Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books with Magical Schools

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday participants are given a School Freebie to with what they will.  That means its up to me to come up with any sort of list about a school, which left me pretty open to list the best books with one of my favourite settings, a magical school.

I have long had a great love of the magical school setting in fantasy fiction (just check out the name of this blog).  In many ways, magical schools are the absolute backbone of some of the better examples of fantasy out there, and who doesn’t love a fun and wonderful story set within the halls of a magical environment.  There are so many cool stories and scenarios that can be imagined in these sorts of scenarios, and I have always had an amazing time with these sorts of settings from some of the earliest fantasy books I have read.  As such, I thought it only fitting to examine the absolute best examples of this setting here.

In order to appear on this list, the book in question needed to have either a school, academy or university of some description magic is taught or the school itself is magical and fantastic in nature.  This school must be a major setting of a descent part of the plot and must feature some sort of magical teaching or some variety of magical education in it.  I have been a little lenient in places throughout this list and I have included a few examples where rather than the traditional magical school, you have a bit of an interesting or dark reimagining, which can often be quite fun.  I ended up with an interesting collection of books in the end that I was able to whittle down to my top ten.  All these books are really fun, and I think that they use their magical school setting extremely well.

Honourable Mentions:

The Witches of Eileanan series by Kate Forsyth

Dragonclaw Cover

All the books in Kate Forsyth’s fantastic The Witches of Eileanan series featured some cool magical learning and school elements in them, and the author sets some impressive storylines around them.  However, I would probably recommend the first book in the series, Dragonclaw, as the best example of this magical training.  Not only are their multiple scenes of the protagonist learning magic, but it also features a fantastic magical trial scene at her initial place of learning.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Master of Sorrows by Justin Call

Master of Sorrows Cover

Features an interesting ninja school where the participants learn to recover magical items.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Magician by Raymond E Feist

Magician Cover

Many of Feist’s Riftwar Cycle books featured a magical school of some description, but nothing compares to the various magical learning scenes that occur in the fantasy classic Magician.  The protagonist learns from several schools and teachers in this book before starting the path to create his own magical school.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso

The Tethered Mage Cover

A fun recent fantasy book that revolves around a fantasy nation where all magicians are captured and leashed so that they aren’t in complete control of their faction.  Known as Falcons, these mages are sent to the Mews, where they learn to control their magic for the greater good of the nation.  An interesting, if darker, take on the magical school system that worked really well.

Amazon     Book Depository

Top Ten List:

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

The Order of the Phoenix Cover

Let’s face it, it would be impossible to write a list about magical schools without featuring the Harry Potter books here.  J. K. Rowling created something very special with Hogwarts, and it is now the magical school setting that all others are measured up against, for very good reasons.  All seven books in this series used the Hogwarts setting extremely well, from the introduction in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to the epic final battle in Harry Potter in the Deathly Hallows.  It is honestly very hard to single out one in particular for their use of the magical school setting, however, if I had to, I would probably go with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, because it had some great scenes where the protagonist took over teaching, as well as the extended sequence with the O.W.L.S test.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind Cover

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss gets a lot of credit from fantasy fans for many of its elements, but one of my favourites is the setting of the University, where the protagonist winds up is as a teenager.  The centre of knowledge for this fantasy world, the university teaches many subjects, including various forms of magic, including runic metalworking, sympathy (magic that links one object to another for manipulation), and the ultimate magic, naming, where one calls something’s true name (for example the wind) and takes control of it.  This proves to be an exceptional setting for much of this book, and the protagonist spends a substantial amount of time with some great narrative results.  While the University is also a major setting of the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, I think that it was used a little better in The Name of the Wind and is one of the better magical school settings out there.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Moving Pictures Cover

Yeah, there was no chance I wasn’t going to feature a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett here.  So many of his books feature the epic and entertaining setting of the Unseen University, where the world’s wizards gather to learn magic and get up to all manner of other shenanigans.  Most of the books feature the Unseen University as a setting, however, I’m going to limit myself to two entries on this list, the first of which is Moving PicturesMoving Pictures is one of the more entertaining Discworld novels Pratchett wrote, and part of the reason is how he utilises the Unseen University in the plot.  After several books with a rotating cast of senior wizards, Pratchett settles on a permanent staff for the university in Moving Pictures (helped by the introduction of an unkillable Archchancellor) and starts strongly developing their various members here.  There are many brilliant scenes set around the university, especially ones that show the eccentric new Archchancellor setting in and upsetting the delicate wizards with his wild ideas.  This book has some of the funniest scenes set in the Unseen University, and this book is a major favourite of mine.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education Cover

Easily the series that has been featuring magical schools the best recently is the Scholomance books by acclaimed author Naomi Novik.  This series in the deadly Scholomance, an automated enchanted school where vulnerable magical teenagers are educated and partially protected from various monsters who want to eat them.  Introduced perfectly in the first book, A Deadly Education, you soon get to know all the unique quirks of this fantastic school, as the protagonist tries to survive the lethal lessons, killer fellow students, and multiple monsters living within.  I have so much love for the setting in A Deadly Education, and the exquisite story that Novik set around it made it one of my favourite books of 2020.  The sequel, The Last Graduate, also featured the school extremely well, but I think that A Deadly Education is the best example for this list.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Van Horstmann by Ben Counter

Van Horstmann Cover

You can’t be too surprised that I managed to slip a Warhammer novel in here somewhere.  Van Horstmann was an awesome Warhammer Fantasy novel that explore the origin and problems of the human magical colleges that sprouted up in the heart of the Empire.  In particular, Van Horstmann explores the College of Light through the eyes of enigmatic new student, Egrimm van Horstmann, who has his own nefarious reasons for journeying to the school.  This is an excellent and captivating take on the classic magical school setting, as you get to watch this obvious villain learn everything about the school, all so he can gain ultimate power and gain revenge for a past wrong.  A very clever Warhammer Fantasy novel that makes perfect use of its magical school setting.

Amazon

 

Cold Iron by Miles Cameron

Cold Iron Cover 1

Another great fantasy book from recent years that featured a cool magical university setting is Cold Iron by Miles Cameron.  Much the narrative of Cold Iron takes place in The Academy and its surrounding city and follows the protagonist as he excels as a student, while also attempting to unravel a massive conspiracy that threatens the lands.  I deeply enjoyed the use of the Academy setting in Cold Iron, and while there is a substantial focus on learning sword work, the character does spend time learning magic, which comes in help during this book.  I loved many of the more classic fantasy elements featured in Cold Iron, especially the cool school setting, and this is a must-read book for all fantasy fans.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Homeland by R. A. Salvatore

Homeland Cover

I had to slip something in from R. A. Salvatore on this list, and naturally that book ended up being one of my favourite Salvatore novels, Homeland.  Set in the Drow city of Menzoberranzan, Homeland follows the childhood of Salvatore’s long-running protagonist Drizzt Do’Urden.  While there are a lot of excellent settings and locations in, I loved the multiple scenes that take place in the combat school of Melee-Magthere.  While technically not a magical school per say, it is filled with dark elves with inherent magical talent, who often use magical techniques to complement their swordcraft, so I think it deserves to be on this list.  Personally, I just love the various tournament scenes set in this school, and it was a fantastic and epic setting for this great fantasy book.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts

It Ends in Fire Cover 2

Another fantasy book that had a great alternate take on the magical school concept is It Ends in Fire by Andrew Shvarts.  Featuring a compelling fantasy world where wizards rule over the non-magical, this book follows a rebellious young magic user who infiltrated the premier magical school, Blackwater Academy, to burn it down from the inside.  This was a fun and compelling read with many fantastic homages to Hogwarts, and it was an outstanding book to check out.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett

Hogfather Cover

The other Discworld book that I had to include here was Hogfather, which makes fun of many aspects of Christmas.  While there is a focus on Death and his granddaughter, quite a lot of the book takes place in the Unseen University and shows the eccentric faculty attempting to understand the constant creation of multiple new minor gods around their grounds.  The outrageous antics of the senior faculty blends well with the more education focused ambitions of the students, all with the Archchancellor watching on in exasperation.  I loved all the university scenes in Hogfather and it was one of the better uses of it in the Discworld series.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Eldest by Christopher Paolini

Eldest Cover

The final book I want to include on this list is Eldest by Christopher Paolini, the second book in his Inheritance Cycle.  While the first book from Paolini, Eragon, featured a lot of magical tutelage, it didn’t really feature a school setting.  The sequel though, Eldest, does, as it shows the protagonist journey to the homeland of the elves to learn magic there.  The protagonist spends a substantial chunk of the book there expanding his magical knowledge and skills.  While most of this tutelage does occur one-on-one, there is enough alternate teachers and characters to qualify it as a magic school in my mind, and I feel that Paolini did a great job introducing it and using it to expand the character’s knowledge.  An overall epic book that made really great use of the magic school concept.

