Book Review: Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan

Name:  Wrath of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder #2)
Author:  
Brian McClellan
Number of Pages:
  639 (Paperback)
Published:
May 15th 2018 by Orbit
Genre:  Fantasy

Goodreads

The country is in turmoil. With the capital city occupied, half a million refugees are on the march, looking for safety on the frontier, accompanied by Lady Flint’s soldiers. But escaping war is never easy, and soon the battle may find them, whether they are prepared or not.
Back in the capital, Michel Bravis smuggles even more refugees out of the city. But internal forces are working against him. With enemies on all sides, Michael may be forced to find help with the very occupiers he’s trying to undermine.
Meanwhile, Ben Styke is building his own army. He and his mad lancers are gathering every able body they can find and searching for an ancient artifact that may have the power to turn the tides of war in their favor. But what they find may not be what they’re looking for.   – from Goodreads


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Wrath of Empire is the second book of the Gods of Blood and Powder trilogy, and picks up the story that began in Sins of Empire.

The search for the powerful and potentially dangerous godstones continues, as does the war with the Dynize. The Dynize are intent on finding these magical stones with the intention of creating a new god, and our heroes are determined not to let this happen.

Vlora, Taniel and Olem team up to wage battles both magical and military as they face threat from both the Dynize and Lady Chancellor Lindet, who has an arrest warrant out on Vlora.
Ben Styke has his orders, and leads his Mad Lancers and Ka-Poel on a mission, but revelations of past treachery send him off with his own personal vendetta in mind too.
Former spy Michel Bravis is tasked with finding and retrieving an informer known as Mara.

That’s so much going on, and at over 600 pages this is a long book, yet it never feels slow, or that any detail is filler. I really enjoyed the variety on offer, from the military tactics and battles between Vlora’s Riflejacks and their various enemies to the political scheming and undercover spying operations and the magic and mystery of the bone-eyes and the godstones. The story is perfectly paced.

McClellan creates some great characters. I still really like Vlora, and am glad she plays such a central role in this series. She’s strong, determined, and trying her best to live up to the legacy of Field Marshall Tamas, her mentor in the original Powder Mage series. With Olem and her mercenaries at her side I love reading of her dangerous expeditions.

Ben Styke is another fascinating character. Big, battle-scarred, betrayed and brutal, he also has a more thoughtful side, and when dealing with his past Styke is forced to confront the type of man he has been, and who he wants to be going forward, and his story is really engaging.

Ka-Poel comes more to the fore in Wrath of Empire, and watching her engage with Celine and Styke, and trying to figure out her heritage and the strength of her powers, which she is untrained in, is great. She’s come a long way from her first appearance in the original Powder Mage trilogy, and I can’t wait to see where her story goes. Alongside Vlora I think she’s possibly one of my favourite characters this time around.

With so much action, intrigue, magic, deception and twisting revelations, plus the arrival of characters old and new, Wrath of Empire is a great addition to the Powder Mage world. It powers on to a variety of exciting endpoints for our main characters, and it becomes clear that the task of protecting or destroying the godstones is going to prove far more involved and tricky than our heroes could ever have envisaged. There is still so much to discover, and I absolutely cannot wait for the release of Blood of Empire to see how this epic saga is going to play out, especially with some new arrivals towards the closing stages of this book.

 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Poolside Reads AKA My Summer TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This weeks theme is:   Books to Read By the Pool/At the Beach (This can also serve as your summer TBR)


Time for some summer reading, so here are a few of the titles I may pick up as I head outdoors on a nice afternoon…

Death on the Nile
by Agatha Christie – I’m on such an Agatha Christie roll at the moment that I can’t imagine not having at least one of her Poirot novels make this list, and what better for summer than a Nile cruise with a murder mystery and my new favourite detective on hand to bring the world to rights again?

The Outsider by Stephen King – There’s very little chance a new Stephen King book wouldn’t make it onto my TBR list.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – I enjoyed Uprooted by the same author, so can’t wait to get my hands on this latest novel.

The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes – Initially the pretty cover of this book caught my eye but billed as the first in a new series of Golden Age murder mysteries it sounds like something I’m in the reading mood for at the moment.

Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton – I’ll let this one speak for itself. It sounds very different, and the cover is lovely, which is why it caught my attention. “Louise has nothing. Lavinia has everything. After a chance encounter, the two spiral into an intimate, intense, and possibly toxic friendship. A Talented Mr. Ripley for the digital age, this seductive story takes a classic tale of obsession and makes it irresistibly new.”

