WWW Wednesday – 7 April 2021

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Turn a Blind Eye by Jeffrey Archer (Hardcover)

Turn a Blind Eye Cover

I just started reading the latest book in Jeffrey Archer’s William Warwick series, Turn a Blind Eye, which follows on from Nothing Ventured and Hidden in Plain Sight.  This is a great crime fiction series with some fun historical fiction elements to it and I am really enjoying this latest entry in the series.  I am hoping to finish it off in the next few days and I am looking forward to seeing how it ends up.

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell (Audiobook)

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

I wasted no time in listening to The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell when it came out and I am deeply enjoying it so far. The Two-Faced Queen is the sequel to Martell’s outstanding 2020 debut, The Kingdom of Liars, which was easily one of my favourite books, audiobook and debut novel of 2020, and continues the epic and captivating story started in the first novel.  I am just over halfway through The Two-Faced Queen at the moment and so far it is just as awesome, if not better than The Kingdom of Liars.  I cannot wait to see how all the intricate storylines unfold and this is definitely one of the better books I have read so far this year.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Chase by Candice Fox (Trade Paperback)

The Chase Cover

The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri (Trade Paperback)

The Three Paradises Cover

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

Later by Stephen King (Audiobook)

Later Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

A Prince and a Spy by Rory Clements (Trade Paperback)

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

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my Autumn 2021 TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this Top Ten Tuesday, participants need to list the top releases that they are looking forward to reading in Spring (or Autumn for us down here in Australia).  This is a fun exercise that I have done for each of the preceding seasons, and it is always interesting to highlight the various cool sounding books that are coming out in the next few months.

For this list I have come up with 10 of the best novels that are coming out between 1 March 2021 and 31 May 2021.  I have decided to exclude novels that I have already read, so that took a couple of key books off the list.  Still, this left me with a rather substantial pool of cool upcoming novels that I am excited for, which I was eventually able to whittle down into a great Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have previously discussed a number of these books before in prior Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be some really impressive and enjoyable reads.  I am actually really excited for the next three months as there are some incredible novels coming out, several of which I already know are going to be amongst the best books of 2021.

 

Honourable Mentions:


Blackout
by Simon Scarrow – 30 March 2021

Blackout Cover

 

Crusader by Ben Kane – 27 April 2021

Crusader Cover

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – 4 May 2021

Project Hail Mary Cover

 

Gamora & Nebula: Sisters in Arms by Mackenzi Lee – 1 June 2021

Gamora and Nebula - Sisters in Arms Cover

 

Top Ten List:


The Councillor
by E. J. Beaton – 2 March 2021

The Councillor Cover

The first entry on this list is a rather intriguing fantasy debut from Australian author E. J. Beaton.  The Councillor looks set to contain a thrilling and clever tale about politics, murder and betrayal in a cool new fantasy realm.  This book has a lot of potential and I am rather keen to check it out.

 

Star Wars: Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed – 4 March 2021

Star Wars - Victory's Price Cover

I had to include at least one Star Wars book on this list (it’s practically a tradition for me at this point), and while I was very tempted to include the new Thrawn Ascendency novel, Greater Good (especially after how much I enjoyed the previous book, Chaos Rising), I instead decided I am a little more excited for Star Wars: Victory’s Price.  Victory’s Price is the third and final entry in Alexander Freed’s excellent Alphabet Squadron series which follows a rag-tag group of New Republic pilots in the aftermath of Return of the Jedi.  The last two books, Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall, have been really exceptional reads, and I am very excited to see how this amazing series ends.

 

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst – 9 March 2021

The Bone Maker Cover

Last year I was lucky enough to enjoy fantasy author Sara Beth Durst’s work for the first time when I checked out her 2020 release, Race the Sands, which featured a captivating conspiracy around monster racing.  Race the Sands was an epic read that I deeply enjoyed and it ended up being one of my favourite books (and audiobooks) of 2020.  As a result, I have been rather keen to check out Durst’s next standalone fantasy book, The Bone Maker.  I actually started reading The Bone Maker today and have made a fair bit of progress already.  So far it has been pretty amazing and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

 

Breakout by Paul Herron – 9 March 2021

Breakout Cover

Another intriguing debut, Breakout is a fantastically fun sounding thriller which sees a mostly innocent man attempt to escape from the most secure prison in the planet, whilst it is in the process of getting flooded during a raging storm.  This has so much potential for action-packed fun and I am sure it is going to be an absolute blast to read.

 

Firefly: Life Signs by James Lovegrove – 16 March 2021

Firefly Life Signs

Another fantastic tie-in novel that I am looking forward to reading this month is the awesome sounding Firefly: Life Signs.  I have been really loving the awesome batch of Firefly novels that have been released recently (Big Damn Hero, The Magnificent Nine, Generations and The Ghost Machine), and Life Signs sounds particularly good, especially as they revisit an interesting, unused storyline from the show.  This should be an outstanding read and I am looking forward to it.

 

The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell – 30 March 2021

The Two-Faced Queen Cover

Last year, Nick Martell had one of the best debuts of 2020 with The Kingdom of Liars, a clever and captivating fantasy novel, set in a world where magic steals people’s memories.  The Kingdom of Liars was an exceptionally amazing read and I have been really keen to see how the sequel turns out.  I have already heard some intriguing things about this book and I am hoping that it will be just as good, if not better, than Martell’s impressive first novel.

 

A Comedy of Terrors by Lindsey Davis – 30 March 2021

A Comedy of Terrors Cover

I am always very happy when a new Lindsey Davis novel is released, and her current body of work, the Flavia Alba Roman historical fiction series, has featured some exceptional novels in recent years (check out my reviews for The Last Nero, Pandora’s Boy, A Capitol Death and The Grove of the Caesars).  The next book in the series, A Comedy of Terrors, has an incredible sounding story to it, with murder and treason occurring during a popular festival.  I am extremely keen to unwrap this latest historical mystery and I am hoping for another clever and entertaining read.

 

Usagi Yojimbo: Homecoming by Stan Sakai – 14 April 2021

Usagi Yojimbo - Homecoming

It has been a long year, but my favourite comic book series, the incredible Usagi Yojimbo series by the legendary Stan Sakai, is finally releasing another volume.  The upcoming Usagi Yojimbo comic, Homecoming, is the second volume to be released completely in colour (the other being last years Bunraku and Other Stories), and has an intense sounding story and will no doubt be filled with exciting characters, impressive art work and Sakai’s trademark love for Japanese culture and heritage.  I already know that I am going to deeply love this amazing comic and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

 

The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence – 5 May 2021

The Girl and the Mountain Cover

Last year I finally got around to reading one of Mark Lawrence’s impressive fantasy novels, The Girl and the Stars, which followed a young women forced to survive in the dark and dangerous world beneath a desolate ice planet.  I had an outstanding time reading this book and I am now extremely keen to read Lawrence’s next novel, The Girl and the Mountain.  This cool sounding upcoming sequel looks set to continue the epic story started in The Girl and the Stars, and I am really excited to see what happens next.

 

Protector by Conn Iggulden – 18 May 2021

Protector Cover Final

The final book on this list is Protector, the next novel from the always incredible Conn Iggulden, who is one of the best authors of historical fiction in the world today.  Protector is the sequel to last year’s awesome read The Gates of Athens and is part of a great series that will chart the rise and fall of ancient Athens.  This next book will continue to detail the war against the Persians while also highlighting some of the leading figures in the city, and I already know that this is going to be an exceptional and epic read.

 

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

Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray

Star Wars - Into the Dark Cover

Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio (Audiobook – 2 February 2021)

Series: Star Wars – The High Republic

Length: 11 hours and 11 minutes

My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars

The journey into the new era of Star Wars fiction known as The High Republic continues as acclaimed author Claudia Gray presents the next entry into this sub-series with the young adult novel, Star Wars: Into the Dark.

