Category Archives: Book Reviews

Hardship by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

My first experience with Jean Johnson was back in 2012 when I heard her on the SF Signal podcast with host Patrick Hester. During the podcast she talked about her military SF series Theirs Not To Reason Why that features a female protagonist who happens to have some powerful natural abilities such as pre/post-cognition, telekinesis and the like and who is on a quest to save the galaxy from an extinction-level threat that will not occur for hundreds of years yet. I read the first three novels in the series last year and they all happened to be quite excellent stories that made me a Jean Johnson fan for life. And now, with the fifth and final book in the series just days away from publication, here’s my review of the fourth novel, which I read last month.

Hardship was originally intended to be the fourth and final book in the series, titled Damnation at the time. But as I learned from Jean herself lately, the final volume ended up being too big and the decision was made to split it into two parts. So Hardship is technically the first of a 2-part finale for Jean’s highly ambitious and grandiose story of Theirs Not To Reason Why. And it is just as excellent as the previous books. With things moving towards a conclusion, there’s a sense of finality in the novel and that there is a big confluence of events happening, so the novel checks off on all the things I wanted to see from it, and more.

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Hellfire by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

The third novel in Jean Johnson’s Theirs Not To Reason Why series of military space opera was published last year in the summer and it proved to be almost as good as the two novels before it, which is saying something since both A Soldier’s Duty and An Officer’s Duty stand as some of the best MSF books I’ve read to date. The fact that the protagonist Ia is also an uber badass is just icing on the cake and should there be a day when a movie series on these books is released, I’ll be the first to line-up in the theaters to watch it. The series has that kind of potential in it. Hellfire also made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 2” list last year as one of the best novels I read last year.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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An Officer’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

Jean Johnson’s A Soldier’s Duty got me heavily invested in the SFvision she had created and when I came back for the sequel, I was astounded by the consistency of pretty much everything, whether character or plot, pacing or action, or what have you. Being how good it is, An Officer’s Duty made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 1” list last year as one of the best novels I read last year. Together, these two novels offer something very different to the norm, and I do recommend them most highly.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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A Soldier’s Duty by Jean Johnson (Book Review)

Jean Johnson is a writer who wears many different hats, and writes in different genres, one of them being military space opera. Her series Theirs Not To Reason Why is, for me, one of the best such series out there, with a protagonist that I absolutely love and a setting that I absolutely enjoy, no matter what I read of any of it. For me, A Soldier’s Duty was one of the best novels I read last year and it would have made it to be “best of the year” lists if I hadn’t read the sequel soon after. All the same, I highly recommend this novel (and indeed the series).

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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Master of Sanctity by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

Gav Thorpe is rightly considered Black Library’s resident Dark Angels expert, for he has written more about them than any other author and he even had a hand in shaping their lore back when he worked in the Games Workshop Design Studio on the Dark Angels codex, among other things. Last year, he started a new Dark Angels series called Legacy of Caliban that followed on from one of Black Library’s best novels to date, Angels of Darkness, and continued the tale of the Knights of Caliban as they sought out their traitorous brethren from the days of the Horus Heresy itself and brought them to justice in the innermost deeps of The Rock. Ravenwing was an excellent novel in many ways, and the wait for the sequel was a long one for me, especially since I dropped off on my Black Library reading this year.

But I read Master of Sanctity earlier this month and the wait has been quite fruitful indeed. Gav made the long wait worth every moment since the novel is a brilliant follow-up to what he did in Ravenwing, giving a more thorough insight into the many mysteries of the Dark Angels and exploring their many secrets. The duality of the Dark Angels, in their oaths to the Imperium and to themselves to hunt down the Fallen wherever they may be found, is at the heart of this novel, and our primary lead-in this time is none other than the chapter’s Master of Sanctity himself, Grand Master Sapphon, and we even get a look at the fiercely conservative Chaplain Asmodai, with whom Sapphon clashes again and again in the novel.

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Horus Heresy: The Unremembered Empire by Dan Abnett (Book/Audio Review)

The last audiobook that I remember listening to from Black Library is Dan Abnett’s Prospero Burns, one of the two books alongside Graham McNeill’s A Thousand Sons that told the story of the fall of Prospero, of Magnus, and the Thousand Sons Legion. I’d tried to read the book before many times but always gave up, the only such Horus Heresy novel I’ve struggled with so much to date. The audiobook was a better experience but the story was still too problematic for me. Fortunately, Dan’s next big Heresy novel, Know No Fear easily proved to be a much better experience in all respects and is one of my favourite Heresy novels to date. So there’s some balance.

