Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Debut Novels of 2020

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 get a freebie to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and I thought that I would take this opportunity to highlight some of the best debut novels from 2020.  I really wanted to highlight some of the best debut novels of last year and I had originally intended to do this list a little earlier, but I could not fit it into my schedule, so I leapt at this chance.

2020 proved to be a fun year for new novels as several fantastic authors appeared on the scene.  I was lucky enough to receive an excellent selection of debut novels from across several different genres last year, and many of these debuts proved to be exceptional and outstanding reads.  As a result, I was easily able to come up with 10 impressive releases for this list and each of the entries below come highly recommended, especially as several were amongst my favourite books (and audiobooks) of 2020.  I also decided to feature a couple pre-2020 debut novels that I read last year in the honourable mentions section to highlight these as well, as they were some impressive and captivating reads.  The result was a pretty awesome list, so let us see what made the cut.

 

Honourable Mentions:


We Are The Dead
by Mike Shackle

We are the Dead Cover

 

The Black Hawks by David Wragg

The Black Hawks Cover

 

Top Ten List:


Stormblood
by Jeremy Szal

Stormblood Cover

 

The Kingdom of Liars by Nick Martell

The Kingdom of Liars Cover

 

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

The Last Smile in Sunder City

 

The Viennese Girl by Jenny Lecoat

The Viennese Girl Cover

 

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

The Thursday Murder Club Cover

 

Altered Realms: Ascension by B. F. Rockriver

Altered Realms cover

 

Night Lessons in Little Jerusalem by Rick Held

Night Lessons in Little Jerusalem Cover

 

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

The Space Between Worlds Cover

 

Assault by Fire by Hunter Ripley Rawlings

Assault by Fire Cover

 

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

The Bone Shard Daughter Cover

 

That’s my Top Ten list for this week. I am pretty happy with the varied collection of debut novels I read last year, and I think that all the above authors are going to go on to do amazing things.  Several of them already have second novels on the way this year, and I fully intend to grab them when they come out.  2021 is also shaping up to be an excellent year for debut novels, and I have already enjoyed a couple of awesome debuts that will no doubt make the 2021 version of this list.  While I spend this year compiling which debuts of 2021 are my favourite, make sure to let me know what your favourite 2020 debut novels are in the comments below.

Top Ten Tuesday – New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was “Resolutions/Hopes for 2021 (bookish or not!)”, however, I am going to do something a little different and instead I will list the top New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2020.  This is actually the official Top Ten Tuesday topic set up for a fortnight’s time, but I have an Australian fiction themed list planned for that week (it falls on Australia Day), so I decided to move this list forward a little.

I am very excited to do this list as each year I am lucky enough to read novels from authors who I was previously unfamiliar with and whose works I really love (make sure check out my 2019 version of the list).  2020 was no exception and throughout last year I had a wonderful time reading a huge range of books from several authors who were completely new to me.  This includes some debuting authors, as well as more established writers whose works I only got around to this year; as long as I had not read anything from them before 2020, they were eligible for this list.  Many of these new-to-me authors produced amazing novels, some of which I consider to be some of the best books released in 2020.  As a result, this list may feature a bit of overlap with my top books and audiobooks lists of 2020 that I have previously published on this blog.

Like many of these lists that I do, I ended up with quite a substantial group of authors that I wanted to include, many of whom produced some fantastic and compelling reads.  I was eventually able to whittle this list down to my top ten favourites, as well as featuring a generous honourable mentions section.  While I did have to exclude a couple of authors whose books I really liked, I think I came up with a good list that represents which authors I am really glad I decided to try for the first time last year.

 

Honourable Mentions:

 

David Wragg – The Black Hawks

The Black Hawks Cover

 

John Jackson Miller – Star Trek Discovery: Die Standing

Die Standing Cover

 

Jeremy Szal – Stormblood

Stormblood Cover

 

Steve Parker – Deathwatch: Shadowbreaker

Deathwatch Shadowbreaker Cover

 

Top Ten List:

 

Luke Arnold – The Last Smile in Sunder City and Dead Man in a Ditch

Luke Arnold Covers

The first author that I am going to feature on this list is Luke Arnold, who had an impressive debut earlier this year with The Last Smile in Sunder City, a great urban fantasy novel set in dark city where magic has suddenly and traumatically died.  Arnold managed to complete two novels this year, and with the sequel, Dead Man in a Ditch, did an awesome job following up from the first book.  I look forward to seeing how this series continues in the future, and Arnold is a great new author that I was glad I tried out.

