Blog Archives

Throneworld by Guy Haley (Book Review)

A galaxy-wide Ork invasion that heralds the rebuilding of their lost empire on an even greater scale yet. Political bureaucracy and infighting that paralyses the Imperial response. Secret and possibly traitorous experiments being carried out by the Cult Mechanics. Terra itself directly threatened. A Chapter lost. Entire sectors lost. Possible Chaos interference. The Beast Arises series has it all it seems. The previous four novels have been rather revolutionary in many ways, and as the story progresses there’s always another big twist just around the corner.

With Guy Haley’s Throneworld, the series marks the third straight novel which is among some of the best works to come out of Black Library in the past five years. I’ve read a fair number of novels from Guy Haley and he’s always impressed me with his narrative styles and his plot twists. That all holds true for Throneworld as well, in which we see the Eldar themselves getting involved with the Ork-Imperium conflict, even as the larger narrative progresses well beyond the weirdness happening on Terra, for the stalwart sons of Dorn have managed to consolidate their power and beginning anew their campaign against the Orks.

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

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The Last Wall by David Annandale (Book Review)

We are now getting to the point where the series is starting to pick up some momentum. The first three novels have laid out the conflict and we now are starting to see some real movement every which way. Leading up to the fourth novel in the series, we are now in that particular mode where you can start to predict how certain characters are going to react to certain situations and that anticipation is what is driving this series more than anything else because in the meta-sense, these characters and their strife really do leave a mark.

David Annandale’s The Last Wall had a lot to deliver on, given how Gav Thorpe ended The Emperor Expects. It was certainly a very unexpected ending, and the questions that it raised got me to push through this novel, finishing it in less than a day, as the clock counts. It is full of some amazing action and tons of intrigue all of which deepens the mysteries behind the resurgent Ork threat and I feel that it is a great addition to the series as a result. David definitely didn’t disappoint in any way.

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

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The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

The first two novels in the Beast Arises series proved themselves to be a good introduction to an Imperium that is drawn into a massive galactic conflict against the resurgent Ork threat some 1500 years after the Heresy and after the Emperor broke the Orks in the Ullanor Crusade. With Dan Abnett’s I Am Slaughter we met a lot of the early players and with Rob Sanders’ Predator, Prey we saw their narratives develop even as more characters were added and the story increased vastly in scope.

Gav Thorpe’s novel The Emperor Expects is the third in the series and definitely the best novel so far. Both Dan and Rob are very good at depicting big battle scenes, but Gav takes things up a few notches in this novel, not to mention that he also gives us a fantastic naval battle to read about as the Imperial Navy finally take the battle the Orks. Even outside of the set-piece action we have some extremely well-written narratives for all the characters as the politicking on Terra deepens and the Space Marines of various Chapters prepare to respond as well.

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

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Predator, Prey by Rob Sanders (Book Review)

The post-Heresy mega project The Beast Arises kicked off with I Am Slaughter by Dan Abnett, telling a fascinating new tale of how a resurgent Ork threat threatens the very foundations of the Imperium. Although we start fairly “low-tech” and the Orks aren’t brought out right until the end, the build-up to that moment certainly kept me glued to the pages, and the novel was a great way to get back into the swing of reading Warhammer 40,000 fiction again, as I’d dropped off some years back.

The next installment in this multi-author series, Predatory, Prey is written by Rob Sanders, who has delivered some of my absolute favourite books of the last decade. The novel continues the story of I Am Slaughter, picking up in the wake of the events that followed therein and sets the stage for the return of the Orks as the biggest threat to the safety of the Imperium since the Heresy. While not the knockout I expected it to be, it was still a spellbinding read that touches on many different facets of the conflict and transitions to the larger conflict.

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

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I Am Slaughter by Dan Abnett (Book Review)

The span of lore material that any novel, or a series for that matter, that is set in the vibrant chaos of the Warhammer 40,000 can cover is immense. There is a history of millenniums involved and Black Library has done a tireless and amazing job over the years of covering as much material as it can, whether we go back to the earliest days of the setting with the Horus Heresy mega-series or the more carefully planned and executed vignettes set in the 41st Millennium. The wonderful diversity, at its heart, is what makes all of this tick for me, and in that respect, the latest series from the publisher has not disappointed.

