black library

Books, short stories once again (again)

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so, another batch of short stories read through.

 
The Sleep of the Dead by Darius Hinks. Fantasy

A group of well to do individuals meet for a regular drink and smoke and to share stories of horror, chaos and other unseemly tales. One individual recounts the tale of his doctors journey north in the hunt for gold. The story was presented as a group of curious men with too much time and money looking into things they shouldn’t, yet the tale they heard (that scared them) was dull. It also gained little from the setting, and would have been better presented as just a standard tale over an anecdote within a tale.
Path of Warriors by Neil McIntosh. Fantasy

An origin story for the Stefan Kumansky books. I haven’t read them, but from the description I found they’re typical warriors. In this book the boys are young and face an invasion of Marauders. While they are hidden the men of the village prepare to fight off the enemy. The story was ok, but ended fairly quickly.
Rat Trap by Robert Earl. Fantasy

A mercenary is hired by a down on his luck merchant whose staff have been seeing strange ratmen in the well. Seeing easy money the mercenary heads down the well to look for the rats. I enjoyed this, the focus on the disbelief in skaven is always entertaining given the broade knowledge readers have of how serious a threat there is. The tension and danger is well placed too.

Rotten fruit by Nathan Long. Fantasy

A prologue to the Blackhearts novels (another series I haven’t read), setting a dirty dozen style suicide squad in amongst a beleaguered castle under seige by chaos forces. Seeing no way of victory the team look to escape and bring back reinforcements before they’re missed and killed. Unfortunately whilst they have the protection of their ‘controller’ the reinforcements may not be so lucky. I enjoyed this, the small squad focus is often fun and the not quite good guys allows for far more flexibility in its characters. 

Leechlord by Frank Cavallo. Fantasy

A fairly standard short story about Festus Leechlord, a character of the warhammer world Iv liked without knowing much about. A knight is recovered from a battle with horrendous wounds. His fevered shouting calls for his healers to kill him. Flashbacks show Festus enhancing the infections in the Knights wounds. Whilst the story itself was a little straightforward and predictable the sheer amount of description of Festus and his motivations and desires made it a really interesting one to read.

 
Necessary Evil by Rob Sanders. 40k

A sequel to the Atlas Infernal novels (another I haven’t read), as Bronislaw Cvezak lands on a world in the Eye of Terror in the hunt for a powerful relic. Taken in by the indigenous people/mutants he needs to find it quickly as the Thousand Sons are approaching to claim it for themselves. This was entertaining, I don’t know the history between the inquisitor and Ahriman but seeing another renegade from the imperium still fighting the good fight was nice. The open ending was interesting too, I may need to find Atlas Infernal to have a read.

 Faith by Robert Earl. Fantasy

A bretonnian knight is deep in the wilds with winter approaching and no sign of a visit from the lady, or of a suitable trophy to return home. With his brother recently having been graced by a visit the jealousy is driving him onwards to find glory. This story however is seen from the perspective of his servant, an ageing man who served the Knights father. Whilst the adventure is average, the point of view and observations are really good, and add some additional focus in the light of recent End Times events. There’s a semi twist at the end which highlights the pride of the Knights.

Portrait of my Undying Lady by Gordon Rennie. Fantasy

A worn out, out of favour artist is employed by a vampires to paint her portrait, if it’s perfect she’ll reward him, of its not he’ll be ‘rewarded’ in another way. These stories that focus on the non war elements of the warhammer world are often a nice distraction and this definitely provided that. If have maybe preferred a slightly longer story with more delving into the vampiress’ character as I feel this would have enhanced the painters finding her ‘true’ self.
The Rite of Holos by Guy Haley. 40k

A beleaguered female imperial guard / planetary defence force is reinforced by a force of Blood Drinkers in a a battle against Genestealer Hybrids, but as the Astartes head into battle they’re fighting their own red thirst too. A fairly standard storyline though the collateral damage and loss to guard life is well covered.
Death Stares Back by Alex Helm. 40k

Not strictly speaking a black library publication, but the winning entry in a spoken short story competition. A tank crew on a standard mission against tyranids suffers engine failure and are soon swamped and surrounded by ‘nid forces, slowly hacking through the armoured panels. This was over quickly (not surprising given the word limit) but the closed environment and issues that causes were well handled.

