The Dragon’s Banker by Scott Warren – Book Review

Originally posted over at booknest.eu! The review below is an annotated version.

Published by: Scott Warren (Self-Published)
Genre: Fantasy (Economic Adventure!)
Pages: 255
Format: e-book
Review/Purchased Copy: Provided through NetGalley, in return for an honest review.

Sailor Kestern is a fine banker in an unenviable position. His former client, a nobleman by the name of Brackwaldt, has it out for him and that’s made business difficult. So difficult in fact, Sailor’s prospects in the capital of Borreos are looking increasingly forlorn. Gates are shut in his face, trade routes are blocked for him, human shipmasters refuse to work with businesses that so much as associate themselves with the Kestern banking house.

Even with this one major issue at hand, it’s an exciting time to be a financier and Sailor isn’t one to shy away from a challenge. The Royal Mint is driving a major initiative on behalf of the Crown, introducing paper currency and hammering it into the economy with all the strength an institution has in wielding hardcore monetary policy. Adam Smith’s invisible hand?  Pfft, please, Borreos has one Darrez Issa, financier extraordinaire, who looks over the interests of the Crown with an eye sharp enough to make even an eagle jealous. A man like Sailor has a healthy dose of awe for the queen’s financial advisor, and the good sense to stay away from him after the last time the two crossed paths.

As a reader with a bachelor’s degree in economics, I was the perfect audience for The Dragon’s Banker. The economics made sense and Warren seems to have a good grasp of how demand and supply work; he’s thought through all sorts of issues that the reader could’ve picked up on and works them in the story seamlessly and just at the right time. Some of Sailor’s most minor actions, at first, see great pay-off by the end of this 255-page read and in ways I didn’t necessarily expect.

One aspect of this novel won me over, and it’s a specific reading of the novel that I will now expand on:

At one level of The Dragon’s Banker, there’s a critique of capitalism’s ceaseless chase of profit maximization. Though avaricious, Sailor never has the amassing of riches as his personal goal. For him, money is most valuable for what it can do for people. In that way, what could’ve been a cynical take on banking is instead a subversive work of fantasy well worth the read for that angle alone.

Sailor Kestern is a humanist – and that, I think, is the greatest triumph of The Dragon’s Banker. This banker, the only one worthy of representing the interests of the most avaricious creature of all, the dragon, ultimately differs from his cold-blooded patron in the following way – money isn’t an end goal for him. It is merely a tool.

To me, The Dragon’s Banker is a 4.5/5 star read. I enjoyed it immensely, partially because of my background, partially because of my reading of it as a critique on some of the woes of capitalism. It’s my firm belief that you’ll find plenty to love within these pages.

As for me, I am curious to see what else Scott Warren is capable of.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

I’m happy with the progress I’ve made with Haruki Murakami’s books over these last few months. Kafka on the Shore in May, Norwegian Wood in September and just this last week, What I Talk About when I talk About Running. The last is freshest in my mind but I’ll contain myself and instead turn to Norwegian Wood, the title inspired by the Beatles song of the same name. It also happens to be the work that really shot Haruki Murakami to fame first in Japan and later internationally.

Norwegian Wood is a love story and it’s about overcoming grief, and it’s about those first coming of age years after you leave home, quite uncertain about what comes next, the direction you’re supposed to take as the world begins to mold and pressure you in ways outside of your control. It’s easy to lose yourself — something that main character Watanabe manages at one point in this novel.

Let’s look at it as a love story first, shall we? It’s sweet and sexy and tragic enough that you might just tear up by the end of it. Bittersweet but hopeful – that’s how I’d describe it in three words, were I forced to do so.

As a side-note, I would ride on the bus, listening to the audiobook more than once, when a ridiculous, steamy sex scene started up. You know, these are the moments when you’re not quite certain whether you should be grinning or blushing or pressing ‘Pause’. Say one thing about that, say it was funny.

What about dealing with grief?