 

Nick Martell – The Kingdom of Liars

The Kingdom of Liars Cover

There was no way I could do this list without featuring Nick Martell, who debuted in early 2020 with The Kingdom of Liars, an outstanding fantasy novel that was extremely impressive.  Not only was The Kingdom of Liars one of the best debuts of 2020 but it was also one of my favourite books of the entire year.  I had an incredible time reading this cool novel and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, The Two-Faced Queen, which is set for release in a couple of months.

 

Richard Osman – The Thursday Murder Club

The Thursday Murder Club Cover

Another exciting new author I checked out in 2020 was British comedian and television personality Richard Osman, who debuted with the clever and hilarious crime fiction novel, The Thursday Murder Club.  This was an amazing first novel from Osman, and I am now deeply invested in checking out any future novels from him, especially the sequel to The Thursday Murder Club planned for later this year.

 

Jim Butcher – Battle Ground

Battle Ground Cover

I have been meaning to read one of legendary fantasy author Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files novels for ages now, and this was the year I finally took the plunge by listening to the latest entry in the series, Battle GroundBattle Ground was an epic thrill ride that I had an incredible time listening to and which served as an intriguing introduction to the series for me.  I think that I will try to listen to several earlier entries in this awesome series this year, and I look forward to seeing how the initial adventures turn out.

 

Jeff Lindsay – Just Watch Me

Just Watch Me Cover

I was quite intrigued when I heard that Jeff Lindsay, the author of the iconic Dexter thrillers, was writing a series that focused on epic heists, and I ended up grabbing a copy of the first book, Just Watch Me.  Just Watch Me was a fantastic and captivating read, and I just started reading the sequel, Fool Me Twice, and I cannot wait to see how it turns out.

 

Mark Lawrence – The Girl and the Stars

The Girl and the Stars 2

High acclaimed fantasy author Mark Lawrence is another author who I have had my eye on for several years but never had a chance to read before.  However, when Lawrence released the first entry in a brand-new series last year, I decided to check it out, and boy was I glad that I did.  The Girl and the Stars was an impressive and captivating novel set deep beneath the ice of a desolate planet that I had an amazing time reading.  I am eagerly looking forward to the next entry in this series, and I will have to go back and read some of Lawrence’s earlier books.

 

Sarah Beth Durst – Race the Sands

Race the Sands Cover

I have mentioned quite a few times this year how much I deeply enjoyed the latest novel from Sarah Beth Durst, Race the Sands, which was the first book I checked out from this bestselling author.  Race the Sands was an outstanding novel filled with cool action, creative fantasy elements and great characters, I had an excellent time getting through it.  Due to how much I loved my first Durst novel, I am planning to read some more of her books soon, starting with The Bone Maker, which is coming out in a couple of months.

 

Max Brooks – Devolution

Devolution Cover

Another major author who I finally got around to checking out this year was Max Brooks, who produced the thrilling and exciting horror novel Devolution, which sees a small village attacked by sasquatches.  This was an excellent and amazing novel that was so much fun to read and I fully plan to check out Brooks’ other big book, World War Z soon.

 

Mike Shackle – We are the Dead

We are the Dead Cover

I heard some really good things about Mike Shackle’s 2019 debut, We are the Dead, when it first came out, and I really regretted not reading it then.  I decided to remedy this last year when I grabbed the audiobook version of this book, which turned out to be a captivating and fantastic read.  I had an amazing time reading We are the Dead and I cannot wait to check out the sequel, A Fool’s Hope, which just came out.

 

John Scalzi – Redshirts

Redshirts Cover

The final entry on this list was the clever and wildly entertaining Star Trek parody Redshirts by bestselling science fiction author John Scalzi.  Scalzi is an author whose books I have been thinking of checking out for a while, and when I had a long road trip earlier in the year I took the opportunity to listen to the audiobook version of this extremely funny novel which was narrated by Wil Wheaton.  I was not disappointed, as Redshirts ended up being an excellent novel that presents a hilarious parody of classic Star Trek tropes and was an insane amount of fun.

 

Well, that’s the end of this latest Top Ten list.  I think it turned out rather well and it encapsulates some of the best new authors I checked out in 2020.  I look forward to reading more books from these authors in the future and I have no doubt they will produce more epic and incredible reads.  Make sure to let me know which new authors you enjoyed in 2020 in the comments below and make sure to check back next week for another exciting list.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books for a Holiday Road trip

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 a Holiday/Seasonal Freebie, meaning that we can do whatever topic we want, preferably with a seasonable twist to it.  Well, down here in Australia, summer has just rocked up and this usually means long drives to family homes for Christmas or to some magnificent stretch of beach for a well-deserved break.  While I myself do not have any upcoming travel planned, this topic did get me thinking about trips and I had the idea to try and help those people with upcoming road trips, or any form of extended travel, choose an audiobook to keep you and any potential passengers entertained.

