Top Ten Tuesday – Top New-to-Me Authors I Read in 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 Ten Tuesday was Bookish Goals for 2023.  While this was an interesting topic, I have a slightly different Top Ten Tuesday schedule planned and instead I will be moving forward the official topic from next week and looking at New-to-Me Authors I discovered in 2022.  This is a list I have covered for the last couple of years (make sure to check out my 2019, 2020 and 2021 versions), and it is one that I always have fun doing.

Each year I am lucky enough to read a great number of awesome novels and this often includes some that were written by authors whose work I was previously unfamiliar with.  2022 was a particularly good example of this as there were an incredible collection of amazing novels written by authors who were completely new to me.  This included some debuting authors, as well as more established writers whose work I only got around to this year.  Many of these new-to-me authors produced some truly exceptional reads, some of which I consider to be some of the best books released in 2022, and I really feel the need to highlight them here.  As a result, this list may feature a bit of overlap with my top bookspre-2022 books and audiobooks lists of 2022 that I have previously published on this blog.

To appear on this list, the book had to be one I read last year and be written by an author who I was unfamiliar with before 2022.  If I had not read anything from this author before last year, it was eligible for this latest list, although I did exclude debut novels as I had another list prepared for them.  Despite this, I ended up with a massive list of potential inclusions on this list, as it appears that I read a ton of great new authors in the last year.  Despite my best efforts, I had a very hard time whittling this list down, so in the end I decided to face the inevitable and leave it as a top 20 list.  While I still had to exclude several great authors whose books I really liked, I think that I came up with a good overall list that represents which authors I am really glad that I decided to try out for the first time last year.

Top Twenty List:

Andy Clark – Steel Tread

Steel Tread Cover

One of the first new-to-me authors I check out in 2022 was Andy Clark, who immediately blew me away with his impressive writing skill in the Warhammer 40,000 novel, Steel Tread.  A gritty and character driven war story set in the close confines of a tank, Steel Tread was an exceptional read and one that I was instantly addicted to.  Easily one of the top Warhammer books of 2022, I loved Steel Tread so much and I will be diving back into Andy Clark’s catalogue of Warhammer novels when I get a chance.

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Sarah Barrie – Unforgiven and Retribution

Unforgiven Cover

I actually enjoyed two books from talented Australian crime fiction author Sarah Barrie this year, her 2021 book Unforgiven and the sequel Retribution.  Both were excellent dark crime thrillers that saw a damaged vigilante go after the very worst criminals Sydney had to offer.  I deeply enjoyed both books and their unique style has made Barrie a must-read Australian author from now on.

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Adrian Tchaikovsky – Day of Ascension

Day of Ascension Cover

It seems ridiculous that it took me until 2022 to finally read something from acclaimed science fiction and fantasy author Adrian Tchaikovsky, but that’s what happened.  While I have had the opportunity to read some of his other established series before, my first experience with Tchaikovsky’s writing was his debut Warhammer 40,000 novel Day of Ascension.  A complex and captivating read that sees a Genestealer Cult rise to overthrow a despotic government.  This was an outstanding book that combined Tchaikovsky’s unique writing style with the iconic Warhammer 40,000 setting.  I loved the gruesome and impressive story that resulted and I will have to make an effort to read more of Tchaikovsky’s books in the future.

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Boyd and Beth Morrison – The Lawless Land

The Lawless Land Cover

This was an interesting entry that actually features two new-to-me authors with the writing duo of thriller author Boyd Morrison and historian Beth Morrison.  Together these talented authors wrote one of my favourite books of 2022, The Lawless Land, an exciting and deeply entertaining historical epic that followed a fallen knight on a quest around war-torn Europe.  I had so much fun with The Lawless Land, which featured intrigue, betrayal, duels, jousts, war and so much more, and I ended up coming away a big fan of this brother/sister writing team.  There is a sequel to The Lawless Land coming out later this year, and I will make damn sure to get a copy of it when it comes out.

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Steve Lyons –Krieg

Warhammer 40,000 - Krieg Cover

Steve Lyons was a new-to-me author who particularly impressed me this year with his compelling and concise Warhammer 40,000 audiobook exclusive, Krieg.  Following one of the more iconic regiments of Imperial Guard in the franchise, the Death Korps of Krieg, Krieg is an excellent read that combines a harrowing modern war tale with an intriguing dive into the history of the planet Krieg and its deadly soldiers.  A tight and effective audiobook, Krieg comes highly recommended and I had an outstanding time listening to it.

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Dan Koboldt – Silver Queendom

Silver Queendom Cover

I was very lucky to enjoy the latest works from awesome fantasy author Dan Koboldt this year with Silver Queendom.  A deeply entertaining fantasy heist read, Silver Queendom was a lot of fun and I will be making a huge effort to read more of Koboldt’s work in the future, especially if he comes up with a sequel to this great book.

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Justin D. Hill – The Bookkeeper’s Skull

The Bookkeeper's Skull Cover

Justin D. Hill is a very well-known author in Warhammer circles, and I was very happy to finally read one of his books this year with the Warhammer Horror novel, The Bookkeeper’s Skull.  A compelling read that told a harrowing tale of murder and mutilation on a cursed farm, The Bookkeeper’s Skull was a great horror read centred around a clever mystery.  I was really impressed with the dark and tangible feeling of dread that hung over everything, and I think it really speaks to the author’s skill that he was able to tell such a compelling read in such a concise book.  I cannot wait to try out some of Hill’s other books in 2023, and I already know I am going to love them.

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Neil Gaiman – The Sandman

Sandman Act 1 Cover

I finally got around to reading something from epic author Neil Gaiman and boy was it a doozy of a tale.  I actually listened to the audiobook adaptation of his iconic The Sandman comic, which was such an incredible and dark story.  Following the immortal Dream, The Sandman features a complex and captivating tale all read out by an all-star cast.  Gaiman really showcases his incredible, if slightly insane, inventiveness in this comic and I loved how well this new format portrayed this fantastic story.

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Robert Rath – Assassinorum: Kingmaker

Assassinorum Kingmaker Cover

Few 2022 Warhammer books impressed me as much as the excellent and highly addictive Assassinorum: Kingmaker by new-to-me author Robert Rath.  A complex and action-packed tale of assassins, royal politics and mecha warfare, Assassinorum: Kingmaker is very over-the-top, even for a Warhammer 40,000 novel, and I loved every damn second of it.  The entire intense story came together perfectly and Robert Rath is definitely an author I will be reading more Warhammer books from in the future.

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Gillian McAllister – Wrong Place Wrong Time

Wrong Place Wrong Time Cover

Gillian McAllister had a brilliant year in 2022 when she released her compelling science fiction thriller, Wrong Place Wrong Time.  A twisty and complex novel that saw a mother forced back through time as she attempts to uncover the dark story behind the murder her son committed.  This was such a clever read and I have a feeling that McAllister is an author I am going to see a lot of in the future.

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Ben Counter – Van Horstmann

Van Horstmann Cover

A lucky find in a second-hand bookshop introduced me to the writings of Ben Counter when I grabbed a copy of his Warhammer Fantasy novel Van Horstmann.  An intense and entertaining read that followed a magical student’s quick slide into darkness, Van Horstmann was one of the better Warhammer Fantasy books I have ever had the pleasure of reading and I cannot wait to see what other delicious and impressive reads Counter has produced for the Black Library.

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Zoraida Cordova – Star Wars: Convergence

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

Outstanding new Star Wars author, Zoraida Cordova, ensured that the second phase of The High Republic sub-series started off in a big way with her amazing Star Wars novel Convergence.  An exciting and powerful novel that perfectly sets up future storylines while following several complex characters, Convergence was a brilliant read and one that really sets up Cordova as an author to watch out for.

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C. L. Werner – Runefang

Runefang Cover

Another new-to-me Warhammer Fantasy author I deeply enjoyed in 2022 was C. L. Werner, who wrote the gritty adventure novel Runefang.  An awesome book, Runefang followed a band of doomed heroes on a quest to recover a legendary sword to stop an undead horde, in a great, classic fantasy narrative.  Loaded with twists and surprise deaths, Runefang was an excellent read and Werner really shows off his talents with this great book.

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Justin Woolley – Catachan Devil

Catachan Devil Cover

I had to include Justin Woolley on this list, especially after I had such a fun time with his Warhammer 40,000 book, Catachan Devil.  A compelling and thoroughly entertaining story that completely explored the legendary Catachan Imperial Guards regiment, Catachan Devil was a brilliant, soldier-focused story that is really worth a read.  I look forward to seeing what other brilliant books Justin Woolley has coming out, especially if they are as good as Catachan Devil.

