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Saturday, June 5, 2021

 There's No Hoping About It
This Story Works - And Then Some.

A Fool’s Hope

The Egril.
Cruel. Savage. Monstrous barbarian killers.

The trouble is, they’re cunning too, with a penchant for strategy that always keeps them one step ahead of the game. And when that game centers on world domination, it turns out the Egril are grand masterclass players. Not the kind of thing you want to discover when you’re trying to bring your nation back from the brink of destruction.

With a premise like that, you begin to appreciate why I’ve been chomping at the bit, waiting for this sequel to We Are The Dead to arrive. And Mike Shackle doesn’t disappoint.

Take a quick peek at the back cover blurb:


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 all 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 Egril intend to wipe Jia from the map. They may have lost a battle, but they are coming back.

If Tinnstra and her allies hope to survive, Jia's heroes will need to be ready when they do.


So, what does A Fool’s Hope bring us?

Well, our favorite characters from the first book are still there: Tinnstra, Dren, Jax and Yas. We watch them evolve through pain and fire to become the kind of people Jia needs to survive . . . though not everyone will make it. This is war, after all.

Those we’ve met before in passing also get fleshed out: young Queen Zorique; the mage Assagod; Captain Ralasis, to name a few. As you will see, they become much more integral to the overall story arc as time passes. Helping you relate to their individual circumstances in a graphic, often personal way.

We’re also given a greater clarity of what life is like for the invading Egril, through the eyes of a new character, Mateon. A clever move, as through him we discover the true futility of war, especially where everyday folk are concerned. Mateon has been raised from birth to be a soldier, and the perfect instrument of his bloodthirsty god, Kage. Yet he struggles to reconcile the rhetoric of his superiors with the unjust treatment of the Jian people, and the brutality vested upon them. But will he suffer for such a blasphemous viewpoint?

Even better, the waning magic of this incredible world – only hinted at or rarely seen in the first book – is brought to the fore and given center stage. And Shackle does so in the most dexterous of ways. (Genius really, and not what you’ll expect).

Yes, war can and does bring out the best – and very worst – in people. Loyalty costs nothing, but it’s a priceless commodity in an arena where life is cheap, and betrayal is cheaper still. . . (Keep an eye out for the criminal element left in Kiyosun city, the Weeping Men).

A Fool’s Hope presents you with great narrative from a new writer who has become an instant favorite of mine. Believe me, I know a great story when I read one, and Mike Shackle will soon be up there with the likes of Joe Abercrombie and George R. R. Martin.

This is gripping fantasy set in a world rent by war, discarded ethics, and a savage, ‘stay alive in any way you can’ philosophy. The characters are human. Damaged and flawed and disappointing in all the right ways. But somehow, they hold it together and survive . . . barely!

Marvelous stuff – and a definite candidate for your reading list.

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