People familiar with my blog will know that I am a big fan of audiobooks; in many ways, they are some of the best way to enjoy a book from a talented author.  However, not all good audiobooks make for great entertainment on a road trip.  With that in mind, I have scrolled through some of my favourite audiobooks to find the ones I think would be the best for anyone taking a long trip.  To make this list, the audiobooks I chose had to not only be amazing novels but also had to have an excellent narration and the ability to keep a driver or passengers’ attention on a long trip.  While I know that some people are going to be experiencing particularly long trips in the coming weeks, I tried to feature audiobooks with shorter runtimes so that those who are taking shorter excursions (say a roundtrip of eight or nine hours) can get through an entire book without trying to make time at home to finish it off.  That being said a few longer novels did end up making the cut, but all of these are great for longer trips.  I also tried to avoid any novels that would require a great deal of prior knowledge or hard-to-obtain background information so that everyone in the car could enjoy the book without any need for explanation or lectures from those people more familiar with the series.  To that end, I have tried to avoid any novels that are later entries in a series or which require some form of assumed knowledge about a franchise.  While I have included a couple of tie-in novels, I tried to use those books that require only a smidge of familiarity with their respective franchise to enjoy, and I am confident anyone can easily enjoy any book I ended up featuring.

While I did have quite a few criteria to meet, I was eventually able to come up with a good list for this topic, including several honourable mentions.  I am pretty happy with how this list turned out and I have personally really enjoyed each of the below audiobooks.  I honestly believe that all of them would make for a great listen during an extended bit of travel or a road trip and each of them comes highly recommended.

Honourable Mentions:


The Black Hawks
, written by David Wragg and narrated by Colin Mace – 12 hours and 9 minutes

The Black Hawks Cover

Those in a mood for an exciting time of their road trip could do worse than check out this excellent and entertaining debut from last year, The Black Hawks by David Wragg.  The Black Hawks is a great read that takes several compelling characters on an action-packed adventure across a dangerous landscape.  Filled with betrayal, battle and clever twists, listeners will be well entertained with is book.

Star Trek: Picard: The Last Best Hope, written by Una McCormack and narrated by Robert Petkoff – 11 hours and 40 minutes

Star Trek - Picard Cover

While there are several cool Star Trek novels that could make for great road-trip listening, I would personally suggest this fantastic tie-in to the recent Picard television show.  Serving as an introduction to the darker Star Trek world Picard encounters in his new television series, there is a lot to love about this book and it is well worth checking out.

Star Wars: Ahsoka, written by E. K. Johnston and narrated by Ashley Eckstein – 7 hours and 4 minutes

Ahsoka Cover

After recent developments in the phenomenon that is The Mandalorian, one of the Star Wars audiobooks I would strongly recommend is Star Wars: Ahsoka.  The Ahsoka audiobook helps to expand on the character and presents listeners with a compelling and personal adventure.  Narrated by Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka in the animated television series, this is a fantastic and timely audiobook to check out on the road this holiday.

Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line, written by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham, and narrated by Kristen Bell – 8 hours and 43 minutes

The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line Cover

Speaking of audiobooks that feature iconic characters being voiced by their actors, listeners will have an awesome time with this Veronica Mars tie-in novel, The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line.  Written by series creator Rob Thomas and narrated by Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell, this is an outstanding tie-in to the clever television show that also contains a compelling crime fiction story and people will be able to quickly power through this on the way to their destination.

Top Ten List (maybe add listening times):


The Salvage Crew
, written by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne and narrated by Nathan Fillion – 8 hours and 21 minutes

The Salvage Crew Cover

The first entry on this top ten list is The Salvage Crew, a very clever and intense science fiction novel that is guaranteed to keep everyone entertained on your trip.  Featuring the silky voice of the one and only Nathan Fillion, you will find yourself entranced with this audiobook, especially as the author backs up the awesome narration with a top-notch science fiction adventure story.

