Rodriguez, his former love interest whose romance was crushed when she was partially turned into a vampire, and who he still holds a massive torch for.

Each of these storylines is quite interesting on its own, and Butcher writes some interesting scenes around all of them, with the primary focus being on the search for the shroud and the fight against the Denarians.  These storylines start pulling together about hallway through the book, and Butcher really raises the stakes for the protagonist, especially when he experiences some major and heartbreaking setbacks.  I really loved the unique blend of character development, fantasy and urban crime that is utilised throughout most of this story, and it is always so much fun to see the protagonist attempting to understand the complex plots arranged against him as he tries to save his friends and city.  Everything leads up to an extremely exciting final third where Dresden and his allies are thrust into a series of battles with massive stakes involved that leave them broken and nearly beaten.  I honestly could not stop listening to the final few hours of this book, and I pretty much powered through the entire second half in less than a day.  There are some epic and very moving moments featured in the big conclusion, and Butcher did a brilliant job of bringing everything together and ensuring that the reader will come back for future instalments of his work.  I particularly loved the final little twist that saw the book’s major villain get one over the protagonist, and I am extremely keen to see what happens with that storyline going forward.

I have so much love for Butcher’s writing style when it comes to the Dresden Files novels, and Death Masks was a particularly good example of this.  Like the rest of the series, Death Masks is told exclusively from the perspective of its central character, Harry Dresden, and this places you right into the midst of all the action and investigations, and you see all the steps as Harry tries to outwit his various foes.  This use of Dresden as the central figure also ensures that the reader gets quite a lot of humour in the story, and the continuous jokes and funny insights really help to make the story that much more fun to enjoy.  There is a great focus on character development and introductions in this novel that I deeply enjoyed, and this works really well with the mystery elements and established fantasy setting to create an excellent narrative.  Butcher keeps the pace of the book sharp and fast here, and all the big events quickly and effectively fall into place where needed.  I liked how the protagonist dealt with multiple problems and cases simultaneously, and Butcher did a good job of balancing and combining these initially separated storylines and threats where necessary.  I did think that Butcher did go over the top in places when it came to the romance sequences, and some of the scenes were a little questionable at times.  Still, this didn’t impact my overall enjoyment of the Death Masks, and I had a blast seeing everything unfold.

Death Masks proved to be a particularly significant entry in the Dresden Files series, and it is a must-read for all fans as a result.  Butcher perfectly sets up several ongoing storylines here while also successfully continuing some established character arcs and introducing a whole new batch of great and interesting characters.  There are so many key events and interactions going on in Death Masks, many of which will be vital for the rest of the series, and I know it helped to give some additional context for some of the events in the later books I have read.  However, like most Dresden Files novels, Death Masks is extremely accessible to new readers, and Butcher always makes a point to expand on the existing storylines and characters in a way that new readers can understand and follow without boring the existing fans.  As such, this is a book with a lot of appeal to many readers, and all fantasy fans can dive in extremely easily.

Death Masks is also a major book for character work, and readers who love the impressive and exciting Dresden Files cast are in for a great time here.  I felt that Butcher presented a great balance of established and new characters in this novel, and there is an excellent focus on development and the emotional issues impacting the protagonist.  Many of the new characters will become major recurring figures in the series from now on and deeply enjoyed seeing how their story started.  Most of the character work hinged on protagonist Harry Dresden, who is the true heart and soul of the book.  I always enjoy quirky and rebellious protagonists in novels with a first-person perspective, and the Dresden Files are a great example of this.  Dresden was his usual funny and disrespectful self for the entirety of Death Masks, and it was so much fun seeing him sass every person he encountered, especially when it enrages the villains.  There is also a great emotional component to Dresden in Death Masks that I enjoyed, as he is still going through a lot of issues.  His already complicated feelings about his past failed romance come full circle here when the girl that got away (well, got turned into a vampire) returns and he is forced to finally confront his repressed feelings for her.  There are also some major moments where Dresden is forced to confront the consequences of his mistakes, especially when they cost other characters, and I loved some of the interactions that occurred as a result.

One of the big returns for Death Masks is the character of Susan Rodriguez, Dresden’s love interest who has been missing for a couple of books.  Susan was partially turned into a vampire during her last appearance and left Dresden as a result.  This book sees her return, and there is a complete change of character because of her transformation, being a lot more confident as well as some more notable abilities.  I liked most of the Susan storyline in this book, not only because fans finally get some closure for the romance between her and Harry but also because she now has some mysterious connections and is working as a covert anti-vampire agent.  There are some great moments with Susan in the book, although I did find one scene to be pretty ridiculous, even though it was supposed to be the sequence that served as the climax of the Dresden/Susan romance arc.  Who knew that all you needed to cure vampiric thirst was a bondage session (I’m barely joking here, that happened).  I mostly ignored this awkward scene (try listening to it whilst on your lunch break at work) from my overall grading of Death Masks, just because it was so much of an outlier, but it was a little weird.  Still, I’m glad we got a return from Susan, and it was interesting to see how much she had changed since the last book.

