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.

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Longest Novels That I Have Ever Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. For Tuesday the 5th of November 2019 participants in Top Ten Tuesday are supposed to list the Top Ten Books That Give Off Autumn Vibes. However, I am going to be posting up a Top Ten list I put together last week but couldn’t post due to my internet being down (the ultimate horror in this day and age). For last week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants got a Halloween freebie, meaning that I can make a Top Ten List on any topic of my choosing. While this list should probably have been Halloween themed, I am honestly not a massive fan of the horror genre, so I would struggle to produce any sort of list that would require at least 10 horror books. That being said, I would strongly recommend a few horror books such as Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant, or some of the Joe Ledger books by Jonathan Maberry such as Patient Zero, Code Zero or Assassin’s Code if you want a scary read. Instead, I decided to list the longest novels I have ever read (if you are desperate for a Halloween theme you could say that they are scary long). This is a bit of a continuation of the Top Ten Longest Audiobooks list that I did back in March of this year (and which I might do a follow-up list of in a few months).

In order to work out what was the longest book I ever read, I decided to go off the total number of pages contained within a book. I went through the longest books in my personal collection and took down the number of pages. I also went online to Goodreads to work out the page count of some books I borrowed from the library or previously owned. That means that in most cases, I am going of the versions that I have at home or using an online word count for the version I think I read, and hopefully this accurately reflects most printings of that book. I realise that this is not the most scientific method for working out which is the longest book I have ever read, especially as a number of factors such as formatting, font and print size could all come into play here, but I am personally happy that this is a mostly accurate way of working this out.

This list will only feature books that I have physically read and completed (so none that I have only listened to on audiobook), and hopefully it produces an interesting and varied list. Before I even started collecting the data for this, I had a few predictions about which books will be at the top (I assumed a few of the Ken Follett books I have read are going to make an appearance). There is also likely to be some crossover with this list and my Top Ten Longest Audiobook list, as I would have read the physical copies of several books the first time, and then relistened to them on audiobook. Let’s have a look and see which book tops this list:

Top Ten List:

1. Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan – 1011 pages

Lord of Chaos Cover.jpg


2. Edge of Eternity
by Ken Follett and The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan – 1007 pages

Edge of Eternity, The Shadow Rising Cover.png


3. The Fires of Heaven
by Robert Jordan – 989 pages

The Fires of Heaven Cover.jpg


4. Tombland
– C. J. Sansom – 866 pages

Tombland Cover


5. Inheritance
by Christopher Paolini and Mistress of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurst – 860 pages

Inheritance, Mistress of Empire Cover.png

6. Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb – 853 pages

Assassin's Fate Cover.jpg


7. Assassin’s Quest
by Robin Hobb – 838 pages

Assassin's Quest Cover.jpg


8. Servant of the Empire
by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurst – 827 pages

Servant of the Empire.jpg


9. The Priory of the Orange Tree
by Samantha Shannon – 825 pages

The Priory of the Orange Tree Cover


10. Winter of the World
by Ken Follet – 819 pages

Winter of the World Cover.jpg
This turned out to be a pretty intriguing result for me. I am a little surprised that the Robert Jordan books took two of the top three spots on the list. It has been a very long time since I read Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, but I honestly do not remember them being that long. The rest of the books on the list are not a massive surprise, though. Follett has created some amazingly long historical fiction novels over the years which, despite their length, are all incredible reads that always find a way to hook the reader. The same could be said of C. J. Samson, and there is a reason that both he and Follet made my Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors List. I am also not too surprised that some books by Raymond E. Feist (another autobuy author of mine) and Janny Wurst’s Empire books made it in, same with Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle books. While they seemed like smaller reads when I was younger (possibly because I wanted to power through them as soon as I got them), they all scored fairly highly on my Top Ten Longest Audiobook list, so I figured they would have a high page count. Assassin’s Fate and The Priory of the Orange Tree were books I reviewed in the Canberra Weekly, and I am glad they made the cut. Not only were they pretty epic reads, but it was good to see some more recent books I have read make the list.

