Blog Archives

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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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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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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The Hunt For Vulkan by David Annandale (Book Review)

When politics gets in the middle of prosecuting a war effectively, then that usually spells doom for the good guys. As we’ve seen in The Beast Arises over the last six novels, this has been a central theme, something that has let the resurgent Ork threat run wildly rampant across the Imperium. And those who must fight this untenable war have grown ever more disillusioned of those who run the Imperial government, their incompetence a direct threat to the safety and security of the Imperium. But now that’s about to change.

In David Annandale’s The Hunt For Vulkan, we see one of the biggest turning-points in the conflict. The Last Wall is sent on a mission to locate the last known living Primarch, Vulkan of the Salamanders, and bring him back to the larger Imperial fold so that he can lead the resistance against the Orks. The how and the why of it is wrapped in multiple mysteries, and that’s part of what made this novel so damn good. As before with The Last Wall, David really captures the essence and motivations of his characters, telling one hell of a story here.

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

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Echoes of the Long War by David Guymer (Book Review)

First and foremost, the Warhammer 40,000 novels have always been about visceral action first and foremost. It really wasn’t until the Eisenhorn and Ravenor novels by Dan Abnett that we began to see something much wider, in my experience. I know that books like Inquisition War existed before, but those have long been declared non-canon if I’m not mistaken, so they don’t count. And of course, the Horus Heresy novels have been about Imperial politics on a galactic scale as much as they’ve been about the battle scenes. But it hasn’t been until the Beast Arises trilogy that we’ve really gotten to see Imperial politics up-close and personal on Terra itself among the Imperium’s highest elite.

David Guymer’s Echoes of the Long War is the sixth novel in the series and one which is perhaps the most focused of them all so far. Following on from Throneworld, this novel had a lot of baggage coming in and some really high expectations, not all of which it was able to meet unfortunately. It was, in effect, far too focused on one particular event to the detriment of the other narratives, and that definitely hurt the series overall. However, it was still a decent novel and did keep the story progressing somewhat so there’s that.

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

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Gotrek & Felix: Kinslayer by David Guymer (Book Review)

A few days ago I brought to you a review of City of The Damned by David Guymer. Alongside last year’s Road of Skulls by Josh Reynolds, this novel was kind of a fresh breath of air in that there hadn’t been novel-length tales about one of Warhammer Fantasy’s greatest duos and biggest success in several long years. While, for me, Josh Reynolds’ two novels have done much to capture the feel of the original books by William King and the follow-ups by Nathan Long, City of The Damned didn’t really work for me, although it was a decent enough read I suppose.

About three weeks back Black Library launched Gotrek & Felix: Kinslayer, which is said to be the first book in the Doom of Gotrek Gurnisson Saga, ostensibly marking the beginning of the end for Warhammer’s greatest Dwarf Slayer. The new novel takes some plot-threads from City of The Damned and carries them on, but for the most part Kinslayer is a stand-alone, and is also a part of the greater End Times saga as well that is currently running through Warhammer Fantasy, akin to some of the events that Wizards of the Coast has done with Forgotten Realms previously. Unfortunately, while Kinslayer had lots of great moments and even revealed the shames of Gotrek and his friend Snorri, it also carries over several mistakes and negatives that can be found in City of The Damned.

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Gotrek & Felix: City of The Damned by David Guymer (Book Review)

The Gotrek & Felix novels by both William King and Nathan Long are among the very first Warhammer Fantasy novels I bought back in 2005/2006 when I was getting back into Black Library reading with the Warhammer 40,000 setting. I was already a huge fan of Bill’s Space Wolf series, and making the transition to the fantasy side of things with both Gotrek and Felix was rather easy as it turned out. Even Nathan’s own work was great once I started reading it. But then, eventually, Nathan moved on to other things as Bill had before him, and the tale of the Trollslayer and his rememberer passed into the hands of another new generation of writers.

Of these new writers, David Guymer is one of only two writers who have been asked to continue on the adventures of Gotrek Gurnisson and Felix Jaeger. I’ve read both of Josh Reynolds’ novels, Road of Skulls and The Serpent Queen and loved them both. With David however, the transition has not been easy, though I liked the audio drama he did with them last year. City of The Damned is a continuity-free novel like both of Josh’s novels, but it also is set up as a prequel to the more recent release, Kinslayer which is the first part of the Doom of Gotrek storyline and is the penultimate novel in the final ending of Gotrek’s saga. I read it earlier this month and I have somewhat mixed feelings about it.

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The A-to-Z Author Survey

Earlier this month I posted two surveys on my blog. Sort-of surveys at any rate. You can find the one about books here and the one about comics here. I really had a lot of fun doing those, and I thought it would be fun to doing them again, but with a cool twist that I hope sounds as inspired to you as it does me. Or maybe not.

I spent the last 3 hours thinking of some kind of a blogpost to write. There are some ideas I had but nothing I could put up today, which was the whole point really. So yeah, this is going to follow the same meta layout as the other surveys. I’m not limiting this survey to just novelists, I’m including comics writers as well.

Hope you enjoy! And do share your thoughts in the comments!

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Best of 2013 Part 1

I did two “Best of the…” lists last year, one for the half-year from January to June, and the other for the half-year from July to December. The lists proved to be quite popular, and I was recently asked if I was going to be doing any more. To which I said yes. I like putting together lists like this. It gives me a chance to reflect a bit on all the good stuff I’ve been reading in novels and comics, or listening to in terms of audiobooks, audio dramas and so on.

You can check out my top-of-the-month lists on my Reading Awards page and this list is both an extension, and a continuation of what goes on there.

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

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51 Most Anticipated Releases For 2013

With regards reading, 2012 was a fantastic year for me. It was the year that I stepped out of my comfort zone and read in genres that I normally would not read, such as urban fantasy (involving angels, vampires, werewolves etc) and historical fiction. It was also the year that I read more than the traditional fantasy, and tie-in fantasy at that. My experiments seem to have mostly been successful as I’ve started to really like reading these kind of books.

My goal for this year is to continue on that same path and read as widely as I can. Which is why this massive list is so huge in scope, with tons of variety. I went through the catalogues for most of these publishers and picked out things I liked,and which caught my eye. Getting through the entire list this year will probably not happen, but then again, never say never!

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