Monday, 21 December 2015

The Desert Spear, Peter V. Brett



Publishers: Del Rey



Pages: 579


Main Characters:

Ahmann Jardir, Arlen, Leesha, Rojer



The Desert Spear is the second book in Peter V. Brett's Demon Cycle series. The novel can be basically split into three parts. The first is the tale of Ahmann Jardir- the Sha’Dama Ka (roughly meaning The Deliverer). Ahmann’s story tells of his rise from a dirty street urchin to the best fighter in the desert kingdom of Krasia. During his short and violent days ‘running the maze’ and battling the daemons of the night, Ahmann meets his wife-to-be Inevera. Inevera is a Dama’ting and is blessed with magical dice that can tell the future. The dice tell Inevera that she can mould Ahmann into the Deliverer and that he could unite Krasia into one kingdom, leading his people in a great war against the Daemons. Inevera uses all of her power to direct, manipulate and help him achieve this goal.

The second part of the book focuses on Arlen, Leesha and Rojer, picking up after the first novel The Painted Man. After returning the battle wards to humanity and being betrayed by his closest friend Jardir, Arlen focuses solely on sharing his new wards with the world. Along with Leesha and Rojer, Arlen helps form the Cutters of Cutter’s Hollow into and elite daemon killing army.

With the Hollow defended against daemons, Arlen sets out on a solitary life, as he comes to terms with what daemon magic has done to his body and soul. On his wanderings Arlen returns to his home village of Tibbet’s Brook. There he is reunited with his childhood sweetheart Renna Tanner, who convinces Arlen to let her accompany him on his travels.

Like The Painted Man I listened to this book as an audiobook. I have to say that I thought the quality of the audio was much better in The Desert Spear than it was with The Painted Man. Plus, I really enjoyed listening to the voices of the characters I hadn’t heard from in over two years (since I last listened to The Painted Man).


Fan art of Ahmann Jardir

I know some people weren’t a massive fan of it, but I really enjoyed reading about Jardir’s upbringing and learning more about the customs of Krasia. Some people complained that it took too long to get back to Arlen’s story; however I actually like the bravado and intensity of Jardir. Much like other great characters from literature (such as Boromir), Jardir’s flawed personality and his dilemma of choosing his people or his friend appealed to me, and I found him the most interesting character in the novel.

However, one character I couldn’t stand was Reena Tanner. The farm girl-turn-daemon hunter continually got on my nerves throughout the book and whenever she got in trouble, she would pretty much just sleep with someone to try and get away with it. This keeps leading me to think; how can this idiotic, annoying farmer’s daughter really manage to keep up with Arlen Bails? I hope her development over the next few novels makes her a bit more grown up and likeable because in this book I just mostly wanted to skip her parts!

This was a really enjoyable read and is a bit different to the standard fantasy novels out there at the minute. I think the series has a lot of potential and I’m very excited to start the next book; The Daylight War.


For author’s official website click here.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Stasi Child, David Young


Publisher: twenty7


Pages: 406

Main Characters:

Karin Müller, Werner Tilsner,
Klaus Jäger





When a mutilated corpse of a young girl turns up within meters of the Berlin Wall, Kriminalpolizei officer Oberleutnant Karin Müller's life is set to drastically change. The year is 1974 and tensions between the East and West are on a knife point. Officials say the girl was fleeing from the West into the East and was shot in the back. However, the involvement of the East German Stasi leads Müller to believe that something much more sinister is amiss

Müller and her deputy Werner Tilsner are introduced to Oberstleutnant Klaus Jäger; a high profile member of the Stasi. Jäger tasks the pair with finding out who the girl was and how she ended up dead on the East side of the Wall. The detectives must tread lightly as they prod into the girl's past, as their ally Jäger is not the only Stasi member interested in this case.

Irma is a young girl forced into living and working at the notoriously cruel school of Jugendwerkhof on the island of Rügen. After being punished for looking out for her friend Beate, Irma is determined to get her and her friend out if the hell-hole. Her plan is simple, out-think their captors and escape into Western Germany.

The two women's tales intertwine as Müller discovers secrets from her past which link her to Irma's fate. The detective must act quickly and decisively to save an innocent girl's life and face her own inner turmoil to solve the murder and satisfy the Stasi.

Berlin Wall
The start of this book was great! The murder, the mystery and the inclusion of the Stasi had me gripped on the story from the very start. I found Young's description of a 70's Eastern Berlin immersive and intriguing to read about and he set the scene perfectly for the mistrusting and covert feel of this novel. I thought the pace at the start of the book was excellent, dragging me into Müller's life with her own personal mystery which created an underlying narrative that again intrigued me and made me want to read on.

However, the thing that disappointed me about this novel was that this pace never really increased throughout the remainder of the book. At the start I was indulged in the story but midway through I felt the pace and emphasis tailed off with Müller going backwards and forwards to Jäger in search of clues. Interlinked with this is Irma’s story, which was added towards the middle of the book and again slowed the narrative and always made me feel like I getting bogged down in a plot I wasn't really enjoying. I kept waiting for a revelation that would burst onto the page and make me read the next 100 pages without even thinking about it (like the start of the novel had) but sadly it never came. I thought it was pretty clear early on who the murderer was and for me there was no big reveal at the end of the novel like I believe most Crime novels have. However, it was interesting to read why the bad guy did the things he did.