While I enjoyed figuring out the top ten, I am still curious to see where some of the other books I read fit in my overall ranking. So as a bit of bonus material, and because I already spent all that time working out how many pages there were, here are the next top 15 books as an Honourable Mention.

Honourable Mentions:

11. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan – 814 pages

The Eye of the World Cover.jpg


12. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
by J. K. Rowling – 766 pages

The Order of the Phoenix Cover

Well I am glad at least one Harry Potter book made the cut. These always seemed so massive when I was kid, but in reality, they are not that big compared to some other books that are out there.

13. Brisingr by Christopher Paolini – 763 pages

Brisingr Cover


14. The Twelve Children of Paris
by Tim Willocks – 754 pages

The Twelve Children of Paris Cover.jpg

This one is a blast from the past that I haven’t thought about for a while. This was a bloody and gruesome action-packed historical novel that made for a fun, if rather violent, read.

15. Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb – 752 pages

Royal Assassin Cover.jpg


16. A Column of Fire
by Ken Follett – 751 pages

A Column of Fire Cover.png


17. Pilgrim
by Sara Douglass – 749 pages

Pilgrim Cover

I am not too sure how popular the late Sara Douglass was outside of Australia, but this book was part of a great fantasy series I got into when I was younger, mostly because they were one of the few major series available in my school’s library. I think several books in The Wayfarer Redemption series make the top 25 cut, and they excellent and enjoyable series to check out.

18. Starman by Sara Douglass – 733 pages

Starman Cover.jpg


19. Sleeping Beauties
by Stephen King and Owen King – 718 pages

Sleeping Beauties Cover.jpg


20. The Great Hunt
by Robert Jordan – 705 pages

The Great Hunt Cover.jpg


21. Eldest
by Christopher Paolini and Magician by Raymond E. Feist – 681 pages

Eldest, Magician Cover.png


22. Battleaxe
by Sara Douglass – 674 pages

Battleaxe Cover.jpg


23. Enchanter
by Sara Douglass – 672 pages

Enchanter Cover.png


24. The Shining City
by Kate Forsyth – 661

The Shining City Cover.jpg

The Shining City is a fantastic entry from Australian author Kate Forsyth. Forsyth is probably best known these days for her historical dramas; however, some of her earliest works included two excellent fantasy series, which featured some outstanding novels, such as this book, of which I was a massive fan.

25. Hawk Quest by Robert Lyndon – 658

Hawk Quest Cover.jpg

Another exciting historical adventure. Hawk Quest was a wide-ranging epic that followed a small group of adventurers through medieval Europe and the Middle East, as they attempt to capture a rare hawk to help pay a ransom.

Now that added some variety to the list. I am not at all surprised to see more from Feist, Jordan, Paolini and Follet, but the addition of all those Sara Douglass books was a bit of a blast from the past. Some of the other books, such as Sleeping Beauties, Hawk Quest and The Shining City were a nice treat, and I think it is fair to say that I have read a good collection of long novels in my life so far. I would definitely recommend each and every book on this list to anyone who is looking to sink their teeth into a nice, massive book, as all of these books are highly enjoyable. This is probably going to be an ever-evolving list that I will hopefully add to each year, especially as I read more and more long books. For example, just today I received a copy of Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward, which clocks in at a whopping 768 pages, and which, when I read it, will replace Order of the Phoenix’s at number 12 on this list. In the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments below; I am curious to know the longest book that you have ever read.

The Unbound Empire by Melissa Caruso

The Unbound Empire Cover (WoW)

Publisher: Orbit (Trade Paperback – 25 April 2019)

Series: Swords and Fire – Book 3

Length: 508 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the fast-rising authors of fantasy fiction, Melissa Caruso, brings her outstanding debut series to an end with the third book in the Swords and Fire trilogy, The Unbound Empire.

It is always a bittersweet moment when a great book series comes to an end. For the last two years, the Swords and Fire trilogy has been one of my favourite new fantasy series due to its excellent combination of characters, story, intrigue, fantasy elements and world building. I absolutely loved the first book in the series, The Tethered Mage, and I felt that Caruso did an excellent job following this up with The Defiant Heir, which made my Top Ten Reads For 2018 list and my Top Ten Books I Loved with Fewer than 2,000 Ratings on Goodreads list. As a result, I have been eagerly waiting for The Unbound Empire for the last year, and it even featured in my very first Waiting on Wednesday post.

The Swords and Fire series is set on the continent of Eruvia, which is made up of two great nations, the Serene Empire of Raverra and the loosely collected states of Vaskandar. The Serene Empire is the home of our protagonists, and is a land where magic is controlled by the government, led by the Doge and the Council of Nine. All mages who are identified as having enough power are conscripted into the army as a Falcon. Each Falcon is bound to a non-magical handler, a Falconer, who is entrusted to control and protect their Falcon. One such Falconer is Lady Amalia Cornaro, heir to one of the most powerful families in Raverra and future member of the Council of Nine. While the nobility is usually forbidden from becoming Falconers, desperate circumstances forced Amalia to be bound to the powerful and rebellious fire warlock Zaira.

Vaskandar, on the other hand, is a far wilder nation, ruled by the Witch Lords, magicians whose powerful vivomancy literally flows through their land, making them part of everyone and everything in their domain. War is always looming between these two nations, and while Vaskandar as a nation has decided to remain out of the most recent conflict, nothing can stop an individual Witch Lord from attacking. The cruel and ambitious Witch Lord Ruven, the Skinwitch, has long wanted to conquer and rule over The Serene Empire. His most recent ambitions have been stymied by the combined actions of Amalia and Zaira, who managed to stop his plan to unleash a destructive volcano, although it came at great cost to Amalia.

However, Ruven is far from done and is determined to gain new land, either in the Serene Empire or in the domains of the other Witch Lords. Launching a series of attacks against the Empire’s capital, Raverra, as well as several outlying holdings, with a range of horrifying strategies, Ruven is able to cause significant damage. But while he launches his attacks, he is also trying to recruit Amalia to his cause by any means necessary, as her unique heritage gives her the ability to usurp the domains of other Witch Lords. As Amalia and Zaira race to counter Ruven’s actions, Amalia finds herself once again torn between love, duty and friendship, as the responsibilities of her office clash with the friendships she has formed. As Amalia struggles to maintain her humanity in the heat of war, Ruven’s greatest cruelty might be the thing that finally breaks her and leads to the fall of the Serene Empire.

Caruso once again knocks it out of the park with The Unbound Empire, creating a satisfying conclusion to her series that still contains her trademark storytelling ability and character work. The final book in the Swords and Fire trilogy does a great job utilising the previous entries of the series and also attempts to tie up all of the existing loose storylines and plot points. The Unbound Empire is filled with some really emotional storylines, a number of powerful magical action sequences and several surprising plot developments. The end result is another five-star book from Caruso that I powered through in quite a short period.

At the heart of this book lies the series’ main two characters, the narrator and point-of-view character, Amalia, and the fire warlock Zaira. The challenging and evolving relationship between the initially sheltered Falconer and the rebellious and infinitely destructive Falcon has always been a major part of this series. While the two characters have been establishing a better relationship with each book, it was great to see the two of them becoming even closer in this book and helping each other deal with some major issues. I also liked how both characters’ stories come full circle in this book, as Amalia becomes more and more like her mother, while Zaira finally confronts a number of her personal demons and for once starts to consider having a future. The author’s depiction of the doubt and guilt that Amalia is feeling after the events of the last book forced her to kill her cousin added some extra emotional depth to the story, and I liked the inclusion of such a realistic emotional reaction. The character arcs for the two main characters were incredible, and it was great to see how much they had evolved over the course of the trilogy.