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Jon Hollins – Fool’s Gold

Fool's Gold Cover

One of the more entertaining new authors I tried out in 2022 was fantasy writer Jon Hollins (Jonathan Wood), as I started his epic Dragon Lords trilogy with Fool’s Gold.  A comedic and relentless fantasy heist book, Fool’s Gold followed a group of desperate adventurers as they attempt to steal a tyrannical dragons hoard.  However, when their plans go terribly wrong, they find the fate of the entire realm resting on their shoulders and must come up with an even more elaborate plan to survive.  A sharp and very, very fun book, Fool’s Gold was pretty damn awesome and I cannot wait to see what craziness Hollins featured in his other Dragon Lords novels.

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Graham McNeill – Storm of Iron

Storm of Iron Cover 2

One Warhammer author I am particularly glad I got the chance to read in 2022 was Graham McNeill with his awesome standalone novel, Storm of Iron.  A brutal and captivating siege tale that sees a giant army of Chaos Space Marines besiege an impregnable space fortress, Storm of Iron was a blast from start to finish and was near impossible to put down.  I always intended to read all of McNeill’s books at some point, but Storm of Iron ensured that I will be moving most of his novels to the very front of my to-read pile.

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M. L. Spencer – Dragon Mage

Dragon Mage Cover

I finally got around to reading M. L. Spencer’s Dragon Mage in 2022, a book I have had my mind on for a while.  Dragon Mage was an elaborate and classic fantasy tale about heroes and dragons which really showcased Spencer’s imagination and writing talent and took the reader on a complex, character-driven ride.  A great book from an exceptional author.

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Alec Worley – Dredge Runners and The Wraithbone Phoenix

The Wraithbone Phoenix Cover

Another exceptional new-to-me Warhammer author I read for the first time in 2022 was Alec Worley, who really impressed me with his outstanding work.  I actually read two things from Worley this year, the fun novella Dredge Runners and the exciting and compelling full novel The Wraithbone Phoenix.  Both books followed a unique duo of criminals in a futuristic Warhammer city as they engage in a series of bungled heists and cons against a range of outrageous foes.  Both of these entries were pretty damn exceptional, and Worley really showcased his amazing writing ability with them.  A very talented author who I am very glad I came across.

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Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland – Path of Deceit

Star Wars - Path of Deceit Cover

The cool team of Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland pulled out an awesome and solid young adult Star Wars book with Path of Deceit.  Serving as an outstanding prequel to the previous High Republic novels, Path of Deceit was an amazing novel from these authors, and I had a wonderful time reading some from this cool team for the first time.

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Edoardo Albert – Kasrkin

Warhammer 40,000 - Kasrkin Cover

I doubt anyone is too surprised that the final author on this list, Edoardo Albert is yet another writer of Warhammer fiction.  I was very happy to come across Albert’s latest novel in 2022, Kasrkin, which follows an elite unit of soldiers as they brave a desert planet, only to face off against a series of dangerous foes.  Tight, action-packed, and making excellent use of its Warhammer 40,000 elements, Kasrkin did a good job of highlighting Albert’s superb ability and I had an outstanding time with this great book. 

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Well, that’s the end of this latest Top Ten list.  I think it turned out rather well and it encapsulates some of the best new authors I checked out in 2022.  I look forward to reading more books from these authors in the future and I have no doubt they will produce more epic and incredible reads.  Make sure to let me know which new authors you enjoyed in 2022 in the comments below and make sure to check back next week for another exciting list.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland

Star Wars - Path of Deceit Cover

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press (Audiobook – 4 October 2022)

Series: Star Wars: The High Republic – Phase Two

Length: 8 hours and 10 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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The second phase of The High Republic begins with an absolute banger as the team of Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland introduce Star Wars fans to a bold new young adult novel that ends up being epic in all the right ways with Path of Deceit.

For the last two years, Star Wars extended fiction has been firmly focused on the compelling multimedia project, The High Republic.  Set centuries before the prequel films, The High Republic takes readers to a whole new period of Star Wars history, where the Republic and the Jedi were at the absolute height of their power and influence.  However, not everything is perfect, and the Jedi characters are soon forced into conflict with dangerous forces bent on destroying them.  The first phase of The High Republic introduced readers to this new time period extremely well, while also setting up several fascinating characters, as well as the villainous Nihil, a group of space marauders who seek to destroy the order that the Republic represents.  I quickly fell in love with this cool new Star Wars subseries, and I enjoyed the massive range of different media present in this first phase, including comics, manga, children’s books, audio productions and a ton of novels.  The main story of this series is expertly told across the three main adult books, Light of the Jedi, The Rising Storm, and The Fallen Star, while other compelling, and often vital, stories take place in young adult books like Into the Dark, Out of the Shadows and Midnight Horizon, the associated comic series, as well as the audio production Tempest Runner.  This entire first phase came together extremely well, and I was really impressed with the range of stories they told, as well as the excellent new characters and elaborate new universe expansions that occurred.

After completing the first phase earlier this year, the various writers associated with The High Republic project, have just embarked on their ambitious second phase of High Republic fiction.  The second phase goes back even further into Star Wars history by being set 150 years before the events of the previous High Republic books.  The idea is that the second phase will act as a prequel to the first, showing how the Nihil were formed and the reasons behind their leader’s hatred for the Jedi.  These details will no doubt become extremely important for the third phase, while also helping the reader understand why the events of the first phase unfolded.  The first book in this second phase is Path of Deceit, written by the team of Star Wars fiction newcomer Tessa Gratton and established Star Wars writer Justina Ireland, who made a name for herself in the first phase with her young adult and middle school books.  Both authors really throw their heart into Path of Deceit, and the result in a fantastic and captivating read that presents Star Wars fans with something very epic indeed.

It is a time of exploration and discovery in the galaxy as the Republic enters an age of expansion.  Under the guidance of the Jedi, teams have been sent into the furthest corners of the Outer Rim, seeking out new planets, civilisations, and people to add to the delicate tapestry of life, diplomacy and trade that forms the basis for the Republic.  However, not all the discoveries being made are good, and many dangers lurk out in the far reaches of space.

Of these dangers, the most benign appear to be a small Force cult on the remote planet of Dalna.  Known as the Path of the Open Hand, this group believe that the Force should be free, and that no one should have the power to use and abuse it, including the Jedi.  Led by the charismatic Mother, the Path of the Open Hand is small, but features a fervent congregation of believers, including a hopeful young woman, Marda Ro.

Marda Ro always dreams of leaving Dalna to preach the message of the Path throughout the galaxy.  However, protected by her free-spirited cousin Yana Ro and held back by the Mother, Marda appears destined to remain always on Dalna.  That is until two Jedi, Jedi Knight Zallah Macri and her Padawan Kevmo Zink, arrive on Dalna, investigating the theft of several Force artifacts from surrounding systems.  Believing that the thefts are related to the Path, the two Jedi begin to investigate the group, and Marda and the young Kevmo soon form a tight bond as their connection grows.  However, not everything is as it seems on Dalna, and soon the Mother reveals a dark secret that will reverberate throughout the galaxy for centuries to come.

I have to admit that even before I started reading Path of Deceit, I kind of had some doubts about whether I was going to really enjoy it.  Not only was I surprised that this second phase of the High Republic was starting out with a young adult book, rather than the upcoming adult novel, Convergence, but I was also apprehensive about the reverse time skip between phases.  Setting this second phase 150 years before the events of the first phase was a bold choice, especially considering that The High Republic is a prequel series in itself.  However, if Path of Deceit is any indication of what is to come, then the entire second phase of The High Republic is going to be pretty damn impressive and fit into the wider High Republic extremely well.  The team of Gratton and Ireland did a remarkable job here, producing a slick, slow-burn Star Wars story that introduces many key elements of this new timeline while also giving some fantastic hints of what is to come.  I had an absolute blast getting through this book, and it is has definitely gotten me excited for the next round of High Republic fiction.

I was deeply, deeply impressed with the captivating story that the authors came up with for Path of Deceit.  Due to its position in this new High Republic phase, Gratton and Ireland had to achieve quite a lot during the narrative, not only introducing key characters and settings, but also tying them into the wider High Republic history.  However, I think they achieved this goal extremely well, and the subsequent story is very intriguing and intense.  I do need to warn people that the Path of Deceit does start of fairly slow and takes a long while for all its excellent storylines to pay off.

The book is primarily set on the planet of Dalna and follows three young central characters as they find themselves caught up in the actions of the mysterious Path of the Open Hand.  These central characters include Marda Ro, a devout member of the Path, her cousin Yana Ro, who leads the Path’s covert unit that steal Force artifacts, and Kevmo Zink, who arrives on the planet to investigate the Path and the recent thefts.  The first half of the book sees the various characters gradually get to know each other, while Marda and Kevmo grow closer, despite their different viewpoints of the Force.  As the story continues, you start to see some cracks in the serene appearance of the Path, with Yana growing more and more determined to leave as she begins to see the Mother for what she really is.  However, even with a few action scenes and a great flood sequence, the story is still moving at a gradual pace, with the authors laying down some subtle hints of what is to come.  All that changes in the last quarter of the novel, as everything comes together in a big and shocking way.  While the narrative appears to be heading in one certain direction, the authors suddenly unleash a pretty major twist that really surprised me.  This twist was extremely brilliant, not only because of how well set up it was but because its execution was very sudden and a major gamechanger.  The entire tone of the novel changes after that, with the characters taking on new roles, and you see just how well-connected Path of Deceit is to the books of Phase One.  This twist honestly makes you really appreciate the slow and careful pace of the rest of the book, and you realise just how cleverly they were setting everything up.  The entirety of Path of Deceit ends on an excellent and powerful note, and the reader is left eagerly looking forward to seeing how the rest of this second phase comes together.