Books, more short stories again

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so, despite my issues deciding what I want to read I’m still hitting the short stories regulary 

  
Nightspear by Joe Parrino. 40k

The first in a related trilogy published in The Carnac Campaign, this story focuses on Illic Nightspear and his eldar exiles attempting to ambush an awakening necron force. Unfortunately it goes wrong and becomes a race back to their webway portal before the Necron Deathmarks kill them all. This story was basically pants. There was no real insight into a major character of the Eldar, no real background or insight into the history of the exiles, Rangers or characters and no actual story. Illic lines up a kill shot, necrons disappear, necrons ambush the ambushers. Beyond that point it became an exercise in introducing an Eldar before having him killed by necrons, there wasn’t even any detail to that.  I’m hoping it was acting as a prologue to a meatier story in the other two short stories but I’m not holding my breath.

Sky Hunter by Graeme Lyon. 40k

Well that’s the way to drag me right back into interested. Set fairly soon after Nightspear this story focuses on the pilots of Eldar- the Crimson hunters and the pilots of the hemlock wraith fighters which apparently the Eldar consider to be anything from heretical an abomination, but that have a use against such foes as the Necrons. The story jumps quickly from character to character opening up so many distraught personalities before a segment in  which a spiritseer jumps (mentally) from mind to mind of various warriors on the battlefield of Carnac witnessing death and destruction through the eyes and bodies of basically every kind of Eldar warriors in the armies Codex army book. Far better than Nightspear with a large set up for the final story of the noon. However I’m leaving that one for the moment to catch up on a different book.

  

The Sound that Wakes You by Ben Chessell. Fantasy

A small forgotten village on the outskirts of Bretonnia is ruled by a tyrannical former knight and his henchmen. Everyone accepts this as the norm except the troublesome son of a blacksmith, he gets a bit overexcited and attempts to start a rebellion by burning a rose bush and his father is killed before he realises acceptance isn’t the same as patience. It was ok, no real surprises and the ending was too obvious, but it was an ok little tale of Bretonnia. It feels a bit weird reading these now that The End Times are coming and the relevance will be gone, it’ll be interesting to see where the background is taken.

Spirit War by Rob Sanders. 40k

After reading the previous two stories in the Carnac Campaign book I’d had a poor experience and a better one so was interested to see where a longer ‘short story’ would go. This one sets an army of Wraithguard, Wraithblades and Wraithlords against a Necron invasion force. The ‘dead’ warriors are sent to hold back the Necrons until Eldar civilians can retreat from the world via a Webway portal. This story could have been an interesting conflict between two unliving forces, but instead just seemed to be a blur of action without giving enough detail to actually explain what was happening. When the story reached a ‘last stand’ of the Wraiths I really lost interest.

 
The forever kitten by Peter F. Hamilton. Science fiction.

A geneticist in prison for breaking too many ethical boundaries is freed and whisked off to an obscure tropical island by a rich sponsor who wants him to complete his research, but his motives aren’t purely financial. This was a four page short story (so genuinely a short story) and initially felt a little too much like a standard accusation levelled at big pharmaceutical companies funding research outside of the law, but the twist midway through suggested some additional potential consequences of genetic manipulation. The twist made it very enjoyable.

 
 Dead Mans Party by Josh Reynolds. Fantasy

When you’re trusted with showing a potential donator a good time and he’s assassinated what do you do? Strap him to you and fight through a city of other assassins of course. This one was stupid, but a really fun read- as well as revisiting Dubnitz of Mananns blades.

The Mouth of Chaos by Chris Dows. 40k

An Elysian Imperial Guard force drop into a fortified volcano to take out a rebel force. The idea was very James Bondesque, and it worked well initially as the high speed drop allowed for a fast pace, however the lack of breaks in the text meant it felt too much. Perhaps if I’d read it through in one sitting I’d have enjoyed the non stop pace, but as its a human force I don’t want superhuman stamina. There was a nice Imperial Guard moment at the end as the debriefing leads into the briefing for the next war zone as the survivors are directed into another battle.

The Butchers Beast by Jordan Ellinger. Fantasy

A unit of Imperial Greatswords hold the line against the forces of chaos, post battle a chaos monstrosity rampages through their camp, bringing the attentions of a vindictive Witch Hunter. The story felt too much as though it had been taken from 40k, with the witch hunters replacing the inquisition. 

Books, Khârn Eater of Worlds by Anthony Reynolds

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So, recently Iv been feeling some apathy towards warhammer 40,000- so long playing other game systems and probably overexposure to the offerings of the black library have dulled my interest. This coupled with the constant stream of releases (most quite good) it’s felt as though 40k is everywhere. However, upon being dragged to Cribbs Causeway I popped into the Games Workshop and was handed some cash by Rox. With a painting backlog of probably years it was books.

Fantasy is about to he reset so the books are in short supply, so instead it was 40k only, one of which was Khârn Eater of Worlds by Anthony Reynolds. Set after the Horus Heresy the armies of Chaos are scatter and divided with no leaders of note anywhere to be found. This book naturally focuses on the World Eaters, barbaric bloodthirsty Astartes who are turning on each other and bleeding their numbers dry. Unfortunately the one man (marine) who could unite them is dead: yeah, that’s right Khârn starts the book dead, dragged from a pile of Imperial Fist corpses on Terra he’s been enshrined on a ship within the World Eaters fleet. I say dead, he isn’t strictly speaking dead- but when he was picked up he was. Now his body functions barely function and his brain activity is negligible, enough to keep his heart beating and his lungs breathing.

With the Workd Eaters dying a power struggle ensued and an anonymous warrior arranges an assassination attempt on Khârns corpse. This is at the midway point of the book.

Something happens and Khârn lives and wakes up, just in time to encounter the remainder of the Emperors Children legion and be involved with the tensions between the legion.

The book didn’t do much to reinvigorate my 40k excitement, I had hoped for a book of Khârn slaughtering anything and everything, but instead got a book in which he plays barely more than a bit part role, and instead focusing on his lackies and hangers on. Even the battle towards the end of the book (two chapters worth) was from the perspective of others, barely hinting at Khârn doing anything.

In addition, SPOILER ALERT AHEAD…















The idea that Khârn would reunite the World Eaters had potential- who better to lead an out of control Warband of berserkers- the first thing he did was lead them into a war against the Emperors Children- equal in stature yet far outnumbered, so the hoped for prevention of them killing each other instead led to them losing far greater numbers against a superior foe, further restricting their capabilities. Given the lack of new recruits and apothecaries replenishing the force seems unlikely.

Books, the Lord of the end times by Josh Reynolds

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So, The End Times is done. I finished the Lord of the end times by Josh Reynolds. It’s hard to say how I feel about it as one or two rumours left it a little predictable, even before the book spent a lot of time telling us the world was ending.

The books set into three sections, as Middenheik falls, the incarnates plot and finally the plan to save the world is set into motion. However the three sections as far simpler-

Part one is a seemingly endless stream of cameo appearances as a means of covering pretty much everyone and killing them. If a models metal or finecast there’s a high probability they’re killed in part one. A few plastic models get killed too. Part two is a political battle between the remaining ‘heroes’ or ‘incarnates’ as nobody can decide what to do next, whilst beastmen hordes which have turned feral hurl themselves at the forest the forces of order are holding. Finally part three throws the remainders of the humans, dwarves, elves, orcs and undead into the wreckage of Middenheim to save the world- another chance to kill off characters before the climax.

The book was ok, the first section at first annoyed me, but the fast pace felt as though it were segments of battle as opposed to a conveyor belt of death. The politics of part two were a nice change of pace, though the beastmen assaults felt a distraction from the key plot more than anything. Finally the ‘final battle’ was ok, it was probably the weakest part of the book but in fairness ending a series is always tough. I felt the ending should have been less predictable- or at least not been heavily hinted at from the start.

A few interesting paragraphs came up 

 
This felt like either a nod towards the approach taken in 40k- keeping the universe on the edge of ruin and maintaining that position. The idea of TheEnd  Times has long been anticipated within 40k but never happened, instead happening in warhammer fantasy.

 
This a hint at the creation of the next works perhaps? The potential to create a whole new world is of course interesting instead of trying to shoehorn new elements to a long established timeline. The cynical side of me could read it as ‘less burdened by the previous designers and their creative properties’ but I think I’ll see it more as ‘less burdened by poorly selling lines (and armies)’

The series overall has been interesting, the killing off of so many established characters (and entire forces) is a brave step and hopefully has a long term consideration in place, whilst the entire resetting of the lore and background has the potential to upset a lot of long time fans. Having said that the fresh page approach should allow for a lot of freedom to create something brilliant.

My feeling on the series is that is was far too rushed, whilst the book contents were about right so many events were skimmed over or completely ignored (I hear more information was in the gaming books but I’m not spending £50-£70 on books I won’t use/ won’t need all of/ will be obsolete in a few months). Whilst a series that lingered on forever (Horus heresy) would stagnate I’d want a few more books to ensure everyone gets a final story. It would also have allowed for more spacing of deaths to prevent things feeling like a clear out. 

