Sent to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 12/09/17
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback, 304pp
Genre: Crime/History/Fantasy/Steampunk (Yes it is as good as it sounds :D)
Summed up in a word: Expansive
The fact that I read all four instalments of the Ghost series back to back is a testament to George Mann’s ability as a writer. I was a bit concerned that this series was going to be a bit tame for me but I was wrong. George Mann has used his talent to craft a distinctly different reading experience with each of his novels and Ghosts of Empire is a culmination of all his efforts. Taking the gang out of the (un)safety of New York and putting them on the chaotic streets of London facing a remarkable new threat. The Ghosts Of Empire has started a whole new trilogy that I can’t wait to see unfold.
In the aftermath of the events surrounding the Circle of Thoth, and with the political climate easing, Gabriel takes Ginny to London on holiday to recuperate. But he isn’t counting on sinister Russian forces gathering in the London Underground, an old ally who desperately needs his help, or coming face-to-face with the embodiment of Albion itself…
The Ghost series follows the endeavours of Gabriel Cross (a.k.a The Ghost) and Detective Felix Donovan who have formed an alliance against the dark evils threats that have started plaguing their home of New York City. From hideous tentacled monsters of other dimensions to ancient Egyptian gods pursuing world domination; these guys have been through a lot. Ghosts Of Empire pick the story up in London where the gang, including Ginny and Felix’s wife Flora, have embarked on a long overdue holiday. Three days into the holiday, an old friend appears having been attacked by an impossible animal and in saving his life they join a new war against an exceptional evil; invincible Russian wizards who are on a century old mission to take over the world.
Fighting constantly on the backfoot against an army of arcane magicians, The Ghost must team up with the British Secret Service to infiltrate and destroy this powerful new enemy. Ghosts of Empire is a high stakes fantasy thriller that is a must read for all fiction lovers. George Mann has created a story (and series) that has so much to offer readers of all calibres.
Gabriel had planned to hang up his goggle, boosters and guns for his vacation but he and Donovan are soon at it again, along with a god infested Ginny, fighting to save the world as they know it from benevolent villains. This is most certainly George Mann’s most ambitious storyline yet and I am happy to say that it pays off brilliantly. I was curious to see where GM was going with this story and having established his Steampunk inspired alternative history in the first trilogy; GM has now set his sights on bigger and better plots. GM has incorporated so many different genres into his writing, from Action, Thriller and Steampunk to Alternative History, Horror and Fantasy. What most impressed me about his writing is that they all mesh together perfectly without getting confused or having each genre constantly vying for attention. George Mann is all about delivering bold and brash plots that are intense, memorable and ascetically pleasing.
For those who are unfamiliar with the series Gabriel is a rich war veteran who has become the crime fighting vigilante The Ghost. Much akin to the Bruce Wayne/Batman concept but with The Ghost being more comparable to Marvel’s Starlord, with his red eyed goggles, leg boosters and handguns. Gabriel is the physical embodiment of Duality and is constantly trapped between to equally different versions of the true Gabriel. He is joined in his crusades by NYPD Detective Felix Donovan who is completely focused on protecting the streets he calls home and is happy to utilise The Ghost as an ally. There are a cycling roster of other individuals who join their band of evil bashing badasses but in Ghosts Of Empire there are only a handful of allies fighting a horde of immortal Russian wizards.
I loved this instalment of the series. I wouldn’t say that by the fourth book I was expecting GM to shake the series up because GM has managed to craft a unique plot within each book that keeps it fresh and exciting. But I have to say I am glad that GM did take his series to another level by taking it to London and upping the ante with the powerful new enemy the group now face. These enemies were remarkably captivating and having to fight them in a foreign setting takes the action/adventure to a whole other level. I am slightly disappointed that GM didn’t utilise a Steampunk inspired London as much as he could have (considering how well he has done with NYC) but the setting does have its moments. I found the drastically different location caused plenty of additional chaos and unsettled a previously confident band of heroes.
George Mann’s writing is certainly the stand-out element of each of The Ghost novels. It is great to see an author having such an invigorating and exciting experience writing new instalments of a much loved series. Every enemy that The Ghost faces is multi-dimensional (both literally and physiologically) and The Koscheis are just as threatening, brutal and challenging as any other beings that the shadows have thrown at Gabriel so far. There is more development with the villains in GOE with lots of showdowns and captivating twists. I also appreciated the consistent pacing that GM threads through his stories which keeps the focus on present stories instead of jumping all over the place.
I can’t decide whether GM’s choice to make his novels shorter and more bold over longer and more in-depth is a good thing or not. I certainly wanted more from Ghosts Of Empire on depth side of things because I was fascinated by Koscheis and their mission (as well as their leader). But it is difficult to tell whether more would have taken away from the mysteriousness and magical effect their presence had on the novel. If you like bold action set pieces and chaotic mysteries that unfold with intensity and vigour, without going too overboard on the details, then this is certainly a novel for you.
The Ghost series is definitely a plot driven series and I can’t fault GM on his story-lines as they are entertaining, challenging and to put it directly, awesome! The characters within this story are not as deep as I want at this point in a series. Gabriel and the others have evolved over the course of events but we still know very little about them which is moderately frustrating. GM started to delve into some back stories in the first few books but they seem to be left behind for now. I hope they get picked up again in future instalments.
Overall I am 100% glad I invested in this series as novels like Ghosts Of Empire are unique, engaging and immensely enjoyable. I am excited to see where GM is taking this series. It was a genius idea to take events to another destination and up the stakes with a powerful new clan of villainous wizards. George Mann is a serious talent and he is swiftly becoming one of my go to authors for brilliant fiction.
About George Mann
Bio from George’s personal website: george-mann.com/about/
The Affinity Bridge, the first novel in the Newbury and Hobbes Victorian fantasy series, was published in 2008. Other titles in the series include The Osiris Ritual, The Immorality Engine, The Executioner’s Heart, The Casebook of Newbury & Hobbes and the forthcoming The Revenant Express. In 2015, an original Newbury & Hobbes comic series will debut from Titan Comics.
George’s other novels include Ghosts of Manhattan, Ghosts of War, and the forthcoming Ghosts of Karnak and Ghosts of Empire, mystery novels about a vigilante set against the backdrop of a post-steampunk 1920s New York, as well as the original Doctor Who novels, Paradox Lost and Engines of War, the latter featuring the War Doctor alongside his companion, Cinder.
George has edited a number of anthologies, including Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction and The Solaris Book of New Fantasy, and has written two Sherlock Holmes titles for Titan Books, Sherlock Homes: The Will of the Dead and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box.
Very occasionally, he finds time to breathe.