The team of Gratton and Ireland set out this story in a very awesome way, and I felt that everything came together extremely well to enhance the fantastic narrative.  The split between the three main perspectives helped to produce a balanced and multifaceted narrative, and I liked seeing the distinctive alternate viewpoints of the cool events occurring.  While the pacing was initially a bit slow and there was a little less action than your typical Star Wars novel, Path of Deceit makes up for it by focusing more on the characters, setting up the new version of the universe, and featuring a great young adult story that will really appeal to the teenage audience.  The way that the characters interact and focus on their attractions is very typical of most young adult books, but I felt that it didn’t get too over-the-top.  Instead, it is just enough to help bring the younger reader in, while also still being intense and compelling enough to keep older readers still attached and entertained.  I personally deeply enjoyed how the story was presented, especially once the pace increased towards the end, and this entire novel was an absolute joy to read.

As I mentioned before, quite a lot of importance is attached to whether Path of Deceit did a good job featuring the relevant Star Wars and High Republic elements.  I say that Gratton and Ireland strongly succeeded, as they not only provided a great viewpoint of this new period of Star Wars fiction but they also provided some captivating and clever links to the first phase.  While most of the focus of Path of Deceit is primarily on one planet, so you don’t get the full galaxy view, I did like the initial glimpse of this universe.  There is a real Western frontier vibe to the entire setting, with explorers, settlers, pilgrims, and people looking for a fresh start interacting with new elements from the Outer Rim.  There are also some hints about how this version of the Republic and the Jedi are set up, and there is a very good mixture of elements that I think are going to come together very well in the future.  I also really enjoyed the mysterious and captivating Path of the Open Hand, who were introduced as an alternative Force cult who are completely opposed to the actions of the Jedi.  Their curious viewpoint of the Force, and their methods for preserving it, make for quite a fascinating group and I deeply enjoyed how they developed.  As for connections to the first High Republic phase, well let us say that Path of Deceit is a very key novel regarding this, as several key characters with connections to the future are brilliantly set up here.  So many key elements or organisations from the first phase are introduced in a completely different form here, and you will be surprised at the origins of some of the best bits from the established High Republic books.  I loved some of the impressive set up that Gratton and Ireland featured in Path of Deceit, and this young adult novel is a very key part of this phase of the High Republic, with story elements from it set to reverb through certain upcoming books all the way to the future in the third phase.

Now, one of the main questions I am sure many people are wondering is how much knowledge of the High Republic and wider Star Wars universe people need to enjoy Path of Deceit.  Naturally, as the introductory book in the second phase of an established Star Wars sub-series, people who have read the previous High Republic books are going to have a better time with Path of Deceit that readers who have not.  Not only do you have a better idea of what the earlier Star Wars period are going to look like, but you also will appreciate some of the revelations that appear in this book and have a better ability to make connections between this phase and the previous one.  As such I would strongly recommend checking out all the key previous High Republic content first (the three adult books at the very least), as you a really going to have a better time with Path of Deceit that way, especially as the big twist towards the end makes a lot more sense if you do.  However, this isn’t the absolute worst book to start the High Republic with, and maybe reading the prequel second phase first is a better way of enjoying these books.  Either way, Gratton and Ireland do a good job of making this book pretty accessible to new readers, and I think that anyone with a decent knowledge of Star Wars fiction will probably be able to enjoy and appreciate this book.

Path of Deceit contains a great group of central characters that the authors do an excellent job of introducing.  This includes three intriguing teenage protagonists who have a complex and fascinating narratives that see them engage with this new world in very different ways.  Marda Ro is the devoted adherent to the Path of the Open Hand, who believes in their mission and their leader with all her heart.  Marda has a deeply compelling and well-laid-out story arc in Path of Deceit that eventually sees her question her believes and connections to the Path once she meets Jedi Padawan Kevmo Zink.  Already feeling disconnected from the galaxy and people due to her species, which is renowned and reviled for unknown reasons, Marda was a real emotional tinderbox in this book, and her relationship with Kevmo only complicates this further.  However, the events of the book change her in a way no-one could really predict, even with the hints her name contain, and her metamorphosis from sweet character to something else is very clever and quite impactful.  I have a feeling that she is going to have one of the best character arcs in the entire second phase, and I look forward to seeing how her narrative completely unfolds.

I also like the storylines surrounding the main Jedi character, Padawan Kevmo Zink, and Marda’s cousin Yana Ro, both of whom have their own distinctive arcs that I was quite intrigued by.  Kevmo Zink is a great young Jedi character who is drawn by his own romantic urges and desire for connections as much by the Force.  Kevmo serves as a great newcomer character to Dalna and the Path of the Open Hand and provides a great alternate perspective to Marda’s strict commitment to their ways.  He also serves as an intriguing love interest to Marda, and the classic Star Wars relationship between a conflicted Jedi and a forbidden girl made for some great reading, without being too silly or over-the-top.  I had a lot of fun with Kevmo, and I liked his infectious humour and his extremely positive view of the universe.  His storyline also goes in some very surprising directions, and this ended up being a very intriguing character to follow.  Yana Ro on the other hand is a more wild and exciting addition to the cast, who acts extremely differently to her cousin Marda.  A less indoctrinated member of the Path, Yana knows that there is something rotten at their heart, and seeks a way out, mainly by stealing Force artifacts for the Mother.  Her journey is very emotionally rich, and a little bit tragic, and I had a wonderful time seeing her storyline come to fruition, especially as it puts her in a very exciting position for future entries in the series.  Yana’s realistic viewpoint of the Path, as well as her own species’ inclinations and reputation, stands in great contrast of that of Marda, and her more grounded and aggressive mindset also makes her stand out compared to Kevmo.  As such, there is a good balance of personalities in Path of Deceit amongst the point of view protagonists, and this helps to produce a fantastic and compelling read.

There are also several great side characters who add their own spice to the story.  The most prominent of these is Kevmo’s Jedi master, Zallah Macri, an extremely serious Jedi Knight who serves as Kevmo’s mentor and guide.  Zallah is a suitable cautionary figure throughout the book, trying to keep Kevmo focused on the Force and their investigation, despite his obsession with Marda.  The other side character I really want to focus on is the Mother, the Path of the Open Hand’s mysterious leader who has managed to take over the cult through to her apparent strong connection to the Force.  The Mother serves as a rather compelling antagonist throughout the book, especially as you spend most of the time wondering if she is really Force sensitive, or whether she is running a long con on her followers.  An aloof and secretive antagonist, it soon becomes very clear that the Mother has her own objectives and plans that run contrary to that of her followers, and the full extent of them proves to be very exciting and destructive.  I felt that the Mother was an excellent alternative character for Path of Deceit, especially as her plans have some major long-term impacts on the point-of-view characters, and she has some dark secrets that need to be explored further.  These, and other characters, really add to the overall strength on the novel and I deeply enjoyed the way that Gratton and Ireland introduced them and took them through a fascinating emotional ride.

As with most Star Wars novels, I chose to check out Path of Deceit’s audiobook format, which was a pleasurable and fun experience as always.  At just over eight hours, this was a relatively quick audiobook, and I managed to knock it out pretty quickly.  This format did an excellent job of presenting Path of Deceit’s compelling narrative, and I had fun having this book read out to me.  However, the real joy of a Star Wars audiobook always lies in the excellent extra production elements that have been added in.  The classic Star Wars sound effects are used very well throughout Path of Deceit’s audiobook, and hearing blasters, lightsabers and even the sounds of people in the crowds, helps to drag listeners into the story and its surrounding universe.  However, I am always more impressed with the fantastic use of the iconic Star Wars musical score that is threaded through multiple scenes in the audiobook.  Path of Deceit has a pretty cool selection of scores playing throughout it, and I liked how the music often reflected the more rural setting and the mystical elements it was exploring.  The various bits of music work extremely well at enhancing key scenes throughout the book, and there were several times when the careful application of these tunes enhanced the emotional impact of the entire book.

