Waiting on Wednesday – Dark Horse, Sierra Six and Armored

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For my latest Waiting on Wednesday, I highlight some incredible upcoming thriller novels that I feel are going to be some of the best books of the next few months.

Over the last few years, I have really been getting into the thriller genre, having read a great number of awesome and fast-paced novels across the various sub-genres.  I have had a particularly awesome time with the spy thrillers, and I love a novel that follows a dangerous and talented intelligence agent facing off against a range of clever opponents and outrageous odds.  Two of the best series I have been getting into are the Orphan X and Gray Man spy thriller series, which contain complex protagonists and fantastic storylines, and I thought I would take this opportunity to look at their next amazing sounding entries.

Dark Horse Cover

The first of these books is the fun sounding Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz, which will be the seventh Orphan X novel.  The Orphan X series follows the titular Orphan X, Evan Smoak, a legendary agent who has gone rogue and taken up the persona of the Nowhere Man, a vigilante who helps people that have nowhere to turn to.  I got into this series a few years ago when I read Out of the Dark, an amazing book that saw Orphan X attempting to kill the President of the United States.  I had a fantastic time with this cool concept, and I made sure to check out the next two books in the series, both of which were five-star reads.  The first of these, Into the Fire (one of the best audiobooks of 2020), saw a concussed Orphan X tearing through a sinister criminal organisation in LA, while the latest book, Prodigal Son, forced a semi-retired Evan to go up against a crazy weapons developer.  All three of these novels were really good, and I loved the high-concept fights, complex antagonists and the interesting personal issues surrounding the former orphan who was raised by a group of killers.

The next book in the series, Dark Horse, also sounds really good, as the protagonist faces another impossible challenge, while also dealing with secrets from his past.  Dark Horse is currently set for release on 8 February 2022, and it looks like it will be a deeply impressive read.

Synopsis:

Gregg Hurwitz’s New York Times bestselling series returns when Orphan X faces his most challenging mission ever in Dark Horse.

Evan Smoak is a man with many identities and a challenging past. As Orphan X, he was a government assassin for the off-the-books Orphan Program. After he broke with the Program, he adopted a new name and a new mission—The Nowhere Man, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. Having just survived an attack on his life and the complete devastation of his base of operations, as well as his complicated (and deepening) relationship with his neighbor Mia Hall, Evan isn’t interested in taking on a new mission. But one finds him anyway.

Aragon Urrea is a kingpin of a major drug-dealing operation in South Texas. He’s also the patron of the local area—supplying employment in legitimate operations, providing help to the helpless, rough justice to the downtrodden, and a future to a people normally with little hope. He’s complicated—a not completely good man, who does bad things for often good reasons. However, for all his money and power, he is helpless when one of the most vicious cartels kidnaps his innocent eighteen year old daughter, spiriting her away into the armored complex that is their headquarters in Mexico. With no other way to rescue his daughter, he turns to The Nowhere Man.

Now not only must Evan figure out how to get into the impregnable fortress of a heavily armed, deeply paranoid cartel leader, but he must decide if he should help a very bad man—no matter how just the cause.

Unsurprisingly I love the sound of this cool new novel, especially as the main plot will revolve around the protagonist storming the impregnable fortress of a Mexican cartel.  This book has an awful lot of potential and I cannot wait to see what surprising and outrageous schemes that the protagonist will utilise to save the kidnapped girl.  I am also very curious about the inclusion of a drug kingpin being Evan’s client, as he usually only helps normal, innocent people.  Working to help a rich criminal will be an interesting change for the Nowhere Man, and I look forward to seeing his inner conflict around it.  The character of Aragon Urrea will also make for a compelling alternate narrator (each of Evan’s clients are usually featured pretty heavily), and he should have a pretty unique take on the events occurring around him.  Based on the events of Prodigal Son, it is likely that Aragon will have connections to Evan’s past, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you see the protagonist’s family grow just a little more.  All this sound pretty amazing, and I am extremely keen to check Dark Horse out.

Sierra Six Cover

The next book is Sierra Six, the 11th novel in the impressive Gray Man series by bestselling author Mark Greaney.  The Gray Man series follows Court Gentry, an elite spy and killer known as the Gray Man.   I got into this series back in 2019 when I checked out the fantastic Mission Critical.  This was an awesome read that saw Gentry hunting a team of Russian spies who planned to cripple the Western intelligence community.  Greaney has since followed this book up with two exceptional five-star reads, One Minute Out (one of the best books of 2020) and Relentless (one of the best books and audiobooks I have so far read this year).  I also recently went back and checked out the first novel in the series, The Gray Man, which was incredibly awesome and contained an epic storyline that saw Gentry square off against 100 elite killers across Europe.

The 11th Gray Man novel, Sierra Six, currently has a release date in February 2022 and looks set to examine some terrible secrets from Gentry’s past, with a compelling look at his first mission with the CIA.

Synopsis:

It’s been years since the Gray Man’s first mission, but the trouble’s just getting started in the latest entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

Before he was the Gray Man, Court Gentry was Sierra Six, the junior member of a CIA action team.

In their first mission they took out a terrorist leader, but at a terrible price–the life of a woman Court cared for. Years have passed and now The Gray Man is on a simple mission when he sees a ghost: the long-dead terrorist, but he’s remarkably energetic for a dead man.

A decade may have gone by but the Gray Man hasn’t changed. He isn’t one to leave a job unfinished or a blood debt unpaid.

This sounds like such an awesome read, and I really love the idea of Greaney going way back into his protagonist’s past.  I’m assuming that Sierra Six will have a split narrative, with a good portion following Gentry’s first mission, and I looking forward to learning more about this character’s backstory.  It will also be interesting to see how Gentry is going after the events of Relentless when he was blackballed by the CIA again, and I will be quite intrigued to find out what happens with some of the series’ ongoing storylines.  I am very excited for this novel, although I might try and check out one or two earlier Gray Man novels beforehand, just to build up some more context.

Armored Cover

I also must take the time to talk about Greaney’s other big upcoming release, ArmoredArmored is a standalone audiobook written by Greaney that currently has a release date of 9 December 2021.  This fantastic sounding audiobook will be voiced by a full cast of narrators, including the impressive Jay Snyder, and it has the potential to be one of the most intense and action-packed releases of the year, especially as Mr Explosion himself, Michael Bay, has already obtained the film rights for it.

Synopsis:

A team of military contractors fights for its life in this high-adrenaline, full-cast drama from Mark Greaney, author of the Audible and New York Times best-selling Gray Man series.

Josh Duffy is staring into the abyss.

A decorated army veteran turned military contractor, his last mission went sideways, leaving him badly injured and his career derailed. Now, he’s working as a mall cop, trying to keep his family one step ahead of the bill collectors.

So when a chance at redemption – and a big pay day – comes his way, Duff eagerly jumps in.

The job – to ride shotgun on a motorcade of heavily armed and armored vehicles as they roll into Mexico’s cartel country. The mission – to find a notorious drug lord and bring him to the negotiating table with the Mexican government and the UN.

But Duff’s employer, Armored Saint, has a track record that’s sketchy, at best. And from the moment the motorcade hits the dusty roads, the danger only increases.

It’s a suicide run – and for Duff, the violent forces of the cartels may not be the biggest threat.

So, another book set down in cartel country, Armored also sounds pretty damn cool, and I think that I am going to have an amazing time with this book.  Based on the synopsis, it looks like the protagonist and his friends will be forced to endure a gauntlet of death and destruction, along with a traitor in their ranks and some dodgy dealing from the corporation running them.  I cannot wait to check this book out, and I have very high hopes for the audiobook format, especially with its comprehensive and intriguing cast.  I must admit that I am pretty excited to get multiple books from Greaney is so short a time frame, and I look forward to seeing what madness is featured in both his upcoming reads.  I have also heard rumours that a sequel to Red Metal, which Greaney cowrite with H. Ripley Rawlings (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2019), is on its way, and I will make sure to feature that in another Waiting on Wednesday entry when I get some more details.

As you can from the above, I have quite a lot of thrillers to read very soon.  All three of these books have an immense amount of potential, and based on my experiences with their authors, I already know that I am going to have an outstanding time getting through all of them.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Audiobook Narrators

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 have been given a freebie topic, meaning that they can do a list on whatever interests them.  So, I thought I would take this opportunity to talk about something I am very passionate about, audiobooks.  In particular, I am going to have a crack at listing my favourite top ten audiobook narrators.

Readers of my blog will know that I have a particular love for the audiobook format, and it is one of my favourite ways to enjoy a good book (I’m listening to one now as I put this post up).  I have long loved audiobooks, going all the way back to my childhood when I had Goosebumps books on cassette tape.  While I eventually grew out of these series (and cassette tapes), my appreciation for audiobooks has remained, and I have become even more fond of them in recent years, due to how easy and accessible audiobooks are these days.  As such, I have had the great pleasure of listening to some outstanding audiobook in the last few years, and I honestly find myself enjoying some books a hell of a lot more in this format.