I also enjoyed the use of the Knights of the Cross in Death Masks, and they served as excellent comrade characters for Dresden.  The Knights of the Cross are three modern day crusaders who wield legendary holy swords and serve as God’s fist on Earth.  We had previously met one of them in Grave Peril, Michael Carpenter, and I loved seeing him again, especially as he is essentially a badass Ned Flanders with a sword and a mission from God.  His mentorship of Harry is a key part of his character arc in the series, and it is really interesting to see him serve as a conscience to the rebellious and faithless Harry.  The two other knights introduced in this book also add a lot to the plot.  The rookie knight, Sanya, was really fun, and I liked his more refreshing take on the role and responsibilities he wields.  However, the best of them was Shiro, the elder knight who acts as the group’s guiding light and who has stood against evil for decades.  I love the depiction of this Japanese badass who literally has fallen angels quaking in their boots, and he was a wise and brilliant character that did a lot in a few short appearances.  Shiro was probably my favourite of the three in this book, and his fantastic dialogue with Harry, especially that description of how he became a Christian, was some of Butcher’s best writing.

Finally, I must talk about the villains, who added a great deal to the story.  Readers are spoiled for choice in Death Masks when it comes to villains, as there are several different groups and individuals who turned up looking to kill Dresden throughout the book.  The first of these is Don Paolo Ortega, a Red Court vampire who seeks to end the war between his people and the wizards of the White Council by killing Dresden in a duel.  Ortega appears to be a mostly reasonable and honourable figure despite his desire to kill Dresden, and I liked the fun banter he had with the protagonist.  I was also glad to see more of Chicago gangster Johnny Marcone, who is one of the best recurring figures in the series.  Marcone always serves as such an excellent foil to Dresden, and their constant sparring and back and forth is a lot of fun to see.  It was particularly interesting to see Marcone become even more involved in the mystical world in this novel, mainly due to the respect he has for Dresden’s abilities, and this serves as a major step towards his current incarnation later in the series.

However, the best villains in the story are probably the group known as the Denarians, a collection of fallen angels possessing desperate or evil humans.  The Denarians are some of the most dangerous beings in the entire Dresden Files, and Butcher gives them an impressive introduction in this novel, showing them as agents of chaos determined to cause as much grief as possible.  Their leader, Nicodemus, is probably one of the most intriguing and sinister figures I’ve yet see Butcher write, and he pretty much always had Dresden on the ropes.  I particularly loved his first major interaction with the protagonist, especially as he was able to completely rattle Dresden, who could barely do anything in response.  The characters were barely able to survive his machinations throughout the book, and he truly showcased how much of a threat he could and would be.  A masterful villain, I cannot wait to see more of him in some of the future books.  All these characters, and more (future superstar Butters has an interesting introduction this book), really add to the captivating story, and I loved how well Butcher developed and featured them in Death Masks.

Unsurprisingly, I chose to enjoy Death Masks on audiobook, which was another excellent and impressive experience.  I really love the Dresden Files audiobooks and Death Masks was another good example of why.  Not only does the format really capture the essence of the story and help the listener become immersed in the urban fantasy world, but it also features some of the best voice work you are likely to find in an audiobook.  That is because Death Masks is narrated by actor James Marsters, who always does a spectacular job brining this series to life.  After providing narration for the first four books in the series, Marsters really knows what he is doing when he gets to Death Masks, and he swiftly dives in and gives the epic narrative everything it needs.  All the characters are voiced perfectly, with some extremely fitting and powerful voices given to them that expertly portray their personalities, ethnicities and mentalities.  Due to the great range of characters in Death Masks, Marsters is required to play a range of figures, from an evil fallen angel, three ultra-good holy knights, a gangster, multiple vampires and more, all of which come out really well.  However, the best work is saved for protagonist and point-of-view character Harry Dresden.  Marsters perfectly inhabits the role of Dresden, and you get the full breadth of his complexities, inner pain, and weird sense of humour, as Marsters narrates the book through his eyes.  You really get the best understanding of Dresden through Marsters’s voice work, and that really adds to the quality of the entire read.  As such, this format comes extremely highly recommended, and you need to try Death Masks’ audiobook as soon as you can.

Another Dresden Files book down, another five-star rating from me.  Death Masks was another epic and exceptional entry in this amazing series, and I continue to be impressed by how well Jim Butcher writes these great books.  Thanks to its excellent and utterly addictive narrative and brilliant character work, Death Masks is probably one of the best Dresden Files novels I have read so far, and I had such a great time with it.  I can think of no higher compliment than to say it made me so happy, I instantly started listening to the next book in the series, Blood Rites, the moment I finished Death Masks.  Make sure to come back next week to check that Throwback Thursday out.

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WWW Wednesday – 17 August 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 Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis (Trade Paperback)

The Unbelieved Cover

I haven’t made a lot of progress with The Unbelieved since last week, although that’s mainly because I’ve been too busy to get much reading done.  Despite that, I am still enjoying this intense Australian thriller, which has an amazing and powerful story to it.  Petraitis is achieving a lot with her debut novel, and I am getting really drawn into this intense tale about sexual violence in smalltown Australia.  I will hopefully finish The Unbelieved off in the next couple of days and I am intrigued to see how it ends.