On top of the cool sound effects and powerful musical inclusions, much of my enjoyment of Path of Deceit’s audiobook lies in the excellent narrator who was telling the story.  Path of Deceit is narrated by actress Erin Yvette, who has done a lot of voice work recently in the video game space.  While Yvette hasn’t provided narration for too many Star Wars books yet, she did a great job here in Path of Deceit, and I loved how she read out the book.  Yvette’s voice fits the young adult tone of this Star Wars novel extremely well, and she ensures that the compelling tale is effectively shared out to the listener.  In addition, she also provides a range of excellent voices to the various characters featured throughout the book.  Each of her voices really fits the respective character, and you get a real sense of their nature, their bearing, and their emotional state as you hear Yvette narrate them.  Not only does she capture the youthful nature of characters like Kevmo Zink and Marda Ro well, but she also gets the proper Jedi character Zallah Macri, the more self-serving voice of Yana Ro, and the mystical, manipulative voice of the Mother, down perfectly.  This voice work is pretty damn impressive, and when combined with audiobook’s sound effects and outstanding Star Wars music, it helps to turn the Path of Deceit audiobook into an outstanding experience.  This was such an awesome way to enjoy this latest High Republic novel, and audiobook remains my absolute favourite way to enjoy a Star Wars tie-in book.

I am feeling a heck of a lot better about the second phase of the High Republic after powering through Path of Deceit.  The wonderful team of Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland produced an outstanding young adult Star Wars novel that did a lot of remarkable things.  Featuring a well-crafted story that slowly but surely hooks you and some fantastic characters, Path of Deceit charts its own course while also brilliant tying into the High Republic novels that have come before.  I can’t wait to see where this phase goes following this impressive story in Path of Deceit and I am planning to read the next High Republic book as soon as I can.

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WWW Wednesday – 2 November 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 Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham (Trade Paperback)

The Boys from Biloxi Cover

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland

Star Wars - Path of Deceit Cover

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What did you recently finish reading?

Seventeen by John Brownlow (Trade Paperback)

Seventeen Cover

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Warhammer 40,000: The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley (Audiobook)

The Wraithbone Phoenix Cover

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Desert Star by Michael Connelly

Desert Star Cover

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Firefly: What Makes Us Mighty by M. K. England

Firefly - What Makes Us Mighty Cover

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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.

WWW Wednesday – 26 October 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?

Seventeen by John Brownlow (Trade Paperback)

Seventeen Cover

I have just started reading the awesome and very fun thriller novel, Seventeen by new author John Brownlow.  A fast-paced read, Seventeen follows the world’s most lethal assassin who finds himself caught in the crossfire between his deadly predecessor and younger assassins wanting to take his place.  I sped through the first 60 pages of Seventeen in one go and I am already pretty hooked by this cool read.  I will probably knock this off in the next day or so and I think I’ll have a very enjoyable time doing so.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Warhammer 40,000: The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley (Audiobook)

The Wraithbone Phoenix Cover

I have been having an absolute blast with my latest exploration of Warhammer 40,000 tie-in fiction, with The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley.  Part of the Warhammer Crime subseries, The Wraithbone Phoenix follows two criminal abhumans, a ratling and an ogryn, as they attempt to steal their big score, the mysterious missing artefact known as The Wraithbone Phoenix.  However, after a series of misfortunes, every criminal, assassin and treasure hunter on the planet knows what they are after, forcing them to fight through a horde of outrageous assailants.  Naturally, I am having a ton of fun with this impressive Warhammer audiobook, and I look forward to finding out who gets the prize, and which of the many distinctive supporting characters is going to suffer a gruesome death.

Amazon     Book Depository

What did you recently finish reading?

Fairy Tale by Stephen King (Trade Paperback)

Fairy Tale Cover

I finally managed to finish off the massive new Stephen King novel, Fairy Tale, and it proved to be quite an awesome read.  While a bit long, Fairy Tale had a unique and compelling story that saw a teenage protagonist descend to a fairytale realm, which has been overtaken by dark forces.  A classic adventure story with a compelling setting and Stephen King’s distinctive voice, Fairy Tale was an excellent read and I am glad I spent the time getting through it.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan (Audiobook)

In the Shadow of Lightning Cover

I managed to knock off In the Shadow of Lightning a few days ago and boy did Brian McClellan outdo himself with this first book in an awesome new series.  Set in an inventive new fantasy world where all magic is associated with glass, In the Shadow of Lightning provides the reader with a complex and intriguing tale, rich with politics, espionage, action, betrayal and more.  I had such an outstanding time listening to this captivating book and this is easily one of my favourite fantasy books of 2022. Review to follow soon.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Warhammer 40,000: Dredge Runners by Alec Worley (Audiobook)

Dredge Runners

I was in the mood for something short and sweet at the start of the week, so I quickly checked out the short Warhammer 40,000 audio drama, Dredge Runners.  The audio drama that introduces the protagonists of The Wraithbone Phoenix (which I am currently reading), Dredge Runners was an extremely clever and highly entertaining short that set the two rogues against criminals and corrupt law enforcement in a well-written and brilliantly paced read. Featuring an amazing voice cast, Dredge Runners was an exceptional audio drama that comes highly recommended.

Amazon

What do you think you’ll read next?

Desert Star by Michael Connelly

Desert Star Cover

I have got several awesome books to read at the moment, but I think I’ll dive into the new Michael Connelly crime fiction read, Desert Star, next. Once again bringing together two of Connelly’s impressive protagonists, Renee Ballard and Harry Bosch, Desert Star sees them dive into several intriguing cold cases, including a murder investigation Bosch has been obsessed about for years. I love Connelly’s amazing crime fiction books and this one has a lot of potential to be a great read.  I look forward to checking out in the next few days and I have very high hopes that Desert Star will end up being one of the better crime fiction novels of 2022.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland

Star Wars - Path of Deceit Cover

My plan after finishing The Wraithbone Phoenix is to start listening to the Path of Deceit audiobook, written by the intriguing team of Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland.  The first entry in the second phase of The High Republic sub-series of Star Wars fiction, Path of Deceit introduces the reader to yet another version of the High Republic, this time in a period of exploration and discovery.  I am quite intrigued to see what is happening at this point in the Star Wars universe and I can’t wait to find out what interesting story Gratton and Ireland have chosen to introduce it to us.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

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.

Waiting on Wednesday –2022 Star Wars Tie-in Novels

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 this week’s Waiting on Wednesday, I check out four awesome Star Wars novels guaranteed to dazzle me in early 2022.

It has been a pretty awesome year for Star Wars novels, and I have had a wonderful time reading some of the fantastic 2021 books that tie into the elaborate Star Wars extended universe.  Well it looks like 2022 is going to be just as incredible as there are even more Star Wars novels on the way, with several great new entries in the franchise set for release in the next few months.  As all the relevant details of the earlier releases are available I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight them, especially as many are likely to become some of my favourite reads of the new year.

The first book I want to feature in this article is the exciting and fantastic sounding new entry in The High Republic range of Star Wars novels, The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray.  The High Republic books are a massive interlocked multi-media project that seeks to expand the canon universe by focusing on a range of interesting storylines from the High Republic era of Star Wars History, hundreds of years before the Skywalker Saga.  This series has already featured some exception novels, comics and audio dramas, and I am deeply excited to see what happens in the High Republic storylines next, especially after some recent compelling developments.

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

The Fallen Star looks set to be a particularly intriguing read, as it is continuing some of the main High Republic storylines that were set out in the epic preceding novels, Light of the Jedi and The Rising StormThe Fallen Star currently has a release date of 4 January 2022 and I think it has an immense amount of potential, especially as it is written by the talented Claudia Gray, who did such a wonderful job on her previous Star Wars novel Master & Apprentice.

Synopsis:

In this gripping sequel to Star Wars: The Rising Storm, the light of the Jedi faces its darkest hour.

Time and again, the vicious raiders known as the Nihil have sought to bring the golden age of the High Republic to a fiery end. Time and again, the High Republic has emerged battered and weary, but victorious thank to its Jedi protectors-and there is no monument to their cause grander than the Starlight Beacon.

Hanging like a jewel in the Outer Rim, the Beacon embodies the High Republic at the apex of its aspirations: a hub of culture and knowledge, a bright torch against the darkness of the unknown, and an extended hand of welcome to the furthest reaches of the galaxy. As survivors and refugees flee the Nihil’s attacks, the Beacon and its crew stand ready to shelter and heal.

The grateful Knights and Padawans of the Jedi Order stationed there finally have a chance to recover-from the pain of their injuries and the grief of their losses. But the storm they thought had passed still rages; they are simply caught in its eye. Marchion Ro, the true mastermind of the Nihil, is preparing his most daring attack yet-one designed to snuff out the light of the Jedi.

Star Wars - The Fallen Star Cover 3

I really love the sound of this cool upcoming novel, and I think that The Fallen Star will end up being one of the best Star Wars books of 2022.  It is clear from the plot synopsis that the Nihil, the High Republic’s fascinating main villains, are planning to attack Starlight Beacon, which has served as a central location of the previous novels.  Considering some of the chaos that the Nihil have already caused in the previous High Republic books (the attack on the Republic Fair was just plain crazy), this will no doubt be a major and devastating event, and I am expecting a pretty dangerous death toll.  There has been some cool official artwork released that shows a falling satellite, hinting at a massive cataclysmic event occurring within the book, and I for one cannot wait to see what happens there.