One of the main reasons why I have so much fun with audiobooks is because a lot of them have outstanding narrators who excel at telling the story or bringing the characters to life.  A great narrator can turn a good book into something truly magical, while boring narrators can ruin even the most compelling stories.  Over the years I have found myself becoming a big fan of several talented narrators due to their ability to make every story they read incredibly awesome with their impressive range.  Some of these narrators have been so good that I have followed them to other books and series, as I know that I am going to have a great time with whatever they are reading.  As a result, I thought it was about time that I highlighted my absolute favourites of these on this blog.

To pull this list together, I sifted through the best narrators I have listened and tried to work out who I enjoy listening to the most.  While there were a couple of great narrators I have enjoyed once or twice, my list tended to focus on those narrators whose work I have heard multiple time.  I ended up pulling together a descent list, which I was able to cull down into a good top ten list with a generous honourable mentions section.  The end result turned out pretty good, and I liked the cool cross section of genres and narrators that this list contained.  So, let us see who made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Scott Brick – Orphan X and Cotton Malone series

Prodigal Son Cover

Scott Brick is the narrator of two awesome thriller series, the Orphan X and Cotton Malone books.  I have listened to several great books narrated by Brick, including Into the Fire and Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz, and The Malta Exchange, The Warsaw Protocol and The Kaiser’s Web by Steve Berry, all of which were fantastic and compelling listens.

Jim Dale – Harry Potter series

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Cover

I had to include actor Jim Dale somewhere on this due to his outstanding work narrating the Harry Potter audiobooks.  While Stephen Fry also did a version, I have only had the pleasure of listening to Dale’s version, and it is such an outstanding way to enjoy this iconic series.

Jonathan Keeble – Trollslayer series

Trollslayer

I have recently enjoyed Jonathan Keeble’s work on the Trollslayer series by William King, set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe.  I have so far listened to three of these books, Trollslayer, Skavenslayer and Daemonslayer, and each of these has featured some impressive voice work, especially around the main characters.  I am planning to check out more Warhammer novels narrated by Keeble soon, which should be a lot of fun.

Emily Woo Zeller – Star Wars: Doctor Aphra and Cyber Shogun Revolution

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover

I also needed to highlight a rising audiobook narrator who has done some awesome books lately, Emily Woo Zeller.  Zeller came to my attention when she voiced the titular character in the outstanding Star Wars: Doctor Aphra audio drama, perfectly capturing this outstanding and complex protagonist.  This amazing performance, as well as her work in Cyber Shogun Revolution, really impressed me, and I look forward to seeing what Zeller will do in the future.

Top Ten List (unranked):

Ray Porter – Joe Ledger and Rogue Team International series

Relentless Cover

The first entry on this list is the incredible Ray Porter, a narrator whose work I am deeply enjoying.  While Porter has narrated an amazing number of books, I know him primarily through his collaboration with author Jonathan Maberry.  Porter has narrated most of Maberry’s novels over the years, and they are an impressive and captivating team.  I particularly enjoyed Porter’s work in Maberry’s Joe Ledger series (which includes books like Assassin’s Code, Code Zero, and Dogs of War) and the sequel Rogue Team International series (featuring Rage and Relentless), as Porter always perfectly fits into the skin of the titular protagonist.  I also really enjoyed his work on the standalone horror novel Ink, which was one of the best audiobooks of 2020, and I am particularly keen to check out more novels narrated by Porter.

R. C. Bray – Planetside series and The Dark

The Dark Cover

Another fantastic narrator whose work I have been appreciating lately is R. C. Bray, who has lent his voice to some amazing audiobooks.  I first came across Bray through his work on Michael Mammay’s Planetside series, including Planetside and Colonyside (one of the best audiobooks from the first half of 2021).  Bray did an outstanding job on these science fiction military thrillers, and his gruff voice was perfect for the veteran soldier the series followed.  However, Bray can also voice some other unique characters, a fact I recently discovered when I listened to the wildly entertaining horror novel, The Dark by Jeremy Robinson.  In this book, Bray voiced a stoner character who finds himself leading the fight against a horde of invading demons.  Not only did Bray really get into this different protagonist, but he helped to turn The Dark into one of the best audiobooks of the year.  I look forward to checking out more from Bray in the future, especially as he has already narrated a ton of books by Robinson that sound really cool.

James Marsters – Dresden Files series

Battle Ground Cover

The next entry on this list is someone who I was a fan of well before I enjoyed their audiobook work, actor James Marsters.  Best known for his roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Marsters has also provided his voice to the audiobook versions of the Dresden Files urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher.  I found this out last year when I listened to the awesome latest entry in the series, Battle Ground, and I instantly fell in love with Marsters’ take on the various characters.  Marsters really dived into the role of titular protagonist Harry Dresden, and I appreciated all the cool voices he did throughout this novel.  When I decided to go back and check out the earlier entries in this series, I was very excited to see that Marsters narrated all these prior audiobooks as well, so it was an easy choice to check them out in audiobook as well.  I have so far enjoyed another four Dresden Files novels, Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril and Summer Knight, and each of them has featured some exceptional voice work from Marsters, which is really worth checking out.

Robert Petkoff – Star Trek audiobooks

Star Trek - Picard Cover

Each year there are a ton of Star Trek tie-in novels released, all of which get adapted to audiobook.  Of these multiple Star Trek books, nearly all feature the voice of Robert Petkoff.  Petkoff has an excellent voice for Star Trek, especially as he can perfectly replicate most of the Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation cast.  I have already listened to a great number of his Star Trek audiobooks including More Beautiful Than Death by David Mack, Agents of Influence by Dayton Ward, The Unsettling Stars by Alan Dean Foster, Picard: The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack and The Captain’s Oath by Christopher L. Bennett, just to name a few.  I currently have several of his audiobooks currently loaded up on my phone, and I will hopefully listen to some of them soon.

Marc Thompson – Star Wars audiobooks

Star Wars - The Rising Storm Cover 2

Moving from Star Trek to Star Wars the next narrator I need to highlight is the outstanding Marc Thompson.  Thompson is a wonderfully talented narrator who has been lending his voice to some of the best Star Wars tie-in novels out there, and perfectly bringing them to life.  I love the outstanding range of characters that he can voice, including those from the films, characters from the animated shows, and new characters never seen on screen.  I am a particular fan of the voice he uses for the character of Grand Admiral Thrawn, as he perfectly captures the character’s complexities, especially in books like Thrawn, Chaos Rising and Greater Good by Timothy Zahn.  Other impressive examples of his voice work can be seen in the audiobook versions of Scoundrels, Dark Disciple by Christie Golden, Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule and The Rising Storm by Cavan Scott.

Steven Pacey – First Law and Age of Madness trilogies

The Wisdom of Crowds Cover

I am a major fan of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series, so I also must highlight the impressive Steven Pacey.  Pacey is a great narrator who I primarily know through his work on Abercrombie’s novels.  I deeply enjoyed the narration he provided to Abercrombie’s iconic dark fantasy series, the First Law trilogy, with each of the complex characters perfectly portrayed by this talented narrator.  Pacey really puts a lot of himself into this exceptional audiobook adaptions, and I was very happy that he continued to provide his voice to Abercrombie’s Age of Madness sequel trilogy, providing his exceptional voices to books like A Little Hatred, The Trouble with Peace and The Wisdom of Crowds.

Joe Jameson – King of Assassins and The Legacy of the Mercenary King series

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

The next entry on this list is Joe Jameson, a narrator whose voice I have been hearing a fair bit of lately.  Jameson is a very talented voice worker who has been narrating several amazing recent fantasy novels.  I first heard Jameson’s voice when I listened to the audiobook version of King of Assassins by RJ Barker, and I was particularly impressed by his impressive take on the intriguing characters contained within.  Following this, Jameson was also provided his voice to The Legacy of the Mercenary King series (currently made up of The Kingdom of Liars and The Two-Faced Queen), where I was deeply impressed with his exceptional ability.  I cannot wait to hear more of Jameson’s work on this series as it continues, and I am also thinking about listening to several unrelated novels that were also voiced by this talented narrator.

