Top Ten Tuesday – Longest Audiobooks That I Have Listened To – Part III

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I’m veering away from the official topic (this week it was Top Ten Books with your Favourite Trope/Theme), and instead I chose to revisit and update a fun post I last looked at nearly two years ago.

As readers of this blog will be aware, I am a massive fan of audiobooks, and it is often the best way to enjoy a good book.  I have been lucky enough to listen to an impressive collection of audiobooks over the years, with some of them being extremely long, often taking me weeks to get through.  Back in 2019, I got curious about all the audiobooks I had listened to, and I wanted to know which were the longest ones that I had ever listened to.  As a result, I sat down and worked out which ones had the longest run time.  This turned into such an interesting endeavour that I ended up posting on my blog here, with the longest 20 books featured.  I had such an amazing time doing this that a year later I had a go at updating it, adding in a few additional reads.

Well, it has been nearly two years since I last updated this list and I always intended to keep coming back to this list to see how the recent long audiobooks I have listened to stacked up against the books already on this list.  Since the last update in 2020 I have managed to listen to quite a few new audiobooks, several of which had an excellent run time.  As I just reviewed one of these yesterday, I thought this would be a good time to update the list again and see what differences have been made in the last year.  The list below is similar to the list I posted a couple of years ago, with several new additions added in (see the highlighted posts).  I ended up extending the list to 25 entries, mainly to fit a couple of extra recent audiobooks in, so prepare for even more awesome covers.

List:

1. The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, narrated by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading – 45 hours and 48 minutes

WAY OF KINGS MM REV FINAL.indd

 

2. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl – 42 hours and 55 minutes

The Wise Mans Fear Cover

 

3. Magician by Raymond E. Feist, narrated by Peter Joyce – 36 hours and 14 minutes

Magician Cover

 

4. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, narrated by Roy Dotrice – 33 hours and 45 minutes

A Game of Thrones Cover

 

5. Mistress of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurst, narrated by Tania Rodrigues – 32 hours and 1 minutes

Mistress of the Empire Cover

 

6. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini, narrated by Gerrard Doyle – 31 hours and 29 minutes

Inheritance Cover

 

7. Servant of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurst, narrated by Tania Rodrigues – 30 hours and 42 minutes

Servant of the Empire Cover

 

8. The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding, narrated by Simon Bubb – 30 hours and 40 minutes

the ember blade cover

 

9. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, narrated by Gerrard Doyle – 29 hours and 34 minutes

Brisingr Cover

 

10. Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio, narrated by Samuel Roukin – 28 hours and 3 minutes

Howling Dark Cover

 

11. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, narrated by Nick Podehl – 27 hours and 55 minutes

The Name of the Wind Cover

 

12. House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas, narrated by Elizabeth Evans – 27 hours and 50 minutes

House of Earth and Blood Cover

 

13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale – 27 hours and 2 minutes

The Order of the Phoenix Cover

 

14. Red Seas under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, narrated by Michael Page – 25 hours and 34 minutes

Red Seas Under Red Skies

 

15. The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, narrated by Michael Page – 23 hours and 43 minutes

The Republic of Thieves Cover

 

16. The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie, narrated by Steven Pacey – 23 hours and 36 minutes

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

The longest book I am adding to this list is the epic dark fantasy novel, The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie.  This incredible book, which was one of the best novels and audiobooks of 2021, ends Abercrombie’s Age of Madness trilogy on a very high note.  Containing a brilliant story, some incredible characters, and some major twists, this is an essential read for all fantasy fans.  At nearly 24 hours in length, this is a pretty hefty audiobook, although once you get caught up in the epic story, you will power through it.

 

17. Eldest by Christopher Paolini, narrated by Gerrard Doyle – 23 hours and 29 minutes

Eldest Cover

 

18. Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn, narrated by Marc Thompson and The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick, narrated by Nikki Massoud, 23 hours and 13 minutes

Lesser Evil and The Mask of Mirrors Covers

I was very surprised to find myself with a tie for the number 18 position, especially as both were audiobooks I only recently listened to.  These two awesome audiobooks, which come in at 23 hours and 13 minutes each, are the third book in the epic Thrawn Ascendancy Star Wars trilogy, Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn, and the excellent fantasy epic The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick.  Both novels were impressive 2021 releases, with Lesser Evil perfectly wrapping up the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy (which included Chaos Rising and Greater Good), while The Mask of Mirror ended up being one of the best debuts of 2021.  Both audiobooks were very good, with Lesser Evil featuring legendary narrator Marc Thompson, while The Mask of Mirrors was expertly told by Nikki Massoud (loved her various accents).  Both outstanding performances really helped me to enjoy these great books and I powered through them in no time.

 

19. Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie, narrated by Steven Pacey – 22 hours and 38 minutes

Before they are Hanged Cover

 

20. The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie, narrated by Steven Pacey – 22 hours and 15 minutes

The Blade Itself

 

21. Engines of Empire by R. S. Ford, narrated by various – 22 hours and 3 minutes

Engines of Empire Cover

The most recent book on this list that I have listened to, Engines of Empire was an epic fantasy novel that introduced readers to an excellent new world.  Filled with intrigue, action and magic, I had a lot of fun with this audiobook, and I particularly liked how it featured several separate narrators.  This impressive team of narrators ensured that Engines of Empire turned out to be a pretty awesome audiobook, and it was one that I had a lot fun getting through.

 

22. The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie, narrated by Steven Pacey– 21 hours and 56 minutes

The Trouble with Peace Cover

Wow, this list is just loaded with Joe Abercrombie’s epic novels, as another book from his Age of Madness trilogy is featured here.  The Trouble with Peace is the second entry in the series, and it perfectly follows up the first book, A Little Hatred.  I deeply enjoyed this cool book, especially as it once again featured the cool narration of Steven Pacey, and this was easily one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020.  Easy to power through thanks to the incredible story and brilliant characters, this near 22-hour long audiobook will just fly by.

 

23. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, narrated by Michael Page – 21 hours and 59 minutes

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

 

24. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale – 21 hours and 36 minutes

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Cover

 

25. Altered Realms: Ascension by B. F. Rockriver, narrated by Maximillian Breed – 21 Hours and 26 minutes

Altered Realms Cover 2

The final new audiobook on this list is the interesting novel, Altered Realms: Ascension by B. F. Rockriver.  An intense and clever LITRPG novel, Ascension featured an NPC who is given the powers of a player and must adventure through his world with a whole new set of eyes.  Not only was this a great novel (one of the best debuts of 2020), but the audiobook version of it was a lot of fun, especially as narrator Maximillian Breed perfectly captures the computer-generated voice anyone who has played an RPG will be familiar with.  A cool audiobook that is worth the substantial time investment.

 

Well, those are some pretty cool new additions to this list.  I am probably being a little over generous moving it up to 25 entries, but I think it turned out alright.  I am a little disappointed that none of my recent books got anywhere the top ten, so I think I will have to work on listening to some longer audiobooks this year.  I will hopefully have another go at updating this list in a year or so, but in the meantime let me know what the longest audiobook you have listened to is in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Book Covers of 2021

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday, where I am going to list my absolute favourite book covers of the last year.  This is actually the second Top Ten Tuesday post I am putting up today, mainly because I wanted to finish off all my best-of-2021 lists before we got too far into the new year.  I have previously highlighted several other amazing books from last year in a range of lists, including My Favourite Books of 2021, Favourite Audiobooks, Favourite Debuts and Favourite Australian Fiction lists, and I think looking at awesome covers is a good way to wrap this all up.

