BOOK REVIEW | A FOOL’S HOPE BY MIKE SHACKLE

Good Afternoon Bookish Folk!

It is Monday, and thankfully I am not in work until tomorrow so I can write up my review of Mike Shackle’s second book to The Last War series: A Fool’s Hope!

I am absolutely thrilled to be able To read and review this book, it is a dark and sensational follow up to the first book: We Are The Dead!

A Fool’s Hope is due to release on 3rd December 2020, and you can pre-order from any of the below places…

AMAZON.CO.UK £15.19 | WHSMITH £15.19 | WATERSTONES £18.99 |

**Prices as shown on 30/11/20**

A few facts about A Fool’s Hope:

  • Title: A Fool’s Hope
  • Author: Mike Shackle
  • Series: The Last War (Book Two)
  • Published by Gollancz
  • Pages: 594

Synopsis:

Add It To Your Goodreads!

War takes everything.

From Tinnstra, it took her family and thrust her into a conflict she wanted only to avoid. Now her queen’s sole protector, she must give everything she has left to keep Zorique safe.

It has taken just as much from Jia’s revolutionaries. Dren and Jax – battered, tortured, once enemies themselves – now must hold strong against their bruised invaders, the Egril.

For the enemy intends to wipe Jia from the map. They may have lost a battle, but they are coming back. And if Tinnstra and her allies hope to survive, Jia’s heroes will need to be ready when they do.

The sequel to the darkly fantastic WE ARE THE DEAD: with more unflinching action, A FOOL’S HOPE sees Jia’s revolutionaries dig in their heels as they learn that wars aren’t won in a day.

Review:

Here are a few things you can expect from :

  • WAR;
  • Epic battles filled with bloody desperation;
  • An excellently written masterpiece that doesn’t pull punches or pussy-foot around;
  • Fascinating, compelling and generally amazing characters; and
  • A great middle instalment to a sure to be exquisite trilogy!

First off I would like to thank the folks at Gollancz & NetGalley who accepted my request to read this book early! I also have to laugh because my instant response to this book was “Holy shit – this book” and that is what is quoted on Gollancz website! So, I see no other way to start my review…

On to the full review…

HOLY SHIT – THIS BOOK!

There, that is my review.

I joke, I joke. While accurate I think I can muster up some more words to do this book its justice.

A Fool’s Hope is an incredible story and it begins right back to where it left you, there is no irritating missing period that you always want to know about, you are straight back to it! Many say the second book is often the worst one, it is the calm before the epic climax of book three and can often be filled with a lot of filler. Well, Shackle shit’s all over that statement! This book just keeps getting better, it stands on equal footing with book one and is damned incredible.

Having read Shackle’s first book in this series, I am somewhat familiar with his writing style and yet A Fool’s Hope still managed to amaze me. Over my last few review’s I have been talking a little bit more about how coherent a book is, its dialogue and other general but crucial writing elements.

While reading A Fool’s Hope I saw nothing but a faultless piece of work! Shackle’s ability to weave a story is brilliant, no sentence is wasted, and no dialogue out of place. Everything just seemed to fit so well, and when a book is a fast paced as these books are it is often easy for it all to become a little jarring and feel all over the place. This was not the case in A Fool’s Hope despite the different locations and characters.

Shackle’s writing isn’t like anything I have read before, it is so tight-knit and compact you feel the punch of every word. His battle scenes are diverse and not repetitive and they all feel so real, because of Shackle’s incredibly world building you have more than brief explosions of imaginative action, you have a damn movie playing before your eyes! I felt the vibrations of every explosion and I felt raw from the sights that war brings, the people you cant help, the desperation. You are quite simply plunged into a world so deeply you are there for it all.

As with book one, We Are The Dead, you will be constantly driven to turn the next page, I read this book in three or four days. It is so addictive.

We Are The Dead introduced us to a good amount of the characters in this series but I was pleasantly surprised to be introduced to some more in A Fool’s Hope. We continue to see these incredible and flawed characters grow, we see their relationships grow deeper and their level of progression is fantastic. No character really remains the same, war changes them irrevocably, and it was such a rush seeing them deal with the events that unfold within this book. Nothing about this book feels rushed and you will, as surely as I did, become wholly invested in the outcome of these characters journey!

A Fool’s Hope is darker in nature, the stakes are higher and it is filled with the grim realness of a country under siege. Shackle holds nothing back and is not afraid to throw everything he can at his characters but this book is also so much more than that.

I can say so much more about this book, and I really do want to, but to do so walks into the realms of the spoilers and that is no place I dare tread. All I can say is that everything you expect to happen in this book will not happen, the direction you think this book will go in…yeah, it is going to rage a battle so vicious in the complete opposite direction and it is all done with such incredible finesse it leaves you wanting!

I would definitely say to those who plan on reading this book to avoid anything even remotely spoiler’ish, avoid any review that goes into detail about the relationships and the characters who feature or well anything really! I don’t think my review falls into those categories but many I imagine will so please be careful. In my opinion, you should go into this blind beyond the first book to really experience this spectacular book!

I read A Fool’s Hope straight after We Are The Dead without sight of a single review and I enjoyed it so much more. Each event I came upon was shockingly brilliant, I had no idea which direction it would turn and what an experience it was.


On to the rating…

THE RANKS: 

BUY THE HARDBACK | BUY THE PAPERBACK | BUY THE EBOOK | LIBRARY RENTAL OR SALE PURCHASE

A Fool’s Hope unfortunately is not being published in hardback I don’t believe, though that does not change this books rating of BUY THE HARDBACK!

Instead I purchased the signed Paperback (Twitter Link Here) from Matt, he is a bookseller at Waterstones so definitely message him to see if he has any left!