What I really enjoyed about this novel was the atmosphere Young creates in Eastern Berlin. The sense of fear and paranoia, along with a misguided and naive sense of pride to the State immersed me in the period in which the novel was based. In addition, adding actual German names into the novel personally engaged me! This is because I am learning German and it was a nice little bonus to the atmosphere and setting.

To conclude, I did really enjoy this book. I thought the Muller's story was strong and had a lot of depth to it which I want top know more about. Plus I really liked Young’s writing style and they way he portrayed Eastern (and Western) Berlin. However, I just wished the final two thirds of the book were as good as the first, as they failed to grab my attention and really make me think who the villain was. I like that Young leaves the end of the novel very open and I've read that Young has signed a three year deal to publish more novels, so I'm very excited to read the next installment!

For Young's official Goodreads page please click here

I'd like to say a big thank you to twenty7 for sending me a pre-release of this novel. You can get the e-book on Amazon Kindle but the paperback won't be released until February.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Far Shore, Nick Brown

Publishers: Hodder & Stoughton

Pages: 432


Main Characters:

Cassius Corbulo, Indavara, Annia.





Joining the Imperial Security Service was supposed to be easy. Gaining the same rank as a Centurion without the risk of imminent death is a great perk to have in the Roman Army. However, so far Cassius Corbulo’s first few months in the service have been nothing less than dreadful. His first posting was to a small fort in Palmyra, which he valiantly defended against the rebellion of Queen Zenobia. Then having gained some glory in the service, Cassius and his servant Simo were tasked with retrieving the lost Faridun’s Banner, which was vital in gaining peace on Rome’s eastern frontier. Now Cassius and his new bodyguard Indavara have finally been given a task they can enjoy.

The mission is pretty simple. All Cassius and his retinue have to do is travel to the Greek island of Rhodes and pick up a message from the Deputy Commander of the Imperial Security Service. Cassius cannot wait for a long overdue holiday on an island that is brimming with culture, good wine and women. However as usual, Cassius is not that lucky. When he and his men arrive at the commander’s house they find that he has been brutally murdered and his body mutilated. The Commander’s daughter Annia, with her forthcoming manner and all out bossiness, persuades Cassius to pursue the murder inquiry and find those responsible for her father’s death.

After finding a Carthaginian captain to help them, the investigation takes Cassius and his men all over Rhodes and the Mediterranean. Dangerous storms and conflicts on the ship almost end the man-hunt. Nonetheless, when the crew finally arrives at a small Roman town on the North African coast, they realise that the murder and situation is grimmer than they expected. Cassius must use his cunning and the attributes of his men to find the puppet-master behind the Commander’s murder.

My vision of Cassius and Indavara

This is the third book in Nick Brown's Agent of Rome series and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I thought adding the murder/mystery element to the novel made it seem fresher than some other Roman historical fiction novels that can sometimes stagnate. I really liked learning more about the mysterious Indavara and thought that Cassius developed more in this novel too. He came across as the arrogant aristocrat that I believe he is. I liked this because I feel that other books in this genre always have a similar zero-to-hero protagonist who comes from a rich family and is forced to serve in the army. Cassius does fall into this category too, but I think by making him arrogant distinguishes him from other characters in other novels that always seem to take on the ‘one of the lads’ personalities. In real life I think there would have been a hierarchy, with the young aristocratic officers taking on an ‘us and them’ personality between themselves and the legionaries. This is what Cassius does in the book and it makes him seem more realistic.

I have to admit that some parts of the book I listened too via an audiobook. At first I really didn’t like the audiobook as the narrator used some very unusual accents for the characters. Cassius sounded a lot like Micheal Gambon, Simo (a Gaulish slave) had a scouse accent and Indavara sounded like he was from the east end of London! However, the accents grew on me and I found myself reading the book and giving the characters the accents in my mind!

I would suggest this book to anyone who is a Roman historical fiction fan. Like I said, it is different to most of the other series out there and was a very enjoyable book to read. I’m looking forward to the next one!


For author's official website please click here.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Darth Plaugeis, James Luceno



Publishers: Lucas Books


Pages: 368


Main Characters:


Darth Plagueis (Hego Demask), Darth Sidious (Palpatine)



As December rapidly approaches with the release of the new Star Wars movie, I have been getting seriously hyped for the new chapter in the franchise’s saga! This excitement has led me into all things Star Wars as I’ve been playing some of the old video games, watching the old movies and for a long time I’ve wanted to read a Star Wars novel.

However, reading a SW novel has always made me a bit dubious, as many of the books and literature are always released as companions to the movies and have left me doubting the time and originality put into the stories. After doing some research, I found quite a few ‘top ten’ lists of the best SW novels, with quite a few respectable bloggers and journalists backing up these books. One book I noticed in most of these lists was Darth Plagueis by James Luceno.

As some of the more dedicated SW fans will know, Darth Plagueis was the Sith Palpatine tells Anakin of in Revenge of the Sith, when trying to turn him to the Dark Side.