Toru Watanabe, the protagonist from whose PoV the novel is told, loses his best friend Kizuki. Kizuki kills himself on his 17th birthday and this marks Watanabe for life — as it would most of us. Another, Kizuki’s girlfriend, Naoko, is as affected by his suicide as Watanabe; perhaps more. Years later, Naoko and Watanabe reconnect and fall for each other but Kizuki’s shadow never fully clears between the two. Unable to cope, Naoko eventually ends up in a sanatorium, doing her finest to piece herself back together.

Some of the characters are unforgettable. Maybe not their names – I forget names easy enough – but the personalities will stay with me. Nagasawa is Watanabe’s exact opposite — driven and ambitious, and far more cynical than our protagonist, Nagasawa is in many ways Toru’s foil. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, the two become close friends…although Watanabe never allows Nagasawa into his heart the way he let Kizuki in.

I was partial to Midori, an older woman in the same sanatorium as Naoko. As Nagasawa is to Watanabe, Midori is a foil to Naoko — though burdened by her own demons (her story is perhaps the highlight of Norwegian Wood for me) Midori has strength, the presence of character necessary to survive and perhaps overcome all that placed her in the sanatorium. Midori’s a guitar player, a concert pianist and totally the coolest, yo! Very flirty, too, which gives rise to some hilarious exchanges between her, Watanabe and Naoko, who also happens to be her roommate and dear friend.

This isn’t the best Murakami book I’ve read, nor is it my favourite. I’d live these honours to Kafka on the Shore and Dance, Dance, Dance, respectively. But it has a certain appeal to those who know a little of loss and pain and love, and I am certain some of you will be well-served by reading it.

I straightened up and looked out the plane window at the dark clouds hanging over the North Sea, thinking of what I had lost in the course of my life: times gone forever, friends who had died or disappeared, feelings I would never know again.

The opening paragraph of Norwegian Wood.

My score for this novel is 4 stars. There’s plenty you can get out of it — but it’s not a book for everyone. Stay away if you can’t handle suicide and depression in your fiction – leave me a comment down below with your preferences, and I’ll point you to another one of Murakami’s novels, instead. If you’ve read any of his previous novels, there’s a chance this one’ll surprise you — it lacks many of the eery, magical realism and even surrealism that’s typical for most of his other works.

The audiobook narration by John Chancer was enjoyable – no complaints there, he distinguished between the characters and delivered an excellent performance.

The Enemy by Lee Child – Book Review (Jack Reacher #08)

Child rarely goes back all the way to Reacher’s military career but this one tackles a pair of decisive moments for everyone’s favourite army policeman, one personal and the other one professional, both coinciding and intertwining in ways that change Reacher forever.

The Enemy sees Major Jack Reacher of the US Army welcoming the New Year posted in a military point in the middle of some rural state in the vastness of the States. A call comes through notifying him of the death of a two-star general at a motel nearby. Reacher has never seen a dead two-star before, he’s curious. Besides, you got a general dead thirty minutes away from a military base, you want to make sure nothing’s rotten.

But it’s a Jack Reacher novel, isn’t it, which means of course something isn’t right. Two-star looks like he had himself a bit of fun before the old ticker blew up. Seems a likely enough explanation – a general is as virtuous as the next soldier and often enough he’s plenty worse. Only, this general was heading to a conference and his briefcase is missing. In that briefcase? The agenda of the conference. Only, none of the other would-be attendants admit to this document’s existence. That’s when Reacher knows something is fishy…because if there’s one thing the army loves, it’s tightly-planned agendas.

What follows is an investigation that disillusions Reacher and changes his views on the one organisation that’s always been home to him – the U.S. army. The way this case develops, I’d be disillusioned too in his place – and I ain’t nowhere near as tough as that tall bastard.

On the personal front, we’ve got Reacher and his brother facing down a life without their mother, one hell of a tough French lady dying from late-stage cancer that’s eating I loved everything about this part of the plot – some fantastic revelations which shake the character of Reacher to the core at the worst possible time. Makes for great drama.

