Quick Review: VALDOR by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

WraightC-Valdor-BirthOfTheImperiumOne of the most important characters from the Horus Heresy series, and also an illuminating glimpse at the early Imperium

Explore the history of one of the most well known heroes of the Imperium…

Constantin Valdor. It is a name that brings forth images of heroism, honour and peerless duty. For it is he who commands the will of the Legio Custodes that most esteemed and dedicated cadre of elite warriors. He is the Emperor’s sword, His shield, His banner and he knows no equal. Clad in shining auramite, his fist clenched around the haft of his Guardian Spear, he is the bulwark against all enemies of the throne, within or without.

Nearing the end of the wars of Unity, Valdor’s courage and purpose is put to the test as never before. The petty warlords and tyrants of Old Earth have been all but vanquished, and the Emperor’s armies are triumphant. What now for the nascent Imperium and what fate its forgotten soldiers, its Thunder Warriors and armies of Unity? A new force is rising, one which shall eclipse all others and open the way to the stars. But change on Terra is seldom bloodless and for progress to be ensured darker deeds are necessary.

This is the first in Black Library’s Horus Heresy Character series — a series of novels that expands the overall Horus Heresy series in some way. Focusing on Constantin Valdor, the commander of the Legio Custodes, the Emperor’s personal guard. It’s a novel that not only gives us some more insight and background to the character, but also an interesting and illuminating (to a point) glimpse at the early years of the Imperium, before mankind had set out once again for the stars. A quick, interesting and engaging read. Continue reading

Upcoming: PRIEST OF GALLOWS by Peter McLean (Jo Fletcher Books)

McLeanP-WftRT3-PriestOfGallowsUKThe third novel in Peter McLean‘s acclaimed War for the Rose Throne series, Priest of Gallows, is due out later this year. It’s not the final book in the series (there’s at least one more on the way, Priest of Crowns), so fans of the series can be happy that there’s still plenty of action and intrigue still to come. I really need to get caught up on this series. Here’s the synopsis:

Gangster, soldier, priest. Queen’s Man. Governor.

Tomas Piety has everything he ever wanted. In public he’s a wealthy, highly respected businessman, happily married to a beautiful woman and Governor of his home city of Ellinburg. In private, he’s no longer a gang lord but one of the Queen’s Men, invisible and officially non-existent, working in secret to protect his country.

But when the queen’s sudden death sees him summoned him back to the capital, he discovers his boss, Dieter Vogel, Provost Marshal of the Queen’s Men, is busy tightening his stranglehold on the country.

Just as he once fought for his Pious Men, he must now bend all his wit and hard-won wisdom to protect his queen – but now he can’t always tell if he’s on the right side.

Tomas has started to ask himself, what is the price of power? And more importantly, is it one he is willing to pay?

Peter McLean’s Priest of Gallows is due to be published in the UK by Jo Fletcher Books, on April 29th, 2021. (The first two novels in the series are published in North America by Ace Books, but I couldn’t find a listing for an Ace edition of Priest of Gallows, at the time of writing.)

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Quick Review: THE TWO LOST MOUNTAINS by Matthew Reilly (Orion)

ReillyM-JW6-TwoLostMountainsUKHCThe penultimate novel in the action-packed Jack West, Jr., series.

AN INCREDIBLE VICTORY AT A TERRIBLE PRICE

Against all the odds, Jack West Jr found the Three Secret Cities – but at a heartbreaking cost.

TO THE MOUNTAINS AND THE FALL

Still reeling from his loss, Jack must now get to one of the five iron mountains – two of which have never been found – and perform a mysterious feat known only as ‘The Fall’.

A NEW PLAYER ARRIVES

Amid all this, Jack will discover that a new player has entered the race, a general so feared by the four legendary kingdoms they had him locked away in their deepest dungeon.

Only now this general has escaped and he has a horrifying plan of his own…

I’ve been reading Reilly’s Jack West Jr. series since the paperback release of Seven Ancient Wonders, which I think I picked up on a whim (from WH Smiths, if I recall correctly). It introduced a host of fun new characters, and offered an action-packed thrill-ride. A blockbuster movie on the page, filled with secret history, insane action scenes, some fun technology, and superb pacing. Each of the series novels since (the titles have been counting down) has offered much the same level of entertainment and action, building nicely on the mythology of its particular secret history. The Two Lost Mountains is another fast-paced novel, which sets up the final book very nicely. Continue reading

Quick Review: GOOD COMPANY by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Ecco)

SweeneyCD-GoodCompanyUSA novel about friendship, marriage, and managing the challenges life presents

Flora Mancini has been happily married for more than twenty years. But everything she thought she knew about herself, her marriage, and her relationship with her best friend, Margot, is upended when she stumbles upon an envelope containing her husband’s wedding ring — the one he claimed he lost one summer when their daughter, Ruby, was five.

