WWW Wednesday – 30 November 2022

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Silver Queendom by Dan Kobolt (Trade Paperback)

Silver Queendom Cover

I just started reading the awesome fantasy book, Silver Queendom by Dan Koboldt.  This compelling novel follows a mismatched group of rogues who decide to pull off a dangerous heist in a very flashy way. I am only about 50 pages into Silver Queendom at the moment, but I am having a pretty good time with it, and I cannot wait to see what other cool shenanigans the author will unleash in the future.

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Warhammer 40,000: Kasrkin by Edoardo Albert (Audiobook)

Warhammer 40,000 - Kasrkin Cover

I also just started another intense Warhammer 40,000 novel with Kasrkin by Edoardo Albert.  This book follows an elite group of soldiers as they journey into an enemy controlled desert to find a missing general.  However, the alien forces waiting for them are the least of their problems as they are forced to contend with the many mysteries hidden under the sands of the planet.  I have made a fair bit of progress on this audiobook already, and I am deeply enjoying Kasrkin, which isn’t really a surprise considering how strong the Warhammer 40,000 books have been in 2022.  I am hoping to knock Kasrkin off in the next few days, and I cannot wait to see just how crazy this story is going to get.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Retribution by Sarah Barrie (Trade Paperback)

Retribution Cover

A dark and powerful Australian thriller that I had an outstanding time reading.

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Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer (Audiobook)

Dragon Mage Cover

I was very pleased with myself for finishing off the massive fantasy audiobook, Dragon Mage this week.  Dragon Mage proved to be quite an elaborate and compelling read, and I really got caught up in its classic fantasy narrative, which was pretty damn awesome.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Dead Man’s Hand by James J. Butcher

Dead Man's Hand Cover

I am hoping to read the cool fantasy debut novel, Dead Man’s Hand next by new author James J. Butcher.  The son of legendary fantasy author, Jim Butcher, James Butcher comes from a great writing pedigree and I am quite intrigued to see how his first book turns out.  Dead Man’s Hand is a compelling sounding urban fantasy book, and I look forward to diving into its intense and captivating narrative.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Convergence by Zoraida Cordova

Star Wars - Convergence Cover

The next audiobook on my list to listen to is Convergence by Zoraida Cordova.  The first adult book in the second phase of the Star Wars: The High Republic series, Convergence will set the stage for much of 2023’s Star Wars fiction, and I am pretty excited for that.  Set to follow a new batch of characters as they explore a whole new period of Star Wars history, Convergence is sure to be an exciting and central read, and I can’t wait to see how the next Phase of High Republic fiction will unfold, especially after how good Path of Deceit was.

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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 Summer 2022/23 TBR

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

For this list, I have come up with 10 of the most anticipated novels that are coming out between 1 December 2022 and 28 February 2023.  There are quite a few very cool novels set for release in the next few months that I am extremely excited for, including some of my most highly anticipated reads for the end of 2022 and the start of the New Year.  Due to how impressive some of these upcoming books are, it took me a little while to finalise my list but I was eventually able to whittle it down into a Top Ten list (with a few honourable mentions).  I have primarily used the Australian publication dates to reflect when I will be able to get these awesome novels, and these might be somewhat different to the rest of the world.  I have previously discussed a number of these books before in prior Top Ten Tuesdays and Waiting on Wednesday articles and I think all of them will turn out to be pretty incredible reads.

Honourable Mentions:

Three-Edged Sword by Jeff Lindsay – 6 December 2022

Three-Edged Sword Cover

The third book in a super fun heist thriller series by the author of the Dexter novels.  Three-Edged Sword follows on from Just Watch Me and Fool Me Twice and is a guaranteed thrill ride.

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Red Dirt Road by S. R. White – 5 January 2023

Red Dirt Road Cover

One of the more intriguing pieces of Australian fiction in the new year, Red Dirt Road follows on from the outstanding 2021 read, Prisoner, and presents a compelling and unique murder mystery in the Australian bush.

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The Last Kingdom by Steve Berry – 28 February 2023

The Last Kingdom Cover

There is no way that I am going to miss the next Steve Berry book, The Last Kingdom.  The latest entry in Berry’s long-running Cotton Malone series (which has featured such great books as The Malta Exchange, The Warsaw Protocol and The Kaiser’s Web), The Last Kingdom will see Cotton Malone roped into a deep historical conspiracy regarding the Bavarian royal family and sounds pretty damn fantastic.

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City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita – 28 February 2023

City Under One Roof Cover

Iris Yamashita will be bringing in one of the most compelling and highly anticipated debuts of 2023 with her great book, City Under One Roof, which will pit a detective against a mysterious community in Alaska.

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Top Ten List:

Warhammer 40,000: Witchbringer by Steven B. Fischer – 14 December 2022

Warhammer 40,000 - Witchbringer Cover

The first book I need to highlight on this list is the fantastic upcoming Warhammer 40,000 read, Witchbringer by Steven B. Fischer.  Set deep in the battlefields of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Witchbringer will follow an Imperial psyker, a living weapon who is reviled and barely tolerated by the rest of humanity, who is forced to return to her old unit and help them on a deadly mission.  Sure to be extremely exciting, while also diving into the dark side of humanity in the future, Witchbringer sounds extremely awesome and I can’t wait to end my year with another top Warhammer book.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: The Battle of Jedha by George Mann – 3 January 2023

Star Wars - The Battle of Jedha Cover

The new year is already looking pretty good, especially as one of the first books coming out is the fantastic Star Wars: The High Republic audiobook, The Battle of Jedha.  Part of the second phase of the excellent High Republic series, The Battle of Jedha will see an all-out war break out on the planet of Jedha and promises to be one of the more exciting pieces of recent Star Wars fiction, especially when read out by a full cast of talented narrators.

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Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry – 10 January 2023

Son of the Poison Rose Cover

I am exceedingly excited that one of the first books I will be reading in 2023 will be the fantasy epic, Son of the Poison Rose by one of my favourite authors, Jonathan Maberry.  The sequel to Maberry’s exceptional 2022 novel, Kagen the Damned, Son of the Poison Rose will continue the outstanding dark fantasy storyline contained in his first book as a failed royal guard attempts to save the remnants of his fallen kingdom from a dark ruler determined to destroy everything he loves.  Son of the Poison Rose will easily be one of the best books of 2023 and I cannot wait to check it out, especially in its audiobook version narrated by the always epic Ray Porter.

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Downfall by Louise Carey – 10 January 2023

Downfall Cover

I will definitely be grabbing a copy of Downfall by Louise Carey early next year, which sounds extremely awesome.  The final book in Carey’s Inscape series, Downfall will follow on from Inscape (one of my favourite debuts of 2021) and Outcast, and will take the reader back into a technologically controlled dystopian future.  This time the protagonists will have to take down the company they have long served after it uses its insidious technology to take control of everyone they know and love.  I have had an incredible time with this great science fiction series, and I cannot wait to see how it comes to an end, especially after that cool cliff-hanger at the end of Outcast.

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Unnatural History by Jonathan Kellerman – 14 February 2023

Unnatural History Cover

I have been having a lot of fun getting into Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series over the last few years, with such great and compelling murder mystery books as The Wedding Guest, The Museum of Desire, Serpentine and City of the Dead, and I am quite excited to read another one of his books in 2023.  This new book, Unnatural History, will see Kellerman’s compelling protagonists investigate another complex case, this time involving a dead photographer who made a living exploiting homeless people.  I am going to have an amazing time with Unnatural History and it will probably end up being one of the more impressive mystery novels of the new year.

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The Last Orphan by Gregg Hurwitz – 14 February 2023

The Last Orphan Cover

Few spy thriller series have been more impressive in the last few years that Gregg Hurwitz’s Orphan X books.  Following a former elite government assassin turned vigilante, the Orphan X books form an action-packed and powerful series that I have really grown to love, especially with great entries like Out of the Dark, Into the Fire, Prodigal Son and Dark Horse.  Naturally, I am pretty excited to see how the series continues and I only have to wait until February to find out.  The next book in the series, The Last Orphan, will see the protagonist dragged back into government service and must choose whether to return to his assassin roots or risk the lives of everyone he loves.  This is set to be an extremely moving and exciting entry in the Orphan X series, and I cannot wait to see what will happen to Hurwitz’s brilliant and complex protagonist next.