Star Wars - The Fallen Star Cover 2

I am also extremely invested in some of the amazing characters that have been introduced in previous pieces of High Republic fiction, and who will no doubt be strongly featured in The Fallen Star.  These characters have been extremely well set up and most of them have gone through some substantial development and devastating moments.  I look forward to seeing what happens to some of them in The Fallen Star, and I am particularly keen to see how the Jedi survivors of The Rising Storm are faring after that novel’s terrible events.  I have heard rumours that one of the Jedi characters may potentially fall to the Dark Side of the Force, and I will be interested to see if or who it will happen to (there are at least two potential options).  Whatever happens, I think we are in for a wild ride with The Fallen Star and I am planning to read it the moment it comes out.

Star Wars - Midnight Horizon Cover

The next Star Wars novel I want to discuss is Midnight Horizon by Daniel José Older.  Older is a talented author who has been contributing several great novels to the Star Wars canon ever since his 2018 novel, Last ShotMidnight Horizon will be a young adult High Republic novel that will follow some younger Jedi and their masters as they attempt to defeat another Nihil threat.

Synopsis:

After a series of staggering losses, the Republic seems to finally have the villainous Nihil marauders on the run, and it looks like there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Until word comes of a suspected Nihil attack on the industrial cosmopolitan world of Corellia, right in the Galactic Core.

Sent to investigate are Jedi Masters Cohmac Vitus and Kantam Sy, along with Padawans Reath Silas and Ram Jomaram, all fighting their own private battles after months of unrelenting danger. On Corellia, Reath and Ram encounter a brazen young security specialist named Crash, whose friend was one of the victims of the Nihil attack, and they team up with her to infiltrate Corellia’s elite while the Masters pursue more diplomatic avenues. But going undercover with Crash is more dangerous than anyone expected, even as Ram pulls in his friend Zeen to help with an elaborate ruse involving a galactic pop star.

But what they uncover on Corellia turns out to be just one part of a greater plan, one that could lead the Jedi to their most stunning defeat yet….

This sounds like another extremely fun novel from Older and I am very excited to see what cool adventures happens here.  Set for release on 1 February 2022, Midnight Horizon will follow on from some of the previous High Republic young adult novels such as Into the Dark and Out of the Shadows, especially as it follows the character of Padawan Reath Silas and his master who have appeared in both of these books.  It also serves as a continuation of Race to Crashpoint Tower, with the character of Ram Jomaram, also being featured here.  I cannot wait to see what happens to these characters in Midnight Horizon, and I think it will turn out to be another awesome adventure.  I am also curious to see the High Republic version of Corellia and it will be fascinating to see what sort of attack the Nihil can pull off here.  Midnight Horizon is another High Republic novel that I think has a lot of potential, especially with its fantastic cover up above and I look forward to reading it.

Star Wars - Midnight Horizon Cover 2

I also wanted to mention the upcoming junior High Republic novel, Mission to Disaster by Justina Ireland.  While I do not usually tend to read some of the junior or young reader Star Wars books, I may make an exception for Mission to Disaster.  This is because it will follow on from Ireland’s last novel, Out of the Shadows, and features the fun team of Vernestra Rwoh and Imri Cantaros.  I look curious to see what happens to these two characters next, and I will probably quickly read Mission to Disaster to continue the interesting storyline they had in their last book.

Star Wars - Mission to Disaster Cover

Synopsis:

The Jedi think the dreaded Nihil marauders have been all but defeated. Their leader is on the run and their numbers have dwindled. Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh hopes this means she will finally have time to really train her Padawan, Imri Cantaros―but reports of a Nihil attack on Port Haileap soon dash those hopes. For not only have the Nihil attacked the peaceful outpost, they have abducted Vernestra and Imri’s friend, Avon Starros. The two Jedi set off for Port Haileap, determined to figure out where the Nihil have taken their friend. Meanwhile, Avon must put her smarts and skills to the ultimate test as she fights for survival among the Nihil―and uncovers a sinister plan. Can Vernestra and Imri find their friend before disaster strikes?

The final book I want to talk about here is the amazing sounding Brotherhood by Mike Chen.  Rather than another High Republic book, the early May 2022 release, Brotherhood, will instead focus on the team of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars.

Star Wars - Brotherhood Cover

Synopsis:

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker must stem the tide of the raging Clone Wars and forge a new bond as Jedi Knights in a high-stakes adventure set just after the events of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

The Clone Wars have begun. Battle lines are being drawn throughout the galaxy. With every world that joins the Separatists, the peace guarded by the Jedi Order is slipping through their fingers.

After an explosion devastates Cato Neimoidia, the jewel of the Trade Federation, the Republic is blamed and the fragile neutrality of the planet is threatened. The Jedi dispatch Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of the Order’s most gifted diplomatic minds, to investigate the crime and maintain the balance that has begun to dangerously shift. As Obi-Wan investigates with the help of a heroic Neimoidian guard, he finds himself working against the Separatists who hope to draw the planet into their conspiracy—and senses the sinister hand of Asajj Ventress in the mists that cloak the planet.

Amid the brewing chaos, Anakin Skywalker rises to the rank of Jedi Knight. Despite the mandate that Obi-Wan travel alone—and his former master’s insistence that he listen this time—Anakin’s headstrong determination means nothing can stop him from crashing the party, and bringing along a promising but conflicted youngling.

Once a Padawan to Obi-Wan, Anakin now finds himself on equal—but uncertain—footing with the man who raised him. The lingering friction between them increases the danger for everyone around them. The two knights must learn a new way to work together—and they must learn quickly, to save Cato Neimoidia and its people from the fires of war. To overcome the threat they face they must grow beyond master and apprentice. They must stand together as brothers.

This sounds like another pretty fantastic Star Wars novel and I am extremely keen to get my hands on this one.  I love the entire Clone Wars period of Star Wars history (if you have seen The Clone Wars animated series you know why) and I am very keen to explore more of it here.  I love the idea of two Jedi attempting to solve a crime on a hostile Separatist World, which will no doubt result in much conflict, suspicion and political treachery.  I am also really keen to see the author’s take on the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan.  These two characters have always had an interesting and well-defined dynamic (when they’re not trying to kill each other), and I am curious to see how much this changes in the immediate aftermath of Anakin becoming a Jedi.  No doubt some of this tension and conflict will tie-into the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi television series that is coming out soon, and it is possible that Brotherhood might be connected to the planned show in some way.  Throw in an early sighting of Ventress, the awesome Dark Side assassin, and I think that Brotherhood is going to be a pretty exceptional read.

Well that is about it for upcoming Star Wars books at the moment.  There are a few other novels that have been announced for later in the year like Shadow of the Sith and Padawan, but I might wait until the covers are released before I cover them in a Waiting on Wednesday article.  E. K. Johnston’s third and final Padmé Amidala novel, Queen’s Hope, is also due for release in April after it was delayed, although I have previously covered that before.  I am deeply, deeply excited for all these cool upcoming Star Wars novels and I cannot wait to see what outstanding adventures happens within all of them.

WWW Wednesday – 8 September 2021

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 Devil’s Advocate by Steve Cavanagh (Trade Paperback)

The Devil's Advocate Cover

I was in the mood for a fun and exciting novel so I thought I would check out my very first Steven Cavanagh legal thriller, and boy am I glad that I did.  Cavanagh’s latest novel, The Devil’s Advocate, is an incredibly fun courtroom read that pits a former conman turned defence attorney against an insane prosecutor who delights in sending innocent people to death row.  Throw in an insanely biased town, some crazy shenanigans, and a group of racist manipulators and you have one hell of a novel.  I only just started The Devil’s Advocate today but I am already hooked, and I powered through the first 100 pages in no time at all.  I cannot wait to see how this story turns out and it should be an amazing amount of fun.

 

The Dark by Jeremy Robinson (Audiobook)

The Dark Cover

I have several big upcoming audiobook releases on the horizon, but I decided to make a little time this week to listen to something a little different.  Jeremy Robinson is an author who I have been curious about for a while, especially as I love how awesome several of his series sound.  However, I thought a good way to get an idea of his writing style and creativity would be to listen to a copy of his latest novel, The Dark, which was voiced by a very talented audiobook narrator whose work I have enjoyed in the past.  I honestly was not too sure what to expect when I started listening to The Dark, but so far I have been deeply impressed with it.  The Dark follows a group of survivors, including an unusual and entertaining protagonist, as they attempt to survive an apocalyptical event of biblical proportions.  This is an amazing horror novel that will probably end up getting a five-star rating from me.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Councillor by E. J. Beaton (Hardcover)

The Councillor Cover

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Out of the Shadows Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Corporal Hitler’s Pistol by Tom Keneally (Trade Paperback)

Corporal Hitler's Pistol 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.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland

Star Wars - Out of the Shadows Cover

Publisher: Disney Lucasfilm Press (Audiobook – 27 July 2021)

Series: Star Wars – The High Republic

Length: 10 hours and 50 minutes

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

The marvels and terrors of the High Republic era of Star Wars history continues with the latest fantastic and exciting young adult tie-in novel, Star Wars: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland.