Race the Sands, written by Sarah Beth Durst and narrated by Emily Ellet – 15 hours and 45 minutes

Race the Sands Cover

Those readers with a particularly long drive in their future and who are in the mood for an excellent standalone fantasy novel would do well to check out Race the Sands by the always impressive Sarah Beth Durst.  Race the Sands is an extremely exciting and compelling novel that features great characters, political intrigue and clever worldbuilding, all set around people racing monsters in the desert.  This is a very easy book to listen to and the miles will fly away as you listen to Race the Sands.  Just don’t let the race scenes inspire you too much on the road; I don’t want to be responsible for you getting a speeding ticket!

Redshirts, written by John Scalzi and narrated by Wil Wheaton – 7 hours and 41 minutes

Redshirts Cover

If you want to laugh your way through an entire road trip you should definitely check out Redshirts by acclaimed science fiction author John Scalzi.  Redshirts is a very entertaining parody of Star Trek and is essentially one big sendup of all the tropes, bad writing and over-the-top characters The Original Series is known for.  Despite being a parody, Scalzi comes up with an incredibly clever story that gets extremely meta in places, while also introducing the listener to some very interesting characters who you become surprisingly attached to.  Top that off with the narration of Wil Wheaton (who else would you want narrating a Star Trek parody), and you have yourself an exceptionally fun audiobook to listen to.  My wife and I recently listened to this on a road trip ourselves and we were absolutely cracking up the entire time, and this comes highly recommended as a result.

The Holdout, written by Graham Moore and narrated by Abby Craden – 10 hours and 15 minutes

The Holdout Cover

Those drivers who would prefer a crime fiction novel should think about checking out The Holdout by Graham Moore.  The Holdout is a standalone crime fiction novel that follows an infamous jury who found a notorious murderer not guilty and who must now find out who killed one of their members years later at a reunion.  This is an extremely captivating book that features an amazing split-timeline narrative, showing the original trial and the murder investigation set in the present.  This is a great novel and listeners will be on the edge of their seat for the entire trip.

Legend, written by David Gemell and narrated by Sean Barrett – 13 hours and 13 minutes

Legend

Now if I had a particularly lengthy road-trip on the horizon one of the books I know I would be loading up Legend by David Gemell.  While this might not be too practical for shorter trips, I would gladly do a trip twice if it meant I could finish this epic book in one go.  Featuring an extended and desperate siege, Legend is one of the better fantasy novels I have had the pleasure of listening to and it does not take long for readers to get utterly enthralled with its impressive and thrilling story.

Star Wars: Scoundrels, written by Timothy Zahn and narrated by Marc Thompson – 13 hours and 57 minutes

Star Wars Scoundrels Cover

While there are a number of awesome Star Wars tie-in novels I could have included on this list, I decided in the end to go with Star Wars: ScoundrelsScoundrels is an exceptional novel from one of the top authors of Star Wars fiction in the world today, Timothy Zahn.  This is an excellent book that features fan favourite characters Han Solo, Chewbacca and Lando engaging in an elaborate heist with a team of rogues and thieves.  This is a perfect read for a longer car trip, and it is filled with several fantastic characters engaged in some good-old fashioned thievery in the middle of the Star Wars universe.  Requiring very little knowledge about the Star Wars extended universe, this audiobook can be enjoyed by anyone even vaguely familiar with the series and is really worth a listen to.

Tomorrow, When the War Began, written by John Marsden and narrated by Suzi Dougherty – 7 hours and 20 minutes

51olD9QEIEL

Those looking for a new series to get obsessed about should use any upcoming road trips as an opportunity to try out the first book in the acclaimed Tomorrow series, Tomorrow, When the war Began.  Essentially Australia’s answer to Red Dawn, this book follows a group of teenagers as they try to survive a sudden invasion of Australia by a foreign power.  This is one of my absolute favourite series of all times and is probably some of the best Australian young adult fiction ever written.  It is extremely easy to power through these audiobooks in a short amount of timer and they would be among some of my first choices if I had a long trip planned.

Any Discworld novel, by Terry Pratchett

The Colour of Magic Cover

I am kind of cheating by including an entire series here, but I could honestly listen to any of these books again and would not hesitate to recommend the entire Discworld series to anyone in the mood for a book that is wacky, clever, compelling and wildly entertaining.  Practically any of these books would make for excellent entertainment during a car ride and I find it hard to believe that anyone would be bored while listening to them.  While I love each of these books, I would probably recommend either Moving Pictures or Guards! Guards! (both with a runtime of 10 hours and 8 minutes) as they are great entry points to the series for new readers.  An incredibly series to get into, you will not regret listening to them these holidays.