Caruso has also developed a number of great side characters for this series, and she continues to expertly utilise them in this final book. The main two side characters of The Unbound Empire were Amalia’s love interests: Captain Marcello of the Serene Empire; and the Witch Lord Kathe, known as the Crow Lord. Throughout the course of the book, Amalia is caught between them; while she loves Marcello, her position makes a relationship impossible, and Kathe presents a more suitable match. Marcello’s storyline in this book is pretty significant, and there are some substantial and emotive changes to his character that really helped make The Unbound Empire extra compelling. I also really liked the deeper dive into Kathe’s personality and backstory, as well as the natural strengthening of the relationship between Amalia and Kathe. Thankfully the book’s love triangle aspect wasn’t too over-the-top or filled with insufferable toxic jealousy, as both the men understand the difficult position Amalia is in. The arc of Zaira’s love interest, Terika, is really sweet, and I liked how she continues to have a positive effect of Zaira’s personality. Other side characters, such as the Amelia’s powerful and unflappable mother; the surprisingly lethal Cornaro servant, Ciardha; and Marcello’s eccentric artificer sister, Istrella, all shine through in this book, and all of them add quite a lot to this book’s story.

No great fantasy story would be complete without a despicable antagonist threatening the heroes, and luckily this book has a truly evil and threatening villain. The Witch Lord Ruven is a powerful Skinwitch, a person with the ability to control and alter other creatures just by touching him. Not only is this power by itself pretty horrifying but Ruven uses it in some fairly novel and evil ways, unleashing all manner of horrors upon the protagonists. I thought that Ruven had some of the best magical powers in the entire series, and his abilities were really fun to see in this book. Caruso also tried to humanise the character in places throughout this book, which was a nice touch and added some new depth to the story, although he does mostly come off as utterly irredeemable. Overall, I feel that Ruven was an excellent villain and his antagonism really helped make this book and the series as a whole.

I have always loved the complex fantasy world and elements that the author came up with for this series. The various forms of magic and resulting rules that form the backbone of this book are very imaginative, and I loved how Caruso was able to utilise them in her story. There are some amazing new versions of the magic and fantasy elements from the previous two books included in The Unbound Empire, as well as some new locations to explore. While the world building is not as intense as the first two books in the trilogy, Caruso still offers some great new elements, and I had a lot of fun seeing these extra expansions to the universe. Hopefully Caruso will come back to this world at some point in the future, as I had a lot of fun there over the course of the series.

The Unbound Empire was another incredible piece of fantasy fiction from author Melissa Caruso that expertly wraps up her debut trilogy. This has got to be one of the best debut fantasy trilogies I have had the pleasure of reading, and it has been a lot of fun absorbing the excellent tales of magic, adventure and intrigue that Caruso has woven over the last two years. I have really loved the Swords and Fire trilogy, and while I am sad to see it go, I am excited to see where Caruso goes next as this author has amazing potential for the future. I highly recommend each and every book in the series and encourage you to get wrapped up in the magic and characters of this series if you have not had a chance to read it.

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

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. This week participants get an Audio Freebie week, so I get to choose any audiobook topic that I want.  Regular readers of my blog will know that I love audiobooks, so I was very keen to participate in this topic.  Because of some recent long books that I have read and listened to, I have gotten very curious about the top ten longest audiobooks I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.

Therefore, I have decided to go back and list of all the audiobooks I have listened to and their run times to see which ones were the longest.  For consistency’s sake, I will use the run times as stated on either Audible or Amazon, and I will only use the versions and narrators that I listened to.  For example, I have only listened to the Harry Potter audiobooks narrated by Jim Dale and not the Stephen Fry versions, which are apparently longer, so I will therefore list the run times for the Jim Dale versions.

I am very curious to see what makes up my Top Ten List.  I have an idea of what will be at the top, but I am expecting quite a few Harry Potter books in the top ten.  Let us have a look:

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

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

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

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Technically two books combined together (Magician: Apprentice and Magician: Master), but as I will always listen to them together, I am counting it as one book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This was a very surprising result for me.  While I was expecting books such as The Way of Kings and The Wise Man’s Fear to make the cut, I really did think that Order of the Phoenix would be higher up on the list.  I was also very surprised that two books from Feist and Wurst’s The Empire Trilogy made the list, and I really did not think that Inheritance and Brisingr were that long.  Still, it’s a good result, which I have no doubt will change in the future, especially as some of the books I am keen to listen to, such as The Ember Blade (30 hours and 40 minutes long) would make it onto this list, knocking Order of the Phoenix off.  I am sure that with a different narrator or production company, some of these audiobooks would be longer or shorter; still, it was quite interesting to see.

