Quick Review: WARHAWK by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

WraightC-HHSoT5-WarhawkOne of the most-anticipated battles of the Horus Heresy finally comes to pass

The Inner Walls are breached.

Traitor vanguards tear towards the heart of the Palace, sensing victory. Desperate gambits are attempted: an unwilling saint is released into the ruins, as well as an enthusiastic sinner. A black sword rises, forged from spite, ready to create a legend. But amid the slaughter, Jaghatai Khan, Warhawk of Chogoris, prepares to launch the most audacious strike of the conflict. His goal is nothing less than the liberation of the Lion’s Gate space port. Cut off from any help, he stakes everything on one desperate counter-offensive, launched against an old enemy who has been made far greater than he ever was before. As the White Scars ride out against the newly crowned lords of life and death, they know that defeat for them dooms not only the Legion, but Terra itself.

And so we come to the penultimate book in not only the Siege of Terra series, but the Horus Heresy over all. It’s been quite a journey, with many twists and turns of the story along the way. In Warhawk, fans will finally get to read about a particular confrontation that has been a long time coming. It’s one of the most epic duels I’ve read in Black Library fiction (or any other), and Wraight has done a fantastic job of realizing it on the page. I very much enjoyed reading this. Continue reading

Quick Review: STATE OF TERROR by Hillary Clinton & Louise Penny (Simon & Schuster)

ClintonPenny-StateOfTerrorUSHCAn engaging, well-written globe-trotting political thriller

After a tumultuous period in American politics, a new administration has just been sworn in, and to everyone’s surprise the president chooses a political enemy for the vital position of secretary of state.

There is no love lost between the president of the United States and Ellen Adams, his new secretary of state. But it’s a canny move on the part of the president. With this appointment, he silences one of his harshest critics, since taking the job means Adams must step down as head of her multinational media conglomerate.

As the new president addresses Congress for the first time, with Secretary Adams in attendance, Anahita Dahir, a young foreign service officer (FSO) on the Pakistan desk at the State Department, receives a baffling text from an anonymous source.

Too late, she realizes the message was a hastily coded warning.

What begins as a series of apparent terrorist attacks is revealed to be the beginning of an international chess game involving the volatile and Byzantine politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; the race to develop nuclear weapons in the region; the Russian mob; a burgeoning rogue terrorist organization; and an American government set back on its heels in the international arena.

As the horrifying scale of the threat becomes clear, Secretary Adams and her team realize it has been carefully planned to take advantage of four years of an American government out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts the most.

To defeat such an intricate, carefully constructed conspiracy, it will take the skills of a unique team: a passionate young FSO; a dedicated journalist; and a smart, determined, but as yet untested new secretary of state.

It will probably come as no surprise that I was very eager to read this novel. I pre-ordered it as soon as I could, and read it right away. (For some reason, I’ve struggled to get into review-writing, hence the delay in publishing this one.) This is a well-paced, quite substantial, globe-trotting political thriller. I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE DAYS TO COME by Tom Rosenstiel (Ecco)

RosenstielT-PR4-DaysToComeUSHCA new president upends Washington norms, and Rena & Brooks deal with cyberthreats, corporate espionage

Billionaire entrepreneur David Traynor has big dreams for fixing a broken government in his first term as president of the United States. In the months before his inauguration, he’s developed daring and, in some cases, secret strategies to solve the climate crisis, force Congress to work again, and rebuild America’s economy — and that’s just the beginning. Everyone in the capital is scrambling to adapt to the new disruptor in chief’s bold agenda, though many, both at home and abroad, also want to see Traynor and his steely vice president, Wendy Upton, fail. Unsure of whom he can trust, Traynor intends to turn to an unusual group of people to advise him, including the savvy and sometimes ruthless DC fixers Peter Rena and Randi Brooks.

Though he is at the height of his career, Rena finds his world in chaos. His personal life is a mess; he wonders if his work — saving powerful people from their mistakes — has become too cynical. When malicious, untraceable cyberattacks related to his past start seeping from the dark corners of the internet, Rena’s doubts overwhelm him. Then an unpredictable tragedy throws the country into crisis, and he must come out of his stupor.

If Rena wants to help the new president salvage American politics, he will first have to reckon with his own demons and come to grips with a world far different from the one he once believed in. With the government and the country polarized and on the cusp of enormous change, Tom Rosenstiel’s The Days to Come is a clever, gripping thriller and a cogent meditation on how to heal a divided country.