Planetside, written by Michael Mammay and narrated by R. C. Bray – 8 hours and 38 minutes

Planetside Cover 2

Another great read with a shorter runtime is Planetside by Michael Mammay.  Planetside is an incredible novel and it is probably one of my favourite debut novels of all time.  Mammay packs an intense and addictive story into this shorter audiobook, and listeners are treated to an outstanding and clever science fiction mystery novel, which sees an old veteran attempt to find a missing soldier on an occupied alien planet and instead uncovers a massive conspiracy.  Listeners are guaranteed to be transfixed from start to epic finish with Planetside and it would be an exceptional novel to listen to while on a long drive.

The Anomaly, written by Michael Rutger and narrated by Brandon Williams – 9 hours and 41 minutes

The Anomaly Cover

For the final entry on my list, I have included The Anomaly by Michael Rutger.  The Anomaly is a great horror novel that follows the makers of a web series as they explore an ancient cave in the Grand Canyon, only to find it filled with ancient terrors.  This is a great novel for those who are in the mood for a scary book to listen to on their way home and readers will really love this amazing audiobook.  I was particularly impressed with the dark, claustrophobic atmosphere that this audiobook produced and horror buffs will have an amazing time listening to this.  That being said, maybe turn it off if you have to drive at night.

Well that’s my latest Top Ten Tuesday list.  I think it turned out extremely well, and if you have some upcoming travel planned (or even just some time to kill in lockdown), you would do well to try any of the above books.  Let me know which of the featured novels you enjoyed the most, as well as what audiobooks you would recommend for a car trip in the comments below and makes sure you drive safe these holidays.

Top Ten Tuesday – Pre-2020 Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  This week, in honour of Thanksgiving up in America, participants of Top Ten Tuesday get a freebie topic based around something they are thankful for.  While there are many book things I am thankful for this year, I thought I would take this opportunity to start my customary Top Ten List count-down towards the end of the year by listing some of my favourite pre-2020 novels that I read this year.

This year I have ended up reading quite a few books and comics that were published at some point prior to 2020.  I have checked these various books out for a number of reasons, such as the book had an awesome plot synopsis, it was part of a series or an expanded universe that I had been exploring, or because I wanted to see an author’s earlier works.  Most of these older releases are really good, and in some cases they are amongst my favourite books I read all year.  I have also featured quite a few of these books as part of my Throwback Thursday series, and pretty much all of them receive an extremely high rating from me.  As a result, I wanted to highlight which books amongst these series are my absolute favourites and decided to feature them in their own Top Ten list.  This is a bit of a continuation of a list I did last year, and I will probably list some of my favourite pre-2021 books next year as I quite enjoy going back and checking out older novels I haven’t had the chance to read yet.

This version of the list came together quite well as I read quite a number of awesome novels released before 2020 this year.  While there is a bit of a focus on Star Wars tie-in novels and entries in Jonathan Maberry’s exceptional Joe Ledger series (which I finally finished of this year), there are a range of other cool books and comics which made the list.  While a few of these are books I missed in 2019, there are a couple of other interesting entries in there.  I had a fun time coming up with this list and all 10 books on the list, plus the books I included in my Honourable Mentions, are excellent pre-2020 reads that are really worth checking out.

Honourable Mentions:

Batman: Detective Comics – 2016

Rise of the Batmen

In 2020 I had a bit of a hankering to finally check out some of the recent comics that DC has been producing.  To that end, I went out and grabbed out several great series that were relaunched in 2016 as part of the DC Rebirth range.  While I had an amazing time reading some of the impressive comic book series in this range (such as the new Suicide Squad and Batgirl series), one of my favourite pre-2020 comics has to be the new take on the classic Batman series, Detective Comics.  This new Detective Comics series had a bit more of an ensemble focus, following a new team of Batman family members, including Batwoman, Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, Clayface and more.  Not only did these comics feature some amazing storylines but the authors really dive into the past of each member of the team, providing intriguing new backgrounds which form the basis for some excellent character arcs.  Highlights of this series include a detailed arc around Red Robin that goes deep into the publishing history of the character, a surprisingly heart-warming attempt to turn long-time villain Clayface into a hero, and a major focus on Batwoman, who in some volumes gets more attention than Batman.  A truly amazing series that I deeply enjoyed.