“Did you ever hear the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? It’s a Sith legend. Darth Plagueis was a Dark Lord of the Sith, so powerful and so wise that he could use the Force to influence the midi-chlorians to create life. He had such a knowledge of the dark side that he could even keep the ones he cared about from dying.”
—Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, 
Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith

Darth Plagueis was Palpatine’s Master and this book tells of how he persuaded Palpatine to become his apprentice and how they forged a partnership which helped the youmg Naboo (Aka Darth Sidious) becoming the Galactic Emperor. A partnership which took decades to manoeuvre Palpatine to the summit of the Senate through betrayal and murder. But even longer for Plagueis to control the Force and have sway over life and death.

I have to say that I was really disappointed with this book! It never really grabbed me and made me want to read more and at times it could be quite tiresome and confusing. Since I first watched Revenge of the Sith, I’d always wanted to know more about Plagueis. Finding this book had me dreaming of lightsaber battles, deceit and an extension to the SW universe that I’d never known about before. However, it was mostly filled with confusing (but I guess important) events about companies, politicians and gangs whose names were hard to pronounce; never mind remember later in the book! These facts about the SW universe do make the plot seems more believable and explain Palpatine’s rise down to every minute, boring detail. However, I wanted big, brash action packed SW which we all know and love from the films.

'The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis

Take for instance the death of Plagueis. Right at the start of the novel we read about Sidious standing over his master’s corpse as a crack is sent through the Force, confirming Plagueis’s death. So I thought, ‘WOW, I cannot wait to get to the end and read about the epic fight that must happen’. As I said, the book is dense with details about the Outer Rim and the workings of the Republic but you think, ‘ah it’s worth it to get to the end and read about the fight’. However, you read about Plagueis’s death and think, ‘is this a joke?’ It’s almost done as an afterthought and takes up about two pages which you rub together with your fingers, believing there must be more- the pages must have all stuck together! But they haven’t and it left me feeling extremely frustrated!
Artist's impression of Plagueis

However, the book was not all bad. I did enjoy reading about the infamous Darth Maul and his rise to power as you don’t learn that much about him in Episode I, in which I’m pretty sure he only has about two lines. The book also gives a great context to the start of Episode I and explains for example; why a 13 year old girl is the Queen of an entire planet, and why the Trade Federation is blockading Naboo.

I think if this book had been a history book and was named something like: ‘the Secret History of the Collapse of the Republic’  I would have enjoyed it more. I would have found it really interesting but I wouldn’t have been expecting too much from it and therefore could come away disappointed, instead coming away satisfied that I’d read it and would want to read more history like it. Which to be fair, is kinda how I feel. I do want to read other SW novels so in some ways the book has done a good job.

I would suggest this book to anyone who is looking to learn more about the wider SW universe but I’d suggest you don’t get too excited about it.

For author’s official wookieepedia entry click here.

Anyone interested in Star Wars rumours should read this though....



Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The Unforgiven, Gav Thorpe


Publishers: Black Library


Pages: 446


Main Characters:

Azrael, Annael, Telemenus, Cypher




Picking up straight after the Master of Sanctity, The Unforgiven describes that the Dark Angels' plan has failed with the escape of Astelan. The chapter looks like it could be turned to turmoil and with the capture of the thrice-cursed traitor Cypher and his revelation that the chapter is in grave danger, the Dark Angels must make a decision on what their future entails. Do they trust the Fallen and follow his guidance or do they risk everything by ignoring him and carrying on as they always have done, casting further lies and secrets on the already allusive Chapter? Supreme Grand Master Azrael and his close advisors must come up with a plan of action to counter the danger posed to them by the Fallen Space Marines.

After disobeying orders and saving his friend Sabrael, Annael is serving a long penance. Under the stern gaze of Chaplain Malcifer, the boring and menial tasks of cleaning and maintenance work have worn Annael’s mind down to a pulp as he still cannot accept that his actions were wrong. As destruction looms over the Dark Angels all Space Marines are needed to fight against the traitors. But until Annael truly repents and understands the consequences of his actions his superiors will not allow him back into the Black Knights. With his strong will (and sometimes thick skull) it may be too late for Annael to help his comrades in the ensuing chaos!

The brutal mutilation on the world of Ulthor has not dampened Telemenus’s spirit. With the Emperor at his side and a new understanding and zeal for his role in humanities’ protection against the Xenos, Mutant and Traitor, Telemenus’s spirit and blood has become ignited! As a reward for his dedication the injured Space Marine is rewarded by Grand Master Belial, becoming entombed within the battle armour of a Dreadnought. Though emerging as a legend amongst the Deathwing for his actions on Ulthor, Telemenus knows that he still has his duty to do and will use his new body to further the Dark Angels’ and the Emperor’s cause.

Deathwing Dreadnaught


I was so excited to start reading this book! Master of Sanctity is probably my favourite book that I’ve read this year and the ending absolutely leaves you wanting for more! However, I’m sad to say that I was a little disappointed. 

One of the main reason I liked Master of Sanctity was because of the characters Sapphon and Asmodai. Their bitter rivalry caused some great tension in the second book and their very different styles and personalities complemented each other perfectly. In The Unforgiven, they are reduced to smaller roles as Azrael becomes a dominant character. So small in fact, that about two thirds of the way into the book they are totally cut adrift and not heard of again until the very end of the novel! And even then there is only a few paragraphs quickly summarising their fates. I wouldn’t mind so much if there was going to be another book and they remerged there, but there isn’t and I can’t quite understand how a character as important as Sapphon, which the second book in the series is named after, can be so easily removed. It’s like removing Harry Potter from the final book and then quickly mentioning him at the end, so you know he is alive and has survived the trauma the whole series has been building up to.

Nevertheless, the book did have some really good points such as the final battle between the Dark Angels and Chaos. I especially liked that other chapters of the ‘Unforgiven’ were included in the battle and it was pretty cool seeing the difference between them and the secretive Dark Angels. In addition, I did like that Thorpe brought Azrael into the series as he is such an important character and I enjoyed reading about the secrets the Supreme Grand Master knew about the Chapter, such as the Watchers and Luther. Even though I liked Azrael’s introduction, I think it was done at the expense of losing Sapphon and Asmodai. I would have preferred if Telemenus’s had been replaced because I don’t think his story added that much extra to The Unforgiven, I honestly forgot that he survived Ulthor!

To summaries, this was by far my least favourite book in the series and I was disappointed by that. The ending was pretty epic and I think it leaves the series open for later novels by Thorpe or possibly by other authors. I’d love to see a one off novel about Sapphon, maybe him getting his judgement from the Council for his failings with Astelan and his eventual seppuku (falling on his sword)?

I’d suggest this book to anyone who’s a fan of Gav Thorpe and has read his other Dark Angels novels. I’d also suggest it to anyone who is looking to get into the Science-Fiction genre because I think Warhammer 40K have some of the best novels in that genre.


If you are a fan of Warhammer 40K novels please leave me some suggestions on other books to read, I really want to get accustomed with other Space Marine chapters and authors so please leave me a comment with a suggestion or go to my Facebook.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Hannibal: Clouds of War, Ben Kane




Publishers: Preface

Pages: 448

Main Characters:

Hanno, Quintus, Aurelia


Based on Sicily, Hannibal: Clouds of War is the third book in Ben Kane's Hannibal series. After the catastrophic defeat at Cannae, the war in Italy lulls as Rome and Hannibal assess the damage to their armies and plot their next move.

The theater of war shifts to Sicily, where our three heroes become entangled on the island in the Roman effort to capture Syracuse from Hannibal's allies Hippocrates and his brother Epicydes.

Quintus is part of the disgraced Roman army exiled to Sicily and camped around the ancient city of Syracuse. After settling in to the life of a Hastati, Quintus's pride and arrogance get him into trouble with a new Centurion called Pera. Beating him in a horse race, Quintus has watch his back as he has another enemy in his own ranks. However, unlike Marcerio, the new Centurion has substantial power over Quintus's future.

Gaining glory in the war against Rome and proving he is the most mature of his two brothers, Hanno is handpicked by Hannibal for a secret and deadly mission. Hannibal wants Hanno to travel to Syracuse and advise the two sibling dictators ruling there to ensure that the city does not fall into Roman hands. However, spying does not come easily to Hanno and he must balance the two different personalities of the brothers to ensure that chaos does not arise in the Syracusian defence.

Aurelia is the matriarch of her own household and busies herself with the care of her young son Publius. Although her marriage to Melito is loveless, it nevertheless has been successful.

However, when news reaches her that Melito has been injured in the city of Rhegium, Aurelia rushes to be at her husband's side. She must make the journey through perilous waters and risk the wrath of the Carthaginian navy and the Sicilian slavers if her vessel is caught.

I have to admit that this book has been my least favourite in the series so far. I get a feeling that this was a sort of 'filler' novel in the series between the more famous battles Hannibal faces in Italy. This is because it was based around the siege of Syracuse, in which for a long time nothing really happens. Kane tries to make up for this by adding the intrigue of Quintus's enemy Pera and by trying to make Hanno an undercover spy; even though he doesn't seem to do much spying!



One of the defenses of Syracuse


I understand that this lull was true in history as the war moved to Sicily, with Hannibal hoping to ensure an easy route through the Mediterranean for his troops and supplies. However, I felt like this book was  purely written to set up something huge to come in the next couple of novels, such as the war in Hispania and Hannibal's eventual defeat (sorry for spoilers).

Nevertheless, as the saying goes 'the devil's in the detail' and as always Kane packs this novel with historical depth and description. I especially like this in his explanation of the Syracusian defences and of Archimedes’s machines of war. The deadly crossbows, catapults and sea hooks give a sense of the formidable task the Legionaries faced when scaling Syracuse's walls, whilst also being historically accurate which I especially liked!



Example of Archimedes Sea Hook/Claw


As I said above, this was my least favourite book in the series so far. However, that isn't to say it's a bad novel. The detail was amazing and the sub plots of Quintus and Centurion Pera did add a lot to this novel. Plus the story of the massacre of Enna was very entertaining. Nevertheless, it still felt that this book was a filler novel for later books in the series. If Kane had released it as a standalone story with different characters I think I would have enjoy it more. But in this series it didn't stand up to the first two novels (because they were so good!).

For author’s official website please click here.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hannibal: Fields of Blood, Ben Kane



Publishers: Preface

Pages: 405

Main Characters:

Hanno, Quintus, Aurelia

I bought this book on the day of its release and was extremely eager to get stuck into it because the first book in the series, Hannibal: Enemy of Rome was so good!