The High Republic is a fantastic Star Wars multimedia project made up of novels, comics and other pieces of Star Wars expanded universe fiction, set hundreds of years before the events of the films, showing a completely different period of Star Wars history.  This project started in January 2021 with the excellent novel, Light of the Jedi, which served as an impressive introduction to the period and the turmoils facing it.  Into the Dark, which runs somewhat concurrently with the events of Light of the Jedi, is the first young adult High Republic novel and presents an intriguing new adventure with a great group of new characters.  This young adult novel was written by the amazing Claudia Gray, author of the Evernight series, who has been making a real splash with Star Wars fiction in recent years.  Not only did she write the awesome-sounding novels Star Wars: Lost Stars, Star Wars: Bloodline and Star Wars: Leia, Princess of Alderaan (all three of which I fully intend to read in the future), but she also wrote the outstanding 2019 novel, Star Wars: Master and Apprentice, which is one of my absolute favourite Star Wars novels of all time.  As a result, I was quite keen to see Gray’s take on The High Republic era and she did not disappoint with a captivating and fascinating novel that was a lot of fun to read.

Jedi Padawan Reath Silas is about to have the adventure of his life, whether he wants it or not.  Apprenticed to the powerful Jedi Master Jora Malii, Reath is happy with his life on Coruscant where he can pursue his academic and scholarly interests.  However, his master has just accepted a dangerous new posting aboard the Starlight Beacon, a gigantic Republic-controlled space station on the frontier of the Outer Rim, far away from everything Reath has ever known. 

However, fate has a funny way of changing even the best laid plans. Reath, leaving Coruscant a few weeks after his master’s departure, finds himself caught up in the disaster sweeping through the galaxy.  Travelling aboard the unusual spaceship known as the Vessel, Reath and three other Jedi, each of whom have their own reasons for leaving the Jedi Temple and journeying into the wilds, encounter a mysterious disturbance out in hyperspace, as the remnants of the ship know as the Legacy Run, splinter out at lightspeed, destroying everything in their path.

To avoid the high-speed fragments, the Vessel makes an urgent jump out of hyperspace and finds itself trapped in an isolated portion of space with several other ships.  Forced to seek shelter in a seemingly abandoned space station, the Jedi and the Vessel’s crew attempt to work with the other ships to find a way to survive until hyperspace can once again be travelled safely.  However, great danger lies in wait aboard this station, as the various crews fight for resources and each of the Jedi are forced to fight their own inner demons.  But there are things far darker and more ancient aboard this station, and Reath and his colleagues will soon be forced to face off against a deadly foe whose reappearance could change the galaxy forever.

Into the Dark is another epic and enjoyable Star Wars novel from Claudia Gray that takes the reader on a fantastic and exciting character driven adventure.  I have been really enjoying the new High Republic pieces of Star Wars fiction and Into the Dark ended up being an awesome and compelling young adult feature that not only contains a great story, but which dives into some fascinating subjects through the eyes of its amazing characters.

Gray has come up with an excellent and enjoyable narrative for Into the Dark which not only ties in nicely with the previous entries in the High Republic line but which also sets several fantastic new characters on a captivating and emotionally trying adventure.  The author starts the story off well, introducing all the key characters in quick succession (indeed six main characters get introduced in one extended sequence), providing some hints at their compelling backstories before sending them on their way into space.  It does not take long before they get wrapped up in the chaotic events that featured in the previous High Republic novel, Light of the Jedi, forcing them to explore the main setting of the abandoned space station.  This naturally leads to a lot of exciting and intriguing events as the characters are forced to survive for a time on the station with the crews of several other ships.  During this time, a lot of story threads start to appear, such as mysterious statues, dangers from the other crews, strange writings on the wall that have significance to one key character and a lingering sense of darkness that assaults the Jedi. 

At the same time, the author dives into several of the main characters’ motivations and the events of the past that drive them, including through a series of interesting flashbacks that have some curious connections to modern day events.  The middle of the novel keeps up the excitement where, after a major event, the characters return home, only to continue to be assailed by the mysteries of the station.  There are several good twists at this part of the book, including a significant reveal about a side character that I really should have seen coming.  Eventually, all the characters reunite and return, only to get drawn into a dangerous confrontation on the station as gathered forces finally show their hand.  All of this results in an explosive and impressive conclusion that leaves some interesting story arcs open for the main characters while also ensuring that the reader gets some satisfying closure about the events of the book.  I really enjoyed this great narrative, which is filled with some clever story threads which come together extremely well into a fast-paced and compelling young adult tale that readers will get through extremely quickly.

Into the Dark is an interesting read which I felt had a wide range of appeal to a lot of different audiences.  This latest book has been marketed as a young adult novel and teenage Star Wars fans will enjoy it.  Not only is this a great Star Wars adventure but the book also features a couple of great teenage characters taking charge and attempting to initiate change, for better or worse, as the universe changes around them.  While primarily a Star Wars novel, Gray does try to make it a little more relevant to teenagers, with some discussions about relationships, drugs and sex that you wouldn’t typically see in a Star Wars novel but which fit the tone of the book quite well.  Like many Star Wars young adult novels, Into the Dark is a book that older readers will also enjoy, especially as it is tied into the main events of the High Republic era.  While I think readers unfamiliar with The High Republic could easily enjoy this book, as Gray makes the text extremely accessible, I would say that Into the Dark is probably best enjoyed by those who have read some of the previous entries in the media project, especially the opening novel Light of the JediInto the Dark has a lot of connections to Light of the Jedi, especially as a major event impacting the main protagonist of this book occurs in this preceding novel, and this latest book ties in well with the rest of the franchise while also enhancing it.  In addition, Star Wars fans will really appreciate the author’s attempt to explore deeper elements of the Force, with the Jedi characters engaging in complex rituals to combat the Dark Side energy they encounter.  The author does an amazing job examining some of the roots of the Force, as well as the mentality and abilities of the people who manipulate it, and it is a fascinating addition to the narrative.  As a result, Into the Dark can be enjoyed by a large range of people who are guaranteed to have a lot of fun with it.

Easily one of the best highlights of this book is the amazing group of new unique characters who Gray has populated this story with.  The author has come up with a great group of intriguing point-of-view characters, each of whom plays a major part in the book’s plot and who Gray spends substantial time introducing and providing some compelling development as the book progresses.  The main character of Into the Dark is Padawan Reath Silas, the bookish apprentice of a great Jedi Master.  Reath is a fantastic young adult fiction protagonist, being a teenager who is thrust into a dangerous adventure against his will and who must find his inner strength to survive and thrive.  The author does a great job developing Reath throughout the novel, especially as he experiences substantial loss and trauma that he must overcome and which changes his entire outlook on life.  This character also provides some fascinating insight into the experiences and troubles of a Jedi apprentice, especially when they encounter great uncertainty about their path.  All of this results in some excellent character moments, and it was a lot of fun to see how Reath developed. 

Another major protagonist of this book is Affie Hollow, the young teen co-pilot of the Vessel.  Affie is another great young adult character, although, as she is more worldly (or the outer space equivalent of worldly?) than the somewhat sheltered Reath, she has a bit more common sense and a heck of a lot more sass.  Affie has a pretty intriguing story arc that sees her investigate the mysterious involvement of her shipping guild, which is run by her adoptive mother, with the space station that the Vessel ends up on.  This investigation, and her own stubborn determination, places her in the middle of some dangerous situations, and she ends up having to make some emotional and ethical choices towards the end of the book.

Other major characters in the novel are two of the Jedi who accompany Reath aboard the Vessel, Orla Jareni, a Jedi set on becoming a Wayseeker, a Jedi independent of the Council, and Cohmac Vitus, a noted and hooded scholar, both of whom are leaving for the frontier for different reasons.  Orla and Cohmac are an interesting pair who are bound together by a long history and a shared trauma in their past.  The events of this novel impact both severely, as it reminds them of the first mission they completed together, which is shown to the reader through a series of intriguing flashbacks.  Despite being fully-fledged Jedi, both Orla and Cohmac are filled with doubts about their order and their purpose, although for very different reasons.  This makes them quite a fascinating pair to follow, as they admit their problems to each other and attempt to come to terms with what it is to be a Jedi Knight and the difficulties that all of them face.  There is also Dez Rydan, a younger Jedi knight who has a close connection to Reath due to them sharing the same master.  Dez is a hotshot, adventure-driven Jedi who, while fun to follow, does not get as much focus as the others, mainly due to the events of the book.  However, he goes through a substantial amount of trauma, which results in some intriguing sequences, and I quite enjoyed seeing his story progress.

