WWW Wednesday – 28 September 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis (Trade Paperback)

Star Wars - The Princess and the Scoundrel Cover

I just started to read the new Star Wars release, The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis.  Set immediately after the events of Return of the Jedi, this cool book explores the relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia in the current Star Wars canon.  Featuring both their wedding and their turbulent honeymoon, this is a must-read for all Star Wars fans, and I am already having a great time getting through it.

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The Martyr by Anthony Ryan (Audiobook)

The Martyr Cover

I have also just started the new Anthony Ryan book, The Martyr, which was one of my most anticipated books of the year. The sequel to the impressive 2021 novel, The PariahThe Martyr is a brilliant fantasy adventure about a young bandit turned scribe who finds his fate bound to bold and pious warrior woman, who is set to bring real change to an intriguing fantasy realm.  I have been having a lot of fun with this audiobook and I have already made a ton of progress on it.  I very excited to see what happens next, and this is already turning out to be one of the better fantasy books of 2022.

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What did you recently finish reading?

The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (Trade Paperback)

The Golden Enclaves Cover Better

Well, I was certainly impressed with The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik.  The epic sequel to A Deadly Education and The Last GraduateThe Golden Enclaves was one of my most anticipated novels of 2022, especially after the epic cliff-hanger Novik left at the end of The Last Graduate.  While the story went in some different directions than I was expecting, this was still a very impressive read that did an incredible job wrapping up a pretty epic series.  I really appreciated the way that Novik answered several of the linger questions from the first two novels, and this was an excellent final book that comes very highly recommended.

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The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman (Audiobook)

The Bullet That Missed Cover

I just finished listening to the third book in the awesome Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman, The Bullet That Missed follows on from The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice, both of which were incredible reads.  This latest book contained another exceptional mystery as the titular Thursday Murder Club, four unusual retirees with a talent for solving crimes, embarked on investigating another compelling murder.  Loaded with amazing humour, an excellent mystery and some sensational characters, The Bullet That Missed is another top book of 2022 and I am so very glad I got the chance to read it.  Review to follow soon.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

Fairy Tale Cover

The legendary Stephen King writing an intense and dark fairy orientated novel, yeah that’s going to be awesome and that is why it is the book I am hoping to read next.

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

WWW Wednesday – 21 September 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik (Trade Paperback)

The Golden Enclaves Cover Better

After receiving a copy of this book last week there was no way I wasn’t immediately going to start reading The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik.  The epic sequel to A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate, The Golden Enclaves is one of my most anticipated novels of 2022, especially after the epic cliff-hanger Novik left at the end of The Last Graduate.  I am about 50 pages into The Golden Enclaves and it is so far opening up some intriguing storylines.  I can’t wait to see how this complex and brilliant fantasy trilogy comes to an end and I have no doubt that The Golden Enclaves is going to be one of the absolute best novels of 2022.

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The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman (Audiobook)

The Bullet That Missed Cover

Another must read novel I managed to start this week was The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman.  The third book in his awesome Thursday Murder Club series, The Bullet That Missed follows on from The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice, both of which were incredible reads.  This new book follows the titular Thursday Murder Club, four unusual retirees with a talent for solving crimes, as they investigate another compelling murder.  Loaded with amazing humour, an excellent mystery and some sensational characters, The Bullet That Missed is another top book of 2022 that I am having an epic time listening to.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris (Trade Paperback)

Act of Oblivion Cover

An outstanding novel that follows the hunt for two of the men responsible for the execution of King Charles I as they flee to the American colonies to escape the British.  I had a blast reading Act of Oblivion and it was an excellent and captivating novel with a fascinating historical story behind it.  One of the most intriguing novels of the year, this book comes highly recommended.

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Warhammer 40,000: Outgunned by Denny Flowers (audiobook)

Warhammer 40,000 - Outgunned Cover

I managed to knock off the incredible Warhammer 40,000 audiobook, Outgunned by Denny Flowers this week, and it was pretty amazing.  The second novel from Flowers (he wrote the excellent Fire Made Flesh last year) this was an exceptional Warhammer book that had a deeply impressive plot to it.  A must-read for all Warhammer fanatics.

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Oath of Loyalty by Kyle Mills (Audiobook)

Oath of Loyalty Cover

I also managed to start and finish that latest epic Mitch Rapp novel this week with Oath of Loyalty by Kyle Mills.  Following on from some of the storylines set up in the previous books Red WarLethal AgentTotal Power and Enemy at the Gates, Oath of Loyalty saw badass protagonist Mitch Rapp step up to a corrupt president, who sets a deadly group of assassins to hunt down everyone he loves.  This was another amazing and compelling spy thriller adventure and I really loved how everything turned out.  A fantastic and very fun read.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Star Wars: The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis

Star Wars - The Princess and the Scoundrel Cover

I have several great books to check out next, but the one I think I’ll try hardest to read is the new Star Wars release, The Princess and the Scoundrel.  I was hoping to get to it this week, but got distracted by a few other books I got my hands on.  Still, I think I will try even harder to make this book a priority for the next week as I have heard some excellent stuff about this book, and I am very excited to get to grips with a novel that explores the relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia in the current Star Wars canon.  Set to feature both their wedding and their turbulent honeymoon, this is a must-read for all Star Wars fans, and I know I intend to read it as soon as I can.

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The Martyr by Anthony Ryan

The Martyr Cover

In the next week I am hoping to finally read the new Anthony Ryan book, The Martyr, which was one of my most anticipated books of the year.  The sequel to the impressive 2021 novel, The Pariah, The Martyr looks set to continue the brilliant fantasy adventure about a young bandit turned scribe who finds his fate bound to multiple inspirational people in this cool fantasy realm.  This new book will see him continue to follow a living saint as she goes to war against her nation’s church and crown.  I cannot wait to read this exceptional novel and I know I am going to deeply, deeply enjoy it.

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

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my Spring 2022 TBR

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

For this list, I have come up with 10 of the most anticipated novels that are coming out between 1 September 2022 and 30 November 2022.  There are quite a few very cool novels set for release in the next few months that I am extremely excited for, including some of my most anticipated books of the year.  Due to how impressive some of these upcoming books are, it took me a little while to finalise my list but I was eventually able to whittle it down into a Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have primarily used the Australian publication dates to reflect when I will be able to get these awesome novels, and these might be somewhat different to the rest of the world.  I have previously discussed a number of these books before in prior Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be pretty incredible reads.  I have extremely excited for the next three months as quite a few up these upcoming reads are easily going to be amongst the best books of 2022.

Honourable Mentions:

Falling Sky by Harry Sidebottom – 13 October 2022

Falling Sky Cover

An epic adventure from one of the best current authors of historical fiction, Harry Sidebottom.  Set to bring back his best protagonist for a ton of historical action and intrigue in the Alps, Falling Sky is going to be a lot of fun and I cannot wait to read it.

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The Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham – 18 October 2022

The Boys from Biloxi Cover

After having a fantastic time with Grisham’s latest legal thrillers, The Judge’s List and Sparring Partners, I am quite keen to read something else from this iconic crime fiction author.  Luckily his new book, The Boys from Biloxi, sounds very impressive and I know I am going to have a blast getting through it.