   Amazon     Book Depository

 

 

Well, that’s the end of this latest list.  As you can see there are some great books out there that feature a fun magical school concept in their plot.  It is no surprise that many of my favourite books of all time feature a magical school in some capacity and there are so many exceptional stories that can be set around it.  All the above books come very highly recommended and if you love magical schools, all of them are worth checking out.

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

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

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

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

Honourable Mentions:

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

The Order of the Phoenix Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

World War Z by Max Brooks – 2006

World War Z Cover 2

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Fire in the East by Harry Sidebottom – 2008

Fire in the East Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Gray Man by Mark Greaney – 2009

The Gray Man Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

Top Ten List:

Magician by Raymond E. Feist – 1982

Magician Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Legend by David Gemmell – 1984

Legend

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – 1989

Guards! Guards! Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Homeland by R. A. Salvatore – 1990

Homeland Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden – 1995

The Third Day, the Frost Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch – 2006

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss – 2007

The Name of the Wind Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie – 2009

Best Served Cold Cover

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry – 2010

The Dragon Factory

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – 2010

WAY OF KINGS MM REV FINAL.indd

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

Amazon     Book Depository

 

 

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

The Law by Jim Butcher

The Law Cover

Publisher: Podium Audio (Audiobook – 5 July 2022)

Series: The Dresden Files – Book 17.5

Length: 3 hours and 22 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon

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.

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday – Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Storm Front Cover

Publisher: Buzzy Multimedia (Audiobook – 1 April 2000)

Series: Dresden Files – Book One

Length: 8 hours and 2 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

For my latest Throwback Thursday I finally check out the first novel in the epic and highly acclaimed Dresden Files series, Storm Front, by legendary author Jim Butcher, which is an amazing and impressive read.

Jim Butcher is an outstanding author who has been dominating the fantasy market for nearly 20 years.  While he has written a couple of series, including his Codex Alera books, and some standalone novels, such as the tie-in novel Spider-Man: The Darkest Hours, Butcher is easily best known for his Dresden Files novels.  These books follow the adventures of titular protagonist Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only official wizard, who solves magical crimes and serves as a protector of the innocent against a range of supernatural threats.  This series has been running since 2000 and with 17 current entries (the 18th is on the way) it is generally considered to be the gold-standard of urban fantasy series.  While I have always heard amazing things about these books, I arrived a little late to the party, having only read the 17th book, Battle Ground, last year.  Battle Ground was a pretty epic read, containing an off-the-chain fantasy war in the heart of the city, and it ended up being one of my favourite novels (and audiobooks) of 2020.  Due to how much I enjoyed this latest book, as well as a general desire to explore the rest of the series, I decided to go back and read the first entry in the series, Butcher’s debut novel, Storm Front.

Harry Dresden is a man who leads an interesting life.  As the only openly practicing magic user in Chicago (his name is even in the phonebook under wizard), Harry scrapes a living investigating small and unusual cases, such as finding lost items and performing paranormal investigations while trying to avoid the attentions of the White Council, a governing body of magical practitioners who have placed Harry on a lethal probation.  However, his latest cases are about to make his life very complicated in ways he never expected.

Two people have been murdered in a particularly gruesome manner, with their hearts bursting out of their chests during an act of passion.  Called in by the Chicago P.D., which has him on retainer as a magical consultant, Harry determines that their deaths were caused by the darkest of spells.  Despite being forbidden by the White Council to know anything about the deadly arts, Dresden begins to dive into the case, determined to find out who is responsible and how they did it.  At the same time, Monica Sells, a local housewife, has provided Dresden with a great deal of money to find her missing husband, someone who has apparently had his own recent misadventures with magic.

As Harry investigates both the murder and the disappearance, he finds himself under attack from all sides.  Not only does the most feared gangster in Chicago want him to drop the case, but the White Council views him as the prime suspect in the deaths due to his deadly past.  Worse, a shadowy figure wants him dead and is unleashing dangerous magical creatures upon him.  However, you cannot keep a good wizard down, and Harry plans to use every trick at his disposal to stay alive long enough to find the killer, even if it burns every bridge he has.

Well, that was a pretty awesome read, and one that I wish I had checked out a very long time ago.  Storm Front is an exciting and clever book that combines a compelling story with some great characters, an interesting urban fantasy setting and a fantastic, humour laden tone, all of which come together into an impressive novel.  Storm Front also serves as an excellent first novel in the wider Dresden Files series, and it was extremely interesting to see it after previously reading a more recent entry in the series.  I had an amazing time with this novel and, while it is a tad rough in places, especially compared to Butcher’s later work, I must give Storm Front a full five-star rating.

At the centre of Storm Front lies a particularly good fantasy murder mystery narrative that sees the protagonist take on some challenging cases that result in death and destruction raining down on his life.  The story starts up quickly with Dresden, whose role as a wizard is more like a supernatural PI, being employed to find a missing husband, while also helping the police solve a twisted magical double murder.  This results in a fast-paced narrative that sees Dresden investigate both cases in his own unique way, which results in dangerous complications as people attempt to either discourage him or outright kill him.  I loved how the story read a lot like a hardboiled detective fiction novel, albeit with a lot more quips and amusing jokes, and this style of writing worked extremely well with the magical elements featured throughout the book.  The narrative gets more complex as the book progresses, with additional side characters, greater lore inclusions and more sophisticated dangers, and I felt that the author was able to work all of this into story extremely well, ensuring that the reader becomes enthralled with the intense magical action, entertaining characters, and outlandish threats.  The author also throws in some clever twists, which includes the protagonist becoming the main suspect in the murders, resulting in a lot of tense and dangerous situations as he tries to avoid everyone coming after him.  All of this leads up to an epic and fantastically written conclusion which pulls all the threads of the story together and ensures that the reader is left wanting more.  If I had to make one criticism about the book, it would be that the identity of the main antagonist/murder is extremely obvious right from the outset, and that ruins a lot of the surprises that the author was clearly hoping for.  However, I still really enjoyed Storm Front’s captivating tale, and it is worth hanging around to see the story unfold.  Overall, I felt that this was an exceedingly strong story and it honestly does not take long to get hooked on it.

Easily the top highlight of this book is the outstanding protagonist and narrator, Harry Dresden (full name: Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, named after famous stage magicians), the rogue and public wizard.  Dresden is an amazing and entertaining protagonist who the reader quickly becomes attached to thanks to his antics, morality, unpredictable nature and skills as magic user.  I always enjoy smartass characters, and Dresden is one of the better ones I have read.  A lot of the book’s excellent comedic undertones are thanks to Dresden’s dry and timely sense of humour as he provides some excellent quips and commentary, both out loud and in his head.  Despite being a mostly funny character, Butcher ensures that his protagonist has a hard and dark edge to him that helps to make him even more compelling and intriguing to follow.  Not only does the reader get an in-depth and comprehensive look into his troubled psyche, especially when he is experiencing guilt, trauma or despair, but there are some intriguing hints at his dark past, some of which come into play throughout the book.  I also liked how the author set up and explored Dresden’s magical ability, especially as the protagonist is not the most powerful magical user out there, although he makes up for it through trickery, training and intelligence.  I particularly liked the way in which he was able to defeat an antagonist with substantially more raw magical power with some simple tricks or the use of some psychology, and the author did a great job highlighting his protagonist’s analytical thinking as one of his key strengths.  I also have to say that I really enjoyed the fantastic look that Butcher sets up for his character, with the black duster, the staff and the Blue Beetle car, making him a very distinctive figure.  This ended up being an outstanding introduction to the character, and it will be interesting to see how he develops to the powerful badass that later appears in Battle Ground.