Books, the end times the rise of the horned rat by Guy Haley 

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So, four books down only one remaining. Iv just finished the rise of the horned rat by Guy Haley. This one moves away from the chaos invasion of the empire to focus on Karak Eight Peaks and the ongoing war between the dwarves, goblins and Skaven- specifically the leaders of the respective armies; belegar, skarsnik and Queek headtaker.

Overwhelming skaven force has evicted the goblins whilst the dwarfs grudgingly retreat further and further into their caves. Deaths occur on all sides and speed up the further you get into the book. What’s interesting is the inner monologues of the three main characters all focus on the passage of time and age/death catching up with them, meaning The End Times takes on a smaller more personal level.

The story was ok, combining numerous elements of the ‘traditional’ plot elements of the various armies and dropping in a whole host of characters from other books- highlights include Thanquol and Bugman, whose major contribution was to suggest a ‘world ending’ (read edition ending) wasn’t a huge deal

 
I’m now at a point where I have one more End Times book to read, but a, feeling a bit fatigued with the constant warhammer fantasy reading, so it may be a while before I get to it (but before the end of the month just in case of edition changing spoilers) 

Books, Malus Darkblade Deathblade by C L Werner

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So, after reading spoilers in the Khaine book of the End Times I put aside my lost interest in Malus Darkblade and read the final book in his series Deathblade by C. L. Werner. It’s important to note that the series ended after Lord of Ruin and this was another bolted on as a part of the Emd Times series (personal opinion).

It’s hard to review this because I don’t know for sure if I enjoyed it or not.

Potential spoilers ahead

The stories a few years after Lord of Ruin (quite a few), at that point Malus had finally rid himself of the daemon t’zarkan but was left without a soul and in the middle of nowhere. 

Fast forward to the start of this book and he’s the Drachau of Hag Graef and General of the largest empire in Naggaroth. He also has his soul back and the daemons back inside him.

A little googling suggests he finally found the daemon and regained his soul but a chaos power put T’zarkan back, he’s also made no new friends having gone to war with several other Drachau’s in the meantime.

Malus is sucked into Malekiths plan to abandon Naggor and retake Ulthuan but due to a failed assassination attempt is placed in the suicidal vanguard assault. What follows is some moments of genius from Malus as well as some failures, more killing of characters and Malekith becoming more and more surrounded by enemies.

I had some issues with the book. Firstly it seemed Malus’ actions in the defence of Ghrond are completely ignored and suggest he wouldn’t go near- this was a huge event in Malus’ life as he went from an outlaw to one of the most powerful Elves in Naggoroth. Also, his use of the Warpsword seems to go completely ignored by Malekith, who is supposed to be the true bearer of the blade- this is also ignored by the leader of the Dark Eld Executioners who professes to be an avatar of Khaine. Finally, the daemon T’zarkan seems to have gone from being a Slaaneshi daemon to a Khorne- not an impossible shift but unnecessary.

As an end to the series it was a little anticlimactic, though it did give an insight into events from Khaine from an alternate point of view, covering a few more deaths and interactions that are alluded to in that book.

Books, The End Times The Curse of Khaine by Gav Thorpe

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So, a little against my interest I picked up the next in the run of the Warhammer End Times books- The Curse of Khaine by Gav Thorpe. I was needing a break from Warhammer novels, but my inability to get through the first few pages of another book and the potential (according to rumours) new edition of the Warhammer fantasy rules dropping in about a month I know I need to get through them before too many spoilers crop up.

This one focuses on the Elves, specifically the Witch King Malekith of the Dark Elves who has spent 6000 years getting more and more bitter and angry at not being granted the throne of the High Elf lands of Ulthuan. As the forces of Chaos invade Naggaroth and his generals plot against him he makes the decision to abandon the Dark Elf lands and take back Ulthuan or be destroyed. Summoning every dark elf the invasion is launched.

The book’s written in an interesting way as every time Malekith is confronted by a reminder or individual from his past it enters his memories and we get an insight into key moments of the previous 6000 years- mostly his defeats in Ulthuan, his ego being beaten or his sorceress mother Morathi manipulating him. There’s also a small moment with Malus Darkblade though dependent on how smart Malus really is I was a little annoyed at some spoilers of the final Malus book being hinted at.

Although the memories filled in a lot of gaps and expanded on Malekith as a character they sometimes were too frequent and slowed the pace of the book, this was made more an issue as numerous battles were hinted at with no real expansion- even the (now customary) deaths of important characters were passed over a little too frequently.

I’m now torn between reading the next book in the series or reading to Malus book to discover what happens with regards the spoilers- given I was a bit bored by the previous malus book it has at least raised my interest levels again