Nigel Planer/Stephen Briggs – Discworld series

Guards! Guards! Cover

There was no way that I could do a list about audiobook narrators without mentioning the epic duo of Nigel Planer and Stephen Briggs.  Both Planer and Briggs are talented actors and narrators, but I love them the most for their work on adapting the epic Discworld series by Terry Pratchett.  The Disworld books (such as Moving Pictures and The Last Continent), are my absolute favourite books, and I have so much love for them, especially in their audiobook format.  All the Discworld novels (as well as some other standalone books that Pratchett wrote), were voiced by either Planer or Briggs, with Planer voicing the first 23 books, while Briggs narrated the last 18 books.  Each of these narrators brings something a little different to the books they adapted, but both do an amazing job capturing Pratchett’s unique humour and compelling characters.  I would strongly recommend any Discworld audiobook that these two narrate, and I have so much appreciation for them.

Jonathan Davis – Star Wars audiobooks

Master & Apprentice Cover

Another great narrator who has lent his voice to the Star Wars tie-in genre is the talented Jonathan Davis.  Like Thompson, Davis is a leading Star Wars audiobook narrator, and he always does a great job portraying some of the iconic characters from the franchise.  I have had a lot of fun listening to Davis’ work on such books as Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray, Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp, Maul: Lockdown by Joe Schreiber and the Dooku: Jedi Lost audio drama by Cavan Scott.  I especially love Davis’ take on characters like Emperor Palpatine and Qui-Gon Jinn and I look forward to listening to more books from him in the future.

Jay Snyder – Gray Man series

One Minute Out Cover

The final audiobook narrator I need to highlight on this list is the fantastic Jay Snyder.  I have recently been really getting into the Gray Man books, and a lot of that is because of Snyder whose audiobook version of the last two novels, One Minute Out and Relentless, were pretty incredible.  I even recently went back and checked out the first novel in the series, The Gray Man, and I was really impressed by Snyder’s work on this initial book.  As I am intending to get through all the Gray Man books in the next little while, I will be hearing more of Snyder’s voice work in the future, and I cannot wait to see what other cool adventures he gets to narrate.

That’s the end of this latest list.  I think it turned out pretty well, and I liked the intriguing selection of narrators I ended up featuring.  Each of the above narrators are pretty damn amazing and I would honestly listen to any novel that they cared to lend their voices to.  Any audiobook narrated by them comes highly recommended and I am deeply excited to hear more from them in the future.  I had a fair bit of fun coming up with this list, and I think it is one that I will revisit in the future.  Hopefully the next version of this list will have more variety (such as more female narrators), and I cannot wait to explore even more awesome audiobooks in the future.  In the meantime, let me know who your favourite audiobook narrator is in the comments so I can check them out.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz

Prodigal Son Cover

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Audiobook – 2 February 2021)

Series: Orphan X – Book Six

Length: 13 hours and 42 minutes

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

One of the most exciting and impressive thriller series out there returns with the sixth entry in Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X series, Prodigal Son.

Over the last couple of years I have really been expanding my love for the thriller genre and I have been getting into several cool series, many of which have been spectacular reads.  One of my favourites at the moment is the fantastic Orphan X series by Gregg Hurwitz.  The Orphan X series follows protagonist Evan Smoak, the titular Orphan X, a lethal and highly capable special operator who was recruited out of an orphanage when he was 12 and trained in every conceivable aspect of combat and spycraft.  After breaking from the Orphan Program and moving to Los Angeles, Evan has taken on a new moniker as The Nowhere Man, a vigilante who helps those in desperate situations as penance for his former life as an assassin.  I had a lot of fun reading the fourth book in the series, Out of the Dark, which saw Evan go up against the corrupt President of the United States.  I also deeply enjoyed the fifth book, Into the Fire, which was one of my favourite books from the first half of 2020 and one of the best audiobooks of the year.  As a result, I have been really looking forward to reading the new Orphan X novel for a while now and I was excited to see what sort of fascinating story Prodigal Son would have.

After successfully taking down the shadowy forces behind the Orphan Program, Evan Smoak is ready to retire.  With an unofficial pardon from the new President, all Evan has to do to stay off the government’s radar is to stop his activities as The Nowhere Man and live a normal life.  However, the past once again returns to haunt Evan when he receives a phone call from a woman claiming to be his long lost mother, asking for his help.

Shocked and rattled by the revelations, Evan’s curiosity and need for family drives him to meet with this woman and discover what she wants.  After tracking her down, Evan is surprised at the woman’s one request: to find and help Andrew Duran, a nobody living in LA whose life has gone off the rails.  Working a dead-end job at an impound lot, Andrew witnesses the mysterious death of a former drone pilot, and now finds himself being hunted by a pair of brutal killers.

While initially reluctant to take the case and risk his pardon, Evan’s interest is piqued when he barely survives a hellfire missile strike on Andrew’s house.  Digging deeper in the circumstances around the murder at the impound lot, Evan begins to uncover a deadly conspiracy involving a ruthless weapons contractor and his next generation drone weaponry.  However, the biggest dangers to Evan may come from a direction he would never expect, as his new client, Andrew, brings up unwanted memories from his traumatic past.  What is Andrew’s connection to Evan’s mother and his childhood and how will an emotionally compromised Evan save everyone important to him?

Wow, that was impressive.  Hurwitz has once again come up with an epic and exciting Orphan X novel that combines high-octane action, with a fantastic plot, some excellent characters and an intense amount of growth and emotional turmoil surrounding the series’ protagonist.  The combination of this results in a deeply addictive and extremely captivating read that ended up getting a full five-star rating from me, and it proved extremely hard to put Prodigal Son down.

This latest Orphan X novel contains a particularly clever and enjoyable narrative that sees Evan once again engage in a deadly mission as The Nowhere Man, although this time he is drawn in for far more personal reasons than usual.  Hurwitz starts Prodigal Son off with a fun introduction, as Evan attempts to live a peaceful life in retirement (which goes about as well as expected), before his curiosity at the cliffhanger ending of the previous novel, Into the Fire, drives him to seek out the woman claiming to be his mother.  This in turn leads him to attempt to save another lost soul from dangerous forces, as he goes up against a sociopathic tech genius and their ruthless assassins (as well as some repugnant bastards he encounters along the way).  The rest of the story progresses at an intense and enjoyable pace as Evan attempts to get to the bottom of the plot that his client finds himself in.  This results in several really impressive fight scenes, including a particularly brutal sequence in a impound lot (I will never, ever think about putting a torch in my mouth again).  Hurwitz really has a talent for writing action scenes, and I loved all the ruthless detail and fun moments that he features within them (never bring a Tesla to a gun fight).  In addition, there are some cleverly written infiltration scenes that I had fun with, especially when it comes to Evan breaking into some very high-security places with some elaborate disguises and a vape pen.  All of this comes to a head with an explosive conclusion which, while a tad predictable, was still a fun way to end the book and should make for some interesting future entries in the series.  I really enjoyed getting through Prodigal Son’s story and I found it to be particularly addictive and fun.

One of the most impressive and distinguishing highlights of the Orphan X series has always been its compelling and complex protagonist, Evan Smoak.  Evan is a highly trained professional assassin who learnt a meticulous code of honour and responsibility as a child and now seeks to redeem himself by helping those in trouble.  Thanks to his troubled and complicated past, as well as some mild OCD (brought on by a need for perfection in his work), Evan has been a particularly compelling character to follow, and there has been an intriguing subplot about his troubles connecting to other people.  However, the emotional turmoil hidden within the character really comes to a head in Prodigal Son when Evan is reunited with the woman who abandoned him as a baby.  Hurwitz really dives deep into the character’s psyche for this latest novel, presenting an intricate and powerful picture of a conflicted person, one who is torn between his long-repressed desire for family and to fit in and his training to be independent and alone.  This emotional turmoil becomes even more pronounced when several secrets and revelations come to the surface, and this really throws Evan for a lot of the book.  These added emotional distractions prove to be an intriguing part of the book’s plot, especially as it dulls Evan’s usual keen senses and amps up the risk during his missions.  Hurwitz also spends time diving back into Evan’s childhood, including through a series of flashbacks to when he was first recruited to the Orphan Program, and it was fascinating to see more of his early life, especially when it impacts on his current state of mind.  I also quite enjoyed the way in which Hurwitz explores Evan’s relationship with several other characters, and it was fascinating to see more of this killer’s paternal instincts and cravings come to life, especially after he finally comes face to face with his mother.  In addition, Hurwitz also explores his protagonist’s mentality when it comes to retirement, and it proved interesting to see how Evan reacts when he is once again exposed to danger and violence.  This is easily some of the best character development and exploration that Hurwitz has ever done, and I really appreciated the dramatic edge that it gave to Prodigal Son’s story.

