Anasoma, jewel of the Mahruse Empire, has fallen. As Caldan and his companions flee the city, horrors from the time of the Shattering begin to close in. With Miranda's mind broken by forbidden sorcery, Caldan is forced to disobey the most sacrosanct laws of the Protectors if he is to have any chance of healing her. But when one of the emperor's warlocks arrives to take control of him, he begins to suspect his burgeoning powers may be more of a curse than a blessing.
With the city of Anasoma in enemy hands, Caldan finds himself on the run in rather strange company. Elpidia, a healer who is dying from a strange disease and wants to drink his blood because she believes it will keep her alive, Amerdan, a shopkeeper by day and serial killer by night who kills with a blade better than most assassins, Bells, a deadly enemy sorcerer who is being held captive and has vowed to kill them all, and Miranda, his love interest who is the only person that he can really trust in the group. Unfortunately for Caldan that means he is actually quote alone as Miranda remains in a comatose state due to a coercive sorcery accident that may leave her irrevocably damaged. This odd mix of individuals, and their individual secret agendas, provide for a whole host of intriguing possibilities, and this is just one of the story lines as war rages on within the Mahruse Empire.
To some degree that potential goes unrealized as Caldan's character development is driven solely by his desire to heal Miranda thus causing him to make decisions that are often questionable. Luckily Caldan isn't the only point of view character as Mitchell Hogan expands the scope of this story by revealing some of the additional players in the larger conflict and giving a larger role to some others. Vasile and Felicienne return from the first book and their experiences often provide some welcome relief to Caldan's naivete as each faces some serious challenges in their efforts to survive the war. As is traditional in the middle book of a trilogy nothing is resolved by the end, but the characters all eventually find themselves on intersecting trajectories for the finale.
Despite the problems with Caldan's character development, he continues to increase his knowledge of the various magic systems and this makes up for a lot as Hogan has created an interesting, multi layered fantasy world worth exploring. Despite its flaws, there are enough compelling things going on in the story to make the finale worth looking forward to. Oliver Wyman also continues to provide excellent narration that makes listening to this series an attractive alternative to reading.
When Caldan’s parents are brutally slain, he is raised by monks and taught the arcane mysteries of sorcery. Vowing to discover for himself who his parents really were, and what led to their violent end, he is thrust into the unfamiliar chaos of city life. With nothing to his name but a pair of mysterious heirlooms and a handful of coins, he must prove his talent to earn an apprenticeship with a guild of sorcerers. But he soon learns the world outside the monastery is a darker place than he ever imagined, and his treasured sorcery has disturbing depths. As a shadowed evil manipulates the unwary and forbidden powers are unleashed, Caldan is plunged into an age-old conflict that brings the world to the edge of destruction.
Mitchell Hogan starts off the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence in a pretty standard way. Caldan is an orphan who was raised by monks on an isolated island after his parents were brutally slain. Caldan is a unique individual, as he is both "touched by the ancestors" and has a sorcerer's well, which is a very rare combination. When he comes of age the monks reveal to him that his parents left him some powerful magical artifacts and when they give them to him his world changes. His powers begin to manifest and he finds that he must leave his isolated existence with the monks and make his way in the real world. Although this is a bit of a trope, I have always enjoyed learning about a fantasy world and the magical system within it from the perspective of a character learning it at the same time, and it works quite well here.
Caldan has always had a talent for sorcery and the monastery where he was raised actually provided him with excellent training in many disciplines related to the craft; however, that being said, it is more of a hobby to him than any kind of expected profession. When he is thrust out into the real world Caldan quickly learns just how limited his life experiences are, and that his only possessions of worth, the two trinkets handed down by his parents, don't seem to provide him with any useful advantages. One thing leads to another and Caldan quickly finds himself a naive immigrant in a city that comes under siege in a new war, and thus we have the main story line for the series.
A Crucible of Souls is a strong start to the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence and as Caldan learns what it means to be both "touched by the ancestors" and a young sorcerer the story begins to blossom and take off. This novel does not provide any sort of resolution by the time it ends, so you should only pick it up if you are open to reading the entire trilogy. Oliver Wyman does an excellent job as the narrator and his array of voices breathe life into the many different characters.
In the bustling capital city of the Mahruse Empire, Felicienne Shyrise spends her days as a talented investigator, taking on stolen goods and missing person cases and the occasional murder the city guard are too incompetent - or too lazy - to resolve. During the nights she hones her skills playing Dominion, a board game almost as complicated as life itself. She dreams of making a name for herself and becoming the richest woman in the Empire.
In the main trilogy of the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, Lady Felicienne is one of the "point of view" characters that plays a key role in determining the outcome of the story. This prequel novella gives you some insight into how she acquired her role in service to the Emperor. Lady Felicienne started as a private investigator in the capital city of the Mahruse Empire and her knack for the game Dominion starts to get her noticed. Dominion is a board game that is played across the empire using a board with 3 tiered levels and a wide variety of pieces, making it very complex and strategic. The annual tournament in the capital is so popular that the Emperor himself meets the winner and this event is the backdrop for this novella.
