Category Archives: second titles

Political Thriller / Espionage – 2nd Titles

Here are the second titles that have been submitted so far for the Adventure fiction subgenres of Political Thriller and Espionage. Please submit yours if you haven’t done so yet! This list is in alphabetical order by author:

A Divided SpyTitle: A Divided Spy (2017)
Author: Charles Cumming
Main Appeal Factors: Inside details about spycraft and international intrigue; complex characters; a classic espionage story updated for contemporary times
Genre: Espionage
Annotation/Thoughts:
Third in the Thomas Kell series by Charles Cumming, A Divided Spy contains some plot spoilers for the first two books, but can be read as a standalone title without difficulty.
Pacing is fast in that most of the action of the book takes place over a short period of time, but there is a fair amount of character development and backstory, as well, which, while adding depth to the book, makes parts of the book proceed at a slower pace than a reader looking for a non-stop action thriller might want.
The main character, Thomas Kell, is a disillusioned former spy who — although he has left MI6 (England’s Secret Intelligence Service — is still seeking answers from (and revenge on) the Russian agent he blames for the death of another agent. The storyline is centered at first around Kell’s quest as he gets wind of his quarry, but escalates quickly from personal concerns to national security as Kell wonders if he’s playing or being played by his opposite number, the charismatic Russian agent, Alexander Minasian. Tone is dark, in classic espionage style. The language is rich with both spy jargon and literary references; the main characters are well educated and extremely good at what they do. Various cities in different countries serve as the setting, but the frame is England and its intelligence service. Readers will learn a lot about what constitutes good “spycraft” while enjoying an exciting and suspenseful contemporary tale of espionage.
Definitely would suggest Charles Cumming to readers who like John Le Carré.

The Freedom BrokerTitle: Freedom Broker
Author: K.J. Howe
Main Appeal Factors: worldwide, terrorists, non-stop
Genre:
Political Thriller
Annotation/Thoughts:
First in Kidnap-and-Ransom Thriller series.
Main character, Thea, is a kidnap victim rescuer for a firm that specializes in kidnappings for money by terrorist groups. Very up-to-date issues including China trying to take control of African countries.
Pacing: breakneck: starts with tense scene in jungle, has a break, and then jumps right into a kidnapping
Characterization: main character has elaborate backstory as well as type 1 diabetes. All the characters are complex. Told from multiple narrators.
Story Line: action oriented and plot twists
Frame and Tone: detailed settings, all over the world.
Style: straightforward with just enough description for the setting without slowing down the action.

The SIngularity RaceTitle: The Singularity Race
Author: Mark de Castrique
Main Appeal Factors: AI, Secret Service, computers
Genre:
Political Thriller
Annotation/Thoughts: 
Artificial Intelligence has been in the news a lot frequently, with dire warnings about how the Chinese look to be outrunning us in the race to come up with AI that can think better than humans. This book uses AI as the “weapon” and our hero, Rusty Mullins, is racing to stop a computer from taking over the US infrastructure and indeed the whole world. The technology isn’t the focus so much as the human relationships and basic spy work. As such this book works really well as an adventure fiction/thriller. It certainly was hard to put down. So far there only seem to be two books (this is the 2nd) in the series, so it may just be a two-book set. I haven’t read any of de Castrique’s other books.

Pace: page-turner; starts with a kidnapping/murder and goes to terrorist attack
Characterization: Main character has a backstory, good family life and friends, but is still a “hero” with lots of skills as a former secret service man; Some romance; side characters not fully developed
Story Line: very timely; AI is a weapon.
Frame and tone: While there is some points of view of other people, most of the story is told from the hero’s point of view.
Style: straight-forward, but with emotions involved. Descriptions are minimal.

World at NightTitle: The World at Night (1996)
Author: Alan Furst
Main Appeal Factors: Setting (Paris 1940-41), Mood (dark), Storyline
Genre:
Political Thriller/Espionage
Annotation/Thoughts:
The World War II time period as well as Paris, France were the initial appeal factors for me. The protagonist, Jean-Claude Casson is a film producer who lives in the 16th Arrondisement, which was and still is swanky and just west of the Seine. The book is written in 3rd person through the eyes of Casson. The book opens on the day that the Germans prepare to march into France. Casson is called up to enlist as a film maker but his days in the army are short lived as the Germans invade France and take over Paris in a very short period of time. When Casson returns to Paris a couple of months later, the city seems ghostlike. With the shortages in food, electricity and heat, Casson needs to find work and his lawyer advises him to continue on as a film maker. Casson is eventually hired by a German production company. As he starts pulling together the makings of a film with a woman he loves as the star, he is asked by the Germans to do some work for them and then asked by the resistance to also work for them. Although I was confused by the seemingly large number of characters, the pacing moved along. The book has nine chapters, and breaks between the text on almost every page. Casson as well as a couple of other characters are well developed and the City of Paris is also like a character. The mood is dark and gets darker as the book goes on, as does the action which builds towards the end of the book.
Fourth in Night Soldiers series.