In addition to Dresden, the author also features an interesting collection of characters throughout Storm Front who add some additional, exciting layers to the overall story.  Each of the supporting characters in this novel is very well-written and layered, featuring some intriguing histories (although they all have secrets that will be revealed later).  Many of these characters become major figures in the larger Dresden Files series, and this serves as an excellent introduction to them.  Of all the characters a few really stood out to me, including Bob, an air spirit who inhabits a skull in Harry’s lab.  Bob is a fun, if unusual, character who has a somewhat perverted/voyeuristic streak that causes Harry all manner of trouble and leads to some very entertaining moments throughout the book.  I also quite liked the introduction of Karrin Murphy, the hardnosed Chicago detective who utilises Dresden as her magical consultant.  Karrin is a great no-nonsense character who is one of the few people to call Dresden out on his actions and who has a complex relationship with him in this book.  I really must highlight the introduction of “Gentleman” John Marcone, Chicago’s premier crime boss who is antagonistic towards Dresden for much of the book.  Marcone is portrayed is a stone-cold killer with a hidden past, and there are some great hints at what sort of recurring character he becomes in future entries in this series.  I also thought that the overall antagonist of this novel was pretty good and served as a great counterpoint to Dresden throughout the book.  Despite the identity of the antagonist being rather obvious for much of the novel, I felt that Butcher provided them some complex motivations for their actions in Storm Front, and it was intriguing to see how they slid down into using dark magic.  This antagonist has a couple of fantastic scenes in this novel, and I particularly liked the clever way in which their storyline came to an end.  Each of these side characters added so much to the book’s plot, and I had an amazing time getting to know them.

I also really enjoyed the amazing urban fantasy setting that Butcher came up with for Storm Front.  This series is set in a world where magic is semi-hidden from mortals, although there is substantial dangerous magical activity occurring in the underbelly of cities like Chicago.  The author does a great job of setting up the basics of this fantasy reality throughout the first book, and the reader is given an effective rundown of all the unique features and limitations of magic and magical creatures for these books.  Butcher made the smart choice of starting small with this first book, and while there are mentions of the wider magical world, enough to draw the curiosity of the reader, for the most part the magical elements are limited to what is relevant to the story.  I liked that the reader was not overwhelmed with lore right off the bat, especially as this allowed them to enjoy the cool story, but it is clear a lot of what was mentioned will be explored in far greater detail in the future.  The grimy and dangerous magical cityscape also served as an awesome background to the noir style story contained within Storm Front, and it was great to see the character get involved with both the criminal and magical underbelly of the city.  I had a lot of fun with this setting, and I look forward to learning more about the rules and hidden magical lore in the future.

Considering how outstanding my previous experience with a Dresden Files audiobook was, there was no way that I was not going to check out Storm Front’s audiobook format, especially as it was once again narrated by Spike himself, James Marsters (I also loved him in Torchwood and Smallville, but he was at his best in Buffy and Angel).  Unsurprisingly I had an incredible time listening to Storm Front’s audiobook and I ended up knocking it out in a couple of days, especially as it has a relatively short runtime of 8 hours.  This was an incredible audiobook, not only because the great story translated really well into the format, but also because of Marsters’ fantastic narration.  Marsters did an outstanding job narrating this story at a quick pace, drawing listeners into the story while also utilising a voice that perfectly fits Storm Front’s tone.  I also really appreciated the way in which Marsters dove into the role of the central protagonist, Harry Dresden, and he really brings this maverick character to life throughout the production, especially when it comes to encapsulating Dresden’s dry wit, strange sense of humour and enthusiasm.  Marsters did use similar voices for some of the supporting characters, however listeners are able to easily follow the story without getting confused about who is talking.  Overall, this was a pretty good performance from Marsters (this was actually one of the first audiobooks he narrated), and I know that he gets a lot better in later books, with some varied voices and even greater enthusiasm as a narrator.  As a result, I fully intend to check out the rest of the Dresden Files novels in their audiobook format and I would strongly recommend that anyone interested in this series do the same.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher is an exceptional and captivating debut novel that more than lives up to all the hype that has been generated about it in the last 20 years.  Thanks to the cool story, great characters, and fantastic setting, this was an awesome book to read, and I loved seeing this maverick wizard solving supernatural crimes in Chicago.  Storm Front also served as an incredible introduction to the wider Dresden Files novels, and I was glad to see how this entire epic series started.  I fully intend to go back and check out this entire series over the next couple of years and I am very excited to see what over intense and entertaining adventures Butcher has come up with in.

Amazon     Book Depository

Top Ten Tuesday – Books Written Before I was Born

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  In the latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants have been given the intriguing task of listing their favourite books that were written before they were born.  This is one of the more interesting Top Ten Tuesday topics that I have had the opportunity to complete, and I was rather intrigued to see how many great novels I love were written before I was born.

While I am still very much young at heart, I do have to admit that I was born some 30-odd years ago in 1991, which, now that I have written it down for all the world to see, is starting to make me feel a tad old.  Nonetheless, I really want to complete this list, so I have moved on and scoured through some of the best books I have read in my long life to see how many of them were written before 1991, which should hopefully open up an excellent list of great reads for me to talk about below.

This ended up proving to be a rather difficult and interesting list to come up with, especially as it quickly became obvious that I really have not read a great variety of novels written before 1991.  While it did require me to feature multiple books from several authors, I was eventually able to come up with 10 impressive entries for a complete list, as well as some great honourable mentions.  Each of the novels below are particularly good novels and comics, and most of them were written by some of my absolute favourite authors, whose early work I have gone back to check out.  This ended up becoming quite an intriguing and varied list, and I am rather pleased with the entries featured below.

 

Honourable Mentions:

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 1: The Ronin by Stan Sakai – 1987

Usagi Yojimbo The Ronin Cover

 

The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett – 1971

The Carpet People Cover

 

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien – 1937

The Hobbit Cover

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 3: The Wanderer’s Road by Stan Sakai – 1989

Usagi Yojimbo The Wanderer's Road Cover

 

Top Ten List:

 

Legend by David Gemmell – 1984

Legend

Let us start this list off with a novel that is epic in every sense of the word.  Legend is the debut novel of the impressive and exciting fantasy author David Gemmell and features an intense and massive siege that sees a gigantic, unbeatable army attempt to conquer the world’s greatest fortress.  Serving as the first entry in Gemmell’s The Drenai Saga, this is an amazing and awesome novel filled with action, adventure and outstanding characters, including Gemmell’s major series protagonist, Druss the Legend, who has a particularly poignant and memorable tale.  This is an exceptional must-read for all fans of the fantasy genre.

 

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett – 1989

Guards! Guards! Cover

Considering the name that I chose for this blog, it should come as no surprise to anyone that I am a major fan of the late, great Terry Pratchett’s iconic and hilarious Discworld series.  I could have honestly filled this entire list with the 10 Discworld novels that were eligible entries.  However, I have shown some remarkable restraint and only featured my absolute favourite earlier novels from this long-running series.  The first book I am featuring on this list is Guards! Guards!, which came out in 1989.  Guards! Guards! is an extremely fun and fantastic novel that expertly and effortlessly melds fantasy, murder mystery and comedy elements into an exceptional and awesome novel that follows a seemingly useless city watch as they attempt to solve the biggest case of their careers: who is summoning a dragon to attack their city?  This was an absolutely captivating and hilarious novel that I could read time and time again without getting bored in the slightest, especially as Guards! Guards! sets up my favourite Discworld sub-series.  An incredible, outrageous and highly recommended read.

 

Magician by Raymond E. Feist – 1982

Magician Cover

Another pre-1991 epic debut that is essential reading for fans of the fantasy genre is Magician, the first novel in Feist’s long-running Riftwar Cycle.  This is an exciting and clever fantasy classic that I have had the great pleasure of reading several times.  Not only does it contain an inventive and compelling tale set across two separate worlds that find themselves at war with each other but it also serves as the first novel in a massive major fantasy series that ran for over 30 years.  I have a lot of love for Magician and I am still a major fan of Feist, especially as he continues to write great fantasy novels like King of Ashes and Queen of Storms.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 2: Samurai by Stan Sakai – 1989

Usagi Yojimbo Samurai Cover

There was no way I could do this list without featuring one of the Usagi Yojimbo comics that I have been having so much fun re-reading and reviewing over the last couple of months.  There were three separate volumes that I could have included on this list, but I decided to promote the second volume, Samurai, which features a captivating and detailed examination of the titular character’s backstory.  Filled with an amazing story and some excellent artwork, Samurai is one of the best entries in my favourite comic series and is a fantastic and wonderful read.