Flora and Julian struggled for years, scraping together just enough acting work to raise Ruby in Manhattan and keep Julian’s small theater company — Good Company — afloat. A move to Los Angeles brought their first real career successes, a chance to breathe easier, and a reunion with Margot, now a bona fide television star. But has their new life been built on lies? What happened that summer all those years ago? And what happens now?

Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest was one of the best novels I read in 2016, so I’ve been looking forward to reading the author’s follow-up ever since. I was lucky enough to get a DRC of Good Company, and I’m very pleased to report that it lived up to my high expectations. A novel about family, friendship, secrets, and life in general. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE ALBUM OF DR. MOREAU by Daryl Gregory (Tor.com)

GregoryD-AlbumOfDrMoreauA fantastic science fictional twist on detective fiction and pop culture

It’s 2001, and the WyldBoyZ are the world’s hottest boy band, and definitely the world’s only genetically engineered human-animal hybrid vocal group. When their producer, Dr. M, is found murdered in his hotel room, the “boyz” become the prime suspects. Was it Bobby the ocelot (“the cute one”), Matt the megabat (“the funny one”), Tim the Pangolin (“the shy one”), Devin the bonobo (“the romantic one”), or Tusk the elephant (“the smart one”)?

Las Vegas Detective Luce Delgado has only twenty-four hours to solve a case that goes all the way back to the secret science barge where the WyldBoyZ’ journey first began — a place they used to call home.

It feels like a long time since I last read something by Gregory. I’ve enjoyed his work ever since I read Afterparty. He has a great writing and storytelling style. This new novella is a fantastic read: an intriguing, inventive science-fiction twist on detective fiction and pop culture. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Upcoming: THE ALL-CONSUMING WORLD by Cassandra Khaw (Erewhon)

KhawC-AllConsumingWorldUSTor.com has described the protagonist in Cassandra Khaw‘s newest novel as having “heavy Furiosa vibes” (if you don’t know the reference, please go and watch Mad Max: Fury Road before you do anything else). I’ve enjoyed the other work by Khaw that I’ve read, and am looking forward to reading The All-Consuming World, a science fiction novel about a group of cyborg ex-cons who want to rescue a missing teammate:

A diverse team of broken, diminished former criminals get back together to solve the mystery of their last, disastrous mission and to rescue a missing and much-changed comrade… but they’re not the only ones in pursuit of the secret at the heart of the planet Dimmuborgir.

The highly-evolved AI of the universe have their own agenda and will do whatever it takes to keep humans from ever controlling the universe again. This band of dangerous women, half-clone and half-machine, must battle their own traumas and a universe of sapient ageships who want them dead, in order to settle their affairs once and for all. 

“Dimmuborgir”… I wonder if it’s named after the band?

Cassandra Khaw’s The All-Consuming World is due to be published by Erewhon in North America and in the UK, on June 22nd, 2021.

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Upcoming: KING BULLET by Richard Kadrey (Voyager)

KadreyR-SS12-KingBulletLater this year, Voyager are due to publish King Bullet, the twelfth and final book in Richard Kadrey‘s superb Sandman Slim series. I started reading this when I was a lowly intern at Voyager in the UK (a job I still look back on very fondly). I’ve fallen a little behind on the series, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of the novels I’ve read so far. I can’t wait to get caught up and see how the series ends. Here’s the synopsis:

It’s been three months since Stark stopped a death cult and a potential ghost apocalypse, and he’s at loose ends. His personal life is a mess. His professional life isn’t much better. And the world… well, the world is going to shit. L.A. is gripped by a viral epidemic that has everyone wearing masks and keeping their distance from each other. But what’s even more frightening is the Shoggot gang and their leader, King Bullet, who revels in the city’s collapse.

Who is King Bullet? No one knows. He seemingly came from nowhere with nothing but a taste for mayhem and an army of crazed killers who follow his every command. What king wants seems simple on it face: Chaos. Destruction. A city in flames. But there’s more to the king and his plans for L.A. and what Stark discovers will change Heaven, Earth, and Stark himself forever.

Richard Kadrey’s King Bullet is due to be published by Harper Voyager in North America and in the UK, on August 17th, 2021.

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Upcoming: LIGHTSEEKERS by Femi Kayode (Mulholland/Raven)

KayodeF-LightseekersUSI’m always on the look-out for a new thriller author to follow, and Femi Kayode‘s debut Lightseekers caught my eye. I like stories where an outsider is thrust into a situation or country/world in which they have no or little experience. I luckily already have a review copy of the novel, and hope to read it very soon. Here’s the synopsis:

A respected Nigerian psychologist travels to a remote southern border town to uncover the truth about the murder of three university students.

