Author Archives: AJ

Ragnar Blackmane by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Book Review)

One of the great mysteries of William King’s Space Wolves series was how the young Blood Claw Ragnar Blackmane, the protagonist of the series, became an elite of the Wolf Guard without ever attaining the rank of Grey Hunter, a seasoned warrior, in Wolf Lord Berek Thunderfist’s Great Company. This was especially teased in the novel Grey Hunter when in the prologue one of Ragnar’s warriors calls him out on it and the young Wolf Lord dissembles. While Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Ragnar Blackmane doesn’t answer that burning question (when will it happen!!??) what it does give us is a very thoughtful and introspective look at Ragnar when he was still new to the Wolf Guard and still making a name for himself in his Lord’s company. While not the finest of Aaron’s work nor his most subtle, it does come close and is a damn fine read.

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Wonder Woman (Movie Review)

Ask any comics fan who is the most iconic female superhero and the majority answer is likely to be Wonder Woman. Created by William Moulton Marston and Harry G. Peter in 1941, she has emerged as one of the most dominant of all female superheroes. Sure, you have the Storms and Jean Greys and Supergirls and Batgirls and Black Widow and others, but none come close to the pedigree of Diana, Princess of Themiscyra and Daughter of Hippolyta. Following the success of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice we finally have the character’s first live-action movie, Wonder Woman, that goes back to her origins and transposes the character into the war-torn era of the First World War and shows how a young girl made of clay become a legend and a myth.

Note: Some spoilers from the movie discussed in the review.

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The Crimson King by Graham McNeill (Book Review)

It has been ages since I last read something from the Horus Heresy series. Coincidentally, that happened to be Graham McNeill’s The Vengeful Spirit. And now finally, after a gap of some three years, I’m returning to the series that I fell in love with almost ten years ago. After catching myself back up with the Legacies of Betrayal anthology, I dived head-on into the latest release, The Crimson King by Graham McNeill, which carries on from A Thousand Sons, finally continuing a story almost five years old. The Crimson King does a lot to flesh out how the Thousand Sons legion fully turned away from the Emperor and how it “healed” itself after the terrible fall of Prospero. For any fan of the XVth Legion, this novel is a must-read.

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Curse of the Wulfen by David Annandale (Book Review)

When I first got into Warhammer 40,000 fiction my first stop was Grey Hunter by William King. Odd to start with a third novel in a series for a setting you don’t understand but that’s where I was some fifteen years ago. I was no stranger to this however because when I started on the Animorphs novels by K. A. Applegate, the third novel The Encounter was where I started. And just as then, I fell in love with what I was reading. For me, Grey Hunter started an obssessive love with the Space Wolves and Ragnar in particular that persists to this day. Always happy to read something about them, and in that respect Curse of the Wulfen definitely stands as one of the best that Black Library has to offer. Part of the War Zone Fenris campaign, this novel by David Annandale explores how the Space Wolves Chapter must adapt once its mythical Thirteenth Company returns to the material realm, lost for some ten thousand years. It is a fantastic start to the campaign lore, and I definitely recommend it.

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Carcharadons: Red Tithe by Robbie MacNiven (Book Review)

The Warhammer 40,000 universe is incredibly vast in terms of its scope and the material it thus covers. From one edge of the galaxy to another, from current events to those ten thousand years ago, there is a lot of potential to explore. That is where Robbie MacNiven’s Carcharadons: Red Tithe is set. This first novel in what is hopefully going to be a series seeks to turn into fact some of the myths of the Carcharadons Astra Chapter of the Space Marines. Robbie’s tale is one of dour heroism matched against cruel barbarity and is a fantastic introduction to one of the most mysterious of the all the Space Marine Chapters.

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The Beheading by Guy Haley (Book Review)

The final stretch of The Beast Arises has been less than satisfactory. The crowning achievement that was meant to be Rob Sanders’ Shadows of Ullanor unfortunately left me rather disillusioned and wary of where the story might go next. I had been expecting some truly huge moments in the novel, but at best we got a regurgitation of the previous two novels, with little to recommend in-between. However, with the next book in the series, the whole thing comes to a close and thankfully, the train’s changed for better tracks.

Guy Haley’s The Beheading tells a story that has been a long time coming since we meet Drakan Vangorich in the first novel of the series, I Am Slaughter. Vangorich’s reign of terror is known of for a long time and we finally see him follow-up on his threats and his well-laid plans that he’s been putting together since that first appearance in Dan Abnett’s novel. However, the really cool thing is that there is far more to the novel than just that as Guy tells a parallel story that is also about hope and defiance against adversity, which in the end makes this one of the best novels of the series.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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Coming Soon: Black Library June – August

As you may no doubt have noticed on the blog recently, I’ve been picking up the threads of my Black Library reading, first with the Beast Arises series and then with some other stuff the reviews for which will be going up in the coming days. Back in the day, sometime around 2014, I was very much immersed in the publisher’s output, having been a fan for eleven-plus years at that point, but then I dropped off and my reading was rather fragmentary. Now, the ride back has been pretty awesome and intense, and all the upcoming material for the next three months that we’ve been shown has gotten me excited all over again.

Check after the break to see what novels and short stories and audio dramas and more Black Library has coming up in the next few months! This is a curated list of products that I can very well see myself picking up and going through.

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Shadow of Ullanor by Rob Sanders (Book Review)

Ever since the destructive events of Ardamantua, it has not been an easy time for the Imperium. The loss of the Imperial Fists as a Chapter. The loss of hundreds of worlds to the Ork threat. The loss of sanity and belief. The inaction and impotence of the High Lords. One defeat after another until warriors of sagas stepped once more into the breach, awakening legends and battling greater legends still. The Beast Arises has been very enjoyable to read, given the fact that I finished most of the books in the series within a day of starting them. That changed with this next book however.

