Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ancient Appetites (The Wildenstern Saga #1) by Oisin McGann

This Reviews was Written by: C
Received: Publisher (Open Road Media)
Publication Date of Book: August 2015
Pages: 412
Stars: 5/5

Official Summary:

Murder, betrayal, and power . . . Welcome to the Wildenstern empire. The slow collapse of the British Empire in the nineteenth century meant opportunity for anyone with ammunition and wit. Now the Wildensterns are by far the most powerful family and the most ruthless. Trained from childhood in the arts of assassination and conspiracy and endowed with the supernatural ability to live for more than a century, the clan has grown rich, vicious, and seemingly invincible.

After nearly two years away, eighteen-year-old Nate has returned. But his homecoming is shattered when his eldest brother, Marcus, is mysteriously killed. Following the Rules of Ascension, which allow one male family member to murder another, Nate is being blamed. Nate knows he isn't the murderer, but who is? With the help of his sister-in-law, Daisy, and his cousin Gerald, Nate intends to find out. Their investigation brings them into the underbelly of the Wildenstern empire, where living machines, conspiring relatives, and undercover mercenaries do their dirty work. But when a disaster uncovers the ancient remains of Wildenstern ancestors, the lives of the family members and their struggle for power will take a bizarre and gruesome turn.

My Thoughts:

Number One: The Act of Aggression must be committed by the Aggressor himself and not by any agent or servant.

Number Two: The Act must only be committed against a man over the age of sixteen who holds a superior rank in the family to the Aggressor.

Number Three: The Act must only be committed for the purpose of advancing one's position and not out of spite, or because of insult or offence given, or to satisfy a need for revenge for an insult or injury given to a third party.

Number Four: All efforts should be made to avoid the deaths of servants while committing the Act. Good servants are hard to find.

Number Five: The Target of the Aggression can use any and all means to defend themselves, and is under an obligation to do so for the good of the family.

Number Six: Retribution against the Aggressor can only be carried out after the Act has been committed. Should the Aggressor fail in his attempt, and subsequently escape to remain at large for a full day, only the Target of the Aggression and no other person will be permitted to take Retribution.

Number Seven: No Act of Aggression or Retribution must be witnessed or reported by any member of the public. All family matters must be kept confidential.

Number Eight: Any bodies resulting from the Act must be given a proper burial in a cemetery, crypt, catacomb or funeral pyre approved by the family. 

These are The Rules of Ascension, laws that govern the bloodthirsty Wildenstern lineage whose male members can murder their way to the position of patriarch, a superior status that allows one to control the vast wealth, businesses, and assets of the family that are found throughout Ireland, England, and America. The group even possesses an accelerated healing factor (that seems to increase  with the aid of gold), abnormal longevity, and a strange connection to engimals, beasts that are both animal and machine.

Edgar Wildenstern, the current patriarch, has approximately four children: Marcus, Roberto, Nathaniel, and Tatiana. However, with the untimely death of Marcus, the eldest son and heir, the next in line is Roberto, the kindhearted polar opposite of Edgar. In his father's eyes, Roberto's lack of cruelty and aggression makes him weak. Thus, most of the duties and running of the family's American businesses fall upon Nathaniel's shoulders. Neither Roberto nor Nathaniel have any desire to run their horrendous family, and Nathaniel will stop at nothing to apprehend his brother's murderer. However, their are still relatives who are plotting to advance their positions, and Roberto isn't the man he appears to be. Consequently, Nathaniel may have to confront an extremely dangerous killer and four ancient ancestors who were unearthed and brought back to life.

The era in which  this novel takes place is absolutely fascinating. So many books that are labeled as being part of the steampunk genre take place in a Victorian era London that's been depicted far too many times. This mold is fabulously broken with McGann's Ireland-based family feud. Some readers may complain that the story doesn't contain enough features of the steampunk genre, but I'm satisfied with the engimals and the odd, "supernatural" qualities of the Wildenstern bloodline. Plus, many steampunk stories are way too complicated with their politics and technology, and I love the fact that Ancient Appetites wasn't over-complicated in these aspects. McGann did a superb job in creating an awesome, unique, and interesting family whose problems only escalate in countless fashions as the story progresses.