I Am Slaughter is the first novel in the Beast Arises series and is written by a veteran of the setting entire, Dan Abnett. Over the years, he has given some of the best work in 40K and I Am Slaughter is no slouch by any means. The story begins with the Imperial Fists Space Marines engaging in a massive planetary attack against a verminous xenos species, and it ends in rather surprising ways. As this is the start of the series, much is left to the reader’s imagination, but Abnett teases enough to keep you hooked and reading all the way through, though there are some rather typical missteps by the master.

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Best of 2014 Part 2a: Novels

Doing one of these posts often takes a lot out of me because of all the linking and checking and verification and formatting and everything, but lists like this also help me crystalize my year in reading, so I value them quite highly. Thankfully, I’m able to get this list out in time and most of the books on the list have already been reviewed as well, so that’s something too.

With the year 2014 now done and over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st July to December 31st. I didn’t read as many books this time as I wanted to, primarily because I got married in the first week of July itself, and things have changed a fair bit. But life remains exciting and interesting in equal measure, and my reading also happens to match that rather closely, so I’ll take that in full indeed!

Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!

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Master of Sanctity by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

Gav Thorpe is rightly considered Black Library’s resident Dark Angels expert, for he has written more about them than any other author and he even had a hand in shaping their lore back when he worked in the Games Workshop Design Studio on the Dark Angels codex, among other things. Last year, he started a new Dark Angels series called Legacy of Caliban that followed on from one of Black Library’s best novels to date, Angels of Darkness, and continued the tale of the Knights of Caliban as they sought out their traitorous brethren from the days of the Horus Heresy itself and brought them to justice in the innermost deeps of The Rock. Ravenwing was an excellent novel in many ways, and the wait for the sequel was a long one for me, especially since I dropped off on my Black Library reading this year.

But I read Master of Sanctity earlier this month and the wait has been quite fruitful indeed. Gav made the long wait worth every moment since the novel is a brilliant follow-up to what he did in Ravenwing, giving a more thorough insight into the many mysteries of the Dark Angels and exploring their many secrets. The duality of the Dark Angels, in their oaths to the Imperium and to themselves to hunt down the Fallen wherever they may be found, is at the heart of this novel, and our primary lead-in this time is none other than the chapter’s Master of Sanctity himself, Grand Master Sapphon, and we even get a look at the fiercely conservative Chaplain Asmodai, with whom Sapphon clashes again and again in the novel.

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Horus Heresy: The Unremembered Empire by Dan Abnett (Book/Audio Review)

The last audiobook that I remember listening to from Black Library is Dan Abnett’s Prospero Burns, one of the two books alongside Graham McNeill’s A Thousand Sons that told the story of the fall of Prospero, of Magnus, and the Thousand Sons Legion. I’d tried to read the book before many times but always gave up, the only such Horus Heresy novel I’ve struggled with so much to date. The audiobook was a better experience but the story was still too problematic for me. Fortunately, Dan’s next big Heresy novel, Know No Fear easily proved to be a much better experience in all respects and is one of my favourite Heresy novels to date. So there’s some balance.

Dan’s latest Heresy novel The Unremembered Empire is my first Heresy audiobook since spring 2012 that I have experienced primarily in the audio format. I listened to the novel back in September, supplementing it with reading the ebook on and off, and I liked the dual experience. The Unremembered Empire is one of the better novels of the series, but it is also one of the more weaker ones since it is a branching novel and it attempts to do too much with too many characters. Taken in the context of the series at large, it is a pretty decent novel, but taken on its own merits, if fails to satisfy as much as it should. There’s just way too much going on in the novel and that works against it. Had it been trimmed of a few plotlines, it would have been one of the best novels of the series.

Note: This review contains spoilers of varying degrees.