 

Streams of Silver by R. A. Salvatore – 1989

Streams of Silver Cover

Another author who was bound to appear on this list is fantasy legend R. A. Salvatore, who has authored a metric ton of novels since his debut in 1988.  There were several good options from Salvatore that I could have featured on this list, including all three novels in his debut series, The Icewind Dale trilogy, but the first one I decided to go with was his second novel, Streams of Silver.  While I love Salvatore’s debut, The Crystal Shard, I felt that Streams of Silver was the stronger novel, so I included on this list.  Featuring some intense action sequences, a deeper dive into the characters introduced in the first book, an outstanding antagonist and a fantastic cliffhanger conclusion, Streams of Silver is great novel from Salvatore that still really holds up.

 

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett – 1990

Moving Pictures Cover

The next Pratchett Discworld novel I included on this list was the comedic masterpiece, Moving PicturesMoving Pictures is a deeply impressive novel that sees the ancient art of moving pictures return to the Discworld and then promptly drive everyone crazy.  This entertaining and captivating read serves as an incredible parody to the film industry and is loaded with so many jokes and witty observations that you will be laughing yourself silly for days.  One of the strongest Discworld novels written before 1991, this one is very much worth reading.

 

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, Todd Klein and Richmond Lewis – 1987

Batman_Year_One

While there were a number of great comics written before 1991, one of my favourites is the 1987 classic, Batman: Year One by graphic novel icon Frank Miller and his talented team of artists.  This is an outstanding read that re-imagined Batman for an entire generation and ended up being the character’s key introductory comic for one of the best periods of DC comics.  Serving as the main inspiration for the Batman Begins film, Batman: Year One is an exceptional comic that any true Batman fan will love and adore for years to come.

 

Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts – 1987

Daughter of the Empire Cover

While Magician served as a particularly impressive introduction to the Riftwar Cycle, one of my favourite entries in the entire series was Daughter of the Empire, which Feist cowrote with Janny Wurst.  Set on an Eastern-culture inspired fantasy planet, Daughter of the Empire is the first book in the Empire trilogy, a captivating companion trilogy to the Riftwar novels.  While all three books in this series are great, the best is easily Daughter of the Empire, which sees a noble-born daughter forced to survive and lead her house after her family is murdered by a powerful rival who wishes to crush her.  Thanks to its enjoyable and dramatic narrative of survival against all the odds, Daughter of the Empire is a particularly amazing novel that has a very special place in my heart and which I have gone back and re-read several times.

 

Homeland by R. A. Salvatore – 1990

Homeland Cover

My second Salvatore novel on this list is Homeland, the first book in the Dark Elf trilogy, which explores the early life of Salvatore’s most iconic character, the dark elf ranger Drizzt Do’Urden.  Homeland follows the birth of Drizzt and follows some of his earliest experiences living with his race, the evil Drow, in their homeland underground, where murder, betrayal and personal ambitions are the natural way of life.  Watching the noble and selfless character of Drizzt grow up amongst murders, cowards and fanatics is just fantastic and Homeland is easily one of my absolute favourite Salvatore books of all time.

 

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett – 1989

Pyramids Cover

The final book on this list is another Pratchett novel, Pyramids, a subtly clever and hilarious read.  Set in a parody version of ancient Egypt, Pyramids follows a modern king as he attempts to bring plumbing, feather beds and progress to his decaying country, only to face opposition from his priests, his fellow gods and his greatest adversary, geometry.  With some major laugh-out-loud moments, including one scene where multiple Egyptian-inspired gods engage in a football-style match to control the sun, and some amazing original characters, Pyramids is an incredible read and the perfect note to end this list on.

 

I rather liked how this list turned out and I was so glad that I was able to find several great books to feature above.  I do wish I had a bit more variety when it came to authors, and I might have to think about going back and checking out some earlier entries from authors I am fans of, especially if they published novels before 1991.  Each of the novels I mentioned above is really exceptional, and I would strongly recommend them all to anyone looking for a fantastic read.  Hopefully, some of the authors I mentioned won’t be too disconcerted about the fact that they have been writing for a longer period than I have been alive, and if they are I apologise deeply.  Let me know what your favourite novels written before 1991 are in the comments below and I will be interested to see if there are any great books that I missed.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I loved but Never Reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  As part of the latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list their top ten books that they loved but never reviewed.  This is a rather intriguing topic and it is one that I instantly related to as there are quite a few incredible novels that I have read which I never got around to reviewing.

Now, if I am going to be honest the number of books that I have read throughout my life heavily outweighs the total number of reviews that I have written.  This is mostly because I only started reviewing books a few years ago, but I have been reading pretty much my entire life.  Indeed, it has only been since I have started writing this blog that I really began reviewing every book that I read, and even then, I do miss a few.  As a result, there are quite a few books that I read pre-2018 which I never got around to reviewing, including several novels and series I consider to be my most favourite books of all time.  While I have managed to go back and review several key series that I loved when I was younger, such as The Inheritance Cycle, the Tomorrow series and the Empire trilogy, I have not had the chance to write anything about some truly amazing series and novels I previously read.  While I hope to rectify that in the future, for the moment my lack of action allows me to include these novels in this Top Ten list.

It honestly did not take me long to come up with the ten entries for this article, as several key books have been floating in my mind since I saw this topic.  I have cheated a little and included several series as entries rather than individual novels.  However, I think that this better highlights how much I enjoyed these books, plus if I review one book in the series, I will try my hardest to review all of them.  The list that I came up with contains quite a few major series and authors, including several of my absolute favourite authors and these represent some pretty substantial gaps in my reviewer credentials.  Still, I like how the list turned out, even if it is a bit fantasy heavy, and I feel that it accurately represents which books I most want to go back and review.

Top Ten List:


The Kingkiller Chronicles
by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind Cover

The first entry on this list is the amazing Kingkiller Chronicles from the exceedingly talented Patrick Rothfuss.  I only got around to reading these books a few years ago, but in my opinion they are some of the greatest, if not the absolute best, fantasy novels of all time.  I had an absolutely incredible time reading both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear, and I have been eagerly awaiting the third novel in the series (currently titled The Doors of Stone) ever since I finished the first two books.  While I adore both books in the series, writing a review for them now is somewhat problematic due to how much intricate detail and clever storytelling that Rothfuss fit into these novels.  In order to do a proper review, I really need to do a reread of these books, which, due to their length, is rather hard to fit into my reading schedule.  Still, I really should make the time to have another read of them in the near future, especially before the third book comes out.


Harry Potter
series by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Cover

My second entry on this list is a series that truly needs no introduction.  Like everyone of a certain age, I read all seven of these books when they first came out, and I have also done a huge number of rereads of all of them over the years.  While I could easily do a review of any of them from memory alone, I have been hesitant about writing anything about the Harry Potter books, due to the sheer amount of reviews and discussions that have already occurred.  Let us face it, pretty much everyone has read these books since they came out and there are already innumerable reviews about them all over the place.  I honestly cannot think of anything new or original that I could say that would differentiate anything I wrote from what already exists, so it seems a little pointless to do so.


Gentleman Bastards
series by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

This is another incredible fantasy series that I only got to reading a few years ago but which I absolutely loved.  The Gentleman Bastards books are an extraordinary fantasy series that sets a group of clever conmen against some of the most dangerous people in a chaotic fantasy world.  All three of the books in this series have been top rate reads, and I cannot wait for the fourth novel to come out.  This is another series chock full of detailed and complex storylines and I really need to do a reread before I can talk about all the clever twists and turns that occur throughout the story.


Most of the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett

The Colour of Magic Cover

Based on the name of blog, it should come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of Terry Pratchett’s iconic, hilarious and exceedingly clever Discworld series.  I have loved these books since I was a child, and I have read them all so many times I could probably review them from memory alone.  However, so far I have only reviewed one of them, Moving Pictures.  I have always intended to review the rest of these books as part of my Throwback Thursday series, but I have so far failed to do so.  Hopefully, I will manage to write some stuff for them up in the future as these are all great books to read.


The First Law
series by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself

The First Law series is a trilogy of impressive dark fantasy novels that I really enjoyed.  This is such an amazing series and I have plans to review it at some point in the future, especially as I loved its compelling and violent story, as well as its various complex and flawed characters.  In the meantime, make sure to check out my review for the first book in the sequel series, A Little Hatred.


