A Fool’s Hope is the second instalment in the The Last War series by Mike Shakle.

Many People say that the second book is often the weakest and the hardest to write book in a trilogy. I completely disagree with that statement. Some of my most favorite books of trilogies are the second tomes. My two most favorite examples are The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers and the Nevernight Chronicles, Darkdawn. And like those two I have to admit I enjoyed reading A Fool’s Hope even more than its predecessor We Are the Dead. 

Synopsis:

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.

text to be found in advertisement for the book

A Fool’s Hope picks up straight where We Are the Dead left off. As in the previous book we meet our main protagonists again: Tinnstra, Zorique, Jax, Yas, Dren and Hasan. The chapters are told by an omniscient narrator from their point of view. But we also met new characters like for example Ralasis, a famous sea captain of Meigore. Not only the Jians and Meigorans get their own chapters but also two Egril: Mateon and Francis.  Mateon is a young boy who just became an Egril Skull-soldier. I honestly enjoyed his chapters as he shows the reader that most Egril are simply mislead humans who are religious fanatics but if confronted with the reality of war, they suffer as much as everyone else and not all of them are evil monsters: „Just stay alive, kid, and maybe one day we walk away from all this shit. Maybe pretend it never happened.“

The other Egril whose perspective we get to know is Francis, a chosen, being at the court of Meigore. He might not be as mad as Monsuta from book one but he is not better in anyway. 

Not only do we get new Egril and Meigore perspectives but also Zorique gets her own chapters. To not spoil too much I will keep quiet about her, just let it be said that she is amazing! 👑 

We also get chapters of our well loved protagonists and some manage to fulfil their character arcs with Tinnstra leading the way. There is not much left of the little scared girl she used to be but she turns fiercer and fiercer. „Whatever happened to the girl who was afraid to fight?“ ⚔️ 

All of them have to carry their burden from the first 📚   book. But they’ve all also grown so much in book one already. 

Like „We Are the Dead“ Fool’s Hope is very fast paced with its velocity reaching a climax towards the end. It is never easy for me to find time to read with two kids but towards the end (around 2 hours till the ending) I simply could not put the book down and got less sleep than normally. 

There are some processes that come to an end in this second instalment but many are left open and will -hopefully – be concluded in the next book. On the last page we already catch a glimpse about what is to come and I anticipate and dread it at the same time. 

As in his debut the world building in this book is superb and it offers many different tropes. Mike Shackle once said on twitter that there is even a love story to be found. Well, after reading that I did expect a bit more in that field but he did not lie. There is love, hate, violence, time travel, magic, blood, darkness and throughout the book the reoccurring fool’s hope. 

So I assume this book will be found in the grim dark fantasy section.

But is it really grim dark?

Of course there is violence, blood, murder and mayhem but in contrast to other books, which are not considered grim dark, e.g. J.R.R.Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice, there are certain lines that are not crossed. One incident had me dreading what was to come immensely. At some point in the book Yas – who turned into one of my favorite characters – is separated from her boy Ro. I kind of expected to get torture, rape and abuse as with for example Theon and Ramsay in J.R.R. Martin’s aforementioned book. Lucky for me it did not get as bad as I apprehended it.

They thought her weak because she had a child, because she cared about people, about her city.“

I am not saying that this book is not dark but there are grimmer books that do not carry the title grim dark. 

It still is no book for the too soft hearted but I am not the toughest person there is on this planet and I immensely enjoyed reading this book. 

So far -and I expect it to stay this way- this is my most favourite book 📖  I have read in 2020. And this series is on the best way to turn into one of my absolute favourites. That is also why I hope that it will get translated to German at some point so I can pester my friends to get it or give it to them as a present. 🎁 

The paintings of  Tinnstra and Dren were sent to me by Mike Shackle and published with his permission. The map, copyright by Lee Harrison 2019, can be found in We are the Dead by Mike Shackle, published in 2020 by Gollancz, ISBN 9781473225220.

I reviewed the ebook copy of the book kindly given to me by Netgalley. The book itself will be published on 12th November 2020 by Gollancz.