An army veteran with deep expertise in military and international affairs makes his fiction debut with this electrifying international thriller—the first volume in a blistering hot series in the tradition of Brad Thor, Tom Clancy, and Daniel Silva. In Shadow War, an elite American mercenary on a secret mission to save a businessman’s family in Eastern Europe must navigate perilous setbacks and deadly enemies that threaten to tip the balance of power between Russia and the United States.
Tom Locke is an elite warrior working for Apollo Outcomes, one of the world’s most successful private contracting firms. Pulled out of a mission in Libya, he is tapped for an unusual and risky assignment: a top secret black op in Ukraine. He is given one week to rescue an oligarch’s family and pull off a spectacular assault that could have long-lasting repercussions for this imperiled Eastern European nation and the world.
What Locke doesn’t know is that the operation comes with a dangerous complication: Brad Winters. Locke’s ambitious and enigmatic boss is engaged in a secretive, high-stakes geopolitical chess game with several influential powerbrokers in capitals around the world. One misstep could cost him—and Locke—everything.
While Locke has methodically planned the mission and hand-picked a team of trusted operatives to pull it off—and save his ass if things go south—he doesn’t count on running into a former love, war correspondent Alie MacFarlane, who impulsively makes a move that risks both their lives. Locke is an intelligent, iconoclastic soldier who specializes in pulling off the impossible. But all his brilliant preparation can’t prevent the kind of backstabbing and deception that could lead to catastrophe . . . and tip the balance of power toward Putin’s Russia.
About the Author
Sean McFate is a professor of strategy at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank. He served as a paratrooper in the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and then worked for a major private military corporation, where he ran operations similar to those in this book. He is the author of The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order, and holds a BA from Brown University, a MA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). He lives with his wife in Washington, DC.
Bret Witter has co-authored eight New York Times bestsellers, including the #1 bestseller The Monuments Men. He lives with his family in Decatur, Georgia.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Shadow War by Sean McFate follows Tom Locke, an American mercenary, on a week-long mission to rescue a Ukrainian oligarch and lead an assault on Russian forces - all the while being tailed by his ex-lover, war correspondent Alie MacFarlane. This novel contains a lot of detail about military and government practices, which lends authenticity to both the plot and Tom's narration. The setting, too, is meticulously described, making for an immersive reading experience. McFate clearly did his research. Alternating between first person and third person was a stroke of genius, as it allowed McFate to establish a sense of intimacy between Tom and the reader while simultaneously allowing him to broaden the context of the story when necessary. Moreover, it was interesting seeing and hearing about Tom from the perspective of the other characters. And viewed through any POV, Tom is a well-done character: flawed, bold, and funny, with an unfailing sense of justice - the archetypal American hero, whom readers can't help but like even if he's become somewhat of a cliche. Lines like this one - "I never thought anything would make me long for Karpenko's brown bread and lard, but it had only taken half a day to find something worse" - had me snickering to myself quite a bit. The only issue I had with the novel was its pacing. Although I appreciated the care that McFate took to develop the plot, setting, and characters, there were times when the details seemed to bog down the plot. Considering how action-packed the prologue was, I was disappointed when the next significant action scene didn't come until about halfway through the novel. For a military thriller, this novel unfortunately seemed to lack consistent thrills. That being said, this was still a richly described, entertaining novel with a likable narrator and a surprising amount of depth for a novel in the military thriller genre. I'd definitely recommend it!
I stumbled upon this book when I read Sean McFate's rebuttal to Eric Prince's proposal to turn the US's operation in Afghanistan over to private contractors, aka mercenaries. Naturally I had to check out his novel, and I was not disappointed. When I say I was not disappointed, I must emphasize that this is very definitely a book of its genre, that is, the high-octane spy thriller. There's not a lot of deep introspection or elegant, polished prose: instead what we get are in-depth descriptions of clothes, cars, and weapons. Lots and lots of weapons. If you know what a SAW is (I admit my knowledge is pretty sketchy, but I don't think you use it for cutting wood) or have deep feelings about Berettas, then you'll probably get lots out of this book, maybe more than I did, since the differences between SA-80s, AKs, and M-4s are meaningless to me. That being said, I trust the author's knowledge on that particular topic, since he was, after all, a mercenary himself, a title the main character has the decency to own up to, at least inside his own head, since he can't really go around admitting to everyone what it is he does. There's a fair amount about the lonely nobility of the mercenary profession, which works really as a trope in fiction and actually makes for quite a compelling read. I myself am rather less sanguine about the potential of mercenaries to do good in the world than the characters are, but I'm perfectly happy to read about them and the action is cleverly developed, with lots of cutting back and forth between different and competing points of view. Furthermore, while there are plenty of cliches here, I have to give the authors props for including an unusually interesting and well-rounded female lead, who manages to get off some of the best zingers in the book, such as when she looks at the bookshelf of a young CIA operative and notes that he has the typical reading collection of his type, which includes absolutely zero books by women, unless that woman is Margaret Thatcher. That kind of cutting insight is part of what makes this particular book worth reading, out of all the spy thrillers there are out there to choose from. The book is set during the current conflict in Ukraine, which makes it highly topical. The Russians are unabashedly evil and the enemy to be defeated as part of the modern Great Game, something the author, once again, at least has the decency to admit to straight out, while the anti-Russian Ukrainians are the good guys, and with nary a swastika or wolfsangel in sight. The ending is sufficiently explosive, and sets up the possibility for a fun series.