In this fourth instalment in Rosenstiel’s Rena & Brooks series, the political fixers and their team are tasked with investigating one of the secret plans the new president has launched. It’s a story of political maneuvering and gridlock, cyber-threats, and some of the most important issues that face us today. I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE LONG GAME by K. J. Parker (Subterranean Press)

ParkerKJ-LongGameUSNo matter what we might believe, we are all pawns in a far larger, longer game than we can imagine

The unnamed narrator of The Long Game is an Adept, a member of an Ecclesiastical order charged, among other things, with opposing a race of immaterial demons, creatures capable of possessing and controlling human minds. Complicating the narrator’s life is the fact that, over time, he has developed a cordial “relationship” with one of the demons. Complicating matters further is the unexpected arrival of Amalasomtha, a young woman with impossible abilities who claims to have come from the remote — perhaps mythical — country of Idalia. She also claims that, for reasons she does not entirely understand, she has been tasked with capturing one such demon and returning with it to Idalia. The truth, it turns out, is considerably more complex.

Amalasomtha’s arrival sets in motion a chain of events encompassing murder, magic, deception, and an array of unintended consequences. By the story’s end, this consistently witty account of demonic possession, hidden agendas and Ecclesiastical politics has taken us to some unexpected places and given us a glimpse of a larger story still, the “long game” that lies at the heart of all human history.

This new novella from K. J. Parker seems to be set around the same demon mythology that the author introduced in Prosper’s Demon, and has appeared in a few other recent novellas. It’s a novella that displays all of Parker’s fantastic gifts for storytelling: a playful humour, intelligence, and a well-paced and -balanced narrative. As expected, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

New Books (October-November)

NewBooks-20211114

Featuring: Tom Beckerlegge, William Brewer, Michael Connelly, Katie Cotugno, Eli Cranor, Scott Drakeford, Ren Hutchings, James Kestrel, Andrew Lipstein, Ellery Lloyd, H. M. Long, Cassidy Lucas, William Martin, T. R. Napper, Dan Ozzi, K. J. Parker, Kal Penn, Andrew Rice, Will Smith, Richard Swan, Gav Thorpe, Vanessa Veselka, Donald E. Westlake

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Upcoming: GOTHGUL HOLLOW by Anna Stephens (Black Library)

StephensA-WHH-GothgulHollowAnna Stephens is perhaps best known for her Godblind Trilogy and latest novel, The Stone Knife. The author has also been writing a fair number of short stories for Black Library, and next year her first will arrive: Gothgul Hollow is part of the publisher’s Warhammer Horror series. Set in the Age of Sigmar, I’m rather looking forward to reading this. You can read a little bit more about it (and some other upcoming Warhammer Horror titles, here.)

The Hollow. A lonely Shyishan town, obscured amongst wild moorland, inhabited by folk of vigilant routine. What remains of the once illustrious Gothghul family endures season upon season of monastic isolation in their castle on the hill. Aaric Gothghul, made callous by loss, shuts himself in his study and broods over arcane texts, while his strange and formidable daughter wanders the forests alone.

But when the town is threatened by a spate of sinister manifestations, the quiet formality of their days end. Worse still, the upheaval disturbs a terrible family secret – a chilling memory that Aaric has kept buried for twenty-five years. Now, father and daughter must set aside their differences and search for answers to an ancient curse that is somehow linked to their past. Aided by a straight-talking sharpshooter and a shrewd man of faith, they seek to fathom the forces that assail the Hollow.

Scholar. Sorceress. Killer. Priest. Four people divided by their secrets and lies, bound together by horror, must unite their strengths to uncover a diabolic mystery – the clue to which they have but one incomprehensible word: Mhurghast.

Gothgul Hollow is due to be published by Black Library in North America and in the UK, in February 2022.

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Upcoming: DESTINY OF THE DEAD by Kel Kade (Tor Books)

KadeK-SoP2-DestinyOfTheDeadUSIn March 2022, Tor Books are due to publish Destiny of the Dead: the second novel in Kel Kade‘s Shroud of Prophecy series, and the sequel to the well-received Fate of the Fallen. I’ve fallen terribly behind on some of my reading, but Kade’s previous novel is rapidly ascending my TBR mountain, and I hope to get it read before the release of the sequel. Here’s the synopsis:

No more heroes.

The wealthy and powerful. The kings and queens. They all abandoned the world to fate when the chosen one died. All except a small group of broken people. Through dogged determination and maybe a bit of stupid bravery, Aaslo and his friends fought on. They continued the fight even when far greater heroes had given up.

Now, Aaslo must turn the tides. In a world swifly falling to chaos, Aaslo is determined to win this war… at any cost. He’s made a deal with the fickle fae, setting him and his friends on a collision course with the gods themselves.

Destiny of the Dead is due to be published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK, on March 22nd, 2022.