However, two years later I still hadn’t started and became determined to get re-emerged in this series. Now that I work a pretty boring job, I found the time to be able to finally get through the novel and that was by downloading the audiobook. I’m extremely glad I did because I was gripped by this book from the very start and ended up finishing the 16 hour long audiobook in two days!
As I said above, this book is the second in Ben Kane’s Hannibal series and is set a few months after the end of the previous novel. The plot follows three main characters: Hanno a Carthaginian, Quintus a Roman Cavalryman and Aurelia, Quintus’s sister. Quintus is part of the defeated and quite frankly embarrassed Roman Army dogging the footstep of the infamous enemy of Rome- Hannibal.
After being overpowered at the River Trebia, the Roman Cavalry is licking its wounds and its hurt pride. After a stupid hunting incident, Quintus is ordered to return home by his father in shame. Being the patriotic Roman, Quintus decides to defy his father’s orders and enlist in the Roman infantry as a Velites, the lowest form of soldier in the army. Having been in the infantry a few hours, Quintus learns that it is not as easy or as civilised as the life of a cavalryman. Adjusting quickly to his new role and to new enemies, Quintus must prepare for the greatest battle in Roman history, the Battle of Cannae.

Painting of the carnage at Cannae
Hanno is an infantry officer in the Carthaginian army and is currently out of favour with his general Hannibal. After releasing his old friend Quintus at the River Trebia, Hanno is desperate to show his worth to his general. On a scouting expedition Hanno is captured and tortured by the Romans, igniting a flame of hatred for Carthage’s oldest enemy that can only be quenched by Roman blood. However, there is one Roman he would love to meet again and that is Quintus’s sister Aurelia. As the Carthaginian army passes Capua, a chance encounter with Aurelia causes Hanno to look at his life differently.
Missing her brother and father (and Hanno) terribly, Aurelia is in despair as news from the battle at Trebia is slow to reach her farm in the Italian countryside. Because of the lack of news, her father’s debtors come knocking and Aurelia is force to marry a rich Roman noble to pay the debts. After her meeting with Hanno she falls even deeper into depression, dreaming of a life that might have been if the war never happened.

Ben's video of the Cannae Battlefield
This book was great, even listening to the audiobook I was absolutely staggered at the amount of detail Kane puts into the book. His description of the hierarchy in the Roman army and the battlefield of Cannae make the events of the battle so real, making you feel the horror of the soldiers who were trapped so perfectly in Hannibal’s web. In addition, I loved the change of fate Quintus has in the book. If any of you have read my other reviews, you’ll know I love a zero-to-hero protagonist. Putting Quintus in the Velites fills that role perfectly for me as I didn’t find him that interesting of a character until then.
This was a great historical novel and I loved every minute of listening to Michael Praed read the story! I’d suggest this book to anyone who likes other authors such as Simon Scarrow and Anthony Riches. I just downloaded the audiobook for Hannibal: Clouds of War and can’t wait to listen to it!

For author’s official website click here.

Friday, 25 September 2015

The Liar's Key, Mark Lawrence


Publishers: Harper Voyager

Pages: 682

Main Characters:

Jal, Snorri, Tuttugu, Kara

 

The Liar’s Key is the second book in the Red Queen’s War series by epic fantasy author Mark Lawrence. The novel follows on from the tale in Prince of Fools as Jalan and his companion Snorri emerge from the Bitter Ice with Loki’s key, a key that can open any lock.
 With the murder of his family, Snorri plans to take the key and head south in the hopes of finding the door to Hell. With the magical key, Snorri plans to open Hell’s door and be reunited with his murdered loved ones. Jalan too is eager to head south but with very different goals to Snorri. Jal intends to take the key to his Grandmother the Queen of Red March and her Silent Sister. As usual, Jal is thinking of himself and hopes the gift of the key will raise him in his Grandmother’s esteem, possibly even to the position of becoming her heir. Plus with the cold, dour weather of the far north, Jal is keen to return to the luxuries of his palace and the many comforts of the women in his Grandmother’s Kingdom.
With the help of an apprentice Volva (witch) called Kara and one of Snorri’s old friends Tuttugu, the companions sail south to reach the great continent. However their passage is not easy. Their old enemy Edris Dean peruses them for the Dead King and tries to retrieve Loki’s key. The Dead King also craves the key to open Hell’s door and unleash his undead army into the Broken Empire to seize control and reign supreme. The friends must outthink Dean and stop themselves becoming too engrossed in the battle between the Light and the Dark to take the key and open Hell’s door.
The Liar’s Key was a very enjoyable read from one of my favourite authors. I especially liked that Lawrence is expanding the Broken Empire and taking us to places we have not yet visited with whole new characters. Places such as the banking capital of Florence with its mechanical soldiers and the eerie no-mans-land of the Wheel of Osheim expand his mythical and incredibly clever universe.
The Broken Empire... looks familiar don't you think?
 