A Game of Thrones
by George R. R. Martin

A Game of Thrones Cover

This is another world-famous book which I have held off reviewing as every man and their dog has already said something about it, or its associated television show.  I did really enjoy this first novel, which is unsurprising considering how similar it is to the show, although I really need to read it again in order to note all its complexities.  I have been considering doing a big A Song of Ice and Fire reading marathon now that the show is finished, but that would take up a huge amount of reading time that I honestly just do not have.  Still, it is something to consider for the future, and maybe I could do it before the next novel in the series comes out.


Magician
by Raymond E. Feist

Magician Cover

I could have featured any of the fun fantasy novels in Feist’s long-running Riftwar Cycle on this list due to how much I enjoyed them, but I decided to only include his debut novel, Magician.  Not only is Magician one of the most impressive novels that Feist ever wrote, but it is actually the Riftwar Cycle novel I have the best memory of as I reread it a couple of years ago.  I will probably try and read this book a third time before I write anything up for it, especially as I can use that as a jumping off point to go back and check out the rest of the books in the Riftwar Cycle after that.


The Dark Elf
trilogy by R. A. Salvatore

Homeland Cover

I have read a huge amount of novels from fantasy legend R. A. Salvatore and while I have reviewed a lot of his recent stuff I have not yet had a chance to go back and review some of his earlier work. This includes The Dark Elf trilogy, which I consider to be his strongest and most impressive series of books.  These three novels are extremely good, especially as they contain the background story for one of the most complex and iconic high fantasy characters of all time, the Dark Elf ranger Drizzt Do’Urden.  I have read these books a few times, but I will probably need to do another reread in order to capture them completely.  Luckily, these books are not too long, so it would be a somewhat easier prospect to go back and read them than some of the other entries on this list.  I will probably consider doing this soon once I get my hands on the next upcoming book from Salvatore, Relentless, so this might happen soon.


King of Assassins
by RJ Barker

king of assassins cover

King of Assassins was a 2018 release from new fantasy author RJ Barker that I listened to halfway through last year.  Serving as the final novel in The Wounded Kingdom series, which followed on from Age of Assassins and Blood of Assassins, King of Assassins was an amazing read and it was probably the best entry in the entire trilogy.  Due to other reviews and conflicting priorities, I completely failed to write any sort of review for this book, which was a real shame because this is an amazing five-star read.  I really need to write something for this before all the details slip out of my mind, and even a short review would be better than nothing.


Recursion
by Blake Crouch

Recursion Cover

This is another book I read last year which I completely failed to finish reviewing.  Recursion is a really clever science fiction thriller that I had an awesome time reading.  I actually started a quick review for this book at some point, but I never got around to finalising it.  This was easily one of my favourite books of 2019, so I should probably finish off this review some point soon.

 

Well, that is the end of that top ten list.  As you can see, I have a ton of really impressive novels that I need to review at some point, and I foresee a lot of rereads in my future.  Still, it should be worth as each of the above books is pretty damn awesome and I know I can do a great review for each of them.  Despite my lack of writing about them, all of the above novels and series are amazing reads, and each of them come highly recommended, especially if you want to see how incredible the fantasy genre can be.  Meanwhile, make sure to let me know which of the above series/books are your favourites in the comments below.

Film Review – Justice League Dark: Apokolips War

Justice League Dark - Apokolips War

Studio: Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment

Series: DC Universe Animated Original Movies – Film 38, DC Animated Movie Universe – Film 15

Director: Matt Peters and Christina Sotta

Producer: James Tucker

Screenplay: Mairghread Scott

Writers: Christina Sotta and Ernie Altbacker

Length: 90 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

For this review I am going to go a little outside my wheelhouse by reviewing the latest animated comic book adaption from DC comics, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. Fair warning: this is going to be a rather in-depth analysis, so those people who have not seen this film yet might be better served watching it first and then coming back. I will also have a spoiler alert for a key part of the movie towards the end of the review, so keep an eye out for that.

Over the last 13 years, DC Comics have been leading the way over Marvel Comics in the distinctive field of animated movie adaptations of their comic books. While Marvel have produced a couple of decent animated films, such as Planet Hulk and Hulk Vs., the DC adaptations have been leaps and bounds ahead of them. Most of these epic DC animated films have been part of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies project, which has produced 38 distinctive animated films since 2007. There have been some rather impressive and enjoyable releases as part of this project, and I have watched each one of them as soon as they have come out.

While a lot of the DC Universe Animated Original Movies stand alone, 15 films were set within a shared universe, with the same group of voice actors reprising their roles multiple times. This shared universe, known as the DC Animated Movie Universe, started in 2013 with Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and examines an alternate universe inadvertently created by the Flash. This new universe is very heavily influenced by The New 52 continuity of comics (but don’t hold that against it), and features an interesting collection of films featuring a range of different DC characters, although there is a noticeable and understandable focus on Batman and the Justice League. Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is the 15th entry in the DC Animated Movie Universe and serves as the conclusion to most of the storylines that were featured within the preceding 14 movies. This film was directed by Matt Peters and Christina Sotta, and features a story written by Christina Sotta and Ernie Altbacker, with the screenplay written by Mairghread Scott.

Following two previous attempts to conquer Earth by intergalactic tyrant and New God Darkseid, the Justice League is determined to safeguard the planet no matter what. Led by a vengeful Superman, the League launches a pre-emptive attack against Darkseid’s fortress planet of Apokolips, when it becomes clear that he intends to invade Earth again. However, the League’s attack fails miserably as they fly into a trap set by Darkseid, who uses his new troops, the Paradooms, to swiftly defeating the entire Justice League, killing or capturing most of its members.

Now, two years later, Earth has been brutally conquered by Darkseid, who has devastated the planet, and intends to drain it of its magma in order to fuel his future designs of conquest. With nearly all of Earth’s heroes killed during Darkseid’s assault, only a scattered few remain to oppose his plans. At the fore is Clark Kent, the former Superman, who has been stripped of his powers by Darkseid, and who now leads a resistance movement with his wife, Lois Lane. Determined to save the Earth no matter the cost, Clark recruits the surviving members of the League and the Teen Titans: Raven, Damian Wayne and John Constantine for one final mission.

With the help of an odd and violent group of villains, including Lex Luthor, Etrigan the Demon and Harley Quinn’s Suicide Squad, Superman and small team attempt the impossible, a second assault on Apokolips. However, even if they succeed in reaching Apokolips, they will face terrible opposition. Former members of the Justice League, including Batman and Wonder Women, have been converted into loyal soldiers for Darkseid, and they will do everything in their power to defend him. Can Superman and his team defeat Darkseid once and for all, or are these Earth’s final days?

Well damn, now that was one hell of an animated film. As I mentioned above, I have watched a ton of animated comic book adaptations but Justice League Dark: Apokolips War might just be one of the finest and most impressive animated adaptations that DC comics has ever created. This outstanding, five-star film is just plain amazing, and I had an incredible time watching it (multiple times). Apokolips War contains an intense story, pulse-pounding action, an amazing voice cast and a superb connection to prior films and comics, which helps create an epic and powerful animated movie experience. The creative team behind this movie did an exceptional job on this film, turning it into an intense and addictive viewing treat that I absolutely loved. Viewers should be warned, this is not a film for kids, as it has a well-deserved R-rating (MA15+ in Australia), which it earns very quickly and very explicitly.

At the heart of the excellent movie is an exciting and clever story that pits the broken remainder of Earth’s heroes against the ultimate villain in the DC canon. Apokolips War has such a cool concept, starting off with the entire Justice League getting taken out in the first few minutes and then abruptly jumping two years into the future, showing a world devastated by an evil alien invasion. This perfectly sets the scene for a character-driven narrative that follows the last desperate attempt of a handful of mixed protagonists, as they attempt an all-or-nothing mission with extremely high stakes. This results in all manner of character development, tragedy, intense action, and a fantastic smattering of witty humour, which all comes together into a compelling and utterly memorable overall narrative. I was deeply impressed with where the writers took this fantastic story, and I really appreciated all the existing storylines and the substantial character arcs that they were able to explore, expand on and finalise within the movie’s hour and a half run time. This was such a great story, and it worked exceedingly well with the enjoyable characters, eye-catching animation and the awesome team of voice actors to create an amazing overall film.