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Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – 1 November 2022

Friends Like These Cover 2

Last year, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez greatly impressed me her first young adult thriller, Lies Like Wildfire, which ended up being one of the best debuts of 2021.  I loved the complex and clever story that Alvarez featured in Lies Like Wildfire, and it looks like she’s set to continue her awesome young adult thriller ways with the upcoming Friends Like These, which explore the deadly consequences of a drunken party.

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Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow – 8 November 2022

Death to the Emperor Cover

I will of course be grabbing the latest historical fiction epic from one of my favourite authors, Simon Scarrow, when it comes out in November.  Scarrow’s last few books have all been very exciting and I cannot wait to read Death to the Emperor when it comes out, especially as it sets his long-running Roman protagonists against a massed rebellion in Britain.

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Top Ten List:

Fairy Tale by Stephen King – 6 September 2022

Fairy Tale Cover

First on this list is the upcoming fantasy novel from legendary author Stephen King, Fairy Tale.  I have been deeply enjoying King’s last few books, such as the fantastic Later and the epic Billy Summers, and I am very keen to see King dive into a dark fantasy novel.  Set around a young boy who finds himself drawn into a dark realm of fairies and magic, Fairy Tale promises to be an exceptional read, and I know I am going to have a blast with it.

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Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – 13 September 2022

Nona the Ninth Cover

Since her impressive debut in 2019 with Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir has been one of the most intriguing science fiction authors out there.  Not only was her first book a ton of fun with its dark story around a group of space-faring necromancers, but her sequel, Harrow the Ninth, was a truly exceptional read that ended up being one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020.  I am exceedingly excited to see what happens in the third book, Nona the Ninth, and it looks let to continue the fantastic body-swapping antics of the previous two novels.  Nona the Ninth is likely to be one of the best and most distinctive science fiction reads of 2022, and I am very excited for it as a result.

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Oath of Loyalty by Kyle Mills – 13 September 2022

Oath of Loyalty Cover

There are some excellent long-running spy thriller series at there now, but one of my favourites is the action-packed Mitch Rapp novels.  Originally written by Vince Flynn, the Mitch Rapp novels follow the titular spy and assassin as he lays waste to America’s enemies around the world.  The last several novels, such as Red War, Lethal Agent, Total Power, and Enemy at the Gates, have been written by Kyle Mills and feature some amazing narratives to them.  I have been having an outstanding time getting through this series recently, and the next novel, Oath of Loyalty, looks set to be another awesome read.  Oath of Loyalty will continue the feud between Rapp and the new US president and will force Rapp to defend his family when they are sold out to a deadly and unstoppable group of assassins.  I love the sound of this epic read and I know I am going to have an amazing time with it.

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The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman – 15 September 2022

The Bullet That Missed Cover

There was no way I can possibly exclude the upcoming Richard Osman novel, The Bullet that Missed, from this list.  The third book in the Thursday Murder Club, which follows on from the exceptional The Thursday Murder Club (one of the best debuts of 2020) and The Man Who Died Twice (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2021), The Bullet that Missed will bring back Osman’s fun group of crime solving senior citizens and set them on a new case.  I love the sound of this amazing book and I can’t wait to start reading it.

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The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik – 20 September 2022

The Golden Enclaves Cover Better

Easily one of my most anticipated books coming out in the next few months is The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik.  The third and final book in Novik’s exquisite and epic Scholomance trilogy, The Golden Enclaves will finally provide some closure to readers following the impressive first two novels, A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.  Both books have had perfect, dark magical school narratives, and I have had such an incredible time reading them.  However, I have been dying to check out The Golden Enclaves for a year now, especially after that brutal cliff-hanger at the end of The Last Graduate, and I am just going to absorb this book the moment I get my hands on it.

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Khaos by Jeremy Robinson – 18 October 2022

Khaos Cover

I have no doubt that one of the most exciting and action-packed novels of the next three months is going to be Khaos by Jeremy Robinson.  Following on from Robinson’s fantastic and fun novels, Tribe, The Dark, and Mind Bullet, Khaos will set three groups of Robinson’s protagonists on a joint mission to Hades to free the gods and titans for an upcoming war.  This book has so much damn potential and I can’t wait to see what chaos happens in Khaos.

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Usagi Yojimbo: Crossroads by Stan Sakai – 25 October 2022

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

After already being blessed with one volume of the incredible Usagi Yojimbo comic series this year with Tengu War!, I am exceeding happy that we are getting another volume with CrossroadsCrossroads looks set to enthrall readers with several great new stories, and I am very excited to see how Sakai continues his iconic comics.  There is a very good reason why this is one of my favourite comic series of all time, and I cannot wait to get another volume extremely soon.

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The Voyage of the Forgotten by Nick Martell – 3 November 2022

The Voyage of the Forgotten Cover

Another epic trilogy that is coming to an end in the next few months is Nick Martell’s Legacy of the Mercenary King series with the third and final book, The Voyage of the Forgotten.  I have been absolutely and incredibly impressed with Martell’s first two novels, The Kingdom of Liars and The Two-Faced Queen, both of which have been exceptional five-star reads.  I am extremely excited for the final book, and I cannot wait to see how Martell will wrap up the multiple complex and captivating storylines.  There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that The Voyage of the Forgotten is going to be one of the top books of the year and it is going to be something truly epic.

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Desert Star by Michael Connelly – 8 November 2022

Desert Star Cover

Another must-read I must include on this list is the next book from acclaimed crime-fiction author Michael Connelly.  His new book, Desert Star, is the latest entry in his Ballard of Bosch series, which has already featured three amazing reads, Dark Sacred Night, The Night Fire and The Dark Hours.  This new book sets the great protagonists on another intriguing case, and I look forward to seeing how Connelly sets out his new great mystery.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Cordova – 15 November 2022

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

The final book I want to highlight on this list is the new upcoming Star Wars novel, Convergence by Zoraida Cordova.  Convergence is part of The High Republic sub-series and will set up the entire next phase of the High Republic.  This new phase serves as a prequel to the previous High Republic novels, and I am very curious to see how everything ties together.  This should be a very awesome Star Wars novel and I am sure I am going to have a lot of fun reading it.

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

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite 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.

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Master of Sorrows by Justin Call

Master of Sorrows Cover

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 – Most Anticipated Books Releasing in the Second Half of 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday participants need to list their top anticipated releases for the second half of 2022.

2022 has so far been a pretty amazing year for books, with some outstanding and impressive novels coming out and blowing me away.  However, the year is far from over and there are so many incredible and epic-sounding novels set for release in the second half of 2022.  To fill out this list I have scoured my list of anticipated upcoming releases and tried to work out which of the books coming out between the start of July and the end of December I am most looking forward to.

This proved to be a rather hard list to finalise, mainly because of how many awesome novels are coming out in the next six months.  I honestly had enough awesome upcoming novels on my radar to turn this into a Top 20, but I decided instead to make some hard decisions, and I ended up cutting out several impressive upcoming releases, leaving me with a list mostly featuring books from some of my favourite authors.  Despite this, I am rather happy with the eventual choices that I made, and I think that this list reflects which upcoming novels I am going to have the most fun reading.  Due to how much potential that I think the entries on this list have, several have previously appeared in my weekly Waiting on Wednesday articles, as well as on my recent Winter TBR list.   So let us get to my selections and find out which upcoming novels are my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2022.