Now, I know you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I think we can all agree that an awesome piece of cover art can really raise some interest in a novel.  I can personally think of several examples where an epic cover absolutely grabbed me and convinced me to check out a novel that I ended up really loving.  2021 was a great example of this as there were some extremely cool and impressive covers that I thought were visually stunning.  Most of these outstanding covers complemented and emphasised the amazing stories within, and in some places the cover artists really went all out to produce some truly epic statement pieces.  As such, I thought I would quickly highlight some of the best covers here by producing a visually awesome list.  To appear on this list, the book had to be released in 2021 and had to be generally impressive and amazing.  I think I ended up choosing a great range of excellent covers, and I hope you enjoy all the pretty pictures below.  I have tried to find out who did the cover art where possible, although for a couple of books (ones I got on audiobook and don’t have a physical copy of), I couldn’t find out who drew it.  Apologies in advance for any artist I overlooked.

Honourable Mentions:

Lies Like Wildfire written by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, cover by MISHKO

Lies Like Wildfire Cover

 

The Dark written by Jeremy Robinson

The Dark Cover

 

Breakout written by Paul Herron, cover by Patrick Insole

Breakout Cover

 

The Mask of Mirrors written by M. A. Carrick, cover by Nekro and Lauren Panepinto

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

Top Ten Tuesday:

The Shadow of the Gods written by John Gwynne, cover by Marcus Whinney

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

My absolute favourite cover of 2021, this epic piece of art really grabbed my attention and forced me to read this impressive piece of fantasy fiction.  I had a wonderful time with The Shadow of the Gods and the upcoming sequel, The Hunger of the Gods, also has an extremely awesome cover (easily going to be one of the best covers of 2022).

 

Star Wars: Visions: Ronin written by Emma Mieko Candon, cover by Ella Laytham and Kotaro Chiba

Star Wars Visions - Ronin Cover

There were some cool pieces of Star Wars cover art out this year, but nothing could top the artistic masterpiece that appeared on Ronin.  A tie-in to the Star Wars: Visions anime series, the cover of Ronin made perfect use of traditional Japanese artforms to create something exceptional.  I loved the blend of Star Wars iconography and the classic Japanese wave form, and this was an absolute joy to behold.

 

The Pariah written by Anthony Ryan, cover by Lauren Panepinto and Jaime Jones

The Pariah Cover

A clever and subtle bit of art that showcases the roguish protagonist of this fun fantasy novel.  I think the artist did a great job of highlighting what was to come in The Pariah, and the cool detail around the character was very impressive.  While I loved the art for The Pariah, I think that the cover on the upcoming sequel, The Martyr, is even better, and I can’t wait to grab it.

 

The Twice-Dead King: Ruin, written by Nate Crowley

The Twice-Dead King - Ruin Cover

Gosh artists must have so much fun coming up with art for Warhammer covers, as there are some amazing and fantastic elements contained in this extended universe.  I particularly loved this cover from last year, which showcases the ancient and mysterious Necron race in all their glory.  A great cover for a very entertaining tie-in novel.

 

The Warsaw Orphan written by Kelly Rimmer, cover by Christabella Designs

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

A simple and understated cover that does a wonderful job highlighting the upcoming dread and tragedy contained in this moving historical drama novel.

 

Colonyside, written by Michael Mammay, cover by Sebastien Hue

Colonyside Cover

There have been some really great covers for the previous books in Michael Mammay’s Planetside series (Planetside and Spaceside), but I think that the one for Colonyside was the best.  I love the above shot, especially as it perfectly captures the insane jungle planet that was such a distinctive setting of this book.  A very fun cover!

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Tempest Runner, written by Cavan Scott, cover by Katerina Balikova

Star Wars - Tempest Runner Cover

While I also deeply enjoyed one of the covers for Cavan Scott’s other 2021 Star Wars release, The Rising Storm, I think that the cool art that adorned the front of Tempest Runner was even better.  Tempest Runner, which was released as both a full-cast audio drama and a paperback, was a great read, and I loved how this cover did a fantastic job of capturing it’s entertaining and deadly central character.

 

Later, written by Stephen King, cover by Paul Mann

Later Cover

I loved the classic mystery novel feel that the artists choose to utilise for Stephen King’s early 2021 release, Later.  This cover does a fantastic job capturing the unique tone of this cool horror/coming-of-age story and gives it a fun, crime fiction-tinged edge.  This cover, as well as another couple of covers done by Gregory Manchess for the hardcover version, also fit the story really well, especially as they connect to the cheesy adventure novels that the protagonist and his mother produce.

 

Cytonic written by Brandon Sanderson, cover by Sam Green and Tomas Almeida

Cytonic Cover

I have a lot of love for the cool covers that get used in the Gollancz versions of Brandon Sanderson’s Skyward series (so far consisting of Skyward and Starlight).  The cover for the third book, Cytonic, was particularly awesome, and I loved how it showcased parts of the very unique new setting of the third novel.

 

The Art of Death written by David Fennell, cover by Nick Stearn

The Art of Death Cover

A creepy and eye-catching piece of artwork that hints at the disturbing crimes contained in this fantastic 2021 crime fiction debut.

 

Well, that’s the end of this second list, I hope you enjoyed all the cool covers above.  Make sure to me know what your favourite book covers of 2021 was in the comments below and I cannot wait to see what awesome and epic pieces of art will grace the front of 2022’s best reads.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I Meant to Read in 2021 but Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday, participants were required to list their most recent additions to their book collections.  However, due to some upcoming lists that I planned out I am instead mixing things up and instead featuring the top books of 2021 that I wanted to read but didn’t get a chance to.

2021 was a great year for novels and I had an outstanding time getting through a solid collection of cool new releases and older novels, which were pretty much all epic and impressive reads.  However, no matter how hard one tries, there are always a couple of books each year that I did not get a chance to read, either due to time constraints, lack of access or from being overwhelmed with other books that I really wanted to read.  As a result, this is a list that is rather tinged with regret, as each book I plan to mention below is one that I really wish I had taken the time to read.

To complete this list, I pulled together some of the more interesting and compelling sounding novels that I did not get a chance to read in the last year.  Each entry was released last year and while I knew that they were coming out, I did not get a chance to read any of them.  In many cases I have these books sitting on my shelf at this moment, silently and constantly judging me, and I think I will have to try and read them to stop their bookish glares.  I was eventually able to cull my list of regret down to 10 entries with an honourable mentions section.  The final list is an interesting collection of books from across the genres and includes a couple of big 2021 releases I did not get a chance to look at.

Honourable Mentions:

Galaxias by Stephen Baxter

Galaxias Cover

An interesting sounding science fiction novel about the end of the world that would have been fun to check out.

 

The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Keeper of Night (2)

One of the coolest young adult fantasy books I didn’t get to read last year.

 

The Burning by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman

The Burning Cover

I have been really getting into Jonathan Kellerman’s novels lately and I reckon I would have enjoyed this fantastic novel if I had a chance to read it.

 

Star Trek Discovery: Wonderlands by Una McCormack

Star Trek Wonderlands Cover

2021 was a bit of a null year for me when it came to Star Trek fiction as there were several Star Trek great tie-in books I wanted to read but didn’t get a chance to.  The one I think I would have enjoyed the most was Wonderlands by Una McCormack that tied into the third season of Star Trek Discovery.