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Death Masks by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Death Masks Cover

I was in the mood for something fun and exciting this week, so I naturally dived back into Jim Butcher’s iconic Dresden Files series by finally checking out the fifth book, Death Masks.  I have been having such a good time getting into this series over the last couple of years (check out my reviews for Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Battle Ground and The Law), and I knew I would enjoy Death Masks a lot.  This outstanding read sees wizard protagonist Harry Dresden caught between demons, vampires, holy knights, gangsters and more as he attempts to recover a holy artifact.  I have actually made quite a bit of progress with this audiobook, and I am currently about halfway through it.  Death Masks is an extremely good read and I love its complex and entertaining narrative and the cool new fantasy elements it introduces.  I will probably finish this off by the end of the week, but I can already tell you it is going to get a full five-star rating from me.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Hide by Kiersten White (Audiobook)

Hide Cover

I managed to finish off one book this week, and that was the intriguing Hide by Kiersten White.  A horror thriller that sees a group of competitors attempt to survive a bizarre game of hide and seek in an abandoned amusement park, Hide was an exciting read that I rather enjoyed.  An excellent book to check out, make sure to read the linked review above.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Blowback by James Patterson and Brendan Dubois (Trade Paperback)

Blowback Cover

I’ve received a ton of epic books in the last week or so, but the one I just have to read next is Blowback.  Written by the team of James Patterson and Brendan Dubois, Blowback is a very fun read that sees two CIA agents attempt to stop the evil machinations of an insane and brilliant American president.  I love the sound of this impressive thriller plot and I know that I am going to have an amazing time with it.  I have been really getting into some of Patterson’s latest books, such as 2 Sisters Detective Agency and Death of the Black Widow, and I cannot wait to see how Patterson’s collaboration with Dubois turns out.

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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.

The Law by Jim Butcher

The Law Cover

Publisher: Podium Audio (Audiobook – 5 July 2022)

Series: The Dresden Files – Book 17.5

Length: 3 hours and 22 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Prepare to dive back into the wild world of Jim Butcher’s iconic Dresden Files series with the latest impressive novella, The Law.

Readers of this blog might have noticed that I usually don’t go out of my way to read too many novellas or short stories and instead usually focus on full-length novels and comics.  This isn’t so much a deliberate choice as I just prefer whole books I can really sink my teeth into.  However, I had to make an exception for the latest Dresden Files novella that Jim Butcher just dropped, as I have been deeply enjoying this epic series.

The Dresden Files are a long running series of urban fantasy novels that follow protagonist Harry Dresden, a wizard who protects the people of Chicago from the magic beings and creatures they don’t even know exist.  People may remember that I first got into the Dresden Files back in 2020 when I checked out the 17th entry in the series, Battle Ground.  While I did enter this series late in the game, I still had an outstanding time with Battle Ground and it ended up being one of my top books and audiobooks of 2020.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went back and started reading the series from the beginning.  So far, I have been able to read the first four Dresden Files novels, Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril and Summer Knight, all of which have been pretty impressive and captivating reads.  This dive into the older novels, plus my lingering enjoyment of Battle Ground, ensured that I was ready and eager for any new Dresden Files content that came my way, and Butcher just delivered with his latest novella, The Law.

Set a month after the events of Battle Ground, The Law sees Harry Dresden and the city of Chicago still recovering from the invasion of the Titan Ethniu and her forces, which resulted in significant destruction.  However, Dresden is primarily mourning the tragic death of his love, Karrin Murphy, and even his new responsibilities as lord of a castle and protector of Chicago isn’t enough to keep his mind off his loss.  Determined to snap Dresden out of his funk, his friends decide to get him back to basics and introduce him to someone in need of a good investigator.

Enter Maya, a former prostitute turned tutor whose grassroots education company helps to supplement the education of Chicago’s working-class children.  Working hard, Maya has managed to turn her tutoring business into a viable, if low-profit, franchise that prioritises helping as many children as possible.  However, Maya’s past life is about to come back to haunt her in the form of her former pimp, Tripp Gregory, who initiates a bogus lawsuit against Maya’s company for a ridiculous sum.  Unable to afford a lawyer and desperate for help, Maya has no choice but to turn to Chicago’s resident miracle worker, Harry Dresden.

Deciding to the take on the case and hoping to quietly warn Tripp away from Maya, Dresden soon discovers that sometimes the most dangerous opponent is a greedy idiot concerned only for themselves.  Worse, Tripp and the case have unexpected connections to the magical world, with dangerous players taking an interest in its outcome.  Forced to deal with old and new foes of considerable power, Dresden will need all his wit and will if he is to save Maya’s business and ensure that justice is found.

Well, that has gone a long way to convincing me to check out more novellas in the future.  The Law was an epic read that took Butcher’s always outstanding Dresden File’s protagonist on a short, but extremely sweet, adventure.  Bringing Butcher’s usual flair and style, while also expanding on events from the last book, The Law was a great read that gets a full five-star rating from me.