Honourable Mentions:

The Accomplice by Steve Cavanagh – 21 July 2022

The Accomplice Cover

 

Oath of Loyalty by Kyle Mills (based on the books by Vince Flynn) – 13 September 2022

Oath of Loyalty Cover

 

Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – 1 November 2022

Friends Like These Cover

 

Death to the Emperor by Simon Scarrow – 8 November 2022

Death to the Emperor Cover

List (by release date):

Upgrade by Blake Crouch – 12 July 2022

Upgrade Cover

An awesome sounding new science fiction thriller from the exceedingly talented Blake Crouch, this is sure to be an incredible read.

 

Glacier’s Edge by R. A. Salvatore – 9 August 2022

Glacier's Edge Cover

One of my all-time favourite authors, R. A. Salvatore, returns soon with another entry in his long-running Drizzt Do’Urden series.  This new upcoming novel will serve as a sequel to his 2021 novel, Starlight Enclave, and sounds like another fantastic adventure novel.

 

Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – 13 September 2022

Nona the Ninth Cover

I am very excited to see that captivating science fiction talent, Tamysn Muir, will continue her impressive, space-necromancer-centric, The Locked Tomb series later this year with Nona the Ninth.  Following on from the highly entertaining Gideon the Ninth (one of my favourite debuts of 2019) and the incredible Harrow the Ninth (one of my favourite book and audiobooks of 2020), Nona the Ninth has a ton of potential and I cannot wait to see how this trippy series continues.

 

The Bullet that Missed by Richard Osman – 15 September 2022

The Bullet That Missed Cover

There was no way that I was not going to include the latest entry in the hilarious and clever Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman on this list.  The sequel to The Thursday Murder Club (one of the best debuts of 2020) and The Man Who Died Twice (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2021), The Bullet that Missed looks set to bring back the titular team of retirees as they solve new murders around their retirement village.  Easily going to be one of the funniest and most addictive reads of the year, I am very excited for more of Osman’s entertaining hijinks.

 

The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik – 20 September 2022

The Golden Enclaves Cover Better

There are few upcoming books that I am more excited to read than The Golden Enclaves, the third and final book in Naomi Novik’s epic The Scholomance series.  Novik has really killed it with the first two books in this series, A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate, which followed a destructively gifted magical student as she tries to survive the deadliest magical school around.  These first two books were both incredible reads, and I am very, very keen to see how this series ends in The Golden Enclaves, especially after the massive cliff-hanger Novik left The Last Graduate on.  I have no doubt that this will live up to my extremely high expectations and this should prove to be pure and unadulterated awesomeness.

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Cordova – 4 October 2022

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

I have been really enjoying the recent High Republic sub-series of Star Wars extended fiction, especially the main novels (Light of the Jedi, The Rising Storm and The Fallen Star), and whole new phase of The High Republic is about to start later this year.  While I am a little hesitant about the massive backwards time-skip (the entire second phase is set a substantial time before the first High Republic phase), I am very curious to see what sort of story is set out in the Convergence by Zoraida Cordova, which will set the tone for this second phase.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Crossroads by Stan Sakai – 11 October 2022

Usagi Yojimbo - Crossroads Cover

I am extremely happy to be getting another volume in one of my favourite comic book series, the Usagi Yojimbo comics, later this year with the upcoming volume Crossroads.  This will be the second Usagi Yojimbo volume coming out this year (see my review for Tengu War!) and I am so very happy to get more Usagi action and excitement this year.  I already know this is going to be a brilliant comic, and Crossroads will no doubt contain more impressive stories and eye-catching artwork.

 

The Voyage of the Forgotten by Nick Martell – 3 November 2022

The Voyage of the Forgotten Cover

Another deeply impressive fantasy series ending this year is Nick Martell’s The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings series, which finishes off with The Voyage of the Forgotten in a few months’ time.  I have had such a brilliant time with this series, as both The Kingdom of Liars and The Two-Faced Queens have been truly epic and captivating reads with intense and complex stories.  As such, I am extremely eager to read The Voyage of the Forgotten to find out how everything is going to end.  While I am a little sad that this series will only contain three novels, I know that this finale is going to be an exceptional novel that will easily top my best of 2022 lists.

 

Desert Star by Michael Connelly – 8 November 2022

Desert Star Cover

I have been having a ton of fun with Michael Connelly’s spectacular crime fiction novels lately and I am very excited to get another Ballard and Bosch book in a few months’ time with Desert Star.  Following on from such great novels as Dark Sacred Night, The Night Fire and The Dark Hours, this upcoming book has an impressive sounding story to it and I am very excited to get involved in another powerful Connelly mystery.

 

City of Last Chances by Adrian Tchaikovsky – 8 December 2022

City of Last Chances Cover

The final book on this list is the highly compelling City of Last Chances by bestselling author Adrian Tchaikovsky.  Set in a rebellious magical city, City of Last Chances sounds like an extremely cool and intriguing fantasy novel, and I am very curious to read more from this highly regarded author, especially after having a great time reading his Warhammer 40,000 debut, Day of Ascension, earlier this year.  I look forward to seeing what amazing fantasy epic Tchaikovsky has planned for City of Last Chances, and I am sure it will end up being extremely great.

 

 

That is the end of this list.  I am extremely happy with how my latest Top Ten Tuesday article turned out, and this list contains an intriguing collection of upcoming books that should prove to be incredible reads.  I think that every one of the books I mentioned above has some amazing potential, and most, if not all, will probably end up with a full five-star rating from me.  I cannot wait to see what awesome and exciting stories the entries on this list contain, and I think that I am going to have an incredible time in the second half of 2022.  While I am waiting to get my hands on these books, why not let me know if any of the above interest you and let me know what your most anticipated releases for the next six months are in the comments below.

Waiting on Wednesday – The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  In this latest Waiting on Wednesday, I check out the incredible upcoming final entry in Naomi Novik’s epic Scholomance series, The Golden Enclaves.

The Golden Enclaves Cover

Without a doubt, some of the best pieces of fantasy fiction I have read over the last couple of years has been the clever and addictive Scholomance novels by acclaimed author Naomi Novik.  Novik, who has previously impressed with her Temeraire series and standalone books like Spinning Silver, has created an incredible series here, filled with dark magic, complex characters, and an unbelievable setting.

The Scholomance novels are primarily set within the Scholomance, the world’s premier magic school which traps hundreds of magical children in its self-sustaining magical grounds for years, forcing them to face a gauntlet of monsters, treachery and dangerous lessons for their own good.  This all changes when protagonist El Higgens arrives and finds herself in all manner of trouble.  El, who has incredibly destructive magical abilities and a dark prophecy about her future hanging about her, finds herself forced to turn her abilities to destroying the school’s invading monsters when she meets up with moody monster hunter, Orion Lake.  This results in a deep, clever and incredibly entertaining narrative that perfectly twists the classic magical school story around into a brilliant tale.

