Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my Summer 2022/23 TBR

Top ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official Top Ten Tuesday topic for this week was around cozy reads, however, I decided to instead move up my quarterly post about the best upcoming books to read (TBR) for the following three months.  This is a regular post I do at the start of each season, and as this Tuesday is just before Summer (Winter for folks in the Northern Hemisphere), this is the ideal time to put this up.

For this list, I have come up with 10 of the most anticipated novels that are coming out between 1 December 2022 and 28 February 2023.  There are quite a few very cool novels set for release in the next few months that I am extremely excited for, including some of my most highly anticipated reads for the end of 2022 and the start of the New Year.  Due to how impressive some of these upcoming books are, it took me a little while to finalise my list but I was eventually able to whittle it down into a Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have primarily used the Australian publication dates to reflect when I will be able to get these awesome novels, and these might be somewhat different to the rest of the world.  I have previously discussed a number of these books before in prior Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be pretty incredible reads.

Honourable Mentions:

Three-Edged Sword by Jeff Lindsay – 6 December 2022

Three-Edged Sword Cover

The third book in a super fun heist thriller series by the author of the Dexter novels.  Three-Edged Sword follows on from Just Watch Me and Fool Me Twice and is a guaranteed thrill ride.

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Red Dirt Road by S. R. White – 5 January 2023

Red Dirt Road Cover

One of the more intriguing pieces of Australian fiction in the new year, Red Dirt Road follows on from the outstanding 2021 read, Prisoner, and presents a compelling and unique murder mystery in the Australian bush.

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The Last Kingdom by Steve Berry – 28 February 2023

The Last Kingdom Cover

There is no way that I am going to miss the next Steve Berry book, The Last Kingdom.  The latest entry in Berry’s long-running Cotton Malone series (which has featured such great books as The Malta Exchange, The Warsaw Protocol and The Kaiser’s Web), The Last Kingdom will see Cotton Malone roped into a deep historical conspiracy regarding the Bavarian royal family and sounds pretty damn fantastic.

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City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita – 28 February 2023

City Under One Roof Cover

Iris Yamashita will be bringing in one of the most compelling and highly anticipated debuts of 2023 with her great book, City Under One Roof, which will pit a detective against a mysterious community in Alaska.

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Top Ten List:

Warhammer 40,000: Witchbringer by Steven B. Fischer – 14 December 2022

Warhammer 40,000 - Witchbringer Cover

The first book I need to highlight on this list is the fantastic upcoming Warhammer 40,000 read, Witchbringer by Steven B. Fischer.  Set deep in the battlefields of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Witchbringer will follow an Imperial psyker, a living weapon who is reviled and barely tolerated by the rest of humanity, who is forced to return to her old unit and help them on a deadly mission.  Sure to be extremely exciting, while also diving into the dark side of humanity in the future, Witchbringer sounds extremely awesome and I can’t wait to end my year with another top Warhammer book.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: The Battle of Jedha by George Mann – 3 January 2023

Star Wars - The Battle of Jedha Cover

The new year is already looking pretty good, especially as one of the first books coming out is the fantastic Star Wars: The High Republic audiobook, The Battle of Jedha.  Part of the second phase of the excellent High Republic series, The Battle of Jedha will see an all-out war break out on the planet of Jedha and promises to be one of the more exciting pieces of recent Star Wars fiction, especially when read out by a full cast of talented narrators.

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Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry – 10 January 2023

Son of the Poison Rose Cover

I am exceedingly excited that one of the first books I will be reading in 2023 will be the fantasy epic, Son of the Poison Rose by one of my favourite authors, Jonathan Maberry.  The sequel to Maberry’s exceptional 2022 novel, Kagen the Damned, Son of the Poison Rose will continue the outstanding dark fantasy storyline contained in his first book as a failed royal guard attempts to save the remnants of his fallen kingdom from a dark ruler determined to destroy everything he loves.  Son of the Poison Rose will easily be one of the best books of 2023 and I cannot wait to check it out, especially in its audiobook version narrated by the always epic Ray Porter.

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Downfall by Louise Carey – 10 January 2023

Downfall Cover

I will definitely be grabbing a copy of Downfall by Louise Carey early next year, which sounds extremely awesome.  The final book in Carey’s Inscape series, Downfall will follow on from Inscape (one of my favourite debuts of 2021) and Outcast, and will take the reader back into a technologically controlled dystopian future.  This time the protagonists will have to take down the company they have long served after it uses its insidious technology to take control of everyone they know and love.  I have had an incredible time with this great science fiction series, and I cannot wait to see how it comes to an end, especially after that cool cliff-hanger at the end of Outcast.

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Unnatural History by Jonathan Kellerman – 14 February 2023

Unnatural History Cover

I have been having a lot of fun getting into Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series over the last few years, with such great and compelling murder mystery books as The Wedding Guest, The Museum of Desire, Serpentine and City of the Dead, and I am quite excited to read another one of his books in 2023.  This new book, Unnatural History, will see Kellerman’s compelling protagonists investigate another complex case, this time involving a dead photographer who made a living exploiting homeless people.  I am going to have an amazing time with Unnatural History and it will probably end up being one of the more impressive mystery novels of the new year.

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The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz – 14 February 2023

The Last Orphan Cover

Few spy thriller series have been more impressive in the last few years that Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X books.  Following a former elite government assassin turned vigilante, the Orphan X books form an action-packed and powerful series that I have really grown to love, especially with great entries like Out of the Dark, Into the Fire, Prodigal Son and Dark Horse.  Naturally, I am pretty excited to see how the series continues and I only have to wait until February to find out.  The next book in the series, The Last Orphan, will see the protagonist dragged back into government service and must choose whether to return to his assassin roots or risk the lives of everyone he loves.  This is set to be an extremely moving and exciting entry in the Orphan X series, and I cannot wait to see what will happen to Hurwitz’s brilliant and complex protagonist next.

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The Shadow Casket by Chris Wooding – 16 February 2023

The Shadow Casket Cover

After years of waiting, we are finally going to get a sequel to Chris Wooding’s outstanding fantasy epic, The Ember BladeThe Ember Blade was a particularly impressive fantasy novel that saw a group of desperate freedom fighters steal a legendary blade to inspire their country into rebellion.  The Ember Blade was something very special, and I have been eagerly waiting for the sequel, The Shadow Casket, which is set to feature even more blood, rebellion and heroics.  This is definitely going to be one of the top fantasy books of 2023 and I cannot wait to dive into its elaborate and addictive narrative.

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Dead of Night by Simon Scarrow – 16 February 2023

Dead of Night Cover

Few historical mystery books have more potential than the upcoming Dead of Night by Simon Scarrow.  The sequel to Scarrow’s excellent novel Blackout, Dead of Night will return to wartime Berlin and follow a police detective’s attempt to solve a terrible murder while going up against the corrupt Nazi Government.  I am very excited to see how this amazing mystery unfolds, and I know I am going to have a wonderful time reading this book.

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Burner by Mark Greaney – 21 February 2023

Burner Cover

Mark Greaney returns with another amazing entry in his bestselling Gray Man spy thriller series, which has already featured outstanding reads like The Gray Man, Mission Critical, One Minute Out, Relentless and Sierra Six.  The new book, Burner, will see impressive protagonist Court Gentry, go up against both the CIA and the Russian mafia to try and save a man’s life.  However, he will also have to compete with his love interest, as they try to work out why so many people want their target dead.  I have no doubt that this is going to be another epic novel from Greaney and I look forward to see the next chapter of the incredible Gray Man series unfold.

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Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 38: The Green Dragon by Stan Sakai – 21 February 2023

Usagi Yojimbo - The Green Dragon Cover

The final upcoming book I need to highlight is the next volume in the awesome Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai, The Green DragonUsagi Yojimbo still remains one of my favourite comic series of all time, and I am always extremely eager to get my hands on a new volume as soon as it becomes available.  This next volume will see Usagi and his companions go up against ghosts, ninjas and other dangerous foes, as they continue to journey around their chaotic version of Feudal Japan.  I already know that I am going to love this comic when it comes out, and I am very, very excited to get my hands on it.