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The Shadow Casket by Chris Wooding – 16 February 2023

The Shadow Casket Cover

After years of waiting, we are finally going to get a sequel to Chris Wooding’s outstanding fantasy epic, The Ember BladeThe Ember Blade was a particularly impressive fantasy novel that saw a group of desperate freedom fighters steal a legendary blade to inspire their country into rebellion.  The Ember Blade was something very special, and I have been eagerly waiting for the sequel, The Shadow Casket, which is set to feature even more blood, rebellion and heroics.  This is definitely going to be one of the top fantasy books of 2023 and I cannot wait to dive into its elaborate and addictive narrative.

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Dead of Night by Simon Scarrow – 16 February 2023

Dead of Night Cover

Few historical mystery books have more potential than the upcoming Dead of Night by Simon Scarrow.  The sequel to Scarrow’s excellent novel Blackout, Dead of Night will return to wartime Berlin and follow a police detective’s attempt to solve a terrible murder while going up against the corrupt Nazi Government.  I am very excited to see how this amazing mystery unfolds, and I know I am going to have a wonderful time reading this book.

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Burner by Mark Greaney – 21 February 2023

Burner Cover

Mark Greaney returns with another amazing entry in his bestselling Gray Man spy thriller series, which has already featured outstanding reads like The Gray Man, Mission Critical, One Minute Out, Relentless and Sierra Six.  The new book, Burner, will see impressive protagonist Court Gentry, go up against both the CIA and the Russian mafia to try and save a man’s life.  However, he will also have to compete with his love interest, as they try to work out why so many people want their target dead.  I have no doubt that this is going to be another epic novel from Greaney and I look forward to see the next chapter of the incredible Gray Man series unfold.

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Usagi Yojimbo: Volume 38: The Green Dragon by Stan Sakai – 21 February 2023

Usagi Yojimbo - The Green Dragon Cover

The final upcoming book I need to highlight is the next volume in the awesome Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai, The Green DragonUsagi Yojimbo still remains one of my favourite comic series of all time, and I am always extremely eager to get my hands on a new volume as soon as it becomes available.  This next volume will see Usagi and his companions go up against ghosts, ninjas and other dangerous foes, as they continue to journey around their chaotic version of Feudal Japan.  I already know that I am going to love this comic when it comes out, and I am very, very excited to get my hands on it.

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

Warhammer 40,000: The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley

The Wraithbone Phoenix Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 30 August 2022)

Series: Warhammer Crime

Length: 11 hours and 6 minutes

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

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The entertaining team of Baggit and Clodde return for another Warhammer Crime adventure in the rip-roaring and deeply exciting science fiction thriller romp, The Wraithbone Phoenix by the impressive Alec Worley.

Last week I presented a review that talked about the intriguing Warhammer Crime series that combined crime fiction narratives with elements of the iconic Warhammer universe to create some amazing reads.  While some Warhammer novels already feature some intriguing crime fiction elements, such as in Necromunda novels like Kal Jericho: Sinner’s Bounty by Joshua Reynolds, the Warhammer Crime books are a much more complete melding, with cool thriller plots and complex mysteries.  I was rather intrigued by this concept, especially as I love it when authors combine wildly different genres together, and I mentioned how I planned to try out one of those books next.  Well, that book was The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley, an awesome and captivating read set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  A follow-up to Worley’s 2020 full-cast audiobook, Dredge Runners, The Wraithbone Phoenix is a full-length novel that brings back the protagonists of the original audiobook and puts them in another unique and deadly situation.

In the far future of the universe, there are few places more corrupt and chaotic than the crime-ridden city of Varangantua.  Life is cheap on the mean streets of Varangantua, and death waits around every corner, especially if you have a massive bounty on your head.  Unfortunately, the most wanted in the city currently are the abhuman deserters turned criminals, Baggit and Clodde.  Baggit, a tricky ratling always looking for the next score, and Clodde, his ogryn friend with a rare facility for thought, have made an enemy of one of the most dangerous men in the city, and now everyone is after their heads.  Hiding out within one of the city’s industrial salvatoriums, Baggit and Clodde have taken on new identities until the heat dies down.  However, the twos natural inclination for getting into trouble soon breaks their cover, and they are soon forced out into the open.

Desperate to find a way to pay off their debts, Baggit hears an interesting bit of news that could change all their fortunes.  One of the nearby salvatoriums is dismantling the decommissioned Imperial Navy ship, Sunstriker, the reputed home of a long-lost treasure, a xenos artifact known as the Wraithbone Phoenix.  Guided by the rumours he heard when previously served about the Sunstriker, Baggit believes that the Wraithbone Phoenix is still hidden aboard, and its value is more than enough to get rid of their bounty.

But no secrets every remain safe in Varangantua, and as Baggit and Clodde make their preparations to sneak into the Sunstriker, news of their location and their potential treasure leaks out.  Soon every criminal, bounty hunter, treasure hunter and mercenary is on their way towards the Sunstriker, desperate to claim either the bounty on Baggit and Clodde’s head, or the Wraithbone Phoenix.  Forced to face off against the very worst killers that Varangantua and its main criminal cesspool, the Dredge, has to offer, Baggit and Clodde attempt to do the impossible, recover the artefact from the ship and get out with their heads intact.  But can even the clever Baggit and the indomitable Clodde escape the deadly wave about to crash down upon them?

Wow, now this was one of the most entertaining and thrilling Warhammer 40,000 novels I have read all year.  Worley has produced an amazing novel in The Wraithbone Phoenix that did a wonderful job blending Warhammer elements with an impressive crime fiction narrative.  Filled with a ton of action, some amazing humour, and so many outrageous characters, The Wraithbone Phoenix is an outstanding read that proves to be extremely addictive.

I had such a brilliant time with The Wraithbone Phoenix, especially as Worley pulled together an extremely impressive and intense narrative that is very hard to put down.  Set in a particularly crime-ridden and corrupt city, the novel sees the chaotic duo of the ratling (halfling/hobbit) Baggit and the ogryn (ogre) Clodde, get into all manner of trouble.  Featuring a range of character perspectives, the first third of the book is pretty firmly focussed on the main duo, with some fun scenes from the contemptable villain Lemuel Scratchwick.  Forced into hiding due to past mistakes, Baggit comes up with an ambitious plan to recover the Wraithbone Phoenix, a legendary xenos treasure that is rumoured to be hidden in a nearby ship being scrapped (the theft and hiding having been cleverly set up in some early interludes).  However, after Lemuel overhears and spills the beans in a very public way, the entire city knowns what the two are planning, and a horde of killers and thieves head towards the ship.  The book starts spreading its focus to several other outrageous figures, all of whom are interested in either the Wraithbone Phoenix or killing Baggit and Clodde.  The author does a wonderful job introducing each of the characters, and you soon become invested in their hunt, as all of them are pretty amusing in their own way.  The action ends up in the decommissioned ship, were everyone starts their search for the missing treasure, and it doesn’t take long for everyone to start fighting each other in a series of bloody battles.  You honestly have no idea who is going to survive the various encounters, and it is very fun to see the distinctive characters dying in surprisingly and compelling ways.  At the same time, the characters also attempt to solve the mystery of the hidden Wraithbone Phoenix, and the various hints about its initial disappearance are cleverly woven into the modern tale, requiring the protagonists to solve it.  Eventually, only a few characters are left, and there is a great series of twists and turns that sees everyone get what they truly deserve.  While I did think that Worley perhaps went one twist too far (the final one was a bit too metaphysical for my taste), the reader comes away extremely satisfied, and highly entertained.

I had a wonderful time with this awesome book, and I think that Worley did a great job setting the entire narrative out.  The combination of crime fiction elements and the great and grim Warhammer 40,000 setting worked extremely well, and you ended up with a high-octane thriller that saw futuristic and half-crazed killers go against each other in a deadly contest for money and treasure.  The use of various perspectives allows you to get to know the various outrageous killers and participants in a very short amount of time, and you are soon invested in them and their various personal struggles as they duke it out.  I was getting a very cool and cinematic vibe from this story that put me in mind of films and books like Smoking Aces, Snatch or Bullet Train, with big casts all working against each other for the same goal.  While you are generally rooting for the main two characters, it is also very fun to see the other players in action, and the multiple unique interactions all these crazy figures have results in an impressive and frenetic read.  Worley backs this up with a ton of brilliantly written and highly detailed action sequences, and you really won’t believe the range of destruction and deliciously devious deaths that occurs.  There are so many impressive and cleverly set up moments throughout this narrative, and the deaths of several characters are usually the result of some well-placed bit of trickery that occurred chapters ago.  All this action, intrigue and character development is perfectly bound together by the book’s overarching humour, which helps to balance out the more intense elements of the novel, while also keeping everything darkly funny.  There are so many good jokes or hilariously over-the-top moments scattered throughout the novel, and I had a lot of great laughs as I powered through it.  Heck, even the title, The Wraithbone Phoenix, is a play on the classic noir book/film, The Maltese Falcon.  Everything comes together so perfectly throughout the book, especially as Worley also includes several outstanding interludes, some brilliant flashbacks, and even some hilarious in-universe text excerpts and announcements, all of which add perfectly the funny, but grim, tone of the book.  This was an incredibly well written and captivating read, and it proves quite impossible to put down at times.