The High Republic is an interconnected collection of novels, comics, audio dramas and other pieces of media produced by top Star Wars authors, set hundreds of years before the films.  Starting in January 2021, this compelling multimedia project features several great pieces of fiction, including the awesome introductory novel Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, the impressive The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott, and the entertaining young adult novel Into the Dark by Claudia Gray.  The latest High Republic novel, Out of the Shadows, is another compelling young adult novel that continues several key storylines from previous High Republic novels.  This was the second Star Wars book from author Justina Ireland, who previously wrote the High Republic junior novel, A Test of Courage.

Death, destruction, pirates, and plant monsters!  The Republic may be at the height of its culture and influence, but it is in some major trouble.  Following the devastation that occurred during the Republic Fair at Valo, the Republic are at war with the marauders known as the Nihil, with the Jedi leading the efforts to hunt them down.  But in the far corners of space, the Nihil are planning something new, something that could change the very fabric of the galaxy.

Sylvestri Yarrow is a young pilot and captain of a dilapidated ship, who is doing the best she can to keep her crew above water after the death of her mother.  However, when her ship is suddenly pulled out of hyperspace in a remote area of space with a boarding party of Nihil raiders waiting for her, she has no choice but to abandon her home.  Determined to get some form of justice, Sylvestri heads to Coruscant to convince someone of the dangers, but no one is willing to listen to a teenage pilot from the frontier until the unscrupulous and ultra-wealthy Xylan Graf appears and makes her an offer she cannot refuse.

In exchange for a new ship and a substantial number of credits, Sylvestri will accompany Xylan to the area of space where she lost her ship to help him disprove rumours of a dangerous Nihil weapon and to convince a senator into giving his family access to valuable hyperspace lanes.  Despite her misgivings about the plan, and the trustworthiness of Xylan, Sylvestri agrees to accompany him.  However, the Senator has a caveat: Xylan must take along some unimpeachable observers of her choosing, Jedi.  Now accompanied by young Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh, her Padawan Imri Cantaros, Master Cohmac Vitus, his apprentice Reath Silas, and, awkwardly, Sylvestri’s ex-girlfriend Jordanna Sparkburn, the team heads out to the wilds of space.  But the Nihil are always watching and waiting from the shadows, and their plans could spell doom for everyone.  Can Sylvestri and her new Jedi friends survive the dangers ahead of them, or will terrible secrets from her past threaten to overwhelm everyone once they are dragged out of the shadows.

Out of the Shadows proved to be a fun and compelling entry in this great new Star Wars series that I had a fantastic time listening to.  Featuring a great story and some excellent characters, this novel continues several key storylines from the previous High Republic novels and presents a strong and action-packed adventure.

Ireland has come up with a pretty good story for Out of the Shadows, resulting in a very exciting read.  Set around a year after Ireland’s last novel, A Test of Courage, and a short period after the events of the last major High Republic novel The Rising Storm, Out of the Shadows ties together several intriguing story threads set around some compelling characters.  The book starts out quick, with each major characters introduced in short order through a series of separate point-of-view chapters.  These early introductions do a good job of establishing the characters’ histories, personalities and motivations, and sending them on their various story paths.  The first third of the novel moves quickly, with each character getting some compelling moments, such as Sylvestri getting involved with unscrupulous businessman Xylan Graf, while Jedi Vernestra and her friends get a taste of the dangerous frontier life on their way to Coruscant.  This results in a fun mixture of plot inclusions, from some captivating political intrigue in Sylvestri’s storyline to some more action in Vernestra’s story combined with some interesting examinations of the Jedi and the Force.

These storylines combine around halfway through the book, with the key characters (except for one point-of-view antagonist) coming together and working as a team.  While it did have some good moments, I felt the middle part of the novel dragged a little, and there was not a great deal of excitement there.  However, it did set up the conclusion nicely, with Sylvestri and the Jedi coming face to face with the Nihil in less-than-ideal circumstances.  After a short confrontation, the story goes into overdrive, with the characters racing through several events all the way up to the end, including one event that might have some major ramifications for the High Republic storylines.  Strangely enough, while the second act was a little slow, the final part of the novel was way too quick, with a lot happening in a very short amount of time.  Still there were some great moments in these end scenes, including a couple of good twists, and it also sets up some further adventures extremely well.  All the key characters get gratifying conclusions to their various storylines, and readers are left feeling pretty satisfied with how events turned out.  Ireland makes sure to layer her story with some great action sequences, and there are some entertaining moments spread throughout the book.  I had a wonderful time reading this cool story, and it ended up being a rather good Star Wars book.

This latest Star Wars novel is marketed towards a young adult audience, and I felt that it was a particularly good read for teenagers.  Not only does it feature several teenage characters kicking ass, including a girl who became a Jedi Knight at age 15, but it also contains a clever and enjoyable story that does not pander to the younger age group or shy away from violence or controversial topics.  Ireland did a great job diving into the teenage mindset, and I felt that the various teenage characters featured in this novel were well portrayed as competent and complex figures.  I also liked the strong LGBT+ elements that Ireland featured throughout the novel, especially between Sylvestri and Jordanna Sparkburn, and it is cool that it is being shown so prominently in these novels.  Like many young adult Star Wars novels, this book is can be easily enjoyed by older Star Wars fans, who will appreciate the intriguing story and fascinating developments to the wider High Republic universe.  Younger readers will also probably have a good time with this novel, especially as Ireland does not go too over the top with the violence and romance, and as such I felt that this was an accessible novel to fans of all ages.

Out of the Shadows’ narrative is a continuation of several previous High Republic novels, which readers may need a bit of pre-knowledge about to fully enjoy.  Not only does this novel continue to expand the High Republic series and make frequent references to characters and events primarily featured in Light of the Jedi or The Rising Storm; it also serves as a direct continuation of two previous books.  This includes Ireland’s first Star Wars novel, A Test of Courage, as well as earlier 2021 release, Into the Dark, with key characters and storylines continued in Out of the Shadows.  Readers unfamiliar with these previous novels might also have a hard time following what is happening in Out of the Shadows, although I did think Ireland had a good go at making this novel accessible to readers, no matter their knowledge base.  Some key events of previous novels are explored in some detail, and I had no trouble following what was happening or who the characters were, even though I haven’t read A Test of Courage.  Ireland also blended the various existing storylines together extremely well, and this helped to turn Out of the Shadow into a key entry in the overall High Republic series, especially as it continues to show the galactic machinations of the Nihil.  It also looks like several storylines, mainly surrounding Ireland’s primary protagonist Vernestra Rwoh, will be continued in some future novels and I will have to try to read Ireland’s next novel, Mission of Disaster, even though I have avoided the junior High Republic novels in the past.

One of the things that particularly impressed me about Out of the Shadows was the excellent collection of characters that Ireland fit into her narrative.  There is a substantial central cast in this book, including some new additions and some characters who have appeared in previous High Republic novels.  The author does a good job of introducing and exploring these key characters throughout the novel, and you get some interesting and intense character development occurring, which really adds to the narrative.

These characters include Sylvestri Yarrow, a young pilot who finds herself dragged into the middle of this adventure.  Sylvestri is a tough frontier girl with a big independent streak and a massive chip on her shoulder when it comes to both the Nihil and the Jedi, and she goes through a lot in this novel.  Serving as one of the main point-of-view characters, Sylvestri offers a very interesting view on the events occurring and has some deep connections to the Nihil plot without even realising it.  She also forms an intense and fantastic relationship with Jordanna Sparkburn, her ex-girlfriend, who suddenly re-enters her life.  Jordanna is a frontier deputy responsible for defending her planet from Nihil raiders, which has seen her fight in quite a few battles.  Brought into the story after the Jedi help her to defend her home, Jordanna accompanies them to Coruscant and then gets wrapped up the main story.  Mainly introduced as the tough girl still interested in Sylvestri, Jordanna gains a lot of depth as a character as the story progresses, especially as she has experienced a lot of trauma after being forced into multiple battles.  A lot of this comes out when Sylvestri is in trouble, and Jordanna goes on a bit of a killing spree with a unique Nihil weapon she has obtained.  This scene really adds a lot to how the reader sees her, and it proves to be quite fascinating.  I was also a big fan of Jordanna’s giant alien cat, Remy, a dangerous creature who is just a big kitten at heart, especially when she bonds with some of the other characters.