The series is so far made up of A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate, both of which were among my favourite books of 2020 and 2021 respectfully.  A Deadly Education perfectly introduced the characters and the settings, as well as some of the deadly issues that were impacting the school (well, deadlier than usual).  This was followed up with the even more impressive The Last Graduate, which expanded several of the great storylines from the A Deadly Education, and saw the protagonists embark on an elaborate plan to alter their world for good.  While the plan was successful, destroying the school, it ended on a massive and shocking cliff-hanger that shook me to my very core.  Due to how deeply moving and heartbreaking this cliff-hanger was, I have been very eagerly looking forward the third novel while mildly cursing Novik for making me wait to resolve the story.  Luckily, I finally have some details about the final book which will whet my appetite for the moment.

This third and final book will be The Golden Enclaves, which is currently set for release in September 2022 and will apparently wrap up the series, bringing the entire story together.  A cover and plot synopsis has just been released and I have to say that I am exceedingly excited by what they contain.

Synopsis:

Saving the world is a test no school of magic can prepare you for in the triumphant conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate.

The one thing you never talk about while you’re in the Scholomance is what you’ll do when you get out. Not even the richest enclaver would tempt fate that way. But it’s all we dream about, the hideously slim chance we’ll survive to make it out the gates and improbably find ourselves with a life ahead of us, a life outside the Scholomance halls.

And now the impossible dream has come true. I’m out, we’re all out–and I didn’t even have to turn into a monstrous dark witch to make it happen. So much for my great-grandmother’s prophecy of doom and destruction. I didn’t kill enclavers, I saved them. Me, and Orion, and our allies. Our graduation plan worked to perfection: we saved everyone and made the world safe for all wizards and brought peace and harmony to all the enclaves of the world.

Ha, only joking! Actually it’s gone all wrong. Someone else has picked up the project of destroying enclaves in my stead, and probably everyone we saved is about to get killed in the brewing enclave war on the horizon. And the first thing I’ve got to do now, having miraculously got out of the Scholomance, is turn straight around and find a way back in.

Ooh, now that is very interesting synopsis that reveals some potential clues about how the plot of The Golden Enclaves is going to turn out.  I love the tone of this synopsis which really carries all the angst and frustration of the point-of-view protagonist El, especially as it sounds like all her plans to survive and to keep her fellow students and their families safe has failed.  The fact that someone else is out there destroying enclaves (elite magical communities), is pretty interesting, especially as that was El’s prophesised destiny that she was trying to avoid (I’m sure she’ll get blamed for it anyway).  Having an atmosphere of war, suspicion and carnage out in the world should result in some intense storylines, especially as everyone is going to be looking at El, who is generally considered to be the perfect weapon.  I am very curious to find out the identity of whoever is destroying the enclaves, especially if it ties into the events El experienced in the supposedly separate and isolated Scholomance.

I do think that The Golden Enclaves is going to be a very different book from the last two entries in the series.  The entirety of A Deadly Education and The Last Graduate took place within the confines of the Scholomance, while this novel will be set out in the wider world.  This really will change the feel, atmosphere and character dynamics of the entire story, especially as the protagonist no longer has to worry about lessons, lurking monsters and scheming classmates.  It does sound like El is immediately going to try and get back into the Scholomance, so we might see a bit of it in the novel, which should prove interesting considering how its destruction led to the big cliff-hanger in the previous book.  I will admit that I am going to miss the whole magical school element of this book, especially as that was one of the things that drew me to the series in the first place (I love magical school stories).  However, I don’t think it will matter too much as at this point, I am far too invested in the overarching narrative and the characters of this series, that I cannot wait to see what happens to them no matter where they are.

Look, lets be honest here, there is no way in hell that I will not be reading this book this year, especially after how The Last Graduate ended.  I am fully committed to finding out how this excellent series concludes, and the above synopsis hints at some cool and interesting developments that should result in a great story.  I am exceedingly confident that Novik will provide an exceptional wrap up to this brilliant trilogy and I am just so excited to see how everything ends.  I am 100 per cent confident that this will end up being on of my favourite books of 2022, and I am so damn excited to see how The Golden Enclaves turns out.

Amazon     Book Depository

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books of 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  In this final Top Ten Tuesday for the year, participants are tasked with listing their top books of 2021, which is something I look forward to every year.  This is a bit of a continuation of a series of lists I have been doing over the last month which have highlighted some of the authors and books I have been most impressed with this year, including my favourite audiobook, favourite debuts and my top pre-2021 books I read this year.  However, this list here is the big one as it covers my absolute favourite releases of the year, of which there are quite a few.

Just like with 2020, 2021 has been pretty shitty in places, but thankfully readers got a bit of solace from the fact that this was an amazing year for books, with a huge range of incredible releases coming out across the genres.  Not only did several outstanding new series start but we had some exceptional debuts and several incredible trilogies conclude in a big way.  I have had an amazing time reading or listening to so many outstanding books this year and quite a few releases have become instant favourites.  I must admit that I somewhat struggled to pull this list together, as there were so many books that deserved to be mentioned.  Therefore, because I am a very soft touch, and because the quality of the books I read this year was so impressive, I have decided to expand this list out to 20 entries (just like I have the last two years).  These 20 books are my absolute favourites from 2021, and I would strongly recommend every one of them to anyone interested in a great read.

To make it onto this list a book needed to be released here in Australia during 2021 (one minor exception) and I had to have read it.  I have excluded Never by Ken Follett, as I am only partway through it, and there are many awesome-sounding books I sadly didn’t squeeze into my reading schedule for this year, although I am sure that several of those would have made the cut.  I decided to leave off my usual Honourable Mentions section as the extra 10 entries kind of make it unnecessary.  There will be a bit of crossover between the below entries and some of my previous lists.  Several novels also appeared on my Top Ten Favourite Audiobooks of 2021 list and my Top Ten Favourite Books from the First Half of 2021 list which I ran back into July.  Overall, I am fairly happy with how this Top 20 list turned out and I think it contains a pretty good range of novels that really showcases the different types of books that I chose to read this year.  So without further ado, here is the list.

Top 20 List (no particular order):

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Last Graduate Cover

Let us start this list off strong with the awesome fantasy novel that I still haven’t gotten over, The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik.  The sequel to her 2020 hit, A Deadly Education, The Last Graduate continues the impressive Scholomance series in a big way , making full use of its cool characters and uniquely dangerous magical school setting.  There were some major developments in this second novel, including an epic and heartbreaking cliff-hanger that is guaranteed to make me pick up the final book next year.

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary Cover

Next we have one of the best science fiction reads of the year.  Written by the exceedingly talented Andy Weir (of The Martian fame), Project Hail Mary is a very clever, entertaining and science heavy novel that sees a man travel to a distant star to find a way to save Earth when the sun starts to lose energy.  A brilliantly written and deeply captivating read that features a great, surprise supporting character and an awesome twist around the protagonist.  Highly recommended!

 

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan

The Pariah Cover

I had a great time this year checking out new authors, and one of the best was fantasy author Anthony Ryan, who started his Covenant of Steel series with The Pariah.  Featuring an epic and captivating tale that follows a young protagonist as he explores a war-torn, religiously ruled landscape, The Pariah was an impressive fantasy read that I could not put down, no matter how hard I tried.  I deeply enjoyed this cool book and I cannot wait to grab the sequel, The Martyr, next year.