Butcher pretty much teaches a master class on how to do a short, concise and captivating story here in The Law as, despite its length, this novella had an impressive and fun narrative that I found to be utterly addictive.  Not only does it serve as a great follow up to Battle Ground but it showcases some amazing character work while presenting the protagonist with an intriguing new adventure.  The story is so much fun, and I loved how it started as seemingly non-magical job and then morphed into something more dangerous and problematic as Dresden finds that it has connections with the magical world that forces him to deal with some of Chicago’s key players, including some old enemies.  Bringing a small but enjoyable amount of legal thriller aspect to the series’ usual urban fantasy crime fiction style, The Law goes in some fantastic directions, as Dresden attempts to placate all the players while also serving his client.  There is a great bit of action, a ton of humour, some intriguing revelations, and even some pretty dark moments, which combine extremely well to create quite the impressive narrative.  I loved how Butcher wrapped the entire novella up, especially with that one conference scene near the end, and the reader comes away very satisfied and entertained with the entire affair.  I cannot emphasise how great this story was, and I was so damn enthralled by it that I nearly finished it in an entire sitting.

One of the things that I particularly liked about The Law is the way that it serves as a bridging novella between Battle Ground and any future entries in the series.  Butcher spends a lot of time in this story looking at the aftermath of the previous novel, especially as Battle Ground featured that epic battle that saw Chicago nearly levelled.  As such, Butcher packs The Law with a ton of callbacks to the events of the last book, and there is a huge focus on how the various characters are dealing with the aftermath, especially Dresden.  There is also a very fascinating look at the rebuilding that is occurring during this time, as well as the current state of the citizenry, many of whom are traumatised or damaged because of a battle most of them couldn’t even fully comprehend.  I really appreciated seeing the various figures featured in The Law remembering or trying to understand the events of Battle Ground, whether they are a magical person who lost someone, a normal person who went through hell, or even one of Dresden’s Knights of the Bean, who now bear a dark connection with the protagonist.  Some of the details that came out as a result are deeply fascinating, and there are even a few hints about where some potential future storylines might go, such as increased Government awareness of magic (you see evidence of them covering up the events of Battle Ground here), or the increased fear that might lead to humans attacking magic kind in the future.  All of these are featured heavily in The Law, and I liked how it was well utilised for the current story, while also showing fans of the series how different the landscape of Chicago will be in the future.  I would say that this focus on the aftermath of Battle Ground did make The Law a little less accessible to those readers who haven’t read the latest Dresden Files novel, however, I think that if you are interested in reading this, then you should definitely read Battle Ground first.

I also must talk about the great character work featured in The Law.  Despite its shorter length, Butcher manages to fit a decent number of characters in The Law, and there are some impressive character arcs and development that occurs as a result.  Naturally, most of this is focused on series protagonist and central point-of-view character, Harry Dresden, who puts on his usual brave face for most of this novella, bringing his usual insights and wicked humour to the new case.  However, it soon becomes very apparent that Dresden is still heavily traumatised by the events of Battle Ground, where he lost so much because of the war.  Despite his best efforts to hide it, Dresden is a wreck for much of the story, and it was quite confronting and moving to see him experience blackouts and emotional strains due to the tragedies he has experienced.  I think that Butcher covered his protagonist’s trauma and grief in a pretty realistic way, and I liked how he tried to use an old-fashioned investigatory case as a coping method for Dresden.  It was great to see Dresden going back to his roots as a private investigator after the chaotic and world-altering events of the last few books, and it was interesting to see how much the character’s powers, methods, insights and choices have changed as a result of everything he’s seen.  The Law ended up being quite an intense and fantastic look in the recovering Dresden and readers will like seeing his emotional damage, his recovery, and even some of his darker moments that are contained within this excellent novella.

Aside from Dresden, The Law features an excellent array of supporting characters, who bring a lot to the narrative.  Butcher made sure to include a combination of new faces and existing characters to fill out the cast, and I had a blast with how they were utilised throughout.  Several of the funniest and most interesting recurring figures from the series had substantial roles here, including Bob, Gentleman John Marcone, and even Mab, and each of their appearances and interactions with Dresden were entertaining and fitting with their previous appearances.  I enjoyed many of the great new characters that Butcher introduced here.  Some of them, including a devilish lawyer with a shrouded identity, may come back in the future, and it will be interesting to see how they are utilised.  I also enjoyed main antagonist, Tripp Gregory, mainly because he was so different that Dresden’s usual antagonists.  Rather than being a magical creature or a major threat, Tripp is a normal and rather idiotic criminal, who has a surprising power: he’s too stupid to believe in magic and too self-centred to avoid all the trouble Dresden is bringing his way.  Dresden’s reactions to having to deal with such a selfish and unusual opponent makes Tripp’s inclusion totally worth it, and I had fun seeing his arc unfold.  These characters, and more, were awesome inclusions to The Law, and their unique inputs added a lot the quality and entertainment value of the entire novella.

Finally, a quick note on the audiobook format, which was how I enjoyed The LawThe Law audiobook has a very short run time of just over three hours and is a relatively easy audiobook to get through.  I always find myself really getting into Butcher’s excellent stories in this audio format, and this continued here with The Law, and it really helped me enjoy all the novella’s fun and entertaining details.  Probably the biggest thing about The Law audiobook was the choice of narrator.  I was deeply, deeply shocked when I discovered that long-time Dresden Files voice actor, the legendary James Marsters, wasn’t narrating The Law, and instead Butcher himself took over and voiced the entire thing.  Surprisingly, this ended up working out rather well and Butcher turned out to be a pretty competent and enjoyable audiobook narrator.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s no James Marsters (a point Butcher makes up-front, after promising Marsters would come back for future novels), but he does a really good job considering his lack of experience.  All the characters are given good, distinctive voices that fit their personalities and showcase their emotions and reactions perfectly.  His voice for Dresden was particularly good, and Butcher captured his creation’s cocky nature and damaged inner self perfectly.  While some of the accents he did were a little iffy, this was an overall fantastic performance from Butcher, and it was fun to see him contribute to his work in this way.  The Law audiobook ended up being an excellent and impressive way to enjoy this fantastic story, and it is easy the format I would most strongly recommend.