Dan’s latest Heresy novel The Unremembered Empire is my first Heresy audiobook since spring 2012 that I have experienced primarily in the audio format. I listened to the novel back in September, supplementing it with reading the ebook on and off, and I liked the dual experience. The Unremembered Empire is one of the better novels of the series, but it is also one of the more weaker ones since it is a branching novel and it attempts to do too much with too many characters. Taken in the context of the series at large, it is a pretty decent novel, but taken on its own merits, if fails to satisfy as much as it should. There’s just way too much going on in the novel and that works against it. Had it been trimmed of a few plotlines, it would have been one of the best novels of the series.

Note: This review contains spoilers of varying degrees.

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Portents by Sarah Cawkwell (Book Review)

I’ve mentioned before, repeatedly so, that Sarah Cawkwell is one of my favourite authors right now, and has been since about late 2010 or so, ever since I started reading her short stories in Black Library’s monthly magazine, Hammer & Bolter, which is sadly discontinued now. She’s one of the best examples of fans of Black Library to have come up through the ranks to become a bona fide author for the publisher and pretty much everything that she has written to date has been spectacular or close it, even her original stuff such as The Ballad of Gilrain or Uprising.

Sarah is most noted for her Silver Skulls fiction for Warhammer 40,000 where she has taken the so-named Space Marine Chapter under her umbrella and told some really fascinating stories about characters from across the Chapter’s many and varied ranks. The most recent Silver Skulls fiction is the (currently) digital-only novel Portents, released just a few weeks ago. In it, she carries forwards threads she introduced in her previous work, whether short stories or her debut novel The Gildar Rift, and it is a most satisfying read indeed. It was great to have Sergeant Gileas Ur’ten back again for another outing, a sizable one this time, and the exploration of the Chapter culture in itself was most fascinating.

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She Returns From War by Lee Collins (Book Review)

Lee Collins’ She Returns From War is the sequel to his 2012 debut The Dead of Winter and it continues the adventures of Wild West spook-hunter Cora Oglesby. After the strong debut, I expected and wanted Lee Collins to do a similarly grand job with the sequel, which is exactly where is excelled at since She Returns From War is a great follow-up to The Dead of Winter. It starts off many years after the evens of The Dead of Winter, and charts Cora’s return to spook-hunting, after she gave up following the events of that first novel, wherein she learned a terrible secret about herself. And just like its predecessor, She Returns From War also made it to one of my “best of…” lists, this time for the “Best of 2013 Part 1“.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins (Book Review)

One of the many debut writers to get their start in 2012 with Angry Robot Books was Lee Collins, who arrived on the scene with his western urban fantasy novel The Dead of Winter, the first in his Cora Oglesby duology. When I picked up the novel, I didn’t really know too much about it, but by the time I was done with it, I was hungry for more. Lee mixed in western and urban fantasy really well in this novel and in Cora Oglesby he created a great female character that I wanted to see  a lot more of. The Dead of Winter, aside from being one of my top favourite debuts of 2012, was also one of my top favourite reads of the year.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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Van Horstmann by Ben Counter (Book Review)

Another one of Ben Counter’s recent (and great!) works, Van Horstmann is part of the Warhammer Heroes range, though that branding isn’t in use anymore and hasn’t been for a while either. This was also his first novel for Warhammer Fantasy and he proved himself to be a master given that his characters and the story and the magical action and everything were pretty top-notch. There are reasons why this novel made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 1” list and the above are some of them. If you want to read a standalone Warhammer Fantasy novel that also deals with magic and magical brotherhoods to a great degree, then Van Horstmann should be your first stop, without a doubt!

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Book Review)

The Hunger Games is one of the series I wanted to read in 2013 as part of my “25 Series To Read In 2013” reading challenge. Having seen and loved the movie adaptation of the first novel in the series, and waiting with high anticipation for the second movie, this was a series I was really looking forward to reading eventually last year. And read it I did. One of the great things about it was how it added more to my movie experience than I’d thought, helping contextualize a lot of the scenes. And that I suppose, is the true strength of the combined experience.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole (Double Review)

With the upcoming release of Myke’s second novel, Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier in the first quarter of 2013, I was one of the reviewers invited to review the book as I’d previously reviewed the first novel, Control Point. And the great thing is that Fortress Frontier is a much better novel than Control Point, especially since it has a much better protagonist and the story is much more interesting as well. If you liked Control Point, then Fortress Frontier is definitely going to be a better experience in almost all respects.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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