Archive for the ‘Black Library’ Category

25111218Unless you have been living in a bomb shelter or have an extremely limited of knowledge of the current status of Warhammer 40k advents, then you wouldn’t be aware that, I Am Slaughter, by the legendary Dan Abnett, is the first installment in a large scale series of novels entitled “The Beast Arises”.

To be honest I’ve read books about Space Marines battling Orks; shocked, right? I’ll let you in on another little secret: I’ve read a lot of books about Space Marines battling Orks and this is what made me a little hesitant in jumping aboard this new series. I figured that I am Slaughter would simply be more of the same and it is, more or less.

The pacing of this one was a slow burn for me. I don’t think I really started getting into it until about page fifty. You can tell that Abnett was instructed to lay out a myriad of plots for future authors to follow, also his normal character attachments and dialogue I reminisce about when discussing his writing is a tad lacking. I recognized his banter mostly within the character Magos Laurentis near the end of the book.

I did enjoy the mystique behind the battle on Ardamantua with the Chromes. The eventual play of the Orks behind the gravitational issues and death of the world didn’t evolve exactly as I was expecting, which was nice. Abnett has also created some pretty high expectations for whichever authors get to play around with Vangorich and Beast Krule in the follow-up books.

I Am Slaughter ends with only questions and leaves the reader craving more. I’m excited to see where Rob Sanders picks up in the next installment Predator, Prey and I think Black Library’s The Beast Arises series has a bright future ahead of it. “Daylight Wall stands forever. No wall stands against it.” – Daylight

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blprocessed-ragnar20cover  In all aspects of this story, Ragnar Blackmane by Aaron Dembski-Bowden reads like a tribute tale in honor of past Ragnar works, and that is a very good thing. This is somewhat of a saga within a saga and it took awhile for the past to meet up with the present and I wasn’t entirely sure that it was eventually going to connect as smoothly as it did.

Ragnar starts out waist deep in a hopeless battle on Cadia; he makes a promise to hold back the endless tide of invaders until sunset. While preparing for a final wave of assailants, he is speaking his fallen brother’s names out-loud in honor of their memories as per his ritual, when he is posed with the question of: Who is the one battle-brother Ragnar would most wish by his side at this hour? His answer is “Razortongue”

The flash back to Ragnar and Razortongue’s time together is how I am reminded of past Ragnar books, tales of a young Ragnar committing rash mistakes and having to fight tooth and claw to make amends for his errors.

I only have one quarrel with this book: the serializing change from the first few Lords of the Space Marines limited editions to this Space Marine Legends series title, the switch to this identical format but with a different series name makes absolutely no sense to me.

My review doesn’t do the book justice, however, as the glorious cover and limited edition format is well worth the cover price for any collector and the story is beautifully written. It was enough to dig me out of my grave and write a minor tribute to one of the great Black Library authors, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, and pay tribute to his fine work.

Sigmar’s Blood is one interesting little novella that incorporates much of what makes Warhammer Fantasy such an excellent universe, but at times the read can be a tad jumpy and overfilled with characters.
Mannfred Von Carstein is hell-bent on reclaiming the land of Sylvania and a crusade comprised of only the most devout followers of their various religions has a chance of stemming this evil. At the forefront of the crusade is Grand Theogonist Volkmar, who at times seems to have the ability to shoot out bolts of pure faith in order to banish the undead or heal the wounded. Volkmar was a strong character, but my favorite was the battle entrenched witch hunter, Von Korden. Von Korden barely slows or takes a rest in his pursuit to destroy one of Carstein’s allies, a Necromancer named Ghorst. We find out later that Von Korden is so driven because he is seeking retribution for the murder of his family.
The opening description of the Necromancer Ghorst is especially noteworthy and I think it really exemplifies Phil Kelly’s imaginative writing ability which is the strength throughout the novel focused on the gory details of battle and the undead. Ghorst is literally dragged in on a rotting bone carriage, pulled stuttering across the lands by hitched-up undead. Inside the carriage are mounds of putrefied and still squirming corpses, all the while Ghorst is singing a song and a bell on the carriage is tolling out.
Next is Jovi Sunscryer a powerful wizard of the Light Order and his two acolytes. Wait what, more characters? Yes, more characters, there are tons more characters in this novella of only one-hundred and twenty some odd pages. Flagellants, Crusaders, Mercenaries, The Silver Bullets, Knights of the Blazing Sun, Sigmar’s Sons, Tattersouls, a group of militia men from The Drunken Goat, Reiksguard, and a few Royal Altdorf Gryphites. The funny thing is the number of men from these accompaniments only total around a hundred and ten or so and I think we are introduced to about half of them.
The other disorienting bit in Sigmar’s Blood for me is the battle locations. We are continually jumping from one ruined site to another in some semi-epic confrontation with the undead but I’m never really sure how anyone ended up there.
Despite these small annoyances, Sigmar’s Blood is actually a real treat to read. Beautifully graphic descriptions of decay, death, and gore. A solid, fast paced read from one scene to the next, if a bit jumpy. Then the ending, another Black Library story that leaves so damn many strings left either uncut or that simply fall out of the readers hands into the lands of imagination. Sigmar’s Blood is most definitely worth the read if you can stomach a few minor faults.

