A Fool's Hope by Mike Shackle

A Fool’s Hope by Mike Shackle

It’s hard to believe I only read and reviewed We Are the Dead at the beginning of the year and now here I am, reviewing A Fool’s Hope. I was lucky to get my hands on it via Netgalley. Thanks to Gollancz for providing me an ARC in exchange of an honest review.

About the Book
Series: The Last War #2Genre: fantasy
Date of Publishing: December 3rd 2020Publisher: Gollancz
Book Blurb
A Fool's Hope by Mike Shackle

War takes everything.

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.

The sequel to the darkly fantastic WE ARE THE DEAD: with more unflinching action, A FOOL’S HOPE sees Jia’s revolutionaries dig in their heels as they learn that wars aren’t won in a day.

Quote of the Book

“War’s orchestra played its merry tune in the distance: explosions, screams, steel beating steel and the Gods only knew what else. Yas barely noticed it. Death and destruction had become as commonplace as birdsong.”

Song of the Book

I smartly picked a Breaking Benjamin song for We Are the Dead and I’m more than happy to pick one for A Fool’s Hope too. I think this series is worthy of my favorite band and Torn in Two would be a perfect song for Dren.


It’s not much of a secret that I first got interested in The Last War series by Mike Shackle, when I saw Jen’s updates while reading We Are the Dead and Shackle’s reactions to it. Then I got a copy myself thanks to Shackle’s generousness and in the end I stayed for the characters and the story. After loving We Are the Dead it was not much of a question whether I’ll read the sequel, A Fool’s Hope. The only question was when. In hindsight, reading it right after Call of the Bone Ships wasn’t the smartest idea – who the hell wants to get herself ruined TWICE in a row? Me, apparently. I’m fitting right here in this asylum, I tell you.

A Fool’s Hope starts immediately where we left the characters in We Are the Dead. Tinnstra and Zorique are on their way to Meigore, hoping for safety. Dren is back on the streets of Kiyosun, the Hanran does everything in their power to get rid of the Skulls and Yas tries to survive while providing for her family as best as she can. As with We Are the Dead, events in A Fool’s Hope happen within a chaos-filled couple of days. Apart from the familiar Jian POV characters, in this book we get a couple of Egril ones – Mateon and Francin – as well as a Meigorian one, Ralasis.

Mateon is a young Egril soldier, his head full of ideals and dreams of glory in the name of Kage. He learns soon enough that war is anything but glorious. Francin is a high ranking Chosen whose skills can help him wreak havoc from the inside. It was great to have glimpses from the other side of the conflict, to see into the workings of the Egril and their worship of Kage. Ralasis is the captain of the ship that takes Tinnstra and Zorique to relative safety and who gets in the thick of things by following his heart. A Fool’s Hope also introduces Zorique as a POV character, which is sure a nice touch.

The horrible thing about spoiler-free reviews is that I can’t talk about some of the events here even though I really, really want to. That these characters are having a really hard time is the understatement of the year. Shackle does not shy away from making them go through hell again and again, to the point where you just want to go and beg him to stop. As much as for your own sanity as for the characters’. Because there is only so much you can take. One thing’s for sure: I would not last in this world for very long.

What’s amazing though is that despite the narrow time frame and the roughly 1000 pages (combining the two books), the characters we follow from the beginning go through quite some changes, which Shackle handles very well. I remember wanting to drown Dren myself in We Are the Dead, then warming up to him by the end of the book. Only for him to become my favorite character in A Fool’s Hope. And while I liked Tinnstra, by the end of this book, she got to the bottom of my list. While she has good intentions and I really do get where she is coming from, her somewhat narrow mindedness started to grate on me. I can’t wait for what book 3 brings for us. Oh, one more thing regarding the characters: Mike Shackle, how very dare you?!

A Fool’s Hope raises the stakes as Kiyosun (and whole Jia) clings to the last threads of its freedom. Surprises are waiting behind every corner, and there was some turn of events you definitely won’t see coming. The end of chapter cliffhangers are very clever and maddeningly infuriating all at the same time, because it makes putting the book down so goddamn hard. Get your tea and cookies ready, because Shackle definitely won’t offer you any during this character-driven, action-packed, emotional roller coaster ride.

A Fool’s Hope is a most excellent follow up to We Are the Dead, and one of the best books I’ve read this year. Sekanowari is here and gods help anyone who gets caught up in the chaos and mayhem that follows in its wake. If these books were any indication, the coming events won’t be any less brutal, bloody and utterly heart-wrenching with nothing to guide us but a fool’s hope.

Right, where did I left my emotional support panda, again?

Our Judgement
Praise Their Name - 5 crowns

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