‘A modern retelling of an ancient story about lost soldiers who can never go home.’ @TerryTyler4 reviews #Thriller An Idle King by Andrew Paterson. #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Terry has been reading An Idle King by Andrew Paterson

‘An Idle King is a modern retelling of an ancient story about lost soldiers who can never go home.’

Callum King, a former army officer, is trying to come to terms with civilian life, including family difficulties and the depressing veterans’ meetings. Following news about one of his soldiers who was involved in the incident that led to Callum’s discharge, he joins a team employed by a private security company, going back into Afghanistan for a chaotic, dangerous and mysterious mission.

That the author has a military background is clear from this book, not only in the practical detail but the way in which he describes the emotional state rigours of his characters. The book is extremely well-written and certainly kept me turning the pages; Andrew Paterson has a good deal of understated talent.

The secondary characters are a fairly stereotypical bunch that one would expect in a story of this genre, whether in a book or a film – the naïve newbie, the brute, the big fatherly guy who doesn’t talk much, the one female officer who becomes his right-hand-woman, the psychological wreck … but because they’re so well-drawn they didn’t feel clichéd at all. Callum himself is complex and confused; although the book is written in the third person, it still manages to show us inside his and others’ heads rather than coming from a detached, omniscient narrator.

The revelation about the true nature of the mission comes as a shock to the reader as well as to Callum – it says a lot about this world, and none of it good. There were so many quotes I loved, that spoke about the wider world as well as the country that Paterson clearly has great feeling for:

‘Your people have been coming here for thousands of years trying to conquer our country. You might as well throw sand against a mountain.’

‘Habs spots a caravan of Kuchis trundling along the dried out riverbed … mostly men in long wool coats, shepherding goats and sheep. But some women, too, riding on the backs of camels or walking with small children in their arms … together on some ancient migration, following routes seared deep into their forgotten histories.’

Nation states are finished. The future is the market state. Instead of parliament and politicians, now the world’s run by hedge fund managers and venture capitalists.’

‘Callum knows all these men even though he hasn’t met them before … the scars on their faces, the missing limbs, the suffering in their eyes. They’re the children of war, soldiers in name only. Boys who grew up without fathers. Boys who were handed a rifle or the trigger to an improvised explosive device by old men who live far away … and when the old men were finished with them, they were tossed aside like spent shell casings.

‘They’re two old soldiers who went away to fight wars in far off places started by fat men for petty reasons.’

The ending is one of those that offers some resolution but not too much; it’s sad and kind of mournful, but so right for the story. It really is a very good book; I’d most definitely recommend.

Desc 1

Imagine fighting a war no one wanted you to win. Imagine never wanting to leave.

Afghanistan has been abandoned by the international community. Left to the ravages of warlords and mercenaries, vying for dominance over the new Silk Road.

For Callum King, a former officer who was discharged from the army, his past remains very much tied to that forsaken place. When he receives an offer from one of his former soldiers to work for a private security company in Kandahar, the contract represents an opportunity to make amends for his failures as a soldier and a leader. But the cost would mean walking away from a family that he’s tried so hard to put back together.

An Idle King is a modern retelling of an ancient story about lost soldiers who can never go home.

AmazonUK AmazonUS

‘The author writes beautifully and vividly about landscapes, people, and situations’. @OlgaNM7 reviews military #thriller An Idle King by Andrew Paterson

Today’s team review is from Olga. She blogs here https://www.authortranslatorolga.com

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Olga has been reading An Idle King by Andrew Paterson

I didn’t know the author before reading this book, and there isn’t much information available about him, other than the brief biography included above, which mentions his army experience that comes through loud and clear in the novel.

The plot can be summed up quite briefly: Callum King, a former army officer who was discharged in not very good terms, is struggling to find his place in civilian life. He is running a group of veterans and is back with his family, but there is something amiss. When he hears about one of his soldiers —the one involved in the incident that led to his discharge— he sees it as an opportunity to make amends, despite his family’s reluctance to his getting involved. So, he ends up back in Afghanistan in what proves to be the mission from hell (or close enough).

Although the main character and most of the members of his team will be recognisable to readers of war novels or people who watch war films, the story is not the typical one of heroism under fire and all resourceful soldiers who can deal with anything (although there is something of the brothers-in-arms at play). Regret, the difficulty in fitting back into life as usual, finding one’s place and identity in a changed and changing world, learning how to communicate with family members, discovering the narratives and stories that keep us anchored in the past and prevent us from moving on… It is a book that is not afraid to look into the depths of its protagonist’s soul and mind, to go digging even further, and it doesn’t pander to anybody’s expectations.

Callum is a complex character who tries his hardest to be true to himself and to not disappoint everybody else’s expectations (those of his father, his wife, his son, his friends, and team members, his employers, and society at large), but he has difficulty understanding himself and getting his priorities in order. It is difficult to identify fully with him because most of us have never experienced anything even remotely like what he went through, but the author shares with us his thoughts and point of view (although narrated in the third person, the use of the present makes us feel as if we were there), and we also get to share in some of the other characters’ thoughts and experiences, and that gives us a wider perspective of the situation while we can also appreciate how he comes across to others.

The rest of the characters are quite varied: the somewhat naïve but eager and less-experienced soldier; a non-military medic who ends up in a very tricky situation; a couple of soldiers who bail off as soon as they have any misgivings about the whole thing; a soldier more interested in his boxing career than in anything else, a fabulous huge and fatherly Maori from New Zealand whom I loved; as I did Murph, a female soldier who becomes Callum’s right hand and is resourceful as can be; a man that has lost his way but still retains his loyalty; a local with inside knowledge caught in the middle of an impossible situation… Oh, and the client is disagreeable, unbearable, demanding…. They also come across some fascinating individuals, but I won’t try and mention every single one of them. Let me just say that it feels at times as if we were on a mythical trip (The Odyssey perhaps), where we go from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the magical to the most abject carnage, and from naked realism to the heights of surrealism.

I have mentioned the point of view, and the author writes beautifully (some of the scenes are indeed breathtaking) and vividly about landscapes, people, and situations, some real and some hallucinatory or dreamlike. The pace is not constant, and there are slow and contemplative moments, but also action scenes that rump up the rhythm and the tension. Although this is not a violence-fest or a narration overflowing with senseless gore, there are very violent scenes, so I wouldn’t recommend it to people looking for a peaceful and relaxing read. This is, after all, a book set in a territory where war and armed conflict have become the norm, whatever the official status of the nation might be at any given time. The novel is peppered with military terms, some that I was vaguely familiar with, but others I didn’t really know (although that didn’t prevent me from following the story or being gripped by it). As I read an ARC copy, I wasn’t sure if later editions might include a glossary of terms, which readers not versed on the subject would appreciate.

The ending is bitter-sweet, because although it is not a happy ending (it wouldn’t be befitting to the book genre), I found the resolution satisfying, at least for the main character, and I am happy to confess that I felt very moved by the two last conversations in the book, where we see several generations of men of the same family, who have always cared about each other but never managed to talk in a meaningful way, finally communicating their true feelings for each other.

There are many quotable fragments I would like to share, but I will choose only a few, and you can always check a sample from your favourite online store if you wish to check it in more detail.

 “Your people have been coming here for thousands of years trying to conquer our country. You might as well throw sand against a mountain.”

 “Nation-states are finished. The future is the market-state. Instead of politicians and parliaments, now the world’s run by hedge fund managers and venture capitalists.”

 “You are fragmented and lacking certainty. You will not be able to make any decisions that way.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That is your problem, my friend. Like most people, you spend your life asking the wrong question.”

“Which is what?”

“What is my purpose?”

“Then what’s the right question?”

“What is our purpose?”

 “There`s so much he could say, so much he should say. Why do the truest things always remain unsaid?”

 I recommend this novel, which reminded me of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and even more of Apocalypse Now, to anybody who doesn’t mind harsh narratives that question the nature of reality, identity, war, and our own selves. Right now, when the future appears particularly uncertain, it seems more relevant than ever. A novel that will leave readers with more questions than answers, and one they will keep thinking about for a long time.

Desc 1

Imagine fighting a war no one wanted you to win. Imagine never wanting to leave.

Afghanistan has been abandoned by the international community. Left to the ravages of warlords and mercenaries, vying for dominance over the new Silk Road.

For Callum King, a former officer who was discharged from the army, his past remains very much tied to that forsaken place. When he receives an offer from one of his former soldiers to work for a private security company in Kandahar, the contract represents an opportunity to make amends for his failures as a soldier and a leader. But the cost would mean walking away from a family that he’s tried so hard to put back together.

An Idle King is a modern retelling of an ancient story about lost soldiers who can never go home.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS

‘The octane only creeps higher with every page turn’. Jenni reviews military #thriller An Idle King by Andrew Paterson #TuesdayBookBlog

Today’s team review is from Jenni. She blogs here https://jenniferdebie.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Jenni has been reading An Idle King by Andrew Paterson

Andrew Paterson’s An Idle King opens with the main character, Callum King, struggling to slot back into civilian life in Toronto, following military service in Afghanistan. King is just barely navigating support groups in church basements and negotiating some kind of normalcy with his wife and son when a call from an old Army buddy sends him to the other side of the globe—ostensibly to pull said Army buddy out of a sticky situation and make a tidy sum as a private defense contractor while he’s at it. This sounds like the opening to a raucous, blood and glory war movie, or video game, or (yes) novel, and in the hands of a different author An Idle King might have been just that, but it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong, there is action. It takes a few chapters for Callum to land back in-country, but once he arrives in Kabul the octane only creeps higher with every page turn. There’s also the band of warriors we’ve come to expect from stories like these, soldiers of fortune pulled from all around the globe, each with their own quirks, codes, and closets full of skeletons.

But where this could easily be a romp through an improbably explosive landscape full of hot lead and one-upmanship, instead Paterson gives his readers a meditation on war, trauma, and the people who get caught up in it.

I would not presume to guess at Paterson’s own experiences with war, but per his author’s bio, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the Canadian Army in 2010, the deadliest year for the US and her allies in Afghanistan up to that point. Coming from an author who has been in-country, there is an added authenticity to the writing, and the weight, that rests on all of the characters as they drag themselves, bared teeth and bloody, to the finale of their odyssey in the desert.

Absurd at times, intense, and heartrendingly human throughout, Andrew Paterson’s An Idle King is a knockout in ways I was not anticipating and is all the stronger for it.

4/5

First reviewed for Reedsy and reproduced with their permission.

Desc 1

Imagine fighting a war no one wanted you to win. Imagine never wanting to leave.

Afghanistan has been abandoned by the international community. Left to the ravages of warlords and mercenaries, vying for dominance over the new Silk Road.

For Callum King, a former officer who was discharged from the army, his past remains very much tied to that forsaken place. When he receives an offer from one of his former soldiers to work for a private security company in Kandahar, the contract represents an opportunity to make amends for his failures as a soldier and a leader. But the cost would mean walking away from a family that he’s tried so hard to put back together.

An Idle King is a modern retelling of an ancient story about lost soldiers who can never go home.

AmazonUK | AmazonUS