Aside from Evan, this novel is filled with a selection of amazing and well-developed characters.  The most prominent of these are probably Evan’s client, Andrew, and his long-lost mother, Veronica.  Both serve as intriguing catalysts to Evan’s own development, and it was fascinating to see how their introduction to the plot impacted the protagonist’s mentality, especially when their various secrets come to life.  Andrew in particular proves to be a great addition to the plot, and I liked to see another one of Evan’s clients whose life is both upended and improved by his interactions with The Nowhere Man.  Several recurring characters from the previous Orphan X series also have some fantastic roles in this book, and I really enjoyed seeing more of Joey, a former Orphan Program participant and master hacker, who Evan treats like a little sister/daughter.  Joey is a very fun character whose style, personality and expertise in all things technological strongly clash with Evan, but together they form a great team, and they have some amusing interactions throughout the book, especially when Evan finds out that Joey is dating and instantly enters protective dad mode.  There is also the usual inclusion of the other residents of Evan’s apartment complex, including his love interest Mia and her young son Peter.  While many of the characters in this complex seem a bit weird or one-dimensional, they actually prove to be an intriguing part of the book’s plot, especially as Evan is able to reconcile his own emotional issues with some of the problems they are facing.  This is particularly true when it comes to Mia and Peter, and there are some interesting developments on that relationship throughout Prodigal Son.

Aside from these excellent side characters, Hurwitz has also come up with some fun villains for this latest novel that Evan needs to contend with.  The main three villains of the story are a pretty unique group of antagonists, including the brother-sister team of Declan and Queenie Gentner, contracted assassins who have been hired to kill Andrew and other witnesses to their boss’s plot.  Declan and Queenie are an interesting and sadistic pair of killers who prove to be a bit of a challenge for Evan throughout the book.  I really appreciated that Hurwitz spent the time developing both of them, especially Declan, who has some major childhood traumas, and I felt that their arc throughout Prodigal Son was rather clever.  The main villain of this story is the Gentner’s employer, known as the Doctor, who has access to some rather dangerous technology.  The Doctor has a very James Bond villain feel to him, right down to having an odd and distinguishing physical characteristic and a sinister vision for the future.  While a little more mystery or a twist about who the Doctor ultimately was might have worked out well, I still thought they were a great villain.  I particularly liked the inclusion of all the drones that they used, and it was really fascinating to see how the author envisioned the future of warfare and how a trained agent like Evan would deal with them.  Overall, there are some great side characters in this novel, and I look forward to seeing how Hurwitz utilises them in future Orphan X entries.

Like I did with the previous novel in the Orphan X series, I ended up choosing to listen to Prodigal Son’s audiobook format.  This was a fantastic decision as this version of Prodigal Son was well put together and proved to be an excellent way to enjoy this amazing story.  Prodigal Son has a decent run time of 13 hours and 42 minutes, which dedicated listeners can get through fairly quickly, and was narrated by the talented Scott Brick.  Brick is an exceptional narrator who has lent his voice to an impressive catalogue of audiobooks, including several excellent thrillers, such as the Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone series (I enjoyed his narration for The Malta Exchange and The Warsaw Protocol) and the rest of the Orphan X novels.  For Prodigal Son, Brick once again gives an excellent performance, providing the characters with some tough voices which fit each of the perfectly and helped to bring the story to life.  I ended up getting really wrapped up in this audiobook and I felt that it was an amazing way to experience and step inside of this fantastic novel.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz is an exceptional and powerful read that serves a great new addition to the amazing Orphan X series.  I had an outstanding time listening to this fantastic new book, especially with its epic story and terrifically deep characters, and this is swiftly becoming one of my favourite thriller series.  Prodigal Son comes highly recommended and I cannot wait to see how Hurwitz continues this in the future.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies

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 need to list the books that they think need to be adapted into a Netflix show or movie.  My first thought when I heard about this topic was, is Netflix sponsoring this post somehow?  Are they that desperate for new ideas that they are conducting some sort of sneaky market research on us?  If they are, I am personally fine with it.  Netflix has a pretty good track record of turning some popular books and comics into some fun shows and movies, many of which I have enjoyed.  An obvious recent example is The Witcher, although other great examples include The Umbrella Academy (I just binged the second season over two days), A Series of Unfortunate Events, You, The Last Kingdom, and Orange is the New Black.  So if Netflix is looking for some more books to turn into awesome shows, I am all for it and I definitely have some ideas for them.

In order to do this list, I scoured through some of my favourite books and comics to try and decide which ones would make the best television series.  I already had a few on my mind the moment I found out what this week’s topic was, as several of these novels have television potential that really stands out when you are reading.  As the topic was Netflix shows and movies, I did try to exclude any series or universe that had already been bought by another streaming company or which is already in development at Netflix (such as any of Mark Millar’s comics).  As a result, you won’t be seeing The Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time on this list, as both are already in production in some form or other, and I have also excluded any comics or books owned by Disney or DC Comics (although a Doctor Aphra Star Wars series would be pretty epic).

I eventually came up with quite a few books, series or comics that I thought would make a good television series, and I was able to whittle away a few options to make a Top Ten List.  I am actually rather happy with how this list turned out, as there are some interesting options on this list.  People familiar with my blog will not be surprised by some of the entries I included, but I think there are some good surprises in there that will make this stand out a little.  So let us see how this turned out.

Honourable Mentions:


The Kingkiller Chronicle
by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind Cover

As one of the best fantasy series ever written, The Kingkiller Chronicle is an obvious choice for this list, as its potential to be an awesome series is hard to deny.  However, due to the fact that an adaption for this series is already in the works, I decided to leave it as an honourable mention.  The Kingkiller Chronicle is a special case, as the last I heard about the adaptation was that it was going to avoid the main story of the novels and instead do a whole new narrative in the same universe.  As I personally think a good Netflix adaptation of the main story would be much better, I decided to include this series on the list and hope like heck any adaption turns out alright.


Orphan X
series by Gregg Hurwitz

out of the dark cover

This is a fun and exciting spy series that features a rogue super-agent on the run fighting criminals and helping people as a vigilante.  I have been absolutely loving these books, including the last two novels Out of the Dark and Into the Fire, and I think that these novels could be turned into something really cool, for example: Out of the Dark features the protagonist going up against the entire Secret Service in order to kill a corrupt President, which is pretty damn awesome.


The Cleric Quintet
by R. A. Salvatore

Canticle Cover

It’s apparently quite hard for me to do a Top Ten Tuesday list without mentioning one of my favourite fantasy authors, R. A. Salvatore.  I am a major fan of Salvatore’s writing and I think many of his books would make awesome shows or movies.  However, as it would be pretty impossible to adapt any of his Drizzt Do’Urden novels into movies of television shows (you can imagine the issues they would have trying to cast and portray any Dark Elf characters), I have instead featured The Cleric Quintet fantasy novels.  The Cleric Quintet follows a young priest and his unusual friends and companions as they attempt to defend their region of the Forgotten Realms from all manner of evil.  This is a great piece of classic high fantasy fiction and I think that viewers would love the intriguing tales included within (I personally loved the second book, In Sylvan Shadows, the most), as well as the fantastic development shown by the main characters throughout the course of the series.

Top Ten List:


The First Law
series by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself

When I was coming up with the entries for this list, the first books I thought about were The First Law novels by Joe Abercrombie.  This is because The First Law books are an outstanding dark fantasy series that features all manner of blood, brutality and manipulations, which would translate extremely well into a powerful and addictive television series.  The real strength of these novels is their unique collection of complicated and flawed characters, each of whom is doing their best to survive in an extremely harsh world.  There are some great protagonists in these novels, each of whom has the potential to become an iconic television character if portrayed right, including a deadly warrior with severe rage issues, a pompous dandy who has greatness violently thrust upon him and an exceedingly manipulative mage whose wisdom and plots are entirely self-serving (think an evil version of Gandalf).  The main reason these books could be adapted into an epic show is thanks to the character of Sand dan Glokta, a dark and ugly character, physically and mentally twisted by years of torture by the enemy, who now dishes out torture himself as an inquisitor, when he finds himself investigating some of the strange events troubling his nation.  Glokta is an incredible character, and with the right actor he could easily be the next Tyrion Lannister.  As a result, I really want to see an adaption of this series, and Netflix can easily make something pretty epic from these books, including the recent sequel novel, A Little Hatred.


Joe Ledger
novels by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero Cover

Now these are some books that would make for an exciting television series.  Jonathan Maberry’s action-packed Joe Ledger novels are a compelling thriller series that sets government agents against some of the weirdest things that science can create.  There are some amazing stories contained within the Joe Ledger novels, including weaponised zombies (Patient Zero), ancient vampires (Assassin’s Code) and genetically modified killers (The Dragon Factory), and the clever way that Maberry sets out each novel with interludes and chapters told from the antagonists perspective would translate very well into a television series.  These books also have some fantastic characters, including some insanely brilliant villains, a damaged protagonist and a mysterious spy master, that are just waiting to be brought to life by a group of talented actors in order to become something iconic.  Out of all of the entries on this list, this one might have the most potential to get made as Maberry already has connections with Netflix, after his V-Wars series of comics were turned into a show last year.


