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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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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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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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Path of the Warrior by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

The story of Warhammer 40,000 isn’t just about the superhuman Adeptus Astartes or the mortal men and women who live and breathe to defend the Imperium of Man. It is also the story of the various xenos species who inhabit the galaxy, whether that be the brutal Orks, the ravenous Tyranids, the broken Eldar, the aspiring Tau or any of the others. And as such it is always great to see the differing perspectives, although as far as the Tyranids are concerned, there’s not much of a perspective there. Even the Orks are better narrators in that respect!

Path of the Warrior is the first novel in Gav’s Path of the Eldar series. It explores the Eldar society of Alaitoc Craftworld through the eyes of an artist-turned-Aspect Warrior, Korlandril, who must confront his past and his prejudices and his relationships with those around him if he is to succeed on the Eldar Path. There is little direct action in the novel and it is instead very much a philosophical story, as befits the Eldar that is about. And I certainly enjoyed it to a degree, enough at least that I am looking forward to continuing with the rest of the series.

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News: Dawn of War III Tie-ins From Black Library and Titan Comics Announced

Remember the golden year of 2005 when Relic Entertainment unleashed the phenomenon that was Dawn of War? I do! As a fan of the comics and novels for several years, Dawn of War was the perfect game for me for a number of reasons: I love RTS games, I love Warhammer 40,000, and their love-child was definitely going to be great. That was my working theory when I started playing Dawn of War and I was floored. Everything about the game, whether cutscenes or story or mechanics or gameplay or design or whatever, it was all top-notch. One of the most cathartic gaming experiences of my life. The games that followed, especially Dawn of War II: Dark Crusade just improved on that and I couldn’t be happier really. If there was any sore spot at all however, the tie-in novels from writer C. S. Goto were the anomaly. Tortorous and convoluted stories that seemed to do strange things with the lore, they are among the most unpopular of novels published by Black Library to date. But that’s all going to change, and here’s why.

Exactly five months to the day, Relic Entertainment announced that it was working on Dawn of War III and released the above trailer to the masses, causing a storm in the video game circles everywhere. The previous games are regarded highly, are considered among the best of their genre, and are tied to a fairly well-liked setting. And just in the last couple days we have received some more news about the game, namely that Black Library has hired author Robbie MacNiven to write the tie-in novel, and that Titan Comics will be doing the same for the comics medium. Cue more excitement and gushing and fangasming. Check after the break for the official announcements.

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Shadow Captain by David Annandale (Novella Review)

More than any other author at Black Library presently, it seems that David Annandale is by far one of the busiest of the lot, if his output in the last couple years or so is any indication. Multiple short stories, a novel, multiple novellas. And his work has been seen digital-to-print republication. For me, he has certainly emerged as one of the best of the bunch, owing in part to his technical writing and his characters and plots of course. It also helps that in much of his work he has chosen to write about factions and characters that usually don’t see the light of day otherwise, much.

About ten days back or so I mentioned in my review of Forge Master that it was part of a trilogy of novellas about the Overfiend of Octavius, an Ork Warlord who controls one of the biggest Ork empires in the galaxy. Where Forge Master was the capstone to that trilogy, Shadow Captain is the middle narrative and is told from the perspective of the Raven Guard rather than the Salamanders. And the events in this novella take place just before the events of Forge Master. Just as with it successor, Shadow Captain proved to be a most entertaining read, and it shined the light on another of my most favourite Space Marine chapters.

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Howl of The Banshee by Gav Thorpe (Audio Review)

It is no secret that Gav Thorpe is one of my favourite authors. Whether we talk about his work for Games Workshop and Black Library or his original novels for Angry Robot, he has always impressed. And one of his specialty areas is audio dramas. He has penned two of my favourites, the Warhammer Fantasy audio Aenarion and the Horus Heresy audio Raven’s Flight. Both audios are superbly written, and also superbly voice-acted, which is another great thing about them. He has penned others over the years, and his latest is one that focuses on the Eldar for a change, particularly one of their more interesting Aspects, the Howling Banshees.

Generally, Black Library doesn’t put out a whole lot of fiction featuring the multitude of alien species. Gav’s Eldar trilogy and Andy Chambers’ Dark Eldar trilogy are exceptions, although I cannot speak to the quality of either as I have not read any of them. Yet. But, if Gav’s novels are anything like this audio, then I will definitely give them a chance. Howl of the Banshee is also notable because it has an all-female cast of voice-actors, which is pretty dam rocking in itself, since it just doesn’t happen with BL’s audios! So that’s another win for this audio.

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