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

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Horror Novels (Updated – 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.  In this latest edition of Top Ten Tuesday, readers get a Halloween Freebie, meaning that they can list whatever topic they want, although a horror or Halloween theme is encouraged.  So, with that in mind, I thought I would take this opportunity to update a previous list where I highlighted my favourite horror novels of all time.

Back in 2020 for Halloween, I came up with a list where I looked at my top ten favourite horror novels.  While horror is not my favourite genre, I ended up producing a rather interesting list with some unique entries that I was pretty happy with.  This list got a bit of interest, and I decided I would make a bit of effort to come back to update this list every Halloween, especially if I had some new horror novels to add to it.  I did an update last year with several awesome novels, and I have decided to come back to it again in 2022, especially as I have had the opportunity to check out some excellent and intense horror reads.

To sort out this update, I took a critical look at the previous version of the list and made some hard decisions about whether any of the horror novels I read in the last year might fit in better.  I ended up making a few changes, with new entries replacing some of the existing books (all new entries in red).  While I was sad to see some of the previously featured novels removed, I honestly felt that the new entries are better horror novels.  This resulted in a fun new version of this list, and I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

Honourable Mentions:

Later by Stephen King

Later Cover

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The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Sandman Act 1 Cover

I had to include the audiobook version of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman here, as it has some great horror elements to it.  While more of a fantasy/comic story than a pure horror comic, The Sandman did have some amazing horror sequences in it, which are really enhanced in the full-cast audiobook.  The Sandman features several great horror scenes, but the most disturbing would have to be the infamous diner scene.  Contained within the sixth chapter/issues, 24 Hours, this epic extended sequence shows a group of customers in a diner slowly driven insane and then brutally killed by the villainous Doctor Destiny using Dream’s stolen ruby.  This entire chapter is masterfully portrayed and you cannot help but shudder at every atrocity the innocent patrons experience during the worst 24 hours of their lives.  This trippy diner sequence was recently adapted in the recent The Sandman television series, and while that was good, especially with David Thewlis playing Doctor Destiny, I felt that the version in the comics was even darker and creepier.  This, and a several other dark scenes, ensure The Sandman an honourable mention on this list and this comic and its audiobook adaptation are highly recommended for all horror fans.

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A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

A History of the Vampire Uprising Cover

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Death of the Black Widow by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

Death of the Black Widow Cover

Another entry that is not a full horror book, but which features amazing horror elements is the recent novel by James Patterson and J. D. Barker, Death of the Black Widow.  Following a young cop who becomes obsessed with a mysterious woman he encounters on his first day on the job, Death of Black Widow is a twisty and intriguing read that takes the protagonist on a dangerous journey to the edge of sanity.  Initially portrayed as a compelling thriller story, this book eventually develops some excellent horror elements, which led me to include it as an honourable mention.  Extremely addictive, I loved this thriller/horror blend and I look forward to reading more books from this excellent team of writers.

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Top Ten List (unranked):

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep Cover

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Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero Cover

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The Dark by Jeremy Robinson

The Dark Cover

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Warhammer 40,000: The Bookkeeper’s Skull by Justin D. Hill

The Bookkeeper's Skull Cover

One of the more recent horror books I had the pleasure of reading was The Bookkeeper’s Skull by Justin D. Hill.  Part of the intriguing Warhammer Horror subseries, The Bookkeeper’s Skull is a haunting and brilliant tale that makes full use of the grim Warhammer 40,000 setting.  The book follows a planetary enforcer as he investigates a mysterious and cursed agricultural community plagued by a series of gruesome murders.  Hill creates a spooky and malevolent atmosphere, and you are constantly left wondering who is going to end up dead next.  Tightly paced and featuring some brilliantly dark examinations of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, The Bookkeeper’s Skull was an amazing read and I look forward to exploring more Warhammer Horror books in the future.

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The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

The Anomaly Cover

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Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Code Zero Cover

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World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z Cover 2

After years of hearing how awesome it was, I finally got around to enjoying the iconic zombie novel, World War Z by Max Brooks.  One of the more unique zombie books out there, World War Z recounts the history a devastating, world-wide zombie apocalypse and the various people it impacts.  Told through a brilliant chronicle method where multiple interesting characters recount their distinctive personal stories, you get an impressive, multifaceted narrative that covers the beginning, middle and end of the zombie wars.  Epic in its scope and filled with some great stories and characters, it honestly does not take long to get extremely addicted to World War Z.  While the focus is more on exploring the impacts a zombie apocalypse would have on the world, World War Z does have some pretty creepy moment.  The darker tales of underwater zombies, massacres of modern armies, and the mental turmoil suffered by zombie survivors, are excellent horror material that makes this an easy book to include here.  An epic and outstanding book that lived up to all the hype surrounding it.

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Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

deathtrooperscover

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Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution Cover

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Ink by Jonathan Maberry

Ink Cover

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That’s the end of this latest Top Ten Tuesday list.  I think that the new horror novels were great additions to the list, and I think this new version of the list turned out really well.  Each of the above novels, both new inclusions and existing ones, are outstanding reads that come highly recommended to all horror fans.  I look forward to seeing how this list evolves once again this time next year, especially as I am sure some amazing and spinetingling horror books are likely to come out in the next 12 months.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I read on Vacation

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants are required to list their top ten favourite books that they read of vacation.  This is a rather unique topic that I was quite intrigued to try and implement.  Like many fellow readers, I always enjoy a good book while on vacation, and I have managed to get into some cracking reads while away on holiday.  As such, it was an interesting experience to dive back into my trips for the last few years and try to remember what I was reading.  I ended up coming up with a pretty good list in the end, including a few honourable mentions.  I might have stretched the definition of a book to include audiobooks and other productions, but I am overall pretty happy with how this turned out.  Hopefully this following list will give you some reading ideas next time you are on vacation.

Honourable Mentions:

Asterix series – Foster/Tuncurry

Asterix and the Banquet Cover

I absolutely loved the Asterix comic strips when I was younger (still do to be honest) and I always remember bringing them with me to our regular coast trips as a kid.  These proved to be very fun reads while away at the beach and I would have brought most of them with me at one point or another.  The one I most distinctly associated with coast trips however is Asterix and the Banquet, as my parents got a rather good photo of me reading it, however all make pretty awesome and light reads while your away.

 

Cabin Pressure – Road Trip – Canberra to Coffs Harbour and Back

Cabin Pressure

My editor/wife got me into British radio dramas during several road trips we did, so I thought I would include a couple here, even if they technically aren’t books.  One of my favourites is the outstanding Cabin Pressure series, which she owns on CD.  Made up of 27 episodes and featuring an exceptional British cast (including Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, Benedict Cumberbatch, and John Finnemore), Cabin Pressure follows the chaotic crew of the world’s smallest airline.  Intensely funny and utterly brilliant, the road flew away as we listened to this and it comes very highly recommended.

 

Inspector Steine – Tasmania

Inspector Steine

In that same vein as Cabin Pressure, I also must recommend Lynne Truss’s outstanding Inspector Steine series, which we listened to while driving around Tasmania.  The Inspector Steine series is set in Brighton in the 1950s and follows an incompetent police station who fail to notice that their charlady is Brighton’s criminal mastermind.  Slick, deeply amusing and well worth a listen, this was a hilarious series to enjoy on a fantastic trip.

 

Unleashed by Amy McCulloch – Nevada

Unleashed Cover

The follow up to the cool young adult science fiction novel, Jinxed, Unleashed made for an excellent and compelling read while we were busing it around Nevada in 2019.  I read most of it on the coach trip up to the Grand Canyon, and I managed to pass a lot of drive time getting through this awesome conclusion to a fantastic story.

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Top Ten List:

World War Z by Max Brooks – Road Trip – Canberra to Gold Coast

World War Z Cover 2

Let us start this list off with one of the best road trip accompaniments I can recommend, World War Z by Max Brooks.  This iconic and brilliant zombie novel really made a recent length road trip from Canberra all the way up the coast to Queensland really easy, as we got quite hooked on its exceptional audiobook format.  Featuring an unparalleled voice cast and an exceedingly clever narrative, World War Z is a must read for all zombie fans, and this is honestly one of the better audiobooks I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

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Assassin’s Code by Jonathan Maberry – Sydney to San Francisco

Assassin's Code Cover

Long flights are the bane of my existence as I never get any sleep on them.  Luckily one lengthy flight I had between Sydney and San Francisco proved to be very entertaining as I was listening to one of Jonathan Maberry’s incredible Joe Ledger books, Assassin’s Codes.  Featuring a highly thrilling narrative about modern vampires attempting to end the world, I powered through this audiobook on the flight and even managed to write and post a review for it (written in the airport during our stopover at Fiji).  An amazing read for the best holiday ever.