Rob Sanders, who gave us the fairly-decent Predator, Prey earlier in the series, seems to have lost his unique touch with the eleventh and penultimate novel, Shadows of Ullanor. Picking up some time after the tragic events of The Last Son of Dorn, he tells a story of how the Imperium bounces back and takes the fight to the Orks again. But it is just not the same as the previous novels. The narrative is repetitive and the characters fail to elicit any positive emotion. There are wild inconsistencies in the various plots and sub-plots. To be honest, after the incredible high of the previous novels, this one is a deep, deep low.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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Getting Back On The Grind

Long-time readers of the blog know me as a prolific reader and reviewer, covering everything from novels to comics to audiobooks to television shows to movies and anime and what not. From 2011 to 2014 I was practically on an express train of consuming varied forms of and disseminating my thoughts on them. And then, all of a sudden the train went off-track and my interest in all of it just petered out. I wrote maybe one review a month, I read maybe one book a month. Same for comics. I was watching more and more television, especially once I got married and got my wife to share in my interests, but the fire of being a reviewer just left me. I had become jaded I suppose. Burnt-out even. Reading ten novels a month, approx 30-40 single-issue comics a week, writing approx 25 reviews a month. I suppose anyone could get burnt out with that kind of a performance. I was just… not into it.

And all of this is on top of doing a fair bit of writing fanfiction and working on various novel-length and novella/short-story projects. I even had a short story published as it turns out. And I submitted various pitches and samples for short stories in the meantime as well.

Somewhere along the way though, I just did not want to do any of it. Enough had been enough. In the intervening time, my most frequent posts have all been about Magic the Gathering, discussing the quarterly previews for upcoming sets or talking about decklists and events and what not. But even that has proven rather unsatisfactory, very much so. As much as I love Magic, even this felt too restrictive, too… work-like. And I just couldn’t handle it.

But something has changed this year. I am slowly getting back into my abandoned novel-length projects. Beginning last month, I am even fully back on the reading and reviewing train as well. As of writing this, I have read five full-length novels, fourteen shorter novels, and a whole bunch of short stories. Even right now, I’m in the middle of an 8-part short story series. And in April I read four full-length novels alongwith at least 13 graphic novels and a whole bunch of single-issue comics. I amaze even myself.

Of course, most of this reading has been from the publications of Black Library as I dip my toes back into the wonderful world of Warhammer 40,000 but all the same, it feels so utterly liberating. The reading catharsis has a hold of me again, you could say, and I love it. I’ve missed so much and it feels great to be back like this. I’d forgotten how utterly awesome it used to feel, and I feel rather grateful that I’m back like this. Not the least of which is that I’m back to regularly blogging/reviewing as well. That’s something I’d thought just a few short months ago that I wouldn’t be able to handle again, but here we are.

Slowly but surely, I’m getting back on the grind and I love this feeling.

The Last Son of Dorn by David Guymer (Book Review)

The Beast Arises has been steadfastly moving towards an epic conclusion for the last several books. Everything changed for the Imperials once the long-lost Primarch Vulkan was rediscovered, bringing true hope for the first time in the ongoing losing war against the Orks. The lord of the Salamanders led a massive army drawn from across the Segmentum Solar against the Ork world of Ullanor, once the site of the Imperium’s greatest triumph, now reborn as the hellish homeworld of the Beast and its new Ork armies. With The Last Son of Dorn, the end truly begins now.

This is the tenth novel in the series, and perhaps the most poignant so far. Armed with new weapons and arms, both physical and otherwise, Lord Commander Koorland leads a second massed attack against Ullanor and the Beast, hoping to end the threat once and for all. The novel, more than any of the others before, is a true homage to the character and culture of the Imperial Fists, even though only one of their number now remains, and David Guymer writes perhaps the best novel of his that I’ve read so far.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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Watchers In Death by David Annandale (Book Review)

Off the bat, you may not realize it, but a lot of what has been happening in The Beast Arises is all a precursor to the status quo we know from the M41 era. There have already been rumblings about the division of specialities in the Inquisition and we also know that there are some High Lords among the High Twelve who do not have that seat by those familiar times. So in many ways, this series is charting out the history of the Imperium and no book does that more than Watchers In Death by David Annandale, his third book in the series.

As its name implies, Watchers In Death is all about how Lord Commander Koorland forms the Deathwatch Kill-Teams that are so famous and ubiquitous in M41 lore. It all begins with a need to fight the Orks on a different axis, brains over brawn essentially, and I absolutely loved how it all turned out. It made for some stirring reading, especially since it was all used to strike back against the Orks with immediate effect. And the Deathwatch aren’t the only ones to have made their mark here, for we also see the return of some of the most badass Imperial warriors from the Great Crusade era.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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The Beast Must Die by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

Legends beget legends. But they all have to begin somewhere. In David Annandale’s The Hunt For Vulkan, we saw the beginnings of the latest legend-in-making when Inquisitor Veritus sent Chapter Master Koorland to a planet of legend to find a living legend in the form of the Primarch Vulkan. In the process, the novel itself became a legendary story about honour, oaths, duty and service. As I’ve said so many times in reviews of the previous novels, The Hunt For Vulkan laid the foundation of what was to follow.

And follow Gav Thorpe’s The Beast Must Die did. With the return of Vulkan to the highest levels of the Imperium, the stage has been set for an explosive confrontation with the Orks and their new warlord, the Beast. Legend must now fight legend at a location that is itself legendary. As Vulkan often says in this novel, there is a certain pattern to events, and those who are attuned to these patterns stand to benefit the most. Following on from his last outing in the series with The Emperor Expects, Gav delivers yet another masterpiece that does justice to the characters involved.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

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