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Portents by Sarah Cawkwell (Book Review)

I’ve mentioned before, repeatedly so, that Sarah Cawkwell is one of my favourite authors right now, and has been since about late 2010 or so, ever since I started reading her short stories in Black Library’s monthly magazine, Hammer & Bolter, which is sadly discontinued now. She’s one of the best examples of fans of Black Library to have come up through the ranks to become a bona fide author for the publisher and pretty much everything that she has written to date has been spectacular or close it, even her original stuff such as The Ballad of Gilrain or Uprising.

Sarah is most noted for her Silver Skulls fiction for Warhammer 40,000 where she has taken the so-named Space Marine Chapter under her umbrella and told some really fascinating stories about characters from across the Chapter’s many and varied ranks. The most recent Silver Skulls fiction is the (currently) digital-only novel Portents, released just a few weeks ago. In it, she carries forwards threads she introduced in her previous work, whether short stories or her debut novel The Gildar Rift, and it is a most satisfying read indeed. It was great to have Sergeant Gileas Ur’ten back again for another outing, a sizable one this time, and the exploration of the Chapter culture in itself was most fascinating.

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Horus Heresy: Brotherhood of the Storm by Chris Wraight (Novella Review)

The White Scars are one of the Legiones Astartes that many fans of the Horus Heresy have been wanting to see in the series of the same name since the earliest days. One of the most mysterious chapters, and Legions, the White Scars haven’t received much attention from the writers at Black Library, though there has been the occasional novel or short story. When Black Library launched its limited edition novella products for the Horus Heresy in 2011, there were some expectations that we might get a novella finally, and such expectations came true in late 2012 when Brotherhood of the Storm was released, with the general release coming more than a year later.

Brotherhood of the Storm was described by author Chris Wraight as the White Scars novel that Heresy fans have been waiting for, and that irked me to no end since the vast majority of the fans wouldn’t be able to read the book until the general release. Thankfully, the wait for that wasn’t too long, and I myself finally got the chance to read it earlier this month, right after I listened to the Scars audiobook, which is the sequel to Brotherhood of the Storm and also Chris’ first Heresy novel. The novella itself is a damn good action story, focusing on three different personnel of the Legion, and it is quite the vital story in that it helps you understand something of the White Scars’ history on Chogoris, their legion culture, and how an outsider views them.

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The Black Pilgrims and Sanguis Irae (Short Story Review)

Games Workshop’s Space Hulk, a Warhammer 40,000 tabletop classic has recently seen a new lease on life. The game is being brought back for a new generation of players, and to accompany the release of the game itself, Black Library recently put out a quartet of short stories and even a novella focusing on the core concept of the game: Space Marine Terminators fighting off against a Tyranid infestation in space. From what I can tell, the re-release has been received very positively, as well as it should, given the place that Space Hulk has in Warhammer 40,000 tabletop gaming history.

Two of the stories released (so far) are The Black Pilgrims by Guy Haley and Sanguis Irae by Gav Thorpe. The former focuses on a small force of Black Templars led by Castellan Adelard, while the latter focuses on an equally small force of Blood Angels led by Brother-Librarian Calistarius. I didn’t quite like The Black Pilgrims as much as I did Sanguis Irae and I didn’t even really know about the whole shared theme thing until I read through them, but I will say that both stories are fun nonetheless, and they serve to highlight an aspect of Warhammer 40,000 that seems to not get as much narrative attention as it should, truly.

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Bloodquest: Prisoners of the Eye of Terror by Ben Counter (Audio Review)

I remember reading the old Bloodquest comics quite fondly. Starring the disgraced Blood Angels Captain Leonatos and a bunch of other Blood Angels from across the Chapter’s divisions, Bloodquest was a great story about penance and redemption and heroism. In late 2012 Black Library published the first new Bloodquest story in several years, Prisoners of the Eye of Terror, written by one of my favourite authors and with a pretty damn good cast. The audio hit all the right notes for me and it even made it to my “Best of 2012 Part 2” list at the end of the year. That’s how good it was.

This review is a repost of the original review on The Founding Fields, which can be found here.

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