As a bit of bonus material, and because I already had the run times listed, here are the next top ten books as an Honourable Mention.

Honourable Mentions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale – 21 hours and 12 minutes

19. Cold Iron by Miles Cameron, narrated by Mark Meadows – 19 hours and 29 minutes

20. Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan, narrated by Christian Rodska – 19 hours

So that is where some of the other Harry Potters are.  With all 20 books being fantasy, I think it is obvious that I need to branch out into some longer books from other genres in order to break up this fantasy monopoly.  While I have reviewed some of the books on this list, I am planning to get to the rest at some point in the future.  However, I think most of those require a re-listen before I am able to do proper review of them; now I just have to find the time to fit them into my reading schedule.  I was quite happy with the interesting result of this Top Ten Tuesday, and I will have to revisit this list at some point in the future.  Feel free to comment below about the longest audiobook you have ever listened to.

Magefall by Stephen Aryan

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Publisher: Orbit

Publication Date – 4 September 2018

 

In the aftermath of the devastating battlemage war, magic became mistrusted and feared by the common population of all the lands.  However, the mysterious Akosh managed to turn this mistrust into outright hatred, and her manipulations and minions led the populace to attack and destroy the Red Tower, the seat of all magical learning.  While the tower was destroyed, many of its students and teachers managed to escape and the outcast mages must now find a new path for their magic and abilities.

While the powerful and disturbed former instructor of the Red Tower, Garvey, leads several of his former students on a murderous rampage through the countryside, three other refugees from the Red Tower attempt to change the public perception of magic.  Wren and Danoph have started their own community of mages in the abandoned fringes of Shael, and attempt to protect the local villages from a murderous band of bandits.  At the same time, their friend Tianne returns home to Zecorria in order to take advantage of the regent’s amnesty for mages.  But as she begins to work in an official capacity for the regent, she is forced to become more involved in his despotic policies.

Elsewhere, Akosh continues to manipulate events across the lands, attempting to gain even more influence and control.  However, her actions have not gone unnoticed, and several individuals are rallying to counter her bid for power.  The new head of the Guardians, Tammy, moves to shatter Akosh’s influence in the country of Shael, but how far will she go to win this fight, and what will the consequences be?  Old friends Balfruss and Vargus attempt to counter both Garvey and Akosh, while Munroe, the most powerful mage in existence, embarks on deadly rampage to find Akosh and get her revenge.  But Akosh is far more powerful than anyone believes possible, and what will happen when a mage goes up against a god?

Magefall is an intriguing and enjoyable book from talented fantasy author Stephen Aryan and one that I had a lot of fun reading.  Magefall is the second book in Aryan’s Age of Dread trilogy, which followed on from his initial The Age of Darkness trilogy.  I have to admit that I have not had a chance to read any of Aryan’s previous books before, and as a result, I had a bit of a harder time getting into this story initially, due to the author’s assumption of his readers’ knowledge of the four previous books’ established plot and lore.  While I was eventually given a clearer picture of some of the previous events, the initial confusion and uncertainty when it came to certain plot points did slightly colour my assessment of this book.  As a result, I have knocked my rating down to four stars, rather than the four and a half stars I probably would have given to it if I were more familiar with the previous books in this universe.  That being said, Magefall is still an amazing piece of fantasy fiction that I really enjoyed, and I am intending to check out some of Aryan’s previous novels at a later date.

The book is made up of a series of semi-separated storylines that take place across various locations in Aryan’s fantasy landscape.  Each of the storylines is very exciting and incredibly captivating, resulting in some great moments of action and intrigue.  I rather enjoyed the story that focused on the former student Wren as she starts her own community of mages out in the wilderness, as it contained a great examination of a responsible group of mages who actually wanted to protect and help the people around them.  Their battles against a merciless group of bandits are particularly intriguing, especially as the bandits are actually able to cause the very powerful young mages significant issues and problems.  The various intrigue based storylines that highlighted the manipulative and wide-reaching schemes of the villainess Akosh are also done really well, and some of the best parts of the book showcase the various moves and countermoves as the protagonists seek to thwart Akosh and her goals.  There is not a single dull moment during this entire book as every single one of these fantastic stories come together in an amazing overall narrative.

