Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Books with Dragons on the Cover

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday participants are tasked with listing their top books that have covers with a specific design element chosen by the blogger, for example books with certain colours, items or animals on their cover.  I thought that this was a pretty clever idea for a topic and I decided to go big with it and choose book covers that have the ultimate animal for my list, dragons.

Let’s face it, we all love dragons!  They are some of the coolest creatures in mythology, with multiple cultures having their own version or alteration of the dragon in their storytelling traditions.  Due to how iconic there are, the use of dragons in storytelling naturally transferred itself across to the world of fantasy fiction, becoming one of the most classic and well utilised monsters or companion creatures in books and movies, such as The Hobbit and the A Song of Ice and Fire series.  As such there are multiple book covers out there that feature dragons to some degree and I was curious to see which ones amongst them were my favourite.

To pull this list together, I had a think about all the best books that featured cool dragon-related cover art.  There were quite a few of these awesome, dragon-covered novels so I decided to limit myself to only using books that I have actually read.  In addition, because dragon-centric series tend to use images of the creatures across multiple entries, I will limit myself to one novel from each franchise, just to create a bit of variety.  This still leaves me with a pretty impressive collection of novels to choose from and I had to do some severe cutting to get it down to a top ten list with my typical honourable mentions section.  I think the list turned out pretty well as there are some great novels below with awesome dragon imagery on their covers.

I will quickly note that I did have a couple of issues finding good quality pictures of some of the relevant covers I wanted to feature here, particularly for some of the older novels, but I have still tried to feature them as best I can.  Apologies in advance if some of them don’t turn out perfect.

Honourable Mentions

The Voyage of the Forgotten by Nick Martell

The Voyage of the Forgotten Cover 2

I love the cover but chose to only feature this as an honourable mention as the book hasn’t come out yet.

 

A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E. Feist

A Darkness at Sethanon Cover

A couple of the alternate covers for this great book feature dragons on them, but this was the best looking one of them.

 

She Who Became the Sun by Shelly Parker Chan

She Who Became the Sun Cover

 

Usagi Yojimbo: The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy

A great use of a dragon in the cover, even if the dragon in the title is more of a metaphor for firearms.

Top Ten List:

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

An incredible novel with an incredible cover.  Easily one of the best uses of dragons in cover art that you are likely to ever see.

 

Dragonslayer by William King

Dragonslayer Cover Combined

This fantastic Warhammer tie-in novel is spoiled for choice when it comes to dragons on its various covers.

 

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Guards! Guards! Cover 2

One of the best Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, I love how well the dragon is used, both in this original cover, and in the novel’s exceedingly clever mystery.

 

Black Leviathan by Bern Perplies

Black Leviathan Cover

An extremely epic and distinctive cover for a fun action fantasy novel.  Black Leviathan, which is the English edition of Perplies’s original, German novel, The Dragon Hunter, actually has two fantastic cover variants with dragons on them, although I think the one the English version shown above is a lot more visually impressive.

Black Leviathan alternate cover

 

The Bone Ships by R. J. Barker

The Bone Ships Cover

All three books in Barker’s The Tide Child trilogy featured iconography of the series’ water-dragons, but I think the first entry, The Bone Ships, looks the best.

 

Eldest by Christopher Paolini

Eldest Cover

You can’t have a dragon-based list without featuring an entry from Paoloini’s Inheritance Cycle.  All four novels in this series featured dragons on their cover, although I think that this cover from Eldest was the most striking.

 

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

The Priory of the Orange Tree Cover

A very beautiful cover for this complex and intricate fantasy novel.

 

Warcraft: Day of the Dragons by Richard A. Knaak

Warcraft - Day of the Dragon Cover

Several great Warcraft and World of Warcraft tie-in novels feature dragons on their covers, but my favourite of these is Day of the Dragons by Richard A. Knaak, which was an awesome story.

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Cover

Was there ever a chance I wasn’t going to feature this classic cover on this list? Of course not.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Cover 2

 

Dragonclaw by Kate Forsyth

Dragonclaw Cover

The original cover of the first entry in Australian author Kate Forsyth’s The Witches of Eileanan series, Dragonclaw, had a great dragon picture on it, and it serves as an excellent first impression of an amazing fantasy book.

 

 

Well, that’s my list.  As you can see there are some incredible books out there that make great uses of dragons on their covers.  All the above novels are really good, and you will have an incredible time reading them, while also appreciating their stunning, dragon-filled covers.  I had a lot of fun coming up with this list, and I will have to think about replicating it with another creature, item or colour in the future.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite books with dragons on the cover are in the comments below.

Waiting on Wednesday – The Voyage of the Forgotten by Nick Martell

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 slightly belated Waiting on Wednesday article I take a look at one of my most anticipated fantasy releases for 2022, the awesome and epic upcoming The Voyage of the Forgotten by impressive author Nick Martell.

The Voyage of the Forgotten Cover

Over the last two years, fantasy fans have been absolutely blessed by the incredible talent of new author Nick Martell who has already made a substantial impact on the genre in a very short amount of time.  Debuting in 2020, Martell started his fantasy journey with the first The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings novel, The Kingdom of Liars.  This impressive novel told the captivating tale of Michael Kingman, the troubled scion of a formerly great house in the Kingdom of Hollow whose fortunes were erased after Michael’s father apparently killed the King’s oldest son.  Determined to prove his father’s innocence, Michael investigates the Hollow court in an attempt to find out who was truly responsible.  Along the way, he clashes with fractious royals, dangerous magic users, powerful mercenaries, and insidious hidden immortals, all of whom want him dead, while also trying to come to grips with his new magical abilities that slowly result in the loss of his memories.  Michael was eventually able to discover who was responsible for the murder, but only after he was framed for the death of the current king, narrowly avoiding execution.  I had an outstanding time with this exceptional novel’s brilliant story and powerful characters, and The Kingdom of Liars ended up being one of my favourite books (and audiobooks) of 2020, as well as one of the best debuts of the year.

While I was already suitably impressed with Martell’s first novel, the author amazed me even more last year when he released the sequel, The Two-Faced QueenThe Two-Faced Queen was an exceptional follow-up to The Kingdom of Liars that masterfully expanded on the events of the first novel.  Not only where several intriguing new story elements introduced, such as a notorious serial killer, dragons and even more immortals, but we also got some great new characters, substantial world building, and even more fantastic twists and revelations.  The most substantial of these characters was Michael’s love interest, the queen of Hollow, Serena (the titular Two-Faced Queen), who spends most of the novel trying to kill Michael for the death of her father.  This resulted in a pretty complex and exceptional novel that I powered through extremely quickly as I tried to see how everything unfolded.  In many ways, The Two-Faced Queen surpassed Martell’s first novel, and it was easily one of the best books and audiobooks of 2021.

After having such an exceptional time with the first two books in The Legacy of the Mercenary King series (which is such an excellent series name), I have naturally been extremely keen to read the third book in this series.  This third novel is The Voyage of the Forgotten, which is currently set for release in November 2022.  While I was a little disappointed that its release date was knocked back towards the end of the year, I am still very excited for this novel and I have been eagerly waiting to find all the details I can about it.  Not only do we have a synopsis for it, but they have also released both of the covers for it, which look extremely awesome, and distinctive (I think I like the above UK cover more than the US cover below, but both are great in their own way).

Synopsis:

In this twistingly beautiful and epically thrilling conclusion to the fantasy trilogy The Legacy of the Mercenary King, Michael, the infamous Kingkiller, and Serena, the Hollow Queen, race against the odds to have the future they’ve worked so hard to protect…or risk bringing about the end of the world.

Michael Kingman has discovered his destiny, but the distance to what he wants, namely a life with Serena, the queen of Hollow kingdom, is as wide as the world, and just as cruel.

Meanwhile, Dark, the realm’s most fearsome mercenary, Michael’s sometime mentor, and son of his nemesis, Angelo, is trying to keep Michael in line, for his own purposes as he too has a hidden agenda. Michael comes to realize that he is outclassed by powers that have been working for centuries to bring about a fresh end to the world filled with those he loves. But when has merely being overpowered ever stopped Michael from getting what he wants?

To prevent what may bring about the end times Michael must gather his remaining allies and push himself to achieve the impossible because the alternative is worse than he can imagine: it’s not just the beginning of the end of the world, it’s being alone and forgotten.

In this epic conclusion, The Voyage of the Forgotten brilliantly wraps up the stories fans have fallen in love with as the characters struggle against odds that seem impossible to overcome.

I really like the sound of the above synopsis, and it is pretty clear that The Voyage of the Forgotten is set to be a pretty awesome read.  While some of the details here seem a little vague, it is clear that Martell looks set to bring together many key storylines here.  In particular, it looks like the plans of several of the major antagonists or villains he has faced in the previous books are about to start coming together, forcing Michael to step in and stop them.  I hope that we get some vital answers to certain plot points here as well as further explanation of who the key players are and what their motivations are, which will be great to see.

One of the things I find most interesting about this synopsis is the fact that The Voyage of the Forgotten is apparently going to be the final book in the series.  This is a bit surprising to me; due to the sheer number of storylines, interesting supporting characters and major plot arcs, I honestly thought/hoped this would be a longer series.  I am actually a tad worried that Martell may have trouble wrapping everything up in a single book, there are just that many story elements to conclude, but I have learnt to rely on Martell’s writing ability, so I am sure that this will come up really well.  I am actually very tempted to go back and do a reread of Martell’s first two novels to make sure I have all the particulars in my head before I read the final story (they are just that detailed).  I cannot wait to see how everything comes together and I am hoping for a very satisfying and captivating conclusion, no doubt filled with tragedy, intense action and impressive magical inclusions.

Look, I think it is very clear from the lengthy introductory paragraphs above that I am particularly keen to grab The Voyage of the Forgotten.  Nick Martell has already so deeply impressed me with his first two books that I know I am going to deeply enjoy this epic read.  I am very eager to see how this outstanding series concludes, and I am extremely confident that The Voyage of the Forgotten is going to end up being one of the best books of 2022.

The Voyage of the Forgotten Cover 2

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.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Audiobooks of 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this list was Books I Hope Santa Brings, and, while this did sound like a fun topic, I instead decided to continue my annual end of year wrap up of some of the best books of 2021.  In previous weeks I highlighted some of the best debuts of 2021, as well as the best pre-2021 novels I read in the last year, but this week I am going to look at something near and dear to my heart, the best audiobooks of 2021.

Readers of my blog only need to check out my extensive audiobook category to know that I have a lot of love for the audiobook format.  In my opinion, the audiobook is often the best way to experience a good book, and in many cases, this format makes a book a lot more enjoyable for me.  As a result, I listened to quite a few audiobooks this year, and while several of them are books that had been released before 2021 and featured in my Throwback Thursday posts, a large majority of them were released this year. There were some truly outstanding and impressive audiobooks released this year, and I already know that I am going to have an extremely hard time coming up with the final version of this list. 

For this list I have only included audiobooks released in 2021 that I have listened to and completed, so I am excluding a few audiobooks that were probably pretty awesome, but which I didn’t have a chance to listen to.  Despite this, I still ended up with a long list of extremely good audiobooks, all of which were extremely worthy of appearing on this post.  To help cut this down, I too into account a range of consideration, including quality of the original novel, skill of the narrator, production value, pacing and other factors, including any featured music or sound effects.  Looking at all this I was eventually able to cut the list down to the absolute best 10 audiobooks (as well as an extended honourable mentions section).  I had to make some very hard decisions here, and I ended up losing several extremely good audiobooks from this list.  Still I think it really represents the best audiobooks I enjoyed this year, and there are some amazing productions down below.  So let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Mind Bullet, written by Jeremy Robinson and narrated by R. C. Bray

Mind Bullet 2

Jeremy Robinson’s brilliant talent for writing incredibly entertaining novels once again combined perfectly with the fantastic narration of R. C. Bray (who gets a few mentions in this article) to produce an excellent and impressive audiobook production.

 

Relentless, written by Mark Greaney and narrated by Jay Snyder

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

A clever and intense spy thriller from the master Mark Greaney that is extremely well adapted by veteran narrator Jay Snyder.

 

The Man Who Died Twice, written by Richard Osman and narrated by Lesley Manville

The Man Who Died Twice Cover

After his sensational first novel/audiobook, The Thursday Murder Club, blew everyone away last year, comedian Richard Osman continued his cool series with The Man Who Died Twice.  This second book featured another brilliant audiobook adaption narrated by the talented and perfectly cast Lesley Manville, which is really worth checking out.

 

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

Colonyside Cover

Following on from Planetside and Spaceside, Michael Mammay produced another exceptional science fiction thriller with Colonyside, which was massively enhanced by R. C. Bray, whose voice works incredibly well for the gruff, military characters.

Top Ten Tuesday:

Relentless, written by Jonathan Maberry and narrated by Ray Porter

Relentless Cover

There was no way that the latest epic Joe Ledger audiobook by Jonathan Maberry, Relentless, was not going to make this list, especially as it once again features the fantastic narration of Ray Porter.  Relentless is the sequel to Rage (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2019), and contains an impressive story about Mayberry’s iconic protagonist, Joe Ledger, going on a revenge rampage.  Porter, who is one of my favourite audiobook narrators, once again expertly inhabited the main characters of this book, ensuring that listeners get a real sense of Ledger’s pain and torment.  An incredible production that perfectly brings this novel to life.

 

The Wisdom of Crowds, written by Joe Abercrombie and narrated by Steven Pacey

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

Joe Abercrombie’s outstanding dark fantasy Age of Madness trilogy came to an incredible end this year with the captivating and moving The Wisdom of Crowds.  Containing a brilliant story and some wonderfully dark and complex characters The Wisdom of Crowds is a terrific read that did a fantastic job wrapping up the stories started in A Little Hatred and The Trouble With Peace (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2020).  The excellent Steven Pacey’s amazing voice helped to turn this into an excellent and compelling production, and I cannot wait to grab Abercrombie’s next book in this format.

 

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

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

After enjoying physical copies of the first two novels in Alexander Freed’s Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron trilogy, Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall, I checked out the third novel, Victory’s Price, on audiobook and was absolutely blown away by it.  The Victory’s Price audiobook was just exquisite, combining a perfect and dramatic narrative with amazing Star Wars sound effects, music, and the exceptional voice work of January LaVoy.  This resulted in such an amazing audiobook, especially with the iconic Star Wars score working to enhance some of the more intense scenes.

 

The Bone Ship’s Wake, written by R. J. Barker and narrated by Jude Owusu

The Bone Ship's Wake Cover

Another great trilogy that ended this year was The Tide Child trilogy by R. J. Barker (previously consisting of The Bone Ships and Call of the Bone Ships), which finished with the impressive The Bone Ship’s Wake.  Containing an exceptionally moving narrative, The Bone Ship’s Wake was an incredible book that takes the readers on a wild emotional ride.  I really enjoyed the audiobook adaption of this cool book.  The Bone Ship’s Wake was voiced by the talented Jude Owusu, who expertly brought the compelling characters and brutal nautical setting to life through his narration.  The Bone Ship’s Wake was an incredible audiobook that will really drag listeners into this brilliant series.

 

The Dark, written by Jeremey Robinson and narrated by R. C. Bray

The Dark Cover

Earlier this year I listened to my first Jeremey Robinson novels, The Dark, something that I am extremely thankful I did.  The Dark was a clever and entertaining novel that followed a group of characters as they attempted to survive an invasion from hell.  I have a lot of love for this book, not only because of the great story, but because the exceptionally talented R. C. Bray narrated the audiobook.  Bray does a beautiful job with this book, expertly narrating the crazy story and enhancing all of Robinson’s unique humour and over-the-top characters, with his great voice work.  A fast-paced and brutal novel, The Dark audiobook was a lot of fun, and Bray will ensure you stick to this bonkers story right to the end.

 

The Pariah, written by Anthony Ryan and narrated by Steven Brand

The Pariah Cover

Leading fantasy author Anthony Ryan produced an excellent brand new fantasy series this year that started with The PariahThe Pariah followed a complex and interesting protagonist as he tells the reader the story of his life through a chronical narrative.  Not only is this a great story, but the audiobook is narrated by the excellent Steven Brand, who perfectly portrays this central figure and ensures that the reader really gets to grips with Ryan’s powerful and detailed story.

 

Cytonic, written by Brandon Sanderson and narrated by Sophie Aldred

Cytonic Cover

After wowing us with Skyward and Starlight, one of the best authors in the world today, Brandon Sanderson, dropped the third entry in his epic Skyward young adult science fiction series, CytonicCytonic is another captivating read that takes its unique characters to an incredibly weird setting and pits them against impossible odds.  Narrator Sophie Aldred is just great here, especially when it comes to portraying the novel’s unpredictable point-of-view protagonist or highlighting the many awesome fighter combat sequences.  Cytonic was a brilliant addition to the series and I am extremely glad that I checked it out on audiobook.

 

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

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

Acclaimed author John Gwynne produced a brand new fantasy novel this year with the much-loved The Shadow of the Gods.  Split into three separate storylines that followed some great characters as they traversed a dark fantasy world, each narrative thread was greatly enhanced by the excellent narration from Colin Mace.  Not only does Mace perfectly portray all three amazing point-of-view characters, but his impressive voice really brings you into the Norse-inspired fantasy world the story was set in.  This was such an amazing audiobook production and I would greatly recommend this format to anyone interested in reading this outstanding fantasy novel.

 

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

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

Last year, Nick Martell produced one of the best debuts of the year with The Kingdom of Liars, a truly awesome and exceptional read.  Martell followed this debut up in a big way with the sequel, The Two-Faced Queen that featured an exceptional narrative, loaded with an unbelievable number of twists and reveals.  The Two-Faced Queen was one of the best books of the year, and I had an incredible time listening to it on audiobook thanks to the talented Joe Jameson.  Jameson, who has been narrating some awesome novels lately (such as the Warhammer 40,000 book, Fire Made Flesh) did a great job of enhancing this fantastic novel, and I loved the cool voice and personality he gave to the central character.  Jameson’s brilliant narration also helped me follow the many, many complex elements of this novel, and this was a great way to enjoy this impressive novel.

 

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Lesser Evil, written by Timothy Zahn and narrated by Marc Thompson

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Lesser Evil Cover

The final audiobook on this list is another Star Wars novel.  This time it is the final entry in the Thrawn Ascendancy series by Timothy Zahn, Lesser Evil.  Following on from Chaos Rising and Greater Good, Lesser Evil was a brilliant and powerful novel that perfectly wrapped up a great trilogy.  Like Victory’s Price, Lesser Evil made exceptional use of the iconic Star Wars music and sound effects, but it also features the notable talents of narrator Marc Thompson.  Thompson does a great job coming up with cool voices for the various characters of Lesser Evil, especially its protagonist and villain, which helps to tell the book’s amazing narrative.  That, combined with the production values of a Star Wars novel adaptation, helped to turn this into a compelling and enjoyable audiobook that was just amazing.

 

 

Well that is the end of this latest Top Ten list, and as you can see, I have been lucky enough to listen to some awesome audiobooks this year.  All the above audiobooks are extremely good and I would highly recommend each of them in their audiobook format.  There is still a little time for me to listen to a few more great audiobooks this year, and I cannot wait to see how they all turn out.  Let me know what your favourite audiobooks of 2021 were in the comments below, and I will have to try and check them out as well.

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.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books with Numbers in the Title

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, participants are required to list the favourite books with numbers in the titles.  This was an interesting endeavour, and it was one that I have done in a previous Top Ten Tuesday, except then the challenge was to try and come up with a list of 10 books, each of which had a number between one to ten in the title.  However, for this list I will instead open my list to any book that has a number in the title, which should widen the various novels I could potentially include.  It has also been nearly two years since I produced that previous list, and I will easily have a few more awesome books to add to this list.

I had a bit of fun coming up with this list.  It was easy to run through all the novels I have checked out over the years and finding the ones with numbers in their titles.  I did have to do a little culling to narrow it to down to my top ten choices, but I was eventually able to do it with a generous honourable mentions section.  Also, to make this fit better I choice to exclude those books with ordinal numbers in their titles (for example, third, sixth and ninth), and instead just focus on those novels with basic numbers in the title.  While this did mean I lost a few great books, such as The Third Day, the Frost by James Marsden or Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, I think it made for a tidier list.  I ended up coming up with a pretty interesting list in the end and I got a rather interesting spread of titles.  So, let us see what I was able to come up with.

Honourable mentions:

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

Batman_Year_One

 

The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

Two Towers Cover

 

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by James Lovegrove

Firefly The Magnificent Nine Cover

 

The Lost Ten by Harry Sidebottom

The Lost Ten Cover

Top Ten List:

Patient Zero and Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero and Code Zero

For this first entry I had a hard time deciding which one of Jonathan Maberry’s excellent novels that contain Zero in the title I should include, so in the end I chose to put both Patient Zero and Code Zero in.  Both are these books are key entries in the Joe Ledger series, and while I think Code Zero had the better story, Patient Zero was the introductory novel and set up most of the universe.  Both books are really worth checking out and their respective titles refer to something really bad in the context of the story.

 

One Minute Out by Mark Greaney

One Minute Out Cover

One Minute Out was an excellent novel (one of the best books and audiobooks I read in 2020), and it is probably my favourite novel from Greaney that I have so far read (although, that could change as I am currently in the middle of listening to his debut, Gray Man).

 

Predator One by Jonathan Maberry

Predator One Cover

The second novel from Maberry on this list (he sure likes putting numbers in his title), this is another particularly good entry in the Joe Ledger series.  The title is a reference to Air Force One, which gets electronically taken over during the book (with the President on board) so it can be used as a destructive drone.

 

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

The stunning sequel to last years top debut, The Kingdom of Liars, The Two-Faced Queen was an exceptional read that was one of my favourite books (and audiobooks) for the first half of 2021.

 

The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri

The Three Paradises Cover

The fun and wildly entertaining sequel to last years awesome historical fiction read, To the Strongest, The Three Paradises continues to highlight the incredible chaos that followed in the wake of Alexander the Great’s death, such as the legendary conference held at the location known as Three Paradises.

 

All New Wolverine: The Four Sisters by Tom Taylor and David Lopez

All New Wolverine Cover

The first volume of an extremely fun comic series, The Four Sisters did a wonderful job introducing the world to a new Wolverine, when the original’s female clone, X-23, takes on the mantle.

 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle Cover

A particularly good science fiction murder mystery, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (sometimes titled The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle), was an awesome read that makes use of a very clever concept.

 

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

One of the funniest and most entertaining reads of 2019, this outstanding novel follows a brilliant fantasy siege storyline where a conman engineer makes use of the secret, 16th way to defend a city, bluff and BS.

 

The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry

The 22 Murders of Madison May Cover

One of the more recent books on my list, this fantastic read from Max Berry follows an attempt to stop a parallel universe jumping stalker from killing his victim multiple times.

 

Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Veronica Mars - The Thousand Dollar Tan Line Cover

The final entry on this list is the book with the biggest number in the title, the Veronica Mars tie-in novel, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.  This is an awesome read, especially for fans of the show, and I loved its clever story.  Best checked out in its audiobook format, which is narrated by Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell.

 

 

That’s the end of this latest list.  I think it turned out pretty well, and I liked the cool selection of novels it featured.  All the above novels come highly recommended, and there are some outstanding reads there.  Let me know which of the above books you like the most, as well as what your favourite novels with numbers in the title are in the comments below.

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

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

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

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

 

Honourable Mentions:

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

The Coward Cover

 

Serpentine, written by Jonathan Kellerman and narrated by John Rubinstein

Serpentine Cover

 

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

Prodigal Son Cover

 

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

The Girl and the Mountain Cover 2

 

Top Ten List (No Particular Order):

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

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

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

 

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

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

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

 

Relentless, written by Mark Greaney and narrated by Jay Snyder

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

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

 

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

Star Wars - Light of the Jedi Cover

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

 

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

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

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

 

Later, written by Stephen King and narrated by Seth Numrich

Later Cover

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

 

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

The Bone Maker Cover

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

 

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

Star Wars - Thrawn Ascendancy - Greater Good Cover

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

 

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

Colonyside Cover

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

 

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

The Mask of Mirrors Cover

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

 

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

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

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The task for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was originally to list the reasons why I love reading, however I am going to go off topic and instead look at something else.  We have just crossed into the second half of 2021, which has already proven to be a pretty fantastic year for books.  I have read some incredible novels so far this year, including impressive standalone books, amazing new entries in established series and fantastic debuts.  Because of this, I thought that I would take the time to work out what my top ten favourite books from the first half of 2021 were.

Once I knew what I wanted to pull together for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I started taking a hard look at all the different novels that I have read this year.  To be eligible, a book had to be released in (or extremely close to) the first half of this year.  I have also excluded any books released during this period that I have not so far read, although a couple of releases I have my eye on might have appeared on this list if I had had the chance to read them before now.

Coming up with this list proved to be a rather bigger task than I originally intended, as I ended up amassing nearly 20 different releases, all of which I consider to be some pretty outstanding reads.  I ended up being able to eventually whittle this down to an acceptable Top Ten list, although I did include my typical generous honourable mentions section.  I am rather happy with how this list turned out, although I am surprised at some of the great releases that ended up being excluded.  Still, the books below represent what I considered to be some of the best books from the first half of 2021, and I would strongly recommend each and every one of them.  So let us see what made the cut.

 

Honourable Mentions:

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Prodigal Son Cover

 

The Warsaw Orphan by Kelly Rimmer

The Warsaw Orphan Cover

 

Later by Stephen King

Later Cover

 

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

The Girls I've Been Cover

 

Top Ten List (no particular order):

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

The first book on this list is the incredible and wildly addictive fantasy masterpiece, The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell.  Serving as the sequel to last year’s amazing The Kingdom of Liars (which was one of my favourite books, audiobooks, and debuts of 2020), The Two-Faced Queen continues the compelling adventures of its angsty and relatable protagonist, Michael Kingman, as he attempts to uncover the mysteries and conspiracies of his home city.  Containing a wild mass of unique opponents, plots and hidden secrets, this book holds your attention from beginning to end and is one of the best sequels I have ever read.

 

Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

Next up we have the obligatory Star Wars entry on this list, Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed.  While there have been several other great Star Wars releases this year (Light of the Jedi and Greater Good were both fantastic), none of them were as impressive as Victory’s Price.  Serving as the third and final entry in the Alphabet Squadron series (which previously featured Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall), this incredible book features a powerful, character driven narrative that provides readers with tragedy, amazing character development and a full-on war story amid the Star Wars universe.  Beautifully written and incredibly moving, Victory’s Price perfectly wraps up the Alphabet Squadron trilogy and is one of the best Star Wars novels out there.

 

Relentless by Mark Greaney

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

Epic spy thriller author Mark Greaney returns with the 10th book in his outstanding Gray Man series, Relentless.  I have been deeply enjoying the Gray Man novels over the last couple of years (check out my reviews for Mission Critical and One Minute Out), so I knew I was going to be in for a good time with Relentless.  This was another particularly thrilling tale of international espionage and plots, as Court Gentry and his comrades go up against a sinister, world-changing conspiracy.  A fantastic and action-packed read that comes highly recommended.

 

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne

The Shadow of the Gods Cover

Next of this list we have the fantasy novel that everyone was talking about this year, The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne.  Set in a Norse inspired dark fantasy world shattered by warring gods, The Shadow of the Gods contains a powerful and addictive narrative which sets three amazing protagonists on quests for redemption, honour, and family.  Containing some extraordinary world building, great characters, and a really impressive story, this was one of the best fantasy books of the year, and I loved every second I spent reading it.

 

Artifact Space by Miles Cameron

Artifact Space Cover

Superstar author Miles Cameron made his science fiction debut earlier this year with the captivating Artifact Space.  Containing an epic voyage throughout the stars, Artifact Space was an awesome read, that takes its damaged protagonist to some amazing places as they try to save their ship from a dangerous alien conspiracy.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 35: Homecoming by Stan Sakai

Usagi Yojimbo - Homecoming

I doubt anyone is too surprised that the latest Usagi Yojimbo volume has appeared on this list.  Written by one of my favourite authors, Stan Sakai, this latest volume of the long running series was extremely moving and deeply compelling, as Usagi goes through some harsh adventures near his long-avoided home province.  With incredible art, powerful character work and some very elaborate stories, this was another excellent addition to one of the best comic series out there.

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary Cover

Another new to me author who blew me away this year was the outstanding Andy Weir, who produced one of the best science fiction novels of 2021.  Project Hail Mary contains an extraordinary tale of an amnesiac scientist sent out into space to find out how to save the sun from burning out.  Containing a deeply enjoyable and addictive story, I powered through Project Hail Mary in no time at all and loved every second of it.  One of the easiest books of 2021 to recommend, you must check Project Hail Mary out.

 

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

The Bone Maker Cover

After deeply enjoying her 2020 novel, Race the Sands, I was eager to explore another fun standalone fantasy novel from bestselling author Sarah Beth Durst, and boy was I in for a treat with The Bone Maker.  This clever novel follows five former heroes who are once again drawn into a deadly battle for their nation.  Readers will fall in love with the novels damaged heroes, especially after they once head the call to battle, even after all the loss and trauma they have suffered.

 

Colonyside by Michael Mammay

Colonyside Cover

Now, technically this novel was released in 2020, however, considering it only came out 31 December (which was technically 1 January 2021 in Australia), I am choosing to count this as a 2021 release instead.  Colonyside is the third novel in the fantastic and impressive Planetside science fiction thriller series.  Following on from the amazing Planetside (one of the best books of 2018) and Spaceside (one of the best books of 2019), Colonyside places its infamous protagonist in the middle of another dangerous conspiracy, as he searches for a missing person on a hostile alien planet.  A masterful and thrilling novel, I deeply enjoyed this amazing book.

 

Protector by Conn Iggulden

Protector Cover Final

The final entry on this list is the outstanding Protector from Conn Iggulden, which follows on the from the great 2020 novel, The Gates of Athens.  Featuring an awesome story about some of the key battles between the Greeks and the Persians, this was a fantastic piece of historical fiction that is really worth reading.

 

 

That is the end of this list.  As you can see, I have already read some amazing and epic books so far in 2021 and we are only halfway through the year.  I am pretty happy with how this list turned out, especially as it features some extraordinary reads.  It will be interesting to see which of these books ends up being amongst my top reads of 2020, and while I would assume all the above will make the cut, there is some pretty hefty competition coming up in the second half of 2021.  Let me know what you think about the books that made my Top Ten list, and also let me know what your favourite releases from the first half of 2020 are.

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

Publisher: Gollancz (Audiobook – 25 March 2021)

Series: The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings – Book Two

Length: 20 hours and 6 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Following his epic 2020 debut, one of the fastest rising stars in fantasy fiction, Nick Martell, returns with the second entry in his The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings series, The Two-Faced Queen.

Last year I was lucky enough to listen to a copy of Martell’s incredible first novel, The Kingdom of LiarsThe Kingdom of Liars was a gripping and impressive fantasy read set in Hollow, a crumbling city surrounded by an army of rebels, which followed the misadventures of the infamous Michael Kingman.  Michael is the scion of the legendary Kingman family, a noble clan of heroes and leaders who have guided Hollow for generations, serving as both supporters to the royal family and a check on their power.  However, the legacy of the Kingman family has been severely tarnished in recent years as Michael’s father was executed for the murder of the heir to the throne.  With their family disenfranchised, Michael grew up as an outcast in his own city, acting out against authority.  This changed when a chance encounter allowed him to investigate who was responsible for his family’s downfall and the death of the prince of Hollow.  While he was eventually able to discover the true murderer, his investigation also resulted in the King’s suicide, which subsequently saw him tried for regicide and sentenced to death.  The end of the book saw him manage to escape his execution, while also setting up several of the storylines for future entries in the series.  I deeply enjoyed the cool story of this first entry in The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings, and The Kingdom of Liars ended up being one of my favourite novels, audiobooks and debuts of 2020.  As a result, The Two-Faced Queen was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.

Michael Kingman is a dead man walking.  Still accused of killing the King of Hollow, Michael is now under the protection of the Orbus mercenary company, serving as an apprentice under the mysterious mercenary Dark.  However, even with Orbus’s protection, everyone in Hollow still wants to either kill him or use him for their own dark ends.  The deadliest of these is the one person Michael is sworn to protect above all others, the heir to the throne, Princess Serena.  After spending years away, a vengeful Serena has returned to claim her throne and end Michael’s life.  Wielding great power, a lethal attitude and holding the keys to Michael’s heart, nothing will stand in the way of her wrath.

To restore his family’s position, save his home and convince Serena of his innocence, Michael needs to unravel the various conspiracies that have encircled Hollow and uncover the true motivations of the various power players in the city.  However, to succeed, Michael is forced to go up against a magnitude of foes, from the Corrupt Prince, the unhinged Rebel Emperor besieging the city, enraged royal guards, conspiring nobles, a scheming immortal, an insane serial killer, dangerous assassins and his former foster father, the man responsible for all his family’s ills.

But the more Michael attempts to understand Hollow’s hidden past and the dangerous plots surrounding his city, the more it becomes apparent that his is a mere pawn in a very dangerous game.  Immortals, monsters and mercenaries are all present in Hollow, and each of them has their own nefarious designs for Michael and his family.  Can he save everyone he loves before it is too late or has the Kingman family finally breathed its last?  Michael’s rise to become a Mercenary King continues, but who will truly wield power when the dust settles?

Now that was one hell of a sequel!  Martell absolutely crushed this second entry in this outstanding and exceptional fantasy series, producing a five-star novel that is extremely compelling, intense and so damn exciting.  I was absolutely enthralled with this book the moment I started listening to it and I loved every second.  The Two-Faced Queen is easily one of the best books I have read in 2021 and I think that any other fantasy novel coming out this year is going to be extremely hard-pressed to outdo it.

Martell has come up with a pretty incredible and intense narrative for The Two-Faced Queen, one that proves to be extremely addictive and insanely good.  Starting shortly after the events of The Kingdom of Liars, this novel starts fast and hard, with Michael following up on a number of storylines and revelations from the previous novel.  There is already so much going on right from the start of the novel, as the protagonist finds himself surrounded by enemies and conspiracies, both old and new.  While several secrets were revealed at the end of the first novel, there is still so much that Michael needs to understand.  However, as he attempts to learn these additional secrets, he must also try to avoid the deadly attentions of his beloved princess, end the rebellion plaguing the city, restore his family, defy a dangerous immortal, and make up with his betrayed friends.  While this is already a substantial amount of story, Martell keeps adding to it, as Michael also soon encounters a deadly assassin with a contract on him, and a deranged and unnatural serial killer.

While this may seem like too many story elements for one novel, it actually works extremely well, and the reader quickly becomes engrossed in Michael’s various adventures throughout the city.  I loved the inclusion of the serial killer storyline, as not only does it add some fantastic mystery elements, but it also proves to be a gateway to some intriguing world building, revealing more of the dark, immortal forces manipulating events from the shadows.  This storyline also results in several epic action scenes that place the protagonist and his friends in mortal danger from some unusual foes.  I had an outstanding time getting through this complex and well-constructed narrative, especially as every single scene has an intriguing revelation, intense character development or subtle clue to the future of the series.  Several key mysteries and secrets from the first novel are answered, partially or wholly, in this novel, although many more are introduced.  This really helps to keep the reader’s attention focused on The Two-Faced Queen’s plot, and I am not exaggerating when I talk about how addictive the secret-ridden narrative proves to be.  Readers are hammered with large amounts of lore and history in places, so I would recommend reading the first novel in the series, The Kingdom of Liars, before reading this book, although binge-reading this series is hardly a chore.  Overall, The Two-Faced Queen’s narrative is epic story writing at its best, and readers will love this terrific tale.

I absolutely must highlight the awesome and well-developed characters featured within The Two-Faced Queen.  The most prominent is series protagonist Michael Kingman.  Michael is an intriguing and distinctive figure through whose eyes most of the plot unfolds.  I have to admit that Michael was not my most favourite character in the first book, mostly because of his impetuous nature and selfish behaviour at times.  However, it was revealed that the reason for some of his annoying behaviour was due to some magic affecting his memories and personality.  As a result, Michael’s behaviour is substantially changed in The Two-Faced Queen and he comes across as a more considerate figure in this book.  He still has quite a few flashes of recklessness and stubbornness, but many of the rougher edges from the first novel are worn away here.  Still, a lot of people call Michael out for his crap in this book, including his friends and family, and it was great to see him finally heed their words.  There was also some additional exploration of how Michael deals with the legacy of being a Kingman; he is forced to live up to some big expectations.  There is a rather good scene where Michael is exploring the crypt of his ancestors with some of his friends, describing why some of them are famous and others are considered failures because they never achieved anything remarkable but just lived a normal life.  Seeing this, Michael’s friends, both of whom have been some of his greatest critics, start to understand just how much pressure he is under.  I really appreciated the way in which Martell continues to develop his protagonist, and it will be very fascinating to see how Michael’s story continues in the future novels.

Aside from Michael, there is an impressive collection of interesting supporting characters, each of whom have some fascinating storylines, as well as secrets or details from their past which helps to move the story along.  They also have their own motivations and plans to shape Hollow and the rest of the world to their advantage, which results in additional plots and conspiracies that the protagonists have to overcome.  The most prominent supporting character is probably Serena, the titular Two-Faced Queen.  Serena is Michael’s childhood friend and the royal he was sworn to, meaning that he was always destined to be her protector, advisor, and conscience.  However, after the death of her brother and Michael’s family were declared traitors, their relationship effectively ended.  Now returned, Serena is determined to destroy Michael for the apparent murder of her father, even if it leads to her own ruin.  The novel starts up with Michael visiting Serena only to find that she has hand-dug a grave for him, showing her resolve for killing him.  This forces Michael to attempt to change her mind, which is no easy prospect, and results in great calamity.  Naturally, these two characters share thorny romantic feelings for each other, which complicates Michael’s plans to stay alive, as Serena is a major blind spot in his defences.  Their entire joint character arc in this novel is extremely good, and I really appreciated the author’s take on their complex relationship.

Another key character is Dark, Michael’s mercenary master, who, aside from having his own mysterious past and motivations, is the son of Michael’s nemesis, Angelo Shade.  Due to Michael and Dark working together closely, the protagonist learns several of Dark’s secrets, especially those related to his troubled childhood and his encounters with the Heartbreaker serial killer.  While you don’t learn everything about Dark’s past in this novel (Martell is the master of dolling out just enough character detail to keep you interested, while also keeping plenty back for future novels), you do find out quite a lot, and what is revealed is extremely memorable.  Dark has a real dark side to him, no pun intended, and while Michael initially believes that Dark is his ally, he is soon faced with the possibility that he might have placed all his trust in a monster.  This results in a very interesting mentor/student relationship between the two, filled with much conflict and mistrust.  I really enjoyed learning more about Dark in The Two-Faced Queen, and it will be fascinating to see how the rest of his story unfolds in the future.

Other intriguing characters in this novel include Michael’s best friend Trey, who is attempting to forge his own path and take down both the nobles and the rebels, even if this leads him into conflict with Michael.  Trey has a fantastic arc as dangerous antihero in this book, taking control of the city’s criminal element in order to protect its citizens.  While a lot of his hostility towards Michael has ended, Trey and the protagonist still have a strained relationship, although Trey does go out of his way to help his friend.  Despite their friendship, it is clear that there is a major schism between the two planned in the future, which no doubt will result in all manner of pain and regret.  The ruthless immortal Charles Domet is still a firm favourite of mine, and it was fun to see his attempts to manipulate Michael, especially as Michael is now well aware of his true nature.  There are some interesting hints to Domet’s past in this novel, and he is clearly working up to something big.  The ambitious social climber Naomi also returns, although now she is suffering from a bad drug addiction which makes her even more entertaining, especially as she decides to torment Michael through embarrassment.  I also quite liked the expanded use of the chronicler, Symon.  Symon, who is determined to record and analyse every secret of Michael and his family, has taken to stalking them by living at the Kingman family home, and it is always entertaining to see his take on the events occurring before him.  He ends up actually narrating several interludes in The Two-Faced Queen, which are laid out as parts of his in-novel chronicles as part of a very clever and amusing supplement to the main story.  Symon really endeared himself to me in this novel, especially after his insulting descriptions of Michael in his proposed history book, and I deeply appreciated his increased presence.

