Be Careful Who You Trust In Sean McFate’s ‘Shadow War’ [REVIEW]

Man with gun on bridge

Mercenary Tom Locke wants revenge in Sean McFate and Bret Witter’s SHADOW WAR. (Photo by stephane, Flickr)

Sean McFate’s debut novel, Shadow War (co-written with Bret Witter), begins when a mercenary deep undercover in Libya is recalled to Washington. He is Tom Locke, an elite warrior for a private military company called Apollo Outcomes. Once he returns to the nation’s capital, he receives instructions that catapult him into the most dangerous adventure of his life.

This time out, Locke’s formidable and inscrutable boss, Brad Winters, is sending him to the Ukraine, but not before providing Locke with his personal phone number and with ominous instructions. “You’ll know when to call,” he says.

Even though Locke knows he’s being manipulated, he accepts the mission set before him. He has one week to rescue a businessman’s family and offset the balance of power in Eurasia.

Sean McFate and Bret Witter's SHADOW WAR

William Morrow

While waiting for a contact in Kiev, Locke encounters his former lover, ambitious reporter Alie MacFarlane. After eight years apart, she suspects there is more to this chance meeting than first meets the eye and follows her journalistic instincts. Ultimately, however, she puts herself and Locke’s men in peril as the op unfolds. She crosses a line that can’t be undone, and her interference costs lives, which strikes a bitter chord with Locke.

Although Shadow War may be bogged down in ultimately too much technical detail and military jargon for the average reader, Tom Locke is the saving grace within this story. The authors describe him as a military man who understands the need to complete his mission at any cost. However, after years of putting his heart, soul and mind into his missions, he finally realizes that the end result matters solely to Winters, not himself or his team. In the end, Winters considers them all collateral damage.

Now Locke wants payback, and this is what makes him most authentic as a character readers can relate to. After all, who of us hasn’t been let down by someone we thought had our best interests at heart?

If you loved shows like Burn Notice and The A-Team, but wish they had been as detailed as Sun Tzu’s The Art of WarShadow War will fascinate you and leave you hungry for more.


Sean McFate

Sean McFate
(Photo by Bill O’Leary, The Washington Post)

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 U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and then worked for a major private military corporation, where he ran operations similar to those in Shadow War

He is also the author of The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order, and holds a B.A. from Brown University, an M.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

He lives with his wife Jessica and baby son Aidan in Washington, D.C. Visit his home on the web at SeanMcFate.comVisit his home on the web at, find him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Bret Witter

Bret Witter
(Photo by Raftermen)

Bret Witter has coauthored eight New York Times bestselling books, including the number one bestseller The Monuments Menwhich was turned into a movie by George Clooney. His books have sold more than 2.5 million copies worldwide.

He studied literature at Duke University and worked for more than a decade in publishing before becoming a writer full time in 2006.

Although his work encompasses many genres and styles, his books focus on ordinary people and the nobility that comes with finding happiness and purpose.

He lives with his wife and two children in Decatur, Georgia. Visit his home on the web at and find him on Facebook.

By Sean McFate and Bret Witter
368 pgs. William Morrow. $25.99.

About Heather Fink
Heather Fink is a writer, bibliophile and award-winning librarian who loves to introduce the next generation of readers to the wonderful world of books. She currently resides in Texas.

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