While The Wraithbone Phoenix does have an outstanding crime fiction narrative, this book wouldn’t be anywhere near as good if it weren’t set in the grim future of Warhammer 40,000.  Worley did a remarkable job setting the book in this futuristic world, and it was great to see the various technologies and factions from the game being utilised in a crime story.  The author really works to explain many different elements from the Warhammer 40,000 lore here, and readers new to the franchise can easily dive into this book and start appreciating its clever story and settings.  I particularly loved the primary location of the corrupt city of Varangantua.  The author expands on this city a lot in this new book, giving more depth than it had in Dredge Runners, and you see more of the massive industries the planet supports, and the terrible conditions the people forced to work there endure.  Worley continues to hammer home just how much of a dark, dystopian society Varangantua, and the larger Imperium, really is for ordinary human citizens, and that their supposedly enlightened rulers are in many ways just as bad, if not worse, than the various monsters and the forces of Chaos they fight against (at least Chaos worshippers are honest about their intentions).  You can really sense the woe and control that Varangantua’s rulers have over the populace, and this is only enhanced by the various propaganda announcements that are played at various intervals throughout the book.  The propaganda posts are very obviously biased in their attempted manipulations and exhalations for service and order, that they are all extremely funny, even as they show just how bad things are by denying them.  However, Worley takes this even further by showing the darker, criminal side that surrounds the city, and it was really cool to see just how much worse things could get.

One of the most intriguing Warhammer 40,000 elements that Worley explores in The Wraithbone Phoenix is how the Imperial abhumans are treated.  Abhumans are genetically diverse humans who come in many shapes and sizes, like the small and sneaky ratlings and the gigantic, but dumb, ogryn.  Tolerated by the Imperium for their usefulness, these abhumans are treated as second-class citizens, looked down on by everyone just for the way they were born.  While this has been explored in other books, Worley really hammers it home in The Wraithbone Phoenix, especially as the two main characters are both abhumans.  You get a brilliant examination of how abhumans are regarded throughout the Imperium, both in the Astra Militarum and in general society, and the results are pretty damn grim.  Not only do all the humans treat them terribly and generally tell them they are worthless (there is an entire litany they need to learn about them being abhorred, unclean, but forgiven), but there are multiple examples of abhumans being killed or maimed, just for what they are.  Not only is this fascinating, while also enhancing the dark nature of the Imperium and the supposedly righteous humans, but it also becomes quite a key plot point throughout the book.  There are multiple scenes that focus on the protagonists struggling to deal with the prejudice they have suffered throughout their life, which defines them and drives them.  In addition, the plot around the hidden Wraithbone Phoenix is down to a mistreated ratling trying to get his revenge after being unfairly targeted and left filled with hate.  This proves to be quite a fascinating and well-written aspect of The Wraithbone Phoenix, and I loved being able to see everything from the abhumans perspective.

I also have a lot of love for the excellent characters that Worley set his story around.  There is such a great range of distinctive and captivating characters throughout The Wraithbone Phoenix, and you really get drawn into their individual tales and battles for survival and redemption.  Most of the focus ends up going around the main characters of the book, Baggit and Clodde, abhuman Astra Militarum deserters turned criminal entrepreneurs who were introduced in Dredge Runners.  Worley ensures that new readers can quickly pick up who Baggit and Clodde are, and it was so much fun to follow this ratling/ogryn combination, especially as they continued their chaotic lives of crime.  Both protagonists have their own brilliant characteristics, including Baggit’s (I assume the name is a fun homage to Bilbo/Frodo Baggins) enjoyment of plans and schemes that never work out, and the surprisingly smart and philosophical nature of Clodde (that’s what happens when you get shot in the head).  The two characters play off each other perfectly, with Baggit taking on the role of leader and carer for his big comrade, and Clodde letting him, while also not allowing him to get away with anything, thanks to the increased understanding he has.  We get a bit more history surround these two characters, including their time in the army, and while it is not fully explored yet, you get to see the fantastic bond they have.  Baggit ends up getting a bit more of a focus in this book than Clodde, mainly because the central plot point is so tightly tied to the fate of a mistreated ratling.  Baggit, who suffered his own abuse from humans while serving, becomes obsessed with the fate of this long dead ratling, and he is determined to find out what happened to him and whether he got his revenge.  Baggit really emphasises with him as the story continues, and his obsession for answers lead him to make some big mistakes, especially once he learns all the ancient ratling’s secrets.  Both Baggit and Clodde are extremely likeable, and you can’t help but fall in love with the scheming ratling and the sweet, if brilliantly weird, ogryn.

Aside from Baggit and Clodde, Worley also fills The Wraithbone Phoenix with an eclectic mix of characters, with some very diverse storylines and characteristics to them.  The most iconic and heavily featured are the various assassins, bounty hunters and other individuals who are flocking to the Sunstriker for various reasons, be it money, treasure, or a chance of redemption (sometimes all three at once).  This list of crazy characters includes a genetically enhanced killing machine, a cult of phoenix-worshiping wackjobs, a team of elite mercenaries, an ageing bounty hunter trying to regain his reputation, a sadistic archaeologist with a love of whips, another ratling with a past connection to Baggit and Clodde, a disgraced and drunk Imperial Navy officer with a dream of finally impressing his dead mother, and the mysterious hooded assassin known only as Death.  Worley did a really good job of introducing each of these unique figures, and you swiftly get drawn into their compelling personal stories and outrageous personalities, especially after witnessing several scenes from their perspective.  While I could go on for ages about all of these dangerous people, I’m mainly just going to give a shoutout to the character of Lemuel Scratchwick, a steward at the plant Baggit and Clodde were working at, who really grows to hate the pair.  Dragged down from his high perch by them, Lemuel spends the rest of the book trying to get even and comes across as the most arrogant and detestable villain.  It is so amusing to see Lemuel in action, especially as his pride often gets the better of him and nothing goes his way, much to my delight.  He forms quite an unhealthy rivalry with Baggit which draws them both into taking stupid risks.  All these over-the-top, but deeply likeable characters, really enhanced my enjoyment of this book and I can’t wait to see what impressively outrageous figures appear in Worley’s next novel.

Unsurprisingly, I chose to listen to The Wraithbone Phoenix on audiobook, which is really one of the best ways to enjoy a great Warhammer book.  This was a moderately long audiobook, coming in at just over 11 hours, and I found myself getting through it in a relatively short amount of time, including powering through the last several hours in a day trying to get to the conclusion.  This was a very fun and entertaining audiobook, and I had a great time listening to the awesome humour and intense violence unfold, especially as the narration by Harry Myers painted quite an impressive picture.  Myers, whose work I previously enjoyed in another recent Warhammer 40,000 novel, Day of Ascension by Adrian Tchaikovsky, does a pretty epic job in The Wraithbone Phoenix, and I loved his narrative take on the captivating story.  Every character in this audiobook is given their own distinctive and fitting voice, which I deeply enjoyed, especially as it helps the listener to connect more to them and the story.  Myers clearly had a lot of fun when it came to voicing all the outrageous figures and some of the voices he came up with were very amusing.  I really appreciated the squeakier voice he used for the rattling characters, as wells as the deeper boom of Clodde, and the rest of the voices he came up with were not only distinctive and fun, but they also helped to enhance the inherent traits of the character it was associated with.  For example, he really conveyed the deep arrogance and distain contained within the character of Lemuel Scrathwick, as well as he dramatic decline in sanity as the book unfolded, and I really appreciated the narrator’s attention to detail with that.  Myers really impressed me as a narrator in The Wraithbone Phoenix, and I liked how some of his scenes, namely those depicting the in-universe propaganda, were enhanced with some serious and inspiration music and sound effects, which made the absurd declarations even more hilarious.  This was such a good audiobook, and I cannot recommend it enough as a way to enjoy this epic Warhammer novel.