While the above group of characters are all interesting and well developed, I have to say that my favourite two characters have the be the hilarious and comedic team of Leox Gyasi and Geode, the other two crewmembers of the Vessel.  Leox, the captain of the Vessel, is a space hippy, down to the outfit, speech pattern and mentality.  Described by the author as essentially being 1990s Matthew McConaughey in a spaceship, Leox has a lot of fun as he breezes through the events of Into the Dark with ease, passing out words of wisdom and advice, and generally being a nice and entertaining presence throughout the story.  While mainly the book’s comic relief (a role he fills perfectly), Leox does have a serious side, especially when it comes to protecting his young compatriot, Affie.  I also liked that the author portrays Leox as asexual, which think is great for the wider Star Wars universe, and I felt Gray introduced and handled it extremely well.  The other great character was the Vessel’s navigator, Geode.  As you may be able to guess from the name, Geode is in fact a large sentient alien rock who can apparently communicate and walk around.  If you had asked me before reading Into the Dark whether I would enjoy a character who is a mute rock, I probably would have had some issues with it, but Gray makes it work extremely well and I absolutely loved the inclusion of this character.  Since Geode does not speak out loud through the entire novel, the reader is a little uncertain whether Geode is actually alive or whether this is some elaborate joke from the characters aboard the Vessel.  Watching Affie and Leox apparently have detailed conversations with him, determine his emotional state just by looking at him, and suggesting that the character has a wild and outgoing personality is pretty hilarious, and I ended up really liking this fantastic character, who was a real solid (snigger) addition to the cast. 

Considering that the last Star Wars novel of Gray’s that I read ended up being one of the best audiobooks I read in 2019, it should come as no surprise that I chose to listen to Into the Dark’s audiobook.  Like pretty much every other Star Wars audiobook I have previously listened to, Into the Dark was pretty awesome in this format, thanks to the use of sound effects and music from the films and animated shows.  The Star Wars sound effects (which include the iconic sounds of blasters, lightsabers, star ships and so much more) add so much cool ambience to the narrative and the amazing music increases the emotional impact of a ton of awesome scenes, even though it was used a little more subtlety with this book.  I also quite enjoyed the narration of Dan Bittner, an experienced narrator whose work I have not previously had the pleasure of enjoying.  Bittner does an impressive job with Into the Dark, as he was able to move the story along at a swift pace while easily keeping the listener’s attention with his narration.  I particularly liked the cool voices that he came up with for the various characters featured in this novel, and he was able to produce distinctive voices that fit the characters really well.  I also loved the “hippie” voice that he came up with for Leox, and the good-natured, ethereal tone really stood out for me and made me laugh.  With a run time of 11 hours, this is not a very long Star Wars audiobook, and listeners should be able to power through it in short order while having a good time.  Overall, this was an impressive production, and audiobook remains my favourite way to check out a Star Wars novel.

Star Wars: Into the Dark is an outstanding and compelling young adult tie in novel that takes the reader on another amazing adventure in the Star Wars universe during the High Republic era.  The always awesome Claudia Gray has come up with a fantastic and captivating tale, anchored around several entertaining and wonderfully complex characters.  The result is an excellent Star Wars novel that will have a wide amount of appeal and is really worth checking out.

Top Ten Tuesday – Book I Need to Clear Off my to-read List

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, Top Ten Tuesday participants have been given a spring-cleaning freebie where we can do any list we want provided it falls within the general them of spring-cleaning.  In this spirt (even though it is autumn where I am) I have decided to list the top ten books that I need to “clean” off my to-read list by reading and reviewing them.

Over the years I have received or written about a huge number of different awesome novels, many of which I would love to read and feature on this blog.  However, there are only so many hours in the day, so quite a few books fall through the cracks, or more accurately they end up on a bookshelf, silently judging me.  I do fully intend to read these books at some point, especially as in several cases I have enjoyed previous entries in the series.  So, in the spirit of spring-cleaning, I have decided to focus this list on books I want to read that are currently clogging up my bookshelf (or digital equivalent). 

Using these criteria, I was able to come up with a list filled with an interesting variety of different books.  I tried to mainly feature amazing-sounding books that have been on my shelf for an extended period, but in a few cases I chose some more recent novels that I particularly want to check out.  I have featured several of these books in Waiting on Wednesday articles in the past, which adds to the reasons why I want to check them out.  Hopefully, this list will light a bit of a fire under me to encourage me to read some, if not all of these books, soon.  So let us see what was on the list.

 

Honourable Mentions:

Duplicity by Richard Evans

Duplicity Cover

 

Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett

Shorefall cover

 

Ashlords by Scott Reintgen

Ashlords Cover

 

Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw

Grave Importance Cover

 

Top Ten List:

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

The Devil and the Dark Water Cover

The first entry on this list is one of the books that I most regret not reading last year, The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton.  The Devil and the Dark Water is the second novel from Turton following his epic debut, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which was one of my favourite books of 2018.  Due to how awesome Turton’s first novel was, I have been really keen to check out The Devil and the Dark Water for a while but have just not been able to add it into the reading schedule.  This is definitely one of the top books I want to read soon, and I look forward to seeing what sort of outstanding narrative Turton came up with in his second novel.

 

Salvation Lost by Peter F. Hamilton

Salvation Lost Cover

I have been meaning to check out Salvation Lost for a very long time ever since I finished off the preceding novel, SalvationSalvation was an exceedingly epic science fiction novel set on a futuristic Earth, filled with some cool technology, fantastic mysteries, and a subtle alien invasion.  I am a little annoyed with myself that I have completely failed to read Salvation Lost, especially as the third novel in the series, The Saints of Salvation, came out last year.  I really want to read this book this year and I know that I am going to love the complex tale contained within.

 

War Lord by Bernard Cornwell

War_Lord_cover.PNG

This is another book that I am quite surprised I have not gotten around to reading yet.  War Lord is the latest book from one of my favourite authors, Bernard Cornwell, and serves as the final entry in his long running The Last Kingdom series.  I have loved this series for a very long time, and I think I may be holding off reading it because I don’t want the series to end.  Still, this is one that I really must read this year and it should turn out to be another fantastic historical read.

 

#MurderFunding by Gretchen McNeil

#MurderFunding Cover

The young adult thriller #MurderFunding is the intriguing sequel to the insanely entertaining #MurderTrending.  It sees several teenagers get brutally murdered on live television as they get caught up in a dangerous conspiracy.  I love the premise of this series and I am hoping to read this book soon, especially after I just finished off the prequel novel #NoEscape a couple of months ago and absolutely loved it.

 

Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller

Star Wars - A New Dawn Cover

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I love Star Wars novels, so it should come as no surprise that one will show up on this list.  While I have plans to eventually read all the Star Wars tie-in novels, both in the current canon and in the Star Wars Legends range (an admittedly big job), the entry that I have been meaning to check out the longest is A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller.  Serving as a tie-in to the outstanding Star Wars Rebels animated series, A New Dawn is an awesome-sounding origin tale of two of the series’ main characters, and I have had it loaded on my phone for over a year.  I am particularly keen to check it out after enjoying one of Miller’s other novels last year, Star Trek Discovery: Die Standing, which was a particularly clever and impressive read.  Hopefully I will get through A New Dawn at some point this year, although I may have to prioritise several upcoming Star Wars novels first.

 

Alien: Echo by Mira Grant

Alien Echo Cover

This next entry is an intriguing young adult science fiction novel that ties into the Alien franchise, Alien: Echo.  I must admit that while I have never had an amazing amount of interest in the Alien films or expanded universe, this is one book that I am particularly keen to check out.  The main reason for this is that it was written by the outstanding Mira Grant.  Grant is a talented author who has come up with some epic horror reads, including the incredible Into the Drowning Deep (killer mermaids!), the cool-sounding Newsflesh trilogy, and even a great entry in a Night of the Living Dead anthology.  Due to how awesome her previous books are, I really want to see her take on an Alien novel and I have a feeling that Alien: Echo is going to be pretty amazing.

 

The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons

The Ruin of Kings Cover

The Ruin of Kings is an intriguing fantasy novel that I have been trying to read for over two years now.  I really loved the concept of The Ruin of Kings, the first book in the A Chorus of Dragons series, when I received it and I then went on to hear some amazing reviews from a substantial number of fellow reviewers, making it an extremely appealing option to check out.  I will have to read it at some point, especially as I also received copies of The Ruin of Kings’ two sequels, The Name of all Things and The Memory of Souls.  A fourth book in the series, The House of Always, is set for release in a couple of months (with a really gnarly octopus cover on it), and it would be cool if I could read The Ruin of Kings before that.