One of the things that I think I should address first is about whether or not you need to see the other entries in the DC Animated Movie Universe before watching Apokolips War. Due to its cool action and well-written plot, this is a film that is rather easy for viewers unfamiliar with the franchise to follow and enjoy, although a lot of the story elements will make a lot more sense if you are familiar with the DC Comics universe and characters. While you can probably get away without watching any of the previous movies, this is the 15th and final entry in an interconnected universe, so there are obviously going to be some advantages to watching these other films first. For example, you get a much better understanding of the characters, their relationships and their personalities in this universe, and having this knowledge about the characters beforehand can really increase the dramatic punch that a bunch of their actions have. I also personally enjoyed the continued storylines of this film universe, and I liked seeing how this movie wraps up a lot of character arcs and answers some interesting questions. As a result, I would strongly recommend watching some of the other movies first: The Flashpoint Paradox, Justice League: War, Justice League vs. Teen Titans, Justice League Dark, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen as a bare minimum (yes, I know that calling seven movies a minimum is a bit much, but that just goes to show how intricate this animated universe was).

The creators of this movie utilise an intriguing and unique cast of characters, continuing many of the character arcs established in the prior animated movies. Fair warning: quite a few major comic book characters, including some characters who have been key additions to this animated universe, die in the opening moments of the movie, while some others only get a few scenes, often without any dialogue, before they are also killed. While this movie has quite a huge death toll, I think most of the killings do serve a purpose by motivating the surviving characters, highlighting the brutal nature of the film and its antagonist, or providing a real emotional punch to the viewer. While a large number of characters from the DC universe only get small roles, Apokolips War does contain a rather intriguing and diverse group of central characters who are extremely interesting to follow.

The main character of Apokolips War is John Constantine, the rogue magician last seen in Justice League Dark. Ever since his live action television series a few years ago, Constantine has been popping up in all manner of DC Comic adaptions. Constantine is a fantastic central protagonist, constantly moving the plot along and providing entertaining commentary and witty remarks about the events occurring around him. He also has a rather tragic storyline, which sees him full of regret and shame after he let down his love interest, Zatanna. Not only does this result in a conflict with Superman, but it also serves as a driving force throughout the movie as he tries to redeem himself. Constantine also serves as the heart of the entire movie, acting as a confidant to several characters and providing inspiration during key moments, including one impressive speech at the very end. While he is an amazing character, he was a bit overused when it came to solving problems, as he seemed to have a magical solution for nearly every obstacle that the protagonists came up against. While it does show off his resourcefulness, and his jack-of-all-trades approach to magic, I thought that it was a bit of a crutch for the story at times. Still, I loved Constantine as a protagonist, and I cannot think of anyone better to be the main character for this film.

Another character that I really appreciated throughout this movie was Superman/Clark Kent. If the recent live-action DC movies have shown us one thing, it is that Superman is a very hard character to write or portray at times, due to his powerset, his iconic nature and his somewhat dated ideals. However, the DC Animated Movie Universe is one of the few projects which has covered the character perfectly and allowed the viewer to care about him. His use in The Death of Superman and its sequel Reign of the Supermen was particularly impressive, and the creative team have followed that up extremely well with Apokolips War. In the opening scenes, he is an angry and vengeful character, recklessly determined to take the fight to Darkseid and finish him off for good. However, following his defeat, he is cast back down to Earth without his powers and with a painful liquid Kryptonite tattoo to remind him of his failure and to demoralise those people he encounters. Despite this, Superman shows his usual spirit and determination, rallying the remaining heroes to Apokolips, and is a generally fun and inspirational character. The best thing about his character, however, is his relationship with Lois Lane throughout the film. Lois is a major badass in Apokolips War, reverting to the resistance leader persona that she had in The Flashpoint Paradox and leading the various heroes and villains (whom she brings to her side after a boxing match with Harley Quinn in a very fun scene). The relationship between Lois and Clark is one of the major emotional centres of Apokolips War, and it serves as a great continuation of their entire joint character arc from their previous movies. It also leads to the most powerful and emotionally charged scene of the entire movie, which was an extremely touching and memorable moment.

The other major protagonists are the two surviving Teen Titans, Robin and Raven, who both add a lot to the plot. The Robin in this movie is the Damian Wayne version of the character, who has been a focal protagonist of several films in the DC Animated Movie Universe. While Damian Wayne is not my favourite Robin (Tim Drake for the win), he has been a solid part of this shared universe, especially in the two Teen Titans movies. In Apokolips War, Damian is his usual arrogant self, although he has grown and matured since his introduction. However, the events at the start of the film turn him to a darker path, and he ends up leading the League of Shadows like his grandfather before him. While at first reluctant, he is convinced to help their mission by Raven, to whom he had grown close in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. Damian’s major scene is the eventual encounter he has with a Darkseid controlled Batman, and their emotionally charged fight sequence is a great part of the movie. Raven is also a fantastic character as she spends most of the film fighting her literal inner demon, her father, Trigon, whom she has imprisoned in the gem in her forehead. The emotional turmoil of the film and the constant conflict against her father has drained Raven, and she is a shell of herself throughout Apokolips War. Raven has some rather dark moments in this film, and her continued inner conflict is an excellent part of the plot. I really liked that the writers chose to focus on Raven, and it turned out to be an exceedingly interesting continuation of her storyline from the excellent Justice League vs. Teen Titans film. I also really enjoyed seeing the extension of the relationship between Robin and Raven. There had been some hints of a connection between the two in their previous entries in the universe, but the writing team took the time to explore it in more detail in this film. There are some rather nice moments as a result, as well as some heartbreaking sequences (this is a pretty traumatic film after all), and overall, both of them proved to be a great addition to the movie.

While the above main characters are great, I really need to highlight the inclusion of the entertaining side characters, who add an incredible amount of fun and excitement to the movie. At the top of this list is Etrigan the Demon, last seen in Justice League Dark. Etrigan was easily the most amusing character in the entire film, mainly because he is comically depressed following the death of the human he was bonded to, Jason Blood, in his previous appearance. Because of this, he spends most of the film following Constantine, looking for something to break him out of his stupor, and being too apathetic to take anything seriously or even to rhyme (which is a big problem for a rhyming demon). His antics are very entertaining, and every appearance he has is designed to make you laugh, right up to the end. I also loved the fantastic use of the Suicide Squad characters in this film. Harley Quinn is her usual, exceedingly violent and over-the-top self in this film, and it was fun to see her lead the Suicide Squad: “Best boss ever”. Next up you have the always dependable Captain Boomerang, who is at his sleaziest right of the bat. Boomerang is another fun addition to the team, due to his funny jabs towards the other members of the Squad, and he has some great moments, including starting an Australian/British rivalry with Constantine. However, the best member of the Suicide Squad has to be King Shark, who stands out right from his start when Constantine hilariously identifies him as one of his exes (which is a great nod to Constantine’s bisexual orientation in the comics). Unlike the pacifist King Shark we see in the Harley Quinn animated show, this version of the character is a bloodthirsty killing machine who gleefully eats several people. He also appears to only be able to only able to say one phrase: “King Shark is a shark!” which I thought was a nice homage to Groot. Pretty much every scene with King Shark is just great, and you will surprised how much fun his constant declarations of “King Shark is a shark!” becomes, especially as it leads up to an amazing joke with Captain Boomerang. I loved all four of these characters, and their inclusion was a masterstroke from the creators, due to how much heart and humour they add to the film.

No superhero movie would be complete without a great antagonist, and Apokolips War features the biggest bad in the entire DC universe, Darkseid. Darkseid has been the major villain for the entire DC Animated Movie Universe, from his destructive introduction in the Justice League: War, to his manipulations in The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. As a result, Darkseid is an amazing antagonist for this movie, as you get to wrap up his storyline and see how he has been building up to this battle for the entire length of the DC Animated Movie Universe. Darkseid is exceedingly ruthless and destructive in this movie, more than living up to his reputation by brutally taking out the Justice League and killing so many protagonists and heroes. I loved his portrayal as a cold uber-tyrant, and he has some awesome scenes, such as taking out the entire Green Lantern Corp by himself, or facing off against a raft of powerful opponents (including one massive brawl against another major DC antagonist). Of course, his most evil acts revolve around his treatment of the heroes that he captures in the opening acts of the film. I have already mentioned his depowering of Superman, but that is nothing compared to what he does to other members of the League, as he turns them into twisted cybernetic monstrosities, slaved to his will. I was particularly impressed with how he managed to twist Batman’s mind, turning him into his chief enforcer and strategist. Having the ultimate hero become as ruthless as the Batman in this film is a little jarring, and I felt that it was a rather intriguing character arc to explore. I also have to mention Darkseid’s new foot soldiers, the Paradooms. Paradooms are the traditional Apokolipian soldier’s, the Parademons, who have been enhanced with the DNA of Doomsday, making them more than a match for most of the heroes in the Justice League. While the name ‘Paradooms’ is a little uninspired, they do add an exciting new element to the story, especially after the thrashing that the Justice League gave the Parademons in Justice League: War. I did think that their power levels were a little inconsistent at times, as one minute they are killing the entire Justice League, the next they are getting taken out rather easily by the Suicide Squad, but overall they were a destructive addition to the universe. I really liked this collection of antagonists, and I think that having such impressive baddies, really amped up the stakes and my enjoyment of the film.