Overall, this was an outstanding first Warhammer Crime novel from me, and I had such an incredible time getting through this book.  The Wraithbone Phoenix is an impressive and highly addictive Warhammer 40,000 read, and I loved the elaborate story that Alec Worley came up with for it.  Containing some brilliant characters, a highly entertaining story, and a great combination of crime fiction and Warhammer elements, The Wraithbone Phoenix comes highly recommended, and you are guaranteed to have an exceptional time reading this witty and intense read.

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WWW Wednesday – 2 November 2022

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

The Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham (Trade Paperback)

The Boys from Biloxi Cover

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland

Star Wars - Path of Deceit Cover

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What did you recently finish reading?

Seventeen by John Brownlow (Trade Paperback)

Seventeen Cover

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Warhammer 40,000: The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley (Audiobook)

The Wraithbone Phoenix Cover

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Desert Star by Michael Connelly

Desert Star Cover

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Firefly: What Makes Us Mighty by M. K. England

Firefly - What Makes Us Mighty Cover

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

WWW Wednesday – 26 October 2022

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Seventeen by John Brownlow (Trade Paperback)

Seventeen Cover

I have just started reading the awesome and very fun thriller novel, Seventeen by new author John Brownlow.  A fast-paced read, Seventeen follows the world’s most lethal assassin who finds himself caught in the crossfire between his deadly predecessor and younger assassins wanting to take his place.  I sped through the first 60 pages of Seventeen in one go and I am already pretty hooked by this cool read.  I will probably knock this off in the next day or so and I think I’ll have a very enjoyable time doing so.

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Warhammer 40,000: The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley (Audiobook)

The Wraithbone Phoenix Cover

I have been having an absolute blast with my latest exploration of Warhammer 40,000 tie-in fiction, with The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley.  Part of the Warhammer Crime subseries, The Wraithbone Phoenix follows two criminal abhumans, a ratling and an ogryn, as they attempt to steal their big score, the mysterious missing artefact known as The Wraithbone Phoenix.  However, after a series of misfortunes, every criminal, assassin and treasure hunter on the planet knows what they are after, forcing them to fight through a horde of outrageous assailants.  Naturally, I am having a ton of fun with this impressive Warhammer audiobook, and I look forward to finding out who gets the prize, and which of the many distinctive supporting characters is going to suffer a gruesome death.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Fairy Tale by Stephen King (Trade Paperback)

Fairy Tale Cover

I finally managed to finish off the massive new Stephen King novel, Fairy Tale, and it proved to be quite an awesome read.  While a bit long, Fairy Tale had a unique and compelling story that saw a teenage protagonist descend to a fairytale realm, which has been overtaken by dark forces.  A classic adventure story with a compelling setting and Stephen King’s distinctive voice, Fairy Tale was an excellent read and I am glad I spent the time getting through it.

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In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan (Audiobook)

In the Shadow of Lightning Cover

I managed to knock off In the Shadow of Lightning a few days ago and boy did Brian McClellan outdo himself with this first book in an awesome new series.  Set in an inventive new fantasy world where all magic is associated with glass, In the Shadow of Lightning provides the reader with a complex and intriguing tale, rich with politics, espionage, action, betrayal and more.  I had such an outstanding time listening to this captivating book and this is easily one of my favourite fantasy books of 2022. Review to follow soon.

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Warhammer 40,000: Dredge Runners by Alec Worley (Audiobook)

Dredge Runners

I was in the mood for something short and sweet at the start of the week, so I quickly checked out the short Warhammer 40,000 audio drama, Dredge Runners.  The audio drama that introduces the protagonists of The Wraithbone Phoenix (which I am currently reading), Dredge Runners was an extremely clever and highly entertaining short that set the two rogues against criminals and corrupt law enforcement in a well-written and brilliantly paced read. Featuring an amazing voice cast, Dredge Runners was an exceptional audio drama that comes highly recommended.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Desert Star by Michael Connelly

Desert Star Cover

I have got several awesome books to read at the moment, but I think I’ll dive into the new Michael Connelly crime fiction read, Desert Star, next. Once again bringing together two of Connelly’s impressive protagonists, Renee Ballard and Harry Bosch, Desert Star sees them dive into several intriguing cold cases, including a murder investigation Bosch has been obsessed about for years. I love Connelly’s amazing crime fiction books and this one has a lot of potential to be a great read.  I look forward to checking out in the next few days and I have very high hopes that Desert Star will end up being one of the better crime fiction novels of 2022.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: Path of Deceit by Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland

Star Wars - Path of Deceit Cover

My plan after finishing The Wraithbone Phoenix is to start listening to the Path of Deceit audiobook, written by the intriguing team of Tessa Gratton and Justina Ireland.  The first entry in the second phase of The High Republic sub-series of Star Wars fiction, Path of Deceit introduces the reader to yet another version of the High Republic, this time in a period of exploration and discovery.  I am quite intrigued to see what is happening at this point in the Star Wars universe and I can’t wait to find out what interesting story Gratton and Ireland have chosen to introduce it to us.

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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 – My Favourite Horror Novels (Updated – 2022)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  In this latest edition of Top Ten Tuesday, readers get a Halloween Freebie, meaning that they can list whatever topic they want, although a horror or Halloween theme is encouraged.  So, with that in mind, I thought I would take this opportunity to update a previous list where I highlighted my favourite horror novels of all time.

Back in 2020 for Halloween, I came up with a list where I looked at my top ten favourite horror novels.  While horror is not my favourite genre, I ended up producing a rather interesting list with some unique entries that I was pretty happy with.  This list got a bit of interest, and I decided I would make a bit of effort to come back to update this list every Halloween, especially if I had some new horror novels to add to it.  I did an update last year with several awesome novels, and I have decided to come back to it again in 2022, especially as I have had the opportunity to check out some excellent and intense horror reads.

To sort out this update, I took a critical look at the previous version of the list and made some hard decisions about whether any of the horror novels I read in the last year might fit in better.  I ended up making a few changes, with new entries replacing some of the existing books (all new entries in red).  While I was sad to see some of the previously featured novels removed, I honestly felt that the new entries are better horror novels.  This resulted in a fun new version of this list, and I am pretty happy with how it turned out.

Honourable Mentions:

Later by Stephen King

Later Cover

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The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Sandman Act 1 Cover

I had to include the audiobook version of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman here, as it has some great horror elements to it.  While more of a fantasy/comic story than a pure horror comic, The Sandman did have some amazing horror sequences in it, which are really enhanced in the full-cast audiobook.  The Sandman features several great horror scenes, but the most disturbing would have to be the infamous diner scene.  Contained within the sixth chapter/issues, 24 Hours, this epic extended sequence shows a group of customers in a diner slowly driven insane and then brutally killed by the villainous Doctor Destiny using Dream’s stolen ruby.  This entire chapter is masterfully portrayed and you cannot help but shudder at every atrocity the innocent patrons experience during the worst 24 hours of their lives.  This trippy diner sequence was recently adapted in the recent The Sandman television series, and while that was good, especially with David Thewlis playing Doctor Destiny, I felt that the version in the comics was even darker and creepier.  This, and a several other dark scenes, ensure The Sandman an honourable mention on this list and this comic and its audiobook adaptation are highly recommended for all horror fans.

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A People’s History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal

A History of the Vampire Uprising Cover

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Death of the Black Widow by James Patterson and J. D. Barker

Death of the Black Widow Cover

Another entry that is not a full horror book, but which features amazing horror elements is the recent novel by James Patterson and J. D. Barker, Death of the Black Widow.  Following a young cop who becomes obsessed with a mysterious woman he encounters on his first day on the job, Death of Black Widow is a twisty and intriguing read that takes the protagonist on a dangerous journey to the edge of sanity.  Initially portrayed as a compelling thriller story, this book eventually develops some excellent horror elements, which led me to include it as an honourable mention.  Extremely addictive, I loved this thriller/horror blend and I look forward to reading more books from this excellent team of writers.

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Top Ten List (unranked):

Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

Into the Drowning Deep Cover

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Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero Cover

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The Dark by Jeremy Robinson

The Dark Cover

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Warhammer 40,000: The Bookkeeper’s Skull by Justin D. Hill

The Bookkeeper's Skull Cover

One of the more recent horror books I had the pleasure of reading was The Bookkeeper’s Skull by Justin D. Hill.  Part of the intriguing Warhammer Horror subseries, The Bookkeeper’s Skull is a haunting and brilliant tale that makes full use of the grim Warhammer 40,000 setting.  The book follows a planetary enforcer as he investigates a mysterious and cursed agricultural community plagued by a series of gruesome murders.  Hill creates a spooky and malevolent atmosphere, and you are constantly left wondering who is going to end up dead next.  Tightly paced and featuring some brilliantly dark examinations of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, The Bookkeeper’s Skull was an amazing read and I look forward to exploring more Warhammer Horror books in the future.