Top Ten List:

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

Empire of the Vampire Cover

One of the books I most regret not reading last year is the epic Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff.  Set in a world completely ruled by vampires, this book chronicles the life of a human resistance fighter/vampire hunter.  I have heard some impressive things about Empire of the Vampire, and I really wish I could have read it last year.  Unfortunately, I could not fit it into my reading schedule as it is a pretty massive book with an extensive run time.  I will try extremely hard to read it this year though, especially if Kristoff has sequels planned.

 

The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston

The Maleficent Seven Cover 2

Another book I deeply regret not reading in 2021 was The Maleficent Seven by the amazing Cameron Johnston.  An intriguing fantasy reversal of classic films like The Magnificent Seven and Seven Samurai, The Maleficent Seven follows seven villains as they join forces to defend a village from an army even more evil than them.  I really liked the sound of this book, and I am a big fan of Johnston’s previous novels The Traitor God and God of Broken Things.  As such, I will also make a huge effort to check out The Maleficent Seven this year, and I already know I am going to love it.

 

The Noise by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

The Noise Cover

James Patterson cowrote several great books in 2021, and while I did manage to enjoy his fun 2 Sisters Detective Agency (cowritten by Australian author Candice Fox), I didn’t get a chance to read his most interesting sounding novel, The Noise.  Cowritten by horror author J. D. Barker, The Noise is a trippy and captivating sounding science fiction thriller set in a remote area of America.  Filled with mysterious science, government conspiracies and a dangerous elemental force, I was deeply intrigued by this novel and I am hoping to read it soon.

 

Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie

Unforgiven Cover

Unforgiven is a powerful Australian thriller about a former victim of a paedophile who hopes to hunt down her abuser.  I heard that this book was pretty epic and intense, and I meant to read it in the last week.  I may try and start it in the next day or so, but I will have to see how I go.

 

The Righteous by David Wragg

The Righteous

Another book that I really regret not reading in 2021 was The Righteous by David Wragg.  The sequel to his impressive debut, The Black Hawks, The Righteous apparently continues his cool dark fantasy storyline about a group of mercenaries caught in the middle of an evil conspiracy.  This is another one I will make a big effort to read soon and I cannot wait to see what happens to the series’ entertaining protagonists next.

 

Gamora and Nebula: Sisters in Arms by Mackenzi Lee

Gamora and Nebula - Sisters in Arms Cover

An interesting Marvel young adult tie-in by bestselling author Mackenzi Lee, Sisters in Arms was a book I really wanted to read last year, especially after enjoying Lee’s last novel Loki: Where Mischief Lies.

 

Star Wars: Visions: Ronin by Emma Mieko Candon

Star Wars Visions - Ronin Cover

A fun tie-in to the Star Wars: Visions anime movies, Ronin was one of the few Star Wars books I didn’t read in 2021 and I hope to rectify that oversight soon.

 

The Last Watch by J. S. Dewes

The Last Watch Cover

This was apparently one of the best debut novels of 2021 and I really regret not checking it out.  An epic and fascinating science fiction novel about a group of criminals and failures who try to save the universe, The Last Watch got a lot of love from some top reviewers, and I am keen to see how awesome it truly is.

 

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

The Blacktongue Thief Cover

Another major novel that got a lot of love in reviewers circles last years was The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman.  Set to follow an odd couple pairing in a brutal fantasy world, this was apparently an exceptional novel, and it was one that I regret not getting a chance to read.  I might try this year, especially if Buehlman has a sequel on the horizon, and I look forward to seeing what all the fuss is about.

 

The Liar’s Knot by M. A. Carrick

The Liar's Knot Cover

The final book on this list is The Liar’s Knot by M. A. Carrick, which is the second book in the Rook and Rose series of fantasy novels.  I read the first book in this series, The Mask of Mirrors, earlier in the year, and I really enjoyed its fun and compelling story.  I was hoping to read the sequel in 2021, but I never got the chance, especially as the audiobook version apparently isn’t out yet (I think I’d want to listen to it).  I am hoping to listen to it in a few months’ time, but I’ll have to see how I go.

 

 

Well, that is the end of my latest list and it looks like I have a lot catch-up reading to do if I am going to make a dent in it.  There are some truly amazing-sounding novels on this list and I fully intend to get through all of them at some point, although with all the outstanding books coming out in 2022, it might take me a little time.  In the meantime, let me know what books you most regret not reading in 2021 in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Debut Novels of 2021

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 involved participants listing the top books on their Summer 2021/22 to-read-list.  However, I already produced that list a few weeks ago, so I thought I would take this opportunity to continue my foray into highlighting the absolute best books of 2021.  This is an end of year tradition I do each year with several Top Ten Tuesday list, and I started this year’s version last week when I listed some of the best pre-2021 releases I checked out this year.  In a continuation of my end of year highlights, for this week’s list I have decided to look at my absolute favourite debut novels of the year.

I mentioned multiple times throughout the year that 2021 was a pretty awesome year for debuts and boy did I mean it.  There were an incredible number of new authors releasing some impressive and entertaining debut novels this year, and I was lucky enough to receive a huge bundle of them to review.  I always love checking out new authors as they produce their first book or take a foray into a whole new genre, and I was blown away with some of the talent this year.  As such, I am really glad that I can highlight some of the absolute best in this Top Ten list.

To be eligible for this list, the book had to be either the first novel from a new author released in 2021, or a novel that was extremely different from an author’s previous work (their debut in the genre).  I ended up reading a huge collection of debuts this year, so I had a bit of a hard time coming up with the list, as there were a lot of good options.  I was eventually able to whittle it down to a manageable list of 10, with my typical generous Honourable Mentions section.  The result was an excellent list that I feel perfectly captures my favourite debuts of the year and highlights them accordingly.  So, let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Falling by T. J. Newman

Falling Cover

An interesting and fast paced thriller debut that follows a pilot whose family is kidnapped in order to force him to crash his plane.  Intense and exciting.

Small Acts of Defiance by Michelle Wright

Small Acts of Defiance Cover

Small Acts of Defiance was a great Australian historical drama from new author Michelle Wright set in occupied Paris.  This book had a brilliant and powerful story about resistance no matter the odds and is really worth checking out.

Breakout by Paul Herron

Breakout Cover

This year urban fantasy author Paul Crilley came up with a new writing handle, Paul Herron, to produce his first thriller, Breakout, a fast-paced and ultra-exciting novel about an inmate trying to escape a flooded prison filled with the worst killers in the country.  One of the most action-packed novels of the year, this was an interesting change of pace from Crilley, so I am treating it as a debut.

City of Vengeance by D. V. Bishop

City of Vengeance Cover

One of the more interesting historical fiction debuts of 2021 was City of Vengeance by D. V. Bishop.  This cool book follows a historical investigation in Renaissance Florence and proved to be an intriguing and dark murder mystery with some clever flashes to a real historical case.

Top Ten List:

The Frenchman by Jack Beaumont

The Frenchman Cover

The first book on this list is the brilliant and compelling thriller debut, The Frenchman by Jack Beaumont.  Written by a former French intelligence operative, The Frenchman has an exciting tale of intrigue, espionage, and betrayal, as a French spy attempts to gain information on a chemical plant in Pakistan while also trying to balance his professional and personal lives.  An outstanding and clever novel with a ton of realism to it.

The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

Readers were treated to a fantastic fantasy debut this year from the author M. A. Carrick, with The Mask of Mirrors, a complex and powerful read about a con artist attempting to infiltrate high society in a corrupt and dangerous fantasy city.  Carrick is actually the joint pen name of established authors Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, but as this is their first collaboration and they are using a pseudonym to do so, I am treating it as a debut from a new author.  This was an excellent fantasy debut, and I was lucky enough to recently receive a copy of the sequel, The Liar’s Knot, which I am hoping to read very soon.

Inscape by Louise Carey

Inscape Cover

After previously writing fantasy fiction with her family, the incredibly talented Louise Carey had her solo debut this year with Inscape, a compelling and exciting cyberpunk, dystopian thriller.  Set in a future world where everyone has advanced technology loaded into their brains, this book follows a young corporate agent as she attempts to discover who is attacking her parent company.  Containing a brilliant story and a great new universe, this was a fantastic read that is really worth checking out.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun Cover

One of the most highly anticipated debuts of 2021 was She Who Became the Sun by Australian author Shelley Parker-Chan.  Set in the chaotic Yuan dynasty of China, this book follows a girl who takes up the identity of her dead brother to steal his great destiny.  A clever reinvention of a famous Emperor’s rise to power, containing some intriguing gender swapping and fantasy elements, She Who Became the Sun rightly deserves all the praise it received, as it is a fun and amazing book.

The Councillor by E. J. Beaton

The Councillor Cover

Another great debut from an Australian author, The Councillor was a captivating and impressive fantasy novel that I deeply enjoyed.  Following a troubled palace scholar who rises to a position of power after the death of her queen, The Councillor is filled with a ton of captivating political intriguing, fascinating magic, and some complex and manipulative characters.  An awesome and powerful read, I cannot wait to see where Beaton takes this great series next.

Fire Made Flesh by Denny Flowers

Fire Made Flesh Cover

Written as part of the Necromunda sub-series in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Fire Made Flesh is Denny Flowers’ first full-length novel, and it takes the reader on a wild adventure to a haunted and chaotic underground settlement where various eccentric beings fight for power.  A really entertaining read that fits perfectly into the cool Necromunda setting, I deeply enjoyed this novel and it was one of the craziest books I read all year.

Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Lies Like Wildfire Cover

There was no way I could exclude the outstanding young adult thriller, Lies Like Wildfire from this list.  Lies Like Wildfire was Jennifer Lynn Alvarez’s first foray away from middle-grade fiction and features an incredible plot about a group of friends who accidently start a devastating wildfire and attempt to cover up their actions.  A powerful and dramatic novel filled with lies, betrayals and jealousy, Lies Like Wildfire was an exceptional read, and I cannot wait to see what Alvarez writes next.

Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn

Among Thieves Cover

Easily one of the best debuts of 2021 was the excellent Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn.  Essentially a compelling fantasy heist novel, this book follows several unique and entertaining characters as they attempt to steal a powerful artefact from an impregnable magical fortress.  However, every member of the crew has their own motivations for being there, and all of them are planning to betray the rest.  This was an outstanding and deeply entertaining read which really sets Kuhn up as a rising star in the fantasy genre.

The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield

The Apollo Murders Cover

I had an absolute blast reading The Apollo Murders, the first fictional book from astronaut turned author Chris Hadfield.  Set in 1973, this book envisions a 18th, fictional Apollo mission, filled with all manner of espionage, disaster, and stowaway Soviet cosmonauts.  Incredibly intense and loaded with a fantastic amount of information about space flight, The Apollo Murders was an amazing read and I deeply enjoyed all the different genres that Hadfield was able to feature in his debut novel.

The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox

The Dying Squad Cover

The final debut on this list was the clever supernatural murder mystery, The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox.  Following a dead police detective and his feisty ghost partner as they attempt to solve the protagonist’s murder, this was an excellent and clever read that I had a wonderful time with.

Well, that is the end of this list.  As you can, there were some incredible debut novels that came out this year and I had a blast getting through all of them.  Each of the above debuts are really worth checking out, and I had an amazing time exploring these talented authors’ first forays into fiction.  I am really excited to see what these authors produce next, and I have a feeling that quite a few are going to become major figures in their genres.

Book Haul – 7 December 2021

I have been having an absolutely fantastic couple of week for books, as I have been lucky enough to receive several incredible and amazing new novels from some of my local publishers.  These novels include some truly awesome new releases, several of which I have been eagerly awaiting for some time.  This includes an interesting collection of late 2021 book, as well as some releases from early 2022, all of which should make for fantastic reading.  I am extremely keen to check out all of the books below (indeed, I have already gotten through a couple), and they should make for some amazing reads.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil Cover

I got this one a few weeks ago and I was very happy when I did.  Timothy Zahn is the undisputed master of Star Wars extended fiction and his current Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy, which has so far consisted of Chaos Rising and Greater Good, has been a detailed and fun-filled series.  As such, I have been really looking forward to the final entry, Lesser Evil, that highlights the exploits of the future Grand Admiral Thrawn amongst his own people.  I have already read this book and it is pretty damn awesome, review to follow soon.

It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts

It Ends in Fire Cover 2

Another recent arrival I have already read is It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts.  Shvarts, who did such a great job with his Royal Bastards series (check out my reviews of City of Bastards and War of the Bastards), once again presents a brilliant young adult fantasy novel.  It Ends in Fire has an amazing story that follows a powerful Wizard and rebel as she infiltrates a nation’s premier magic school in order to burn it down from the inside.  A fun and clever novel, I should have a review for it up tomorrow.

The Liar’s Knot by M. A. Carrick

The Liar's Knot Cover

Earlier this year fantastic new author M. A. Carrick (joint penname of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms) wowed me with her first novel, The Mask of Mirrors, which contained a bold story about a con woman drawn into preserving her city.  I had a great time with this first book and I cannot wait to see what happens to the amazing characters and storylines next.

League of Liars by Astrid Scholte

League of Liars Cover 2

I was also very excited when I received a copy of the latest novel from bestselling Australian author Astrid Scholte.  This cool book has an awesome plot about a lawyer breaking several magically powered beings out a high security jail.  I love the sound of this amazing novel and I cannot wait to see what happens within.

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len

Only a Monster Cover

I also received the fantastic sound young adult fantasy novel Only a Monster by Vanessa Len.  Set to be one of the best debuts of 2022, Only a Monster follows a young woman who discovers that her family are actually monsters from legend, and must attempt to defend herself from a dangerous monster hunter.  I really like the sound of this cool read and I look forward to checking it out in the new year.

Resistance by Mara Timon

Resistance Cover

An intense and powerful historical fiction novel that follows the French Resistance during World War II.  I look forward to seeing what thrilling and compelling story this awesome book contains and I am sure that I am going to love it.

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor

Dirt Town Cover

Another interesting 2022 debut, Dirt Town is an upcoming Australian crime fiction/drama novel set in small town Australia.  Dirt Town has a fantastic and deep sounding story about a missing girl and I am sure I am going to have a wonderful time reading this dramatic and powerful novel.

Exit .45 by Ben Sanders

Exit .45 Cover

I was very happy yesterday when I received this excellent sounding crime fiction novel, Exit .45 by Ben Sanders.  It looks like Sanders will be bringing back his protagonist Marshall Grade for another exciting adventure, this time involving corrupt cops and deadly murders.  I am very intrigued to read this novel and I already know I am going to love it.