While You Sleep by Stephanie Merritt – A psychological thriller with a possible haunted house? This sounds interesting.

Bitter Sun by Beth Lewis – Four kids set out to solve a murder during a summer heatwave in 1971.

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson – Agatha Christie disappeared for a time in 1926 and this novel offers up a fictional idea of where she went. It’s the first book, and I know a new one came out just recently, so I’ll start at the beginning.

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio – I’ve had my eye on this book for a while now and the last time I called in to the library I found an almost new paperback copy with black-edged pages and somehow I actually managed to resist taking it out there and then because I already have so many books, but I’ll definitely be going back for it soon!

Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie – Poirot at the beginning and another Poirot story at the end. I think I may be becoming a bit of a fan. This sounds quite an exotic title, so what better choice for some summer reading?

And that’s a glance at a few titles I hope to conquer over the coming weeks of summer. There are so many more I could have added to this list, but I’ll limit myself to ten.


What are you hoping to read this summer, and have you read any of my choices?
What did you think of them?

See you next time for another Top Ten Tuesday!

The Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag: 2018 Edition

It’s Book Tag time.

I can’t believe it’s that time of year already, but I’ve seen this tag appearing quite a lot over the last few days and it made me realise that yes, we actually are now in that Mid-Year period once again. I’ve been enjoying most of my recent reads, so here’s to remembering a few of them in a tag, the Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag!

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2018:

I can’t choose just one, but I’m going to try really hard to limit myself.  Both of these were 5 star reads for me, so I’m going for…

     

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

  2. Best sequel of 2018 so far:


The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams.
I love Tor, Vintage and Noon and their adventures are getting more and more dangerous and exciting as the books go on. Whatever’s going to happen next?!

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to:

The Outsider by Stephen King. I cannot wait to start reading this, it’s definitely high up on my TBR pile.

4. Most anticipated release of the second half of 2018:

The Corset by Laura Purcell.
Melmoth by Sarah Perry.

I’ve really enjoyed previous books by both of these authors, so I’ll be looking out for their new releases.

5. Biggest disappointment of 2018:

I hate this category title, it sounds really harsh, so I’d rather call it books that in the end just weren’t for me and I’d go for The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton.

6. Biggest surprise:

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton.  I enjoyed everything about this book from the setting and the characters to the mystery and the twists.

7. Favourite new author (debut or new to you):

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agatha Christie. I cannot believe that it’s taken me all this time to discover someone so well-known. I was really missing out there, wasn’t I? Still, I have a massive catalogue of books to go at now, and am going to enjoy each one.

8. Newest fictional crush:

I’m obviously missing out on something here because sit and think as I might I’m drawing a blank on this answer. Help!

9. Newest favourite character:

     

Poirot! How could he not get a mention during this tag. I like Hastings as well.

10. Book that made you cry:

It hasn’t happened yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t. If any of my favourites don’t make it to the end of Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan, which I’m reading at the moment, I don’t think I’ll be very happy.

11. Book that made you happy:

There were a couple of little scenes towards the end of Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie that had me smiling.

12. Favourite book to movie adaptation of 2018 you’ve seen:

I’m going to have to say Murder on the Orient Express for this, even though I’ve already mentioned that book. I know that movie came out last year but it was only a couple of months ago that I finally saw it and I don’t think I’ve read anything else that’s been made into a movie. Well, I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline but I haven’t seen the movie version yet so I can’t really use that one.

13. Favourite review you’ve written this year:

Here I go again, dropping the names of books I’ve already used:

                   

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The Mysterious Affair at Styles and Murder on the Orient Express, both by Agatha Christie.

14. Most beautiful book you bought or received this year:

The Wicked Cometh by Laura Carlin has a beautiful cover, and the story was very good.

15. Books you need to read by the end of this year:

There are countless books I could mention here, but I’ll limit myself to these….

More Agatha Christie
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gower
Circe by Madeline Miller

And so concludes my 2018 edition of The Mid-Year Freak Out Book Tag.


As always, if you’ve not already done this and you fancy reminiscing over all the amazing books you’ve read so far this year, feel free to consider yourself tagged.
If you’ve already done it, leave me a link to your post so I can check it out.
See you next time for another Book Tag!

 

Book Review: The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie (Poirot #2)

Name:  The Murder on the Links
Author:  
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages:
  272 (Paperback)
Published:
May 21st 2015 by HarperCollins (Originally published 1923)
Genre:  Mystery, Crime

Goodreads

A millionaire dies…
‘One can see by his face that he was stabbed in the back’ said Poirot.
But the strangest feature of the case was where they found the body – in an open grave!
Hercule Poirot had answered an appeal for help – but he was too late!
MURDER – bizarre and baffling – had come to the Villa Genevieve.    – from Goodreads


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Having resolved that I would like to read more Poirot I thought I might as well try them in order, where possible.  This depends on what the library have in stock as some of these books are pretty old and I’ve known them not to stock whole series before.
So, I consulted the list at the front of Styles.

Murder on the Links.  Links? That’s golf, yes?  Sure enough, a quick search for the cover revealed various golf-themed covers.  A golf-themed story? I wondered just how much I would enjoy that, given that I know nothing at all about golf, but I thought I’d give it a try.

The extent of golf related content is a body discovered on a golf course. Not a single golf club was used in the execution of this murder!  A little misleading maybe? Or a title to be taken literally.
The story surrounds a French villa and the family and inhabitants of said premises and their neighbours.  So don’t be dissuaded if golf isn’t your thing.

Poirot and Hastings journey to Merlinville-sur-Mer, France after the detective receives a letter from a millionaire in fear of his life. Alas, their arrival comes just after the man in question, Paul Renauld, is discovered murdered, stabbed in the back and left on an under-construction golf course.
And so begins Poirot’s next investigation, during which he encounters hostile detectives, mysterious women, hints of romantic intrigue, and a memory of an earlier case which sends him off to Paris in search of the truth.

Rather than Poirot being front and centre he’s part of an ensemble cast of detectives and investigators, from the examining magistrate M. Hautet, who welcomes Poirot’s input, to the commissary, to the unlikable Sûreté inspector Giraud, with his disdain for Poirot, whom he deems an ’old fossil’, and his ‘modern’ methods which often involve crawling around the floor and hiding in bushes. Hastings initially rather admires this man, which may be one of his less foolish choices when you witness certain other things he gets up to during the course of this investigation.  Let’s just say a pretty face holds much sway with poor Hastings.

I really like the friendship between Hastings and Poirot. The latter is older, wiser and more level-headed, and meets the hasty actions of his friend with balance, observing at one point that a certain lady definitely isn’t for Hastings, and, in due course, he’s proved right. He also offers to find Hastings a suitable match as well, and what Poirot sets his mind to, well…

Amidst the revelations and the apparent appearance of a second murder victim Poirot, in a cool manner, lets everyone, especially Giraud, go about their business and make their (often wrong) assumptions, keeping his counsel but willing to share certain points of interest to gain opinions, but admitting that he wouldn’t give anything away which may give his rival Giraud any advantage.

In the end of course the truth will out, and it’s a twisty old tale once revealed, a resolution I’m certain only Poirot could bring to light, with his little grey cells. It’s no spoiler to say that Poirot will triumph, not only in solving this case, but also in his competition with Giraud. And on that note let me leave you with a line that made me smile as I witnessed the mutual dislike between Poirot and Giraud draw to its conclusion.

“The great Giraud is nothing but a toy balloon – swollen with its own importance. But I, Hercule Poirot whom he despises, will be the little pin that pricks the big balloon – comme ca!”

Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (Poirot #1)

Name:  The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author:  
Agatha Christie
Number of Pages:
  304 (Paperback)
Published:
June 4th 2004 by HarperCollins (Originally published 1920)
Genre:  Mystery, Crime

Goodreads

The famous case that launched the career of Hercule Poirot. When a wealthy heiress is murdered, Poirot steps out of retirement to find the killer. As the master detective makes his way through the list of suspects, he finds the solution in an elaborately planned scheme almost impossible to believe.    – from Goodreads


My Rating:

My Thoughts:

I’ve just finished reading my second Poirot novel. All this started after I watched the new Murder on the Orient Express movie and wondered how the book would compare. Cutting a long story short, I enjoyed that book so much I knew I wanted to read more, so I ventured back to the very beginning, and if you read no further than this, all you need to know is once again I’ve been left wondering how on earth I missed Agatha Christie’s work for so long, and how much I have to read now.

Originally published in 1920 The Mysterious Affair at Styles introduces Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, a former policeman and refugee who, through the kindness of Mrs Inglethorp finds himself residing at Leastways Cottage with a group of fellow refugees.
There is treachery afoot at Styles and when Mrs Inglethorp dies in suspicious circumstances Poirot is called in by his friend Hastings to investigate.