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The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

The Anomaly Cover

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Code Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Code Zero Cover

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World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z Cover 2

After years of hearing how awesome it was, I finally got around to enjoying the iconic zombie novel, World War Z by Max Brooks.  One of the more unique zombie books out there, World War Z recounts the history a devastating, world-wide zombie apocalypse and the various people it impacts.  Told through a brilliant chronicle method where multiple interesting characters recount their distinctive personal stories, you get an impressive, multifaceted narrative that covers the beginning, middle and end of the zombie wars.  Epic in its scope and filled with some great stories and characters, it honestly does not take long to get extremely addicted to World War Z.  While the focus is more on exploring the impacts a zombie apocalypse would have on the world, World War Z does have some pretty creepy moment.  The darker tales of underwater zombies, massacres of modern armies, and the mental turmoil suffered by zombie survivors, are excellent horror material that makes this an easy book to include here.  An epic and outstanding book that lived up to all the hype surrounding it.

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Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

deathtrooperscover

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Devolution by Max Brooks

Devolution Cover

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Ink by Jonathan Maberry

Ink Cover

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That’s the end of this latest Top Ten Tuesday list.  I think that the new horror novels were great additions to the list, and I think this new version of the list turned out really well.  Each of the above novels, both new inclusions and existing ones, are outstanding reads that come highly recommended to all horror fans.  I look forward to seeing how this list evolves once again this time next year, especially as I am sure some amazing and spinetingling horror books are likely to come out in the next 12 months.

Quick review – Warhammer 40,000: Dredge Runners by Alec Worley

Dredge Runners

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 8 August 2020)

Series: Warhammer Crime

Length: 1 hour and 1 minute

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

Prepare to dive into the dark and fun world of the Warhammer Crime subseries with the short but incredible hilarious audio drama, Dredge Runners by Alec Worley.

Fans of this blog will be well aware of my current obsession with all things Warhammer fiction, as I have been making an effort to try out a range of their recently released books, all of which have been highly entertaining reads.  One of the main things that I love about the tie-in fiction that surrounds the Warhammer tabletop games is the sheer range of different stories that can be told, especially as the various authors associated with this franchise often go out of their way to blend it with other genres and story types.  As a result, there are several great Warhammer sub-series out there at the moment, including the Warhammer Crime books, which dive into the criminal underbelly of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and presents the readers with some intriguing and unique adventures.

I have been meaning to check out some Warhammer Crime novels for a while, especially as there are some quite fascinating sounding books already part of it.  I love the idea of the grim and gothic Warhammer universe blending with a more traditional crime fiction read, and I know I am going to have a lot of fun with all of them.  As such, when I saw that a new Warhammer Crime book, The Wraithbone Phoenix by Alec Worley, was coming out, I thought that it would be a good entry point to the wider Warhammer Crime sub-series.  However, I noticed that The Wraithbone Phoenix was actually a follow-up to a previous short story by Worley, Dredge Runners, which was released in 2020 as a full-cast audio drama.  Well, I am a reviewer who likes the get the complete picture and considering that Dredge Runners was just over an hour long I figured I would listen to it quickly to get some context before diving into The Wraithbone Phoenix.  As such, I listened to the whole of Dredge Runners in one go this morning, and it proved to be quite an amazing and amusing listen.

Goodreads Synopsis:

A Warhammer Crime Audio Drama

Baggit the ratling and Clodde the ogryn fight to survive on the mean streets of Varangantua as powerful enemies close in from all sides.

LISTEN TO IT BECAUSE
Experience the sounds of a crime-ridden city and enjoy the twists and turns of a tale starring some of the more unusual inhabitants of the Imperium of Man.

THE STORY
Baggit is a fast-talking ratling sniper with a greedy eye and loose morals. Clodde is an ogryn, a brute with a core of decency and a desire for a better life. Two abhuman deserters turned thieves, at large in the monolithic city of Varangantua, where only the tough or the ruthless survive. Having landed in debt to a savage crime lord, Baggit and Clodde end up in the crosshairs of the meanest, most puritanical sanctioner in the city. Caught between two powerful enemies, and with innocent lives at stake, the unlikely companions must think fast and hustle hard before death points a las-pistol in their direction… 

Unsurprisingly, Dredge Runners turned out to be just as amusing and fantastic as the plot synopsis suggested.  I loved the idea of two abhumans, in this case a ratling (a futuristic halfling sniper) and an ogryn (ogre), getting involved in a series of disastrous criminal enterprises after getting caught between the city’s biggest crime lord and a puritanical sanctioner (law enforcement official).  Despite its short runtime, Worley achieves a lot with Dredge Runners, perfectly introducing his excellent protagonists and taking them on a wild science fiction thriller adventure that includes hilarious exchanges, failed undercover operations and explosive heists.

Told completely through dialogue (with some sound effects giving off extra context), Dredge Runners’ story draws you in within the first few minutes as the author blends the more outrageous elements of the Warhammer 40,000 universe with a dark but amusing crime fiction narrative.  Due to the length, you do not often get the full story of the events taking place, but the subsequent reaction by the characters allows you to imagine the full destructive scope of their actions, and it often proves funnier this way.  There is a real focus on humour in this short production, and I was constantly left in stiches at some of the fantastic antics that the main characters get up to as a chaotic team.  However, the story also has some real heart to it, especially towards the end when the protagonists are forced to make some tough decisions about their future, and they find their greed crashing up against their moral responsibility to other abhumans.  Throw in some memorable and deeply cynical propaganda messages from the city authorities that shows just how corrupt and repressive the entirety of Imperial culture is in the Warhammer 40,000 universe (the one that concluded the story had me laughing hard), and this proves to be an outstanding Warhammer production that I had an absolute blast getting through.

One of the main things that Worley achieved with Dredge Runners is the successful introduction of protagonists Baggit and Clodde, who serve as a fantastic central duo.  On the surface, Baggit is a thieving rattling who serves as the team’s leader and plan maker, while Clodde is the muscle, going along with Baggit’s plans and often messing them up by not understanding them.  However, there is a lot more to both of them.  Baggit is desperate to escape the dark life they currently have in Varagantua and feels a responsibility to Clodde due to their connected past.  Clodde, on the other hand, is a rather unique and amusing ogryn character, who has an unusual intellectual side after getting shot in the head (by Baggit).  As such, Clodde comes off as surprisingly deep and philosophical, and he is way smarter than he appears, especially when it comes to Baggit’s antics.  These two play off each other perfectly, especially with Clodde acting as the group’s conscious, and their eventual attempts to get justice and do the right thing, paints them in a much different light that makes them even more likeable.

I really need to highlight the outstanding way that this audio drama was presented, as the fantastic production melded well with Worley’s great script.  Acted out by a full cast of talented voice actors and narrators who tell the entire story through dialogue, this was a really fun Warhammer presentation to listen to, especially as the dialogue was also enhanced by some great sound effects and small bits of music.  I was particularly impressed by the voice actors, as each of them gave it their all when it came to their specific character/characters, moulding their voices to fit their distinctive traits and personalities.  The cast was led by Jon Rand (Baggit) and Paul Putner (Clodde), who I previously deeply enjoyed in Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh!.  These two actors did an outstanding job with their abhuman characters in Dredge Runners, and they play these two humorous figures perfectly, showcasing their different natures while also slowly revealing their outstanding hidden hearts.  These two are expertly matched by Emma Noakes and Kelly Hotten, who play the antagonistic crime lord and sanctioner respectively.  Noakes and Hotten both bring some outstanding menace to their roles, and I loved hearing these more serious characters attempt to deal with the chaotic main characters.  The voice cast is rounded out by veteran narrators, David Seddon and Andrew James Spooner, who narrate some of the fun supporting characters, and I loved some of the unique and compelling voices they brought to the table.  This entire audio drama comes together extremely smoothly, and listeners are constantly aware of all the actions going on in the story, especially with the fantastic cacophony of explosions, gunshots and screams that often happen around Baggit and Clodde.  I had a wonderful time listening to Dredge Runners in one go, and you will not be disappointed with this excellent audio production.

Overall, Dredge Runners was an awesome and highly impressive Warhammer 40,000 short, that is well worth checking out.  Not only did Alec Worley come up with a captivating and deeply hilarious narrative and script for this production but it features an outstanding and talented voice cast who perfectly perform it.  As such, Dredge Runners was a particularly epic introduction to the Warhammer Crime sub-series, and I had an outstanding time seeing just how amazing and unique crime fiction in the Warhammer 40,000 universe can be.  I am really glad that I chose to check out Dredge Runners first, and I honestly was surprised at just how perfectly entertaining this short audio drama turned out to be.  As such, I am giving it a five-star review and I am now extremely excited to see how the next adventure of Baggit and Clodde turns out in The Wraithbone Phoenix.

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Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Sieges in Literature

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 revolves around favourite words, which, while interesting, isn’t something that I felt I could really contribute to.  So instead, I thought I would dive into one of my favourite story elements from fiction, the good old-fashioned siege.

Now I have made it very clear over multiple reviews that I absolutely love sieges in fiction.  To me, there are few battle scenarios more awesome, more epic, and more impressive than watching a powerful attacker attempting to wipe out a fortress garrisoned by a group of desperate defenders.  Whether you are rooting for the besiegers or the defenders, there are so many outstanding moments that can be woven into a siege scenario.  From fighting on the walls, to a desperate stand in a breach, to watching an attacker slowly gain ground on the defender by a careful and elaborate series of siegeworks, artillery bombardments and the careful administration of traitors from within the walls, everything about a siege is just so amazing to me and I love reading about them in fiction.  Sieges don’t even have to be that long or epic, as even a quick and bloody siege can be pretty impressive, especially if the attackers are desperate to achieve their goals.

Fans of this blog might have noticed that in recent weeks I have read a couple of books that contain some great sieges.  Well, after getting really caught up in a few of them, it started making me think back to all the other awesome sieges scenes I have enjoyed over the years.  Naturally my only option then was to come up with a list of my favourite sieges in literature and it did not take long for me to come up with an intriguing list of books.

This proved to be quite a fun list to come up with, and it was really interesting to dive back into some books from the past to see what great sieges I could find.  I didn’t put a lot of limits on this list, and if the scenario in the book could be considered some sort of siege, I would consider it for this list.  I did try to come up with a few examples that were outside the traditional medieval castle situation most people would associate with a siege, and I wanted to show a little variety.  Despite that, most of the books I have featured on this list ended up being fantasy reads, which isn’t too unexpected.  There are a few good historical fiction reads thrown into the mix, as well as entries from other genres, and I think this ended up being a very well-balanced top ten, with my usual generous honourable mentions section.  So, lets dive into the breach and find out which glorious sieges made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

River of Gold by Anthony Riches

River of Gold Cover

A fantastic historical fiction read that saw an outnumbered group of elite Roman soldiers take control of an abandoned fort in the middle of Africa to stop an invading army.  An excellent example of a Roman siege from historical fiction.

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Devolution by Max Brooks – Siege of Greenloop

Devolution Cover

One of the more unusual examples I could think of was the fantastic novel Devolution by World War Z author Max Brooks.  Devolution sees the residence of a small, elite community get cut off from the rest of the world by a natural disaster, only to be then attacked by a group of sasquatches driven out of hiding by the same calamity.  Forced to defend themselves against the hungry beasts, the community finds themselves in an impromptu siege against a group of monsters, which results in a very inventive and intense read.

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Warhammer: Beastslayer by William King – Siege of Praag

Beastslayer Cover

William King has featured several awesome sieges in his legendary Gotrek and Felix Warhammer Fantasy series, however, my favourite so far had to be the siege of Praag in Beastslayer.  This book-long siege sees the doomed duo face off against all manner of monsters and demon worshipers on the walls, while traitors attempt to destroy them from within.  A classic siege scenario that fit perfectly into the iconic Warhammer setting.

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Inheritance by Christopher Paolini – Siege of Aroughs

Inheritance Cover

I have a lot of love for Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, especially as it features several awesome sieges.  However, my favourite probably occurred in the final book, Inheritance, when the protagonist’s cousin, Roran, is sent to take the fortified town of Aroughs with a small force.  Running out of time and resources, Roran uses some unconventional tactics to invade it.  Not only did this show how much Roran had grown as a tactician and commander over the series, but it featured some fantastic scenes of a great siege.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Legend by David Gemmell – Siege of Dros Delnoch

Legend

Let us start this list off with the book that might have the very best siege scenario I have ever read, with Legend by David Gemmell.  Legend is an exceptional read that sees an invincible army attempt to conquer their world’s most impregnable fortress, Dros Delnoch.  Utterly outnumbers, the defenders of Dros Delnoch have one advantage aside from their six walls, they are led by Druss the Legend, the greatest hero of all time.  This is such an epic siege, which the late, great, David Gemmell, set up perfectly.  Loaded with amazing characters, you really grow close to the defenders as you watch their desperate battle to hold off an unstoppable enemy till the very end.  A must read for all fans of the siege; you will not be disappointed by this book.

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Servant of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist by Janny Wurts – Siege of the Acoma Suite

Servant of the Empire Cover

Next, we have a book that shows that sieges don’t have to feature giant fortresses to be epic, with Servant of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts.  The second book in the outstanding Empire trilogy, Servant of the Empire has many amazing moments, but the best is the compelling and intense siege of the Acoma Suite in the Imperial Palace.  Following a massive calamity that plunges the Empire into chaos, all the great lords flock to the Imperial Palace to be close to the action.  However, many take this as an opportunity to take out their rivals and the protagonist, Mara of the Acoma, finds herself one of the main targets.  Barricaded in her suite in the palace, Mara, her allies, and their bodyguards must fight off waves of assassins that come for them during the night.  This proves to be extremely impressive, and you really get caught up in the action watching the defenders attempting to hold a luxury apartment against an unending horde of assassins.  A clever and amazing siege that makes full use of its smaller setting and intriguing scenario to create some exciting moments.

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Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker – Siege of the City

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

I had to feature the brilliant and hilarious Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker, as it contained an extremely fun take on the siege concept.  This hilarious read sees the massive City besieged by an army of vengeful folk, intend on killing everyone within.  With their army already destroyed, the defence of the city falls to a conman siege engineer, who uses his engineering knowhow and ability to BS anyone, to establish one of the most elaborate and inventive defences ever.  This ended up being an incredible story, that perfectly blends humour and fun characters with the compelling siege scenario, to create an utterly addictive read.  I have so much love for this siege novel, and Parker followed it up with the equally good How to Rule and Empire and Get Away With It, that showed the surprising outcome to the siege, which I really loved.

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Fire in the East by Harry Sidebottom – Siege of Arete

Fire in the East Cover

While much of this list is focussed on fantasy fiction, I had to include the outstanding historical fiction read, Fire in the East, the debut novel of the amazing Harry Sidebottom.  Set in AD 255, this book follows Roman siege specialist, Ballista, who travels to the Roman town of Arete to reinforce it against a besieging Persian army.  Forced to hold out for months with no reinforcements, Ballista prepares a complex and deadly defence, while dealing with traitors and discontent from within his walls.  A fast-paced, but extremely detailed read, this is easily one of the best historical sieges I have ever read, and it made me a life-long fan of Harry Sidebottom, who is still releasing distinctive and captivating historical fiction reads.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling – Siege of Hogwarts

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Cover

After six books spent within the magical castle of Hogwarts, it was appropriate that the Harry Potter series end there, and the author chose to finish everything off in a big way.  With Harry, Ron and Hermione attempting to find and destroy the final Horcrux, Lord Voldemort sends all his forces in a massive assault on the magical school, facing off against students, teachers and the Order of the Phoenix.  This is a pretty epic siege, which, while great in the movie, comes across as a lot more exciting and complex in the novel.  Seeing the various dark forces attempt to destroy the castle you have come to know and love is pretty heartbreaking, and you can’t help but cheer at the desperate defence the supporting characters put up to give Harry time.  Throw in a ton of tragic deaths, as many of your favourite characters are brutally killed off, and this becomes a key moment in the series that you will never forget.

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The Martyr by Anthony Ryan – Sieges of Walvern Castle and Highsahl

The Martyr Cover

One of the more recent siege-based books I have read, The Martyr is the second Covenant of Steel novel by Anthony Ryan, and its elaborate chronicle narrative quickly drags the reader in with an amazing siege scenario.  The Martyr actually has two sieges in it, but as they occur back-to-back early in the book, I decided to combine them.  The first, sees the protagonists occupy and defend a dilapidated castle against a massive host in a foreign land, which proves to be a lot of fun as the series canny protagonist and his apparently blessed leader, engage in quite an elaborate defence of their new bastion.  I got pretty stuck into this book during the first siege and was pleasantly surprised when Ryan immediately followed it up with a second siege, with the protagonists this time acting as the attackers.  Using the lessons they learned from defending the first time, they soon attempt a deadly attack on the city, which results in a particularly bloody and intense struggle through the breach.  I had an outstanding time with this book, and I was absolutely spoiled with the two sieges it contained. 

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Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie – Siege of Dagoska

Before they are Hanged Cover

The First Law trilogy is one of the bloodiest dark fantasy series out there, so naturally it is going to feature at least a couple of great sieges.  There are actually several impressive sieges I could talk about here, especially in the third book, Last Argument of Kings, but my favourite siege occurred in the second book, Before They Are Hanged.  This novel sees fan-favourite character, the crippled Inquisitor Glokta, take control of the city of Dagoska and hold it against a massive Gurkish army.  Striking a devil’s bargain with a mysterious benefactor for resources, Glokta is able to fund a sustained defence, while trying to keep the city from turning against his forces.  However, his greatest threat is within the walls, as several magical assassins are planning to kill and eat him to win the battle.  This is such an awesome siege, especially as it sees Glokta in his element as a master manipulator, and there are some amazing scenes set around it.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkein – Siege of Helm’s Deep

The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers Cover

I was never not going to include a siege from The Lord of the Rings on this list, and naturally I had a couple of good choices here, such as the siege of Minas Tirith in The Return of the King.  However, based on the recommendation of my wife, who recently re-read these books, I went with the siege of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers.  A much more fast-paced siege, the battle of Helm’s Deep sees a small force from Rohan face off against a giant army of Uruk-hai over a single night in their ancestral fortress.  A classic siege which got an easy place on this list.

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Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill – Siege of Hydra Cordatus

Storm of Iron Cover 2

I had a hard time coming up with any good science fiction books for this list, but luckily, I only just finished reading an older Warhammer 40,000 novel, Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill, that was essentially one giant siege.  This book sees the defender of the planet Hydra Cordatus, come under attack by a massive army of Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines, who besiege the planet’s seemingly impregnable fortress.  However, the Iron Warriors are the universes’ best siege engineers, and they soon start smashing down the walls to get to their foes.  A very elaborate and detailed siege book, there is so much incredible action in this book, and McNeill did an outstanding job setting up a siege story in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

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City of Lies by Sam Hawke – Siege of Silasta

City of Lies Cover

The final entry on this list is the extremely impressive City of Lies by Australian author Sam Hawke.  Another great fantasy read, this novel sees the culturally rich city of Silasta suddenly come under attack by a mysterious army, intent on destroying it.  With their army mostly away, the cities artists are forced to abandon their works and take up weapons.  At the same time, the book’s protagonists, a pair of poison-eating siblings, work to defeat a massive conspiracy that is building within their walls.  The encroaching attackers adds a great layer to the intrigue and politics going on within the walls in City of Lies, and I loved how well Hawke established this siege in this fantastic book.

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Well, that is the end of this list.  As you can see from the above entries, I have had a lot of fun reading about sieges over the years, and I love when they are fit into a good book.  All the above books have some exceptional sieges in them, and they all come highly recommended to those people who love a great siege storyline.  I am pretty happy with how this list turned out, and I will probably revisit this at some point in the future, especially if I am lucky enough to read some more siege-focussed books.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite sieges in literature are in the comments below.

Throwback Thursday – Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill

Storm of Iron Cover 2

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – July 2002)

Series: Warhammer 40,000

Length: 11 hours and 3 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.  For this latest Throwback Thursday, I dive into some old-school Warhammer 40,000 fiction with the exceptional Storm of Iron by one of the most prolific Warhammer authors, Graham McNeill.

Readers of this blog will know that I have been really getting back into Warhammer fiction in the last few years, and I have had an outstanding time reading all the exciting and captivating reads the franchise’s extended universe contains.  I have been particularly impressed by the sheer number of talented authors who contribute to this extended universe, and I already have a few favourites due to how epic and complex their novels have turned out to be.  However, one of the main contributors to the current Warhammer canon I had not really explored yet is the superbly talented Graham McNeill.  McNeill has been writing Warhammer fiction for 20 years now, and he has produced multiple books for both the Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy sub-franchises.  Best known for The Ambassador Chronicles, Legend of Sigma, Ultramarines and Forges of Mars series, as well as his entries in the massive Horus Heresy series, McNeill has produced some outstanding sounding books throughout his career (including several books I really want to read) and had an incalculable impact on Warhammer fiction universe.  I however, have not had too much experience with his works, although I do have several of his novels sitting on my shelf.  I am hoping to read more of his stuff in the future, but I ended up starting with one of his earlier books, the standalone Warhammer 40,000 novel, Storm of Iron.

The Adeptus Mechanicus Forge World of Hydra Cordatus is a barren and desolate place, garrisoned by Imperial Guard of the 383rd Jouran Dragoons and members of Adeptus Mechanicus, who rule from one of the mightiest and seemingly impregnable fortresses in the galaxy.  No-one ever expected that the many wars that plague the universe would ever come to a planet as seemingly inhospitable as Hydra Cordatus, but hell has descended upon the planet in the form of Chaos Space Marines from the feared Iron Warriors legion.

Under the leadership of the dread Warsmith Barban Falk, the Iron Warriors have arrived on Hydra Cordatus in substantial numbers, determined to destroy all the Imperial defenders and take the planet’s main citadel.  After a blistering landing upon the surface of the planet that cuts off all hope of relief, the Iron Warriors deploy their full force of warriors, slaves, labourers and even several corrupt Titans to assault the enemy.  But they have not chosen an easy target, as the citadel of Hydra Cordatus is no ordinary fortress.  It is an ancient and mysterious stronghold, whose walls are designed to stymy any attack, and few foes would have a chance of defeating its defences.

However, the Iron Warriors have long been considered the greatest siege warfare specialists in all the universe.  Having honed their bloody craft for millennia since their betrayal of the Emperor, the corrupt Iron Warriors soon embark on an ambitious and fast campaign that soon threatens to completely destroy the Imperial forces.  Only the arrival of members of the Iron Warrior’s greatest enemies, the Space Marines of the Imperial Fists, gives any hope to the defenders.  But can even the legendary Imperial Fists stand against the ancient fury of the Iron Warriors?  And what secrets truly lay hidden in the depths of Hydra Cordatus’s citadel?

Well, this was a pretty damn awesome Warhammer book.  McNeill did a remarkable job with Storm of Iron, producing an intense and action-packed novel that might be one of the best siege novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading.  Loaded with impressive battle-sequence after impressive battle-sequence, as well as a ton of intriguing and fun characters, Storm of Iron was an outstanding read, and I had so much fun getting through it.

I will admit that one of the things that really drew me to Storm of Iron is that it showcases a massive siege in the gothic future of the Warhammer 40,000 universe.  I have always deeply enjoyed books with sieges in them, and the Warhammer universe is naturally filled with some good examples of this, although these mostly occurred in the fantasy focussed books.  As such, I was quite intrigued to see how a science fiction siege would occur, and McNeill really did not disappoint, painting a powerful and captivating picture and using the Iron Warriors and Imperial Fists, both of whom are known for their siege craft, as central figures in the narrative.

McNeill starts Storm of Iron off with a bang, showing the Iron Warrior’s initial move as they launch a lightning-fast raid and landing upon Hydra Cordatus in the opening chapters.  From there, the siege of the citadel starts in earnest as the Iron Warriors deploy their entire army towards it.  Told from multiple character perspectives of both the attackers and defenders, you swiftly get to know all the key players of the book and see their various personal and military struggles as the siege unfolds.  The author sets everything up perfectly, and you are soon engrossed in the novel-spanning siege, which McNeill explores in intricate detail, examining the various moves and countermoves that the two sides are doing.  You get some awesome scenes throughout Storm of Iron, and it really has everything you could want from a siege book, including artillery barrages, trench warfare, sapping, sallies, reinforcements, counterattacks and desperate fighting in breaches.  The entire story moves pretty quickly, and there are barely any pauses in between battle scenes.  Any delays that do occur serve an essential part of the plot, showing the various personal issues impacting the participants, introducing new characters, or exploring some of the hidden intrigue going on within the besieged citadel.

The story picks up even further around the middle, with the arrival of the Imperial Fists Space Marines who give the defenders more of a fighting chance.  As such, you are never quite certain how the book is going to unfold, and the battle really could go any way.  I liked how McNeill balanced the book between the Chaos and Imperial characters (or the attackers and defenders), and I deeply enjoyed seeing how each side conducted their war, especially as both had to deal with internal dissension and setbacks.  I think that the narrative had a great blend of cool story elements, and the combination of action, intrigue and character work fit the story very well.  Naturally, the best part of the book is the exceptional battle scenes, and thanks to author’s detailed depictions, it is extremely easy to envision all the intense fight sequences that unfold.  There are some outstanding scenes here, and there is a little bit of everything, included destructive ranged warfare, brutal close combat fights, desperate last stands and even some over-the-top battles between the massive Titans (essentially intense mecha warfare).  This entire story comes together pretty well, and I really liked the fantastic and dark notes that McNeill left it on.  While I wasn’t too shocked by one of the book’s main twists, there honestly wasn’t a moment where I wasn’t entertained by Storm of Iron’s story, and I had such a fantastic time seeing this entire epic siege unfold.  I managed to power through this book extremely quickly, and I had so much fun seeing how this protracted battle unfolded.  As such, this is a must-read for all those who love a good siege book, and I really appreciate the awesome story that McNeill featured here.

I love all the cool Warhammer 40,000 elements that McNeill was able to fit into this awesome book, and fans of the franchise will appreciate his attention to detail and fun depictions of the various factions and their iconic regiments/toys.  While the Imperial Guard, Adeptus Mechanicus and Imperial Fists are all featured here, this book is mainly about the Iron Warriors, and it was fascinating to see them in action.  These traitorous and corrupt siege specialists have a rich history of hatred, and while the author doesn’t go completely into their fall from grace, you get a good idea of why they turned and some of the terrors they have inflicted.  Indeed, all the depictions of the Chaos side are extremely powerful, and you get an impressive view of just how twisted and dangerous they and their dark gods are.  That being said, you get a much more nuanced viewpoint of the Chaos side here than most Warhammer books have, and it was utterly fascinating to see their views on the conflict.  That, combined with some of the secrets that the Adeptus Mechanicus are hiding, continues to reinforce one of the key concepts of the Warhammer 40,000 universe: that there really are no good guys here, just winners and dead people.  Thanks to author’s ability to highlight key universe and faction details, this is one of those Warhammer 40,000 books that could serve as a great introduction to Warhammer fiction, and if a massive and bloody siege doesn’t get your attention and make you interested in this franchise, nothing will.  As such, you don’t need to come into Storm of Iron with too much pre-knowledge of the Warhammer 40,000 universe to enjoy this book, although established fans will naturally get a lot more out of it.  I am personally glad that, of all of McNeill’s books, I chose to start with Storm of Iron, especially as it apparently sets up some of his future Warhammer entries.  In particular, it introduces one of the key antagonists of his Ultramarines series, which has long been on my to-read list, and I look forward to enjoying more of McNeill’s epic Warhammer books in the future.

I also deeply appreciated some of the excellent character work that was featured within Storm of Iron.  Due to how McNeill writes the story, the book features a huge range of different point-of-view characters, broken up between the Iron Warriors and the members of the 383rd Jouran Dragoons who are defending the citadel.  While the quick-paced story and multiple character perspectives cuts down on development a little, you do get to know all the key characters very quickly, and McNeill fits in some absolutely fascinating character arcs that I deeply enjoyed.  Three of the most interesting characters are the Iron Warriors captains who are leading the assault on Hydra Cordatus, Honsou, Forrix and Kroeger.  All three are pretty interesting in their own right, with Honsou the true believer ostracised by his comrades due to his heritage, Forrix the disillusioned veteran, and Kroeger the mad berserker who is slowly going insane serving the Blood God Khorne.  Their personal storylines are all amazing, but the real fun is seeing their interactions, especially as they all hate each other and are vying for their master’s favour.  McNeill spends a lot of time with these three villains, and you really get a sense of whole Iron Warrior’s legion through their disparate viewpoints.  I will say that I didn’t think any of the Imperial characters quite measured up to these Chaos characters, especially as McNeill really worked to make them as compelling as possible.  I did deeply enjoy the character of Guardsman Julius Hawke, a slacker who finds himself alone in the wilds and serves an interesting role in the battle.  I was also quite intrigued by Lieutenant Larana Ultorian, a defiant soldier who is captured by the Chaos forces and slowly driven insane by her forced service to them.  These characters, and more, all help to turn Storm of Iron into a much more complex and powerful read, and I had a great time explore all their unique stories and histories here.

I doubt anyone is going to be too surprised that I made sure to grab the recently released audiobook version, which in my opinion is one of the best ways to enjoy a cool Warhammer book.  The Storm of Iron audiobook was a pretty good example of this, as I quickly got drawn into it, especially as the awesome action sequences became even more epic when they are read out.  With a run time of just over 11 hours, this was a decent length Warhammer audiobook, although I managed to power through it in less than a week, mainly because of how much I got caught up in the story.  I was also pretty impressed by the narration from Michael Geary, who really dove into the various roles contained within Storm of Iron’s story.  Geary clearly had a lot of fun telling this dark tale, and I felt his fast-paced narration really added the intensity and excitement of the story.  I also felt that he did a great job bringing the various characters of Storm of Iron to life, and each of the main figures is given a unique voice or accent to help set them apart.  While I liked all the cool voices he did, Geary’s take on the various Chaos Space Marines was very memorable, especially as he really captures the cruelty, hatred and dark demonic influences that affect them.  An overall excellent Warhammer audiobook, I had such an exceptional time listening to this version of Storm of Iron, and this format comes highly recommended.

Overall, I am extremely happy that I chose to read this fantastic Warhammer 40,000 novel, and it was one of the more interesting older entries in the franchise I have so far read.  The extremely talented Graham McNeill did a wonderful job on Storm of Iron, and I had such an amazing time getting through its elaborate and action-packed narrative.  This book featured such an impressive depiction of a siege in the gothic far future, and readers are in for an intense and captivating time as they see this complex battle between besiegers and defenders unfold.  Clever, compelling, and filled with pulse-pounding fun, Siege of Iron was an excellent book and I look forward to reading more of McNeill’s Warhammer books in the future.

Storm of Iron Cover

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WWW Wednesday – 5 October 2022

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

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

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

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

Star Wars - The Princess and the Scoundrel Cover

I didn’t make as much progress with the new Star Wars release, The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis, this week as I would have liked.  Still, I am about halfway through it at the moment, and I will make an effort to finish it off in the next day or so, especially as this is proving to be quite an interesting read.  Set immediately after the events of Return of the Jedi, this book explores the relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia in the current Star Wars canon.  Featuring both their wedding and their turbulent honeymoon, this is a must-read for all Star Wars fans, and I am already having a great time getting through it.

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Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill (Audiobook)

Storm of Iron Cover

I was in the mood for some classic Warhammer 40,000 adventures so I decided to check out the awesome sounding Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill.  An older Warhammer 40,000 novel, Storm of Iron depicts a massive siege that see the infamous Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines use all their craft to attack an impregnatable fortress.  I have only just started listening to this book, but I know I am going to have an outstanding time with Storm of Iron.

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What did you recently finish reading?

The Martyr by Anthony Ryan (Audiobook)

The Martyr Cover

I absolutely powered through the new Anthony Ryan book, The Martyr, in the last week and it really lived up to all my expectations and more.  One of my most anticipated books of the year and the sequel to the impressive 2021 novel, The PariahThe Martyr is a brilliant fantasy adventure about a young bandit turned scribe who finds his fate bound to a bold and pious warrior woman, who is set to bring real change to an intriguing fantasy realm.  This second novel sees his quest get even more dangerous and complex, as he begins to understand the full implications of everything he is involved with, while also finding himself thrust into several deadly wars.  This was a deeply captivating, powerful and exciting read that I had such an exceptional time getting through.  A perfect follow-up to The Pariah, The Martyr is one of the best fantasy books of 2022 and comes highly recommended.  Review to follow soon.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

Fairy Tale by Stephen King

Fairy Tale Cover

I am still planning to read the new Stephen King novel, Fairy Tale, next, which should prove to be pretty epic.  An intense and dark novel about a dangerous fairy realm, this book is going to be awesome and I can’t wait to see how it all unfolds.

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Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Nona the Ninth Cover

I am also hoping to read the next book in the epic Locked Tomb series by intriguing author Tamsyn Muir, Nona the Ninth.  Part of an awesome series about damaged necromancers in a desolate far future, Nona the Ninth follows on from the impressive Gideon the Ninth (one of my favourite debuts of 2019) and Harrow the Ninth (one of my favourite books and audiobooks of 2020).  I have no doubt this is going to be one of the more unique and captivating books of 2022 and I can’t wait to read it.

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