The mystery within the novel also wan't cliche, easy to figure out, or boring in any way, shape, or form. The plot kept twisting and the characters often came to an absolutely incorrect conclusion. It was nice that the story didn't abruptly end with a simple solution and actually continued to advance. Resurrecting ancestors was also a nice touch and added a bit more danger and obstacles for the main protagonist, Nathaniel.

I like the fact that Nathaniel wasn't the only main focal point of the story. There were several interesting supporting characters that added flare. Gerald, Roberto, Daisy, and Tatiana all received their fair share of character development, and they each possessed distinct personalities. When writing from multiple points of view, it isn't always easy to make each character perfectly unique, but McGann seemed to have no problems in this department! There was also a moral to the story. Nathaniel started out as a privileged teen who had absolutely everything handed to him. He even ran away to Africa in order to get away from his father's influence. However, he had to learn that you don't magically receive a position. It takes hard work, determination, and the gaining of respect in order to attain both a title and power. Plus, being cruel and heartless doesn't get you very far and pretty much destroys the lives of everyone else around you.

In the end, Ancient Appetites provided a whirlwind of a ride that allows the reader to explore a family governed by cruel endeavors. The characters are surrounded by deadly plots, deceit, and recently awakened ancestors that will disrupt the entire household order. Simply put, the reader is in for one hell of a ride!

If you enjoyed this book, you may also like:

The Wisdom of Dead Men (The Wildenstern Saga #2) by Oisin McGann

This review was written by: C
Received: Publisher (Open Road Media)
Publication Date of Book: December 2015
Pages: 408
Stars: 4/5

Official Summary:

While investigating a series of mysterious murders, Nate uncovers dark secrets that threaten to reveal the true nature of the Wildenstern family.

The British Empire is no longer the authority it once was. Instead, it's controlled by private business organizations--the most powerful of which is Ireland's ruthless Wildenstern family. Eighteen-year-old Nathaniel Wildenstern has given up his dreams of travel and adventure to devote himself to being his brother Berto's head of security. With the help of his wife, Daisy, Berto wants to change the barbaric ways of the clan. But there are many among the Wildensterns who like things the way they are, and will resort to whatever devious methods necessary to keep it that way. 

Meanwhile, the burnt bodies of women are appearing around Dublin. When a connection to the Wildenstern family is discovered, Nate, Daisy, and Nate's sister Tatiana decide to investigate. Soon the young Wildensterns are digging into shadowy societies and dark family secrets that date back to the origin of the engimals, who are part animal, part machine. And what they find could shed light on the savage nature of the Wildensterns themselves.

My Thoughts: 

I have to say that it's almost impossible to find a series that only gets better and better as it progresses. Oisin McGann has no doubt achieved this. I was so excited to continue The Wildenstern Saga once I finished Ancient Appetites, and The Wisdom of Dead Men met just about every single one of my expectations. There was more betrayal, bloodshed, and countless Wildenstern family secrets coming to light. The mystery and action never ceased, and the story only became far more interesting and complex.

McGann has a talent for juggling a plethora of characters. Although you might pick Nate out as the main protagonist (and an amazing one at that), the story doesn't solely revolve around him. Daisy, Tatiana, Berto, and countless other characters get appear in this second installment and receive their fair share of the limelight. I really haven't come across a book or series that's truly been able to explore so many characters and do it justly. Usually there are only two perspectives and maybe a single side plot that gets the reader through the story. However, McGann is capable of taking many characters and weaving a tremendous tale. I am so glad that McGann continued this trend, as it just adds so much more depth to the story!

It was also interesting to see an accurate historical representation of how women were treated in the nineteenth century. Some may refer to the treatment of women in this book as sexist, but that's how life was then and the author was trying to portray this time period with justice. Although this treatment was extremely unfair, McGann was able to show just how capable Daisy and Tatiana were of overcoming many obstacles that society placed before them. Half the time they were far more intelligent than the men who behaved as if they were above their female counterparts, and I loved that!