 

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Words of Radiance Cover

I had to include the epic novel Words of a Radiance on this list as I have been thinking about reading it for some time.  The second novel in Brandon Sanderson’s massive and highly acclaimed Stormlight Archive series, Words of Radiance follows on from the outstanding The Way of Kings, which is quite frankly one of the best fantasy books I have ever read.  Words of Radiance continues the amazingly complex story started in The Way of Kings, and I really want to see what happens to the captivating characters next.  However, I honestly have just not had the time to check out Words of Radiance due to the sheer length of the book.  The Way of Kings was the longest audiobook I ever listened to and Words of Radiance is even longer, with a 48+ hour runtime.  Finding that sort of window in my reading schedule is hard, but it will probably be worth it, especially as it will allow me to finally get onto the copies of the third and fourth books of The Stormlight Archive that are currently on my shelf (I received copies of Oathbringer and Rhythm of War), both of which I have not touched because I wanted to read Words of Radiance first.

 

The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso

The Obsidian Tower Cover

This is the latest novel from rising fantasy star Melissa Caruso, set in the same world as her awesome Swords and Fire series.  I absolutely loved all three novels in the Swords and Fire series (The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir and The Unbound Empire), so I am extremely keen to see how Caruso continues her epic universe.  Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to read The Obsidian Tower when it came out and it has languished on the shelf ever since.  I really want to read this book and I will have to check it out soon before Caruso releases her next novel, The Quicksilver Court, in November this year.

 

Bright Steel by Miles Cameron

Bright Steel Cover

The final entry on this list is the outstanding sounding release Bright Steel by Miles Cameron.  Bright Steel is the third and final entry in the Masters & Mages series, which charts the adventures of a farmer’s son who is thrust into the midst of world-altering events.  I had an incredible time reading the first two novels in the series, Cold Iron and Dark Forge, both of which were amazing five-star novels, and I have been hoping to read this final book for some time.  I will probably get around to finishing this trilogy off later this year, although I will be reading Cameron’s latest novel, Artifact Space, first.

 


That is the end of this latest Top Ten list.  I think it came out quite nicely and hopefully it will entice me to read some of the above novels soon.  All of the above sound really cool and I am highly confident that I will have a blast reading each and every one of them.  While I get around to doing that, why don’t you let me know which books you want to clean off your to-read list, as well if you have enjoyed any of the above

WWW Wednesday – 3 March 2021

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Art of Death by David Fennell (Trade Paperback)

The Art of Death Cover

I have made some serious progress on this cool new murder mystery novel from debuting author David Fennell and so far I am very much enjoying it.  The Art of Death is a great book that sees a murderous artist pose his kills throughout the streets of London as part of a twisted exhibition (think evil Banksy).  I am about halfway through The Art of Death at the moment and it has a pretty cool mystery to it that should be really fun to unravel.

Relentless by Mark Greaney (Audiobook)

Relentless by Mark Greaney Cover

I finally got a chance to start reading Relentless, one of my most anticipated releases for the 2021Relentless is the 10th book in Greaney’s outstanding Gray Man series and follows it’s assassin protagonist as he attempts to identify a new enemy threatening the CIA for their own nefarious reasons.  I have a lot of love for this series after deeply enjoying the previous two entries in the series, Mission Critical and One Minute Out (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2020), and this latest novel is so far pretty epic, full of cool espionage and intense action.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe (Trade Paperback)

The Girls I've Been Cover

Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty by Josh Reynolds (Audiobook)

Kal Jerico - Sinner's Bounty Cover

The Hunting by Stephen Leather (Trade Paperback)

The Hunting Cover

Storm Front by Jim Butcher (Audiobook)

Storm Front Cover

Star Wars: The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Into the Dark Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Three Paradises by Robert Fabbri (Trade Paperback)

The Three Paradises Cover

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

Top Ten Tuesday – Books That Made Me Laugh Out Loud

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  For this latest Top Ten Tuesday, participants have the fun task of listing their favourite books that made them laugh out loud.

While coming up with list was an enjoyable and entertaining task, this was a topic that I slightly struggled with as I don’t tend to read purely comedic novels.  Instead, I usually get my comedic fix through somewhat more serious books that have funny protagonists or are filled with jokes or excellent humour.  Nonetheless, I was able to pull together a good list in the end filled with some amazing reads that always leave me laughing.  I did end up having to feature multiple books from the same authors to fill this list up, but these guys are just so funny it was hard not to.  So, with that, let us get on to the funny stuff.

 

Honourable Mentions:

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra by Sarah Kuhn

Doctor Aphra Audio Cover

 

Nuking the Moon: And Other Intelligence Schemes and Military Plots Best Left on the Drawing Board by Vince Houghton

Nuking the Moon Cover

With luminous foxes and exploding bats, this fun non-fiction book is proof that reality is sometimes stranger, and more hilarious, than fiction.

 

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

Early Riser Cover

 

Footrot Flats by Murray Ball

Footrot Flats Cover

An amazing comic strip I loved in my childhood thanks to my fun grandfather.  This cool New Zealand comic still holds up even after all these years and makes me laugh like crazy every time I read it.

 

Top Ten List:

Jingo by Terry Pratchett

Jingo Cover

I do not think that anyone is going to be too surprised that I have featured several books from the utterly hilarious and indefinably clever Terry Pratchett.  Pratchett is easily my favourite author of all time, and I have so much love for his amazing Discworld series, the novels of which I have read and re-read time and time again, and each of them always makes me laugh.  I ended up including five Discworld books on this list, which I honestly think is me showing restraint, as I could have filled up three separate lists purely with Discworld novels.  The first of these books is one I am particularly fond of, Jingo, which sees the Ankh-Morpork City Watch attempt to stop a war.  Filled with all manner of jokes about war, political assassinations and jingoism, while also featuring an hilarious boat chase in unusual weather, Captain Carrot turning into Lawrence of Arabia and an entire battlefield arrested for causing an affray, this book never fails to amuse me, and I always laugh while reading it.

 

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit Cover

The second entry on this list was last years awesome and captivating release from Jasper Fforde, The Constant Rabbit.  Set in an alternate version of England filled with anthropomorphic rabbits, Fforde has come up with an outrageous narrative that is both fantastically funny while also serving as a clever send up of current British politics.  I laughed at so many scenes during this book, including a great court sequence, that The Constant Rabbit easily made this list and is really worth checking out.

 

The Last Continent by Terry Pratchett

The Last Continent Cover

The next Discworld novel to appear on this list is The Last Continent, a very amusing novel that pits Pratchett’s main protagonist, the cowardly wizard Rincewind, against the terrors and horrors of that most dangerous of places, Australia (although the author is very clear to state that this is not a book about Australia, it just seems, in some places, very Australian, so no worries, right?).  Naturally, Rincewind manages to run into every single dangerous Australian stereotype you can think of, including road gangs trying to steal a mad dwarf’s hay, talking kangaroos, drop bears, a chronic lack of rain and, worst of all, a local delicacy (a pea soup pie floater, shudder!).  The Australian jokes and references come thick and fast throughout this book, which become even more entertaining when viewed from the point-of-view of someone born and raised in Australia.  At the same time, the wizards of Unseen University engage in their own separate adventure, which sees them lost in the past (potentially killing their own grandparents) and forced to contend with a sex-obsessed god of evolution (once someone explains what sex is to him).  All of this makes for a hilarious and captivating read that is easily one of my favourite Discworld books, and one which I will always have a good laugh at.

 

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

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

There was no way that I could not include the impressive and captivating Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City on this list.  Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City, which was one of my favourite books of 2019, tells the story of a desperate and comical siege of a major fantasy city.  Told from the perspective of a very unreliable narrator, this book sees the protagonist defend his city with the most effective weapon he has, bluffs and lies.  This is an outstanding book, and readers are guaranteed to giggle at every single manipulation, con and elaborate subterfuge that is deployed to save the city.