As a book reviewer I’m able to get my hands on more upcoming books than most sane people should be able to. However…. there are always those few precious shiny arcs that allude my grasp. Here is my list of current Books Worth Dying For:

A Different Kingdom by Paul Kearney (Solaris Books)

Michael Fay is a normal boy, living with his grandparents on their family farm in rural Ireland. In the woods—once thought safe and well-explored—there are wolves; and other, stranger things. He keeps them from his family, even his Aunt Rose, his closest friend, until the day he finds himself in the Other Place. There are wild people, and terrible monsters, and a girl called Cat.
When the wolves follow him from the Other Place to his family’s doorstep, Michael must choose between locking the doors and looking away—or following Cat on an adventure that may take an entire lifetime in the Other Place. He will become a man, and a warrior, and confront the Devil himself: the terrible Dark Horseman..

I’ve read a little of Kearney’s previous work and the man is ridiculously talented. I’ve been drooling over this one.

Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell (Jo Fletcher Books)

Falcio is the first Cantor of the Greatcoats. Trained in the fighting arts and the laws of Tristia, the Greatcoats are traveling Magisters upholding King’s Law. They are heroes. Or at least they were, until they stood aside while the Dukes took the kingdom, and impaled their King’s head on a spike.

Now Tristia is on the verge of collapse and the barbarians are sniffing at the borders. The Dukes bring chaos to the land, while the Greatcoats are scattered far and wide, reviled as traitors, their legendary coats in tatters.

All they have left are the promises they made to King Paelis, to carry out one final mission. But if they have any hope of fulfilling the King’s dream, the divided Greatcoats must reunite, or they will also have to stand aside as they watch their world burn…

I don’t need to say much except.. I Want. I Want. I Want.

The Three By Sarah Lotz (Hodderscape)
They’re here … The boy. The boy watch the boy watch the dead people oh Lordy there’s so many … They’re coming for me now. We’re all going soon. All of us. Pastor Len warn them that the boy he’s not to??–

The last words of Pamela May Donald (1961 – 2012)

Black Thursday. The day that will never be forgotten. The day that four passenger planes crash, at almost exactly the same moment, at four different points around the globe.

There are only four survivors. Three are children, who emerge from the wreckage seemingly unhurt. But they are not unchanged. And the fourth is Pamela May Donald, who lives just long enough to record a voice message on her phone. A message that will change the world.

This one snuck up on me, sounds brilliant though.

 

Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen (Strange Chemistry)
For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

Certain YA books are either huge hits or misses for me. Stolen Songbird sounds like it might be something truly special.

Morningside Fall by Jay Posey (Angry Robot Books)
The lone gunman Three is gone, and Wren is the new governor of the devastated settlement of Morningside, but there is turmoil in the city. When his life is put in danger, Wren is forced to flee Morningside until he and his retinue can determine who can be trusted.