Lee Child’s unique brand of noir prose, solid supporting characters, fine antagonists and one hell of a mistery — what more can you want from a Reacher novel?

And do I even have to get into the narrator? When I read Reacher, I hear Jeff Harding’s voice in my head – his voice embodies the tough as nails military cop, if that makes any sense. He is brilliant! 5/5! 10/10! A hundred percent badassery!

French Revolutions for Beginners

Has another event in European history affected the age we live in as much as the French Revolution? Hasn’t every political debate, every crisis of our time been directly shaped by blood spilled and lines drawn in the sand throughout the events that unfolded in those first months, years and decades following 1789? Left and right, republicans and traditionalists, radicals and radicals and a thousand more shades of radicals, each more extreme than the other, killing ripping each other to bloody bits, some for political expediency; others out of loyalty to egalitarian beliefs; yet others, like the members of the lower aristocracy and the bourgeois with whom the tide began, wished for more incremental reform — say, a liberal democracy! Little did they know the beast they were unleashing.

The French Revolution is a snake that eats its own tail, and this excellent introductory novel shows just how events pushed Paris ever deeper under the mud and blood of revolution. There’s plenty to enthrall and horrify — the lithany of beheadings, the crushing debt and superinflation France goes under as result of its financing America’s war for independence, the startling turn in fortunes for some of France’s best and worst.

I must sound slightly insane, proclaiming such events ‘enthralling.’ Oh, well.

As you might’ve guessed by the title, this novel covers more than just the first revolution – fixating on Napoleon’s exploits for a sizable chunk, it eventually goes past the 1850s, in fact, covering even the Paris commune in 1871.

Excellent illustrations by Tom Motley, both poignant and funny. Motley’s pen captures many of the paradoxes of different revolutionary idealogues, pierces through the hypocrisies of the time and challenges the reader to reevaluate certain events through a different angle entirely.

This is a great starting point that leaves a lot unsaid — and it’s up to you to find out which events to dig deeper about. Me, I think I’ll get better acquainted with Georges Danton, a lawyer and revolutionary plagued by scandals about the misappropriation of revolutionary funds. The Napoleonic era is also one I’m itching to start with, and there’s plenty I want to learn about the inner workings of the Paris Commune, short as that lasted. Soon, very soon!

Oh, and help yourselves to my absolutely favourite passage:

Georges Danton must’ve been a lark to be around with.

Just in case you needed a…heh…taste.

Battle for the Abyss by Ben Counter – Mini Book Review

Occasionally, you come across a fantastic Warhammer 40k novel that puts every other book in the shared universe to shame. Battle for the Abyss isn’t one of those occasions.

What it is, is a spacemarine story through and through. It fills out all the checkboxes: honour, brotherhood, sacrifice (and sacrifice, and some more sacrifice for good measure), internal conflict eventually resolved for the greater good of the Imperium.

I listened to this book for ten hours and can barely remember three character names out of the dozens within. Let’s see — Mhotep (whose name I almost turned to Mahtock, a week after finishing the book; only my notes saved me here); Admiral Lady and evil Zealot Space Marine Admiral from the Word Bearers. I’m not sure if that last name is hyphenated but it correctly corresponds to the character’s role in the book. Mhotep was actually interesting due to the fact that he’s a Son of Magnus (the Thousand Sons Space Legion eventually turns traitor through no fault of their own, which sounds like it has all the makings of a tragedy) and we don’t get anywhere near enough of those in the first ten Horus Heresy novels.

Great narration, as always – Garreth Armstrong knows how to make even a mediocre novel entertaining. And make no mistake, I was entertained – the 2.5 stars But you know, maybe I don’t have to give this novel a three-star review on Goodreads. I think, this time, two stars will do.

What else is there to say about it? The action scenes were alright, I suppose. Standard Warhammer 40k thoroughfare. But ever so derivative. Unfortunately, that’s the second book by Ben Counter that leans towards this particular judgement — one more, and I’m

And what’s up with the zealous zealots, anyway?

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon is now Available!

The latest novel by Benedict Patrick, an author I admire and consider a friend, was released yesterday! I, distracted lad that I am, messed up and didn’t post about it when I ought to have, so here’s to making amends! I recommend you grab this novel on Amazon, it’s well-worth it.

The Flight of the Darkstar Dragon is an excellent novel of adventure, exploration and self-discovery. I reviewed it on booknest.eu last week but in case you want the highlights, here they are:

Benedict Patrick takes a sojourn away from the folklore-infested Yarnsworld series and pens a short, remarkably enjoyable standalone in a world as imaginative as anything I’ve come to expect from him. Add to the mix a likable lead by the name of Min, an elderly Samuel L. Jackson as her mentor, and a petty villain who will make you want to strangle him time and again, and you’ve got a memorable journey ahead of you.

[…]

The world is endlessly interesting, not just because of the dragon, introduced in a spectacular fashion early on—really, what a great reveal!—but because it’s a gateway between uncountable other worlds, each one full of possibility for adventure. And indeed, what I enjoyed most in my time with Flight of the Darkstar Dragon is how well it channels the spirit of adventure, the joy of exploration. That’s perhaps what I liked most about Min and Brightest both, the hunger to see, to experience more of the great unknown that is just a step away in the Darkstar Dimension. Benedict recently described this novel as his way of capturing the feeling of the Fantastic Four comic books, and I can’t move past that comparison – that’s something he’s managed to succeed in with passing colours. Nothing captures the hunger that drives Reed Richards and his family, or Darkstar Dragon’s main characters, better than the following quote:

How could anyone live a full life in one world, when they’ve tasted so many, and know there are endless wonders out there to sample?

Plenty is left unanswered about the nature of this dimensional gateway but that never feels like a weakness of the storytelling; rather, it’s a conscious choice of the author. With an ending such as this, there’s no limit to what Min can get up to next – and I, for one, would be all too happy to find out. My score for this novel is 4.5/5, rounded up to 5 stars on Goodreads!

You might want to read this for:

·         The sense of exploration and adventure, of worlds unseen and within a hand’s reach;

·         The great mentor-mentee relationship between Min and Sam Ja—Brightest;

·         The dragon;

·         Thinking with Portals;

·         And More! Prob’ly.

Bakemonagatari, Vol. 01 by Oh!Great – Book Review

This manga is based on the original light novels by NISIOSIN.

Alright, I’m apparently branching out into manga — first time for everything. I was looking through NetGalley a few days ago, searching for something new and intriguing and what do I come across but the first Volume of a manga adaptation to something I’m familiar with? I saw the Bakemonogatari anime years ago, and was struck by how unique its visual style was — on par only with the eeriness, the sheer bloody strangeness, of its story.

The art is praise-worthy. Oh!Great’s art consists of clear lines, which was a relief since I often struggle with the visual overload so frequently present in a lot of manga art. It properly communicates the moods of characters and their intentions. The writer-artist is enormously talented with the pencil, that’s for sure, and I am looking forward to how this looks on paper as compared to digital. The few double-spreads in this first volume showcased the kind of art I’d put in a frame on the wall, and looking at them cut in half in a .pdf file felt very wrong indeed.

Onto the bad…or at least the mildly, wildly annoying bits. There’s a fair amount of fan-service here, which works great for my sixteen-year-old self but at twenty-four comes across as gratuitous and unnecessary. Pretty art, sure, but I could do without the panty-shots and several even more over-sexualized elements included inside.

It doesn’t quite capture the quirky nature of the story as presented in the anime. It doesn’t have to – they’re two different adaptations of the same core material but this operates in a different medium entirely and it’s a good way to reacquaint myself with a franchise I never got to explore in full.

The story, alas, lacks clarity. Some will find it difficult to comprehend, which is where my familiarity came in use. I had at least some knowledge about what was going on, and I’m not entirely sure the dialogue succeeded in recapturing the eery feel of the light novel as much as it was confusing. It gets clearer about midway through.

If you like manga, if you’ve heard about the Monogatari franchise but prefer this medium to anime — I’d say, go for it! The release is in October — my personal score is 3.25 stars out of 5, or a 6.5 out of 10. It lacks that extra something to give it a score of 3.5/5; as it is, the art pushes it to a level just above the utter averageness of most 3-stars.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a review copy.

God of Gnomes by Demi Harper is Released Today!

One of my favourite debuts in recent memory is now available for purchase over at Amazon! This isn’t an affiliate link or anything, I just really like the bookand think it deserves attention.

Now, if you want to know a little bit more about it, I put my review of it up over at booknest.eu last week. For an excerpt of the full review, you need only read on below:

God of Gnomes is special. A book that isn’t afraid to play with well-known fantasy tropes but nonetheless makes them feel fresh, God of Gnomes has a whole lot of heart, a solid portion of enjoyable, well-written action and a memorable protagonist with a huge personality and a tiny gem where a body ought to be.

Demi Harper’s debut at first borrows from and then further develops ideas that (if I’m not mistaken) were first introduced in Dungeon Keeper, the dungeon building video game series originally from the late 90’s. As someone who does a fair amount of gaming, I’m familiar with the gratification this subgenre offers – even if I wasn’t aware of the Dungeon Core subgenre in litRPGs before getting this review copy. Apparently, there’s a growing body of Dungeon Core books and while I can’t speak about any of the others, God of Gnomes captures the essence and gratification of the games.

Our protagonist’s name is Corey, and she’s a God Core. A newly discovered one too, exhumed from the depths of the earth by a tiny, ugly creature in the very first chapter of the novel. What the first quarter of the book deals with is much like the tutorial level to any strategy game – Corey has no clue what role she’s fallen into, how to take on her duties as a god to these disgusting, dumb creatures she’s supposed to care for, these gnomes. Thankfully, she’s got a helpful wisp by the name of Ket to show her the ropes! The interaction between Corey and Ket is fun and funny – the wisp is continuously enthusiastic, bright and eager to offer all the information Corey could ever need, and more; the God Core meanwhile is short-tempered and even frightened by this new responsibility she’s suddenly forced into taking on.

There’s a threat inherent to any opening that relies heavily on exposition, especially when that exposition takes on the form of explanation of a character’s abilities and limitations. Like a dungeon builder’s tutorial, there’s always the threat that it’ll drag on, even become tedious. How Demi Harper avoids this is not just through the interaction between Core and wisp; nor is it only because of the disgustingly adorable gnomes that fill these pages. It’s owed in largest part to the fact that Harper introduces a number of compelling mysteries. Our protagonist is entangled in mysteries: the mystery of who, of what Corey was before she awoke in the darkness – flashes of darkness, of cruelty, of a great subterranean city – all draw a fragmentary picture that fellow fantasy nerds might enjoy theorizing on as they read. I did, and I was proved correct! Another mystery has to do with a nasty antagonist lingering in the shadows, taunting our baby Core girl in an unholier-than-thou, third-person, garbage spewing manner. These are but a handful of the different plot threads that caught my attention and imagination both.

My score for God of Gnomes is a 9/10, or a 4.5/5 on Goodreads. There were a few moments – not many, just a few, that didn’t quite hold onto my attention as well as the vast majority of the novel did, which is why I’m not giving this a full 5/5 score. Nevertheless, this is a memorable read, a great debut and another solid entry into Portal Books’ growing catalogue of LitRPG/Dungeon Core publications. I’m looking forward to seeing what the publisher comes up with next…and I’m even more excited to find out where Corey’s story goes next!

The September Mini-Reviews! Jack Reacher x 2, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Thousand Thorns

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher’s a drug that I can’t stop using. I first got addicted to the gruff ex-MP (military police, not member of Parliament) at the age of 15, with the thirteenth novel penned by Lee Child, Gone Tomorrow – what a wild ride that was! I revisited him about two years ago, listening to the very first novel written by Child on audiobook — . I’ve listened to two others over the last ten days or so, and I’m close to finishing a third. Here’s what I thought about the ones I listened to completion.

Persuader (Jack Reacher #7)

High-tension opening that immediately got me invested into reading further. Reacher comes in, guns blazing, and finds himself in one of the most tense, life-threatening situations he’s ever been in. Before long, Jack’s at the beck and call of a drug dealer, forced to play a dangerous game to survive.

I didn’t just like this one, I loved it. Jack is at his best when he’s cornered and working multiple angles, with a clock ticking down and spelling trouble for him; and the fact is, this is one of those first-person Reacher novels, which I love to death. Child does wonderful work whenever he shares in Reacher’s headspace completely – the prose, short, concise and brutal; the way Jack thinks, assaulting any and every problem without pause, dealing with his enemies with deadly efficiency.

With a cast of compelling side characters and several looming antagonists, as well as a series of flashback sequences, Persuader is a fantastic read for newcomers and veteran readers of Child’s alike. Jeff Harding’s narration embodies the essence of the character perfectly, and he does fantastic job with the remainder of the cast, too. My score for this is a 5/5.

Without Fail (Jack Reacher #6)

I listened to this one after completing Persuader. The blurb caught my eye:

Skilled, cautious, and anonymous, Jack Reacher is perfect for the job: to assassinate the vice president of the United States. Theoretically, of course. A female Secret Service agent wants Reacher to find the holes in her system, and fast – because a covert group already has the vice president in their sights. They’ve planned well. There’s just one thing they didn’t plan on: Reacher.

And boy, is that a bad miscalculation. This one is a bit of a slow-burner, going more in-depth into Reacher’s relationship with his deceased brother Joe, Joe’s ex-girlfriend who is now in charge of the Vice-President’s security detail…Joe’s very capable Secret Service girlfriend M. Froelich, capable of finding Reacher in a single day, despite the fact he lives completely off the grid.

I loved this one in part because Reacher teamed up with an old Army buddy of his, a former Master Sergeant by the name of Neagley who is as tough as Reacher; hell, she makes him look like he’s in his tightie whities, time to time.

My only issue is that the climax towards the end of the book felt a little bit too lucky. Of course, Child set up a great explanation but it still felt a little more of a stretch than I’m used to. That said, Without Fail packs one hell of an emotional punch two-thirds the way in, and I can’t stay mad at Lee Child even if the last 15 minutes were a bit less mindblowing than I’d originally hoped. My score for this Reacher goodness is 4.5/5.

The Thousand Thorns by Suzannah Rowntree (A Fairy Tale Retold #5)

This one, I was surprised by. I purchased it as a part of the recent Asian-inspired Fantasy Sale. Took me a while to get used to the setting, the way the characters addressed one another but about 15-20% in, I was all in. Fun characterisation, a somewhat predictable plot twist (though no lesser for it), good action scenes, this is a great retelling of Sleeping Beauty.

A few things struck me about it: this is most definitely a great introduction to Chinese military epics, the genre known as wuxia. I’ve heard more and more of it of late, but until this, I hadn’t been properly introduced. I think it’s a good way to go about acquainting yourself with wuxia, on account of the familiar fairy-tale elements with the unique genre twist. Certainly, this is a love letter by someone who enjoys Chinese epics and knows them well enough to create an amalgamation that bleeds with respect towards its inspirations.

Iron Maiden was a really fun character to read about — I would read a whole novel with her as the lead, if I had the opportunity. Good antagonists, whose interactions between one another were filled with tension. Clouded Sky was a very flawed protagonist, crippled by self-doubt and loss, very much unwilling to go awaken some princess-y sort resting in a mountain.

Most of the twists and turns along the story (save one) were predictable – my suspicions as to the identities of both villains came true without any surprise. My biggest criticism here is, the revelations felt somewhat choreographed. Loved the play on the novella’s title, though (you guys who’ve read this know wot I mean!).

I found this an enjoyable enough read to add more of Suzannah Rowntree’s works to my To-Read list; my score for The Thousand Thorns is a very respectable 3.5 (scored up to 4 on Goodreads)! I’m really looking forward to finding out what else Rowntree has in store for her readers!

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

First time I’ve picked up something by Roald Dahl – this was a charming little children’s story which has ultimately been overshadowed by the brilliant movie by Wes Anderson. There’s just not that much here – the audiobook is a little over an hour long, and it consists of our fantastic mister, this fox fellow, being hunted by three farmers. The more they try to dig the foxes out, the deeper the foxes dig themselves in. Repeat ad nauseum. Some fantastic narration by Chris O’Dowd — made the experience more entertaining than it would’ve otherwise been.

My score? A very average 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Star Wars: Master and Apprentice by Claudia Gray – Book Review (Excerpt)

Welcome back, Reader! Today’s review is of one of 2019’s best Star Wars novels, Master and Apprentice. The full review you can find over at booknest.eu.

The Cover is courtesy of the ridiculously talented Alice X. Zhang

At last, the one question that has been bugging me since I was 9 years old receives an answer! The question? Why the heck does Obi-Wan Kenobi hate flying so much? Now I know, and if you read this book, you will too!

Master and Apprentice deconstructs first and foremost the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, portrayed by Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson in what was the best part of The Phantom Menace. The novel’s opening sees this relationship burdened with issues because of what both master and padawan consider to be   The myriad differences between Kenobi and Jinn have made Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship difficult ever since its beginning. Qui-Gon is among the most unorthodox knights in the Jedi Order, all too happy to break procedure if it will bring him closer to his goals; he is, though the word has never been used in Master and Apprentice, a radical, willing to cross borders other Jedi knights wouldn’t even come near – which makes the fact that he gets offered a spot to the Jedi Council at the very beginning of the novel all the more interesting a hook.

Obi-Wan, meanwhile, is very firm on following the rules at this point in his training. He has his own set of problems – feeling like he is a bad apprentice, unable to live up to what is required of him is but one of them. The fact that he has difficulty finding peace in the Force during combat, his battle meditation easy to shatter, is another. What is evident early on is that both he and Qui-Gonn blame their own shortcomings but never one another. That’s a very Jedi thing to do, but it also speaks to how much they care about each other.

A lot of great elements collide to create a politically-charged, morally complex story that has a lot going for it – great leads, interesting worldbuilding that both adds new elements to the cannon and reintroduces certain old ones for the first time after ye grand old Disney Legacy purge. I’m impressed with Claudia Gray and will be reading her ‘Bloodlines’ at some future point, no doubt about it now. My score for Master and Apprentice is a 4.5/5; I thought this was a tremendous read, as fun as Thrawn: Treason (reviewed here) in its own way.

Oh, and lest I forget about it, Jonathan Davis is as spectacular as ever in the narrator’s booth. His Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are eerily true to the originals, and he breathes a lot of life into  Even his young Christopher Lee captures the essence of the character, even if he’s not on the level of Corey Burton, who voices Dooku on both Clone Wars animated series, and almost does the late, great Lee justice. As usual, the sound effects are also present – lightsabers, blaster fire, engines and plenty of mileage from those godly John Williams soundtracks. Del Rey doesn’t cut corners when it comes to the production budget of their Star Wars audiobooks, and us audiophiles are all the better for it.

One last name demands attention: The ridiculously talented Alice X. Zhang is to blame for the wonderful cover. Having looked her up only recently, I can already tell that I love her style so very much.