The foreword to the novel mentions that Christie’s sister bet that Agatha couldn’t write a detective story, and so that’s exactly what she set out to do. Having worked in a hospital dispensary, she already had knowledge of various poisons, which came in handy in writing the story.
It was a long road to eventual publication, and the original ending was changed. The edition I read features the original abandoned ending in an appendix, so it was interesting to get the chance to read both versions, which came to the same conclusion via a slightly different location/method.

There are a number of potential suspects at Styles, all of them apparently hiding something, so, with plenty of motives and opportunities there’s certainly a mystery to unravel in this tale. I liked all the main characters, they seemed really well fleshed-out, but on to the leads…

This is the first time I’ve met Hastings, and I loved his narration of events at Styles. His conversational observations, his dream aspiration to be a detective, the way he assumes this or that. I had a definite image in mind of Hastings just from the book as I’ve never seen the character in any other adaptation (isn’t it amazing what can pass you by).
As Hastings makes his own theories and guesses, often overlooking all that Poirot hints and tells him is so obvious (must be his little grey cells that make him see what the rest of us miss) it leaves us free to solve the mystery along with Hastings. For once I hadn’t seen an adaptation of this story so I had no idea whodunnit. I guessed, I was wrong. What more can I say? Perhaps my skills as amateur detective will improve as I read more of these books. Or, maybe not…

And there’s Poirot himself. What a character. Calm and intelligent, patient to sift through the details and find what most people have overlooked, yet quick to a temper if he’s missed something, and not above causing a scene, going around shouting or running off down the drive in an excited state leaving people wondering what on earth is going on.

I love the time period in which the story is set, the grand old house, full of secrets, full of suspects, the lack of modern technology making it necessary to seek out clues and piece them together amidst red herrings, deceptive characters and actual facts. Given that the book was written almost 100 years ago it doesn’t feel that dated, lack of modern tech aside. I think I actually prefer this bygone-era approach to crime solving, it really kept me guessing.

The only thing I’m really left wondering – are all the books this good? So far I’ve enjoyed each one, they’re such a change from my usual reading. I can’t imagine it will be long before I’m picking up another book in the Poirot series.

 

Booking Ahead: June 2018

Booking Ahead is a feature on Pages and Tea where I glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to another wander through my endless TBR pile. I’m looking forward to this new month of reading because if the library comes through with some of my requests then I’ll be straight into favourite author/book series territory, which is always something to look forward to.

New Books

Circe by Madeline Miller – I’ve seen so many people mention this one online, and what a gorgeous cover. I can’t wait to get started.

The Outsider by Stephen King – I’ve avoided spoilers and am waiting (im)patiently for that wonderful email from the library telling me that my latest request has arrived. This one will be straight to the top of my TBR mountain when I get my hands on it.

Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan – Sins of Empire was one of my favourite reads last year, so I can’t wait to find out where this sequel takes the characters I’ve come to like so much.

Books from the Backlist

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie – Because apparently my Poirot phase is ongoing so what better place to begin than at the beginning?


What are you hoping to read this month? Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?
See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Monthly Summary: May 2018

Welcome to another Monthly Summary on Pages and Tea.

Apparently I’m on a bit of a roll with reading at the moment; I completed four books this month, which doesn’t happen often
Where have my reading adventures taken me this time around?

First I visited Blackheath to witness a time-bending, body-swapping, murder mystery unfold in The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. If you caught my review you’ll know how much I loved this book. It’s so good that I’m still thinking about it, even though I’ve read three more since.
The book was a little Christie-esque, which led me nicely on to my next read… Ordeal by Innocence by none other than Agatha Christie. I picked this up as I’d watched the new tv adaptation, and reading it so soon after watching the show was a good idea.
Next I dipped a toe into psychological thriller territory with The Perfect Girlfriend before I headed for the first (and certainly not last) time to John Gwynne’s Banished Lands in A Time of Dread.

I also managed to find a whole host of blue covered books for Top Ten Tuesday and participated in the latest Bout of Books. I love the daily updating of a read-a-thon, so I’m looking forward to another one sometime.

Here’s what happened in May on Pages and Tea…

Book Reviews

        The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

        Ordeal by Innocence by Agatha Christie

        A Time of Dread by John Gwynne

Featured Posts

Booking Ahead

May 2018

Top Ten Tuesday

May 8th – A Sea of Blue Covers

Reading Review

Reading Resolutions 2018

May Progress

Beat the Backlist Challenge Progress

Read-A-Thon Updates

Bout of Books May 2018 Sign Up
Bout of Books May 2018 Progress
Bout of Book Final Summary

Events

Bout of Books Read-A-Thon