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Age of Assassins by R. J. Barker – Japan

Age of Assassins Cover

I had a lot of fun getting to know one of my favourite new fantasy authors, R. J. Barker, when I was traversing Japan.  While Japan is such an incredible country with so much to see, there were a lot of train rides involved, so I spent a bit of time getting into some great books.  Easily the best was Age of Assassins by R. J. Barker, which was a particularly impressive debut.  Following two assassins as they are tasked to save a life rather than take one in a cursed castle, Age of Assassins was an excellent read and one that made me a lifelong fan of Barker, who has written some amazing stuff since.

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The Sandman by Neil Gaiman – Road Trip – Gold Coast to Kangaroo Valley

Sandman Act 1 Cover

Another epic audiobook I enjoyed on my recent road trip was the full cast adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s iconic The Sandman comic.  You can really get to grips with the complex and brilliant story contained in The Sandman comics when listening to it, and the exceptional voice cast really helped to bring everything to life.  As such, the second leg of our road trip from Gold Coast to Kangaroo Valley was a lot of fun, especially once we got wrapped up in the powerful narrative.  Another exceptional audiobook that is a very good option if you are looking for some entertainment on the road.

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Warhammer: Broken Honour by Robert Earl – Gold Coast

Warhammer - Broken Honour Cover

The next entry on this list is a book I actually picked up while away on holiday.  I managed to grab several great Warhammer novels while visiting a second-hand bookshop in the Blue Mountains and I ended up reading one while away on the same holiday.  That book was Broken Honour, a great fantasy read about a group of prisoners pressed into service as a regiment of soldiers.  Fun and action-packed, this was a great read for a holiday trip.

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Extinction Machine by Jonathan Maberry – San Francisco

Extinction Machine Cover

On the same trip where I listened to Assassin’s Code, I also had fun with the next Joe Ledger book, Extinction Machine.  Featuring a fantastic plot loaded with conspiracies about aliens, advanced aircraft and men in black, Extinction Machine was an amazing read, and one I had fun getting through on a couple of long coach rides between San Francisco and other great locations.  It was very easy for me to just dive into this compelling audiobook amid the long trip and I had a fun time getting through it.

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Redshirts by John Scalzi – Dubbo

Redshirts Cover

Another excellent book for road trips is the hilarious Redshirts by the always clever John Scalzi.  A very hilarious parody of Star Trek, Redshirts is a wonderful read and we had an outstanding time getting through it during a road trip to the town of Dubbo.  We had so many amazing laughs during this trip and Redshirts is a great listen for a shorter road trip.

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Timeless by R. A. Salvatore – Tasmania

Timeless Cover

Another book I started to read after buying it during a holiday was Timeless by R. A. Salvatore.  I always love a great high fantasy adventure and Salvatore does some amazing work in this genre.  As such, I made sure to grab a copy of Timeless while down in Tasmania during a fantastic trip and I ended up reading it while I was gone.  An excellent and compelling fantasy adventure, Timeless leads into an awesome trilogy by Salvatore and is a must read for fantasy fans.

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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson – Los Angeles (Disney World)

Galaxy's Edge - Black Spire Cover

I always enjoy a good Star Wars read but one book I was enjoying during a recent trip to America proved to be quite a fortuitous read.  That book was Black Spire by Delilah S. Dawson, which, while a fun book, is also a tie-in to Disney World’s Galaxy’s Edge park.  I ended up reading Black Spire while visiting Disney World back in 2019 and it was kind of fun to see the connections between the park and the book.

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Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Tieryas – Melbourne

Mecha Samurai Empire Cover

The final entry on this list is Mecha Samurai Empire, which I picked up and read a few years ago while visiting Melbourne.  I happened across this awesome book while visiting the city’s premier comic shop and I couldn’t walk past a book about mecha combat in an alternate history America.  Mecha Samurai Empire was an outstanding read and I instantly got hooked on its brilliant and captivating story in between enjoying all the fun sights and shows of the beautiful city of Melbourne.

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That’s the end of this list and as you can see, I have had the pleasure of reading/listening to some excellent books on some great trips over the years.  All the above make for excellent vacation reading, and I had a blast with all of them.  While I only had a good break a few months ago, I am already excited for whatever trip I have next and hopefully I can chuck in some more international travel now that the world is opening up again.  In the meantime, let me know which books you enjoyed on your vacations in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books by My Favourite Authors That I Still Need to Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday called for participants to list their favourite books with typographical covers.  However, I really didn’t have much for that one so instead I decided to dive into the backlog of topics from the Artsy Reader Girl’s past and choose one that I didn’t have a chance to do.  The one that caught my eye involved listing books by my favourite authors that I still need to read, and so that is what I am going to do.

As a reviewer, and indeed as a reader in general, it is very hard not to quickly pick up some favourite authors.  We all have that select group of awesome writers whose work just seems to naturally click with you, and you must go out of your way to read more of these books.  I honestly have quite a few of these favourite authors, and I am having a great time exploring their impressive reads.  However, due to time constraints I rarely have time to read an entire author’s catalogue of works and there is always some book or series of theirs that I need to check out.  As such, I had quite a few options to include in this latest list and I think I made some interesting choices, even if some of the authors I chose were a little predictable.

To fill out this list I went through all my favourite authors now and tried to figure out which of their books I haven’t had a chance to read yet, I would probably enjoy the most.  This resulted in a very big collection of books, which took a bit of choosing to get through.  I tried to narrow it down by excluding books that are part of a series that I am currently in the middle of reading, which removed a few books of this list (including the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the Gray Man series by Mark Greaney and more).  I also tried not to include recent releases from my top authors that I haven’t had a chance to read yet, as that would likely mimic some of my recent most anticipated reads lists.  This ended up being quite a fun list to pull together, so let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Malice by John Gwynne

Malice Cover

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Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

Mr Mercedes Cover 1

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Star Wars: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed

Star Wars - Twilight Company

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Warhammer 40,000: Xenos by Dan Abnett

Warhammer 40,000 - Xenos Cover

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Top Ten List:

The Demon Awakens by R. A. Salvatore

The Demon Awakens

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The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

The Heroes Cover

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Sword and Scimitar by Simon Scarrow

Sword and Scimitar Cover

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Dead of Night by Jonathan Maberry

Dead of Night Maberry Cover

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Sharpe’s Eagle by Bernard Cornwell

Sharpe's Eagle Cover

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Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance Cover

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The Silver Pigs by Lindsey Davis

The Silver Pigs Cover

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Bright Steel by Miles Cameron

Bright Steel Cover

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The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

The Black Echo Cover

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While I Live by John Marsden

While I Live Cover

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Well, that’s the end of this list.  As you can see, there are several epic and intriguing books out there from some of my favourite authors that I really want to read.  I have no doubt that all the above books are going to be pretty damn epic and I cannot wait to eventually try them out when I get a chance.  In the meantime, let me know which books do you need to read that that were written by your favourite authors.

Waiting on Wednesday – Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For my latest Waiting on Wednesday, I look at the dark fantasy book I most excited for in the early days of 2023 with the second Kagen the Damned novel from Jonathan Maberry, Son of the Poison Rose.

Son of the Poison Rose Cover

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Earlier this year I was very excited to read and review the first fantasy book from one of my favourite authors, Jonathan Maberry.  Maberry is a very talented and impressive author who most people would recognise from his excellent science fiction, thriller, and horror novels.  I have had a brilliant time over the last few years getting through some of Maberry’s exciting, clever, and often exceedingly brutal novels, with pretty much all of them getting five-star ratings from me.  This includes the novels in his incredible Joe Ledger series, such as Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory, Code Zero, Dogs of War and Deep Silence, the fantastic Rogue Team International sequel series, which has so far featured Rage (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2019) and Relentless (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2021), as well as some standalone reads like Ink (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2020).  However, even after enjoying all that I was unprepared for the awesomeness that was Kagen the Damned.