The Gentleman Bastards
series by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

This is another exceptional series of fantasy novels that I thought would make an incredible show as I was reading it.  These books follow a group of con men who attempt to swindle and steal from some of the most dangerous people in their fantasy world.  These books are amongst some of the best pieces of fantasy fiction out there, and their unique blend of fantasy and crime fiction elements would definitely make for a memorable and exciting television series.


World War Z
by Max Brooks

World War Z Cover

Now this was an entry that my editor/wife Alex wished me to include on this list.  I have to admit that I have not read this book (I’ll get to it at some point), but I did enjoy the movie.  I understand that this awesome book is substantially different to the movie, comprising of several vignettes detailing different experiences of the zombie apocalypse, as opposed to the rather narrow perspective represented by Brad Pitt in the film.  Alex seems to think that a Netflix series would probably be a much better way to translate this fantastic story to the screen, and from what I have heard about the book I think I agree, especially after I really enjoyed Brooks’ latest book, Devolution.


Legend
by David Gemmell

Legend

Legend is an amazing classic fantasy novel that contains an incredible storyline that depicts an epic siege, as the largest army ever assembled attempts to conquer an impenetrable fortress.  This was such an awesome read, filled with large amounts of action, adventure and memorable characters, including the world’s most legendary hero, who chooses to die here rather than wither into obscurity.  Legend has so much raw potential as either a limited series or a movie (I think a six episode series might be good), and it also serves as an excellent entry into Gemmell’s wider fantasy series, which would also make for some great shows.

Vespasian series by Robert Fabbri

Rome's Sacred Flame Cover

Netflix already has some great historical fiction adaptions, such as The Last Kingdom television series, but if you want to see some wild and troubling bits from history, then they need to adapt Robert Fabbri’s Vespasian series.  The Vespasian series follows the titular Emperor Vespasian from the beginning of his career as he navigates the deadly minefield that is ancient Rome.  Watching the protagonist attempt to gain power and influence in this outrageous city would make for an incredible show, especially as Fabbri spent a lot of time highlighting all the insanities of the various Emperors who ruled Rome during Vespasian’s lifetime.  I am a major fan of this historical fiction series (make sure to check out my reviews of Rome’s Sacred Flame, Emperor of Rome and Magnus and the Crossroads Brotherhood) and I believe that Netflix could make a very crazy and impressive television adaption of these books.


The Powder Mage
trilogy by Brian McClellan

promise of blood cover

This is another dark and epic fantasy series that would definitely make for a good television series.  The Powder Mage books (starting with the awesome Promise of Blood) are set in the aftermath of a bloody revolution and follow several key figures as they attempt to keep their nation intact, while also uncovering ancient secrets and terrible plots.  There are a ton of amazing elements to these books that would translate extremely well into television awesomeness, but I personally would love to see the unique gunpowder magic brought to life, as all the resultant explosions and displays of power would be quite a spectacle to behold.


Chew
by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Chew Volume 1

I had to include at least one comic series on this list, and I could think of nothing better than this weird and wonderful series.  Chew is an action/comedy hybrid series that follows a detective who gets physic impressions from anything he eats, allowing him to solve crimes in the most unique, and often disgusting way.  Chew is an incredibly creative series, with a lot of fun elements to it, all of which would work extremely well as a live action adaption, and I really think that Netflix could turn this into quite a magical and entertaining television series.


The Stormlight Archive
by Brandon Sanderson

WAY OF KINGS MM REV FINAL.indd

When you think ‘epic fantasy’ these days, you really cannot exclude the massive and extraordinary series that is The Stormlight Archives.  Sanderson is one of the best fantasy/science fiction authors in the world today, and each of his books are an absolute joy to read.  While I was strongly tempted to include his young adult novels Skyward and Starsight on this list, in the end I had to feature his main body of work, The Stormlight Archive.  Starting with the exceptional novel, The Way of Kings, this is a deeply impressive series of fantasy novels that feature massive wars, incredible characters and a huge interconnected universe.  While any adaption might need to tone down some of the connections to some of Sandersons’ other series, a television version of The Stormlight Archive easily has the potential to become the next Game of Thrones, and Netflix would be smart to jump aboard that as soon as possible.


Into the Drowning Deep
by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep Cover

Into the Drowning Deep is a fun horror novel that would make for an awesome Netflix movie.  Written by the exceedingly talented Mira Grant, this book and its preceding novella, Rolling in the Deep, set humans against the most dangerous predators in the world, mermaids.  This book was one of the best novels of 2018, and I loved the way that Grant was able to make the mermaids so dangerous and frightening.  You would need to combine Into the Drowning Deep with Rolling in the Deep to get the full story, and there is a really outstanding movie waiting to be made when you do.  Plus, it would also be really cool if it encourages Grant to write a sequel to Into the Drowning Deep, which is something I really want to see.

 

Whew, that is the end of that list.  As you can see, I have put a lot of thought into what books and comics Netflix should adapt, and I honestly believe that each of the above books could become something really incredible.  I really hope we see some form of adaption of each of these in the future, and if any of them ever get made, then they would be at the top of my to-watch list.  In the meantime, make sure to let me know which of the above books and comics you enjoyed, as well as which novels you think Netflix should adapt in the comments below.

Waiting on Wednesday – 2021 Thrillers

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings.  Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them.  For this week’s Waiting on Wednesday I look at three amazing thriller novels set for release in early 2021 that I am going to really enjoy reading.

About this time last year, I did another Waiting on Wednesday article that featured three thriller novels that I was looking forward to.  Each of these upcoming thrillers were sequels to books I had read and loved in 2019, and I had high hopes for all three of them.  Well, earlier this year I managed to read all three of the books I featured in this 2019 Waiting on Wednesday article and I ended up reviewing them on my blog.  All three of these thrillers were really incredible reads and I even featured two of them on my recent Favourite Books from the First Half of 2020 list.  Due to how much I loved this books I have been keeping an eye out for any planned sequels, and I recently found out that all three of them have new entries in their respective series coming out in early 2021.  So, for a nice bit of symmetry, I thought I would do another Waiting on Wednesday article for these upcoming thriller novels and feature them all together again.

Prodigal Son Cover

The first of the books that I am looking at is Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz, which will be the sixth book in the Orphan X series.  The Orphan X books are some amazing thrillers that focus on Evan Smoak, a highly trained assassin who worked under the codename Orphan X, before becoming a vigilante known as The Nowhere Man.  I got into these novels by first reading Out of the Dark, a fun and exciting novel that saw the protagonist attempt to kill the President.  Hurwitz followed this book with the fifth entry in the series earlier this year, Into the Fire, which was a really cool and clever thriller that saw Smoak do one last job as The Nowhere Man.  Into the Fire was an outstanding read, and I ended up giving it a full five-star rating because I enjoyed it so much.

As a result, I am really looking forward to Prodigal Son and I am hoping that it will be just as good as its predecessors.  This upcoming book is currently set for release on 26 January 2021 and I am excited to see how it turns out, especially as the plot is tied into the big cliff-hanger reveal at the end of Into the Fire.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Forced into retirement, Evan Smoak gets an urgent request for help from someone he didn’t even suspect existed.

As a boy, Evan Smoak was pulled out of a foster home and trained in an off-the-books operation known as the Orphan Program. He was a government assassin, perhaps the best, known to a few insiders as Orphan X. He eventually broke with the Program and adopted a new name – The Nowhere Man―and a new mission, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. But the highest power in the country has made him a tempting offer – in exchange for an unofficial pardon, he must stop his clandestine activities as The Nowhere Man. Now Evan has to do the one thing he’s least equipped to do—live a normal life.

But then he gets a call for help from the one person he never expected. A woman claiming to have given him up for adoption, a woman he never knew—his mother. Her unlikely request: help Andrew Duran—a man whose life has gone off the rails, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, bringing him to the deadly attention of very powerful figures. Now a brutal brother & sister assassination team are after him and with no one to turn to, and no safe place to hide, Evan is Duran’s only option. But when the hidden cabal catches on to what Evan is doing, everything he’s fought for is on the line—including his own life.

I really like the sound of this great synopsis, and it sounds like readers are going to be in for another fantastic and exciting story with this one.  It looks like this upcoming book is going to feature several narrative threads from some of the previous Orphan X novels, including the character’s work as The Nowhere Man, the overarching conspiracy surrounding the creation and cover-up of the Orphan Program and the recent development of someone claiming to be the protagonist’s long-lost mother.  All three of these plot elements have a lot of potential, and together they should make for an incredible read.