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Historical Adventure – 2nd Titles

Here are the second titles that we read for Historical Adventure! Please submit yours if you haven’t done so yet! In alphabetical order by author…

Title: Brethren
Author: Robin Young
Main Appeal Factors: Crusades; Knights Templar; secret society
Genre: Historical Adventure
Annotation/Thoughts:
Very detailed settings during the 1200s: Britain, France, Middle East included what life was like for the Muslims who were fighting both the “Franks” and the Mongols. Lots of battles with realistic details about the weapons and strategies. Lots of secrets and a secret society. Quest for redemption for many of the main characters: Will, Bayber, Garin Historical characters throughout play important parts especially Edward, son of Henry III. Language appropriate for time period. Maps. Pace: takes place over years and sometimes feels slow. Ending has some resolution, but is obviously part of a trilogy. Tone generally dark. Lots of violence. Multiple storylines that are all coming together.


Title: Gentlemen of the Road

Author: Michael Chabon
Main Appeal Factors: Beautiful language, likable characters
Genre:
Historical Adventure
Annotation/Thoughts:
Amram and Zelikman could not be more different. Amram is a towering African, while Zelikman is a blonde Frank resembling a scarecrow; nevertheless, they have formed a strong bond while travelling together. The beginning of the story finds the companions attempting to deliver Filaq, a fugitive Khazar prince, to his relatives for a hefty price. Filaq,intent on exacting revenge on the usurper who slaughtered most of his family, keeps trying to escape and raise an army to help put his brother on the throne. When the usurper’s army captures Filaq, a secret he’s been keeping is revealed. Like most adventure tales, this one includes life-and-death situations and battles. It differs from many other adventures in the literary quality of the author’s language. The characters are immensely likable and complex, with their own back stories and sorrows. The tone is lighthearted in its dialogue and tone. I don’t think this book would appeal to your typical adventure reader. While the action and exotic locale are there, the language is too dense to make this escapist reading. This story first appeared in installments in the New York Times magazine, and the language may have been more digestible in that format. I believe this book would most appeal to a reader of literary fiction looking for a short and witty read.

Title: Master and Commander
Author: Patrick O’Brian
Main Appeal Factors: realistic naval action; humor; bromance
Genre:
Historical Adventure
Annotation/Thoughts: 
Start of a 20+ book series. Set in Napoleonic time period: the Age of Sail. Realistic naval action based on real incidents Banter between main characters and the secondary characters is funny although some jargon. Main characters, Aubrey and Maturin, come with complicated backstories and complicated emotions that play out throughout the series, including their love lives with two cousins. Audio read by Patrick Tull especially brings the humor to life.

Title: River God
Author: Wilbur Smith
Main Appeal Factors:
ancient Egypt, historical, very descriptive
Genre: Historical Adventure
Annotation/Thoughts: This title is the first of 6 of the Ancient Egypt series by Wilbur Smith. The setting is ancient Egypt around 2000 BC. It is a long book at 530 pages with periodic small breaks in the text marked by a hieroglyphic. Egypt was unstable during this time period, with bandits and invaders, and the book reflects this with many incidences of violence and battles as the current pharaoh struggles to maintain or expand his kingdom. The book is told in the first person by Taita who is a slave and a eunich. He takes care of his lord’s daughter but is also a valuable asset to his lord because he is loyal, clever and skilled. Taita will also do anything for Lostris, his lord’s daughter, because Taita has always been in love with her. The setting of ancient Egypt and the Nile is fascinating but the pacing is somewhat slow due to a lot of description and the narrative is densely written. There are a fair amount of characters and a lot of action which includes blood and gore. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys history and a descriptive narrative which includes scenes and battles involving loss of body parts and death.

Title: Sea Witch
Author: Helen Hollick
Main Appeal Factors: historical, sea adventure, pirates, romance, witchcraft
Genre:
Historical Adventure
Annotation/Thoughts: 
Sea Witch by Helen Hollick is part sea adventure, part historical fiction, part romance, and part magic. It takes place in the early 1700’s, the “golden age of piracy”. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Jessamiah Acorne, who is a pirate, and of Tiola Oldstagh, who is a witch. The story has as much swashbuckling, pillaging, plundering, and rum drinking as you’d expect with pirates at the center, but is not overly violent. The love story between Acorne and Oldstagh is a main theme of the book and, as a result, may be considered too “lovey dovey” for most adventure fans. While the pace of the book is never slow, it is much more leisurely than most adventure novels. I would reccomend this to fans of Outlander and historical fiction.

Title: Sea Witch
Author: Helen Hollick
Main Appeal Factors: Pirates, Age of Sail, witchcraft/healing powers
Genre:
Historical Adventure
Annotation/Thoughts: 
This story about pirate Jesamiah Acorne during the Golden Age of Pirates in the Caribbean (roughly 1680-1725) starts out as historical adventure but when the story brings in Tiola Oldstagh, the mysterious young woman with the gift of Craft (i.e. she’s a healer and a witch) the romance that develops and too much talk about feelings swamp the adventure with sensuality, so it ends up seeming to me more historical fiction than adventure.
Pacing is overall not that fast, mainly because the story unfolds over the course of a few years. There are adventure scenes on the ship and on land, but the storyline of this book (first in a series) is more focused on pirate Jesamiah’s and gentlewoman Tiola’s difficulties in coming together as a couple and staying together than on high-seas piracy or life on board ship. Characters are suitable for an adventure story, as the hero Jesamiah is a handsome, brave, and strong leader of men, but has been deeply hurt in the past, with a few close friends who would die for him.
The tone and the language are suited to the Age of Sail type of adventure story, except again with too many details when it comes to lovemaking and feelings. The frame/setting of early 18th-century land and shipboard life seems realistic, although the author admits she takes some liberties with historical accuracy.

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