Jim Butcher continues to expand his epic Dresden Files series in some fantastic ways with the new novella, The Law.  Containing a compact, but highly impressive story loaded with some of Butcher’s best characters, The Law proved to be extremely entertaining and a lot of fun to get through.  Serving as a perfect follow-up to the major events of the last novel, The Law was an excellent and powerful entry in this long-running series that is a must read for all Dresden Files fans.

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WWW Wednesday – 20 July 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 Lawless Land by Boyd and Beth Morrison (Trade Paperback)

The Lawless Land Cover

I just started reading this impressive new historical fiction novel from the excellent team of Boyd and Beth Morrison.  Set in 1351, The Lawless Land follows an honourable and skilled knight who finds himself dragged into a massive conspiracy that seeks to engulf all of Europe.  I am already a major fan of this intense and captivating novel, and it is proving to be an excellent overall read.

 

The Omega Factor by Steve Berry (Audiobook)

The Omega Factor Cover

I have also just started listening to the new Steve Berry novel, The Omega Factor.  Berry, who has previously impressed me with his Cotton Malone novels (including The Malta Exchange, The Warsaw Protocols and The Kaiser’s Web), has returned with another intriguing modern thriller focused on historical events that follows a new protagonist who gets caught in a war between two ancient and secret religious orders.  I haven’t gotten too far into The Omega Factor yet, but it is shaping up to be a very interesting and fun book.

What did you recently finish reading?

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Kagen the Damned Cover

 

Conviction by Frank Chalmers (Trade Paperback)

Conviction Cover

 

The Law by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

The Law Cover

 

The Crimson Thread by Kate Forsyth (Trade Paperback)

The Crimson Thread Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Town 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 – Audiobook for a Road Trip (June 2022)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s Top Tuesday revolved around Bookish Wishes, however, I am going to do something a little different and instead head back to my favourite format, audiobooks, with a list revolving around suggested books to listen to on road trips.

A couple of years ago I did a fun list where I presented my top ten suggestions for audiobooks that would be awesome for a road trip.  Road trips are always a great time to listen to some fantastic books, and I have personally had a great time listening to audiobooks while driving.  I actually just got back from a big road trip a few weeks ago where my wife and I listened to several impressive audiobooks as we made our way around Australia.  These cool audiobooks, several of which made the list below, proved to be incredibly entertaining, and the long hours of driving just flew by as a result.  So, I thought that this would be a great time to update this list, especially as I have listened to some more epic audiobooks since the last time, I wrote this list.

People familiar with my blog will know that I am a big fan of audiobooks; in many ways, they are some of the best way to enjoy a book from a talented author.  However, not all good audiobooks make for great entertainment on a road trip.  With that in mind, I have scrolled through some of my favourite audiobooks to find the ones I think would be the best for anyone taking a long trip.  To make this list, the audiobooks I chose had to not only be amazing novels but also had to have an excellent narration and the ability to keep a driver or passengers’ attention on a long trip.  While I know that some people are going to be experiencing particularly long trips, I tried to feature audiobooks with shorter runtimes so that those who are taking shorter excursions (say a roundtrip of eight or nine hours) can get through an entire book without trying to make time at home to finish it off.  That being said a few longer novels did end up making the cut, but all of these are great for longer trips.  I also tried to avoid any novels that would require a great deal of prior knowledge or hard-to-obtain background information so that everyone in the car could enjoy the book without any need for explanation or lectures from those people more familiar with the series. To that end, I have tried to avoid any novels that are later entries in a series or which require some form of assumed knowledge about a franchise.  I also tried to avoid anything that was a particularly extreme example of a genre (like fantasy or science fiction), and instead looked to include novels that would appeal to a wider group of readers.  While I have included a couple of tie-in novels, I tried to use those books that require only a smidge of familiarity with their respective franchise to enjoy, and I am confident anyone can easily enjoy any book I ended up featuring.

While I did have quite a few criteria to meet, I was eventually able to come up with a good list for this topic, including several honourable mentions.  I am pretty happy with how this list turned out and I have personally really enjoyed each of the below audiobooks.  I honestly believe that all of them would make for a great listen during an extended bit of travel or a road trip and each of them comes highly recommended.

Honourable Mentions:

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, written by Sarah Kuhn and performed by a full cast – 5 hours and 35 minutes

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover

One of the most purely entertaining and impressive Star Wars audio production, Doctor Aphra is a wonderful listen that covers the storyline of a particularly fun character from the comics.  A great story combined with an awesome cast, including Emily Woo Zeller perfectly capturing the fantastic main character.

 

Tomorrow, When the War Began, written by John Marsden and narrated by Suzi Dougherty – 7 hours and 20 minutes

Tomorrow, When the War Began Cover

An old favourite of mine, Tomorrow, When the War Began is the exceptional introduction to the brilliant Australian young adult Tomorrow series by John Marsden.  This audiobook is very easy to get into and you will swiftly fall in love with this amazing series.