Apokolips War has a truly impressive voice cast, with most voice actors returning after prior appearances in the DC Animated Movie Universe. At the forefront is Matt Ryan, who once again voices Constantine to perfection in this film. Anyone who has seen any live action or animated feature where Ryan portrays Constantine will know how awesome his work is, and in Apokolips War he once again shines, bringing his brand of charm and roguish appeal to the character. I also must highlight Jerry O’Connell voicing Superman in this movie. O’Connell has been killing it as Superman throughout this shared universe, and Apokolips War is some of his best work. He brings a great deal of passion to the role, and I think that his voice expertly captures all of Superman’s attributes, from his inherent positivity, to his anger at Darkseid and everything that he has done. O’Connell’s Superman also has an amazing amount of chemistry with the film’s Lois Lane, although this is not surprising, considering that Lois is voiced by O’Connell’s real-life wife, Rebecca Romijn. Romijn also does a fantastic job with Lois, and I really like her take on the character, showing of Lois’s boundless confidence and deep love for Clark. Romijn also touches on Lois’s vulnerabilities and doubts in this film, and this helps her produce one of the best and most heartfelt sequences in the entire movie.

I am also a major fan of young voice actor Stuart Allan and his take on Damian Wayne. Allan has been voicing Damian since 2014, and he has always perfectly captured the character’s arrogance and reckless personality. I like how Allan has grown up in step with the character, and his portrayal of Damian in this film adds some more restraint, uncertainty and vulnerability to the character after the opening events. Another impressive young voice actor in this movie is Taissa Farmiga, who returns to voice Raven for the third time. Farmiga has a much younger and more vulnerable take on the character of Raven than Teen Titans fans would be used to, and I think it works extremely well, showing off how scared Raven is of herself and her inherent darkness.

There is also a fantastic group of voice actors voicing the many side characters and antagonists in this movie. Candyman himself, Tony Todd, voices Darkseid, and his deep and callous take on the character, really helps to make the antagonist seem even more menacing and evil. Jason O’Mara does another amazing job as Batman in this film, and I like his more calculating take on the character, especially when he is under Darkseid’s control. Rainn Wilson is also entertaining as Lex Luthor, and he brings a real cowardly, slimy air to his parts of the film. Rosario Dawson is once again cast perfectly as Wonder Woman, and I loved her strong and confident voice for this character. John DiMaggio, Hyden Walch and Liam McIntyre all return to voice members of the Suicide Squad they have portrayed before, and they are all rather entertaining. I have already mentioned how much I loved DiMaggio’s King Shark, and it was fun to see him provide a new voice to the character after portraying him in Assault of Arkham. Walch provides another excellent turn as Harley Quinn, bringing some great energy to the character, and I think I prefer her portrayal to that of her Teen Titans co-star Tara Strong. McIntyre also does an excellent Captain Boomerang, and I personally liked it when they cast an Australian in the role, even if the character is a bit of a silly Australian caricature. While there are a couple of actors who I haven’t discussed, I think I have done enough to show how this movie has an exceedingly strong voice cast, and there was not a single miscast in the entire film.

I also have to praise the amazing animation quality featured within this movie. The animators behind Apokolips War have helped produce an incredibly slick movie with some impressive backgrounds and some fantastic and eye-popping action sequences, some of which were quite brutal and over-the-top at times. Apokolips War also features some cool and unique character designs, as many of the character had new and distinctive looks as a result of the harsh plot of the movie. This includes the depowered Superman with the Kryptonite S on his chest, half-dead cybernetic Justice League members and a whole new evil costume motif for Batman. I also have a lot of love for how the musical elements of this movie fit in with the visuals, and some of the instrumental scores that were featured really helped some key events pop out and stick in the mind, especially when combined with some of the impressive animation. For example, there is a great scene about two-thirds in where the music helps really enhances a major moment around one of the key characters, there is also a bit right at the end of the movie where the score plays extremely well with a really visually impressive moment, creating a fantastic ending for the entire movie. This helps turn Apokolips War in a visual and audible treat, and I thought that the fantastic combination of these elements helped to create an excellent movie.

 

The next paragraph gets extremely plot heavy in its discussion, so I am issuing a SPOILER ALERT.

I need to discuss how the entire movie concludes, mainly because I am in two minds about it. The film essentially ends with the entire DC Animated Movie Universe being erased out of existence, when Constantine talks the Flash into creating another Flashpoint once it becomes clear that the Earth is doomed. While it was an amazing scene, especially with the monologue that Constantine gives to convince Flash to do it and the fade to white that heralded the end of the movie, I thought it was a controversial way to end the film. Not only was it a rather predictable move thanks to several discussions about the alternative Flashpoint universe made earlier in the film (and the fact that time travel was the only obvious way to fix everything), but it also seems to do the rest of the amazing film a disservice by instantly erasing it, and it reminded me of those television episodes where major events turned out to be dream sequences or simulations. That being said, I did think it was a great way to conclude the entire DC Animated Movie Universe, which was created as a result of a Flashpoint in the very first movie, and it keeps the entire plot of this shared universe rather contained. It will be interesting to see what happens next in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies range, and whether they create a new animated shared universe in the future. I also would love if they maybe set another movie in this universe post-Apokolips War, because seeing what happened in the crumbling ruins of Earth with a depleted Justice League has a lot of story potential

SPOILERS END

 

Justice League Dark: Apokolips War is an incredible and highly recommended animated comic book adaptation, which serves as an epic and memorable conclusion to the DC Animated Movie Universe. I had an exceptional time watching this movie, especially as it blended a dark and clever story with amazing characters, impressive animation and a top-notch team of voice actors. This was an overall great film, and it might be one of the best new movies of 2020 so far (which to be fair, might be due to most films getting pushed back this year). I had a great time reviewing this animated film, and I might spend a bit of time reviewing more animated comic book movies in the future. As most of them are adaptions of existing comic books, I think this is close enough to my current focus as a reviewer to fit on this blog, and I look forward to examining some of my favourite animated comic book movies in the future.

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Debut Books

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 instalment of Top Ten Tuesday, it is actually something of a special occasion as we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of Top Ten Tuesday, as this fun, weekly adventure was first started back in June 2010. As a result of this celebration, the topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a little different, as readers have two options: either redo a Top Ten Tuesday topic they have previously done, or pick a past topic that they wish they had done. In order to meet this challenge, I decided to try and do a topic that was featured well back in the day. For this Top Ten Tuesday, I will be doing the 33rd topic, which ran in February 2011 on Top Ten Tuesday’s original blog, The Broke and the Bookish, listing my favourite debut books.

Over the years I have had the great pleasure of reading a number of impressive and captivating debut novels, many of which formed the start of an amazing series or which helped launch the writing career of some of the best authors of a variety of different genres. Some of these debuts have been so good that they have stuck with me for life, and I look forward to listing my absolute favourites. I am taking a rather broad stroke approach with this list, and I am going to make any debut that I have read eligible to be included. It does not matter if I read this book out of order, whether I enjoyed later entries from the author first, or whether I have gone back and read this book years after it came out; as long as it is the first full-length novel from an author, it can appear on this list.

This proved to be a rather intriguing list to pull together, as I actually had a rather large collection of debut novels to sort through, and I ended up discarding several really good books that I was sure were going to make the cut. I think that my eventual Top Ten list (with a generous Honourable Mentions section), features a rather interesting and diverse collection of debut books, and I quite like how it turned out. Unsurprisingly, as many of these books are written by my favourite authors, I have mentioned some of these entries and their authors before in prior lists, such as my Top Ten Auto-Buy Author list, and for many of these authors, I am still reading a number of their current novels. So let us see what I was able to come up with.