In addition, I like how Jalan’s character is developing. Much like Jorg from Lawrence’s Broken Empire series, Jalan has some very deep and disturbing character flaws. However, where Jorg’s flaws became deeper and darker, Jalan’s seem to become much more humane. He starts to gain a conscience and think about other people’s feelings, even though it pains him to do so. I like that this distinguishes Jalan from Jorg because I was starting to feel that their stories were becoming a little similar. Both of their Mothers were killed when they were young and both of them seem to have issues with their siblings. Plus, both princes crave power but go about getting it in different ways.
Perhaps this is how Lawrence intends it to be and that these links will mean something very significant in future novels or series? However, at the start of The Liar’s Key it felt like the same protagonist with the same past, but with a different story and this disappointed me at first. Nevertheless, as the novel went on, Jalan's story and past became unique making me enjoy reading about him and want to know more about his family's past.
If you like Lawrence’s other novels definitely pick up The Liar’s Key because after a few chapters you won’t be able to put it down and the ending paragraph is hilarious! Though if you have not read any of his other books, I would suggest you start with the Prince of Thorns to get into the world of the Broken Empire. In addition, if you’re a fan of George R. R. Martin or of novels such as The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, you will love this book and Mark Lawrence.
For author's official website please click here.
Or for Mark's blog here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Brothers in Blood, Simon Scarrow


Publishers: Headline

Pages: 384

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato

 

Brothers in Blood picks up the tale of our two heroes straight after the events of The Blood Crows. Marco and Cato have re-joined General Ostorious’s army and are hot on the heels of the infamous Briton leader Caratacus.  With defeat of Caratacus’s army looking imminent, Marco and Cato are sent North on a diplomatic mission to try and ensure the island’s most powerful tribe- the Brigantes, remain loyal to Rome.

If this is not dangerous enough, an old acquaintance from Rome comes to Britannia to warn the duo of an assassin sent to kill them! As a rift between the Emperor’s two most powerful advisors widens, Marco and Cato must eliminate this agent before they disrupt the fragile peace between Rome and its Briton allies.

This was another great read from Scarrow. I didn’t like it as much as The Blood Crows but the plot was extremely thrilling and as usual, Scarrow portrays the sieges and battles in the book in all their grimy and bloody details. Another solid edition to the Eagles series and I can’t wait to see where the next novel takes our two heroes!

Of course I would suggest this book to anyone who has read any of the other Eagles novels. I’d also suggest it to fans of Ben Kane, Anthony Riches, Gordon Doherty and Nick Brown.

For author’s official website click here.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Master of Sanctity, Gav Thorpe


Publishers: Black Library

Pages: 411

Main Characters:

Annael, Telemenus, Master Sapphon

Asmodai, Astelan

 
Master of Sanctity is the second novel in Gav Thorpe’s epic The Legacy of Caliban trilogy. The book picks up after the first novel Ravenwing and follows the fate of three different Space Marines in the secretive Dark Angels chapter.
The first tale is that of Sapphon the newly chosen Master of Sanctity. Sapphon’s primary duty is to find and reform ‘The Fallen’, a group of ancient Space Marines that turned on their patriarch and their Emperor centuries before. Sapphon’s approach is unorthodox for a Dark Angels Chaplain as he uses his cunning to find and eliminate the traitor Space Marines. This is shown in his attempt to manipulate the 'Fallen' Astelan in the hopes of capturing even more powerful and corrupt soldiers. However, his task is made harder by his brother-in-arms Interrogator-Chaplain Asmodai whom contradicts Sapphon’s methods instead believing in older, more violent methods of manipulation.
Telemenus has being promoted high within the Dark Angels to the Death Squad, a group of elite Terminators who are the tip of the spear of the Dark Angels when hunting for Fallen. Telemenus has to adapt to his new armour and brothers as a member of the First Company of Dark Angels. As well as this, he has to overcome his own doubt in his abilities and his chapter to become the elite warrior everyone expects him to be. The new Terminator must do this quickly to assist the Master of Sanctity in his hunt for the fallen Space Marines!
 
I love the artwork from these books!

Finally, Annael was the prominent character in Ravenwing and at the start of this novel is also promoted to Black Knight in the infamous motor cycle detachment of the Dark Angels. Having been promoted, Annael is introduced to horrific secrets from the Dark Angels’ past and has to evolve into his new role as one of Master Sammael’s chosen warriors.
Much like Thorpe’s other Dark Angels novels, this book blew my mind! From the first page I was hooked on the hunt for the Fallen and absolutely loved the character of Sapphon. His cunning and ingenuity really distinguishes him from other characters in the book making him unique in comparison to other Space Marines who shoot first and ask questions later. For me, this made his story the most enjoyable to read because he has to use trickery, lies and deceit to win over his more traditional Brothers.
 As the reviewer from SFX states; Thorpe makes his characters ‘actually sound like real people’. I’d absolutely agree with this because he gives the Space Marines real problems like doubt and self-consciousness, which you wouldn’t expect a genetically modified super-soldier to have.
I thought Thorpe did an excellent job of describing the worlds on which the Space Marines visit, especially the world of Ulthor. However, I do kind of question why the story of Ulthor was in the book as it seemed to move away from the plot and in some respects seemed a little pointless. I thought what happens there was exciting and well written but if it hadn’t been in the book, I don’t think the story would be any worse off.
All in all this was a great read. Some people give a little giggle when you tell them you’re reading a Warhammer 40K novel. Nevertheless, I can honestly say they are some of my favourite Sci-fi reads and people who love Sci-fi should definitely check out The Legacy of Caliban trilogy!
For author's official website click here

 

Monday, 7 September 2015

Bravo Two Zero, Andy McNab


Publishers: Corgi

Pages: 416

Main Characters:

Andy McNab

 
After reading American Sniper I had a keen interest in military memoirs and really wanted to read more books from that genre. Being British, I wanted to see if there was a difference between the psyche of an American soldier and a British one. I knew that there are two really famous British army memoirs, one of which is The Bridge Over the River Kwai. Although I’d love to read this book, I wanted something a little more similar to American Sniper which left me with Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab. I’m not going to say too much about the book because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but be assured it is an infectious read with a lot of sad and gruesome parts!