One of the other things that I also really enjoyed about Aryan’s latest book is the devastating magical sequences that take place throughout the various storylines.  The magical characters engage in a number of high-octane battles in a variety of creative scenarios throughout the book.  Not only do these characters engage in battles with normal non-magical people but several mages fight each other in sequences that see buildings and scenery blown apart around them.  It is great to see the tactics of some of the non-magic characters, as well as the difference in power levels between the former students and the really powerful mages who previously taught them.  The highlight of the book has to be the fight between the uber-powerful mage Munroe and Akosh, as the two engage in an all-out power brawl.  This is magical action at its very best, and readers will have a terrific time enjoying all the carnage.

Magefall is an excellent piece of fantasy fiction from a rising star in the genre.  Making full use of his multiple-storyline format, Aryan has combined a series of enjoyable, fast-paced and electrifying adventures with some outstanding uses of magic.  While I would strongly advise reading some of the previous books in this universe before attempting to dive into Magefall, this is still a fun book to read and it serves as a mostly great introduction to this intriguing series.

My Rating:

Four stars

The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

The Traitor God Cover

Publisher: Angry Robot

Publication date – 5 June 2018

 

Prepare yourself for dark magic and a powerfully inventive adventure in The Traitor God, one of 2018’s best fantasy debuts from exciting new author Cameron Johnston.

Ten years ago, reviled mind-bending magician Edrin Walker fled his home city of Setharis with demons biting at his heels.  On that night, a god died, his mentor disappeared and Edrin’s memories of the events surrounding his exile were erased from his mind.  All Edrin remembers is that he made a deal with somebody extremely powerful.  In exchange for him leaving the city, this mysterious figure guaranteed the safety and long life of his closest friends.

Edrin has spent the last 10 years wandering the wilderness, living day to day and evading the creatures hunting him.  Content with his decision and new life, his exile ends the moment he witnesses the death of his best friend, Lynas.  In one terrible night, Lynas was brutally murdered and skinned alive, and Edrin saw every minute of it through their powerful mental link.  Now, with nothing left to lose, Edrin will return home, his only intention to burn everyone and everything until he finds the person responsible for his friend’s death.

However, returning to Setharis is a dangerous proposition.  Not only is he still being hunted by demons, but the Arcanum, Setharis’s governing body of magicians, will kill him the moment they find out he is still alive.  Beyond caring, Edrin will risk everything to get revenge, and woe betide any man, magician, demon or god who gets in his way.

This is an extraordinary first novel from Johnston, who has produced a stylish and highly addictive sword and sorcery fantasy adventure with a morally corrupt protagonist, a great new fantasy setting and a huge number of magical battle sequences.

The Traitor God contains an impressive dark fantasy action story that effortlessly captures the reader’s imagination and attention and drags them through every page of the book.  What starts as a revenge investigation and rampage turns into a fight for the future of an entire city, as mysterious forces are unleashed.  The story is told solely from the perspective of the protagonist, Edrin, and as a result it has been noticeably infected with his dark humour and well-developed scepticism.  The familiar storyline of a hero returning home and finding that everything has changed works well within The Traitor God.  Readers will enjoy watching the powerful magician manipulate the new generation of criminals and bystanders who are unfamiliar with what he can do.  While the eventual revelation of who is responsible for the murder is a tad predictable, the investigation getting there is amazing, and fans will enjoy seeing the protagonist confront his enemies.  The scope of the villain’s evil plot is quite impressive and results in some massive scenes towards the end of the book.  I really enjoyed the cunningness and ingenuity of the protagonist and had fun watching him come up with clever solutions to the difficult and unique problems he encounters.  There is one amazing scene towards the end of the book when his plan to finish off a powerful antagonist is slowly revealed to the reader.  The reveal of the protagonist’s master plan, which is kept hidden from the reader due to magical plot elements, is done perfectly within this scene, and the audience will enjoy the clever ideas and dark humour used within.