Honourable Mentions:


The Crystal Shard
by R. A. Salvatore (1988)

The Crystal Shard Cover

The Crystal Shard is the very first book from one of my favourite authors, R. A. Salvatore, and it was the first book in The Icewind Dale trilogy. I really loved this book, and it served as a fantastic start to a massive fantasy series that is still going to this day. The characters introduced in The Crystal Shard have all recently appeared in a brand-new trilogy, made up of Timeless, Boundless and the upcoming Relentless, which I have had an amazing time reading and reviewing.

The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso (2017)

The Tethered Mage Cover

This was a fantastic debut from a couple of years ago that I instantly fell in love with, especially as it led to two awesome sequels, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire.

City of Lies by Sam Hawke (2018)

City of Lies Cover


Empire of Silence
by Christopher Ruocchio (2018)

Empire of Silence Cover

An outstanding science fiction debut with a lot of impressive elements. This was one of my favourite books of 2018, and it led to an amazing sequel last year, Howling Dark, as well as the intriguing upcoming novel, Demon in White.

Top Ten Tuesday (By Release Date):


Magician
by Raymond E. Feist (1982)

Magician Cover

Right off the bat we have Magician by Raymond E. Feist, which may be one of my favourite fantasy novels of all time. I first read this book years ago, and its clever story and substantial universe building has helped make me a lifelong fan of both the author and the fantasy genre. This was the first book in the epic and long-running Riftwar Cycle, which included the fantastic spinoff series, The Empire trilogy. I am still enjoying Feist’s books to this day, as his latest novel, King of Ashes, was a lot of fun, while his upcoming book, Queen of Storms, is one of my most anticipated releases for the next couple of months.

Legend by David Gemmell (1984)

Legend


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
by J. K. Rowling (1997)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Cover

No list about top debuts can be complete without the first book in the world-changing Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. This was an impressive novel, filled with immense amount of world building, that I absolutely loved while growing up. While you kind of have to ignore anything that the author says outside of the books, this is still an outstanding novel, that holds a special place in my heart.

Under the Eagle by Simon Scarrow (2000)

Under the Eagle Cover

Under the Eagle was one of the very first historical fiction novels that I ever read, and it really helped me get into the genre (something that would eventually lead to me reviewing books professionally). Under the Eagle is an impressive and compelling Roman history novel that follows two Roman soldiers during the invasion of Britain. Filled with a lot of great action and historical detail, this was the first book in the Eagles of the Empire series, which is still running to this day (make sure to check out my reviews for the last couple of books in the series, The Blood of Rome and Traitors of Rome).

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (2006)

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

This was an exceedingly entertaining and wildly impressive fantasy novel which followed a group of conmen in a dangerous, magical city. The Lies of Locke Lamora was a really good book, and I think it would be impossible for someone to read it and not instantly fall in love with it. This book also served as the first entry in the outstanding Gentleman Bastards series, which currently contains three amazing books, with the fourth novel, The Thorn of Emberlain, hopefully coming out at some point in the future.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (2006)

The Blade Itself

The Blade Itself is an intriguing and inventive dark fantasy novel that follows a complex and damaged group of protagonists in a world full of blood, betrayal and war. This book was the first entry in The First Law series of novels, all of which have been a real treat to read. It has also led to an awesome sequel series The Age of Madness trilogy, the first book of which, A Little Hatred, was one of my favourite releases of 2019.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (2007)

The Name of the Wind Cover

This was an extremely epic and captivating read, which may be one of the absolute best fantasy debuts of all time. The Name of the Wind contains an amazing, character driven story that follows the early days of a man destined to become an infamous hero. I cannot emphasise how much I loved this book, and its sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear, was just as good, if not better. I cannot wait for the third novel in the series, currently titled The Doors of Stone, to come out, and it is probably my most anticipated upcoming release (my kingdom for an early copy of this book).

Fire in the East by Harry Sidebottom (2008)

Fire in the East Cover

Fire in the East is an excellent historical fiction novel that I had an amazing time reading some years ago. The very first novel from Harry Sidebottom, who would go on to write some amazing books like The Last Hour and The Lost Ten, Fire in the East had a very impressive Roman siege storyline, that few other historical fiction authors have come close to matching.

Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan (2013)

promise of blood cover


Planetside
by Michael Mammay (2018)

Planetside Cover 2

The final book in my list is Planetside, the addictive and exciting science fiction/thriller hybrid whose sudden and destructive conclusion absolutely blew me away. Mammay did an outstanding job with his first book, and last year’s sequel, Spaceside, is also really worth checking out.

Well that’s my Top Ten List for this week. I rather like the list that I came up with, and there is a good collection of novels there, although it is slightly more fantasy-heavy than I intended. For some of these books I really need to go back and reread them at some point so that I can do a Throwback Thursday review of them. This is probably a list that I will come back to in the future as well, as there are always impressive new debuts coming out. For example, this year I have already read a fantastic debut, The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold, and I am also looking forward to several great sounding upcoming debuts like Assault by Fire by Hunter Ripley Rawlins and The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell. In the meantime, be sure to me know which of the books above are your favourites, as well as which debut novels you would add to your Top Ten list.

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

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 I Enjoyed but Rarely Talked About), and instead choosing to revisit and update a fun post I did last year. I have always been a major fan of audiobooks, and in my mind it is often the best way to enjoy a good book. I have been lucky enough to listen to quite a substantial number of audiobooks over the years, and some of them have been quite long, often taking me weeks to get through. About a year ago, I started getting curious about all the audiobooks I had listened to, and I wanted to know which ones were the longest ones that I had every 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; I ended up wanting to share it, and turned it into my first Top Ten Longest Audiobooks I Have Listened To list. I actually had an amazing time coming up with this list, and I ended up expanding it to cover 20 books, all of which were substantially long reads.

Now, I always intended to come back to this list and see how the new books I listened to recently stacked up against the books already on the list. In the year since I published that original list, I have managed to listen to quite a few new audiobooks, several of which had a pretty lengthy run time. As I just finished a rather substantial audiobook over the weekend, I thought that this would be a good time to update this list and see what differences have been made in the last year. The list below is going to be pretty similar to the list I posted up last year, just with a few new additions added in, and I’ll make sure to highlight them. This will no doubt change the order around a little, and I am interested in seeing how the new list turns out.

Top Twenty 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

The first new entry on this list is the rather good fantasy novel by Chris Wooding, The Ember Blade. The Ember Blade was an interesting-sounding novel that I had included on my Top Ten Books I Wish I Read in 2018 list and which I managed to get around to listening to last year. It took me a while to get through, but it was really worth it, as this proved to be an excellent book that I really enjoyed. I ended up including this novel on a couple of my best-of lists of 2019, including my Top pre-2019 Books list, and I included Wooding on my Top New-To-Me Authors list. I am eagerly awaiting a sequel to this great book, although nothing has been announced so far.

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

This was another fantastic audiobook I checked out last year. Howling Dark was the incredible sequel to Empire of Silence, and I ended up having an amazing time listening to this second audiobook from Ruocchio. This book was one of my top books and audiobooks of 2019, and I strongly recommend checking out its audiobook format. I am looking forward to the third book in the series, Demon in White, which is set for release later this year, and I may end up listening to the audiobook version of that as well.

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

The latest addition to this list, I only finished House of Earth and Blood a couple of days ago. This was an incredible audiobook that took me a few weeks to get through, but it was really worth it. I ended up really enjoying this outstanding novel, and I’m hoping to get a review up of it in a few days, but it comes highly recommended from me.

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

Eldest Cover

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

Before they are Hanged

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

The Blade Itself

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

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

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

Deathly Hallows

 

Hmm, well that turned out to be a rather interesting result. I was honestly expecting more than three new entries onto the list, but those were the only ones that made the cut. Ironically, three substantial books I had listened to throughout the year, Red Metal by Mark Greaney and Hunter Ripley Rawlings, A Little Hatred by Joe Abercrombie and Tiamat’s Wrath by James S. A. Corey would have made the old top twenty list, if they hadn’t been booted off by the new entries above. Still, the three new additions altered the list a bit, and it was interesting to see that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Cold Iron and Promise of Blood ended up getting knocked out of the top twenty.

Well, that’s it for this latest Top Ten Tuesday. I plan to revisit this list in another year or so and I will make an effort to listen to some additional audiobooks with a long run time in order to add them to the list. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the results above; I am curious to see what the longest audiobook you ever listened to was. Also, if you are stuck at home, you might want to check out some of the novels above. Each of them are really good and can help pass the time, especially in their audiobook formats, which are a lot of fun to listen to.