Deathwatch: Shadowbreaker by Steve Parker – 2019

Deathwatch Shadowbreaker Cover


Star Wars
: Dooku: Jedi Lost by Cavan Scott – 2019

Dooku - Jedi Lost Cover


The Russian
by Ben Coes – 2019

The Russian Cover

Top Ten Tuesday (By Publication Year):


Redshirts
by John Scalzi – 2012

Redshirts Cover


Predator One
by Jonathan Maberry – 2015

Predator One Cover


Star Wars
: Dark Disciple by Christie Golden – 2015

Star Wars Dark Disciple Cover


Star Wars
: Lords of the Sith by Paul S. Kemp – 2015

Lords of the Sith Cover


Kill Switch
by Jonathan Maberry – 2016

Kill Switch Cover


Batman
(vol. 3) – 2016

Batman I am Gotham Cover

While I had a lot of love for the new series of Detective Comics, the pre-2020 comic book line I enjoyed the most this year was easily the series of Batman comics that started in 2016 as part of the DC Rebirth.  This series of Batman comics, written by Tom King, is truly impressive and contains, in my opinion, some of the best Batman storylines in recent years.  These stories dive deep into the psyches of Batman and his insane villains, showing just how complicated and layered comic book characters can be.  King comes up with some amazing arcs during his run, and I personally loved how he revolutionised the compelling romance between Batman and Catwoman, with their wedding arc being one of the most distinctive parts of this entire series.  King also revitalises Bane as one of Batman’s most significant villains, really diving into the heart of their rivalry, and showing Bane at his most dangerous.  This series are easily some of the best comics I have read in recent years, and I am extremely glad I decided to check them out in 2020.

Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry – 2017

Dogs of War Cover


The Bear Pit
by S. G. MacLean – 2019

The Bear Pit Cover


The Black Hawks
by David Wragg – 2019

The Black Hawks Cover


We are the Dead
by Mike Shackle – 2019

We are the Dead Cover

Well, that is the end of this latest list.  I had an incredible time reading or listening to all of the above books/comics, and each of them comes highly recommended by me.  As I mentioned above, I am planning to read a lot of older books next year, so I should hopefully have a Top pre-2021 list in about a year.  At this point in time I am hoping to check out some more Harry Dresden novels (after loving Battle Ground a few weeks ago), and I am also thinking about reading some more books in The Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan (the first book, Promise of Blood, was pretty awesome) and Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive (if I can find the time to read these epic books).  In the meantime, let me know what you think of my list and if you have any suggestions for older novels to check out next year, I would be interested to hear them.

The Black Hawks by David Wragg

The Black Hawks Cover

Publisher: Harper Collins (Audiobook – 3 October 2019)

Series: Articles of Faith – Book One

Length: 12 hours and 9 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Prepare to join the roughest, toughest and most maladjusted mercenary band in the land with The Black Hawks by David Wragg, and excellent fantasy debut that was a lot of fun to read.

Vedren Chel is a minor noble struggling to adjust to his life as a knight and glorified servant to his lazy step-uncle.  Hoping to escape the meaningless existence that has been forced upon him, Chel suddenly finds himself thrust into a great adventure when a mysterious enemy force invades the city he is stuck in, causing panic and confusion all around.  Managing to flee from the chaos, Chel finds himself the inadvertent travelling companion to the useless and cowardly Prince Tarfel, the King’s son and second in line to the throne.

Accompanying Tarfel to safety, Chel hopes to be rewarded with his freedom and the chance to forge a new life.  Instead he finds himself swept up in the dangerous politics of the realm when he is chosen to become Tarfel’s protector and loyal servant.  Forced to accompany the prince back to the very city they just fled, Chel has very little hope for their survival.  His fears prove justified when a force of disguised men attempt to kill them the night they arrive.  Their lives are only saved when a mysterious band of warriors arrive, killing their attackers and then promptly kidnapping them.

Awakening, Chel and Tarfel find themselves under the dubious protection of the Black Hawk Company, a small group of elite mercenaries who have been hired to escort Tarfel to a mysterious destination.  Despite their unconventional tactics and makeup, the Black Hawks are a dangerous and clever collection of killers, which proves useful when several bands of assassins and fanatics associated with the kingdoms corrupt and all powerful church; converge upon the group, determined to kill Tarfel.  Deciding that their kidnappers are the only group with their best interests in minds, Chel and Tarfel accompany the Black Hawks off into the unknown.  Their journey will take them through dangers, both seen and unseen, and lead them into the very heart of the kingdom as they try to remove the corruption from within.  But dark secrets lie in store for all of them at the end of their journey and no one will be prepared for the dangers and betrayals in front of them.