It is an interesting tale that gives you a glimpse into the bigger world and the events take place 10 years prior to the first book in the series, A Crucible of Souls. Lady Felicienne uses her skill in Dominion to win enough money to fund her lifestyle as a investigator, which sometimes doesn't provide steady income, and these two worlds will overlap as her most recent case turns out to be far more dangerous than she initially anticipated. Dangerous not only because of the criminals that she is investigating but also because this case has put her in the sights of the Emperor's secret intelligence agency. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Lady Felicienne will need to decide which side is worse and find a way to come out alive as these two opposing forces have her trapped in the middle.
I listened to this novella prior to the series itself and for me it was ok but not great. I think it is better experienced after the main series and already knowing Lady Felicienne, which would make this insight into her origin a little bit more special, and that is what I would recommend. This is narrated by Oliver Wyman, who narrates the main trilogy as well, and he does an excellent job on all of it.
Captain Jackson Wolfe never thought he'd see the end of the Phage War in his lifetime. The enemy was too powerful, too numerous, and utterly determined to exterminate humanity. But the appearance of a new ally in the fight has changed all of that. For the first time since the original incursion, Wolfe thinks that maybe there's a chance to stop their implacable enemy before they have the chance to wipe out any more human planets.
The time has finally come for humanity to make a last stand against the Phage and they plan to do it in an "all or nothing" attack that puts everything on the line. This is what Senior Captain Jackson Wolfe has wanted for a while now and the renegade captain is finally going to get his way, so why is he having second thoughts about the plan? It is a dream come true to have a powerful ally in this fight against the Phage but Wolfe knows all too well that if something is too good to be true then it probably is.
Joshua Dalzelle continues to remain formulaic and he once again proves why that is the right thing for him to do. He finishes off his solid sci-fi trilogy in fine fashion by delivering a story with just enough plot twists and doubts to keep you interested all along the way. His characters remain true to themselves and by the time this one is all said and done you definitely care about who will survive to see the outcome. Interesting decisions are made along the way by all the main characters and you can't help but hope that Wolfe's gut doesn't lead him astray this time because the stakes are way too high. The story line wraps up nicely so if you have already read the first two books in this series then do not hesitate to finish it.
Once again Mark Boyett delivers an excellent performance that only make the experience better so listening over reading is a good choice here.
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From Joshua Dalzelle comes the follow-up to the number-one best seller Warship. Captain Jackson Wolfe survived the initial incursion of a vicious alien species into human space...barely. He had assumed the juggernaut that had devastated three Terran systems was the herald for a full invasion, but for the last few years it has been eerily quiet along the Frontier. Jackson now struggles to convince the Confederate leadership the threat is still imminent and needs to be taken seriously.
Sci-fi authors do love their tropes, especially when they write a series focused on the discovery of an overwhelming alien threat, which has been done many times before. Invariably, after it becomes obvious that humanity is not prepared and faces a real possibility of being wiped out, the story turns inward and the human infighting commences. This is also where I sigh as the story goes on a tangent from the storyline that has my attention; however, much like he did in book one, Joshua Dalzelle embraces this typical trope and finds a way to deliver a compelling story anyway. This means that Call to Arms is more about human interactions than it is about the alien threat looming in the distance, but it is still worthy of your attention and it does set things up nicely for the series finale.
Humanity has no answers for the threat coming its way from the aliens now known as the Phage but they do have Captain Jackson Wolfe and he better be enough. Unfortunately, Captain Wolfe is sent on a mission to deal with a conflict between human factions, and that means the Phage are free to do as they will. While trying to carry out his mission as quickly as possible Wolfe comes across some information that leads him to distrust his leadership even more than he already does and he plans to get to the bottom of it. Once again he teams up with CIS Operative Pike to get to the truth of matters while everyone hopes that the Phage continue to stall their advance for an unknown reason.
Luckily, things do finally turn to the Phage towards the end of the book and the story picks up momentum towards a final desperate confrontation. This is where Dalzelle both disappointed and intrigued me. After a Deus Ex Machina moment that left me thinking the series had taken a turn for the worse there was once again an epilogue that piqued my interest for the third and final book in the series. With the context that I now have after completing the entire series I can look back on the event that caused me to doubt the author and know that it fits into the story better than it initially seemed.
Mark Boyett does another excellent job on the narration, and without a doubt his reading makes this one a worthy listen.
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In the 25th century, humans have conquered space. The advent of faster-than-light travel has opened up hundreds of habitable planets for colonization, and humans have exploited the virtually limitless space and resources for hundreds of years with impunity. So complacent have they become with the overabundance that armed conflict is a thing of the past, and their machines of war are obsolete and decrepit. What would happen if they were suddenly threatened by a terrifying new enemy?