 

The Salvage Crew, written by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and narrated by Nathan Fillion – 8 hours and 21 minutes

The Salvage Crew Cover

Come for the Fillion and stay for the unique science fiction story.

 

Planetside, written by Michael Mammay and narrated by R. C. Bray – 8 hours and 38 minutes

Planetside Cover 2

An insanely addictive science fiction thriller, Planetside is a particular favourite of mine and the audiobook, featuring the voice of the excessively talented R. C. Bray, is a great listen that will appeal to everyone.

Top Ten List:

World War Z, written by Max Brooks and performed by a full cast – 12 hours and 9 minutes

World War Z Cover 2

It is appropriate that the first entry on this list be the book that inspired me to go back and revisit this topic with the impressive World War Z by Max Brooks.  I had been meaning to read World War Z for ages and finally got a chance with my recent road trip when we listened to the massive, full-cast audiobook version of this iconic zombie novel.  I instantly fell in love with the complex story and elaborate take on a zombie apocalypse, especially as the entire novel was enhanced by an incredible cast of narrators.  Fantastic actors like Mark Hamill, Alan Alda, Alfred Molina and more, did an incredible job telling this brilliant and powerful story, and the entire production is just perfect.  A truly awesome audiobook that made a massive drive go by extremely quickly.  Highly recommended!

 

Redshirts, written by John Scalzi and narrated by Wil Wheaton – 7 hours and 41 minutes

Redshirts Cover

If you want to laugh your way through a quick road trip, then you should think about listening to quirky science fiction author John Scalzi’s Redshirts.  A comedic and meta homage to classic Star Trek, Redshirts imagines a fictional, Enterprise-esque spaceship that faces episodic danger that always leads to the death of its lower ranked crew members.  When the crew start to notice just how deadly their job has become, they go to extraordinary lengths to avoid it, even if that means escaping to the strangest of places.  Incredibly funny, but with some real heart to it, Redshirts is a great book to listen to, especially with its narration from Wil Wheaton himself.

 

The Thursday Murder Club, written by Richard Osman and narrated by Lesley Manville – 12 hours and 25 minutes

The Thursday Murder Club Cover

One amazing mystery novel that would keep me very entertained on a long trip is British comedian Richard Osman’s debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club.  Following four senior citizens as they attempt to solve complex murders around their retirement village, The Thursday Murder Club has an excellent mixture of mystery, humour and likeable characters, and proves to be quite the addictive read.  Throw in the perfect narration from actress Lesley Manville, and you have an exquisite listen that is guaranteed to keep you alert and happy all the way to your destination.

 

Any Discworld novel, by Terry Pratchett

Moving Pictures Cover

It is no secret that we at The Unseen Library love the incredible Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, with every novel in this impressive series being extremely compelling, clever and hilarious, all at once.  Thanks to the series’ great audiobook adaptations, I honestly could have filled every single entry on this list with Discworld books and called it a day.  However, as I am limiting this to a single entry, I will instead recommend either a standalone novel, such as Moving Pictures, Pyramids or Small Gods, or one of the cool City Watch novels like Guards! Guards!  All of these would be exceedingly high on my list of potential books to listen to on a road trip, and I know I would be very entertained the entire way through.

 

The Dark and Mind Bullet, written by Jeremy Robinson and narrated by R. C. Bray – 10 hours and 25 minutes (The Dark) and 11 hours and 42 minutes (Mind Bullet)

The Dark and Mind Bullet Cover

Just like with my Favourite Books of 2021 list last year, I couldn’t decide on which Jeremy Robinson novel to feature over the other.  Both of Robinson’s 2021 releases, The Dark and Mind Bullet, would be perfect for a road trip as they have some very intense and exciting stories to them.  While Mind Bullet probably has the narrative that would appeal to the most passengers, its connections to Robinson’s other may confuse new readers.  The Dark on the other hand is a much more standalone read, although its darker, horror tones may have less of a fanbase.  Both novels however are very, very good reads and their audiobook versions, which feature the incredible voice of R. C. Bray (one of my favourite audiobook narrators), would serve as outstanding entertainment for any long drive.

 

Legend, written by David Gemell and narrated by Sean Barrett – 13 hours and 13 minutes

Legend

Anyone interested in a fantasy epic for their road trip experience would be extremely smart to check out the classic novel, Legend, by the late, great David Gemell.  Legend, Gemell’s iconic debut, imagines the ultimate fantasy siege with a massive, unbeatable army besieging an impregnable stronghold garrisoned by a small force of heroes.  This outstanding fantasy battle plays out perfectly as an audiobook and you will be enthralled throughout your entire road trip.

 

Star Wars: Scoundrels, written by Timothy Zahn and narrated by Marc Thompson – 13 hours and 57 minutes

Star Wars Scoundrels Cover

If you wanted to try out a Star Wars story for a long drive than your best bet is probably going to be the Star Wars Legends novel Scoundrels by the superbly talented Timothy Zahn.  Despite no longer being canon, Scoundrels has one of the most appealing, fun, and compelling stories out there as it follows several of our favourite scoundrels, including Han, Chewie and Lando, as they embark on an elaborate heist.  Containing one of the best Star Wars stories out there, as well as the amazing talents of narrator Marc Thompson, Scoundrels will ensure a very entertained car.

 

The Gray Man, written by Mark Greaney and narrated by Jay Snyder – 11 hours and 11 minutes

The Gray Man Cover

If you’re the sort of person who wants non-stop action for their road trip than you really should load up Mark Greaney’s impressive first thriller, The Gray Man.  Following a legendary spy/assassin as he runs a gauntlet of bad guys throughout Europe, this slick novel never slows down and you will love all the thrills, twists and elaborate situations.  Set to be a major film in the next few months, an upcoming road trip would be the perfect opportunity to read ahead and the fantastic narration from Jay Snyder really brings the story to life.

 

Storm Front, written by Jim Butcher and narrated by James Marsters – 8 hours and 1 minute

Storm Front Cover

I had to recommend the Harry Dresden series somewhere on this list and the best option to listen to is probably the first novel Storm Front.  Serving as the perfect introduction to Jim Butcher’s urban fantasy series, Storm Front has a great story to it and you have to love the narration from outstanding actor James Marsters.  It won’t take long for you to become addicted to this series on your road trip and before you know if you’ll have listened to every single magical adventure.

 

The Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman, adapted by Dirk Maggs and performed by a full cast – 11 hours and 2 minutes

Sandman Act 1 Cover

The final entry for this list is another production we listened to on our recent road trip, the audio adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic The Sandman comic.  Performed by an extremely awesome team of actors, including James McAvoy, Taron Egerton, Kat Dennings, Michael Sheen and more, this is a perfect way to enjoy this complex comic and you will have a brilliant time with its elaborate and insanely inventive narrative.  We powered through this on our road trip and have already started the second act of it, which would also be a great bit listen for a drive.  A fantastic and epic comic turned into an even better audiobook.

 

 

Well, that is the end of this latest list.  I think it turned out pretty well and if you have some upcoming travel planned you would do well to try out any of the above books.  Other outstanding audiobook suggestions can be found in my best audiobooks lists of 2020 and 2021, so you’ll have plenty of ideas for your next drive.  Let me know which of the featured audiobooks you enjoyed the most, as well as what productions you would recommend for a car trip in the comments below.

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.

 

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Sequel 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.  The official topic for this week’s list required participants to list their favourite book-related online resource.  However, I once again went in a different direction and instead decided to focus on a different topic, sequels. 

The idea of sequels has been around for a very long time, however, recently it is becoming increasingly hard to avoid them.  From television shows to films, sequels are everywhere, and to be fair, there is something great about seeing how a fantastic story continues after a first beloved instalment.  Sequels in the novel world are also nothing new, and in fact, nearly every modern novelist has written some sort of sequel throughout their career.  So many great novels have featured intriguing sequels over the years, some of which led even more novels, or even massive series.  I’m sure we can all name some awesome sequels that we have read, and in some cases many sequel novels are just as good, if not better, than the books they followed.  I personally have enjoyed some incredible sequels over the years, and I thought that this would be a good opportunity to highlight them on a list, especially as I have read some particularly amazing sequels recently.

To complete this list, I pulled together some of the best sequels I have ever read, to see what I wanted to feature.  I primarily focused on second novels in series that I felt were outstanding follow ups to impressive first entries that set up overarching storylines.  In many cases, these books followed on from an author’s debut novel, and it is rather cool to see how an author improved on their initial work.  I ended up with quite a big collection of amazing sequel novels to work with, and it took me a little while to condense it down to a manageable list.  I was eventually able to cull it to my 10 absolute favourite books, as well as a decent Honourable Mentions section. 

Honourable Mentions:

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 2: Samurai by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo Samurai Cover

A cool comic that improves upon the art style and story from the first volume, The Ronin, as well as featuring the backstory for the series’ titular character.

 

Dark Forge by Miles Cameron

Dark Forge Cover

One of the best books and audiobooks of 2019, Dark Forge followed up the first book in the Masters & Mages series, Cold Iron, perfectly, with an impressive focus on war and world building

 

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Last Graduate Cover

An outstanding follow-up to last year’s fantastic book, A Deadly EducationThe Last Graduate is an outstanding novel and I hope to have a very complimentary review of it up soon.

 

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon Cover

With a great story about murderous werewolves in Chicago, I felt that this second novel from Jim Butcher was even better than his debut, Storm Front.

Top Ten List:

The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

The Dragon Factory

I have a lot of love for Jonathan Maberry’s incredible Joe Ledger series, especially the first entry Patient Zero, which featured a great modern reimagining of zombies.  However, I don’t think that the series truly hit its stride until the second novel, The Dragon FactoryThe Dragon Factory, which featured two rival groups of antagonists experimenting with genetic engineering, was incredible and had an outstanding and captivating narrative.  I honestly think it was a stronger novel than Patient Zero, and it did a great job setting the tone for the later entries in the series.

 

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

Last year I was blown away by Nick Martell’s first fantasy novel, The Kingdom of Liars, which was easily one of the best debuts of 2020.  I deeply enjoyed the compelling and elaborate fantasy tale contained within, and I was eager to see how Martell would continue it this year.  I was in no way disappointed as Martell ended up producing a truly epic read, that perfectly added a vengeful queen, magical serial killers, and a range of competing immortals, to an already elaborate narrative.  This ended up being one of the best books (and audiobooks) I have so far read this year and it is a highly recommended sequel to read.

 

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Mans Fear Cover

There was no way that I could exclude the The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss from this list.  The sequel to his iconic first book, The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear continued the complex tale of Rothfuss’s protagonist in incredible fashion, and this second novel goes in some deeply captivating directions.  It provides a really good continuation of the overarching storylines, while also introducing some intriguing new additions.  Unfortunately, it also opens a lot of questions, that readers have been waiting to see answered for quite some time.

 

Streams of Silver by R. A. Salvatore

Streams of Silver Cover

The next sequel takes us back to 1989, with the second book in The Icewind Dale trilogy by fantasy icon R. A. Salvatore, Streams of SilverStreams of Silver serves as the sequel to Salvatore’s debut novel, The Crystal Shard, and contains an impressive story.  While I enjoyed The Crystal Shard, especially as it does a great job introducing Salvatore’s best characters, I think that Streams of Silver had the stronger story.  Featuring an epic fantasy quest, Salvatore subtlety moves the focus more towards the overarching series’ more distinctive protagonist, while also featuring some excellent storylines, epic scenes, and an outstanding new antagonist.  I deeply enjoyed this novel, and it was a fantastic continuation of a fun first book.

 

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

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Sanderson has written quite a few impressive sequels throughout his career, however, my favourite so far is StarsightStarsight follows on from Skyward, a brilliant young adult science fiction novel that follows a class of starship fighter pilots, forced to defend their planet from aliens.  This sequel does a beautiful job of continuing this story by massively expanding the universe and taking the protagonist on an epic journey to a whole new world.  I loved this outstanding second series, and I cannot wait to see what happens in the third book, Cytonic, later this year.

 

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It by K. J. Parker

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

Back in 2019 I had the great pleasure of reading the fantasy comedy, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker that told an amusing story about a conman engineer using all his tricks to win a siege.  While this was an outstanding standalone read, Parker followed it up the next year with the wildly entertaining How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It.  Set in the same city as the first book, this outrageous sequel followed a new protagonist, a professional impersonator, who manages to become emperor.  Bold, funny, and very clever (especially the meta jokes about the first book), this was an amazing sequel, which ended up being one of the best reads of 2020.

 

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio

Howling Dark Cover

Back in 2018, debuting author Christopher Ruocchio had one of the best books of the year with the outstanding Empire of Silence, an ambitious and inventive gothic science fiction epic.  After setting up his massive universe in Empire of Silence, Ruocchio than proceeded to continue the narrative in the second book, Howling Dark.  This sequel had an amazing story, as Ruocchio expanded out his series in some very bold ways.  This sequel was a truly captivating and powerful piece of science fiction, especially the last epic extended sequence, and I had a fantastic time reading it.

 

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Men At Arms Cover

What’s a list on the Unseen Library without at least one Discworld book by Terry Pratchett, in this case, Men at Arms, the second book in the City Watch sub-series.  Men at Arms is a very clever and hilarious fantasy murder mystery novel that serves as a sequel to Guards! Guards!Guards! Guards! was an outstanding read that followed a small group of city watchmen as they attempted to solve a murder committed using a dragon.  This was one of the best books in entire Discworld collection, and it was a truly impressive feat that Pratchett was able to one-up-it with Men at Arms.  This sequel contained an amazing story that sees the invention of the Discworld’s first gun, which immediately leads to chaos and bloodshed.  Featuring an extremely clever mystery, as well as some great and iconic new characters, Men at Arms is one of Pratchett’s best books, and it helped to really elevate the City Watch novels in the Discworld hierarchy.

 

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Back in 2006, author Scott Lynch blew away fantasy fans with his outstanding debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora, a complex and powerful fantasy heist novel that was a lot of fun to read.  Lynch soon followed this amazing debut with an excellent second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies.  This served as a very clever continuation of the original story and contained another elaborate heist, as well as a fascinating focus on the nautical arts and piracy.  I deeply enjoyed this second novel, especially with the great twist at the end, and it was a very worthy follow up to Lynch’s incredible debut.

 

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth Cover

The final book on this list is Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, an exceptional novel I had the great pleasure of enjoying on audiobook last year.  Harrow the Ninth served as the very clever sequel to Muir’s debut, Gideon the Ninth, which followed a group of space-faring necromancers.  While the first book was really fun, I think that Muir greatly surpassed it with the sequel.  Focusing on a different protagonist, Harrow the Ninth has a very elaborate narrative to it, including a reimagined version of the first book that excludes the original protagonist for very clever reasons.  One of the most unique books I have ever read, I have a great appreciation for what Muir did with this sequel, and it is a fantastic and brilliant follow-up to Gideon the Ninth.

 

Well, that is the end of this latest list.  As you can see, there are some impressive sequels out there, and I have had a lot of fun with some of them.  Each of the above entries on this list are exceptional reads, and all come highly recommended, although in most cases you will also need to check out their preceding novels first.  This might be a list I come back to I the future, especially with some great sequels coming out in the next couple of years, and I look forward to seeing what second book could potentially make the cut in the future.