 

Relentless by Jonathan Maberry

Relentless Cover

For the fourth year in a row, one of Jonathan Maberry’s amazing books has achieved a spot on this list (Deep Silence was one of the best books of 2018, Rage was one of the best books of 2019 and Ink was one of the best books of 2020).  Relentless, was one of his best, sending his legendary protagonist on deadly revenge mission against his worst enemies as they attempt a new world-ending master plan.  I loved this latest science fiction/thriller hybrid from Maberry, especially due to the exceptional character work, and this was a captivating and exceedingly exciting read.

 

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

There was no way that I could exclude the incredible latest book from the legendary Joe Abercrombie, The Wisdom of Crowds, from this list.  This exceptional fantasy read perfectly wrapped up the brilliantly dark Age of Madness series (which previously featured the excellent A Little Hatred and The Trouble With Peace).  Featuring some of the best and most complex characters you are likely to see in fiction, and an intensely dark tale of revenge, betrayal and revolution, The Wisdom of Crowds is relentlessly entertaining without a single dull moment.  I had an incredible time with this book and I cannot wait to see what Abercrombie comes up with next.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Homecoming by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Homecoming

Even after 35 volumes, Stan Sakai’s bestselling Usagi Yojimbo comic (which is one of my favourite all-time comic series) continues to shine with the exceptional HomecomingHomecoming was another beautifully drawn and narratively rich volume that takes the protagonist on a dramatic journey back to his home village and the many pains that reside there.  An exceptional and fun read; I cannot wait to get my hands of Sakai’s next volume, Tengu War, in a few short months.

 

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

After producing one of the absolute best debuts of 2020 with The Kingdom of Liars, talented rising author Nick Martell continued his impressive Legacy of the Mercenary King series with The Two-Faced Queen.  Featuring deadly assassins, a vengeful queen and even a couple of murderous dragons, The Two-Faced Queen was even more exceptional than his first novel, deeply expanding the cool overarching narrative and adding in even more twists, reveals and surprises.  This was one of the best sequels I have ever read, and readers will be quickly drawn into the book’s many mysteries, unique magic and deeply captivating storylines.

 

Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

2021 was an amazing year for Star Wars novels, especially with the launch of the High Republic sub-series (Light of the Jedi and The Rising Storm were particularly good).  However, one of the absolute best Star Wars books had to be the amazing Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed, which brought the compelling, star fighter focused Alphabet Squadron series to a beautiful end.  Perfectly wrapping up the story contained in the first two novels, Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall, Victory’s Price was a powerful and intense character-driven war story that focused on five damaged Rebel pilots fighting in the war after the end of Return of the Jedi.  This was easily one of the most exciting and moving Star Wars novels I have had the pleasure of reading and it is a must read for fans of the franchise.

 

The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly

The Dark Hours Cover 2

After producing two brilliant reads last year (Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence), bestselling crime fiction author Michael Connelly continues his outstanding Ballard and Bosch sub-series with The Dark Hours.  This amazing novel contained another fantastic murder mystery combined with several other great police procedural story lines to create an outstanding overall narrative, expanding the fun partnership established in Dark Sacred Night and The Night Fire.  I deeply enjoyed this latest Connelly book and I powered through extremely quickly.

 

The Bone Ship’s Wake by R. J. Barker

The Bone Ship's Wake Cover

One of the best current authors of fantasy fiction, R. J. Barker, brings his exceptional Tide Child trilogy to a moving and captivating end with The Bone Ship’s Wake.  Perfectly following on from The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships, this epic nautical fantasy perfectly wrapped up all the trilogy’s captivating story arcs and character development with some big, emotional moments.  I loved every twist and devastating moment in this novel and, thanks to this captivating conclusion, the Tide Child series ended up being one of the best trilogies I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

 

Colonyside by Michael Mammay

Colonyside Cover

Amazing science fiction author Michael Mammay continued his brilliant Planetside series (made up of Planetside and Spaceside) with Colonyside.  This latest novel dragged Mammay’s entertaining and gruff protagonist out of retirement once again to investigate a shady corporate mystery on an alien planet.  This book swiftly devolves into an exceptional conspiracy storyline, filled with twists and giant monsters.  I had such a wonderful time with this book that it was my one exception to the 2021 release date rule (it had a very late December 2020 release).  An impressive and clever read.

 

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

Another amazing new author I checked out this year was the insanely talented John Gwynne, who produced an incredible first entry in his Bloodsworn Saga, The Shadow of the Gods.  This amazing first novel contained a brutal and compelling Norse-inspired fantasy tale that followed three awesome central characters as they engaged in their own deeply personal quests.  Filled with some outstanding fantasy combat, amazing character moments and a deeply impressive narrative, this was an exceptional and addictive read that made me an instant fan of this author.  I have no doubt that the sequel, The Hunger of the Gods, is going to top this list next year and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

 

The Dark/Mind Bullet by Jeremy Robinson

The Dark and Mind Bullet Cover

2021 was the year that I first tried out some books from compelling author Jeremy Robinson.  I actually read two of his books, The Dark and Mind Bullet, both of which were amazing in their own way.  While The Dark was a darkly compelling and slick horror read that showcased a brutal invasion from Hell, Mind Bullet was a funny and entertaining science fiction thriller that followed a psychic assassin being hunted by the world’s most unusual killers.  Both were outstanding reads that got easy five-star ratings from me, so I had a very hard time choosing between them for this list.  Therefore, I decided to include both, as I had such a great time with them and are equally worth checking out.

 

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

The Man Who Died Twice Cover

Comedian Richard Osman followed up his 2020 debut, The Thursday Murder Club, with another fun and entertaining murder mystery book, The Man Who Died Twice.  This compelling and hilarious sequel thrust Osman’s elderly protagonists into another complex investigation, this time involving spies, stolen diamonds, and drug dealers.  This book had some amazing moments and ended up being another fantastic read.

 

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

Cytonic Cover

I have been waiting a couple of years for Sanderson to continue his Skyward series and I was very happy to finally get my hands on Cytonic.  The third entry in this impressive young adult science fiction series, Cytonic was an exciting and inventive read that continues the captivating tale started in Skyward and Starsight.  Taking his eccentric protagonist to a fantastic and unique new setting, Sanderson produced an epic and moving narrative that had me glued from the very first second.  There are some big, if sad, moments in this novel and I had a wonderful time listening to it.  I am a little miffed that I might have to wait another couple of years for this series to come to an end, but if it is anywhere as good as Cytonic, it will be worth it.

 

The Housemate by Sarah Bailey

The Housemate Cover

One of my favourite crime fiction books this year had to be the dark and exceptional Australian thriller The Housemate by Sarah Bailey.  This wonderful and intense read contains a complex and multifaceted mystery that keeps the reader guessing while they watch the central protagonist become even more unhinged by the revelations from her past.  I honestly could not put this great book down and I will be grabbing more of Bailey’s clever novels in the future.

 

Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

Artifact Space Cover

After wowing the world with his fantasy and historical fiction reads, author Miles Cameron had his science fiction debut this year with Artifact Space.  This powerful and deeply captivating read transports the reader to a massive spacecraft on a multi-year trading mission.  However, the protagonist, a girl with a past and a fake identity, soon finds that her ship is under attack from outside forces and must do everything to save her new home and friends.  This was a compelling epic which perfectly shows how talented Cameron is, no matter the genre.

 

Billy Summers by Stephen King

Billy Summer Cover

The master of horror and thrillers, Stephen King, had a great year in 2021 releasing two brilliant reads.  While I really must highlight his clever coming-of-age horror read, Later, his best book was the cool thriller, Billy Summers.  Billy Summers is a compelling, character driven read that follows a skilled hitman, as he attempts to engage in his last kill, only to run into a ton of surprises and complications.  A wildly enjoyable and captivating read that has convinced me to check out more Stephen King books next year.

 

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil by Timothy Zahn

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil Cover

The other really good Star Wars novel of 2021 was Lesser Evil, the third book in Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Ascendancy series.  Set before his impressive Thrawn trilogy (made up of Thrawn, Alliances and Treason), Lesser Evil perfectly wraps up the Thrawn Ascendancy series (made up of Chaos Rising and Greater Good) while also exploring the early history and greatest victory/defeat of Zahn’s iconic Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Featuring excellent characters, cool universe expansion and some of the best tactical space battles you are likely to see, Lesser Evil was an exceptional read and I really hope that Timothy Zahn has some more Star Wars novels in the works.

 

Relentless by Mark Greaney

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

Last, but definitely not least, was the latest epic Gray Man novel from Mark Greaney, Relentless.  This awesome novel sets Greaney’s dangerous protagonist on another intense spy mission as he attempts to stop a terrorist attack in Germany.  I deeply enjoyed this fast-paced, action-packed and captivating spy thriller, especially as Greaney went out of his way to produce a clever and realistic narrative.  I had such a blast with Relentless and I cannot wait to see what deadly adventures occur in his next Gray Man novel.

 

 

Well, those are my 20 favourite books of 2021. It turned out to be quite a good list in the end, and I am very glad that I was able to highlight so many fantastic books.  2022 is set to be another excellent year for amazing reads, and I will be examining some of my most anticipated books for the first half of the year next week.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite books of 2021 were in the comments below, and make sure you all have a happy and safe New Years.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Last Graduate Cover

Publisher: Del Rey (Trade Paperback – 28 September 2021)

Series: Lesson Two of the Scholomance

Length: 388 pages

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amazon     Book Depository

Prepare to return to the deadliest magical school of all time in The Last Graduate, the epic second lesson of the Scholomance series by bestselling fantasy author Naomi Novik.

Novik is a fantastic author who has produced some excellent fantasy novels throughout her career, including her bestselling Temeraire series (set during a re-imagined Napoleonic War fought with dragons), as well as her standalone reads Uprooted and Spinning Silver.  However, I personally know Novik best from her awesome 2020 book, A Deadly Education, which was one of my favourite books from last yearA Deadly Education had an awesome story that followed Galadriel “El” Higgins, a student in the Scholomance, a lethal magical school filled with all manner of magical monsters known as maleficaria (mals).  This was an outstanding read with a really clever and intense narrative, and I have been really looking forward to seeing how the story continued for a while now.  As a result, I was excited when I found out that the sequel, The Last Graduate, was coming out, and it swiftly became one of my most anticipated reads for 2021.

Following her daring mission to reactivate the school’s defences and kill as many maleficaria as possible, El finally thinks she has a chance to relax and prepare for her gruelling final year at the Scholomance.  Not only must she continue her exhaustive magical studies, but the entire year leads up to a lethal graduation ceremony, where the students must run a gauntlet of mals at the school’s entry hall to escape back into the real world.  Now with allies, friends and even an extremely odd love interest in moody warrior mage Orion Lake, El has a chance of escaping the Scholomance without being forced to rely on her immense affinity for the most destructive spells in existence, which could result in the entire student body being vaporised.

However, the sentient Scholomance appears to have different ideas for El and resolves to make her life as difficult as possible, assigning her impossible classes and isolated study periods.  Worse, it appears that the school is deliberately funnelling as many mals towards El as possible to kill her and steal her magical energy.  Determined to defeat the school and escape, El is forced to make some new alliances to survive the year and make it to graduation.  At the same time, she needs to navigate her unusual relationship with Orion, especially after receiving a mysterious warning from her mother to stay away from him.

The closer El gets to graduation, the harder life becomes, especially after the scope of her magical abilities is revealed to the entire school.  Now targeted by rival factions within the Scholomance and unsure who she can trust, El will need to pull together every terrible power at her command to survive.  However, not everything is what it seems in the Scholomance, and the school has one final lesson to teach El: sometimes there are things far more important than surviving.

Wow, just wow, now that was a damn impressive sequel.  The Last Graduate is an epic and incredible read that proved to be utterly addictive in all the right ways.  I had an absolute blast reading this exceptional fantasy novel and I ended up powering through the last half of the novel in a couple of hours, only to be utterly traumatised by its cliffhanger ending.  It was so much fun getting back into this detailed and compelling setting, and it was great to see the main characters continue to evolve throughout, even if they lead to tragedy and heartbreak.   This was an outstanding read that gets a full five-star rating from me.

This latest book from Novik contains a pretty epic narrative which covers El’s entire final year within the Scholomance.  The story continues immediately after the end of A Deadly Education, and I would strongly recommend reading the first book before attempting The Last Graduate, as the initial Scholomance book contained a lot of interesting detail and character development that is useful to understand.  This second book starts off at a good, restrained pace, mostly settling things down after the fast-paced conclusion of A Deadly Education and allowing the protagonist and point-of-view character, El, to settle back into the rhythms of the school.  The author utilises a very detail-rich brand of storytelling, which helps to produce quite a rich a vibrant novel, even if it did slow down my initial reading speed.  However, the pace picks up significantly once it becomes apparent that things in the school have changed, as El finds herself the only person in the school being attacked by mals.  This troubling situation forces her to turn to her friends and new allies to survive, especially as she is convinced that the school itself is out to get her.  This eventually leads to the reveal that El is an all-powerful force of destruction, which greatly alters the balance of power in the school, as El is caught between the various enclaves who view her as a major weapon both inside the Scholomance and in the national rivalries outside of it.  This results in an immense amount of drama and conflict, as El fights to remain neutral and survive, while also coming to terms with who she is and the terrible magical system she finds herself a part for.

All this drama, fighting and conflict leads up to the big event of the book, the graduation gauntlet, something that the author has been building up since the start of the series.  However, nothing goes as expected with graduation, as everything about it, including the lead-in and the training is very different than in previous years.  The reasons why are finally revealed as part of a very interesting twist which changes everything about how you thought the novel was going to end.  This alteration leads to an excellent conclusion which perfectly works in all the story elements that have set up throughout the course of the two novels.  The final scenes are extremely dramatic, with some big moments and epic displays of magic that will keep you on your toes.  I honestly could not put the book down during this part of the novel as I was desperate to see how everything ended, and then we got to the very last sentence.  Ooh, that last sentence, how much I hate and love you at the same time.  Novik sets up a really massive cliffhanger that was both perfect and enraging at the very same time.  I was literally yelling my shock and frustration at the book (and Novik by extension) as I read and re-read that sentence, as I could not believe that she left it like that.  I mean, mad respect for setting it up and making me care so much for the characters so that I was deeply impacted by it, but at the same time, how dare you make me feel like that.  Naturally, the third and final book in the Scholomance series is now one of my most anticipated reads for 2022 (which is what Novik intended, evil genius that she is), and I am extremely eager to see what happens next.

I deeply appreciate the awesome setting that is the Scholomance.  This sentient magical school is such a dark and wonderful setting, and Novik has built it up perfectly throughout the course of the series.  I absolutely love this brilliantly perverse version of the classical magical school setting, especially as Novik has spent an amazing amount of time establishing it, providing the reader with a ton of detail and anecdotes about the education, living arrangements and many, many, hazards involved with living there.  This detail continues in The Last Graduate, as Novik expands on the school, showing more fantastic elements to it, and even throwing in a few intriguing changes that impact the status-quo of everybody there.  There is so much fun detail here, and I loved the examination of how living in such a dangerous and enclosed building would impact the people living there.  There is one amazing scene where El channels a lot of magic into the school, accidentally restarting a simulation of the outdoors.  The subsequent wave of grief from all the students at seeing the sun again was pretty terrible, and it showed just how damaging this situation is, even though it is saving their lives.  I also really appreciated the interesting new changes that Novik introduced to school, especially as it significantly alters what you think you knew about it.  I also liked how Novik also provided some additional detail of the wider world outside the Scholomance, expanding on some of the details that were already set up in A Deadly Education.  There are several hints about big events occurring outside of the school which will probably come into play in the third novel, and there is also an interesting examination about the rivalries between the various enclaves, magical societies with selective membership and strong political power.  I cannot wait to see what awesome new details and settings that Novik will add into her next book, and I have no doubt it will be really cool to learn about.

Aside from that outstanding story, the epic finale, and the wildly inventive setting, I also must highlight the great characters featured within the novel.  There is an interesting and memorable array of characters featured throughout the Scholomance series, although most of the book focused on protagonist El.  El is a fantastic and intense character, mainly because she holds a mythical level of destructive power, an incredible affinity for combat and death spells, and is also some form of prophesised destroyer, which caused her father’s side of her family to try and kill her (a bold move for pacifists).  This, as well as the fact that her power makes everyone she encounters subconsciously uneasy, turned El into quite a guarded person, and much of the first book focused on her coming out of her shell and finally making friends.  This development continues in The Last Graduate, as El is forced to make even more friends and alliances.  This has a pretty positive impact on her personality, especially as she learns to trust people, and while she still has a mostly prickly disposition, she does mellow out a little more.  There is also a rather interesting major plot point when the full range of her powers becomes apparent to the entire school.  This makes her a target for everyone in the school, with the various enclave students either trying to recruit her or kill her.  This forces El once again into a defensive mode, although she is eventually able to overcome for the greater good of herself and the school.  I deeply appreciated El’s growth as a character in this novel, and it was great to see this wildly unstable and sassy protagonist once again.

The other major character of the book is El’s love interest, Orion Lake.  Orion is another interesting protagonist, as he is a powerful mage with a hero complex who gains his powers from killing mals.  A member of the exclusive and powerful New York enclave, Orion is considered more of an asset than a person by his family, which has resulted in everyone seeing him as either a god or a weapon.  This, combined with his love for fighting monsters, has left Orion a little messed up, and he ends up imprinting on El as she is the first character to treat him like a normal person and call him out for his stupid heroic mindset.  Orion is a very complex and nuanced character, and it has been interesting to see him develop, especially as you only really get to see him through El’s cynical eyes.  While he is a little less utilised in this novel, he still has several interesting challenges, including having substantially less magical energy and power due to him encountering very few mals in his final year.  There is also the rather awkward but sweet romance he has with El.  Both these characters are messed up in their own unique ways, but together they nearly make one emotionally function human.  Their romance is a major part of the book’s plot, and Novik works in some compelling and moving storylines around it.  I felt that all of Orion’s character arc was really well written, and I deeply appreciated the way that Novik cleverly set up some key moments surrounding him.

Aside from El and Orion, The Last Graduate contains a fantastic array of supporting characters in the form of the other Scholomance students.  While Novik did introduce most of these characters up in A Deadly Education, I felt that they got a lot more attention in The Last Graduate, with the author taking the time to explore them a little further.  I quite liked the increased focus on these supporting characters, as there are an interesting array of personalities, powers and allegiances, which helped make the plot more exciting and filled with intrigue.  I particularly enjoyed the various members of El’s alliance, each of whom get a few key moments throughout the book and prove to be quite fun to follow.  I also must highlight El’s new familiar, a mouse called Precious, who gains a sort of sentience throughout the book, and immediately starts trying to sabotage El and Orion’s relationship.  Each of these characters added something fun to the overall tapestry of The Last Graduate’s story, and I look forward to seeing what happens to all of them in the final book.

With The Last Graduate, the amazing Naomi Novik has substantially jumped up my list of favourite authors, even if I am severely annoyed with her about that brilliant, if cruel, cliffhanger.  This excellent second novel in the Scholomance series is one of the best books I have read all year, and it is a highly recommended read.  I had an outstanding time once again exploring this messed-up magical school, and the complex characters and unique storylines helped to create an intense and powerful read.  I honestly cannot wait to read the third and final book in this series, even though I fully expect Novik to do everything in her power to break my heart.  If you have not started reading the Scholomance series, you are missing out big time!

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Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Sequel Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s list required participants to list their favourite book-related online resource.  However, I once again went in a different direction and instead decided to focus on a different topic, sequels. 

The idea of sequels has been around for a very long time, however, recently it is becoming increasingly hard to avoid them.  From television shows to films, sequels are everywhere, and to be fair, there is something great about seeing how a fantastic story continues after a first beloved instalment.  Sequels in the novel world are also nothing new, and in fact, nearly every modern novelist has written some sort of sequel throughout their career.  So many great novels have featured intriguing sequels over the years, some of which led even more novels, or even massive series.  I’m sure we can all name some awesome sequels that we have read, and in some cases many sequel novels are just as good, if not better, than the books they followed.  I personally have enjoyed some incredible sequels over the years, and I thought that this would be a good opportunity to highlight them on a list, especially as I have read some particularly amazing sequels recently.

To complete this list, I pulled together some of the best sequels I have ever read, to see what I wanted to feature.  I primarily focused on second novels in series that I felt were outstanding follow ups to impressive first entries that set up overarching storylines.  In many cases, these books followed on from an author’s debut novel, and it is rather cool to see how an author improved on their initial work.  I ended up with quite a big collection of amazing sequel novels to work with, and it took me a little while to condense it down to a manageable list.  I was eventually able to cull it to my 10 absolute favourite books, as well as a decent Honourable Mentions section. 

Honourable Mentions:

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 2: Samurai by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo Samurai Cover

A cool comic that improves upon the art style and story from the first volume, The Ronin, as well as featuring the backstory for the series’ titular character.

 

Dark Forge by Miles Cameron

Dark Forge Cover

One of the best books and audiobooks of 2019, Dark Forge followed up the first book in the Masters & Mages series, Cold Iron, perfectly, with an impressive focus on war and world building

 

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Last Graduate Cover

An outstanding follow-up to last year’s fantastic book, A Deadly EducationThe Last Graduate is an outstanding novel and I hope to have a very complimentary review of it up soon.

 

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Fool Moon Cover

With a great story about murderous werewolves in Chicago, I felt that this second novel from Jim Butcher was even better than his debut, Storm Front.