The Black Hawks is an exciting and captivating dark fantasy novel that I had an absolute blast reading.  This debut novel from David Wragg was originally released about this time last year and it serves as the first entry in his planned Articles of Faith series.  I didn’t get a chance to read The Black Hawks last year, but I have been eyeing this novel off for several months now as I loved how fun its synopsis sounded.  I finally got the opportunity to read this book a couple of weeks ago and I am extremely glad that I did, as The Black Hawks proved to be an impressive and entertaining read that I ended up powering through in relatively short order.  Wragg has come up with an excellent novel that combines a compelling and slick story with some memorable characters and a dark fantasy landscape loaded with perils and betrayals.  These, combined with the book’s many intense action sequences, fun humour and several dark scenes, help to create an addictive and amazing read that I quickly fell in love with.

Wragg utilises a fun, fast-paced and compelling narrative to serve as the centre of this great book.  The entirety of The Black Hawks’ plot is told from the perspective of Chel, who is constantly falling into the midst of some world-changing events.  The plot starts off quickly, with Chel quickly finding himself in the company of Prince Tarfel and from there into the middle of a number of conspiracies and plot aimed at eliminating or manipulating the prince.  This ensures that the reader is quickly enveloped in a complex and entertaining plot which sees the protagonists surrounded on all sides by betrayals, conflicting agendas, mortal perils and all manner of conspiracies.  It was really fun and captivating to see how the various storylines turned out, and the author comes up with a number of intriguing surprises and twists to ensure that the story stays quite interesting and fresh.  There was one very major twist revealed at the end of the novel that I was particularly impressed with.  Wragg sets this twist up perfectly, with a number of hints towards it scattered throughout the book.  While I was able predict some of what was going to happen in advance, I was pleasantly surprised with some of the other revelations that came to light, and this beautifully cultivated twist was one of the high spots of the book.  I was also expecting a completely different ending to the novel, perhaps something a tad more light-hearted, but I liked the direction that Wragg took it instead, especially as it means that I will be grabbing the eventual sequel to this novel as soon as possible to see what happens next.  Overall, The Black Hawks contains a really enjoyable and smartly written narrative, and I had an outstanding time getting through it.

One of the best parts of The Black Hawks is the enjoyable and distinctive characters that Wragg has come up with.  The book’s main protagonist is Vedren Chel, who serves as the story’s point-of-view character.  Chel starts off as a fairly typical fantasy character: a young, bored minor noble who finds himself suddenly involved with events outside of his understanding.  However, as the story progresses, he shows himself to be a much more complex character, mainly thanks to his dedication to Prince Tarfel, who he becomes sworn to.  Tarfel is a spectacularly naive and incompetent royal, who is usually completely unaware of the danger that he finds himself in, or the full scope of the conspiracies playing out around him.  Despite recognising how useless Tarfel is, Chel takes his oath seriously and does all he can to protect him, even though that essentially means he gets the crap kicked out of him every second chapter or so.  This dogged loyalty and determination to do the right thing makes him quite an appealing protagonist, and he proves to be a rather resourceful individual who starts to fit in with the members of the Black Hawk company who kidnap him.  This camaraderie with the Black Hawks, something that he has been missing for most of his life, results in several great scenes, especially as he finds himself conflicted in his loyalty to them and to Tarfel.  Overall, his character arc goes in some interesting directions, and it was great to see him grow as a person through the course of the book.  Tarfel also grows a little during the course of the novel, becoming slightly less boorish and a little more capable.  Some of the reveals at the end of the novel have some rather large impacts of Tarfel’s personality, as he completely re-evaluates his entire life, and it will be rather interesting to see what happens to him in the future novels.

While Chel and Tarfel are both great characters to anchor the main plot around, the most entertaining and memorable characters are easily the members of the titular Black Hawk company.  The Black Hawks are a small group of dangerous mercenaries who have banded together after failing to fit in with all the other companies.  Wragg has gone out of his way to create a distinctive band of mismatched rogues to fill the ranks of the Black Hawk company, and there are a number of fun characters introduced as a result.  These members include a grim and taciturn leader with a notorious hidden past seeking redemption, a shadowy archer who has had her tongue cut out, a beautiful but lethal swordswoman, the group’s dangerous and self-serving assassin who is probably going to betray everyone, and a philosophical giant.  While there are a few stereotypical fantasy roles in there, such as with the Black Hawk leader, this turned out to be a particularly fun group of characters.  My personal favourite was Lemon, a short, red-haired human woman with a crude personality, amazing sense of humour and a fascination with her arsenal of axes (essentially a classic fantasy dwarf character).  Lemon is a great entry in the book, especially as she serves as the story’s main comic relief and is generally the most likeable and entertaining character in the novel, especially when she regales the protagonist with her blunt and tasteless jokes.  I really liked the excellent group dynamic that Wragg came up with for the members of the Black Hawks, and while they work together and are friends, there is a real sense of how mismatched the group is as all of its members are more individualistic than a team player.  All of these characters are great and Wragg does an excellent job introducing each of them and ensuring that all of them get their moment to shine throughout the course of the story.  However, he makes sure to keep most of their backgrounds hidden from the protagonist and the reader, ensuring there is a certain amount of mystery and mystique around them.  While certain hints about their past are revealed, for the most part the reader is left in the dark about who these people are and what brought them to the Black Hawks.  I imagine that Wragg plans to reveal each of these character’s full backstories throughout the course of the series and now that I am somewhat invested in them, I look forward to finding out more about their pasts.