All or Nothing by Ollie Ollerton

All or Nothing Cover

The final novel I received was the awesome thriller All or Nothing by former special forces operative Ollie Ollerton.  This second book in the Alex Abbott series will take its protagonist on an exciting and dangerous infiltration mission.  I look forward to reading this fantastic sounding novel and I reckon I will be in for a fast-paced and ultra-exciting time.

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

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my Summer 2021-22 TBR

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

For this list, I have come up with 10 of the most anticipated novels that are coming out between 1 December 2021 and 28 February 2022.  There are quite a few very cool novels set for release in the next few months that I am very excited for, including some highly anticipated reads.  I was eventually able to whittle these down into a Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have primarily used the Australian publication dates to reflect when I will be able to get these awesome novels, and these might be somewhat different to the rest of the world.  I have previously discussed a number of these books before in prior Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be some really impressive and enjoyable reads.  I am incredibly excited for the next three months as there are some incredible novels coming out, several of which I already know are going to be amongst the best books of 2021 and 2022.

Honourable Mentions:

The Liar’s Knot by M. A. Carrick – 9 December 2021

The Liar's Knot Cover

 

Outcast by Louise Carey – 25 January 2022

Outcast Cover

 

Warhammer 40,000: Day of Ascension by Adrian Tchaikovsky – 1 February 2022

Day of Ascension Cover

 

Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham – 22 February 2022

Age of Ash Cover

Top Ten Tuesday (by release date):

Armored by Mark Greaney – 9 December 2021

Armored Cover

 

The Starless Crown by James Rollins – 4 January 2022

The Starless Crown Cover

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: The Fallen Star by Claudia Gray – 4 January 2022

Star Wars - The Fallen Star

Over the last year, some of the best Star Wars novels have been part of the awesome High Republic publication range.  Set hundreds of years before the films, High Republic fiction covers a whole new era of the Star Wars universe and has an extremely distinctive feel and some great new antagonists.  The Fallen Star will be the third adult novel in this series and will continue the major storylines set up in Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm.  I am really looking forward to this new novel, especially as the plot suggests that the villainous Nihil will be launching an attack on the Jedi stronghold of Starlight Beacon, which will force the various characters into a desperate life and death struggle.  I cannot wait to see how this book plays out, and I am excited to see another book from author Claudia Gray, especially after how her impressive last two novels, Into the Dark and Master & Apprentice (one of my favourite Star Wars books).

 

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World by K. J. Parker – 11 January 2022

A Practical Guide to Conquering the World Cover

I had to include the third and final entry in K. J. Parker’s brilliant Siege trilogy, A Practical Guide to Conquering the World, on this list.  The Siege trilogy features three loosely connected fantasy novels that depict the comedic defence of a besieged city through unconventional tactics.  This outstanding fantasy comedy series has so far featured Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City (one of the best books of 2019) and How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It (one of the best books of 2020).  While there are only minimal details about this novel now, I already know that I am going to laugh myself silly reading it and that it will be one of the most entertaining novels I will check out in 2022.

 

Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz – 8 February 2022

Dark Horse Cover

 

City of the Dead by Jonathan Kellerman – 8 February 2022

City of the Dead Cover

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 36: Tengu War! by Stan Sakai – 15 February 2022

Usagi Yojimbo - Tengu War!

 

Sierra Six by Mark Greaney – 15 February 2022

Sierra Six Cover

 

The Misfit Soldier by Michael Mammay – 22 February 2022

The Misfit Soldier Cover

 

The Justice of Kings by Richard Swan – 22 February 2022

The Justice of Kings Cover

 

 

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

Waiting on Wednesday – Upcoming Sequels

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 am going to highlight three upcoming novels that I think will be awesome follow ups to some excellent debut novels I’ve recently read.

Over the last year there have been some truly amazing debut novels coming out across the various genres.  This is particularly true in 2021, and I have already enjoyed some really great books written by talented first-time authors, with several other fantastic sounding ones set for release later in the year.  However, I am also particularly excited to see that some of these fantastic debuts are already producing some cool sounding sequels, which will be released over the next few months.  Considering how much fun I had reading the first books from these amazing writers, I am very excited for these sequels, especially as they are all continuing the compelling storylines from the initial books.

The first book I want to highlight is The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart, the second book in The Drowning Empire series and the cool sounding follow up to the 2020 fantasy debut, The Bone Shard DaughterThe Bone Shard Daughter was a very impressive fantasy debuts and it instantly got a massive following of fans, especially as multiple reviewers quickly started raving about it.  I read it a few months after it came out and I really enjoyed its captivating story and clever setting, and it ended up being one of my favourite debuts of 2020.

The Bone Shard Emperor Cover

The Drowning Empire novels are set within a tyrannical empire of multiple islands, ruled over by a family of magicians who use shards of bone, harvested from their subjects to power dangerous constructs.  The first novel followed a great range of characters, including a smuggler, the Emperor’s rebellious daughter and several rebels, and resulted in an awesome read with a great conclusion.  I am pretty excited to check out the sequel, currently set for release on 11 November 2021, which will continue right after the events of the first book and feature a dangerous new enemy emerging to challenge the protagonists.  The Bone Shard Emperor sounds like a really good read and I cannot wait to see how Stewart’s second novel turns out.

Synopsis:

The Bone Shard Emperor is the unmissable sequel to The Bone Shard Daughter, one of the biggest fantasy debuts of 2020 – a captivating tale of magic, revolution and mystery, where a young woman’s sense of identity will make or break an empire.

The Emperor is Dead. Long live the Emperor.

Lin Sukai finally sits on the throne she won at so much cost, but her struggles are only just beginning. Her people don’t trust her. Her political alliances are weak. And in the northeast of the Empire, a rebel army of constructs is gathering, its leader determined to take the throne by force.

Yet an even greater threat is on the horizon, for the Alanga – the powerful magicians of legend – have returned to the Empire. They claim they come in peace, and Lin needs their help to defeat the rebels and restore order.

But can she trust them?

The next novel I want to highlight in this post is The Liar’s Knot by M. A. Carrick, the second book in the exciting Rook & Rose series.  The Liar’s Knot, which will be released in early December 2021, is the sequel to the excellent The Mask of Mirrors, which came out earlier this year.  The Mask of Mirrors is the first book from author M. A. Carrick, the joint pen name of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, two established fantasy authors, although I am counting this book as a debut as it was the first time that they wrote together.

The Liar's Knot Cover

The Mask of Mirrors, which was one of my favourite audiobooks of the first half of 2021, followed a great group of protagonists as they engage in a game of deceit and lies in an amazing fantasy setting.  Set in the troubled city of Nadežra, the book primarily followed a former street kid turned con artist as she attempts to trick her way into the ranks of a wealthy family by rescuing them from poverty.  However, her ploy sets her against a range of dangerous adversaries, including a notorious crime lord, a mysterious vigilante, and an insidious magical threat from her childhood.  This results in an awesome and compelling fantasy adventure, and I really enjoyed how the story progressed.  The next book in this series, The Liar’s Knot, will continue the impressive story with the three central protagonists coming into conflict with each other, and the other sinister forces infesting the city.

Synopsis:

Trust is the thread that binds us . . . and the rope that hangs us.