There is nothing all that unique about Warship. The formula used here has been done before and many of the usual tropes are included: a grizzled captain with secret bottles of alcohol in his closet, dysfunctional leadership back home in command, an old ship that is about to be retired, and one last mission that puts the ship off in a part of space by itself where it comes across a serious threat to humanity. Despite all that, I must admit that Joshua Dalzelle does it all in a way that just works for me. This is solid old school "single ship against crazy odds" sci-fi and when it was all said and done I was eager for more of it.
The Blue Jacket is an old ship, just like the rest of the Black Fleet, and it is scheduled to be retired in the near future, along with her captain, Jackson Wolfe. One final mission is undertaken to get the new XO some time in the command chair and of course things don't go according to plan. Jackson, his new XO, and his crew that has never actually fired a single shot in anger, come up against an unexpected alien threat that they are ill equipped to handle. However, playing it safe and returning home to warn others will result in millions of humans being wiped out, and despite his many failings, Jackson Wolfe isn't going to end his career like that. This all adds up to some pretty entertaining military battles with interesting tactics and a story that is reminiscent of old school sci-fi TV. After hundreds of years of peace, humanity finds itself back at war and this book puts you on the bridge of the ship that is on the front line.
Mark Boyett does a great job as the narrator of this audiobook and with a teaser epilogue that sets the stage for what happens next I found myself with no choice but to immediately start book 2 of the series as soon as I was done with this one.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Renowned throughout the land of Ankhana as the Blade of Tyshalle, Caine has killed his share of monarchs and commoners, villains and heroes. He is relentless, unstoppable, simply the best there is at what he does. At home on Earth, Caine is Hari Michaelson, a superstar whose adventures in Ankhana command an audience of billions.
I didn't really know what I was getting into when I started this book as I was in a hurry and quickly selected what I thought was a fantasy book from my long list of pending listens. My expectations were initially satisfied as the book started with an assassin named Caine doing what assassins do and I was starting to get my bearings in this new fantasy world. Upon completion of his mission Caine was suddenly transported back to a futuristic sci-fi world and I found myself being disappointed that this wasn't the fantasy tale I thought it was. Luckily though, Matthew Stover instead provided me with an interesting cross-genre story that successfully straddled two genres that I love and he won me over in the end.
It turns out that in this dystopian future it has been discovered that alternate versions of Earth exist and can be visited through technology. One of these alternate Earths is known as Overworld and actors are sent there for entertainment purposes. Technology allows viewers to "first hand" the experiences of an actor as if they are actually that person and there is also a large "second hand" market where the adventures of these actors can be purchased for later viewing. Of course the more violent and interesting the adventure the more it sells. This makes Caine the assassin one of the most popular adventure series available and the actor who plays Caine is really Hari Michealson. Hari is a trained killer who is transported to Overworld by the Studio that owns him and his adventures provide viewers with the first hand experience of what it is like to be a brutal murderer. Despite such a dark theme, it is Hari's moral struggle with who he is and what he is asked to do that makes this book a winner.
Due to the nature of the story this one is initially complex and it does take a while to get things sorted out properly. Since you have characters with multiple identities (real names, actor names, roles they play, and even in one case a role pretending to be another role) it can be confusing at times. However, once you sort it out there are two interesting worlds presented here that keep the story compelling until it ends. It is also nice that this book wraps itself up nicely so you can choose to read it as a standalone or continue on with the rest of the series.
Stefan Rudnicki does a good job with the narration and despite his deep voice he is able to handle the female characters well and his reading definitely adds to the experience.
Overall I enjoyed the book but I have chosen not to continue on with the series for now. The second book seems to have very polarized reviews and I fear based on what I have read that I will wind up on the wrong side of the experience. Be sure to take a look ahead at book 2 to see if it is for you before you decide to go forward.
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The end is nigh. The Federation has stood for over 1,000 years, but its time may be at an end. Its emperor has gone mad; the economy lies in ruins; entire sectors are slipping out of its grasp; warlords, secessionists, and pirates are making their own bids for power; and a powerful rebel fleet stands ready to storm the gates of Earth. The end cannot be long delayed.
With the events that occurred at the end of book 2, The Shadow of Cincinnatus, the stage was set for an epic showdown between the Federation and the Outsiders. The Federation has stood for over 1,000 years but it is riddled with problems that may not have any answers. Emperor Marius remains dedicated to the ideals of the Federation and he has shown that he will do anything to protect it, but that very attitude is likely to be his undoing. Despite his failing state of mind, and the deep economic and social flaws that are fracturing the Federation, there is still one thing that can ultimately unite them - a fear of subjugation by aliens. Along come the Outsiders who are offering progressive economic and social changes that are attractive to many, but they have allied themselves with multiple alien races and that is a bridge too far. This book reveals once and for all which of humanities many flaws will ultimately dictate the winner in this epic fight for the future.