They arrive at the border outpost, Ninestory, only to find it has been infested with Weir in greater numbers than anyone has ever seen. These lost, dangerous creatures are harbouring a terrible secret – one that will have consequences not just for Wren and his comrades, but for the future of what remains of the world.

Three by Jay Posey was fantastic, Morningside Fall, might just be better.

 

 

 

The Shadow Master by Craig Cormick (Angry Robot Books)
In a land riven with plague, in the infamous Walled City, two families vie for control – the Medicis with their genius inventor Leonardo; the Lorraines with Galileo, the most brilliant alchemist of his generation.

And when two star-crossed lovers, one from either house, threaten the status quo, a third, shadowy power – one that forever seems a step ahead of all of the familial warring – plots and schemes, and bides its time, ready for the moment to attack…

Another Angry Robot Book common man… Sorry, but AR doesn’t disappoint often, this one oozes excellence.

 

 

 

 

 

Yarrick: Imperial Creed by David Annandale (Black Library)
Yarrick: the very name carries the weight of legend, of great deeds and of wars won for the Imperium.
But Sebastian Yarrick, who fought on Armageddon, who Space Marine Chapter Masters show their fealty to on bended knee, was not always Lord Commissar. He was once just a man, a newly minted officer from the ranks of the schola progenium.

His first mission under the tutelage of Lord Commissar Rasp was on Mistral. Here, an uprising of barons had upset the delicate balance of power. But, as Yarrick was soon forced to learn, Mistral and Imperial politics are often murky, the truth seldom clear cut. As war engulfs the world, a plot unravels that pits old friends against one another and fashions unusual alliances. Chaos cults, the fanatical Adepta Sororitas and clandestine inquisitors all stand between Yarrick and his mission. Here is where the legend began. In this crucible was Lord Commissar Sebastian Yarrick forged in blood.

More Yarrick. Imperial Guard. David Annandale. Count me in.

Have a recent book that you think is Worth Dying For? Let me know!

Censure by Nick Kyme is exactly what Warhammer 40k needs more of: a realistic mesh of superhuman space marines and those they serve to protect against the forces of chaos. Censure brings back flashes of one of my personal favorite short stories, Paul Kearney’s The Last Detail, with its inclusion of a Space Marine needing assistance from a lowly human in order to obtain success with a vital mission.  That fact alone pretty much sold me on purchasing the audio drama, just to witness the relationship between Ultramarine and Imperial Trooper.

Aeonid Thiel is a character I’m not overly familiar with, as I’m not a huge Horus Heresy nut, but this audio drama was too sweet to pass over and I’m now totally digging his character.  In Censure, Thiel and Imperial Guardsman Rowd are tasked with liberating the Ultramarines’ stronghold that has recently been taken over by Dark Apostle Kurtha Sedd and his warband. That is of course, if they can survive long enough to mount an assault and return trip.

The highlight of Censure is the duel between Aenoid Thiel and the daemonic Word Bearer inside the abandoned Legion XIII Tank. The description of the mutating Word Bearer in audio format was bliss to envision, for the mind of the listener.

The narration of the audio, the voice casting of Gareth Armstrong, Sean Barret, Martyn Ellis, Chris Fairbank, and David Timson is all spot on. The music, the audio effects, every piece of Censure was really a pleasure to listen to and the product Heavy Entertainment has created for Black Library is really impressive. I’m not sure who did the cover art for the CD, but it is a poster-worthy piece.

This being my second audio Black Library creation, the first being David Annandale’s Veritas Ferrum, I have to start considering this as a new viable  and promising medium for story telling one – that I previously dismissed. If you are on the ledge about purchasing an audio drama from Black Library, as I was, I would highly recommend this one for getting your feet wet.

In The Death of Antagonis, David Annandale, has created a war of attrition for the Black Dragons Space Marine chapter, one in which most won’t survive fully intact. The Black Dragons is a chapter rife with mutation, a chapter whose loyalty to the Emperor is questioned at every turn by the Inquisition, and a chapter who is about to face near annihilation from their perfectly matched counter parts: Cardinal Nessun and his band of chaos marines, The Swords of Epiphany.