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Upcoming: THE JUSTICE OF KINGS by Richard Swan (Orbit)

SwanR-EotW1-JusticeOfKingsPrinted ARCs of Richard Swan‘s debut novel, The Justice of Kings, have already been doing the rounds among the lucky few, and the reception seems to have been pretty universally positive (even glowing). I’m always on the look-out for new fantasy series (well, any series, really) to give a try, and this one sounds rather intriguing. Here’s the synopsis:

Sir Konrad Vonvalt, an Emperor’s Justice, who is a detective, judge and executioner all in one. But these are dangerous times to be a Justice…

No man is above the law.

The Empire of the Wolf simmers with unrest, rife with rebels, heretics and powerful patricians who would challenge the power of the imperial throne.

Only the Order of Justices stands in the way of chaos. Sir Konrad Vonvalt is the most feared Justice of all, upholding the law by way of his sharp mind, arcane powers and skill as a swordsman. In this he is aided by Helena Sedanka, his clerk and protégé, orphaned by the wars that forged the empire.

When the pair investigate the murder of a provincial aristocrat, they unearth a conspiracy that stretches to the very top of Imperial society. As the stakes rise and become ever more personal, Vonvalt must make a choice: will he abandon the laws he’s sworn to uphold in order to protect the empire?

The Justice of Kings is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on February 22nd, 2022.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: EYES OF THE VOID by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Orbit/Tor)

TchaikovskyA-FA2-EyesOfTheVoidThe cover for the second novel in Adrian Tchaikovsky‘s Final Architecture series, Eyes of the Void, was unveiled a little while ago (perhaps officially today). If you haven’t had a chance to read the first book — Shards of Earth — then I’d definitely recommend you get on that ASAP (I cannot recommend the author’s work highly enough). A series “about humanity on the brink of extinction, and how one man’s discovery will save or destroy us all”, here’s the synopsis for book two:

After eighty years of fragile peace, the Architects are back, wreaking havoc as they consume entire planets. In the past, Originator artefacts – vestiges of a long-vanished civilization – could save a world from annihilation. This time, the Architects have discovered a way to circumvent these protective relics. Suddenly, no planet is safe.

Facing impending extinction, the Human Colonies are in turmoil. While some believe a unified front is the only way to stop the Architects, others insist humanity should fight alone. And there are those who would seek to benefit from the fractured politics of war – even as the Architects loom ever closer.

Idris, who has spent decades running from the horrors of his past, finds himself thrust back onto the battlefront. As an Intermediary, he could be one of the few to turn the tide of war. With a handful of allies, he searches for a weapon that could push back the Architects and save the galaxy. But to do so, he must return to the nightmarish unspace, where his mind was broken and remade.

What Idris discovers there will change everything.

Eyes of the Void is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America (May 3rd) and Tor Books in the UK (April 28th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Quick Review: UNGUARDED by Scottie Pippen w. Michael Arkush (Atria Books)

PippenS-UnguardedUSHCHow the six-time NBA Champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and Hall of Famer, the youngest of twelve, overcame two family tragedies and universal disregard by college scouts to become an essential component of the greatest basketball dynasty of the last fifty years.

Scottie Pippen has been called one of the greatest NBA players for good reason.

Simply put, without Pippen, there are no championship banners — let alone six — hanging from the United Center rafters. There’s no Last Dance documentary. There’s no “Michael Jordan” as we know him. The 1990s Chicago Bulls teams would not exist as we know them.

So how did the youngest of twelve go from growing up poor in the small town of Hamburg, Arkansas, enduring two family tragedies along the way, to become a revered NBA legend? How did the scrawny teen, overlooked by every major collegiate basketball program, go on to become the fifth overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft? And, perhaps most compelling, how did Pippen set aside his ego (and his own limitless professional ceiling) in order for the Bulls to become the most dominant basketball dynasty of the last half century?

In Unguarded, the six-time champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist finally opens up to offer pointed and transparent takes on Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and Dennis Rodman, among others. Pippen details how he cringed at being labeled Jordan’s sidekick, and discusses how he could have (and should have) received more respect from the Bulls’ management and the media.

Pippen reveals never-before-told stories about some of the most famous games in league history, including the 1994 playoff game against the New York Knicks when he took himself out with 1.8 seconds to go. He discusses what it was like dealing with Jordan on a day-to-day basis, while serving as the facilitator for the offense and the anchor for the defense.

On the 30th anniversary of the Bulls’ first championship, Pippen is finally giving millions of adoring basketball fans what they crave; a raw, unvarnished look into his life, and role within one of the greatest, most popular teams of all time.

I think this may have been one of the fastest review copy requests I’ve ever submitted. A long time fan of basketball, albeit a relative newcomer to basketball history and publishing, I was very eager to read Pippen’s side of the story: that story, of course, including his time as a key member of the six-time NBA champions Chicago Bulls squad. Pippen gives readers the full sweep of his story, from his difficult upbringing, his shaky start in basketball, and ultimate rise to the pinnacle of the sport. It’s by turns interesting, illuminating, and also amusing. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading