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, The Fall of Altdorf by Chris Wraight

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So, I finally finished the second end times book; the fall of Altdorf by Chris Wraight. My quick summary is it was better than the first but had a pants ending. 

Now, a large part of the ‘better’ was because it was more current, it wasn’t about collecting artifacts to prepare for the end times, rather it was more a case of the end times are here and the empire is in real trouble. Also, in fairness the epilogue of the book was far superior to the actual ending, it would have been an acceptable final note in the run up to the seemingly inevitable complete reboot of the warhammer universe.

So the emperor has raised a mighty army and marched it North to deal with the invading forces of Chaos, unfortunately his mighty army just isn’t enough (rammed as it is with every named character from the empire army book that still lives) and a long dead vampire Lord arrives to distract them. Things don’t go well and the army is routed. Worse, the major heros are slain or never mentioned again and the emperor smashes to the ground alongside his Griffon Deathclaw.

The routed force heads to Altdorf (acting upon the emperors last orders) and prepares for the inevitable siege. In the time they have to prepare every major imperial city is razed and things look pretty grim for the surviving humans.

At this point it all becomes a little helms deep crossed with Minas tirith.

Crumbling major fortress, infinite enemy, surprise reinforcements, cavalry force en route, big unexpected explosion, etc etc etc.

It’s actually just before this point that I became a little disheartened by the writing 


In games workshops other big Intellectual property roboute guilliman wrote the codex Astartes. This felt like a real cheapening of the older more established intellectual property.

Beyond this point the events are fairly standard, siege, battles, sortie, reinforcements, no hope, spirited rally, major death.

The next book in the series is Khaine, so I expectant to be entirely unrelated, with the potential plot being largely the same 

Books, the return of Nagash by josh reynolds

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So, I put aside the various series of books I’m currently reading through (Gotrek and felix, malus darkblade, the original Nagash trilogy) as well as the huge pile of other books I want to get through to finally read my first Warhammer end times book- the return of Nagash by josh Reynolds.
And wow, what a way to mash game of thrones with the warhammer world- people die- many many people die. And not only people of coursea characters die.

I will do my best to avoid spoilers but I can’t promise anything

The beginning was brilliant, no world of peace with a book or two to set up the full prologue (I’m looking at you horus heresy). Some bodies looking over the world and seeing death, war and destruction in pretty much every corner of the warhammer world. Some of this is implied or set in the future but many of the events are current setting you into the middle of the story.

The story then moves onto Mannfred Von Carstein and Arkhan the Black meeting up and planning to bring Nagash back from the dead/undead/not dead, whilst they are both haunted by a ‘ghost’ from their past- Vlad and Nagash respectively.

Alongside this is a secondary focus on the High Elves, Dwarves and Humans (with a little of the Wood Elves) and their response to the forces of the Undead doing evil things.
It’s hard to review without spoilers, but it was really good to see an undead themed book that didn’t end with the leader being killed and therefore the army crumbling- though many people died/redied. It was also nice to see Nagash missing from the early parts of the book. The real success of the book was expanding upon Mannfred and Arkhan- as well as the vampires on the whole- and giving them a little more personality than just being evil masters of armies of skeletons. Seeing them with weaknesses and doubts that were covered up with arrogance was a nice aside to the politics and scheming of every vampire that appears in the book.

I’m now of course left with a new dilemma- move onto the second End Times book or carry on with a different series.

Books, more short stories

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So, Iv again been flying through short stories. I like them because it allows for a broad variety of reading and also it means I can get through them quickly whilst on the toilet (where I do most of my reading)

birth of a legend by gav Thorpe fantasy

An origin story, which are so often dull. This one was ok, it was for a major character but used him as a normal character growing into a role. It was a little dated as a story, but still enjoyable.

haute cuisine by robert earl fantasy

A ship returns from lustria- home of the lizardmen- and throws an egg overboard. A year later lizardmen are roaming the sewers and scavenging and killing bretonnians. The stories not original, but the focus on the two individuals sent to find the source rather than the killings at least gave it a different edge.

paradise lost by andy jones fantasy

Apparently grunssons marauders are a big deal, I’d not heard of them and I didn’t see the fuss. It was an ok story really, a band of warriors from a variety of races and backgrounds are lost at sea and down on their luck before encountering a pirate who makes them suffer and then they wash up on an island teeming with lizards. This was clearly written about the time lizardmen were introduced to the world as they aren’t really unique, instead being fairly humanised.

the shadow in the glass by Steve Lyons 40k (sort of)

I thought I’d written about this one, so just in case I’ll keep it short. This was a backwater planet with no technology so it barely fits into 40k, but I enjoyed it more because it showed the overpowering nature of the inquisition. It’s a story Iv heard before but setting and style in the warhammer universe gave it an original edge.

vermillion by ben counter 40k

A space marine detachment arrives at an inquisitorial facility too late and discover no answers. One surviving alien is found and a librarian tries to find out what happened. It was a simple concept, but it spend a lot of time developing the format of mind to mind communication. More of a background piece than an actual story

Stromfels teeth by josh Reynolds fantasy

Citizens of the empire start turning into monstrous shark creatures and wreaking havoc so a knight and a priestess hunt out the cause. Lots of violent blood, and a few names that Iv heard before (in dead calm I believe). Somewhere I believe I have full books with the same characters so I’ll be interested to get to them

Irixa by Ben Counter 40k

Lysander of the imperial fists speaks to some potential scouts about marines making choices that could affect lives and worlds. It leaves both retrospectives open to a ‘right or wrong’ argument before providing another without an answer, before then revealing the choice that was made in the last few lines. To be honest this was a bit dull- partly because nothing actually happened and partly because generally the imperial fists feel to me to be a little characterless. However it seems to follow on directly from the invasion of the phalanx by a daemonic force during the soul drinkers series

Thunder from Fenris by Nick Kyme 40k

I’d read this before, all the way through I knew it but couldn’t remember the ending. A small number of space wolves thunderwolf cavalry are preparing to leave a world they have been involved in liberating from a zombie invasion, but first they must track down a rogue brother who has turned wulfen. What they can’t decide is whether he is running or leading them to something. Normally I’m not a fan of the space wolves, but I did enjoy this, probably because it dealt with their imperfections and the aspects of their chapter that suggest they are a far from safe ‘good guy’

In Hrondirs Tomb by Mark Clapham 40k

More space wolves. The story starts with some wolves in a battle against Tau, which I figured would be quite dull (either the wolves get close and slaughter the Tau or they don’t and get shot). Instead the wolves run away from a Hammerhead and end up trapped in a large tomb to a Space Marine Terminator and working alongside the Inquisition to fight a Daemon. Given the mutual distrust between the two there was a little tension, though I feel it could have been heightened slightly more before moving on. Still there were some good moments, even if it ended rather abruptly.

That’s it for short stories for now as the Ahriman sequel is finally here and will be next in my hand.