Tag Archive: Chris Wooding

According to my account on Goodreads I’ve read 32 books this year, well 33 as I’ve just finished one that is not currently listed on the site. So that’s 2.75 books a month, and I wonder sometimes what I spend all my time doing!

So this year, for the first time, I decided to look through what I had read and list my top 10. I’m not usually a fan of best of lists purely because tastes change on a regular basis. What might be the best today may not be tomorrow simply because something better comes along. But seeing as 2013 is in its last few hours, and the books I have read during the last 12 months will not be repeated, I thought it was fairly safe to put a list together, because even if something better does come along tomorrow, it’ll be 2014 by then.

I should point out this is a list of books I have read in 2013, not a list of books published in 2013.

So to kick things off…

No. 10: Ace Of Skulls by Chris Wooding – whilst I was not totally blow away by this final instalment in the Tales Of The Ketty Jay series it gets a placing simply because it is the final instalment. The series as a whole has been brilliant, with a mix of fantasy, horror and steampunk it was something different and entertaining. The  mixed crew of misfits were instantly likeable and grew on you with each book. Was it original, maybe not. A lot of people likened it to Firefly, but having never seen the show I had no comparison to make.

No. 9: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig – a mix of organised crime, fantasy and horror, this is the story of Mookie Pearl. Pearl is a hard man, an enforcer, a killer. He is also privy to the knowledge of the dark forbidden underbelly of the city where monsters lurk and death is ready for the unwilling. Along with Wendig’s trademark no-holds-barred style of story telling this is a great tale full of wit, blood and kick-ass action.

No. 8: Exit Kingdom by Alden Bell – the sequel/prequel to the excellent The Angels Are The Reapers. Set in a post apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen to the zombie hordes. But unlike your run-of-the-mill zombie tale here the walking dead are mere bit part players. Carrying on the tale of Moses Todd this story flashes back to his days on the road with his psychotic brother Abraham,  as he tries to find some form of peace in a broken world. Along the way they encounter a gifted woman who may very well be the cure everyone has dreamt of.

No. 7: Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell – Ack-Ack Macaque is a cigar chomping, whisky swilling one-eyed spitfire pilot, he is also a Monkey. Fighting the hordes of ninja-Nazi paratroopers is what he does, but he is beginning to think everything is not as real as he thinks. This is a unique tale of a sentient ape and his part in the saving of a prince and battle against the coming apocalypse. There is a twist, and its a very inventive twist that allows Ack-Ack to bridge the gap between the 1940s war and the 21st century workd where most of the story is set. Look out for the sequel Hive Monkey due out soon.

No. 6: Age Atomic by Adam Christopher – this is the follow-up to the brilliant Empire State and carries on the story of the Pocket universe that is the mirror of Manhattan. This time round the Empire State is in danger of being destroyed as earth tremors and a freezing winter threaten to tear the fabric of the Pocket apart. On top of that someone is building an army of nuclear powered robots and plan to invade New York.

No. 5: The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell – this is the latest in the Saxon Stories and continues the tale of Uhtred. King Alfred is dead, Edward now sits on the throne and his advisor’s and the church have distanced him from his fathers greatest warlord, the pagan Uhtred. After an ill advised trip to punish a wayward son, Uhtred finds himself banished from Wessex, penniless and with only a few faithful warriors still at his side he heads north to finally retake his ancestral home. But the long peace between Wessex and the Danes is about to come to a crashing end, and when the Danes strike, and blood is spilt, Wessex as always will only have one man to turn to to save them.

No. 4: The Split Worlds Trilogy (Between Two Thorns/Any Other Name/All Is Fair) by Emma Newman – the Nether is home to the Fae-touched and is a mirror to Mundanus (Earth). There is a treaty in place that forbids the Fae and their puppets from interfering in the lives of the Mundanes, a treaty enforced by the Sorcerers and their Arbitors. But someone has corrupted one of the Chapters and Mundanes are being snatched from the streets of London. This trilogy is a debut fantasy series and if you didn’t know that you’d be hard pressed to notice. Emma’s writing is pitch perfect, her characters vibrant and three dimensional. The story is one of adventure, conspiracy and rebellion. But in amongst this there is also dark subjects including murder, marital rape and slavery.


No. 3: The Copper Promise: Let Sleeping Gods Lie by Jen Williams – I reviewed this in the previous post to this, so most everything I have to say can be read there. But I will say this is a debut fantasy novel that breathes life into the pulp style of story telling that I grew up reading. brilliantly paced, great characters and a plot that carries you through a breathtakingly imagined fantasy world.