The vast majority of the plot of Johnston’s book is set within the city of Setharis, which is controlled by an army of powerful magicians.  The city is a great setting for this dark fantasy novel as the protagonist is forced to conduct his investigation through its corrupt and crime-ridden streets.  It is clear that Johnston has spent significant time creating Setharis, and Edrin explores vast swathes of it during his adventures.  The exploration of the Arcanum is particularly intriguing, and readers will be shown the noticeable differences between the sanctuary of magicians and the dwellings where the city’s poor live.  Edrin’s observations about the inequalities and corruption of the Arcanum are unique among the book’s magicians.  This allows Johnston to show off the arrogance of the other magicians, which plays into the plot while at the same time endearing Edrin to the reader.  The setting of Setharis is an amazing part of this novel, and readers will look forward to returning to it in Johnston’s future works.

One of the best parts of The Traitor God is the sheer amount of exceptional magical and fantasy elements that have been packed into it by the author.  Edrin has unique magical mind powers that allow him to control people he encounters, and these are surprisingly dark powers for a fantasy protagonist to have.  These powers are intriguing, as they are known and feared throughout Johnston’s fantasy world, and Edrin suffers significant discrimination as a result.  The scenes where Edrin uses his mind-bending abilities are well presented by Johnston, as he successfully endeavours to show the effect Edrin’s power has on the other character’s minds.

The other magicians that feature in The Traitor God also have magical powers that catch the reader’s imagination when they are presented in the book.  The book features magicians with powers to nullify the magic of other magicians, sniffers who can smell and identify magicians from a distance, magicians who use body enhancement magic to become epic soldiers, and one extremely skilled hydromancer.  Johnston has also created some fascinating rules and abilities that affect all of the magicians within the book, including Edrin, and result in some wonderful story elements.  A great example of this revolves around the rule that magic permeates every cell of a magician’s body and leaks out of them into items like their clothing or bedding.  Johnston uses this fact to great effect throughout the story, as his protagonist is constantly forced to find constructive ways to avoid enemies who can detect his magic.  The author has also created memorable descriptions of the way that magicians are forced to access their magical power.  Johnston establishes that magicians within The Traitor God have to be careful about the magic they draw into themselves, lest they burn themselves out or go mad with power.  There are several scenes where Edrin is forced to draw large amounts of magic into himself to face powerful opponents or save the lives of his friends, and the resultant internal battles to retain control and his sanity are a fantastic part of the narrative.

While Johnston goes into incredible detail about the rules and roles of the magicians of Setharis, he has also included some alternative magical users who do not follow the same rules.  The comparison between these two different groups of magic users is quite distinctive, and scenes where they come into conflict with each other are quite destructive and highly enjoyable.  Johnston has made sure to include a number of unique demonic creatures the hunt and harry the protagonist.  These creatures are quite distinctive, and Johnston cleverly ties their hunting ability into his rules about magical scents and detection.  The most memorable magical creature within the book is also the largest, and results in some significant, fast-paced and explosive scenes throughout the book.  Overall, the electrifying and distinctive magical and fantasy elements within The Traitor God are one of the book’s most intriguing characteristics and highlight just how imaginative and creative Johnston is.

There are a tremendous number of action-filled sequences throughout the book as the main character and his allies fight criminals, demons, magicians and gods.  As a result, The Traitor God will appeal to wide range of readers eager to get their latest dose of intense fantasy action.  There are brawls, chases, complex magical duels, fights with monstrous foes, large-scale magical warfare within a city, and even a fight between two gigantic magical constructs.  Various elements that Johnston sets up when describing the city of Setharis or the magical abilities and rules of his magician characters often come into play during these scenes, and the author does a great job of winding his own lore into these fantastic sequences.  Those drawn to magical and fantasy action and battles will find all their needs and more are met within this book.

In his debut book, Cameron Johnston has shown that he is author with an immense and powerful imagination and the ability to skilfully transcribe his ideas into a powerful narrative.  The Traitor God is a fantastic piece of dark fantasy, with some incredibly thrilling action and adventure subplots.  This book is a highly recommended read, and Johnston is an author that fantasy fans will need to keep an eye on.

My Rating:

Four and a half stars