AGAIN Thank you for reading AND SEE YOU SOON!


Book Review: Stormblood by Jeremy Szal

My Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A few facts about Stormblood:

  • Title: Stormblood
  • Author: Jeremy Szal
  • Series: The Common (Book One)
  • Publisher: Gollancz
  • Pages: 544

Synopsis:

Vakov Fukasawa used to be a Reaper, a biosoldier fighting for the intergalactic governing body of Harmony against a brutal invading empire. Now, he fights against the stormtech: the DNA of an extinct alien race Harmony injected into him, altering his body chemistry and making him permanently addicted to adrenaline and aggression. It made him the perfect soldier, but it also opened a new drug market that has millions hopelessly addicted to their own body chemistry.

But when Harmony tells him that his former ally Reapers are being murdered, Vakov is appalled to discover his estranged brother is likely involved in the killings. They haven’t spoken in years, but Vakov can’t let his brother down, and investigates. But the deeper he goes, the more addicted to stormtech he becomes, and Vakov discovers that the war might not be over after all. It’ll take everything he has to unearth this terrible secret, although doing so might mean betraying his brother. If his own body doesn’t betray him first.

A vibrant and talented new voice in SFF: alien technology, addictive upgrades, a soldier determined to protect his family, and a thief who is prepared to burn the world down . . .

Review:

I wrote down so many little jottings while reading this book, and all were good things. So, here it goes, time to cobble them all together into a semi-cohesive review.

This is my first review of a science fiction book, while I read two books prior to this they were of the same series and where young adult books. While I don’t have an issue with young adult, and enjoy reading them, they are light in nature but often more surface level, if that’s an appropriate descriptions. Anywho, I wanted my first review to be of an adult sci-fi and what a first review to begin with. Stormblood was incredible.

The fact that this is Szal’s debut make it even more so. This book does not feel as though it was written by someone who hasn’t been writing for years.

I’m not going to pretend I know anything about the genre, but what you can find from this review is my thoughts on why I enjoyed this book.

I always find writing and publishing a review a little nerve wracking. It is with reviewers, as it is with authors, you let a little of yourself show in you writing, in the way you interpret a book. No review is unbiased, what we take from a book is subject to what we have lived and felt. What we have longed for, what we miss and what we have experienced.

So, while I am utterly new to this genre I’d like to think my review still counts. 

Let’s do this.

Stormblood is such a fascinating and captivating story, and so well thought out. I can’t tell you any references or similar books/authors to who this book’s tastes will suit but I can tell you it is so much more than what the synopsis suggests. I really didn’t expect this to have such a deep and profound emphasis on many of the topics it does, some being siblings/family, drug abuse, poverty, trauma, brotherhood and camaraderie. 

”People compare overcoming addiction to climbing a mountain, but that assumes there’s a peak to climb towards. Stormtech was more like swimming in an endless, churning sea. You never truly beat it. You just found temporary ways not to drown.”

It’s no secret that I don’t often like flashbacks, though to be honest the last few I have encountered I haven’t minded at all sooooo maybe I’m changing on that front. Annyyyway, where I usually dislike flashbacks I actually really enjoyed those I came across in stormblood. It was a nice way of answering the readers questions but what I enjoyed the most was the little insights into these culture rich memories. I got to experience the different places in the world Szal created through them being the home of a fellow reaper or the location of a current battle.

Szal’s writing is sharp and evocative. I genuinely felt gutted every time Vakov thought of the way things had turned out, each time it sunk in what his situation was. The highlight of this read though, has to be Vakov’s relationships. I cannot express how much I enjoyed watching them develop and grow. No relationship is the same, and all elicit such a level of emotion from the reader.

”But I’ve found friends to occasionally be like magnets: opposing forces attract.

Szal has created a thrilling world, one which you truly experience everything. It is so rich in detail, that you can picture each street and bar they visit, and Vakov and Grim visit a good few of those, they like their drink. There is a massive amount of detailing in this book, and not only in relation to the world building but in Vakov’s interactions, in his thought and feelings and in the tech that is used, especially his armour.

I really enjoyed the grittiness of this world, and when I say gritty I mean it has such a raw and real feel to it. The tone, in a way, reminded me of the film ’End of Watch’ in that it has a strong emphasis on the friendship of it’s characters through the difficult times they face.

”No matter how hard someone tries to knock you down, having someone to lean against, someone who’s got your back, makes it possible to stand up again.”

While the list of characters you meet in this story are on the lower side, which is by no means a criticism, they are all brilliantly compelling. I found Vakov to be really well developed, I loved his story and personality. I especially liked his own emotional confusion, whether his decisions were his own and how things could have been different. 

Szal did brilliantly in writing this book, I was filled with dread at times. When I met other members of Vakovs team through flashback I was genuinely worried for them.  Would one of these reapers he had lived and fought with fall victim next to his present-day situations or his past. He had lost so much, given so much already. 

As well, I enjoyed the reversal of character development, whether you call it that or not, it is how I see it. At the start we find out one of Vakov’s old reaper brothers has become the victim of his current shitstorm, and at the start you don’t really care that he died. Yeah, it’s shit for vakov but you yourself don’t care about the character but through vakov’s flashbacks I found myself caring more and more. Seeing this chap with his team and how he was I grew more and more saddened at his loss. It was a nice spin on charcter development. 

”Home isn’t where you’re born, Vakov. It’s where you feel calm and peace, even in a storm.”

Ohhh and the Mass Effect references in this really tickled my fancy. I love the little inserts such as a character being called Saren and a race not so dissimilar to the krogans. 

***A quick note, the quotes in this are from a Netgalley ARC and may have changed in the publishing of this book***