In Nadezra, peace is as tenuous as a single thread. The ruthless House Indestor has been destroyed, but darkness still weaves through the city’s filthy back alleys and jewel-bright gardens, seen by those who know where to look.

Derossi Vargo has always known. He has sacrificed more than anyone imagines to carve himself a position of power among the nobility, hiding a will of steel behind a velvet smile. He’ll be damned if he lets anyone threaten what he’s built.

Grey Serrado knows all too well. Bent under the yoke of too many burdens, he fights to protect the city’s most vulnerable. Sooner or later, that fight will demand more than he can give.

And Ren, daughter of no clan, knows best of all. Caught in a knot of lies, torn between her heritage and her aristocratic masquerade, she relies on her gift for reading pattern to survive. And it shows her the web of corruption that traps her city.

But all three have yet to discover just how far that web stretches. And in the end, it will take more than knives to cut themselves free…

The final book in this post is the really cool sounding science fiction thriller, Outcast, by Louise Carey.  Carey is a talented author who, after writing several books with her family, produced her first solo novel earlier this year, InscapeInscape was a captivating and intriguing read that featured a fantastic cyberpunk storyline in a dystopian future.  Inscape was one of the better debut novels I have read so far this year, and I was very excited to see that Carey already has a sequel on the way with Outcast.

Outcast Cover

Outcast, which is currently set for release on 25 January 2022, will continue to follow corporation security officer and spy, Tanta, as she attempts to unravel the various conspiracies dominating the futuristic society that she lives in, and which is threatening the corporation that raised her.  The first novel had a great story to it, which finished on a fantastic note, and I really enjoyed getting through this cool first book.  I am also very excited to see how this story continues, especially as the synopsis suggests that even more secrets and lies about Tanta’s past and her employers will be revealed in this latest outing.

Synopsis:

TRUTH. LIES. IT CAN BE HARD TO TELL THEM APART.

When a bomb goes off at InTech HQ, everything changes for Tanta’s corporation. Order becomes disorder. Safety becomes danger. Calm becomes chaos.

Tanta is tasked with getting to the bottom of the attack before violence and unrest overtake the city. But even though the evidence points towards rival corporation Thoughtfront, Tanta can’t shake the feeling that she’s missing something.

There’s a dark secret at the heart of the case, one that will reveal more about her own corporation than Tanta would like. And the closer Tanta gets to the mystery, the more she comes to realise something terrible:

Sometimes facing the truth can be the hardest thing of all.

As you can see from the above, there are some outstanding sequel novels coming out in the next few months, and I have to say that I am extremely excited for all of them.  All three of these fantastic upcoming books are following on from some amazing debuts, and I have very high hopes that these great authors will continue their excellent writing with these sequels.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Audiobooks from the First Half of 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week is Books I’d Want With Me While Stranded on a Deserted Island, but I am going to do something a little different and instead look at my favourite audiobooks from the first half of 2021.  This is a continuation of my Top Ten list from a few weeks ago that featured my favourite overall novels from the first half of 2021.

People familiar with my blog will know that I have a great deal of love for the audiobook format, and it is one of the main ways that I tend to check out books.  Each year I enjoy a great number of different audiobooks and use the format to check out recent releases and older novels.  I have been enjoying audiobooks for years, and it is amazing the various ways in which listening to a book can enhance your enjoyment.  A great narrator can really bring you into the story, and I find that listening to a book enhances the amount of detail that you can take in.  In addition, other features, such as great voices, music and sound effects can really make an audiobook something special, and there some great examples of that out there.  This year alone I have listened to several outstanding audiobooks, includes some of my favourite books from early 2021.  Because I love this format so much, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight my favourite audiobooks from the first half of the year.

To pull this list off I had a look at all the 2021 releases that I listened to on audiobook to figure out my favourites.  It turns out that I have already gone through quite a few this year so there was a very large collection of potential additions to this list.  I was eventually able to whittle it down to the ten audiobooks I consider to be the best, as well as a generous honourable mention section.  There is a bit of a crossover with my previous Favourite Books from the First Half of 2021 list, but I think there are enough new additions to make this list worthwhile.  I did prioritise audiobook production and narration over story in a few places, as outstanding narration or use of music and sound effects can enhance the plot.  That is why so many Star Wars novels made this list, because they are awesome productions, which are really worth checking out.  I am pretty happy with how the overall list turned out and I think that the below entries really highlight what my favourite audiobooks are.

 

Honourable Mentions:

The Coward, written by Stephen Aryan and narrated by Matt Wycliffe

The Coward Cover

 

Serpentine, written by Jonathan Kellerman and narrated by John Rubinstein

Serpentine Cover

 

Prodigal Son, written by Gregg Hurwitz and narrated by Scott Brick

Prodigal Son Cover

 

The Girl and the Mountain, written by Mark Lawrence and narrated by Helen Duff

The Girl and the Mountain Cover 2

 

Top Ten List (No Particular Order):

The Two-Faced Queen, written by Nick Martell and narrated by Joe Jameson

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

One of my favourite books of the year, The Two-Faced Queen, is easily one of the best audiobooks as well.  There were actually two separate audiobook versions of this book, and I chose to go with the Joe Jameson version, since he previously narrated Martell’s debut novel, The Kingdom of Liars.  I am a big fan of Jameson, especially after his work on books such as King of Assassins by R. J. Barker, and he did another amazing job on this book.  The Two-Faced Queen audiobook is an excellent and addictive listen, and I would wholeheartedly recommend this format to anyone wanting to enjoy this awesome five-star novel.

 

Star Wars: Victory’s Price, written by Alexander Freed and narrated by January LaVoy

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

Earlier this year, impressive author Alexander Freed finished off his Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron series with Victory’s Price, and in the process created one of the best books of 2021.  This audiobook massively enhances the already incredible and moving narrative within this exceptional novel, utilising outstanding voice work from January LaVoy, as well as the iconic Star Wars score and sound effects.  Easily one of best audiobooks of the year.

 

Relentless, written by Mark Greaney and narrated by Jay Snyder

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

One of the leading authors of spy thrillers, Mark Greaney, produced another intense and exciting novel this year with Relentless.  Thanks to some excellent voice work from Jay Snyder, the Relentless audiobook was pretty damn impressive, and you are in for a real treat with this exhilarating novel.

 

Star Wars: Light of the Jedi, written by Charles Soule and narrated by Marc Thompson

Star Wars - Light of the Jedi Cover

Another outstanding Star Wars audiobook was Light of the Jedi, the introductory novel in the new High Republic range.  Just like Victory’s Price, Light of the Jedi makes full use of the Star Wars music and effects to produce a fantastic listen.  However, Light of the Jedi also features the incredible voice work of Marc Thompson, one of the best narrators utilised by the Star Wars franchise.  Thompson produces a raft of great voices to highlight the new characters featured within this novel and it was really fun to hear him tell this story.  Thompson is lending his vocal talents to several other outstanding Star Wars audiobooks this year, including the latest High Republic novel, The Rising Storm, which is another great audiobook to check out.

 

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

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

After hearing some incredible things about the latest John Gwynne novel, I ended up checking out The Shadow of the Gods on audiobook.  Not only was this book one of the absolute best fantasy releases of 2021 but the audiobook format was pretty damn exceptional.  Colin Mace’s voice really fit the dark fantasy setting and he really dives into the complex characters to highlight their deeper feelings and hidden rages.  An impressive and captivating listen.