As I said above, this book is immensely well known in the UK and was first published in 1991 and has being republished many times since then. The memoir follows SAS (Special Air Service) soldier Andy McNab as he leads his team into an undercover, behind enemy lines operation in the First Gulf War against Iraq in 1990. Their mission is to cut an important communication line between Baghdad and Eastern Iraq where Saddam holds most of his infamous SCUD missiles.
 
Sean Bean playing McNab in TV show
 
The mission is clinically planned as every SAS mission is but when unusual weather and a lot of bad luck occur the team are compromised and have to escape Iraq into Syria. Unfortunately, Andy doesn’t make it and is captured by the Iraqis along with two of his friends. What follows is weeks of brutal torture and mistreatment at the hands of the Iraqis before the end of the war. Their job is to break the British soldiers and make them reveal their secrets. But with rigorous training and a strong sense of will, how long can the British soldiers last before their nightmare becomes too much?

This was a vastly interesting book telling an awful but very inspirational story. It gives an insight into the very secretive SAS, Britain’s most highly trained and famous part of the army. I especially liked how honest McNab was about his ordeal and how he doesn’t let his torture define him. As he says, this is what he is paid to do and what he trains for. This comforting though helps give him the will to get through the weeks he spent in an Iraqi jail.

I did enjoy Bravo Two Zero more than American Sniper. I know most of you will say it’s biased because I’m British (and I guess I kind of am!) but the nature of the SAS means that even people who have left the force must remain anonymous which means McNab does not reveal too much about his personal life. Whereas in American Sniper I believe the publisher tried to make Chris Kyle a hero by not just revealing his deeds in Iraq, but by telling more of his personal story and making him the guy everyone would love to buy a beer and pat on the back.  

Another great military memoir, the next one I read will definitely be Marcus Luttrell’s Lone Survivor!
For author's official website please click here.

 

 

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Moxie's Problem, Hank Quense


Publishers: Strange World Publishing

Pages: 306

Main Characters:

Moxie, Perc, Artie, Lancelot, Merlin


Hank Quense is back with another hysterical Strange Worlds novel! In this latest addition, Hank uses his wit and humour to tell the story of some of England’s most famous folk tales. Stories such as the Knights of the Round Table and Robin Hood feature heavily in this very tongue-in-cheek parody.

The book follows three main stories which all become intertwined. The lead story is that of Moxie, a Princess of a minor Kingdom. Sadly unlike most fairy tale princesses, Moxie was not blessed with good looks or charm. Her father is desperate to get her married so she can produce an heir but because of her looks he is unable to find a suitor. Luckily, a petty Count from the north of England agrees to marry Moxie and her Father organises a patrol of Knights from the famous Knights of the Round Table (KRT) to accompany her on her travels.

The second tale is that of Percivale, Gareth and Bors. The trio have just graduated from the Heroes Guild and have landed their dream position of being apprentice Knights of the Round Table. They can’t wait to make their fortune by saving maidens and slaying dragons. However, to start with they must accompany Princess Moxie on her journey to her new husband. The Knights believe this task to be easy but the stubborn and unfriendly nature of Moxie means their work is cut out for them.

Finally, King Artie has managed to carve out a Kingdom for himself on the southern shores of England. After pushing marauding Saxons back into the sea, his small Kingdom of Camelot has become extremely prosperous and his Knights of the Round Table are renowned throughout Britain. However, Artie did not win his Kingdom through epic battles with the Saxons but instead through epic football games against them. Artie knows as spring approaches the Saxons will return for another go at the Brits. With his Knights drinking and sleeping most of the winter, Artie must come up with a new tactic to beat the Saxons once and for all on the football pitch!
 
King 'Artie'

I really enjoyed this novel. It was an extremely fun and tongue-in-cheek twist on many of England’s famous fairy-tales and folk stories. I loved the fact the armies didn’t fight battles against each other but played games of football instead on the ‘field of honour’. I thought this was a great twist Quense used to redefine these age old stories and fit them into the unusualness of his Strange World series.

Though I did enjoy the book, I did have one issue with it.  I thought that Hank switched between the stories a little too often. One example of this was that he tells the story of Artie and Lancelot in the present tense and then tells a very similar story about them from 435 C.E. (15 years before). I sometimes found it very confusing to distinguish which tale I was reading about!

All in all, I really liked this book and read it in a couple of days! If you like the Discworld novels by Terry Practhett I think you’d really like this novel and the others in Hank’s Strange World series. I think both authors get the same amount of silliness and strangeness in their books which for me makes them a joy to read!
For author's official website click here.


Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Blood Crows, Simon Scarrow


 
Publishers: Headline

Pages: 384

Main Characters:

Marco, Cato, Centurion Quertus

 
Marco and Cato are back in another epic adventure in The Blood Crows. The novel sees our heroes return to Britain after their secretive work in Rome and the Imperial Palace is completed. Both soldiers are looking forward to army life as they return to the province where they started to make a name for themselves. With their new promotions, the duo hope they can get back to some ‘proper soldiering’ and put the espionage of Roman politics behind them.

The province of Britannia hasn’t changed much since the two heroes were last there. Even though the Emperor has announced the province conquered and peaceful, both Marco and Cato know that they have some tough battles ahead of them. The Briton leader Caratacus has mustered a sizable army and has turned to guerrilla warfare in an attempt to humble the Roman war machine. The Roman army is too big and slow to catch the Briton’s hit-and-run troops which have started to use the mountains of modern day Wales as their base.

Marco and Cato’s task is to take charge of the small fort of Bruccium deep in the enemy territory. The Perfect of the fort has being killed in a suspicious way and Cato is tasked to take control of the fort and hassle the local population. However as Cato and Marco find out, not all is as it seems in Bruccium with its’ temporary leader (Centurion Quertus) ruling both his men and the local Britons with an iron fist.
The Blood Crows trailer

This is the twelfth book in the Eagles series and I’ve kind of put off reading it for a while because I thought the series was getting a little long in the tooth, especially when the duo returned to Britain. However, after reading The Blood Crows I was reminded just how great these novels are and how good the duo of Marco and Cato are.

The thing that really made this book for me was the dialogue between Marco, Cato and Centurion Quertus. Firstly I loved Quertus’s character, his ferocious nature and crazy streak reminds me of Jorg from Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns. Quertus’s challenge to Cato’s authority leads to great dialogue between the two soldier and builds so much tension in the novel, which I think hasn’t been there in other books in this series. Quertus also adds ruthlessness to Marco which we haven’t really seen before and I think these new influences on both characters makes the series a lot fresher.

Even though this is the twelfth book in the series I can honestly say it was my favourite and I’ve just downloaded Brothers in Blood and can’t wait to read it! I’d suggest this book to anyone who loves Ancient Roman fiction and of course to people who have already read any of the other Eagle novels. In addition if you’re a fan of author’s like Ben Kane, Anthony Riches, Gordon Doherty and Nick Brown you will love this series!

For author’s official website please click here.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

What Comes Next, John Katzenbach


Publishers: Head of Zeus

Pages: 426

Main Characters:

Adrian, Jennifer

 


I decided to read this book on the recommendation of my girlfriend whom loves John Katzenbach because of his descriptive writing style and the tension he builds in his novels. The fact that she has read most of his novels made me really excited to read this book as I’d never really read a psychological or crime novel before.

The novel is based around two main characters Jennifer and Adrian. They are two very different people whom live in the same small academic town in New England. Adrian is an aging psychology Professor who sadly and ironically is diagnosed with Dementia. Having spent his life studying how the mind works the Professor is rocked to the core when he finds out that in a short period of time he will lose his mind’s functions until eventually he passes away. Using the example of his brother and wife, Adrian decides to take his own life before he loses the thing that makes him who he is and decides to use his brother’s gun on himself. However, on the drive home from the hospital Adrian sees a young girl walking past his house and thinks he witnesses her been kidnapped. This event causes Adrian to have one last meaning in life and with the help of his loved ones’ illusions caused by his illness, Adrian must discover where Jennifer is.

Jennifer Riggins is a 16 year old girl who has become a social outcast with her friends and family. With an abusive step-father and deluded mother, Jennifer believes her only hope of salvation is to escape her boring old town and move to New York and hopes this time her escape will finally succeed. That is until a young couple approach her in a white van and ask her for directions. Jennifer is quickly assaulted and bundled into the van and taken to the couples’ secret location where she is imprisoned and broadcast to the internet on the website whatcomesnext.com. The couple play out their sick fantasies on Jennifer for thousands of people to watch. The couple know that their audience will only pay attention for so long and plan to make their finale of the programme something they'll never forget! Jennifer's time is running short and she only has one hope, but will Adrian solve the mystery of her disappearance or will his illness get the better of him?

This was a very interesting book to read. I thought the main plot idea of the girl been held against her will and the unlikely hero Adrian saving her. I thought he was going to struggle with his illness but ultimately overcome it to save Jennifer, which would make this book very entertaining because it caused a lot of suspense.

However, there were some points that I really didn’t like. Firstly, the pace of the book was quite slow and sometimes struggled to keep my attention. For instance, when the girl is captured nothing really happens to her. The author goes into some detail about the perversions of the sick couple who kidnap her, but they don’t seem to do anything to her. Plus Adrian’s visions and hallucinations seem a bit of a cheap way to help him solve the crime. Anytime he struggles in the mystery one of his allusions comes along and points him in the right direction and then everything is hunky-dory again. I just thought if there was more emphasis and urgency on finding Jennifer it would have made the book much more enjoyable to read.

As I said above, my girlfriend has read most of Katzenbach’s books and assures me his other ones are much more gripping. Having reread What Comes Next again, she also believes it was a little slow but I’m excited to try one of his other novels!
To discuss this novel head over to my Facebook page by clicking here.

 

 
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