I also enjoyed the great Jedi characters featured in Out of the Shadows.  These include Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh and her Padawan Imri Cantaros, who were the main characters of A Test of Courage and are now Ireland’s go-to Star Wars protagonists.  These two Jedi make for a unique pairing, as Vernestra is a brilliant Jedi prodigy, becoming a Knight at a very young age, while Imri is only slightly younger and has a unique ability to perceive emotions.  Vern is a particularly striking character, particularly with her lightwhip (a lightsaber modified to also be used as a whip) and I enjoyed seeing the challenges that a very young Knight would face.  Her unique connection to the force also connects her to another interesting character in the High Republic canon, and it sets her up for some big storylines in the future.  The other major Jedi characters are Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus and his apprentice Reath Silas.  Cohmac and Reath were previously heavily featured in a previous young adult novel, Into the Dark, and it was great to see them again.  Despite being the apprentice, Reath is the more prominent character, with several point-of-view chapters to himself.  While it was great to see more of Reath and Cohmac, they are a little underutilised, and I would have liked to see more about them, especially with Reath’s unique connection to one of the antagonists.

The other two characters who were a lot of fun in this book are Nan and Xylan Graf, two complex figures who are playing their own games.  Nan is a young Nihil spy and infiltrator who previously encountered Reath while the two were trapped on a space station together.  Serving as one of Marchion Ro’s most loyal soldiers, Nan is entrusted with an important treasure and is subsequently forced to navigate the Nihil’s internal feuding and plotting to survive.  Nan provides a fantastic alternate perspective for much of the events of the novel as she is used to show what is happening in the Nihil camp.  I liked her use in this book, and while I would have enjoyed a much more intense confrontation with Reath when they are inevitably reunited, I did enjoy how Nan’s story arc dramatically changed towards the end of the novel, which should be interesting for future High Republic novels.  The other character is Xylan Graf, the ultimate rich-kid master manipulator.  Xylan is the scion to the exceedingly powerful and rich Graf family, who organises the entire expedition, seemingly to gain rights to a valuable sector of space.  Xylan is an extremely flashy and stylish figure, and it is quite entertaining to see the other characters react to his eccentricities.  He is also quite a sly operator, cooking up plans and spinning tales to keep everyone happy.  He is so slippery that you honestly don’t know what he is planning for most of the novel, and I felt that he was a very compelling and fun addition to the cast.  All of the above characters were really fun and I hope they reappear in some of the future High Republic entries.

I made sure to grab a copy of Out of the Shadows’ audiobook format, which proved to be an interesting experience.  While I tend to really enjoy Star Wars audiobooks due to the cool production inclusions they usually feature, I ended up being a little disappointed with Out of the Shadow’s audiobook.  This was mainly because it lacked the iconic Star Wars musical score or background sound effects that all the other Star Wars audiobooks have, which made for a more subdued listening experience.  While this didn’t make Out of the Shadows impossible to enjoy, it was a very noticeable departure from the typical fun I have with Star Wars audiobooks, and several scenes could have benefited from being enhanced by some emotional music.  Still, I enjoyed the production, mainly because narrator Keylor Leigh does a really good job telling the story.  Leigh, who previously narrated Ireland’s A Test of Courage, has a great voice for teenage characters.  I felt that Leigh gave each of the key protagonists a unique and fitting voice, and she also ensured that the narrative moved along at a quick and exciting pace.  In addition, with a runtime of just under 11 hours, this is a relatively quick listen, which dedicated listeners can power through in no time at all.  As a result, this is a good format to enjoy Out of the Shadows on, although I really do wish that it had featured the usual strong Star Wars production values.

Star Wars: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland is an awesome and captivating High Republic tie-in novel, which continues to explore this unique period in Star Wars history.  Containing a fun story and some great characters, this novel serves as a key entry in the High Republic series, following several fascinating plot threads from some previous novels.  Readers are in for an excellent time with this novel, and Out of the Shadows proves to be an exciting and compelling experience.

Amazon     Book Depository

WWW Wednesday – 25 August 2021

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 Councillor by E. J. Beaton (Hardcover)

The Councillor Cover

I recently started reading this cool fantasy debut from Australian author E. J. Beaton.  The Councillor follows a drug-addicted palace scholar in a compelling fantasy world as she attempts to navigate the politics of her city, while also trying to determine who murdered her friend, the Queen.  I am only a little way into this book at the moment, but so far it is proving to be an excellent and captivating read.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Out of the Shadows Cover

The bold new era of Star Wars story telling continues in the latest entry in the High Republic range, Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland.  This latest Star Wars novel is a young adult book that follows a fun group of young heroes as they attempt to stop the dangerous plots of the sinister Nihil.  I am making some great progress with this audiobook and I am deeply enjoying the cool and exciting story that it contains.

What did you recently finish reading?

Blood Trail by Tony Park (Trade Paperback)

Blood Trail Cover

Starlight Enclave by R. A. Salvatore (Audiobook)

Starlight Enclave Cover

The Housemate by Sarah Bailey (Trade Paperback)

The Housemate Cover

Prisoner by S. R. White (Trade Paperback)

The Prisoner Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Noise by James Patterson and J. D. Barker (Trade Paperback)

The Noise Cover

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

WWW Wednesday – 11 August 2021

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?

Blood Trail by Tony Park (Trade Paperback)

Blood Trail Cover

I just started the latest exciting thriller from Australian author Tony Park, Blood Trail, who once again sets a compelling story within the nature reserves of Africa.  This novel is pretty cool so far, and I am enjoy the interesting tale of anti-poachers who are up against local witchcraft and the negative impacts of COVID-19.  I am hoping to get through this book pretty quickly and it should be a fun read.

 

Starlight Enclave by R. A. Salvatore (Audiobook)

Starlight Enclave Cover

One of my favourite authors, the legendary R. A. Salvatore, returns with another exciting and complex fantasy novel Starlight Enclave. This is the start of a brand new trilogy from Salvatore and it is so far off to an intriguing start, with some of the main characters engaging in two separate quests.  I am already enjoying this awesome audiobook and I have high hopes it is going to turn into an overall exceptional read.

What did you recently finish reading?

Billy Summers by Stephen King (Trade Paperback)

Billy Summer Cover

 

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (Audiobook)

The Final Girl Support Group Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Star Wars: The High Republic: Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Out of the Shadows 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.

Waiting on Wednesday – Star Wars Novels – Second Half of 2021

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 this week’s Waiting on Wednesday I take a look at several intriguing Star Wars tie-in novels that are set for release later this year.

2021 has so far been a pretty spectacular year for Star Wars tie-in fiction (my favourite so far is easily Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed).  However, the year is far from over and there are still an intriguing collection of upcoming Star Wars novels set for release in the next few months.  Considering it was only just Star Wars day yesterday (and it’s probably still May the Fourth somewhere in the world), I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight which Star Wars novels I am looking forward to in the second half of 2021.  There a several really cool-sounding books set for release before the end of the year, and I am confident that one or two will find their way onto My Favourite Star Wars Novels list next year.

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover

The first entry in this Waiting on Wednesday article is the next adult novel in The High Republic range, The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott.  The High Republic is an intriguing multimedia project that is getting a lot of attention at the moment.  Set 200 years before the events of the Skywalker Saga, the High Republic series is made up of semi-connected novels, comics, young adult books, junior novels, anime, and other pieces of Star Wars media.  I have been rather enjoying some of the early entries in this series so far, including the cool first book, Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule, which introduced a lot of the key settings and storylines that will be explored in future High Republic entries.  This next book looks set to follow up some of the storylines started in Light of the Jedi, and I look forward to seeing how Cavan Scott continue this interesting plot, especially after I previously enjoyed his awesome audiodrama, Dooku: Jedi Lost.

Synopsis:

The heroes of the High Republic era return to face a shattered peace and a fearsome foe, following the dramatic events of Light of the Jedi.

In the wake of the Great Hyperspace Disaster and the heroism of the Jedi, the Republic continues to grow, bringing more worlds together under a single unified banner. Under the leadership of Chancellor Lina Soh, the spirit of unity extends throughout the galaxy, with the Jedi and the newly established Starlight Beacon station at the vanguard.

In celebration, the chancellor plans The Republic Fair, a showcase of the possibilities and the peace of the expanding Republic—a peace the Jedi hope to foster. Stellan Gios, Bell Zettifar, Elzar Mann, and others join the event as ambassadors of harmony. But as the eyes of the galaxy turn toward the Fair, so too does the fury of the Nihil. Their leader, Marchion Ro, is intent on destroying this unity. His storm descends on the pageantry and celebration, sowing chaos and exacting revenge.

As the Jedi struggle to curb the carnage of the rampaging Nihil, they come face-to-face with the true fear their enemy plans to unleash across the galaxy—the kind of fear from which even the Force cannot shield them.