Solid military sci-fi is what Christopher G. Nuttall is about and he delivers more of the same in this final installment of the series. As the Outsiders head towards a final showdown at Earth their fleet encounters resistance along the way that must be met efficiently if they are to have any chance of winning. That being said, ultimately this war will be decided by human loyalties over military tactics. Each side in this war has a weak foundation that it is built upon and neither side can afford to lose the wrong person at the wrong time. This one builds up to a satisfying conclusion that finally provides the payoff for some of the slower parts of the series.
Tim Gerard Reynolds does his usual excellent work but it should be noted that this one ends with a long political rant by the author. I found it off putting to end the series with a rant about the real world even if the author ties his fictional Federation back to ancient Rome and the current day US.
The warlords are gone, save one. Admiral Marius Drake, betrayed and almost killed by the Grand Senate, has seized power for himself in a military coup. Now, as Emperor Marius, Drake can work to restore the once-great Federation to its former glory. But now that the Grand Senate is gone, the Federation is starting to fall apart. The bureaucrats are running rampant, the corporations are demanding new powers, the colonies want freedom, and Earth is collapsing into chaos.
Marius Drake has always believed in the ideals of the Federation and he has done everything within his power to ensure that the human planets stay unified. Marius knows that a strong Federation is required for humans to remain the dominant race in the known universe, so he must make sweeping changes now that the corrupt Grand Senate is a thing of the past. He also can't ignore the threat of the Outsiders out on the Rim. Lucky for him that he has his protege, Roman Garibaldi, who he can send out to the Rim with the main fleet while he takes care of things on Earth. Of course no plan ever survives first contact with the enemy and the Rim is a very long way from Earth.
Book two of The Decline and Fall of the Galactic Empire series builds upon the events of the first book as reluctant Emperor Marius Drake tries to do the right thing, only to find out that it is far more difficult than he ever would have imagined. As a career military man he is used to having people follow his orders and when he tries to deal with the many factions on Earth he quickly finds that he is out of his element. The story follows the many challenges faced by Marius on Earth, and the unexpected events faced by Garibaldi out on the Rim, until the story lines eventually merge into quite a dramatic conclusion that sets up book three to be a doozy.
I must admit that this story was really dragging on for me until the dramatic turn of events near the end that re-ignited my interest in the series. As is common for the middle book of a trilogy, this one is a transitional work that bridges the events of the first and third books, and it is ultimately less interesting as a result. This means that book three is the real payoff, so if you are on the fence after the first book then think twice before continuing. There is still plenty of solid military sci-fi here but there is also a lot of focus on the challenges faced by Marius back on Earth, which isn't nearly as entertaining.
Tim Gerard Reynolds does his usual excellent job on the narration and I certainly think listening to his performance helped me get through the slow parts.
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The Federation has endured for hundreds of years, but now it is dying, killed by the corruption and decadence of the Senate and the rising power of military warlords. The shipping lanes are coming apart, the colonists are revolting, and outside forces are pressing against undefended borders. Now, as one warlord makes a bid for supreme power, the entire edifice is on the verge of falling apart.
Right from the start this book thrusts you into the fight for humanity's future as Earth finds itself under assault. Of course Earth is the most heavily defended planet in the human Federation so it is unthinkable that anyone would attack it, which is why the defenders of Earth find themselves so unprepared for such a bold move. The reader experiences the initial battle, and the rest of the story, from two very different perspectives - one being Admiral Marius Drake, who surprisingly finds himself coordinating Earth's defense, and Roman Garibaldi, a promising student in the naval academy who is about to graduate into service. These two men will do their best to maintain the human Federation that has shaped mankind's existence for hundred of years, but ultimately, they will both need to wrestle with the fact that the organization they are fighting for may not be worthy of survival.
Christopher G. Nuttall is a veteran author who is no stranger to military sci-fi and I enjoyed the trilogy of books that starts his Ark Royal series, although both series are very different in nature. This time around it is not an overwhelming alien threat that has mankind fighting for survival but rather it is our own inability to fairly govern ourselves that is the ultimate threat. Loyalists and rebels alike have valid reasons for their positions and as the war rages on it is really hard to say who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Drake and Garibaldi are both men of honor, but their faith in the Federation may be misplaced, and therefore it isn't a given that you should root for them to win.
This book kicked off the series in high gear and by the time it was over I was certainly eager for more. As a fan of military sci-fi I definitely got my fill of naval space battles with this one, but it you are the type that prefers your sci-fi stories to be carried by the characters themselves then you might find this one slightly lacking.
Tim Gerard Reynolds is at the mic for this one and he delivers yet another excellent performance that only makes the story better.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful