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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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12 Days of Best Covers of 2014: Day #9

The ninth book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is for a Warhammer Fantasy novel, The End Times: The Return of Nagash by Josh Reynolds, the cover for which was done by Paul Dainton. The End Times is a new series in Warhammer Fantasy that is positioned as one to move forward the “stuck” timeline of the setting. There are major upheavals happening in the Old World, and no race is untouched by these events. And among these, one of the most dire change is that the greatest necromancer of all time, Nagash, has returned to life, and Josh’s utterly fantastic novel charts how the greatest villain of Warhammer Fantasy returns to life.

The first of the ninth set of comic covers I pick this year is for Edge of Spider-Verse #2 by Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, Rico Renzi and VC’s Clayton Cowles, with the cover by Robbi. The second is for Batman: Eternal #24 by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Ray Fawkes, Kyle Higgins, Tim Seeley, Andy Clarke, Blond and Steve Wands with the cover by the cool team of Jason Fabok and Brad Anderson. Edge of Spider-Verse #2 is itself such a notable comic because it features Gwen Stacy as a Spider-Women. Part of the larger Spider-Verse crossover event where we find out that there are innumerable realities out there, each home to an Earth with its own version of Spider-Man or Spider-Woman, or what have you, this comic was incredibly good, in both the story and art, being an utter wowzer. Batman: Eternal #24 on the other hand is notable because so much of it deals with Stephanie Brown, even as the larger events of the series unfold. Stephanie finally steps into her identity as Spoiler in this issue, and it is damn good fun to see her take on her villain father.

So without further ado, hit the break to see all the covers in their full glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.

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The Doom of Dragonback by Gav Thorpe (Book Review)

Dwarfs and Gav Thorpe have a long relationship since some of the earliest days of Black Library’s Warhammer Fantasy fiction, much as is the case with him and the Dark Angels in Warhammer 40,000. I’ve read some of his Warhammer work to date, though not all, and his Time of Legends: The Sundering series stands as some of the best books I’ve read from him to date, though they don’t quite hold the same fascination for me as does his Warhammer 40,000 or Horus Heresy works. Still, whenever Gav writes something in WHF, I do sit up and take notice since he happens to be one of my favourite writers.

And his latest is The Doom of Dragonback, a novel set in a post-War of Vengeance Old World where the dwarfs are still recovering from their decades long war with the elves, who have themselves withdrawn from much of the land and are nursing their own wounds in their homeland, Ulthuan. Following the adventures of various dwarfs of Ekrund, The Doom of Dragonback is the story of how a mighty dwarf hold can fall to orcs and goblins, and how tenuous and fleeting life can be in such an environment. As has been the case of late for me with Gav’s work, the novel is among the best of his works, for he does lots of things here that are different from the norm.

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Van Horstmann by Ben Counter (Book Review)

Another one of Ben Counter’s recent (and great!) works, Van Horstmann is part of the Warhammer Heroes range, though that branding isn’t in use anymore and hasn’t been for a while either. This was also his first novel for Warhammer Fantasy and he proved himself to be a master given that his characters and the story and the magical action and everything were pretty top-notch. There are reasons why this novel made it to my “Best of 2013 Part 1” list and the above are some of them. If you want to read a standalone Warhammer Fantasy novel that also deals with magic and magical brotherhoods to a great degree, then Van Horstmann should be your first stop, without a doubt!

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

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The Return of Nagash by Josh Reynolds (Book Review)

The End Times have begun for Warhammer Fantasy. The hordes of Chaos are pouring in from the North even as vast armies of Daemons lay siege to Ulthuan and the Skaven rise up from the Under-Empire to claim dominance on the surface world. Bretonnia and the Empire face enemies of their own and heroes and villains rise up as well, only to fall before each other. It is a dark time indeed for Warhammer Fantasy, made all the darker by the fact that the greatest villain of the ages, Nagash himself has returned to challenge everyone everywhere. The Return of Nagash is the tale of how the necromantic liche is resurrected and what part the Von Carstein vampires play in that.

In the age when the Nehekharan Empire was still strong and vibrant in the Southlands, Nagash rose to power as the greatest sorcerer of his times, and he eventually went on to become the grandfather of all vampires everywhere. He clashed with heroes like Sigmar of the Empire, who eventually went on to become a God to its people, and his is a name considered one of the foulest by all the good people of the Old World. His is a legacy that cannot be forgotten, and that is exactly what Josh Reynolds builds upon in this novel. Through the eyes of the liche Arkhan the Black and Mannfred von Carstein, we see how the End Times are changing the world, and get a hint of the role that Nagash is going to play in it, not to mention the immense challenges that must be overcome for his return to become an undisputed reality.

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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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Valkia the Bloody by Sarah Cawkwell (Book Review)

Soon after having The Gildar Rift published in late 2011, Sarah had a second novel published a few months later. This time she tackled Warhammer Fantasy, with a character that I’ve since come to love. Valkia is easily the match of other great female characters of other big franchises, and her origin story is quite a compelling one. Its a shame that there haven’t been more stories with Valkia told since, in the longer format that is, because she has the potential to be a really great character in the Warhammer Fantasy setting.

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

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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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Best of 2014 Part 1a: Novels

This post is coming in at a slightly later time than I’d prefer, about two weeks late at least, but I guess I can’t really “complain” when the lateness is due to my own wedding which took place exactly two weeks ago on the 5th. It has certainly been a very busy and intense time, what with being engrossed in all the marriage stuff and then even after that there’s been one thing after another. Reading time has definitely suffered greatly, which makes me a little sad considering how much I love reading, but eh, all for a good cause really.

With half the year now over, it is time to do the first of my “Best of the Year” posts, for the period 1st January to 30th June. There’s been a ton of books that I’ve read in this period as usual, and I made a very strong effort to read more tie-in fiction than I usually do, so the list is most assuredly going to reflect that. Tie-in fiction is a very important part of the publishing industry I feel and it always deserves some recognition. Now if we could only get an award started that celebrated tie-in fiction and all would be alright with the world. Or so my thinking goes.

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

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Gotrek & Felix: The Serpent Queen by Josh Reynolds (Book Review)

Last year in January we had the first Gotrek & Felix novel after a gap of several long years. The series started off as short stories by William King that were eventually collected into a novel and became a trilogy, then a double trilogy and so on. Eventually, when William King left, Nathan Long was brought in and he enjoyed a good long run as well. But then the series lapsed and all we had for a while were more short stories and even some novellas, although they were primarily written by a new incoming group of authors. It was good stuff. But what we really needed was a full novel, and that’s what Josh Reynolds’ Road of Skulls did.

The new Gotrek & Felix novels, whether those written by Josh Reynolds or David Guymer, are set out of continuity, which means that they are not part of the main series and are set somewhere in between those adventures already published. Road of Skulls, the first in his new set of novels, was an absolute fantastic read and reminded me of why I loved the series in the first place. And now we have the third novel, The Serpent Queen, and it is every bit as good. It features some more out-of-continuity adventures but sets them in the Southlands, in the homelands of the Lizardmen and we see a conflict between Tomb Kings and Vampires. Pretty superb right out of the gate.

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Wolf of Sigmar by C. L. Werner (Book Review)

So ends another Time of Legends trilogy. C. L. Werner’s Black Plague is part of the second wave of trilogies that are part of the overall Time of Legends brand, trilogies that tell the tales of some of the greatest events in the Warhammer Fantasy Battles lore, such as the Fall of the Elves in Gav Thorpe’s The Sundering or the rise of Sigmar in Graham McNeill’s Legends of Sigmar. With his first two books in this trilogy, Herr Werner did something that hadn’t quite been there in other Warhammer novels, fantasy with a strong and intense political edge. This is what I loved best about the first novel Dead Winter and with the second novel Blighted Empire.

In the final novel, released a short while ago, Herr Werner took things further and he really established Black Plague as one of the finest trilogies in Warhammer. The action is superb. The characterisation is superb. The handling of all the different characters and the betrayals and alliances is superb. I honestly could not have asked for more on that front. Wolf of Sigmar went in some unexpected directions and since I’m not all that conversant with Warhammer lore, it proved to be a very satisfying read indeed.

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12 Days of Best SFF Characters of 2013: Day #1

For this new seasonal list (another one!!), for the best SFF characters I’ve read this year, my first pick is the duo of Gotrek & Felix from Josh Reynolds’ Road of Skulls, a part of the Gotrek & Felix series, a mainstay for the Warhammer Fantasy setting from Black Library (Games Workshop).

Hit the break to see why I picked these two characters.

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