No. 2: The Broken Empire Trilogy (Prince Of Thorns/King Of Thorns/Emperor Of Thorns) by Mark Lawrence – another debut fantasy trilogy, and another breath of fresh aired breathed into a genre stuffed full of grim and dark. Jorg of Ancarth has to be one of the darkest characters I’ve come across in a while. Haunted by a childhood tragedy that saw his brother and mother brutally slain, and treated with scorn by an unloving father Jorg does what many boys have done before and runs away. But in running away he joins a troop of road brothers and embarks on a killing spree that would be seen as bloody by any counts, but is made more so because Jorg is barely into his teens at the time. Through the course of the three books Jorg cuts his way from road brother, to King to the Empire Throne, the body count is countless, no-one is safe, including those who ride with him. Does Jorg have redeeming qualities, yes, he is not a mindless killing machine, he does what he does for a reason. But those reasons are not always as clear as you might think.

No. 1: Sarah Pinborough’s Modern Fairy Tales (Poison/Charm/Beauty) by Sarah Pinborough – the title I made up, not sure this series of three novellas actually has an overall title? But still, Sarah’s re-imaging/retelling/modern interpretation (call them what you will) of classic fairy tales are brilliant and by far the best thing I’ve read this year. These are fairy tales for grown-ups, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all come under the spotlight and are given the Pinborough treatment. These are not suitable reading for children, some adults of a sensible nature may want to steer clear as well. Sarah has taken the core of each story and given it a twist, added ingredients and also brought in elements from other fairy stories to make original stories that intrigued and delight.


Bubbling under and worthy a mention…

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough – a fresh new take on the Jack the Ripper legend that isn’t about Jack the Ripper.

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill – twisted serial killer Charlie Manx kidnaps children and takes them off to Christmasland where he feeds off their fun.

The Shinning Girls by Lauren Beukes – another serial killer but this time one that can time travel between the 1920s and 1990s killing girls that show some spark of greatness.

Space Danger by Doug Strider – a series of self published novellas set about a starship captained by Kurt Dangler. To sum this up its a mix of Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Ripping Yarns, in space.






After three brilliant books – Retributions Falls, Black Lung Captain, Iron Jackal – author Chris Wooding has announced that the fourth outing for the crew of the airship Ketty Jay – The Ace Of Skulls – will be the last.


Sad news but I can see why he would want to do this, better to go out with a collection of books that everyone liked, than go on and on for years and end up spluttering towards an ending that is long overdue.

The Iron Jackal

By Chris Wooding

Published by Gollancz

RRP £12.99 in Paperback (£6.99 on Kindle)

Things are finally looking up for Captain Frey and his crew. The Ketty Jay has had an overhaul; they’ve had their first taste of fortune and fame. And for once no one is trying to kill them. This includes Trinica Dracken, Frey’s ex-fiancée and long time nemesis; in fact she’s offered them a job. But the job is in Samarla – the bitter enemies of Vardia – and involves a theft from a train. Join the crew as they become involved in mayhem and mischief, roof-top chases, death-defying races, Daemons, psychopaths, golems and a cranky cat.

The first time was to clear his name, the second was for money. This time it’s a race against the clock for the ultimate prize; Frey’s own life.

For anyone who is not familiar with Captain Darian Frey here’s how’s best to sum him up. He’s part Han Solo, part Mal Reynolds, he has a smattering of Indiana Jones and a sizable dollop of James T Kirk. Overall he’s a chancer, always on the look-out for the next Joe who he can fleece, or rob blind. At least he was, before what happened at the end of Black Lung Captain.

Now Capt. Frey is a changed man, his crew has changed along with him. No more are they a group of misfits who happen to end up on the shame ship, and just stick together because there’s no-where else for them to go. Now they are a group of misfits who behave like a proper crew, they have a bond, a bond forged in the skies beyond the Wrack. They’d faced death together – numerous times – and come out the other side.

In this third outing for the crew of the Ketty Jay things are a little different. They are on their uppers, they have money in their pockets, and the ship now runs like a dream due to an overhaul – paid for by Trinica Dracken – and even Slag the cat seems to have come to terms with Harkins and Jez. Life was good, things were looking up; trust Capt. Frey to screw it all up.

That’s not entirely true, due to the crew working together for a change they successfully carry out a dangerous mission. But despite instructions from Dracken, Frey has to open the box and take a look at what they’d stolen. That simple act sends the crew on a race against time to save their Captains life, and uncover deeply guarded secrets that could lead to war.

This is a tighter book than the first two. Towards the end of Black Lung Captain it was becoming too easy to predict the various ways in which Frey and his crew were going to get shafted; usually by Dracken. But this time round Wooding has moved up a notch, you think you know how things are going to turn out, then BAM things change and you’re left floundering. It’s a good feeling because in doing this Wooding has breathed new life into the characters and setting. The crew are fleshed out, two more than the rest, they become more rounded, more three dimensional.

Also this time out there is more in the way of world-building. You get several in-depth history lessons, the main continent gets a name (least think this is new can’t remember it before) and you get the feeling Wooding is sowing the seeds for future stories, seeds that may take a few books to take root and sprout.

All in all this is a fast paced action adventure with little let up in the pace from start to finish, the humour is dark and plentiful, there is also several horror tinged incidents.