This sounds like a pretty fun novel and it looks like Scott has come up with a really interesting story that will continue some of the fantastic threads from the previous novels.  The fight between the Jedi and the mysterious and chaotic Nihil has so far been pretty cool, especially as there is very little information about their past or ultimate motivations.  Scott is also bringing back several of the key characters introduced in the previous High Republic works, and it will be interesting to see how their story continues.  I have a feeling that several questions previously raised in Light of the Jedi are going to get answered here, although I’m sure that Scott will come up with some more mysteries and reviews.  Because of that, I am quite looking forward to reading The Rising Storm, which is currently set for release in late June 2021.  Scott also has another entry in the High Republic coming out later this year, an audiodrama called Tempest Runner, although I may hold off talking about this too much until some more details are revealed (such as the voice cast).

Star Wars - Out of the Shadows Cover

The next book I am going to look at is another High Republic novel, Out of the Shadows by Justina Ireland.  Out of the Shadows is a young adult novel set for release on 22 July 2021, which will explore a different part of the High Republic universe.  I have so far had some great experiences with High Republic young adult novels, as I really enjoyed the last example, Into the Dark by Claudia Gray, which was released earlier this year.  This will be my first book from author Justina Ireland, although I have heard some good things about her Dread Nation series.  Ireland has previously written several junior Star Wars novels, including Lando’s Luck and A Test of Courage, and it will be interesting to see what unique tale she comes up with for Out of the Shadows.

Synopsis:

The darkest secrets are the hardest to bring to light….

Sylvestri Yarrow is on a streak of bad luck with no end of sight. She’s been doing her best to keep the family cargo business going after her mom’s death, but between mounting debt and increasing attacks by the Nihil on unsuspecting ships, Syl is in danger of losing all she has left of her mother. She heads to the galactic capital of Coruscant for help, but gets sidetracked when she’s drawn into a squabble between two of the Republic’s most powerful families over a patch of space on the frontier. Tangled up in familial politics is the last place Syl wants to be, but the promise of a big payoff is enough to keep her interested…

Meanwhile, Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh has been summoned to Coruscant, but with no idea of why or by whom. She and her Padawan Imri Cantaros arrive at the capital along with Jedi Master Cohmac Vitus and his Padawan, Reath Silas―and are asked to assist with the property dispute on the frontier. But why? What is so important about an empty patch of space? The answer will lead Vernestra to a new understanding of her abilities, and take Syl back to the past…and to truths that will finally come out of the shadows.

I have to say that I really like the sound of Out of the Shadows, and I think that this cool novel will prove to be an incredible addition to the High Republic.  I like how Out of the Shadows is planning to bring back several of the awesome characters introduced in previous High Republic novels, such as Jedi Knight Vernestra Rwoh, who Ireland created in her previous novel, A Test of Courage, and Cohmac Vitus and Reath Silas, who were introduced in Into the Dark.  At the same time, this novel is also going to introduce a fun new character in Sylvestri Yarrow, and I am intrigued about the interactions between her and the four Jedi characters.  I am quite intrigued about where Out of the Shadows’ story is going to go, and it will be interesting to see how it ties into the rest of the High Republic range.  Ireland also has another piece of High Republic fiction coming out later this year, and I will have to grab the cool manga series she is doing with Shima Sinya and Mizuki Sakakibara, The Edge of Balance, when it comes out later this year.

Star Wars - Queen's Hope Cover

One of the other Star Wars books I am quite keen for is the young adult book, Queen’s Hope by E. K. Johnston.  Queen’s Hope will be the third entry in a fun series Johnston has been writing that follows the adventures of Padmé Amidala and her handmaidens.  The first two novels in this series, Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril, have followed very different parts of Padmé’s life, including early days of being Queen and her transition to life as a Senator.  This upcoming book, which will be released in early November 2021, will be set during the Clone Wars.

Synopsis:

A peace-loving senator faces a time of war in another thrilling Padmé Amidala adventure from the author of the New York Times best-sellers Queen’s Peril and Queen’s Shadow!

Padmé is adjusting to being a wartime senator during the Clone Wars. Her secret husband, Anakin Skwyalker, is off fighting the war, and excels at being a wartime Jedi. In contrast, when Padmé gets the opportunity to see the casualties on the war-torn front lines, she is horrified. The stakes have never been higher for the galaxy, or for the newly-married couple.

Meanwhile, with Padmé on a secret mission, her handmaiden Sabé steps into the role of Senator Amidala, something no handmaiden has done for an extended period of time. While in the Senate, Sabé is equally horrified by the machinations that happen there. She comes face to face with a gut-wrenching decision as she realizes that she cannot fight a war this way, not even for Padmé.

And Chancellor Palpatine hovers over it all, manipulating the players to his own ends…

I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see that Johnston was still continuing this series.  While I did enjoy her previous Padmé Amidala novels, it felt a little played out after the second book, mainly because the publishing order was a little disjointed.  However, this next book does sound pretty awesome, and I am rather keen to check it out.  Thanks to shows like The Clone Wars, this period of Star Wars history is pretty well chronicled, although there are plenty of great opportunities for stories and tales, especially around Padmé.

I am rather curious to see more of Senator Amidala during this period, and I am looking forward to learning more about her political exploits, especially with future Rebel Alliance leaders (as seen in some of the deleted scenes of Revenge of the Sith).  This will no doubt be complicated by the inclusion of Sabé, Padmé’s handmaiden and body double, who serves as a fantastic secondary protagonist in this series, and having her covering for her mistress for a long period of time should result in some thrilling moments. I am also really keen to see more of Chancellor Palpatine’s manipulations and machinations, and it should prove interesting to find out how he is playing everyone.  One thing that I am not too keen on is the inclusion of Anakin Skywalker in this story.  While there are many fine aspects to Anakin as a character, his romance with Padmé never really worked in the film, thanks to too much whining, murder and sand (the sand, not the sand!), and hopefully that won’t be too prevalent in this upcoming book.  It will be interesting to see how Queen’s Hope turns out and I think it should end up being an excellent read.

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil Cover

The final book I really want to feature is the third and final book in the awesome Thrawn Ascendancy series, Lesser Evil, by Timothy Zahn.  The Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy is a great collection of books that examine the early life of one of the best characters in the entire Star Wars canon, Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Serving as a prequel series to Zahn’s Thrawn series (made up of Thrawn, Alliances and Treason), the Thrawn Ascendancy novels are a fascinating series heavy in Star Wars lore.  The series has so far consisted of Chaos Rising and Greater Good, which only came out a few days ago.  Due to its recent release date, I have not had a chance to read Greater Good yet, but I already know I am in for an excellent time with it.  However, Zahn has clearly been on a writing roll (like everyone, he has probably had a lot of spare time in the last year), and his next book is set for release on 16 November.

Synopsis:

The fate of the Chiss Ascendancy hangs in the balance in the epic finale of the Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy from bestselling author Timothy Zahn.

For thousands of years The Chiss Ascendancy has been an island of calm, a center of power, and a beacon of integrity. Led by the Nine Ruling Families, their leadership stands as a bulwark of stability against the Chaos of the Unknown Regions.

But that stability has been eroded by a cunning foe that winnows away trust and loyalty in equal measure. Bonds of fidelity have given way to lines of division among the families. Despite the efforts of the Expansionary Defense Fleet, the Ascendancy slips closer and closer toward civil war.

The Chiss are no strangers to war. Their mythic status in the Chaos was earned through conflict and terrible deeds, some long buried. Until now. To ensure the Ascendancy’s future, Thrawn will delve deep into its past, uncovering the dark secrets surrounding the ascension of the First Ruling Family. But the truth of a family’s legacy is only as strong as the legend that supports it. Even if that legend turns out to be a lie.

To secure the salvation of the Ascendancy, is Thrawn willing to sacrifice everything? Including the only home he has ever known?

Now, it is hard to talk about this upcoming novel when I have not even read the preceding book yet, but I can guess that I am really going to enjoy Lesser Evil.  This book will no doubt contain Zahn’s amazing storytelling and impressive development of his most notable character, and I look forward to more outstanding space battles.  This will probably be one of the best Star Wars novels in 2021, and I cannot wait to see how Zahn rounds out this fantastic series.

Aside from the four above novels, there is also a potentially interesting book coming out called Ronin by Emma Mieko Candon.  Ronin will be connected to an upcoming Star Wars animated series, Star Wars: Visions, which will contain several animated shorts from various Japanese anime studios.  Ronin will apparently tie into one of these upcoming shorts, and I look forward to seeing what the short film is like and how this intriguing novel will be connected.

As you can see from the above, there are some really cool Star Wars novels coming out later in the year, and I am quite excited.  All of the above books sound incredibly awesome and I fully intend to read and review each of them.  Based on my overwhelming love of Star Wars, I have no doubt that I will love them all.  It does look like I am going to be busy with Star Wars stuff this year though, especially as I am going to also check out the Star Wars comics, including some High Republic comics, as well as the audiodrama and manga I mentioned above.  Still, this should be a lot of fun and I cannot wait to get to it.  First step is start reading the second Thrawn Ascendency book, which I am going to start doing right now.