The main arcing plot for this novel is securely clutched in the hands of Nessun. This madman is always one step ahead of the Black Dragons, quickly moving from one planetary destruction to the next, either to setup his diabolical masterpiece or to lay a false trail of bread crumbs to throw the dragons off his scent. However, it is the more subtle plots beneath that surface that I find really shine in this novel.

I enjoyed the stark contrasting themes behind the colors of the pure white Swords of Epiphany battling for chaos while the dark and damned Dragons die in the Emperor’s name.  I also liked the fact that Nessun twists sweet lies through the warp to corrupt those of the Black Dragons who have become most susceptible to his poison of “purity”. So in the midst of tracking down Nessun, the Dragons are faced with an inner turmoil that might shatter them apart, from within their own ranks.  White against Dark, Purity against Mutation, and with the novel’s conclusion comes my favorite question: Is the Imperium of Man simply the lesser of two evils?

I realize I haven’t touched on the characters involved with The Death of Antagonis much, aside from Cardinal Nessun, so here is your cast of deadly players:  More monster than space marine – Volos, one of the few remaining Black Dragons untouched by mutation; Toharan, Inquisitor Werner Lettinger who is hell-bent on purging the Black Dragons corruption, and Canoness Setheno, a mysterious battle sister who brings a solid punch to the table and another shocking truth to be revealed later.  Volos and Setheno team up in an attempt to preserve the Black Dragon chapter, while Toharan and Lettinger want to burn and cleanse it into something new and pure.

The Death of Antagonis is all about the extremes and Annandale really blows the doors off in that aspect. His writing style is also unique, in that he has the ability to switch on and off seamlessly from a general’s viewpoint to a front line grunt, which is something that mirrors  Abnett’s legendary ability in bringing realism into his works. The Death of Antagonis leaves me wondering if it is just my human nature that rationalizes the good in man and wants the Space Marines to be the “good guys”, serving a life-long sentence to protect the weak. The Black Dragons are a necessary evil, but are they that much different than those of the chaos they claim to abhor?

IMAG0287Warhammer 40k Imperial Guard novels are one of my guilty pleasures and Iron Guard by Mark Clapham didn’t disappoint. The novel is structured around the Unbreakable Mordian 114th, and in particular, newly initiated guardsman Fernand Hool along with those closest around him.

For the 114th battle on Elisenda was simple enough: eliminate the rebel never ending and production cannot be stopped. However, simple and routine evolves rapidly when Major Geiss is appointed a strike force and tasked with investigating an unknown situation on the mining planet, Belmos VII. Belmos VII, appearing dead and abandoned upon initial contact is anything but, and the strike force is quickly under duress when day turns to night.

Hool, Sergeant Polk, and Lieutenant Smoker provide your core group, and you couldn’t ask for a more unbreakable trio to cover your backside. The relationship existing between Polk and Hool isn’t anything new to Imperial Guard novels. (At the beginning of the book Polk is the reason for Hool joining the guard, a solid introduction lending Polk a watchdog role.) also I enjoyed the slow-played transition of Hool and his character advancement throughout the novel, especially upon conclusion. He was always a solid shot and stand-up guardsman, now he is both something more and perhaps something less.

Without giving too much away, Major Geiss tries fervently to dig to the bottom of what’s behind the malaise affecting the citizen population on Belmos VII and their “change in demeanor” during the night. Let’s just say it is something of Xenos in origin and most of the 114th strike force won’t live to see it through to the fiery conclusion.

I loved the collage of forces crashing together at the end and especially the raising battle field hidden deep beneath the surface. Clapham did a fantastic job with the introduction of one other main character and I hope to see more of his and the Iron Guard’s interaction in further developed Guard novels, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ll get straight to the point, Iron Guard was a brilliant and excellent introductory novel by Mark Clapham. You can be assured I would be overjoyed at reading a follow-up. But so far most of the Imperial Guard novels have been simple stepping stones for other Black Library author and sadly, those novels have become stand-alone pieces as their authors whisk away to other more vaunted works with “Space Marines” and such. So it is with a heavy hand that I am afraid that I may have turned the final pages on the 114th Iron Guard, Hool, and Smoker, most likely never to read of their exploits again.