The Kaiser's Web Cover

The next novel that I am featuring in this article is The Kaiser’s Web, the 16th entry in the long-running Cotton Malone thriller series by the legendary Steve Berry.  The Cotton Malone books are an intriguing thriller series that sees the protagonist, the titular Cotton Malone, get involved in espionage or political plots that are usually related to some historical conspiracy or nation destroying secret hidden by time.  This allows for some clever and captivating tales that are not only exciting and entertaining but which also contain intriguing and detailed examinations of relevant historical elements, as well as some excellent depictions of some key landmarks or historically significant locations.  I have so far found this unique combination of a thriller storyline and fascinating historical inclusions to be extremely enjoyable and I had an incredible time reading Berry’s last two novels, The Malta Exchange and The Warsaw Protocol.

The next book from Berry also sounds like it is going to be extremely compelling, as he dives back into Germany’s turbulent history in The Kaiser’s WebThe Kaiser’s Web, which is coming out on 23 February 2021, will see the protagonist become involved in an intense modern-day political dispute and conspiracy that will apparently have links to the death of Hitler.

Goodreads Synopsis:

In New York Times bestseller Steve Berry’s latest Cotton Malone adventure, a secret dossier from a World War II-era Soviet spy comes to light containing information that, if proven true, would not only rewrite history — it could impact Germany’s upcoming national elections and forever alter the political landscape of Europe.

Two candidates are vying to become Chancellor of Germany. One is a patriot having served for the past sixteen years, the other a usurper, stoking the flames of nationalistic hate. Both harbor secrets, but only one knows the truth about the other. They are on a collision course, all turning on the events of one fateful day — April 30, 1945 — and what happened deep beneath Berlin in the Fürherbunker. Did Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun die there? Did Martin Bormann, Hitler’s close confidant, manage to escape? And, even more important, where did billions in Nazi wealth disappear to in the waning days of World War II? The answers to these questions will determine who becomes the next Chancellor of Germany.

From the mysterious Chilean lake district, to the dangerous mesas of South Africa, and finally into the secret vaults of Switzerland, former-Justice Department agent Cotton Malone discovers the truth about the fates of Hitler, Braun, and Bormann. Revelations that could not only transform Europe, but finally expose a mystery known as the Kaiser’s web.

Whew, now that is an attention-grabbing plot synopsis.  I really love the sound of this upcoming book, especially as Berry will be doing his trademark deep dive into end-of-the-war Nazi Germany and tying it into the present day.  I cannot wait to see what sort of fascinating conspiracy Berry comes up with that can feature the potential survival of Hitler, Eva Braun and Martin Bormann, as well as some stolen Nazi gold, but I am sure it is going to be something pretty incredible.  I am also rather interested in seeing Berry’s take on modern German politics, including the growing nationalistic movement, and I am sure it will work really well with the historical story elements.  All of this has the potential to be an amazing read, and I cannot wait to see what Berry does this time.

91LVNDcOWeL

The final book that I am featuring in this Waiting on Wednesday entry is Relentless by Mark Greaney, which will be the tenth book in the Gray Man series.  Greaney is an author whose work I have been really enjoying over the last couple of years.  In addition to his Gray Man novels, he also co-wrote the epic and action-packed military thriller Red Metal, which was one of my favourite books of 2019.  The Gray Man books are a great spy thriller series that follows the world’s most lethal assassin, Court Gentry, the Gray Man, who has been recruited by the CIA as part of a top-secret team of agents.  I have read two of the Gray Man novels so far, Mission Critical and One Minute Out, with the 2020 release, One Minute Out, probably being my favourite due to its captivating and action packed story about Gentry taking apart a massive sexual slavery pipeline.

The upcoming Gray Man novel, Relentless, looks like it will be more of a pure spy thriller novel, as Gentry and his cohorts attempt to find out who is disappearing several of the world’s intelligence agents.  Relentless is set for release on 16 February 2021 and it sounds like it is going to be really exciting release.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Gray Man’s search for missing intelligence agents plunges him deep into a maelstrom of trouble in the latest entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

The first agent disappearance was a puzzle.

The second was a mystery.

The third was a conspiracy.

Intelligence operatives around the world are disappearing. When a missing American agent re-appears in Venezuela, Court Gentry, the Gray Man, is dispatched to bring him in, but a team of assassins has other ideas. Court escapes with his life and a vital piece of intelligence.

Meanwhile, CIA agent Zoya Zakharova is in Berlin. Her mission: to infiltrate a private intelligence firm with some alarming connections. The closer she gets to answers, the less likely she is to get out alive.

Court and Zoya are just two pieces on this international chessboard, and they’re about to discover one undeniable truth–sometimes capturing a king requires sacrificing some pawns.

This is another great plot synopsis that promises all manner of action, excitement and spy shenanigans.  A vast, world-wide espionage related conspiracy sounds like a fantastic basis for a thriller novel, and I am rather curious to see how this novel turns out.  It should also be interesting to see another story told partially from the perspective of Gentry’s love interest, former Russian agent Zoya Zakharova, and I look forward to finding out how the two characters’ respective investigations will inevitably connect.

As you can see, early 2021 looks set to be a wonderful and exciting time for fans of the thriller genre.  I have to say that I am extremely excited for all three of these books as they sound amazing and have an incredible amount of potential.  Based on how much I enjoyed the 2020 releases from these amazing authors, I already know that I will absolutely love these upcoming novels, and now all I have to do is sit back and wait for them to come out.

Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz

Into the Fire

Publisher: Michael Joseph/Brilliance Audio (Audiobook – 28 January 2020)

Series: Orphan X – Book Five

Length: 12 hours

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

From the mind of bestselling thriller author Gregg Hurwitz comes an outstanding and captivating adventure novel, Into the Fire, the latest book in his amazing Orphan X series.

Evan Smoak is Orphan X, a former orphan child who was taken in by a secret covert government and trained from a young age to become the most skilled assassin and special operator in the world. Orphan X served his country for years before finally having enough and leaving, pursued by the people who ordered his creation. Resettling to Los Angeles, Evan forged a new identity for himself as The Nowhere Man, a vigilante dedicated to helping those in desperate need who have no one else to turn to.

After killing his greatest enemy, the United States President, Evan has had enough of violence and is determined to retire and live a quiet life. But before he leaves everything behind, Evan has decided to help one more person as The Nowhere Man, as one final act of redemption. Enter Max Merriweather, a poor construction worker in LA. Two months earlier his cousin Grant, a successful forensic accountant, entrusted Max with an envelope and instructions to take it to a reporter if anything happened to him. Now Grant is dead, an armed thug is ransacking Max’s apartment and the reporter he was told to contact has been murdered. With nowhere else left to turn, Max calls The Nowhere Man.

Taking on Max’s case, Evan dives into LA’s criminal underbelly in order to locate the people hunting Max. Easily finding the thugs responsible for Grant’s death, Evan manages to eliminate them quickly; however, it turns out that they are just the tip of an iceberg stretching throughout the entirety of LA. Grant was on the verge of uncovering a massive conspiracy, and his evidence could put away a lot of dangerous people who are now determined to kill Max to keep him quiet. Determined to keep Max safe, Evan soon finds himself embroiled in one of the most challenging and complicated missions of his life, as behind every corner a new adversary lies, each one more powerful and connected than the last. Can even this legendary assassin and vigilante win with the odds so severely stacked against him?

Gregg Hurwitz is a veteran thriller author who has been producing compelling and exciting novels since his 1999 debut, The Tower. Since then he has written over 20 novels, including his Tim Rackley series, The Rains Brothers books and several standalone novels. He has also contributed to several DC and Marvel comic book series, such as Batman: The Dark Knight and The Punisher, and he also does a bit of screenwriting, having written several episodes of the 2009 remake of V. Hurwitz’s main body of work at the moment is his Orphan X series, which started in 2016 with the novel Orphan X. Into the Fire is the fifth book in the Orphan X series and follows on shortly after the events of the fourth book, Out of the Dark. I actually got into Hurwitz’s works last year when I read Out of the Dark due its cool story premise of a former secret agent attempting to kill the President. After I enjoyed this fun action thriller last year, I was definitely keen to check out more of Hurwitz’s work and I have been looking forward to Into the Fire for a little while now.

Now, I have to admit that while I was interested in checking out Into the Fire, I was a little worried that Hurwitz was going to have a hard time topping his previous novel and its outrageous central plot point. However, Into the Fire turned out to be an outstanding read which I ended up enjoying more than Out of the Dark. Hurwitz has produced an incredible thriller that is filled with intense action, clever plot developments and an excellent character-driven central story. All of these amazing elements combine together perfectly into a novel which can easily be read as either a continuation of the series or as a compelling standalone novel.

