A dark and twisted story – never a book with a more fitting title!
Published: Gollancz 2020
Page count: 608
Desperation. Tragedy. Hope. These are three words that I word link heavily with this book. A Fool’s Hope by Mike Shackle is the second book in The Last War series, following the equally brilliant We Are The Dead. The books are set in the country of Jia, which takes on a different opening to most Fantasy novels and our POVs are mostly from the people who live in Jia, who very recently have been crushed by the baddies. This book follows on from the first, continuing the desperate plight for freedom, to unshackle themselves from the overwhelming tyranny enforced upon them all.
This book expands its range of POV to include characters from both sides – but it does a fantastic job of making each character, no matter what they are fighting for, all seem as desperate and flawed as each other. Some of the characters you will form stronger connections that others, with some feeling like they were included to help move story elements along. Dren and Yas were the two stand out characters for me, and following their stories kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. Dren continues in this book, finding his place and seeking redemption within himself. The choices this character makes, in some ways, I can see myself making if I was ever to be faced in a similar situation. The ups and downs throughout this book are ones that I could feel within myself too, having an understanding for who this character was becoming. Yas however, has motivations that anyone can truly understand. She is a mum. And like my own Mum, one I would not mess with. Her story truly defines what lengths a mother would go through in order to protect their child and making decisions that would benefit her son’s future. Her story is heart felt throughout, with some of the biggest moments – in my opinion – within this whole novel.
The other characters within the story such as Jax, add to the desperation of the whole story – grounding you throughout, that no one in this story is truly untouchable. This concept is something that I love within these novels. Sometimes in books, I feel safe knowing that my favourite character is always going to survive no matter how many arms or legs they lose – however, Mike Shackle sets the tone within both books that life within this world is fickle. Which I feel is something that makes these books feel more believable – no one is ever untouchable or eternal, and in this world that is definitely the case. This only made me love the characters more, cherishing each decision they made and thanking the powers that guide Shackle’s words that they have survived! Until the next horrible situation they found themselves in.
The other aspect of the book I enjoyed, was exploring the larger world outside Jia. In this book, Tinnstra and Zorique escape to Meigore, in hope’s of finding safety and protection. This is where we are also introduced to the non-Jia, non-baddy POV through Ralasis – who you might remember from the end of the first book. He was the savior on the ship, who pulled the girls from the waters and saved them from winger demons! This setting is an added contrast from Jia, adding my depth to the world, whilst overshadowing the events that were happening within their homeland.
There is so much to love about this book from the characters, to the world and the gritty parcel that they are all wrapped in. The magic system isn’t as polished as other authors, leaving my mind to ask questions that hopefully will be answered within the final novel. And their were a couple of predictable elements – I just imagined what the worst thing that could happen was and sometimes I was right. But these are minor in comparison to what is currently my favourite read of the year and I am sure it will stay within the top 5.
I have given this book 5/5 and it is a definite must read! So go read it! Or add it to your TBR……