A Book Spy Review: ‘Shadow War’ by Sean McFate and Bret Witter

Shadow War by Sean McFateUnlike the majority of new authors trying to make a name for themselves in the political and military-thriller genres, Sean McFate has lived the life he’s now writing about.

Drawing from his own experiences, having served in the prestigious 82nd Airborne division of the United States Army, as well as having worked for a private  military contractor, McFate adds realism and authenticity to a blistering story about deceit, corruption, and wars fought both by soldiers on the battlefield and by men wearing suits behind closed doors. 

Tom Locke is a former Tier One operator who now works for a very successful private contracting firm called Apollo Outcomes. While on an operation in Libya, Locke is recalled back to Washington, D.C., where he’s given a new assignment that is far more dangerous–which is his specialty. 

Locke’s orders are to head to Ukraine and rescue the family of a very wealthy businessman, then lead an assault on Russian forces–a move ultimately designed to place the rich oligarch in a position of influence and leadership. Locke assembles a team of highly-trained individuals who he trusts, but the mission starts out rocky when an old love stumbles, unluckily, back into his life at the very worst time imaginable.

What Locke doesn’t know is that Brad Winters, his boss at Apollo Outcomes, has his own secret objective tied to the mission. And given the choice, in order to get his hands on what he wants, Winters is more than happy to let Locke and his team become “collateral damage,” if necessary. 

With the deck unknowingly stacked against him and an old flame threatening to torch the entire mission before it even gets started, Tom Locke must find a way to stay alive long enough to beat the odds and complete his objectives. 

Told in first person narrative through Locke’s eyes, Sean McFate’s fictional debut reads like the second coming of New York Times bestselling author Brad Taylor. Shadow War is a rocketing, wickedly-fun ride. 

My thoughts

Shadow War is without a doubt one of the top-five debut military thrillers of the year. It’s explosive, well-crafted, and features nonstop action. We learn in the very beginning, during the scene in Libya, that Locke is a formidable and capable operative who is proficient with various weapons. That level of intensity is carried throughout the rest of the book, and I enjoyed the energy and fast pace that Sean McFate uses to tell this story.

The downside, though, is that between the many explosions and gunfights, there is very little character development. The result is multiple one-dimensional characters who never quite bond with the reader. McFate does his best to make up for that with a complex plot that develops and reveals more and more as the pages continue to turn, hooking the reader that way.

With shadowy figures and multiple antagonists, I found it easy to root for Locke even though we don’t know him quite as well as I’d like. I just hope the author continues to flesh out the characters in the future.

A self-proclaimed “opera-zealot” and lover of classical music, Sean McFate’s new novel Shadow Wars hits all the right notes and pops with gripping authenticity. If you enjoy the genre or are a fan of Brad Taylor’s Pike Logan series, you’ll love this book. 

Book Details

Author: Sean McFate (with Bret Witter)

Pages: 354 (Hardcover)

Publisher: William Morrow

Release Date: May 10, 2016 (Order now!)






Tom Locke, remember that name–because I fully expect him to win fans over and stick around for a very long time.

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