 

Later, written by Stephen King and narrated by Seth Numrich

Later Cover

I was deeply impressed earlier this year when I checked out the audiobook format of the latest Stephen King novel, Later.  Outstanding new narrator Seth Numrich really dives into this excellent novel, and I had a wonderful and freaky time getting through this fantastic audiobook.

 

The Bone Maker, written by Sarah Beth Durst and narrated by Soneela Nankani

The Bone Maker Cover

I had an absolute blast listening to the latest great fantasy novel from Sarah Beth Durst, The Bone Maker, especially as narrator Soneela Nankani does a great job bringing the novel’s damaged protagonists to life.

 

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: The Greater Good, written by Timothy Zahn and narrated by Marc Thompson

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Greater Good Cover

The final Star Wars audiobook on this list is the second Thrawn Ascendancy entry, The Greater Good.  Thompson once again lends his incredible voice to this great book, bringing the unique characters to life.  However, his best work is reserved for main character Grand Admiral Thrawn, as Thompson perfectly replicates the character’s voice from the Star Wars Rebels animated series.  This makes for a complex and powerful audiobook, and I loved every second I spent listening to it.

 

Colonyside, written by Michael Mammay and narrated by R. C. Bray

Colonyside Cover

One of the fastest rising science fiction authors, Michael Mammay, continued to impress earlier this year with Colonyside, the third entry in the Planetside series, which was another awesome read.  You really need to listen to this novel’s audiobook format, as narrator R. C. Bray brings a certain necessary gruffness and fun to the central character.  An amazing book to listen to!

 

The Mask of Mirrors, written by M. A. Carrick and narrated by Nikki Massoud

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

The final entry on this list is the great fantasy novel, The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick.  The Mask of Mirrors is a particularly fun and intriguing read, and I found myself really drawn to its audiobook format.  This is mainly because of narrator Nikki Massoud, who strategically utilises a fantastic range of voices and accents to turn this amazing book into an incredible listening experience.

 

That is the end of my latest list.  As you can see, I have a pretty typical Unseen Library Top Ten List (I’ve got to fit in as many Star Wars novels as possible), but I really do think this represents all of my absolute favourite audiobooks from the first part of 2021.  All of the above audiobooks come highly recommended, and in my opinion, the audiobook format really enhances all of these great reads.  Let me know what your favourite 2021 audiobooks are in the comments below, and I look forward to seeing which of the above make my Top Audiobooks of 2021 list later this year.

The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

Publisher: Orbit (Audiobook – 19 January 2021)

Series: Rook & Rose – Book One

Length: 23 hours and 13 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Magic and masquerade combine into one of the most creative fantasy releases from the first half of 2021 with The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick, the first book in the Rook & Rose trilogy.

The Mask of Mirrors was a fantastic novel that caught a lot of buzz earlier in the year.  This book was written by M. A. Carrick, the joint pen name of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, two established fantasy authors who are teaming together for their first novel.  This debut novel was pretty impressive and the two talented authors ended up producing an exciting and complex fantasy tale that sees a young con artist attempt to change her fate.

Welcome to Nadežra, a city of iniquity and greed that forms the gateway between two warring cultures.  Many people call Nadežra home, although few truly prosper, with only the great noble houses and their supporters gaining any true wealth.  However, one young woman is about to change everything.  Ren is a former street rat of Nadežra who escaped the city years ago to seek her fortune.  Returning after several years, Ren has taken on an entirely new persona: Renata Viraudax, a mysterious and seemingly wealthy noblewoman from the capital, come calling on her long-lost relatives.  Ren hopes to con her way into the once great noble family of House Traementis and use their name and legacy to make her fortune and ensure a comfortable life for herself and her sister.  But as she begins to worm her way into the family, she soon finds that the life of a noble in Nadežra is far more complex than she ever imagined.

Despite their noble standing, House Traementis is in poor shape, and if Ren is going to make money off them, she first needs to ensure their success.  However, a powerful rival family is seeking to destroy House Traementis, and they will do anything in their power to get their way.  Forced to work with criminals and shadows to achieve her goal, Ren will find just how ugly the glittering nobles of Nadežra can be.  Unbeknownst to Ren, a far more insidious presence is lurking within the city, killing children and unleashing corrupt magic for their own goals.  Worse, this evil has a deadly connection to Ren’s past and wants to use her to destroy everything she holds dear.  Can Ren overcome this evil while maintaining her cover, or will the nobility of Nadežra eat her whole?

This was an extremely captivating first outing from this new writing team, and I deeply enjoyed the cool and compelling story that they came up with.  The Mask of Mirrors is a complex tale that expertly combines intriguing and clever fantasy elements with a thrilling confidence trick, as the protagonist attempts to work her way into high society.  Of course, nothing works out that simply, as the protagonist soon finds herself embroiled in all manner of scandals, plots and deadly feuds, producing an excellent story. 

While I did enjoy the overall narrative, the book did start off a little slow and it took me a while to get really excited about it.  I personally only got hooked when the character of the Rook was added in.  The Rook is a mysterious, Zorro-esque (perhaps more Tuxedo Mask than Zorro) character who haunts the streets of Nadežra, fighting oppression and tyranny while thumbing his nose at authority.  Following a great duel sequence, the mystery of the Rook’s identity becomes a major part of the plot, and I found myself really getting into this and the other interesting storylines.  The rest of the novel flows at a fantastic pace, especially after the authors set up so many fascinating and compelling plot points at the start of the book that slowly come to fruition.  There are some amazing moments throughout the novel, and I was really impressed by a particularly tragic moment that occurred around two-thirds of the way through, which was shocking and surprising.  The entire narrative comes together in an excellent conclusion, providing a satisfying and moving ending, while also setting up some excellent moments for the next two entries in the series.  I did think that the novel could maybe have benefited from either finishing at the big moment I mentioned above, or by trimming around 100 pages out of the middle of the book.  Some of the twists at the end of The Mask of Mirrors were also a little predictable, especially around the identity of the antagonists (it literally could not have been anyone else).  However, I think that the eventual reveal about who was under the Rook mask was handled beautifully, and I honestly did not know which direction they were going to go in for much of the plot.  I had a really amazing time getting through this story, and I look forward to seeing how these two talented authors continue it in the next two entries in the series.

The Mask of Mirrors contains a fantastic collection of characters who offer up a range of different perspectives and vantage points to tell a massive and complete narrative.  The authors behind this book spent a lot of time building up the various characters, ensuring that they had intriguing and tragic backstories, which leads to some fantastic development throughout the course of the novel and the entire series.  The most prominent character is Ren, a former local who attempts to pull off and ambitious con.  Ren is a confident, talented, haunted figure, who experienced great tragedy at an early age and is still trying to pull herself together.  She is forced to return to the city that she fled from years before to achieve greatness and make money and ends up connecting to her heritage as well as being forced to relive her greatest mistakes and traumas.  I loved the fantastic storylines surrounding Ren, and she proves to be quite a complex character.  Rather than being obsessed with money and dislike of the noble class in Nadežra, Ren grows to care for her marks and works to save them and the entire city when the antagonist makes their move.  Ren proves to be an exceptional central character to follow, especially as she provides the most insight into one of the main magical disciplines featured in the book, and it will be very interesting to see how her storyline continues later in the series, especially after she gains a mask of her own.