One of the best parts of this novel is the well-written and captivating central thriller storyline which sees the protagonist attempt to take down a criminal conspiracy in the heart of LA. What starts out as a relatively simple mission to take down a small-time criminal organisation quickly morphs into a massive task, as each time Evan thinks he has succeeded, a larger and more dangerous adversary appears behind the people he has just taken out. There are so many twists and turns in this novel, you honestly don’t know when or where it is going to end, and the story goes in some very fun and clever directions. I really enjoyed how the author layered his story with seemingly innocuous comments and discussion that later morphed into major plot payoffs later down the line in the book, and I was actually surprised about a few of the reveals that occurred.

I really liked the overarching plot idea of an elite secret agent going after everyday criminals with his full range of tradecraft, advanced weapons and training, especially as it resulted in some amazing sequences throughout the book. The protagonist comes up with some truly unique, clever and at times brutal ways to take down some of his opponents, which were fun to check out. I know I will never look at a plastic drinking straw the same way again. My personal favourite part of the book are several chapters where the protagonist breaks into a prison to deal with one of his targets. The various ways that he infiltrated the prison, pulled off his mission and then escaped was not only clever but also very entertaining, and I loved every single second of it. I also really liked how Hurwitz introduced a handicap for his protagonist throughout this book in the form of a severe concussion obtained early on in the story. The author did an excellent job portraying the symptoms of a concussion, and it was interesting to watch the protagonist struggle to complete his tasks with blurred vision or a massive headache. The concussion angle was a great way to amp the risk surrounding the protagonist’s actions, as it actually put many of his opponents on an equal footing with this former elite special agent and was a fantastic inclusion to the story. Overall, this turned out to be an extremely well-written and deeply exciting thriller storyline, which proves to be quite addictive and captivating.

I was also quite impressed by the way that Hurwitz spent time examining and developing the central characters of this book. In particular, there is a fascinating focus on the complex character of Evan Smoak, who is the main protagonist of this series. Hurwitz has always done an amazing job of portraying Evan as a man very much haunted by his past lives, both as an abandoned child and as an assassin who was trained to kill since the age of 12. Both of these parts of his life still drive him, and his whole persona as The Nowhere Man is a form of redemption for him, as he attempts to not only atone for the lives he took as Orphan X but to also help those who feel as powerless as he did when he was a young child. Hurwitz continues to utilise this characterisation in Into the Fire, although this time it is further complicated by his plans to retire after this one final mission. This whole retirement angle is a major concern for Evan, as he spends a good part of the book weighing up the good he does as The Nowhere Man against all the personal benefits of attempting to live a normal life. This makes for a lot of internal conflict, which forces the author to once again dive into Evan’s motivations for being a vigilante, which adds a great dramatic edge to the entire story.

This consideration about having a more normal life is also explored in the way that the trained loner Evan starting to learn more about human interaction and relationships in this book. Part of this takes place in the way that he interacts with Joey, the teenage hacker and former Orphan trainee he saved and took under his wing. Evan has inadvertently taken on the role of a father figure to Joey, and it was great to see him continue to act protective towards her and see their unique relationship grow. There is also the rather amusing and awkward interactions that he has with the residence of his building. Despite not wanting to have much to do with them, he actually goes out of his way to protect them, and he is actually shown to care quite deeply when one of them is hurt. Finally, there is the complex relationship he has with Mia, the single mother and ADA in his building who he has feelings for but has driven away with his acts of vigilantism. All of these interactions help Evan develop more as a character and recover a little more of his lost humanity, and I really enjoyed the way that Hurwitz explored such a complex and damaged protagonist.

While most of the book’s focus is on Evan, Hurwitz also dives into the life of Evan’s latest client, Max Merriweather. Max, who serves as a significant point-of-view character, is a down-on-his-luck individual who is dragged into the events of this book by his more successful cousin. Throughout the course of Into the Fire, you get to learn about the past of Max, showing how, due to events outside of his control, he has always been seen as the family screw-up, something he has struggled to escape due to his corresponding low self-confidence. You also get to see the history of his tragic marriage, and how doing the right thing cost him everything. I really liked the way that Hurwitz took the time to explore the life of this new client, especially as it develops him into a much more sympathetic character that reader becomes invested in over the course of the book. I also liked the relationship he slowly built up with Evan, as each of them were able to provide some help in solving the deeper emotional or personal issues that were affecting the other. This excellent character was an outstanding and distinctive part of the book, and I am definitely keen to see what excellent characters are introduced in the next Orphan X book, especially after the intriguing reveal at the end of Into the Fire.

I ended up enjoying the audiobook format of Into the Fire, which was narrated by Scott Brick. This audiobook runs for a substantial 12 hours in length, but I got through it rather quickly, as I got really drawn in by the cool and compelling story. I personally found that this was an excellent way to consume this fantastic book, and I had a great time listening to the story. Brick is an excellent audiobook narrator who has a lot of experience bringing thriller novels to life. I previously enjoyed his narration of The Malta Exchange by Steve Berry, and I am currently listening to his narration of the sequel, The Warsaw Protocol. Brick did a wonderful job bringing the characters in Into the Fire to life, and I felt that he utilised perfect voices for each of them. As a result, I would strongly recommend the audiobook format of Into the Fire, as it is an amazing way to enjoy this book.

Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz is an incredible read that comes highly recommended. This latest book in the fantastic Orphan X series is an outstanding piece of thriller fiction, which sets its complex characters down an action-packed road of intrigue and twists to produce a five-star read. Hurwitz has really outdone himself with Into the Fire, which turned out to be one hell of a book. I cannot wait to see where Hurwitz takes the Orphan X series next, but I will definitely be grabbing a copy of his next book when it comes out.

Waiting on Wednesday – Upcoming Thrillers

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy. I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them. For the first Waiting on Wednesday of 2020 I look at three upcoming thrillers that I am looking forward to.

While I tend to read more historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction than anything else, over the last couple of years I have really started getting into thriller novels, as I have been lucky enough to check out several great books from the genre. In 2019 I read a number of amazing thrillers, including several military thrillers or thrillers mixed in with science fiction elements, all of which were a lot of fun to check out and containing exciting and clever adventures. As three of my favourite thrillers from last year all have sequels coming out in 2020, I thought I would take the time to check them out in a Waiting on Wednesday post.

Into the Fire.jpg

The first book that I am looking forward to is Into the Fire by Gregg Hurwitz. Into the Fire is the fifth book in Hurwitz’s excellent Orphan X series, which follows an elite former government assassin, codename Orphan X, as he helps people in desperate situations under his new alias The Nowhere Man. I read the fourth book in the series, Out of the Dark, last year, and I loved its fantastic story, which featured this skilled assassin going up against the entire Secret Service as he attempted to kill the President of the United States. His new novel also sounds pretty amazing, and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The New York Times bestselling Orphan X returns—facing his own uncertain future and undertaking one last mission.

Taken from a group home at age twelve, Evan Smoak was trained as an off-the-books government assassin: Orphan X. After breaking with the Program, he reinvented himself as The Nowhere Man, a figure shrouded in shadows who helps the truly desperate. But the government didn’t let go of him easily, sending their best to hunt him down and eliminate him. All of them failed. With his deadliest enemies behind him, Evan is facing a new challenge—what is he going to do now that no one is after him?

Max Merriweather is at the end of his rope. Separated from the woman he loves and barely scraping by, Max is a disappointment to everyone in his life. Then his very successful cousin Grant is brutally murdered. Two months before, Grant left Max an envelope with instructions to take it to a reporter if anything happened to him. Now the reporter is missing and Max’s apartment is ransacked. A man at the end of his rope, he calls The Nowhere Man.

With mixed feelings, Evan takes on this mission, easily finding the men who are after Max and executing a plan to keep him safe. But it isn’t as obvious as it seems—and Evan finds himself enmeshed in one of the most challenging missions of his life, one that he can’t survive on his own. With the help of Joey Morales, a genius-level hacker and the last Orphan recruited into the Program, and the brilliant, off-the-books gunsmith, Tommy Stojack, Orphan X once more heads…Into the Fire.

The Warsaw Protocol Cover.jpg

The next book I am going to look at is the 15th book in the long-running Cotton Malone series, The Warsaw Protocol. The Cotton Malone series is the main series of legendary thriller writer Steve Berry and follows the titular series protagonist, Cotton Malone, as he investigates a number of conspiracies and plots, mostly tied into secret organisations or parts of ancient history. I had the great pleasure of reading the 14th book in the series, The Malta Exchange, in early 2019, and I absolutely loved the complex and intriguing historical conspiracy it contained. Berry looks set to once again produce a captivating thriller mystery that is based on fascinating history and cool-sounding conspiracy theories with The Warsaw Protocol, as the plot of the upcoming books sounds pretty amazing. I am very much looking forward to this latest novel from Berry, especially after how much I enjoyed The Malta Exchange, and I am extremely curious to learn more about some of the conspiracies ranging around Poland, as it is a location you don’t see much of outside of World War II or Cold War novels.

Goodreads Synopsis:

One by one the seven precious relics of the Arma Christi, the weapons of Christ, are disappearing from sanctuaries across the world.

After former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone witnesses the theft of one of them, he learns from his old boss, Stephanie Nelle, that a private auction is about to be held where incriminating information on the president of Poland will be offered to the highest bidder–blackmail that both the United States and Russia want, but for vastly different reasons.

The price of admission to that auction is one of the relics, so Malone is first sent to a castle in Poland to steal the Holy Lance, a thousand-year-old spear sacred to not only Christians but to the Polish people, and then on to the auction itself. But nothing goes as planned and Malone is thrust into a bloody battle between three nations over a secret that, if exposed, could change the balance of power in Europe.

From the tranquil canals of Bruges, to the elegant rooms of Wawel Castle, to the ancient salt mines deep beneath the earth outside Krakow, Malone is caught in the middle of a deadly war–the outcome of which turns on something known as the Warsaw Protocol.

One Minute Out Cover.jpg

The final book I am going to look at is One Minute Out by Mark Greaney, which is the ninth book in Greaney’s Gray Man series. Greaney is an author whose has produced some outstanding novels which I have been really enjoying. Not only did he produce a fun and compelling addition to his long-running series with Mission Critical, but he also cowrote the excellent military thriller, Red Metal. Both of these novels were very exciting and really enjoyable reads, and Red Metal was easily one of my favourite books (and audiobooks) of 2019. As a result, I am very much looking forward to this latest offering from Greaney, and his new Gray Man novel sounds very intriguing.

Goodreads Synopsis:

While on a mission to Croatia, Court Gentry uncovers a human trafficking operation. The trail leads from the Balkans all the way back to Hollywood.

Court is determined to shut it down, but his CIA handlers have other plans. The criminal ringleader has actionable intelligence about a potentially devastating terrorist attack on the US. The CIA won’t move until they have that intel. It’s a moral balancing act with Court at the pivot point.

All three of the above novels should prove to be fantastic and incredible new additions to their respective series and I am very excited to read all of them. Each of these upcoming thrillers are out in the next month or so (Into the Fire is out in late January, the other two are out in February), so I should hopefully start getting copies of them soon. Let me know what thrillers you are excited for this year in the comments below.

Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz

out of the dark cover

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Paperback Edition – 5 February 2019)

Series: Orphan X (Book 4)

Length: 435 pages

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 

The Orphan X series returns with a bang as thriller extraordinaire Gregg Hurwitz sets his long-running protagonist against his most dangerous opponent yet in this fun and exciting new novel.

Evan Smoak is an orphan in every way that matters.  Taken from his foster home as a child and inducted into a top-secret espionage program, Evan was given a new name, Orphan X.  The Orphans are the most lethal secret agents the United States ever produced, taking on missions around the world.  But after years of killing and being lied to, Evan had enough and left the program.  Now using his abilities to stay hidden, Evan has taken on a new identity, The Nowhere Man, a mysterious vigilante who helps people placed in terrible situations.  While Evan is satisfied with his new life, there is one threat from his old life that he needs to kill.  Unfortunately for Evan, that one man is now the President of the United States of America.

As the head of the Orphan program, Jonathan Bennett used the Orphans to promote his illegal and corrupt agendas around the world.  Now that he has achieved his ambition to become President, to cover his tracks he has ordered the death of all the remaining Orphans, as well as the man who was the closest thing Evan had to a father.  Now Orphan X is at the top of his hit list, and the only way to protect himself and the other orphans is to do the impossible and kill Bennett first.

Residing in the most impenetrable building in the world and with the full force of the Secret Service protecting him, Bennett looks to be untouchable, especially as he has unleashed the vengeful Orphan A to hunt Evan down.  However, Orphan X has a plan and is determined to take everything from the President.  Can Evan succeed?  Why is Bennett so concerned with covering up the details of Orphan X’s first mission?  One thing is for sure: all hell is about to break loose in Washington.

Hurwitz is a veteran author whose work mostly fits into the thriller and mystery genres.  He has written a couple of series, including the young adult zombie series, The Rains Brothers, and the thriller-based Tim Rackley series.  In addition, Hurwitz has also written a number of interesting sounding standalone books, including his debut novel, The Tower, as well as a number of comics for DC and Marvel, including Penguin: Pain and Prejudice, 19 issues of Batman: The Dark Knight and even a run on Marvel’s excellent 2004 The Punisher series.  Aside from the two The Rains Brothers novels, Hurwitz’s main work in the last three years has been his Orphan X series.  Out of the Dark is the fourth novel in this series and continues a number of storylines set out in the earlier books.

With the exception of some of his comics, I have not had the pleasure of reading any of Hurwitz’s previous books before, although several do sound very interesting; for example, his 2001 release, Minutes to Burn, has been recommended to me before due to its fun premise.  However, upon hearing that the plot of this book was going to set an elite rogue operative against the President of the United States, I knew that I had to check this book out.  Luckily my propensity for falling for and checking out books with amazing and out-there plot synopsis paid off once again, as I had a lot of fun reading this action-packed thriller.

After some bad experiences in the past, I am always a little apprehensive about coming into a series several books in, and Out of the Dark was no exception, especially as it was the fourth book in the series.  However, Hurwitz does a fantastic job setting out the events leading up to this story, and I did not find myself lost in the slightest as I read this book.  Therefore, I have no hesitation in recommending this book to readers who, like me, were intrigued by the intriguing story concept and want to start the series here.

The main story focuses on Orphan X’s and the President’s attempts to take each other out, and it results in a fast-paced and action-packed thrill ride, as the two sides unleash everything to win.  This main storyline is split between several characters, including Orphan X, the President, the head of the President’s security detail and Orphan A.  Hurwitz spends time exploring each of these characters’ backgrounds, personalities and motivations, allowing for a richer overall story rather than a typical all-action adventure.  In addition to this main storyline, there is also a secondary storyline where Evan, as The Nowhere Man, helps out a person being targeted by a drug lord.  I was a bit uncertain about the necessity of this second storyline, as I was quite enjoying the focus on assassinating the president.  However, I did appreciate how this second storyline was used to convey Evan’s continued search for humanity and redemption after years as an assassin.  Fans of the previous books in the Orphan X series will enjoy a number of inclusions thrown into Out of the Dark, including several characters from the previous books, a continuation of some storylines, and an opening scene that shows Evan’s first mission as Orphan X back in the 1990s.  All of this comes together into an amazing and captivating story that is not only exciting, but which also has some emotional weight backing it up.

Hurwitz takes his plot focus of an elite agent targeting the President and really runs with it.  The protection surrounding the President of the United States of America is legendary, both inside and outside of fiction.  Therefore, the idea that one man can take him out is a crazy idea, especially as Hurwitz makes it clear the sheer amount of resources and firepower that the President’s security detail has on his side.  Indeed, there are several comparisons made throughout the book, showcasing the Secret Service’s tools and resources, and then counterpointing it to the few resources the protagonist has access to.  Despite this, at no point does the reader feel like Orphan X is the underdog, even with Orphan A and his less than savoury cohorts chasing after him.  Indeed, as the book progresses, the President and his security get more and more nervous, especially as Evan makes his various moves.  The protagonist’s overall plan for getting to the President is pretty clever, and I love how this storyline ended.  This was an extremely fun story focus, and I was not disappointed by how Hurwitz showcased it.

It should go without saying that this book is chocked full of action, as there are a number of high-intensity scenes where the protagonist takes it to his opponents.  Hurwitz can write a really good action sequence, and there were some really fun details throughout the book.  The author really uses these scenes to show off what a badass Orphan X is, including an early scene where the protagonist tells several police officers exactly how he is going to take them out and then proceeds to beat the thus-prepared officers in what has to be the ultimate power play.  These action scenes also show off what the Secret Service can do and how impressive their presidential security is.  With plenty of explosions, gunfights, full-on assaults of strongholds and violent hand-to-hand combat sequences, there is plenty in this book for those readers who love a bit of action in their fiction.

Overall, Out of the Dark by Gregg Hurwitz is an amazing read that I had an absolute blast with.  Orphan X continues to reign supreme as one of modern thriller fiction’s most badass protagonists, as he takes on the whole Secret Service.  This is an extremely exciting and clever read that also takes the time to dive into the emotional motivation of its characters.  Out of the Dark is an absolutely stunning blast from Hurwitz and I loved this latest addition to the entertaining Orphan X series.