Top Ten List:

The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

The Dragon Factory

I have a lot of love for Jonathan Maberry’s incredible Joe Ledger series, especially the first entry Patient Zero, which featured a great modern reimagining of zombies.  However, I don’t think that the series truly hit its stride until the second novel, The Dragon FactoryThe Dragon Factory, which featured two rival groups of antagonists experimenting with genetic engineering, was incredible and had an outstanding and captivating narrative.  I honestly think it was a stronger novel than Patient Zero, and it did a great job setting the tone for the later entries in the series.

 

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

Last year I was blown away by Nick Martell’s first fantasy novel, The Kingdom of Liars, which was easily one of the best debuts of 2020.  I deeply enjoyed the compelling and elaborate fantasy tale contained within, and I was eager to see how Martell would continue it this year.  I was in no way disappointed as Martell ended up producing a truly epic read, that perfectly added a vengeful queen, magical serial killers, and a range of competing immortals, to an already elaborate narrative.  This ended up being one of the best books (and audiobooks) I have so far read this year and it is a highly recommended sequel to read.

 

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Mans Fear Cover

There was no way that I could exclude the The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss from this list.  The sequel to his iconic first book, The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear continued the complex tale of Rothfuss’s protagonist in incredible fashion, and this second novel goes in some deeply captivating directions.  It provides a really good continuation of the overarching storylines, while also introducing some intriguing new additions.  Unfortunately, it also opens a lot of questions, that readers have been waiting to see answered for quite some time.

 

Streams of Silver by R. A. Salvatore

Streams of Silver Cover

The next sequel takes us back to 1989, with the second book in The Icewind Dale trilogy by fantasy icon R. A. Salvatore, Streams of SilverStreams of Silver serves as the sequel to Salvatore’s debut novel, The Crystal Shard, and contains an impressive story.  While I enjoyed The Crystal Shard, especially as it does a great job introducing Salvatore’s best characters, I think that Streams of Silver had the stronger story.  Featuring an epic fantasy quest, Salvatore subtlety moves the focus more towards the overarching series’ more distinctive protagonist, while also featuring some excellent storylines, epic scenes, and an outstanding new antagonist.  I deeply enjoyed this novel, and it was a fantastic continuation of a fun first book.

 

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Starsight Cover 2

Sanderson has written quite a few impressive sequels throughout his career, however, my favourite so far is StarsightStarsight follows on from Skyward, a brilliant young adult science fiction novel that follows a class of starship fighter pilots, forced to defend their planet from aliens.  This sequel does a beautiful job of continuing this story by massively expanding the universe and taking the protagonist on an epic journey to a whole new world.  I loved this outstanding second series, and I cannot wait to see what happens in the third book, Cytonic, later this year.

 

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It by K. J. Parker

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

Back in 2019 I had the great pleasure of reading the fantasy comedy, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker that told an amusing story about a conman engineer using all his tricks to win a siege.  While this was an outstanding standalone read, Parker followed it up the next year with the wildly entertaining How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It.  Set in the same city as the first book, this outrageous sequel followed a new protagonist, a professional impersonator, who manages to become emperor.  Bold, funny, and very clever (especially the meta jokes about the first book), this was an amazing sequel, which ended up being one of the best reads of 2020.

 

Howling Dark by Christopher Ruocchio

Howling Dark Cover

Back in 2018, debuting author Christopher Ruocchio had one of the best books of the year with the outstanding Empire of Silence, an ambitious and inventive gothic science fiction epic.  After setting up his massive universe in Empire of Silence, Ruocchio than proceeded to continue the narrative in the second book, Howling Dark.  This sequel had an amazing story, as Ruocchio expanded out his series in some very bold ways.  This sequel was a truly captivating and powerful piece of science fiction, especially the last epic extended sequence, and I had a fantastic time reading it.

 

Men at Arms by Terry Pratchett

Men At Arms Cover

What’s a list on the Unseen Library without at least one Discworld book by Terry Pratchett, in this case, Men at Arms, the second book in the City Watch sub-series.  Men at Arms is a very clever and hilarious fantasy murder mystery novel that serves as a sequel to Guards! Guards!Guards! Guards! was an outstanding read that followed a small group of city watchmen as they attempted to solve a murder committed using a dragon.  This was one of the best books in entire Discworld collection, and it was a truly impressive feat that Pratchett was able to one-up-it with Men at Arms.  This sequel contained an amazing story that sees the invention of the Discworld’s first gun, which immediately leads to chaos and bloodshed.  Featuring an extremely clever mystery, as well as some great and iconic new characters, Men at Arms is one of Pratchett’s best books, and it helped to really elevate the City Watch novels in the Discworld hierarchy.

 

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Red Seas Under Red Skies

Back in 2006, author Scott Lynch blew away fantasy fans with his outstanding debut, The Lies of Locke Lamora, a complex and powerful fantasy heist novel that was a lot of fun to read.  Lynch soon followed this amazing debut with an excellent second book, Red Seas Under Red Skies.  This served as a very clever continuation of the original story and contained another elaborate heist, as well as a fascinating focus on the nautical arts and piracy.  I deeply enjoyed this second novel, especially with the great twist at the end, and it was a very worthy follow up to Lynch’s incredible debut.

 

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Harrow the Ninth Cover

The final book on this list is Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, an exceptional novel I had the great pleasure of enjoying on audiobook last year.  Harrow the Ninth served as the very clever sequel to Muir’s debut, Gideon the Ninth, which followed a group of space-faring necromancers.  While the first book was really fun, I think that Muir greatly surpassed it with the sequel.  Focusing on a different protagonist, Harrow the Ninth has a very elaborate narrative to it, including a reimagined version of the first book that excludes the original protagonist for very clever reasons.  One of the most unique books I have ever read, I have a great appreciation for what Muir did with this sequel, and it is a fantastic and brilliant follow-up to Gideon the Ninth.

 

Well, that is the end of this latest list.  As you can see, there are some impressive sequels out there, and I have had a lot of fun with some of them.  Each of the above entries on this list are exceptional reads, and all come highly recommended, although in most cases you will also need to check out their preceding novels first.  This might be a list I come back to I the future, especially with some great sequels coming out in the next couple of years, and I look forward to seeing what second book could potentially make the cut in the future.

WWW Wednesday – 6 October 2021

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Viral by Robin Cook (Trade Paperback)

Viral Cover

I just started this intriguing novel from the master of the medical thriller, Robin Cook.  Viral features a compelling and relatable look at an outbreak of a viral infection. However, it also takes a look at the lack of affordable health care, and the lengths some people will go to get justice.  A fast-paced and detailed novel, I am hoping to get through this one quickly.

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan (Audiobook)

The Pariah Cover

I have been listening to The Pariah by Anthony Ryan for the last few days and I am really getting into the outstanding narrative.  Featuring a cool story about a young bandit dragged into a massive conspiracy affecting the entire realm, this book has a lot of action, intrigue and fun, and I am having a great time getting through it. An awesome and highly recommended read.

What did you recently finish reading?

Unholy Murder by Lynda La Plante (Trade Paperback)

Unholy Murder Cover

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman (Audiobook)

The Man Who Died Twice Cover

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik (Trade Paperback)

The Last Graduate Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Bone Ship’s Wake by R. J. Barker

The Bone Ship's Wake Cover

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