War takes everything.
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 everything 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 enemy intends to wipe Jia from the map. They may have lost a battle, but they are coming back. And if Tinnstra and her allies hope to survive, Jia’s heroes will need to be ready when they do.
The sequel to the darkly fantastic WE ARE THE DEAD: with more unflinching action, A FOOL’S HOPE sees Jia’s revolutionaries dig in their heels as they learn that wars aren’t won in a day.
I just want to kick this review off and say that this is an amazing book, an amazing middle book and it is criminal that more people have not read this series or are recommending it to others. When I read We Are The Dead (book 1) in January I was blown away (my review here). Mike’s prose and style of telling a story is so smooth you can’t help but want to drink it up and I implore everyone to read this series.
Luckily for me, A Fool’s Hope continues immediately where the story in We Are The Dead ended meaning that I’m not missing any character growth or having to rattle my memory to remember what happened. The Egril are still entering Jia and killing inhabitants, the war for Kiyosun is still not complete and the Hanran, and other Jians, are trying to survive despite their odds.
This story is a fast paced character story. Every single chapter has something happen that pushes the story forward and Mike’s ability to add a cliffhanger to almost every chapter makes ending a character’s chapter as exciting as starting a new one. I love character driven stories and character based chapters are just that cherry on the top. The cliffhangers in this book leave you racing through the book to get back to that character and when that happens most of the time, you end up racing through the whole book pretty quick as each character is a new adventure.
There are seven POVs (or eight..) within this book with three new ones from different parts of the world introduced gradually. Each POV, each character, has their own wants and needs, their own place in the world. No-one felt like they were added in for the sake of it or to pad out the page count. They each brought their own personality to the pages of the book and enriched the story immensely. Each character deals with the war and its repercussions in a different way to one another. The difference between the characters makes them interesting and when two or more of them cross paths it makes for very exciting storytelling. You’ll be reading it and see one character in the vicinity of another and it’s a bit like that Spider-Man meme where you know who they are but this character might not but you’re pointing metaphorically at them like that’s Tinnstra (or something).
It isn’t just the POVs that get a boost, the secondary characters are equally well executed. Things that happened in the first book create secondary characters with their own agendas, who have their own feelings and desires, who impact the story in their own little way. These secondary characters tie in perfectly with the main story and give it a lot more credit as being a story that is essentially focused on one big war. If you’ve ever played a Grand Theft Auto game with all the different characters and the crossovers, this is like that.
The character arcs are so important and they are near perfect. It is very easy to follow the journey a character goes on and you can also easily see the changes in them as people. Dren, who is in book one, is a favourite character of mine and I think his character arc is really good while a new POV, which opens the story, also has a really good arc where you can witness their growth as they change across the 591 pages.
It’s not just the characters that are worth telling you about. Mike’s ability to write action is up there with your favourite author. The scenes are really well written in the sense that they’re easy to follow but not predictable. They will always catch you out when you think you know how a fight is going to end. Whether it’s an attack from a Daijaku or a fight between Tinnstra and an Egril, the action is brutal, realistic and probably most important as a reader, enjoyable to read. Much like the cliffhangers, the action in this book will have you turning pages until the early hours of the morning.
This series didn’t get a hardback release either so I am really hoping that Orion/Gollancz push for a hardback set to be released when the third book is released this summer because I would love a hardback set. I’m not sure why they didn’t do one but I think they’ve missed a good thing there.
To roundup this review, A Fool’s Hope keeps all of the momentum that We Are The Dead created and builds on it in every way possible, with everything polished to a high level. The characters are brutal and well developed, and the story, action and worldbuilding are exciting. I predict that this series, The Last War, is going to be one of my favourite ever book series up there with The Green Bone Saga and Mistborn. It’s really that good. Mike deserves all the praise he isn’t getting and all the praise he is. The grimdark crown has a new challenger.