You will definitely not be disappointed for picking up the second installment to The Wildenstern Saga. This particular novel has even more twists,  turns, and deception (I really don't want to give any spoilers, as revealing what characters die and who the killer is will definitely spoil all of the fun and excitement!). Trust me when I say that it has everything you could  ask for, and the steampunk aspect is starting to rev up! I saw that some readers complained that there weren't enough facets of a steampunk world to really label the series as "steampunk." However, we are coming ever closer to discovering how the engimals came into existence and what is found within the blood of the Wildensterns. 

This particular book may be a bit of what I would refer to as a "bridge" between the first and final book of a series. The story may also have had a few odd additions to the plot, but they were all required for the final installment and what will come to pass in Merciless Reason. People often say that the first book of a series is the best. I do agree that I loved the first book a bit more, but the second was still an amazing read!

As a side note, I really wish that this series got more attention. And I am so grateful to Open Road Media for making it available within the U.S. There are so many authors whose works aren't available to North American readers,  and I am so glad I didn't miss out on McGann's work.

If you enjoyed this book, you may also like:

Merciless Reason (The Wildenstern Saga #3) by Oisin McGann

This Review was Written by: C
Received: Publisher (Open Road Media)
Publication Date of Book: April 2016
Pages: 466
Stars: 4.5/5

Official Summary:

There's no such thing as escaping the Wildensterns.

It's been three years since Nathaniel Wildenstern left Ireland and his ruthless family behind. But no one turns his back on the Wildensterns, the powerful family controlling what was once the British Empire. While Nate's been gone, one of his maniacal cousins has been hard at work researching engimals, the bizarre living machines with the brains of animals, with the intent of creating the ultimate new species. When Nate learns what his cousin has been up to, he knows he must return and put a stop to it. But in his absence, his clan has become even more despised for its merciless hunger for power. For Nate to succeed, he'll have to return in secret because wherever the Wildensterns go, violence and betrayal are sure to follow.

My Thoughts:

They always say that good things must come to an end. However, I can't believe that the Wildenstern Saga has truly come to a conclusion! McGann had me hooked from the very beginning, and I don't want to let any of his amazing characters go. 

Merciless Reason brought the entire saga to a thrilling finale. The story of the engimals and their existence is finally revealed in its entirety, and there were so many plot twists that utterly drew me in. I especially love the fact that the story of Nathaniel's mother and father unfolds throughout the book. I was finally able to discover what led to the terrible dissolution of their tragic relationship, and I have to add that it was extremely clever to unfold this particular arc of the story through Edgar's journal entries. I didn't have to discern what kind of human being he was based upon an outsider's perspective or through the opinions of his children and various other relatives. Instead, I was able to view the world through his very own eyes. 

I know that I have mentioned this several times before, but I have to reiterate the fact that McGann is highly skilled in weaving multiple story lines and subplots so that they are capable of intersecting at just the right moment to create a spectacular chain of events. I am amazed at how well he was able to intertwine the separate events surrounding Nate, Clancy, Tatiana, Daisy, Gerald, and many other side characters. No one gets left out, and they each serve a particular purpose in McGann's grand scheme. Plus, the character development is spectacular! Nate and Gerald changed so much from how they were portrayed in Ancient Appetites. And the deep and gradual alterations in their characters aren't your typical type of character development. They truly became completley different people and I value the extensive maturation and progress that occurred.

My only disappointment was that it took almost the entire book for Nate to finally return to the Wildenstern mansion. I was almost expecting him to get there, at the very latest, in the middle of the story. However, this was rectified when the final showdown between Nate and his deranged cousin finally began. I was happy that the meaning behind  the title of Ancient Appetites had a bit of a role in this battle, and its meaning was slightly bizarre, but clever. Plus, McGann is capable of elaborately illustrating any form of action that occurs. I know that I sometimes don't appreciate great details that are included during battle scenes. However, McGann's descriptions only made the scenes play out more vividly within my imagination, and I actually found myself enjoying these adept descriptions. 

All-in-all, the Wildenstern Saga has become one of my favorite series! It's a gem that's not very easy to come by, and I hope countless readers will enjoy it must as much as I did!

If you enjoyed this book, you may also like:

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