Death Unleashed by Steve McHugh #BookReview #BlogTour

A deadly venom. A looming rebellion. A vicious siege. And the clock is ticking.
For sorcerer Nate Garrett, the stakes have risen. If Asgard falls, he may lose much more than his home—he may lose the thing dearest to him. To stand a fighting chance against Avalon, he must be ready to go to war. But when his best friend and father are poisoned, Nate must race against the clock in a desperate quest to find a cure.
Layla Cassidy is tasked with gaining the aid of the Valkyrie in Valhalla, but once there, she finds herself involved in another rebellion and must pick a side.
Meanwhile, Mordred finds himself on a hunt for Excalibur, a weapon of incredible power that would aid the rebellion in their fight against Arthur and his allies. But to retrieve it, Mordred must face uncomfortable truths about himself.
War looms over the rebellion, and the battle for Asgard is at hand. Time is running out as Avalon’s forces threaten total destruction. But Nate can’t be in two places at once. Can he find the cure, and can he, Layla, and Mordred save the realms before it’s too late?

I'm honoured to be opening the blog tour for Death Unleashed today. Huge thanks to Steve McHugh, 47North and Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

It's fair to say that the world Steve McHugh has created, first in the Hellequin Chronicles then the Avalon Chronicles and now the Rebellion Chronicles has captured my imagination like no other fantasy series and his books are an absolute must-read for me. Sorcery Reborn was one of my favourite reads of 2019 so I've been eagerly awaiting Death Unleashed. The narrative is split three ways this time; each storyline would make a superb novel in its own right and so having them all in one book is spoiling us! I always experience a range of emotions when reading one of Steve's books but he has truly surpassed himself here with a story which had my heart racing during some scenes, saw me laughing out loud at other times before the moments where I had to read through my tears.
Nate Garrett having full access to his powers is a mouthwatering prospect but life still isn't easy for him and it's the exploration of his vulnerabilities which I found to be particularly engaging here. He might be capable of extreme acts of magic and violence but when his family and friends are threatened he hurts as much as any human and he is certainly made to suffer during the course of this novel. Having finally been reunited with his father, Odin, the pair are tentatively trying to figure out their relationship and the obvious awkwardness between them is amusingly touching. Nate is also a new father which adds a further fascinating dimension to his endeavours to finally beat Avalon. At the start of the book, he is in Asgard where everybody expects an imminent attack, however, when word comes through of a possible experiment laboratory in Montana, Nate's best friend, Tommy and Odin take a team to Earth to discover more. Nate is distraught when just the pair of them return, both horrifically poisoned by a deadly venom. He is always ready for battle but this time it's personal and Hera is in his sights...
Meanwhile, Layla and her team are in Valhalla, hoping to persuade the Valkyries to join the fight against Arthur and Avalon. I've loved seeing Layla's character development since A Glimmer of Hope and that continues here as she becomes somewhat of a mentor to Ava, the sixteen-year- old new addition to the team. The similarities between the two are striking - both from Earth, they grew up as ordinary girls and young women before being thrust into this extraordinary life where it transpires that mythological beings are real and that they are at war with an evil empire led by Arthur. Just as Layla had to suddenly come to terms with her new reality, so Ava must redefine all that she thought she knew. Layla became an umbra by accident whereas Ava has only recently discovered she is a shinigami and I'm intrigued to discover whether the younger woman will be able to become as strong and resourceful as Layla who is now an exceptional fighter and leader. At present, she is understandably struggling and is terrified by the prospect of war. Her abilities aren't about physical prowess however, and I'm looking forward to seeing if she will be able to feel more confident about her place in this world as she learns more about her capabilities. It's not really a surprise when things don't go as planned in Valhalla but they make some important discoveries here and I loved the introduction of some new characters, with one in particular making a real impression on the proceedings despite only appearing fairly briefly. I hope they return in a larger role in the next book and I suspect Remy the fox-man would agree!
The third storyline follows Mordred who has always been one of my favourite characters and like Nate, things become very personal for him in Death Unleashed. He is reunited with some faces from his past but it's fair to say that he doesn't relish seeing Lancelot again. There is a lot of blood and violence in this series but it's packed with humour too and perhaps never more so than when Mordred, Hel and Elaine find Lancelot and Guinevere. I'm not going to give anything away, other than to say that their relationship isn't quite as history would tell us, and that who knew troll bones could be used that way?! As I write this review I'm trying to decide whether I found Nate or Mordred's storyline the most emotional, both are tested to their absolute limits in this novel and there are stunning revelations about both of them. Mordred needs to retrieve Excalibur but first he faces a test which he fears he may not be up to and there is a scene here which is beautifully written and really quite touching.
As I read Death Unleashed I found myself constantly applauding this outstanding example of how to evolve an ongoing fantasy series. The way in which new discoveries link back to previous events whilst driving the story onwards is truly exceptional; there may be twists and shocks but they always make sense and are never added just for the sake of a 'wow' moment. It's more than just the advancement of the overarching storyline which makes me love these books, however. These are characters who I've grown to care about deeply. It doesn't matter that they are sorcerers, umbras, gods, dragon-kin or werewolves; each of them are more than their abilities, their flaws and their legacies. Some of them I love, some I am desperate to see vanquished but I am completely invested in what happens to every single one of them. (I even look forward to seeing if the blood elves appear again!)  It is possible to read and enjoy Death Unleashed without reading any of the previous books and indeed I joined the series at the end of the Hellequin Chronicles but I strongly advise you to read at least some of the other novels to truly appreciate just what a magnificent achievement this book is. I have mixed emotions looking forward to the final part of the Rebellion Chronicles, I'm desperate to discover what happens next - especially after reading the ominous epilogue - but I don't want it to end!

Death Unleashed will be published by 47North on 27th February 2020 and can be purchased here.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author

Steve's been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up 'One boy and his frog' was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn't for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel, the result of which is Crimes Against Magic.

He was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton.
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