 

Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

Moving Pictures Cover

A Discworld book that is perfect for movie buffs, Moving Pictures examines what happens when a new form of entertainment comes to this crazy world, giving a whole new meaning to the term “movie magic”.  There are so many great jokes and references in this compelling and exceptional book, that multiple re-reads are a must to see just how clever Pratchett really was.  Highlights include the introduction of multiple amazing characters, a reverse King Kong moment and a very entertaining Gone With The Wind parody (to this day I cannot hear the words “Blown Away” without thinking about this book and sniggering).  An impressive comedic treat.

 

Redshirts by John Scalzi

Redshirts Cover

A Star Trek parody written by science fiction genius John Scalzi was always going to be an amazing read, and it proves to be utterly hilarious.  I loved all the fantastic jokes made about Star Trek in this book, and it was extremely funny to see the adventures of an Enterprise equivalent ship told from the perspective of the doomed redshirts.  I had some good laughs as I powered through this book and it is an incredible comedy read to check out.

 

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

Pyramids Cover

Another long-time favourite Discworld novel of mine is the outstanding Pyramids, which serves as a comedic adventure in an ancient Egyptian facsimile.  Pratchett came up with some fantastic sequences for this book, and I always chuckle at the scene with the various sun gods fighting for their prize like a football while a priest does commentary: “It’s noon! It’s noon!”.  An utterly hilarious novel.

 

A Shot in the Dark by Lynne Truss

A Shot in the Dark Cover

This next excellent entry on this list is A Shot in the Dark, Lyne Truss’s novelisation of her genius Inspector Steine radio show.  This serves as an amazing take on this fantastic radio show and I loved the comical premise which sees a new police constable be reassigned to the seemingly crime free Brighton, only to discover something very sinister is lurking just around the corner, ready to offer him a cup of tea.  A very funny and entertaining read that got a lot of laughs out of me.

 

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

Guards! Guards! Cover

The fifth Discworld novel on this list is the exceptional Guards! Guards!, which serves as the introductory book in the City Watch subseries.  This is an outstanding read that presents a fantasy parody of classic crime fiction novels, by having a severely understaffed police force attempt to arrest a summoned dragon.  There are so many clever comedic scenes in this book, but I personally laughed the hardest as the descriptions of the heroic and naïve Captain Carrot arresting the head of the Thieves Guild.  One of Pratchett’s best and funniest books, this is a great one to check out if you want to laugh out loud.

 

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

How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It

My final entry is How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It, the sequel to Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City that I featured above.  This excellent and amazing read (which was one of my favourite books of 2020) continues the story started in the first novel, although this time it follows an actor who manages to con his way to the top of the besieged city using stage techniques.  This was another hilarious and exceptional read that really made me chuckle multiple times.



That is the end of this list.  I think it came together really well and I liked the different novels I decided to feature, even if it was a tad Pratchett heavy (not that there is anything wrong with that).  All the above novels come highly recommended and are definitely worth reading if you are in the mood for a funny and laugh provoking read.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule

Star Wars - Light of the Jedi Cover

Publisher: Random House Audio (Audiobook – 5 January 2021)

Series: Star Wars – The High Republic

Length: 13 hours and 35 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out 5 stars

Boldly venture into a bright new era of the Star Wars universe as acclaimed science fiction author Charles Soule introduces the first entry in the High Republic multimedia publishing project, Light of the Jedi.

We are all the Republic!

Two hundred years before the events of The Phantom Menace and the Skywalker Saga, the Republic was at its absolute height in influence, technology and culture, in a period of time known as the High Republic.  With the glorious Jedi Order leading the charge, nothing seems capable of slowing down the inevitable expansion of the Republic, especially with the creation of the Starlight Beacon, a vast space station designed to bring Republic influence to the darkest corners of the Outer Rim.

However, all it takes is one event to threaten everything.  In the depths of hyperspace, tragedy strikes when the transport ship Legacy Run, taking settlers to the Outer Rim, encounters something while travelling at light speed and is torn apart.  Shortly after, in the agricultural system of Hetzal, chunks of the ship emerge from hyperspace at incredible speeds and begin to rain down across the systems, planets and moons in an extinction-level event.  Disaster is only partially averted by the arrival of the Jedi, who work tirelessly and valiantly in an effort to save as many lives as possible.

As more pieces of debris begin to strike other systems within the Republic and the Chancellor initiates a hyperspace blockade, the Jedi are tasked with determining the origin of the crashed ship before more tragedies can occur.  As the Jedi, led by Master Avar Kriss, begin to investigate, they quickly determine that a mysterious new party has taken a twisted interest in the disaster, the Nihil.   The Nihil are a group of ruthless and chaotic raiders with dark secrets and a sinister origin, who appear out of nowhere and take what they want.  Armed with unique technology and abilities, the Nihil are about to engage in a deadly campaign against the Republic and the Jedi which the galaxy may never recover from.

I think it is fair to say that the High Republic is off to a smashing start with this exciting and captivating novel.  The High Republic is an intriguing new publishing campaign that aims to present a bold new era of Star Wars tie-in fiction.  Set around 200 years before the events of the earliest Star Wars film, the High Republic will consist of a series of connected novels, including adult, young adult and young reader books, as well as several comics, manga and audiobooks, all set in the same period of Star Wars history, with a whole new range of different characters and storylines.  The High Republic project has been in the works for some time, with several of the best Star Wars tie-in fiction authors banding together to come up with the overarching story and universe.  These various storylines are likely going to lead into some form of movie of television series in the future, especially after the success of shows like The Mandalorian, representing a whole new creative frontier for these amazing authors.

The subject of this review is Light of the Jedi, the first book in the High Republic range, which introduces readers to this fascinating time period in the Star Wars universe.  This essential introductory novel was written by the extremely talented Charles Soule, who is one of the main creative voices of this project.  Soule is a fantastic author who, in addition to writing several cool science fiction novels, is probably best known for his work in the comic book world, having authored a number of major series, such as Thunderbolts vol. 2, She-Hulk vol. 3, Death of Wolverine, and Daredevil vol. 5, just to name a few.  I personally know Soule best from his various Star Wars comics, including the very cool Poe Dameron series, The Rise of Kylo Ren miniseries and his current run on the main Star Wars series (I really need to review the first volume of that).  My favourite of Soule’s Star Wars comics is the exceptional Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith series, which followed Darth Vader in the immediate aftermath of his turn to the dark side.  This was a deeply impressive series (check out my reviews for Volume 2: Legacy’s End and Volume 3: The Burning Seas, the latter of which was one of my favourite releases of 2018), with some captivating and clever storylines, and it easily one of my favourite Star Wars comics of all time.  As a result, I have been eagerly awaiting this impressive author’s first Star Wars novel, and Light of the Jedi did not disappoint as Soule created a fantastic and epic tale that I really enjoyed.

At the heart of this great novel is an exciting and compelling narrative that takes the reader on a wild adventure into the depths of Star Wars space and beyond.  Soule presents a brilliant multifaceted tale in Light of the Jedi, told from the perspective of a huge number of different characters, each of whom add some fantastic perspectives to the wider narrative.  This novel has an amazing start, with the first third of Light of the Jedi showing the cataclysmic event that rocks the galaxy and the subsequent attempts to avert it in great detail.  This entire first part of the book is pretty fantastic, filled with destruction, heroics and amazing character introductions, all of which is overlayed to a countdown clock that hints at a bigger and more destructive event to come.  I really enjoyed this fast-paced and intense start to the book, especially as Soule adds in some fantastically written action-packed scenes, loaded with some dramatic and tragic moments, setting up the novel’s subsequent story perfectly.  The rest of the book splits into several separate but related storylines that show the aftermath of the opening chaos, introduces and highlights the overall antagonists of the book, and expands on the introduced characters.  All of the storylines featured in this part of the book are extremely interesting and compelling, presenting several unique adventures with some excellent twists, while also examining cool aspects of the Star Wars universe.  The huge range of storylines and character arcs complement each other really well, producing a balanced and captivating tale that comes together extremely well in the end.  All of this leads up to an epic conclusion that not only serves as a great ending to the various storylines featured in Light of the Jedi but which also sets up some intriguing storylines for the future High Republic novels.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this book is the huge extensions that Soule, and the associated High Republic creative brain trust, made to the Star Wars universe.  The High Republic period, as portrayed in this novel, is a gleaming beacon of civilisation and democracy, where unity and positivity run rampant, especially with their near-religious catchphrase of “We are all the Republic”.  Light of the Jedi serves as the perfect introduction to this period, and Soule does an amazing job exploring all the key aspects of it, including the technology, the set-up, the significant figures and the major differences between this period and future eras of the Republic that readers are more familiar with.  I liked the overall setting of this version of the Star Wars universe, especially as it has a very distinctive frontier feel to it, with people moving out from the settled core of the Republic and encountering some of the hidden and malicious dangers in the less settled regions.  There is also something shiny and exquisite about a lot of inclusions in this book, and I particularly liked all the depictions of the spaceships and technology featured.  This historical Republic is definitely at a high-point of culture and technology, and as such this book is loaded with a ton of elegant and beautiful battleships, which sound so much more impressive than rougher technology featured even in the prequel films.

I also appreciated the way in which the author portrays people having a general sense of naivety throughout the Republic, as they all believe that everything is peaceful and nice.  This will no doubt change in future entries in the series, and it will be interesting to see if this peaceful version of the Republic starts to go downhill a bit as a result of the events featured within this series.  For me though, one of the highlights of Light of the Jedi had to be the titular Jedi.  The Jedi featured in the High Republic series are at the height of their power and majesty, and they prove to be a very impressive bunch in their white and gold robes.  There is a really fascinating collection of unique Jedi throughout the novel, and it looks like Soule attempted to feature Jedi of nearly every Star Wars species he could think of.  The thing that really stood out to me were all the cool Jedi powers that they had, as the Jedi characters in this novel were doing a ton of amazing force techniques that none of the characters featured in the films seemed possible of doing.  All of this was really cool to see, and I think that Soule and Light of the Jedi did an amazing job of introducing this impressive setting.

Another very intriguing inclusion is the Nihil.  The Nihil, who are set to be the main antagonists of the entire High Republic range, are a group of ultra-violent raiders who live by a simple code of taking what they want, when they want, and are massively opposed the ideas of law and order imposed by the Republic and the Jedi.  Soule does an amazing job introducing these antagonists in Light of the Jedi, with their first scene showing them coming out of nowhere and brutally pillaging a fleet of ships.  There was something particularly savage and intense with this first sequence, and I was getting serious Mad Max or Firefly Reaver vibes in the way that they attacked, using harpoons and vicious boarding tactics.  The author continues to expand on these antagonists throughout the course of the book, and the reader is given a solid idea of their structure, tactics, history and general mindset, as a number of chapters are told from their perspective.  The Nihil have some very interesting and unique characteristics to them, and there is a certain Viking theme to them, especially with their storm motif.  I loved the portrayal of them throughout the book, and this group of mask-wearing, savage aliens really left an impression on me, especially with their gas-based weapons, under-handed battle tactics (there is one particularly awesome sequence around that) and unique hyperspace technology.  I was slightly worried that the Nihil were going to simply be portrayed as a group of common raiders throughout the course of this series, and it appeared at times within Light of the Jedi that this is what was going to happen.  However, this was a bit of clever misdirection from Soule, who produced a very compelling and well-written story arc around these antagonists that really sets them up as a major deadly force in the Star Wars universe.  A lot of this menace is due to the many cool hints and reveals about the Nihil’s hidden secrets throughout the course of the story, especially surrounding Nihil’s mysterious leader, the Eye, and I look forward to unravelling them in future entries in this series.

Soule introduces a large range of compelling characters in Light of the Jedi, including a range of intriguing new Jedi.  Due to the author going for a mass perspective story, this novel really does not have a main character; instead Soule splits the tale across many characters, each of whom have their own unique storylines and arcs.  I have to admit that before reading this novel I was slightly concerned that the High Republic series would have a bit of a hard time gaining traction with characters, as the only figure from the films to actually be alive at this point is Yoda (and apparently Yarael Poof, who I mostly recognise from a fun Robot Chicken sketch).  However, I quite enjoyed a lot of the characters featured within this book and I appreciated the way that Soule was able to build them up into compelling and unique individuals within the series of shorter story arcs that they had.

Some of the key characters include Jedi Master Avar Kriss and Jedi Knight Elzar Mann (the two humans on the cover), powerful Jedi with unique abilities who are being set up as two of the main characters of the entire franchise.  Kriss and Mann, who are lifelong friends, form an intriguing team, especially with their underlying romantic tensions that they cannot act on (Soule makes a fun joke about Jedi and their lightsabers earlier in the novel that works perfectly there).  Another fantastic pair are Twi’lek Jedi Loden Greatstorm (awesome name) and his Padawan, Bell Zettifar, a more action orientated pairing who get into some scrapes throughout the novel.  Loden and Bell have an excellent arc throughout the novel and I enjoyed their great master-and-apprentice relationship, which mainly consists of Loden throwing Bell off high locations for training purposes.  Both characters, especially Loden, end the novel in an interesting position, and it will be very cool to see how these two characters develop and change in future entries in the series.  Other highlights for me include the Trandoshan Jedi Sskeer, mainly because of his cool look and species, and the Wookiee Padawan Burryaga Agaburry, who the reader swiftly warms up to, even if he doesn’t say anything comprehensible throughout the book.

In addition to the Jedi mentioned above, I really have to highlight some of the chaotic and intense Nihil characters, who make for some great antagonists.  The main one of these is the mysterious Marchion Ro, a leader and mystic of the Nihil with a hidden past and a sinister agenda who is being set up as the major villain of this franchise.  Ro, is a unique new antagonist, with hints of other Star Wars villains in his inspiration (particularly Kylo Ren), who has a fun arc within Light of the Jedi, completely changing and manipulating his followers for his own betterment.  I also quite liked the Tempest Runner Kassav Milliko, the drugged up, vicious and opportunistic Nihil warlord who clashes with Ro throughout the book and who serves as a major catalyst for story advancement throughout the book.  All of these characters and more prove to be quite compelling to follow, and I look forward to seeing what happens to them in future entries in this overarching publishing project.

Like I do for many Star Wars novels, I ended up grabbing Light of the Jedi in its audiobook format.  This proved to be a fantastic decision on my behalf, as the Light of the Jedi audiobook is really awesome, featuring the usual outstanding blend of great narration, epic music and clever sound effects to create an intense and enjoyable listening experience.  It had a reasonable runtime of 13 hours and 35 minutes, which listeners should be able to get through rather quickly; I personally was able to power through it rather quickly once I really got into the fantastic story.  The audiobook’s creative team did an exceptional job enhancing the story with the iconic Star Wars sound effects, and I loved the amazing ambiance that every single scene had, whether it was the sounds of destruction that occurred during a fight scene, or the simple sounds of people whispering that gave realistic life to group scenes.  The Star Wars music was also on point again, and I cannot emphasise how much emotion and excitement the awesome musical scores added to each scene in the novel.  For example, they expertly utilised John Williams’ tune of Anakin’s Betrayal during one particularly sudden and tragic scene, giving it an added layer of depth and despair that really struck me.  Many other different and iconic Star Wars musical scores were featured at various points throughout the novel, and I quite enjoyed the inclusion of several numbers that were a little less familiar to me, and which gave this audiobook a more unique flair.  Listeners will also really appreciate the cool heavy metal music that ran in the background of some of the Nihil scenes.  Identified as “wreck punk” by some of the characters (apparently created by instruments made from the metal of wrecked star ships), this heavy metal music adds an additional Mad Max edge to the Nihil in battle, and I loved how the audiobook’s creators went the extra mile to make these villains even more edgy.

In addition to the excellent musical inclusions and awesome sound effects, the Light of the Jedi audiobook also featured the superb vocal talents of veteran narrator Marc Thompson.  Thompson, who I recently mentioned in my review of Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising, did another fantastic job with Light of the Jedi, telling the story at a swift and enjoyable pace, while also giving voice to all the fun characters featured within the story.  Each of the characters gets their own unique voice, ensuring the reader can identify who is speaking at all times.  I felt that these voices fit each character perfectly, and Thompson has fun giving some of these character distinctive accents.  Thompson is also able to convey an amazing amount of emotion with his tone, adding fear, suspense and anguish into both his main narration speech, as well as the voices of the various characters.  This great outpouring of emotion in his dramatic voice helps to enhance several scenes, drawing listeners in with its realism and intensity.  I should note that listening to the audiobook did give me a clue at a fun little twist that Soule added to the story, as you can identify who a hidden speaker is at one point via his voice, something someone reading a physical copy of the book would not get.  This did not ruin the book for me in any way shape or form; indeed I kind of liked having this hint and it added a little more intrigue to the overall story.  Overall, this was some exceptional voice work from Thompson, which makes this audiobook an outstanding way to check out Light of the Jedi.

Star Wars: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule is a fantastic and exciting new novel that serves as an intriguing and powerful introduction into the new High Republic range of novels and comics.  Featuring an epic and action-packed narrative, some awesome new characters, and an impressive amount of universe-building, this is an incredible book that was really fun to read.  Thanks to the introductory nature of the story, it is very accessible to fans with various levels of franchise knowledge, and may even prove to be a good entry point into the wonderful world of Star Wars novels.  I am a little uncertain at this point how this new Star Wars franchise is going to proceed in the future and how some of the storylines will continue, but I am really looking forward to finding out.  The future of Star Wars tie-in fiction leading into the High Republic looks bright, especially if we get more outstanding novels like Light of the Jedi, and this should be an interesting new chapter in Star Wars history.

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising Cover

Publisher: Random House Audio (Audiobook – 1 September 2020)

Series: Thrawn Ascendancy – Book One

Length: 15 hours and 5 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The master of Star Wars fiction, Timothy Zahn, returns with a brand-new series that explores the early days of his most iconic character, Grand Admiral Thrawn, with the first book in the Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy, Chaos Rising.

A long time ago, beyond a galaxy far, far away…

Beyond the edges of the known galaxy, past the borders of the Republic, beyond even the backwater Outer Rim, lies the Unknown Regions.  The Unknown Regions are a chaotic and barely explored section of space, where hyperspace travel is difficult and dangers lurk around every corner.  Despite this, many species flourish in this region, fighting for their survival and forming civilisations hidden from the eyes of the Republic and the Separatists as they fight their bitter civil war.  However, out of all these races, none are more mysterious, secretive and dangerous than the Chiss Ascendancy.

The Chiss have long considered themselves to be one of the most powerful races within the Unknown Regions.  Boasting vast fleets of powerful vessels which can appear anywhere within the Unknown Regions thanks to their great secret weapon, the force-sensitive children who can navigate hyperspace in the Unknown Regions, known as Skywalkers, the Chiss believe themselves safe and secure.  However, a sudden ill-fated attack on their home planet by a mysterious fleet quickly shatters this allusion.  While many, including the Chiss ruling council, are convinced that the attacking ships are a precursor to an invasion and begin preparations to withdraw their outer fleets, Supreme General Ba’kif believes that there is more to this attack then what is apparent.  In order to explore his suspicions, Ba’kif calls upon one of his most talented officers to investigate, the young tactical genius Senior Captain Mitth’raw’nuruodo, better known as Thrawn.

Many years before he became the Emperor’s most effective weapon as a Grand Admiral in the Imperial Navy, Thrawn, served his own people as a member of the Chiss Expansionary Defence Fleet.  Already renowned for his rare tactical ability, as well as his disregard for the politics and rules of the Ascendancy, Thrawn begins his investigation into the attack and swiftly determines that it was merely a feint, designed to draw the Ascendancy’s attention away from a much more dangerous threat.  A new malevolent alien empire is building strength in the Unknown Regions, and its eyes are firmly fixed on the Chiss.  With his hands tied by protocol and with his political enemies within the Ascendancy trying to take him down, Thrawn may be unable to stop the upcoming attack before it is too late.  However, Thrawn always has a plan, and the Unknown Regions are about to understand just how dangerous he truly is.

This was another fantastic outing from Timothy Zahn, who has produced a cool and intriguing prequel novel to his previous series.  Zahn is one of the most experienced and highly regarded authors of Star Wars tie-in fiction in the world today, having written several impressive novels for both the current Disney-owned canon, and the previous Star Wars Legends canon.  While he has written various Star Wars novels, such as the fun standalone novel Scoundrels, Zahn is probably best known for his 1991 release, Heir of the Jedi, which is generally considered to be the start of a whole new era of Star Wars tie-in fiction.  While there are a number of interesting aspects to Heir of the Jedi, one of the most important things about it was that it introduced Zahn’s most distinctive and popular creation, Grand Admiral Thrawn, a rare alien officer in the xenophobic Imperial Navy who was revered as their ultimate tactician.  Thrawn proved to be a very popular character whose backstory and characterisation was later expanded on in a number of Zahn’s other Star Wars Legends novels.

Due to the Disney purchase of the Star Wars franchise and the subsequent removal of everything except the movies and the animated series from canon, Thrawn was temporarily erased as a canon character until the third season of the Star Wars Rebels animated television series, where he was reintroduced with an altered backstory and history.  As part of this reintroduction, Zahn was contracted to write several new Star Wars novels examining this new history of the character, and thus he wrote the Thrawn trilogy, featuring the excellent novels Thrawn, Alliances and Treason, which are among some of the best pieces of Star Wars tie-in fiction I have so far read.  This trilogy ended in 2019, but Zahn is far from done, having started a new trilogy, the Thrawn Ascendancy series, last year.  The Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy, of which Chaos Rising is the first entry, is an intriguing and detailed series that serves as a prequel to the novel Thrawn and which show a younger version of the character as he serves the Chiss during the same time period as the Clone Wars.  Chaos Rising is an excellent and enjoyable novel which I read a few months ago, but which I have only just had a chance to review.  It was fantastic to see this complex and compelling character in action again, as well as more of Zahn’s impressive world-building.

This new novel from Zahn contains an amazing story that looks at the earliest adventures of Thrawn.  This is a very clever and layered tale that explores the main character in more detail while also providing him a new opponent to face in this book as he attempts to engage in battle against a dangerous enemy threatening his people.  Zahn builds a great narrative around the fight against this new antagonist, with Thrawn forced to engage in a number of intricate campaigns in order to obtain information and determine which points of weakness to exploit, whilst also have to contend with the machinations of members of his own race who are concerned with the reckless Thrawn’s actions.  At the same time, the author builds up a number of intriguing side characters who help to tell the tale of Thrawn in greater detail and with some interesting personal arcs.  This main storyline proves to be an extremely enjoyable and captivating read which flows at a great pace for most of the book, broken up with a number of cool and impressive battle sequences.  The main story is also supported by a fantastic collection of flashback sequences that depict an even younger version of Thrawn, showing some of his earlier encounters with many of the characters featured in the novel and highlighting how different the character has always been.  These flashbacks are used to great effect throughout the novel, not only building up the various characters’ pasts and personalities but also creating a great pace for the novel, with several key events from the protagonist’s life introduced where necessary to the main plot.  All of this helps to turn Chaos Rising, and indeed the entire Thrawn Ascendancy series, into an intriguing prequel to the Thrawn trilogy as it begins to set up the various reasons why Thrawn was sent away by his people and recruited by the Empire.  One part of Chaos Rising even directly ties into the events of one of the books from the previous trilogy, Alliances, with the reader seeing an alternate viewpoint to Thrawn meeting with Anakin Skywalker that gives an entertaining context to the events of that previous book.  All of this results in a fantastic and clever story that is easy enjoy and which sets up some more intriguing adventures in the later entries in this series.

One of the things I always try to address while reviewing a Star Wars novel is what level of franchise knowledge a reader needs to have in order to fully enjoy the story.  While most Star Wars novels are generally fairly accessible to new readers or casual fans, I would say that Chaos Rising is one of those books that should primarily be read by major fans of the franchise.  This is because Zahn loads this novel up with a ton of Star Wars references and details, including details of obscure parts of Star Wars lore and characters.  While the author does do a good job of explaining all the relevant aspects of this extended universe through the book, I would say that having some pre-knowledge about some of these elements is important.  At a minimum I would suggest that the readers read Zahn’s original Thrawn trilogy first, especially as Chaos Rising serves as a prequel to them, although fans with some basic knowledge of the character of Thrawn should be able to follow along without too much difficulty.  For new readers who do get through Chaos Rising, you are going to experience a huge amount of new information about the Star Wars universe as Zahn does a substantial amount of universe building throughout this book.  In particular, the author explores the legendary Chiss Ascendancy, a mysterious alien empire existing outside of the main Star Wars galaxy.  This is the first time that the Chiss planets and culture have been explored in any real detail in the current canon, and it proves to be a fascinating experience learning more about them and seeing the culture that produced such a unique character as Thrawn.  This novel contains a lot of detail about this alien race, as well as many other aspects of life outside the main galaxy setting of the Star Wars franchise, and while it is a tad overwhelming at times, I had a great time expanding my Star Wars knowledge and exploring this new, intriguing region.  It seems likely that Zahn will go into even more detail about this part of the Star Wars universe in future novels in the trilogy, and I look forward to seeing what other cool aspects he comes up with.

One of the best things about this book was seeing the return of the amazing and compelling character of Thrawn.  Thrawn is a very unique and enjoyable character, mainly because he has an unfathomable mind and is able to tactically outthink and outmatch any opponent that he comes across.  A highly analytical being who is able to discern fantastic insights about a person or species’ intentions, personalities and general mindsets from viewing some aspects of their creativity, mainly their artwork, Thrawn is easily able to predict actions and provide effective or crazy counters that shock and surprise everyone watching.  This makes him an incredibly fun character to see in action, especially as he makes some amazing and credible leaps of logic off the smallest details that Zahn features in his descriptions.  These analytical leaps then lead into a number of awesome and cool scenes where he outsmarts everyone around them, including in the book’s various battle sequences, which are awesome to read as there are some truly outrageous and clever tactical moves that no one can see coming.  Because of his way of thinking, Thrawn has a very closed off and odd personality that unnerves a lot of the people he deals with and makes many wary of his motivations and actions.

Just like he did in the previous novels, Zahn portrays Thrawn as a little less vicious and dangerous than he appears in Star Wars Rebels, with a little more humanity (or the Chiss version of it) added into his character.  Zahn also continues to explore the character’s lack of political awareness, a major flaw in his thinking that continues to cause him trouble as he constantly battles against the overarching hierarchy to take actions he knows will benefit or save his people.  I felt that Chaos Rising took a very interesting look at the character’s history, personality and backstory, and I quite liked the examination of his earliest trials and battles.  Thanks to the author’s use of flashback sequences, the reader gets a great view at different parts of his history, and you see the various steps that he takes rising up the military ladder and the various aliens and people he crossed or destroyed on the way.  All of this proved to be really cool to see, and Thrawn remains one of my favourite characters in the Star Wars canon, especially after this great outing from his past.

One of the most distinctive parts of any novel that follows Thrawn is the fact that none of the story is shown from his point of view; instead other characters tell his story.  This is mainly done to really highlight just how brilliant Thrawn is and to ensure that his eventual plans and insights come as a major surprise to the reader, much in the same way that a Sherlock Holmes novel is told from Watson’s perspective.  Chaos Rising features several different point-of-view characters, including one or two antagonists, who encounter Thrawn throughout the course of this novel and witness him utilise his tactical acumen.  I love seeing the various characters react to Thrawn’s impressive and clever schemes, and it is always fun when they realise that the impossible is happening right in front of them.  Several of these characters, particularly Thrawn’s allies, also provide a much deeper examination of the main character’s personality and mentality, and you see a different side to the character as a friend and mentor.

While these characters are primarily there to follow Thrawn, Zahn does take the time to explore each of these characters, with a particular focus on Thrawn’s impact on their life.  Many of these characters have some excellent and enjoyable backstories to them, and it was fascinating to see these great characters have their carefully planned out lives completely thrown around when they meet Thrawn.  While I failed to connect to some of these point-of-view side characters (for example, I just could not get invested in the arc surrounding the Skywalker Che-ri), others proved to be quite intriguing to follow.  Examples include Admiral Ar’alani, Thrawn’s former classmate at the academy, who becomes a lifelong friend and constantly finds herself trying to protect the protagonist from himself, or Thalias (Mitth’ali’astov) a former Skywalker whose encounter with a young Thrawn inspired her to join his clan and gave her a new vision for the future.  I also rather enjoyed following Qilori, an Unknown Regions navigator-for-hire, who secretly serves the Nikardun Destiny while also taking jobs for other clients like Thrawn and the Chiss.  It was immensely entertaining seeing Qilori attempting to manipulate Thrawn on the orders of the main antagonist, especially as Thrawn sees through every single one of his tricks.  Each of these great side characters added their own edge to the story, and I really appreciated having so many varied and unique viewpoints of the fantastic main character.

While I did receive a physical copy, I decided to listen to the audiobook format of Chaos Rising, not only because it made my reading schedule easier but because Star Wars audiobooks are always so much fun to listen to.  I think that I made the right decision here, as the Chaos Rising audiobook was a very awesome experience and I had a great time listening to it.  With a run time of just over 15 hours, this is a somewhat longer Star Wars audiobook, although once you get wrapped up in the story you don’t really mind.  Everything about this audiobook is cool, from the classic Star Wars sound effects, which help to drag the listener into the story (it is so much easier to imagine a dangerous fight scene when you can hear the blaster shots), to the outstanding use of John Williams’ iconic musical score, which just makes everything epic.  This audiobook also features the superb narration of the amazing Marc Thompson, who does a wonderful job.  Thompson, who has a vast experience voicing Star Wars audiobooks (for example, all the previous Thrawn novels, Dark Disciple, and roles in the Count Dooku and Doctor Aphra audio dramas), has an exceptional range of different voices which he uses to full effect throughout Chaos Rising.  Each of the characters is given a distinctive and enjoyable voice which allows the listener to easily follow who they are, while also getting an impressive and comprehensive idea of the character’s emotions and passion.  However, his most impressive work is saved for the main character himself.  Thompson has an excellent Thrawn voice, which very closely matches the voice of Lars Mikkelsen, the actor playing Thrawn in the Star Wars Rebels animated show, which helps to bring the character to life in vivid and impressive detail.  Thompson’s take on the character captures the character perfectly, and you get an amazing sense of the character’s deep analytical nature and constantly calm façade.  This was an exceptional bit of voice work from Thompson, and it really added so much to my enjoyment of the story to have this character’s words read out to me.  An overall exceptional and outstanding audiobook, this is the perfect format to check out Chaos Rising.

Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising is another outstanding novel from amazing Star Wars author Timothy Zahn that provides the reader with a captivating look at the early life of the incredible character of Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Featuring a clever and intriguing tale set deep in an unexplored area of the Star Wars universe, this novel serves as a fantastic and addictive prequel to Zahn’s impressive Thrawn trilogy and adds new layers to the author’s most iconic creation.  The second entry in this series, Greater Good, is set for release in a few months and looks set to be one of the most intriguing Star Wars novels of 2021, especially with renewed interest in the character of Thrawn after the second season of The Mandalorian.  I am extremely keen to see how the next novel turns out, but if it as good as Chaos Rising, then we should be in for a treat.

WWW Wednesday – 3 February 2021

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

City of Vengeance by D. V. Bishop (Trade Paperback)

City of Vengeance Cover

What did you recently finish reading?

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (Trade Paperback)

The Bone Shard Daughter Cover

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Light of the Jedi Cover

 

Black Canary: Breaking Silence by Alexandra Monir

Black Canary - Breaking Silence Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Imitator by Rebecca Starford (Trade Paperback)

The Imitator Cover

 

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

WWW Wednesday – 27 January 2021

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart (Trade Paperback)

The Bone Shard Daughter Cover

I finally got around to starting The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart, which was one of the most highly regarded fantasy debuts of 2020.  I am only about 50 pages into this novel at the moment but so far I am really enjoying this book with its weird bone magic, Eastern influenced setting and sinking islands.  The Bone Shard Daughter looks set to be an awesome read and I am really glad that I’ve begun reading it.

Star Wars: The High Republic: Light of the Jedi by Charles Soule (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Light of the Jedi Cover

I have made some substantial progress on this latest Star Wars novel.  Light of the Jedi is a fantastic and compelling new addition to the canon set hundreds of years before the Skywalker Saga during the period known as The High Republic.  An awesome and exciting read, I should finish this off in the next few days.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Return by Harry Sidebottom (Trade Paperback)

The Return Cover

Colonyside by Michael Mammay (Audiobook)

Colonyside Cover

Either Side of Midnight by Benjamin Stevenson (Trade Paperback)

Either Side of Midnight Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Black Canary: Breaking Silence by Alexandra Monir

Black Canary - Breaking Silence Cover

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