Kagen the Damned was Maberry’s first full foray in the fantasy genre, which turned out to be an exceptional and high octane read.  Set in an elaborate new fantasy realm, the book follows former hero Kagen Vale, who loses everything in a single night when the forces of the Witch-king of Hakkia invade his empire, kill the Empress and butcher the children he was sworn to protect.  Forsaken by his gods and broken inside, Kagen wanders the countryside in a haze, now calling himself Kagen the Damned, before eventually regaining his senses and launching an assault on the Witch-king and the dark powers he commands.  However, while the final battle is partially successful, it reveals several dark secrets that push Kagen even further as he tries to understand the full implications.

I had a remarkable time with Kagen the Damned and it is easily one of the better books I have had the pleasure to read in 2022.  The exceptional blend of powerful narrative, intense action, complex characters, and outstanding world-building was extremely impressive, and I loved every second I spent listening to it.  As such, I am now a pretty major fan of the Kagen the Damned series, and I was very excited to discover that I really don’t have that much longer to wait till I get my next fix of it.

The second entry in the Kagen the Damned series will by Son of the Poison Rose, which is currently set for release in January 2023.  Son of the Poison Rose will continue many of the storylines from the first novel and set the protagonists on a dangerous adventure to try and understand the enemy they are facing.

Plot Synopsis:

Son of the Poison Rose marks the second installment of New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry’s epic, swashbuckling Kagen the Damned series.

The Silver Empire is in ruins. War is in the wind. Kagen and his allies are on the run from the Witch-king. Wild magic is running rampant everywhere. Spies and secret cabals plot from the shadows of golden thrones.

Kagen Vale is the most wanted man in the world, with a death sentence on his head and a reward for him—dead or alive—that would tempt a saint.

The Witch-king has new allies who bring a terrible weapon—a cursed disease that drives people into a murderous rage. If the disease is allowed to spread, the whole of the West will tear itself apart.

In order to build an army of resistance fighters and unearth magical weapons of his own, Kagen and his friends have to survive attacks and storms at sea, brave the haunted wastelands of the snowy north, fight their way across the deadly Cathedral Mountains, and rediscover a lost city filled with cannibal warriors, old ghosts, and monsters from other worlds. Along with his reckless adventurer brothers, Kagen races against time to save more than the old empire… if he fails the world will be drenched in a tsunami of bloodshed and horror.

Son of the Poison Rose weaves politics and espionage, sorcery and swordplay, treachery and heroism as the damned outcast Kagen fights against the forces of ultimate darkness.

Well damn, now this sounds like it is going to be incredibly awesome.  I already knew that I was going to really love Son of the Poison Rose, but some of the details revealed above have made me even more excited, which I didn’t think was possible.  The mentions about a rage disease are pretty interesting, especially as that is something that Maberry has utilised in several of his previous novels, and its frankly terrifying to see every single time.  In addition, you have politics, espionage, battles on the sea, cannibals and so much more, which I am extremely keen in seeing unfold.  The idea of sea battles is particularly intriguing to me, and I am going to love seeing how a Maberry-written sea-battle turns out.

I am also very excited to see what sort of character development or emotional damage occurs amongst the various protagonists in this second book.  Maberry unleashed some deep personal bombs at the end of Kagen the Damned, and these are going to really hit Kagen hard, especially the reveal about who the Witch-king is and the two prisoners he is holding.  Both revelations are going to rattle the already unstable Kagen, and I know that Maberry is going to spend a lot of time breaking Kagen down again.  I am also quite interested in seeing some scenes from the Witch-kings perspective, and I am extremely curious to see what events led him to take up this dark mantle and stage an attack on the Silver Empire.

So, I doubt anyone is too surprised that I am really, really excited for Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry.  This book was already one of my most anticipated reads for 2023 even before I started reading Kagen the Damned, just because I love Maberry’s writing that much.  However, the extra plot details revealed about have raised my anticipation levels even higher, and this will probably be one of the first things I read next year.  I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that Son of the Poison Rose will be one of the best books of 2023 and I cannot wait to see how the epic Kagen the Damned series continues.

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Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books Written Over Ten Years Ago

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants had to list their top books that were written over ten years ago. 

This is a very intriguing, if difficult, topic to look at, as there are an absolute ton of amazing books released over 10 years ago (written before 2012) that I can think about for this list.  I kind of did a similar list on this subject a few years ago, with my list that looked at books written before I was born, however, there are a lot more intriguing entries that could be featured here, so I am going to have to think long and hard about what to include.

To limit my potential choices down (or make the decision harder), I chose to limit my entries to one book from each series or author, which will save me listing multiple Discworld novels for a start.  I also chose to exclude any comic book series from this list, mainly because pretty much every entry on my previous favourite comic series list ran or started more than 10 years ago.  Even with some of these restrictions, there were still an amazing number of books that I wanted to feature on this list, and I had to make some very hard decisions and cuts to figure it out.  However, I am very happy with how the final list turned out and I think it represents the absolute best books written over ten years ago that I have read.  So let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling – 2003

The Order of the Phoenix Cover

A classic from childhood and my favourite book in the series.

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World War Z by Max Brooks – 2006

World War Z Cover 2

I only recently read this, but it is pretty damn epic, especially in the full-cast audio adaption with some amazing actors behind it.

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Fire in the East by Harry Sidebottom – 2008

Fire in the East Cover

Still one of the best historical fiction books I have ever read with an awesome siege premise behind it.

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The Gray Man by Mark Greaney – 2009

The Gray Man Cover

The debut book from Mark Greaney, this was a very cool novel which the movie adaption honestly didn’t do justice to.

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Top Ten List:

Magician by Raymond E. Feist – 1982

Magician Cover

There were multiple books from Feist written more than 10 years ago that I could have featured on this list, including The Empire trilogy he cowrote with Janny Wurst.  However, I had to feature the book that started it all, MagicianMagician sets the entire universe up perfectly and has one of the strongest stories in the series.  A truly iconic fantasy read, Magician has inspired generations of fantasy fans and is well worth checking out.

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Legend by David Gemmell – 1984

Legend

Another fantasy classic I had to include, Legend was a brilliant and iconic debut from the legendary David Gemmell that I checked out a few years ago.  Easily one of the best siege novels of all time, Legend sees an impossibly large army besiege the world’s best fortress, defended by a small number of heroes.  Powerful, action-packed, and wildly addictive, this was an outstanding read that you will fly through.

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Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – 1989

Guards! Guards! Cover

Since pretty much the entirety of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series was written before 2012 (only Raising Steam and The Shepherd’s Crown were released after), I could have filled this list with Discworld novels and left happy.  Instead, I had to feature just one book from the series, which was pretty impossible, as nearly all of them rank amongst my favourite books.  I decided in the end to feature Guards! Guards!, not only because it is one of the strongest books in the series, but because it introduced the City Watch sub-series, which feature many of my favourites.  Guards! Guards! has a brilliant story to it that perfectly combines comedy, fantasy and crime fiction elements into one epic read, when the maligned Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork have to solve a series of murders caused by dragon.  Hilarious, clever, and impossible to put down, this is an incredible read that will make you a Pratchett fan for life.

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Homeland by R. A. Salvatore – 1990

Homeland Cover

Another author who I could have featured multiple books from, R. A. Salvatore is one of the best fantasy authors in the world for a reason and he has a ton of great reads released more than 10 years ago.  However, I limited it to my favourite book of his, Homeland, which expands on the early life of his standout character Drizzt Do’Urden.  Taking place in the Drow city of Menzoberranzan, this book shows the character’s complex youth in the treacherous Dark Elf society and helps to established Drizzt as one of fantasy’s most distinctive and likeable protagonists.  This was a truly impressive novel I have read multiple times, and its impacts can still be felt in Salvatore’s more recent books, such as Timeless, Boundless and Relentless, which show alternate perspectives to events of Homeland through other character’s eyes.