I honestly could go on and on about the various characters featured within this novel; indeed, I have only just scratched the surface of the support cast in the paragraphs above.  However, it is more than clear that Martell does an excellent job in introducing and developing complex characters, and I loved the detailed and intriguing depictions of them throughout the novel.  Nearly every character featured within The Two-Faced Queen gets at least one big moment, and there are plenty of revelations and compelling backstories that are really cool to uncover.  I will say that you should probably not get too attached to the characters; however, I am very much looking forward to seeing what happens to each of the survivors, especially as Martell has set up some deeply captivating and powerful character arcs around them.

In addition to the fantastic story and amazing character work, Martell has also invested a lot of time in expanding his enthralling fantasy world.  The first entry in The Legacy of the Mercenary Kings did a great job setting up the key elements of Hollow, such as the noble families, the people of the city and the various problems they faced.  This unique setting of a besieged city filled with scheming nobles and set on a world where pieces of a shattered moon fall to the ground was so cool, and The Two-Faced Queen continues to expand on these previous elements, while also adding to the history and geography of the city and its surrounding nations.  Not only do you learn of several outside nations and locations but you also get to see how the key characters of this novel, or their ancestors, have impacted them, as well as the various dangers these realms represent.  However, some of the most substantial world-building revolves around some of the unusual creatures residing in this world, including a range of dangerous and destructive immortal creatures.  In the previous novel we only encountered one immortal (that we knew of), whose plots and schemes were a major part of the book’s plot.  This second novel, in contrast, is loaded with many more immortals, each of whom has their own unique abilities and plans for the world.  Martell introduces the lore around these immortals extremely well, and their various traits and schemes are worked into the plot extremely well.  It sounds like we are going to encounter a whole raft of intriguing and monstrous immortals in the future of this series, and I am very much looking forward to seeing what happens there.  The next book also looks like it will be set in a whole new location, and I will be extremely intrigued to see how that impacts the narrative.

One particular bit of world-building that I really enjoyed was the excellent expansions of Martell’s unique magical system.  The main magic of Hollow is known as Fabrication, which allows its users certain control over certain elements or phenomena at the cost of their own memories.  This is a really cool magical system, and Martell uses it to great effect throughout his novels, ensuring that there is all manner of destruction and manipulation throughout the narrative.  The Two-Faced Queen features multiple new Fabrication types, as Martell introduces unique Fabrications throughout the story, including several that even the protagonists have never heard of.  Examples include a particularly dangerous telekinetic Fabrication, which forces everyone to their knees (perfect for its user), while I was also very impressed with the disturbing blood Fabrication that one of the supporting characters pulled out.  In addition, Martell also introduces some different forms of magic from some of the other countries in his fantasy world.  While you only get to see one or two of these new magical abilities, they are still fun to see and they stand as an intriguing counterpoint to the already established magical abilities.  It looks like Martell is setting up some sort of mystery around the origins of all these different powers and it should prove pretty interesting to see how that turns out.

Martell also does an incredible job fitting the downsides of this magical Fabrication into the plot, as several characters experience memory loss, which affects their plans, reactions and relationships.  This is most obvious in Michael; as narrator, he loses several days of his life, resulting in him being unaware of plans he puts into motion or certain secrets that he learnt in these missing days.  Because the reader does not see these missing pieces of time either, this adds an extra amount of mystery and uncertainty into the narrative, as you try to work out both what is being deliberately hidden from Michael and what he has simply forgotten.  These bigger lapses in memory are a fantastic part of The Two-Faced Queen’s narrative, and it helps to make the flow of this book unique and compelling.  However, you also have to appreciate some of the smaller examples of memory loss throughout the book, some of which are quite heartbreaking in nature as the characters forget elements of their friends and families without realising it.  There is one extremely poignant scene in which Michael confesses to forgetting something very important to him, with the reader only then realises that a certain normal-sounding character description was evidence of memory loss all along.  Some of these subtle details are really impressive, and I deeply enjoyed seeing the hurtful side effects of this magical system.

To enjoy this awesome book, I ended up grabbing its audiobook format, mainly because I had such a great time listening to the first novel.  There were actually two audiobook versions of The Two-Faced Queen, and I ended up grabbing the Joe Jameson narrated version.  Jameson is a fantastic audiobook narrator who has previously lent his voice to amazing fantasy novels like King of Assassins by RJ Barker.  I loved his narration for The Kingdom of Liars last year and I was really keen to continue to listen to him in this sequel.  Jameson has a great voice for this complex fantasy read, and you swiftly become enthralled by the way he narrates the events occurring, as well as the fantastic voices he comes up with for his characters.  All the characters are given a unique voice in a variety of different accents, and each of them really helps to capture the character’s emotions and personality perfectly, whether it is the constant confusion and hurt in Michael, the raging anger of Serena, the cold menace of Dark or the calculating and manipulative voice of Charles Domet.  All this voice work is perfect and spot on and I really appreciated the effort that Martell put into this book.  Despite its runtime of 20 hours, I got through this audiobook in no time at all and I honestly wished it was a lot longer by the end.  This was another outstanding audiobook, and this format comes highly recommended to anyone interested in this fantastic novel.

With this epic and captivating second novel, Nick Martell has cemented his position as one of the best new fantasy authors out there.  The Two-Faced Queen was absolutely incredible, and I loved the complex and addictive story, set in a unique fantasy world.  There are just so many cool elements to this awesome novel and it really does not take long for the reader to become hooked on every single mystery, secret and hidden past that Martell features within this great read.  I cannot wait to see what happens next in this series, but it is already perfectly clear that The Legacy of the Mercenary King books are going to be one of the defining fantasy series of the next few years.

The Two-Faced Queen Cover 2