In addition to the fantastic story and amazing characters, The Black Hawks features an excellent new dark fantasy world that serves as an awesome setting to this book.  Wragg’s novel features a somewhat desolate fantasy kingdom, ruined by years of constant warfare and ruled over by a corrupted and militant religious order that is desperately clinging to power.  This proved to be a really cool and enjoyable setting for the novel, and readers quickly become intrigued by the chaotic events occurring throughout the landscape.  While Wragg does drop the reader into this setting with any preamble and gets the story going rather quickly, the reader is never really lost about what is going on in this setting, and the author provides the relevant details about the fantasy world when necessary.  This proved to be an excellent overall setting, and I really liked seeing how all the politics and religious strife worked out.  This world also has a lot of potential for expansion, with a number of different nations and regions mentioned throughout the course of The Black Hawks’ story.  I imagine that the series will eventually visit many of these locations in the future, which should result in some interesting and enjoyable storylines, and I look forward to seeing how that turns out.

I ended up listening to The Black Hawks through its audiobook format, which runs for just over 12 hours and is narrated by Colin Mace.  This proved to be an excellent way to enjoy The Black Hawks, and I was able to power through it in only a few days as it was a really easy novel to listen to.  Thanks to Mace’s enjoyable narration, readers will be able to fly through this exciting and fast-paced story without losing focus for a second.  Mace also does a number of excellent voices for the various characters in the novels, capturing the diverse personalities and over-the-top characters really well.  As a result, I felt that this format was an awesome way to enjoy The Black Hawks and the audiobook comes highly recommended.

The Black Hawks by David Wragg was a cool and impressive dark fantasy adventure that I am really glad I checked out.  Thanks to his captivating and action-packed story, distinctive characters and dark fantasy setting, Wragg knocked his debut out of the park, creating an awesome overall read.  I had an amazing time listening to this fantastic book and I am looking forward to seeing how the story continues in the second Articles of Faith novel.

WWW Wednesday – 23 September 2020

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?

River of Gold by Anthony Riches (Hardcover)

River of Gold Cover

I was in the mood for a good historical fiction read so I thought I would check out River of Gold, the latest entry in Anthony Riches’ Empire series.  I am about halfway through this book at the moment and so far it is proving to be an enjoyable read.

Star WarsThrawn Ascendency: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn (Audiobook)

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising Cover

I finally got a chance to check out the latest Thrawn novel from legendary Star Wars author Timothy Zahn.  Chaos Rising is the first novel in Zahn’s new Thrawn Ascendancy trilogy which serves as a prequel to his previous Thrawn series (made up of Thrawn, Alliances and Treason).  This was one of my most anticipated reads for 2020 and so far it is not disappointing as Zahn has come up with another amazing adventure for his most iconic character.

What did you recently finish reading?

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini (Trade Paperback)

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars Cover

The Black Hawks by David Wragg (Audiobook)

The Black Hawks Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Trouble With Peace by Joe Abercrombie

The Trouble with Peace 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 – 16 September 2020

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?

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini (Trade Paperback)

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars Cover

I am still getting through this massive book, but it is quite an impressive and expansive science fiction novel that is well worth the time you need to set aside to read it.

The Black Hawks by David Wragg (Audiobook)

The Black Hawks Cover

The Black Hawks is a fun and exciting fantasy debut from last year that I have been meaning to check out for a while now.  I am about a third of a way through it at the moment and it is proving to be quite an entertaining and enjoyable read.

What did you recently finish reading?

Dogs of War by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Dogs of War Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendency: Chaos Rising by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Ascendancy - Chaos Rising 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.