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The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden – 1995

The Third Day, the Frost Cover

I have long talked up the epic Tomorrow series by Australian author John Marsden, and it remains some of the best books I have ever read.  Following a group of teenagers as they attempt to survive a foreign invasion of Australia, the Tomorrow series is a powerful and deeply addictive young adult series that should be compulsory reading for all Australian kids.  I have so much love for this series that I had to feature one of the books from it here.  I ended up choosing the third (and probably the best) book, The Third Day, The Frost, which sees the protagonists attempt their biggest attack yet, only to suffer from some major consequences.  Not only is this one of the most actions packed and intense novels in the series, but it is also one of the most emotional damaging as the characters you have grown to love, go through some major events that leave them deeply traumatised.  An epic read that I cannot recommend enough.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – 2006

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

Few books have ever caught my imagination and attention than the brilliant fantasy heist book, The Lies of Locke Lamora.  The first book in Scott Lynch’s The Gentleman Bastards series, The Lies of Locke Lamora is an insanely good read that sees a group of conmen get dragged into a battle for a corrupt and dangerous city’s soul and must try to survive while also getting their score.  Perfectly balancing great characters with cool fantasy and impressive thriller elements, The Lies of Locke Lamora is so much fun to read and I would strongly recommend it to any fantasy fan.  I could have also featured the second book Red Seas Under Red Skies (released in 2007) here, as it was also extremely good, but I do think the first book was the best.  Highly recommended!

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – 2007

The Name of the Wind Cover

I had to include The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss on this list as it is honestly one of my favourite fantasy books of all time.  Following a legendary figure as he recounts the early days of his life, you find yourself getting dragged into the tale of Kvothe, a man destined to kill a king and become infamous.  The Name of the Wind perfectly introduces the character and sets you deep into his intense and massive life story, which features tragedy, triumph, music, and an epic amount of time spent in a cool magic school.  I love this book so much, and I really need to read it again and give it a proper review.  The sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear is just as good, but I think the first book is a better one to include here.

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Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie – 2009

Best Served Cold Cover

I honestly could have featured any of the three books from Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy on this list, as all three are a masterclass in dark fantasy fiction.  However, I decided to go with the third and final book in the trilogy, Best Served Cold, as I think it was the best book.  Not only did it bring together all the epic storylines from the first two novels perfectly, but all the main characters who you have been getting extremely close to, have their defining moments here.  There is so much awesomeness crammed into this book, and its impacts will be felt from years to come, as the sequel Age of Madness trilogy (made up of A Little Hatred, The Trouble With Peace and The Wisdom of Crowds), follows on from it perfectly.

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The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry – 2010

The Dragon Factory

I had to feature an entry from the epic Joe Ledger series here on this list, and luckily a couple of fun entries were released more than 10 years ago.  While I could have gone with the first book, Patient Zero (modern zombies) or the fantastic third release, The King of Plagues (a world-ending cabal in action), I went with the second book, The Dragon Factory, which I think was one of Maberry’s best.  The Dragon Factory takes damaged protagonist Joe Ledger on a deadly mission to save the world from two warring teams of advanced genetic engineers who have their own insidious plans.  Intense, action-packed, and featuring some heart-rending tragedy, The Dragon Factory was an instant favourite of mine, and I cannot talk it up enough.

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The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – 2010

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The final book I want to highlight on this list is the massive and deeply impressive The Way of the Kings by impossibly talented Brandon Sanderson.  This was the first book in Sanderson’s iconic The Stormlight Archive and follows several impressive and highly developed characters on an epic journey throughout a bold new fantasy world.  This novel has everything you could possibly want, and I cannot emphasise the sheer level of creativity and universe building it contains.  There is so much to love about this book, especially the complex and highly damaged characters, and I would recommend this to all fantasy fans.

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That’s the end of this latest Top Ten Tuesday.  As you can see, I have had the great pleasure of reading several outstanding novels that were published more than ten years ago, and some of them are counted amongst my favourite all-time books.  All the novels featured above are extremely epic and I would recommend all of them to readers looking for their next obsession.  I had a lot of fun pulling this list together, and this might be one I revisit in the future, especially after I go back and read some more older novels.

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry

Kagen the Damned Cover

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Audiobook – 10 May 2022)

Series: Kagen the Damned – Book One

Length: 20 hours and 53 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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One of my favourite unusual thriller writers, the legendary Jonathan Maberry, enters the world of fantasy in a big way with Kagen the Damned, a dark fantasy masterpiece with a brutal heart to it.

I have made no secret of the fact that I am a huge Jonathan Maberry fan.  I got into Maberry’s writings when I chanced upon a copy of his 10th Joe Ledger novel, Deep Silence, a few years ago, which introduced me to both Maberry’s unique writing and his iconic protagonist, the titular Joe Ledger, a badass action hero who saves the world from crazy and dark science creations.  I deeply enjoyed Deep Silence (it was one of my favourite books of 2018) and quickly moved onto his other Joe Ledger books, diving back to the start of the series with Patient Zero, and then working my way through the rest of the awesome entries, such as The Dragon Factory, Code Zero, Predator One and Dogs of War.  I also kept up with his latest releases, including the two entries in the follow-up Rogue Team International series, Rage (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2019) and Relentless (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2021), and his standalone novel Ink (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2020).  I have been very eager to see what awesome novel Maberry releases in 2022, and, luckily for me, that materialised in the form of Kagen the Damned.

Kagen the Damned is an interesting and unique read from Maberry, as it is his debut foray into the fantasy genre.  While many of his other books have had fantasy elements to them (albeit with a horror edge), this is his first pure fantasy fiction novel, as well as the start of his Kagen the Damned series.  Naturally I was rather curious about how Maberry would transition to a new genre, and while I was a tad disappointed that the Rogue Team International series isn’t getting a new entry any time soon, Kagen the Damned ended up pretty high on my most anticipated reads for 2022 list.  After a few weeks of other books getting in the way, I finally got the chance to listen to Kagen the Damned, and it turned out to be quite an impressive novel.

Kagen Vale was once one of the most trusted and revered fighters in the entire Silver Empire.  A scion of the legendary Vale family, who have served the Silver Empire for generations, Kagen was a beloved member of the royal court and so highly regarded that he was entrusted as the guardian of the Seedlings, the Empresses’ children.  That was until the fateful night when, out drinking and whoring, he was drugged and left for dead.  Awakening in a daze, Kagen found himself in the midst of hell as the capital of Silver Empire, Argentium, was besieged by a foe long thought dead, the dread nation of Hakkia, whose dark magic has once again emerged to blot out the world.

Arriving to the palace too late to save anyone, including the Seedlings, Kagen falls into despair at failing his sacred duty and can only watch in horror as the Gods of the Garden, the deities of the Silver Empire, turn their back on him and damning him for all time.  Now with everything and everyone he has ever known lost forever, Kagen the Damned wanders the ruined countryside a broken drunk, dreaming of revenge on the one man responsible for all his ills, the mysterious and feared Witch-king of Hakkia.

However, not everything is as lost as it seems, as shadowy figures across the world being to formulate their plans to repel the Witch-king’s evil.  As two young women embark on a deadly quest to awaken a sleeping, ancient god from beneath the waves, a covenant of resistance attempts to find their own magic to oppose the Witch-king with.  Determining that Kagen may bear the best chance of recovering the tools needed to succeed, they manipulate events to set him on his path to revenge.  However, what price will a doomed man truly pay to get the revenge he so desperately seeks, and will Kagen be ready for the terrible secrets he uncovers along the way?  Only the gods and the damned know for sure!

Well, it is now more apparent than ever that there is no Jonathan Maberry book I will not enjoy to the extreme.  Kagen the Damned is an incredible and very memorable novel from Maberry, who puts the ‘dark’ in dark fantasy, with this barbaric and action-packed journey into hell.  Making use of his trademark style, flair for horror and exceptional character work, Maberry pulls together a deeply addictive and extremely exciting story that I fell in love with very, very quickly.  This was another easy five star read for me, and I loved every single second I spent reading it.

Maberry once again blew me away with an outstanding and high-action narrative, and I quickly got very attached to Kagen the Damned.  This book has an extremely memorable start to it, showing the bloody fall of Argentium from the perspective of Kagen, who awakens from a drunken haze to find a vast army in his supposedly impenetrable city, destroying and killing everything they see.  This was a very compelling and brutal start the novel, and its one that I quite enjoyed, especially as you see just how dangerous the enemies are and the chaos they have unleashed.  Maberry does a great job of setting up multiple key storylines, settings and characters in this early section, and while the focus is primarily on Kagen, you get some interesting insights into other figures that will impact the rest of the book.  The entire first part of the book is very distinctive and really showcases how dark this novel is going to get, especially when it comes to the character of Kagen and the fate of the royal children.  This whole first section ends on a brilliant note, with Kagen left broken and damned, while the once great Silver Empire, which you only saw glimpses of, is destroyed and replaced with a new world order.