Other great characters contained within this novel include ruthless rising crime boss Derossi Vargo, a man with great ambition who is willing to risk anything and anyone to achieve his goal.  Vargo, a seemingly self-made man, proves to be one of the most entertaining and enthralling figures in the entire novel, and I deeply enjoyed seeing him work with Ren while enhancing his own plans.  It looks like Carrick has some major plans for Vargo, and he could be an amazing overarching antagonistic figure.  Another excellent character is Grey Serrado, a police officer and friend of the Traementis who finds himself investigating some of the major activities occurring the city.  Grey is a conflicted and damaged character, constantly torn between his duty as an officer and his heritage.  He goes through some major events throughout this novel and looks set to be a major figure throughout the rest of the series.  I also enjoyed Ren’s adopted siblings Tess and Sedge, who act as fantastic supporting figures to Ren and her plans.  Carrick develops them quite nicely and they prove to be entertaining figures who have a long and caring relationship with Ren.  I also appreciated the focus on the members of House Traementis, the people that Ren is trying to con.  The Traementis are a once great house who have fallen on hard times and are slowly falling into oblivion due to a rumoured curse.  While you initially aren’t too concerned with these characters, due to their status as patsies, the three surviving members swiftly grow on you, enough that you eventually start to judge Ren’s continued attempts to con them.  Finally, I have to say that the masked Rook was a particularly awesome character, and I deeply loved his inclusion in the plot.  It was so much fun trying to figure out who he was, and the authors utilised him to perfection to create an outstanding narrative.

You cannot talk about The Mask of Mirrors without discussing the complex and distinctive setting that is the city of Nadežra.  Nadežra is a sprawling, independent city state resting on a delta, filled with palaces, slums, massive buildings and all manner of different people.  Due to its unique history, Nadežra is home to several distinct ethnic groups, the local Vraszenians underclass and the Liganti upper class.  The two ethnic groups are opposites, and there is substantial friction between them, especially as the Vraszenians feel like second-class citizens in their own historical city.  While most of the novel shows the two groups living mostly in harmony, the lingering tension between the two groups becomes a major plot point as the novel, and I think that the authors did an outstanding job highlighting this and using it as part of the story.  Carrick provides detailed explorations of the different cultures between the two groups, and it was interesting to see how it partially paralleled some real-life political situations.  It was also quite interesting to see that, despite the cultural differences and clashes, Nadežra proves to extremely woke and tolerant when it comes to issues of gender and LGTB+ issues.  Not only are there several prominent female figures within the city but there also several homosexual, nonbinary and transgender characters.  I love the way in which most modern fantasy novels are featuring more and more of these aspects in their settings, and this was a great example of that.  The city of Nadežra proves to be a very magical place, and there is so much detail, backstory and culture contained within that the reader will feel like they are actually walking the streets.

Carrick also comes up with several distinctive forms of magic, which are as diverse and different as the various cultures contained within the city.  There are three major forms of magic shown in the book, although I had to say that I found all three of them to be a little less dramatic than you would expect in a fantasy book.  The first one of these is numinata, which is sort of a combination of geometry and astronomy, often using complex glyphs or geometric patterns.  Numinata is generally used by the Liganti and is considered a more cultured and precise form of magic.  The Vraszenian magic, on the other hand, is based on patterns and dreams, and is mostly shown through the protagonist’s pattern reading, a form of tarot card reading which gives glimpses into the past, the present and the future.  The final form of magic is imbuing, which allows the user to put a little bit of their essence into an item or product to enhance its effect.  All three magics are featured fairly prominently within The Mask of Mirrors and prove to give the novel a unique feel, while also highlighting the cultural and social differences between the ethnic groups.  While I did think that much of the magic was a little undefined in the novel, it becomes a key part of the plot, and it was interesting to see how the combination of magics could create some nightmarish results.  Overall, I deeply enjoyed the extraordinary and detailed setting that Carrick came up for The Mask of Mirrors and I found myself getting really lost in its spectacle and details.  While I would have preferred just a little more info about the universe’s magical rules, I felt that Carrick did a wonderful job pulling this together, and it was a definite highlight of this great book.

I ended up listening to the audiobook version of The Mask of Mirrors, narrated by Nikki Massoud, who has done several interesting audiobooks in the last year.  While this is a pretty long audiobook (at 23 hours and 13 minutes, it is the 17th longest audiobook I have ever listened to) I am actually incredibly glad that I ended up checking out the audiobook format of this book.  The complex narrative and immensely detailed setting really came to life, and I found myself absorbing a whole lot more of the story and the beauty of the background.  However, the real advantage of this format was the outstanding narration by Massoud.  Massoud did an exquisite job portraying the various characters featured within The Mask of Mirrors, capturing each figure perfectly and providing them with an outstanding and wildly fitting voice.  To achieve this, Massoud utilises a wide array of different voices and accents, which really help you differentiate the various characters, and which help to show their nationality or social status.  I was particularly impressed at how Massoud was able to showcase the various personas of the main character, Ren.  This was achieved by seamlessly changing accents depending on which character Ren was playing at the time.  For example, when Ren was with her sister or pretending to be a local, Massoud would use the rougher, more exotic accent that all the Vraszenian characters have.  However, when the character changed back into the persona of Alta Renata, her voice would become a lot more cultured, mimicking the nobility.  This seamless change between the various voices was perfectly done, and I really appreciated the narrator’s determination to capture the separate halves of the character.  This was some truly impressive voice work, and I think that listening to the audiobook format ended up adding to my overall rating for the novel.

The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick is an outstanding and moving fantasy novel that I had a wonderful time reading.  Featuring an excellent narrative, some complex characters and a detailed and memorable fantasy setting, this debut novel from the writing team of Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms was an immense amount of fun and I really got into this fantastic story.  The Rook & Rose trilogy looks set to a spectacular series and I am quite excited to see how all the books turn out.  The next entry, The Liar’s Knot, is set for release in December, and I look forward to continuing this great series into the New Year.

WWW Wednesday – 19 May 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?

Inscape by Louise Carey (Trade Paperback)

Inscape Cover

I recently started Inscape, an intriguing science fiction debut from author Louise Carey.  Inscape is a compelling novel set in a corporate controlled dystopian future and follows a corporate operative as she attempts to discover the sinister source of a leak in her company.  This is a very clever read and I am hoping to finish it off in the next day or so.

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Grave Peril Cover

I recently found myself in the mood for something fun and magical so I started listening to more awesome entries in the highly regarded Dresden Files urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher.  I have been really keen to read more of these books ever since I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the latest Dresden Files novel, Battle Ground last year.  Battle Ground was the first book of Butchers that I ever read and it ended up being one of the best books and audiobooks I enjoyed last year.  As a result, I decided to go back and check out some of the earlier entries in the series, such as the first book Storm Front, which was also really good.  I listened to the second book in this series, Fool Moon last week (review to follow soon), and had such a great time with it that I decided to go onto the third novel, Grave Peril, right away.  I only started Grave Peril this morning but so far it has an outstanding story filled with ghosts, vampires, wizards, holy knights and one ticked-off fairy godmother.  I cannot wait to see where this fantastic story goes next but I have no doubt I am going to love it.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer (Trade Paperback)

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

The Mask of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick (Audiobook)

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

The Paris Collaborator by A. W. Hammond (Trade Paperback)

The Paris Collaborator Cover

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good by Timothy Zahn (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Greater Good Cover

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Fool Moon Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Trade Paperback)

Project Hail Mary 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.