Sleeper: The Red Storm by J.D. Fennell #BookReview #Extract #BlogTour

Will Starling has been drafted into the SOE, joining forces with the French Resistance, but his memory is fractured and only occasional flashbacks reveal fragments of his past.
When his mission is compromised, Will suspects that he’s been betrayed. Back in London he hears that VIPER are developing a deadly weapon. As he and MI5 agent Anna Wilder set out to destroy it, their every move is anticipated by their enemies.
While Will fights to prevent genocide, his sister, Rose, has become the key to VIPER’s future plans and is drugged to dull her kinetic powers. But Rose faces danger from an unexpected enemy and her time is running out.

It's such a pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for Sleeper: The Red Storm by J.D. Fennell today, huge thanks to J.D, The Dome Press and Emily Glenister for inviting me, for my advance copy of the novel and for the extract from the book you can read below my review.

I read J.D. Fennell's first novel, Sleeper last year, describing it in my review as a 'gripping and often dark story that surprised me several times and managed to keep me guessing' and I have eagerly been anticipating this sequel ever since.
Sleeper: The Red Storm takes place two years after the events in the first book and in that time, Will Starling, the teen spy has become a man. He may still only be 18 but he's seen  - and done  - things that many men would blanch at. When the novel opens, he is working with the Resistance in France but the disastrous outcome of a mission sees him back in London where he is reunited with some old faces. I loved Anna Wilder in the first book, she plays an important role in the story and her skills and training put her on an equal footing with Will so I was delighted to see the pair reunited here. Things have moved on for them both during the time they have spent apart but their previously close relationship means there is still a bond between them and they make a formidable team. Will might be back with friends and colleagues he knows well but as their enemies seem to be one step ahead of every investigation, he fears they may have been compromised by a mole.
Sleeper: The Red Storm is even darker and more intense than the first book with Will and Anna's continuing fight against two separate genocidal enemies; the Nazis and VIPER potentially exerting a terrible toll on them both. The effects of Will's mysterious past, combined with the terrible atrocities he has witnessed means he has become a more complex figure and some of his actions are really quite shocking. J.D. Fennell leaves his readers in little doubt as to the dehumanising side of war as many of the characters carry out acts that would once have horrified them, with barely a pause. It's true that they have become more ruthless and more skilled but at what eventual personal cost? Although most of the book follows Will, there are some chapters where we finally learn more about his missing sister, Rose and what has happened to her. Her very dangerous abilities juxtapose with her obvious vulnerabilities to make her a fascinating character and it's truly heartrending to see what she has been forced to endure.
Will and Anna race to stop VIPER unleashing a terrible weapon on the world and the blistering pace of the plot sees the action move to various locations, each of which is brought vividly albeit sometimes ominously to life. I devoured Sleeper: The Red Storm in a few hours and spent much of that time with my heart in my mouth. There is so much cause for tension in the book that it should probably come with a health warning for those of a nervous disposition! The obvious danger from both VIPER and the Nazis is further exacerbated by the constant sense that Will is being undermined by somebody he should be able to trust. The high octane climax to the novel is a thrilling delight to read and the conclusion is just breathtaking and has left me desperate to read the next book in the series.
I would strongly recommend reading Sleeper first to truly appreciate J.D.Fennell's storytelling arc because this world he has created is just extraordinary. He has combined the excitement of an action-packed thriller and an engrossing historical narrative with some intriguing touches of science fiction and filled his novel with some truly memorable characters. Sleeper: The Red Storm is a compelling and fresh wartime espionage drama; I wholeheartedly recommend it and can't wait to read the next instalment!

A Sniff of Betrayal (cont’d)
The knowledge of what followed stirs the dormant rage in Will; he feels it bubbling like lava. His parents had been murdered by the corrupt and criminal VIPER organisation. His kidnapped sister was reportedly locked up in a hidden fortress known only as the Red Tower. But two years had passed since he had learned this. Rose could be dead now for all he knew. In his fractured, unreliable mind his family appear as if they are bit-players in snippets of a motion picture. But their love for him remains like the ghost of a tattoo on his soul.
He takes a breath and tries to focus on the job at hand.
Claudette ruffles his hair, taking him away from his sombre thoughts. Despite himself, he smiles.
‘I ’ave a surprise for you.’
‘I love surprises!’ says Will, teasing.
‘Do we ’ave to do this now?’ says Emile.
Claudette ignores him. ‘Will, we would love you to do us the honour of becoming godfather to our firstborn.’
Will’s heart sinks. He looks incredulously from a beaming Claudette to Emile, who shrugs off his wife’s eccentric, easy-going attitude. Not to mention terrible timing. 
‘Please say yes,’ says Claudette.
Suddenly the weight of responsibility has doubled and Will feels a shadow cross his soul. He shuts his eyes and breathes slowly. Of course, he is happy for them but he is angry, too, that this news has been dropped on him now.
‘Will?’ she says.
‘Yes, you know I will, but you should not be here. It is too dangerous… Why did you not tell me this earlier?’
‘Because you would not ’ave allowed me to come! That is why. And you need my ’elp.’
‘We could have managed without you!’ Will replies, a little too forcefully.
Claudette’s face falls. Will feels guilty as she looks to Emile for support.
‘Will is right,’ Emile says.
Will rests his hand on Claudette’s arm. ‘Emile and I will fix the explosives. You are to stay here.’

Claudette opens her mouth to speak but Will anticipates it. ‘No arguments!’
Emile removes a torch from his pocket and hands it and the binoculars to Claudette. ‘Stay here, cherie. We need a lookout. Signal to us if you see anything unusual.’
Claudette gives a sulky nod as Will heaves himself into a crouch, his shirt wet with perspiration under his backpack. Emile kisses Claudette goodbye and turns to Will.
‘Ready?’ asks Will.
Will and Emile dart from their hiding spot and sprint across the open field; the only sound is the rustle of grass in the breeze and the thud of their feet on the soft ground. The backpack bounces on Will’s back like an overweight, angry baby. For a fleeting second he worries it might explode, sending him to kingdom come before he reaches the pylon, but he pushes the thought from his mind. 
The base of the pylon is immense, bigger than he expected. He wonders if they have enough explosive to bring it down. 
Emile helps Will off with the backpack and carefully unbuckles the flap. A chemical, almond smell fills the air as he removes the six sticks of gelignite. Will takes them from him and begins fixing them to the legs of the obelisk. When all the legs are packed, Will removes a slim, green tin cartridge from his jacket pocket. He opens it, hands four brass Time Pencils to Emile and keeps four for himself.
‘Thirty minute detonation time,’ instructs Will.
Emile nods.
‘Use two per leg, in case one pencil fails.’
Using pliers, Will breaks the copper end of the four pencils, cracking the glass vial inside and releasing the acid. He hands the pliers to Emile, holds the detonators up to the light of the red sky and checks the vials are empty. They seem almost the same size as the cathedral spires, which stand tall on the hill where Chartres was built. He wrinkles his nose at the sulphuric smell, like rotten eggs, and is relieved to see the acid is starting to do its work, eroding the wire so that it would, in thirty minutes’ time, blow the detonator and ignite the gelignite. Countdown has begun. He inserts two pencils in each explosive, conceals them with foliage and checks his wristwatch, a waterproof Timor with a brown leather strap - a gift from his secret service mentor, a brusque, Belfast man called Eoin Heaney.
It is 9.05 pm but there is still enough light.
‘Claudette?’ says Emile, suddenly.
Will looks up, follows Emile’s gaze and sees their companion sprinting across the field towards them. Something is not right. He swallows and scans the horizon behind her, but sees nothing. 
Claudette arrives, panting and out of breath. ‘Soldiers. I had to come. The stupid torch would not work.’
‘How far away?’
‘At least a mile.’ They are walking in a line with their rifles out, heading in this direction.’
‘They know we’re here. We’ve been betrayed!’ says Emile.
‘They are not alone.’
‘What do you mean?’ asks Will.
‘I didn’t know what to make of it. There are monks with the Nazis. Four of them.’
‘Monks? But there are no monasteries here,’ says Emile.
Will feels his shoulders tighten. Hidden in his fractured memory is something about monks. Something he cannot reach. He tries to remember, but nothing surfaces.
‘Will, do you know who they are?’ asks Claudette.
He glances from Claudette to Emile and back to Claudette. ‘It’s probably nothing,’ he says, rubbing the back of his head. ‘Let’s move. We have a job to do.’
His orders are to blow the pylon and head immediately to Chartres Cathedral to meet his contact, an agent with the codename Marie-Antoinette. The entire operation will be scuppered if the can’t find a way to draw the soldiers away from the pylon. He glances at the backpack. There is one solitary stick of explosive remaining and one Time Pencil. A plan begins to formulate in his head. It is risky, probably crazy, but he is not going to let anything stop this mission from succeeding.

Sleeper: The Red Storm is published by The Dome Press and can be purchased here.

Don't forget to check out the other blogs taking part in the tour, details are below.

About the Author
J.D. was born in Belfast at the start of the Troubles, and began writing stories at a young age to help understand the madness unfolding around him. A lover of reading, he devoured a diverse range of books - his early influences include Fleming, Tolkien, Shakespeare and the Bront√ęs. He left Belfast at the age of nineteen and worked as a chef, bartender, waiter and later began a career in writing for the software industry. These days he divides his time between Brighton and London, where he lives with his partner and their two dogs. J.D.’s debut, Sleeper, was published by The Dome Press in April 2017.
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