Following this epic start, the narrative slows down a little, as Maberry works to set up some alternate storylines and characters, while as taking the time to do some compelling and extended word building.  Set in the direct aftermath of the opening sequence, the story primarily splits into three different streams at this point, with the main one following a despondent Kagen as he traverses the former Silver Empire, lost in grief and drink.  At the same time, two separate storylines tell some great connected narratives, with one following two young women as they journey off into the unknown, while the rest focuses on the Hakkian takeover back in Argentium.  This focus on the Hakkians and their plans, as told by the Witch-king’s advisors, as well as a resistance group, is very awesome, and it was fascinating to see some impressive political intrigue going on behind the scenes as the antagonists work to consolidate power through various methods.  While the rest of the narrative continues in a straight line, the story around Kagen slowly adapts as he meets some new friends and begins his mission of revenge as planned, with some detours.

This leads up to the excellent final part of the book, which I powered through extremely quickly to see how everything ended.  All three major storylines are reaching there climax here, and they start to blend a lot more closely, especially the ones focusing on Kagen and the Hakkians.  Everything leads up to a highly anticipated confrontation that sees Kagen finally face his enemies, and it is just as epic as I was hoping.  There is a ton of action, tragedy, twists and revelations here, as many of the plot elements and storylines come full circle.  I loved the various reveals that happen here, and most have been set up really well throughout the extended course of the narrative.  I really should have seen the identity of the Witch-king coming, but it was the right choice by Maberry, which leaves some big questions open for the future.  Everyone will come away from Kagen the Damned extremely satisfied, as Maberry leaves everyone on a brilliant note, that ensures that readers will definitely come back for more.  This is an outstanding and deeply addictive narrative that is guaranteed to grab your attention early one and refuse to let go.

I really enjoyed how well Kagen the Damned was written, as Maberry brought his unique style to bear to help create an outstanding story.  In many ways, this novel proved to be essentially one of Maberry’s thrillers set in a fantasy universe.  Indeed, there were a lot of similarities in the style, the structure of the chapter, the pacing and even the use of familiar horror elements that I have previously seen and loved in the Joe Ledger books and I think this cool style worked well to tell an intense fantasy narrative.  As such, Kagen the Damned is a swift and well-structured book that pushes the story along at a swift pace, while also taking the time to build up the universe and the multitude of characters.  Maberry utilises a great range of story elements throughout this novel, and the readers are treated with a fantastic blend of action, intrigue, dark, over-the-top moments, horror, despair and humour, as the characters experience all manner of devastating trials and oppositions.

I also have a lot of love for the way that the author sets up the story and showcases the elaborate events that are occurring.  Maberry makes excellent use of a huge number of shorter, focused chapters told from a variety of viewpoints.  These briefer chapters really increase the pace and intensity of the book, and I deeply appreciated how the narrative quickly jumped across the various characters.  The interplay between the three central storylines, which are primarily anchored around Kagen, is extremely good, and I loved seeing the characters react to some of the same events or actions of their fellow cast members.  These storylines are also joined by a series of interludes that show the various impacts that the Hakkian invasion has on the wider world, especially those attuned to magic.  These interludes are usually very fascinating, and they are often used to introduce some minor supporting characters in a fun and unique way.  I loved the complexity that these interludes usually have, and the often self-contained stories are well structured and always feature a distinctive or chilling conclusion.  Maberry uses these interludes cleverly, often inserting them between major or extremely powerful chapters to help relieve tension, or to remind the reader of the wider stakes or events occurring around the main story.  I definitely enjoyed this larger look at the world that Maberry provided through them, and it was an outstanding part of Kagen the Damned’s story.

One of the major highlights of the writing in Kagen the Damned is the intricately described and fast-paced action, which is a major hallmark of Maberry’s writing style.  Maberry has always excelled at writing brutal fight scenes in a way that paints a vivid mental picture for the reader, and this was once again the case for Kagen the Damned.  The many, many action and fight sequences are brought to life in exquisite and bloody detail, and the reader is easily able to imagine every strike and slice as they happen.  This makes the action sequences really pop, and they were a particularly awesome highlight of this great book.  This focus on action and combat was really effective in this fantasy novel, and it was very cool to see Maberry bring his knowledge of combat and the accompanying writing skill to bear on large scale battles between armed and armoured fighters, while magic and gods blow stuff away around them.  There are some really great fight scenes loaded throughout this book, and I loved every skirmish, battle and duel that was featured within it.

While I did really love the action and brutal combat sequences within Kagen the Damned, I probably should add a warning about how dark and gruesome it can get in places.  Maberry’s writing style has always relied on over-the-top violence, cruelty and brutality to a degree, and this was once again the case in Kagen the Damned, which not only featured a ton of killing but also gruesome scenes of torture, corpse desecration and depictions of sexual violence.  While I think that these ultra-violent moments do work to showcase just how dark and savage the new world order is, they are often a bit hard to witness.  I will note that Maberry did take the time to discuss the emotional and social impacts of the various acts of sexual violence in the book, rather than just including them for gratuitous effect.  There are also some great scenes where the protagonist calls out and belittles several characters willing to commit such acts, before delivering his own violent justice, and I think that the author did his best to show have damaging it can be in his own way.  However, readers should probably be aware that these scenes exist, as people might find them to be a bit shocking.

I was also a major fan of the cool new fantasy universe that Maberry cooked up with Kagen the Damned, mainly because it is such a distinctive creation of the author.  Set on a giant continent made up of various nations, this is an impressive and compelling world, filled with a unique history, gods, people and settings.  The author does a great job of swiftly introducing this world and some of the key parts of its history in the early parts of the book, mainly so that readers can be a little more shocked at the early events and full appreciate the destruction and change that the Hakkian nation brings with it.  Maberry is clearly emulating some classic fantasy novels and settings throughout Kagen the Damned, and I loved seeing this bold new world that he has created.  There are some unique and cool elements featured within, and I liked how there are certain shades of grey shown when it comes to the morality and righteousness of the various factions.  Maberry also takes the time to highlight the changes that are coming to the world, thanks to the return of the Hakkian Witch-king, and the slow and steady resurgence of magic and the death of a certain pantheon of gods, are highlighted really well, both in the main story and the interlude chapters.

Perhaps one of the most distinctive features of this new world is the horror elements that Maberry worked into the plot.  I really should not have been surprised at the strong Lovecraftian elements that featured, as the author has used them strongly in some of his previous books.  However, it is even more explicit here in Kagen the Damned, with several notable Elder Gods playing key roles in the plot and even appearing in some epic scenes.  While I am not personally a fan of Lovecraft, I did quite like how Maberry utilised these elements throughout this book, and they gave parts of the book a darker and more eldritch quality that I quite enjoyed.  This, and certain discussions about other worlds and alternate realities, potentially links this series to some of Maberry’s existing works, and it wouldn’t surprise me if there were some form of crossover in the future, although it would have to be handled well.  I had a great time exploring this new fantasy world in Kagen the Damned, and I look forward to seeing what other surprises and dark gods appear in future entries of this series.

I also must highlight the incredible character work featured with Kagen the Damned, as Maberry went all out to create an excellent and unique cast of characters, whom the excellent narrative revolves around.  There are some amazing characters featured within this novel, and the author works hard to feature all of them in some impressive roles.  I had a lot of fun with the huge cast of Kagen the Damned, and there are deep and emotional figures featured here.

The most prominent and intriguing character is the titular Kagen, who takes on the moniker of Kagen the Damned.  Maberry really does a number on his central protagonist early on, as Kagen awakens from a drunken haze to find that everything he cared about and held dear had been lost while he slept.  Despite his best efforts to redeem himself in the battle that follows, he still fails miserably, and manages to escape the conquered capital in a fractured haze.  Broken, dazed and emotionally destroyed, Kagen becomes even more despondent when he sees his gods in the sky turn their back on him due to his failure to maintain his sacred oaths, which convinces him that he is damned.  Naturally, these events leave him severely emotionally damaged, and he spends most of the book trying to come to terms with his failure while also trying to find some way to get revenge on the Witch-king for all he has done.  A large amount of the book is dedicated to Kagen falling into despair, and Maberry presents a realistic depiction of a man who has lost everything and who is barely able to survive, relying heavily on drink and violence to get through his days.  While Kagen is eventually able to throw off much of this despair, it is still lurking within him, and he is often shown living in regret at his failure, even though no one else blames him as much as he does.  Kagen working through these complex feelings of failure results in much of the novels emotional strength, and Kagen serves as a moving and powerful heart for the entire novel.

While I did deeply enjoy this intriguing central character and his rough and emotional journey through this book, it is hard not to notice some similarities between Kagen and another one of Maberry’s protagonists from another series.  Kagen is in many ways a fantasy version of Joe Ledger, with similarities including a propensity for violence, extreme skill with knives (technically short-swords in Kagen’s case), and even a similar sense of humour during some of the lighter moments of the books.  There is also the same high level of mental damage brought on by extreme trauma, with both characters often seeking revenge against the people who wronged them and those they loved.  Despite these similarities, I still really appreciated Kagen as a protagonist, and I felt that some of his additional elements, such as his complex familiar bonds and strong sense of failure, did set him apart in some key ways.  No matter what, Kagen is a pretty awesome character to follow, and I loved seeing him continue to go through all his dark moments to keep going.

Aside from Kagen, there are several other amazing characters featured in this novel, all of whom have some outstanding storylines around them.  Two of the most prominent are Ryssa and Miri, who were in Argentium when the Hakkians invade.  Both junior members of the Silver Empire’s clergy, the two women initially appear to be primarily concerned with surviving the invasion.  However, it soon becomes apparent that Miri, whose knowledge of the gods and creatures of this world are far greater than they should be, has a different agenda.  Taking Ryssa with her on a big journey to a remote island nation, Miri soon engages in a plot to save the world her way.  Ryssa and Miri make up a fun combination that Maberry weaves some interesting storylines around.  While these characters aren’t explored as deeply as Kagen, you still get a great sense of who they are, particularly Ryssa, who is the primary point-of-view character between them.  Their entire storyline is covered in mystery and uncertainty as Ryssa is left in the dark about what is coming her way.  I liked the religious world-building that went into this character storyline, and there are some excellent moments in it loaded with tragedy and despair.  Even with their storyline being mostly separated from the rest of the characters, and it was a little predictable that Maberry would turn them into a lesbian couple, they had a compelling relationship and I felt that they added a lot to the narrative.

I also had a great deal of fun with the primary Hakkian characters featured in Kagen the Damned.  While they are ostensibly the antagonists of the book, Maberry takes the time to really establish the main four characters and presents them as a lot more complex and even sympathetic in places.  The main Hakkian character is their leader, the Witch-king, a character shrouded in mystery for most of the book.  A previously unknown figure, the Witch-king uses his magic to defeat the entire Silver Empire in a night and then spends the rest of the book trying to set himself up as the legitimate ruler of the land while also advancing the position of his brutal god.  I loved the way that Maberry kept the details about the Witch-king’s past and identity hidden for most of the narrative, although there is some great foreshadowing of his identity scattered throughout the novel.  The Witch-king cuts a fantastic and menacing figure for most of the book, and it was intriguing to see him present himself as a fair and loving ruler, while simultaneously exuding an aura of menace and dark magic.  It was pretty hilarious to see him terrify his key advisors for much of the book, and I loved all the hints about his true objectives.  An overall excellent central antagonist, I look forward to getting more details about him and his history in the rest of the series, especially after the revelations at the end of this book.

The other three key Hakkian characters are the Witch-king’s advisors, the chamberlain Lord Nespar, necromancer Lady Kestral, and newcomer Jakob.  Nespar and Kestral are fantastic characters who spend most of the book administrating the Witch-king’s will, running his empire, hunting for Kagen, and setting up the upcoming coronation of the Witch-king to become emperor.  While they are initially shown to be quite dangerous and evil, mainly due to their role in destroying the Silver Empire and Kestral’s disturbing magic, you eventually see that there is a lot more to them.  In particular, you see that they are actually extremely terrified of the Witch-king and are desperately obeying his will in order to survive.  You actually end up feeling a bit sympathetic for the pair of them, even after you see Kestral tear a corpse apart for a ritual, and I enjoyed the intrigue and politics they got involved with to rule the new empire.  The other character is Jakob, a Silver Empire historian who is drafted into the Witch-king service as his minister for propaganda.  Rechristened as Jakob Ravensmere, he becomes fully compliant in the Hakkian takeover and proves to be a very competent advisor and political mind while also working to rewrite history to increase the legitimacy of the Witch-king.  It was extremely fascinating to see Jakob discussing the control given by those who control history and propaganda, and I really enjoyed his role in the new empire.  It was also fun to see his rather quick slide towards the dark side as he fully embraces the Hakkian lifestyle and even starts to develop a taste for a power.  I always love seeing Maberry’s narrative unfold from the antagonist’s point of view, and this worked out extremely well again in Kagen the Damned.

The final characters I need to highlight are some of the excellent supporting cast surrounding Kagen.  Kagen has two excellent companions who work with him throughout the book, Tuke and Filia.  Tuke is a giant professional thief who recruits Kagen for a job that will help an anti-Hakkian resistance movement.  Tuke serves as the comic relief for much of the book, and I loved the outstanding chemistry he had with Kagen.  The two play off each other extremely well, and their excellent camaraderie and humour were pretty fun to see.  Not only does Tuke have some of the best lines (and the funniest curses) in the book, but he also serves as an emotional sounding board to Kagen, helping him get better after all the tragedy he experienced.  Filia is a strong-willed warrior and former associate of Kagen who finds herself dragged into the chaos around the war and Kagen’s wild adventures.  Filia’s no-nonsense attitude and sarcasm are a great counterpart to the other characters in Kagen the Damned, and I especially liked it when it combined with the humour of Kagen and Tuke.  These characters, and more, really enhanced the overall quality of this impressive narrative, and I loved seeing their powerful storylines unfold in some excellent and enjoyable ways.

There was no way that I was going to check out the new Jonathan Maberry novel in any format other than audiobook.  I have had some outstanding experiences with Maberry’s audiobooks over the years, and all of them have been deeply impressive and extremely enjoyable.  This again proved to be the case with Kagen the Damned, as I had an outstanding time having this dark epic read out to me, especially as it really helped me to absorb all the details of the characters and the impressive new universe.  With a runtime of just under 21 hours, this is a pretty lengthy audiobook to get through, but it is well worth the time investment, especially as it delivers the story in such an awesome way.

Easily the best thing about this audiobook is the outstanding narration from the very, very awesome Ray Porter.  Porter, who is one of my favourite audiobook narrators, who has previously narrated Maberry’s books, as well as contributing his voice to other works like The Apollo Murders and The Sandman audio adaptation.  As such, the moment I heard that Porter was also going to narrate Kagen the Damned, I knew that I had to get this audiobook.  Porter has an amazing ability to move the story along, and his voice is perfect for all the intense action, world-building and intrigue Maberry features in his novels.  I love the way that Porter dives into the various characters featured in the books, with every single person getting their own distinctive voice, while Porter also effortlessly emotes all their emotion to the listener.  This includes a very sinister voice that Porter saves for when the villains are talking or some incredibly dark moments are happening, and having him use variations of this voice to highlight just how brutal a moment is being, is always a great experience.  It also works well when the characters start speaking in the languages associated with the Elder Gods, and the resultant ceremonies and spells are quite spooky to hear in Porter’s voice.

Porter also did a particularly good job at inhabiting the voice of Maberry’s central protagonist, Kagen, and you get a real sense of who he is and the intense pain he is feeling throughout the book.  While the voice Porter uses from Kagen is a little like that of Joe Ledger from Maberry’s other audiobooks (a side effect of Porter ensuring that the main protagonist’s voice matches the tone he uses for basic narration), Porter does add a little more of a growl to it here, which helped to a degree.  This was another incredible performance from Porter, and I am so very glad that they got him back to narrate Maberry’s new series.  I cannot emphasise how outstanding the Kagen the Damned audiobook turned out to be (although I did feature it in my recent best audiobooks from the first half of 2022 list before I’d even finished it), and this is the absolute best way to enjoy Kagen the Damned.

Well, after rabbiting on for nearly seven pages, I think it is exceedingly obvious that I loved Kagen the Damned.  Jonathan Maberry’s latest novel was extremely compelling and deeply exciting, and I was really impressive with the author’s jump to the fantasy genre.  Featuring a clever, complex, and action-packed narrative loaded with destruction, thrilling revenge and some great, damaged characters, Kagen the Damned was an outstanding read and its one that I absolutely flew through.  Kagen the Damned is easily one of the top books of 2022 and this is a favourite new series for me.  I am extremely excited to see where the Kagen the Damned series will go in the future, and the next book, Son of the Poison Rose, is out in a few months’ time, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Amazon     Book Depository

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.

WWW Wednesday – 13 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?

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Kagen the Damned Cover

I am still listening to the Kagen the Damned audiobook by Jonathan Maberry, although I have made some steady progress in the last week, and I am currently over the half-way mark.  I am still really enjoying this impressive and exceedingly dark fantasy novel and I extremely intrigued about how it is going to turn out.  I will hopefully finish Kagen the Damned off completely in the next week or so, and I reckon that Maberry still has some major shocks and dangerous twists to come.

What did you recently finish reading?

Black River by Matthew Spencer (Trade Paperback)

Black River Cover

 

Van Horstmann by Ben Counter (Paperback)

Van Horstmann Cover

 

Runefang by C. L. Werner (Paperback)

Runefang Cover

 

The Accomplice by Steve Cavanagh (Trade Paperback)

The Accomplice Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Essex Dogs by Dan Jones (Trade Paperback)

Essex Dogs 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 – My Favourite Audiobooks from the First Half of 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week is Books Covers That Feel Like Summer, but I am going to do something a little different and instead look at my favourite audiobooks from the first half of 2022.  This is a continuation of my Top Ten list from a few weeks ago that featured my favourite overall novels from the first half of 2022.

People familiar with my blog will know that I have a great deal of love for the audiobook format, and it is one of the main ways that I tend to check out books.  Each year I enjoy a great number of different audiobooks and use the format to check out recent releases and older novels.  I have been enjoying audiobooks for years, and it is amazing the various ways in which listening to a book can enhance your enjoyment.  A great narrator can really bring you into the story, and I find that listening to a book enhances the amount of detail that you can take in.  In addition, other features, such as captivating voices, music and sound effects can really make an audiobook something special, and there some great examples of that out there.  This year alone I have listened to several outstanding audiobooks, includes some of my favourite books from early 2022.  Because I love this format so much, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight my favourite audiobooks from the first half of the year.

To pull this list off I had a look at all the 2022 releases that I listened to on audiobook to figure out my favourites.  It turns out that I have already gone through quite a few this year so there was a very large collection of potential additions to this list.  I was eventually able to whittle it down to the ten audiobooks I consider to be the best, as well as a generous honourable mention section.  There is a bit of a crossover with my previous Favourite Books from the First Half of 2022 list, but I think there are enough new additions to make this list worthwhile.  I did prioritise audiobook production and narration over story in a few places, as outstanding narration or use of music and sound effects can enhance the plot.  I also ended up having to include quite a few Warhammer audiobooks in this list, not just because they were awesome, but because I have also listened to an inordinate amount of them in the first half of this year.  Despite this slight lack of diversity, I am pretty happy with how the overall list turned out and I think that the below entries really highlight what my favourite audiobooks from the first half of the year are.

Honourable Mentions:

Krieg, written by Steve Lyons and narrated by Timothy Watson

Warhammer 40,000 - Krieg Cover

An intriguing and action-packed Warhammer 40,000 audiobook that follows one of the more unique Imperial Guard regiments.

 

Engines of Empire, written by Richard S. Ford and narrated by a full cast

Engines of Empire Cover

A great start to a new fantasy series brought to life by a talented team of voice actors.

 

Star Wars: Brotherhood, written by Mike Chen and narrated by Jonathan Davis

Star Wars - Brotherhood Cover

A fantastic Star Wars novel that featured the excellent voice of Jonathan Davis and the exceptional music and sound effects that make every Star Wars audiobook a wonderful treat.

 

Day of Ascension, written by Adrian Tchaikovsky and narrated by Harry Myers

Day of Ascension Cover

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s freaky and fun Warhammer 40,000 debut is made even better by its audiobook format, narrated by the amazing Harry Myers.

Top Ten List:

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

Ghazghkull Thraka - Prophet of the Waaagh! Cover

An awesome Warhammer 40,000 novel about the legendary Ork warlord, Ghazghkull Thraka.  Crowley does a wonderful job writing a brilliant deep dive into this amazing figure and the excellent team of Kelly Hotten, Paul Putner and Jon Rand, really bring all the distinctive and over-the-top characters to life in an impressive fashion with their narration.  One of the best Warhammer audiobooks I have ever listened to.

 

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

Sierra Six Cover

Mark Greaney’s The Gray Man series continues to shine with this latest entry in the series that explores the early days of the character, while also presenting him with an intense modern adventure.  Narrated by the always incredible Jay Snyder, this was a superb audiobook that is really worth listening to.

 

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

The Hunger of the Gods Cover

Colin Mace helps to enhance John Gwynne’s already deeply impressive The Hunger of the Gods to even greater levels in this outstanding audiobook.  Easily the best way to enjoy this epic novel.

 

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

Assassinorum Kingmaker Cover

I have so much love for this amazing Warhammer 40,000 novel that sets legendary Imperial assassins against giant medieval inspired mecha.  Everything about this book is awesome and Gareth Armstrong’s excellent narration really helps to bring all the cool battles and intrigue to life.

 

Sylvanas, written by Christie Golden and narrated by Patty Mattson

World of Warcraft - Sylvanas Cover

A book about the life of Sylvanas Windrunner read by the voice of the character from the World of Warcraft games.  Need I say more?

 

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

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

Legendary Star Wars narrator Marc Thompson ensured that the audiobook version of this latest major entry in The High Republic series novels was a real hit.  Perfectly combining Thompson’s amazing voice with the franchise’s classic sound effects and music, this was another exceptional Star Wars audiobook that deeply enhanced the awesome disaster narrative Claudia Gray had created.

 

The Vincula Insurgency, written by Dan Abnett and narrated by Toby Longworth

The Vincula Insurgency Cover

Dan Abnett’s outstanding return to his iconic Gaunt’s Ghosts series wouldn’t be complete without Toby Longworth providing some fantastic narration.  This was a short, but extremely sweet Warhammer 40,000 audiobook, and I loved both the intense story, and the excellent way Longworth brought the characters to life.

 

Dark Horse, written by Gregg Hurwitz and narrated by Scott Brick

Dark Horse Cover

Gregg Hurwitz provided another impressive entry in the Orphan X series this year with Dark Horse, and narrator Scott Brick was once again there to ensure that the audiobook version was a top-notch experience.

 

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

Steel Tread Cover

The already cramped and intense atmosphere Andy Clark brought into this compelling tank-focussed Warhammer 40,000 novel, was greatly enhanced in its audiobook format, as you got to really feel what the characters were experiencing.  Throw in some amazing narration from Remmie Milner and this proved to be an exhilarating and deeply addictive audiobook to check out.

 

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

Kagen the Damned Cover

The final entry on this list is the shocking and complex dark fantasy novel, Kagen the Damned, by the always incredible Jonathan Maberry, which I am currently listening to.  Thanks to the exceedingly violent story, very damaged characters, elaborate world building, and the epic voice work from one of my favourite audiobook narrators, Ray Porter, I am having an exceptional time listening to Kagen the Damned, and I had to feature on this list, even though I haven’t finished it yet.  Review to follow soon, but spoiler alert, this probably going to get a full five-star rating from me.

 

 

Well, that’s the end of this latest list.  As you can see, there have been some very good audiobooks out in the first half of 2022, even my list is a little Warhammer 40,000 heavy.  It will be interesting to see which books make the cut later in the year, especially as I currently have several major 2022 audiobooks currently sitting on my phone, waiting to be listened to.  While I get to that, make sure to let me know what your favourite audiobooks of 2022 are in the comments below.