When Dr. Philip Taiwo is called on by a powerful Nigerian politician to investigate the public torture and murder of three university students in Port Harcourt, he has no idea that he’s about to be enveloped by a perilous case that is far from cold.

KayodeF-LightseekersUKPhilip is not a detective. He’s an investigative psychologist, an academic more interested in figuring out the why of a crime than actually solving it. But when he steps off the plane and into the dizzying frenzy of the provincial airport, he soon realizes that the mob-driven murder of the Okriki Three isn’t as straight forward as he thought. With the help of his loyal and streetwise personal driver, Chika, Philip must work against those actively conspiring against him to parse together the truth of what happened to these students.

A thrilling and atmospheric mystery, and an unforgettable portrait of the contemporary Nigerian sociopolitical landscape, Lightseekers is a wrenching novel tackling the porousness between the first and third worlds, the enduring strength of tribalism and homeland identity, and the human need for connection in the face of isolation.

Femi Kayode’s Lightseekers is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America (March 2nd) and Raven Books in the UK (February 4th).

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Upcoming: THE THOUSAND CRIMES OF MING TSU by Tom Lin (Little, Brown)

LinT-ThousandCrimesOfMingTsuUSThe Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin is described as a blend of the “violent ardor of Cormac McCarthy” and the “otherworldly inventiveness of Ted Chiang”. In an early blurb, Jonathan Lethem name-checks a number of comparators, including the Coen Brothers and Ray Bradbury. An intriguing mix. The novel is “a thriller, a romance, and a story of one man’s quest for redemption in the face of a distinctly American brutality”. Quite looking forward to giving this a try. Here’s the full synopsis:

An astounding debut that reimagines the classic Western through the eyes of a Chinese American assassin on a quest to rescue his kidnapped wife and exact his revenge on her abductors

Orphaned as a boy, Ming Tsu, the son of Chinese immigrants, is raised by the notorious leader of a California crime syndicate, who trains him to be his deadly enforcer. But when Ming falls in love with Ada, the daughter of a powerful railroad magnate, and the two elope, he seizes the opportunity to escape to a different life. Soon after, in a violent raid, the tycoon’s henchmen kidnap Ada and conscript Ming into service for the Union Pacific Railroad.

Battered, heartbroken, and yet defiant, Ming partners with a clairvoyant old man known only as the Prophet. Together the two set out to rescue his wife and to exact revenge on the men who destroyed him, aided by a troupe of magic-show performers, some with supernatural powers, whom they meet on the journey. Ming fights his way across the West, settling old scores with a single-minded devotion that culminates in an explosive and unexpected finale.

Tom Lin’s The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu is due to be published by Little, Brown in North America and in the UK, on June 1st, 2021.

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Upcoming: THE PRINCESS SPY by Larry Loftis (Atria)

LoftisL-PrincessSpyUSI spotted this in a Washington Post article, “What to read in 2021 based on what you loved in 2020” (which has some interesting suggestions, in general). I recently picked up Ben MacIntyre’s Agent Sonya, a book about Ursula Kuczynski Burton, a Russian “spymaster, saboteur, bomb-maker and secret agent”. In the aforementioned WaPo article, Angela Haupt recommends The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis as a comparable 2021 release. After reading the synopsis, I’m intrigued:

A hidden history of an ordinary American girl who became one of the OSS’s most daring spies in World War II before marrying into European nobility…

When Aline Griffith was born in a quiet suburban New York hamlet, no one had any idea that she would go on to live “a life of glamour and danger that Ingrid Bergman only played at in Notorious” (Time). As the US enters the Second World War, the young college graduate is desperate to aid in the war effort, but no one is interested in a bright-eyed young woman whose only career experience is modeling clothes.

Aline’s life changes when, at a dinner party, she meets a man named Frank Ryan and reveals how desperately she wants to do her part for her country. Within a few weeks, he helps her join the Office of Strategic Services — forerunner of the CIA. With a code name and expert training under her belt, she is sent to Spain to be a coder, but is soon given the additional assignment of infiltrating the upper echelons of society, mingling with high-ranking officials, diplomats, and titled Europeans, any of whom could be an enemy agent. Against this glamorous backdrop of galas and dinner parties, she recruits sub-agents and engages in deep-cover espionage to counter Nazi tactics in Madrid.

Even after marrying the Count of Romanones, one of the wealthiest men in Spain, Aline secretly continues her covert activities, being given special assignments when abroad that would benefit from her impeccable pedigree and social connections.

Filled with twists, romance, and plenty of white-knuckled adventures fit for a James Bond film, The Princess Spy brings to vivid life the dazzling adventures of a remarkable American woman who risked everything to serve her country.

Larry Loftis’s The Princess Spy is due to be published by Atria Books in North America and in the UK, on February 9th, 2021.

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