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Blood of Aenarion (Warhammer Novels)
Blood of Aenarion (Warhammer Novels)
by William King
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from $2.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finished it in two sittings..., December 29, 2011
OK so I'm a William King fan - I read all of his Gotrek & Felix novels so my expectations for the first installment of the Tyrion & Teclis saga were, as you would expect, very high.

To be honest, I was expecting to be disappointed. I really wondered whether Mr. King would be able to recreate the same dynamic duo that he had concocted to well documented success in his Slayer series. While the elf twins also make for an intriguing pair, they are already household names in the Black Library/Warhammer universe, which means that you know what to expect of them. What is also likely to be predictable are the events that will unfold in this new trilogy - they occur well before the current Warhammer timeline and everybody who knows anything about the universe can tell you exactly which struggles the gifted twins have been embroiled in and how it all unfolded.

Finally I doubted that the new series would match the Gotrek & Felix saga in terms of sheer comedic value. This was an area that had really made the slayer-and-poet combination memorable, complete with the comic villains (it was William King who invented Grey Seer Thanquol in the first place!), hilarious sidekicks (Snorri Nosebiter, Malakai Makaisson, not to mention a host of minor characters), and so on. The serious setting of Ulthuan and a cast made up of elves only, including Malekith, the Everqueen and the Phoenix King provide less opportunities to exploit King's sense of humour.

So I started reading. I guess some of my preconceptions proved right - there were no big surprises in terms of actual events, and some of the dialogue was a bit bland compared to what the author has accustomed his readers to, but the truth is I couldn't stop reading.

In just two sittings I had finished it. When I stopped I tried to think what it was that I had enjoyed so much about the book.

The prologue starts with a bang - an epic battle (the word epic doesn't truly capture it) that I don't want to talk about for fear of spoiling the pleasure - let's just say that if you're any kind of Warhammer fan you will definitely want to read it!

The pace then drops and is quite slow to pick up again, but that didn't bother me. The author delves into the universe of the elves at a slightly different angle than others have done before. It's the first time we enter the minds of truly young elves (the twins are 16 years old, which by elven standards means they are practically babies - much younger, say, than Alith Anar is at the start of Gav Thorpe's 'Shadow King'). That means that they discover the island continent of the elves at the same time as we the readers do. We learn about the relationship between the two brothers and their father, and much about their mother's family. We are also introduced to high elf politics in a way that I found refreshing (the character of Lord Emeraldsea provides a glimpse into how the state of Ulthuan works behind the scenes). There are some interesting cameo appearances by Malekith (and another dark elf...) and we get King's take on the true differences between the two faces of the sundered race. While the novel's focus is essentially on Tyrion (if you know anything about Teclis you'll be aware that his childhood was anything but easy), but the novel is really about the two of them, and this becomes more and more apparent towards the end.

So what did I really like about it? Well, in contrast to the majority of Black Library literature (unfortunately), the author's focus is well and truly on the characters, and the plot and descriptions - which are good, but not fantastic - don't get in the way of the characterization. I think that the author's goal was to make the novel into a little work of art around his two elvish creations. I heard an interview of his about the book where he talked of the solar/lunar dichotomy evoked by the contrasting natures and physiques of Tyrion and Teclis. The following quote from the book illustrates this nicely:

"Near the table was a freestanding mirror in which Tyrion could see his own reflection and that of Teclis.
He stood in the light of the lantern, Teclis was partially concealed in shadow."

Expect more of this when you pick up this book - because let's face it, if you are reading this, it means you probably will. And if you're anything like me you'll enjoy it and you'll be impatient to get a hold of the second installment of the series.

God King (Time of Legends)
God King (Time of Legends)
by Graham McNeill
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
21 used & new from $7.24

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good end to a solid series, July 25, 2011
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'God King' is the third and last installment of the 'Sigmar' Time of Legends series, set 2500 years before the 'current-day' Warhammer world, at the birth of the first Emperor, Sigmar Heldenhammer.

Although Sigmar has so far succeeded in forming and defending hi beloved Empire - his greatest test lies before him. An evil and extremely powerful necromancer from a distant southern kingdom has turned his eyes to Sigmar's Empire in view of retrieving a powerful artifact of his own creation.

McNeill gifts us another solid novel in the same vein as the previously released 'Heldenhammer' and 'Empire', but fails in some key areas.

One of these is once again the characterization of the villains - I'm a bit disappointed that between Mike Lee and Graham McNeill in the Times of Legend series nobody has yet truly been able to enter Nagash's psyche and give us some explanation of how he became such a black-hearted fiend, who never seemed to have anything in common with a human being. Also, his supposed genius mind has never been explored to any extent (we were told of his great intelligence, but it was never really shown).

Finally, I was a bit disappointed by the ending of the book, which did not wrap up Sigmar's legend and left a lot of questions opened with regard to the end of the first Emperor's reign and his famed exodus from the Empire. Will we get a second Sigmar series in the future?

Overall I rate 'God King' at three-and-a-half stars.

Empire (Time of Legends)
Empire (Time of Legends)
by Graham McNeill
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
33 used & new from $0.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Solid second 'Sigmar' installment, July 25, 2011
'Empire' continues where 'Heldenhammer' left off. The author puts up more obstacles for Sigmar to overcome, sometimes bringing out the worst in him, and leads him into another battle of epic proportions.

I felt that, while also very enjoyable this novel was not quite as successful as 'Heldenhammer'. Having established the setting and characters in the first book, I would have hoped to see more development of the key characters. Typically, Sigmar's companions become increasingly important men in his Empire, but fail to evolve and mature in consequence. Also, I feel that McNeill's focus on Sigmar has made it difficult for him to develop a decent antagonist. The villains in 'Empire' are a succession of petty opponents, none of which is developed in any meaningful way (although McNeill hints at an unseen and powerful enemy which may or may not pop up in the last novel of the series...). In particular, I'm disappointed that he didn't do more with Azazel, whose background and the visual cues form the basis of a classic villain, but remains unconvincing as we fail to fully grasp what he has become and what he aims to achieve.

Still a very good read - I understand that McNeill got a Gemmel award for this one, so kudos to him on a solid series on Sigmar and the birth of the Empire...

Time of Legends: Heldenhammer (Book 1)
Time of Legends: Heldenhammer (Book 1)
by Graham McNeill
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
41 used & new from $0.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best in the series, July 25, 2011
The reason I think that 'Heldenhammer' is the best of the 'Sigmar' Time of Legends series (although not by a very significant margin) is that the characterization is slightly better in this installment than in the next two, especially as far as the protagonist is concerned.

McNeill obviously went to some effort trying to bring to life the Empire of 2500 years ago, when isolated tribes attempted to survive in the dangerous forested regions of the Old World. He also gave us his take on the man Sigmar, what made him great without forgetting his shortcomings, longings and ambitions. The author is at least partly successful - Sigmar, his companions and his love story are mostly believable (though a bit one-dimensional at times), the descriptions of Reikdorf and the rest of what would become the Empire feeling like something of a dream world when compared to the numerous modern day accounts of the same land. Also, without giving too much away the novel features what is probably the most famous battle in Imperial history, and McNeill does a fantastic job of detailing it at length, conveying its size and the desperate odds facing the human very effectively.

As a whole I give it 4.5 stars.

Nagash the Unbroken (Book Two of the Nagash Trilogy) (Warhammer)
Nagash the Unbroken (Book Two of the Nagash Trilogy) (Warhammer)
by Mike Lee
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
25 used & new from $2.10

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing second book in the series, July 25, 2011
After the epic first novel of the Time of Legends series around Nagash and Ancient Nehekhara, 'Nagash the Sorcerer', I was impatient to get my hands on its sequel.

I was disappointed to find that this novel had nothing of the epic grandeur of the first book. Nagash becomes embroiled in long, drawn-out wars with barbarian tribes to the north of Nehekhara, and this served no purpose other than to show that Nagash is a survivor.

A second story thread involves Queen Neferata of Lahmia and the birth of the Master Vampires, an essential part of Warhammer Fantasy lore. The story was rushed and failed to bring to life the advent of these powerful beings whose bloodlines would contribute to shape the Warhammer world for millenia to come.

The two story threads kept evolving in parallel, never rejoining at any part.

It felt as though Mike Lee was on a tighter schedule for this book than for 'Nagash the Sorcerer', and was unable to further do justice to the grand events he has been offered to relate.

In addition there were a couple of strange mistakes that left me baffled. To cite one of them, on page 39 Lee makes an impossible error twice: Nagash has a vision of his brother Thutep and calls him his 'older brother'. Later on the same page Nagash curses the fact that he had not been his father's firstborn son. ?! Nagash was the firstborn son, as was established and repeated many times during 'Nagash the Sorcerer'! The tradition in Khemri is that the firstborn son is offered to the Mortuary cult while the second son inherits the throne. How could the author have made such an enormous mistake? Any reader would have spotted this, let alone the author himself...

Anyway despite all these criticisms I still got to the end of this book quite fast and look forward to the next one. Knowing the history of Nagash quite well I wonder how the author will cram so much into the final book when he has more or less wasted this one without advancing the storyline much at all...

Nagash the Sorcerer (Nagash Trilogy)
Nagash the Sorcerer (Nagash Trilogy)
by Mike Lee
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
28 used & new from $0.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Epic... the way a Time of Legends novel should be, July 25, 2011
I was enthralled by this epic tale of Ancient Nehekhara, which pits the lengendary necromancer Nagash against the rest of Nehekharan civilization at its peak. The setting, based on Ancient Egypt, is brought to life in all its splendour by the descriptions of the fabulous Nehekharan cities, its pantheon and priesthood, and of course all the great large scale battles described at length in 'Nagash the Sorcerer'.

Perhaps the best Black Library author when it comes to describing epic fantasy battles (also evidenced during the Naggor campaign against Hag Graef in one of his Malus Darkblade novels), Mike Lee is at his very best in this first part of the Nagash series. Lee is not known to remain faithful to established lore in his novels, but in this case I thought the deviations were an improvement, and as a this is a 'Time of Legends' novel I guess his version is now the official one.

My only complaint is the complete lack of characterisation throughout the novel, which is a shame, especially as Nagash and some of the Nehekharan kings had the makings of fabulous characters. But the novel contains so much that I nevertheless maintain my rating at five stars.

Beasts in Velvet (Warhammer Novels)
Beasts in Velvet (Warhammer Novels)
by Jack Yeovil
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
24 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A little jewel of a novel, July 25, 2011
Jack Yeovil/Kim Newman introduced me to the Warhammer world, and I have been hooked since.

Although his work is hardly typical of Black Library literature, his two novels Drachenfels and Beasts in Velvet (and to a lesser extent his short stories) contributed immensely to fleshing out the fantasy universe and paved the way for many other authors to draw from the characters and places, not to mention the overall atmosphere of Warhammer, that awoke in his imaginative mind in the late eighties and nineties.

Beasts in Velvet is perhaps his most impressive contribution, a tight two-hundred page read featuring a fast-paced plot (duels, murders, riots, gang wars, investigations...), a good fifteen vivid and richly developed characters, and managing to bring the Imperial city of Altdorf to life, even if it is shrouded in a thick fog for most of the novel. A map of Altdorf, which can easily be found online, makes the reading even more enjoyable.

Easily worth five stars.

The Chronicle of Malus Darkblade Vol. 1 (Warhammer Anthology)
The Chronicle of Malus Darkblade Vol. 1 (Warhammer Anthology)
by Dan Abnett
Edition: Paperback
46 used & new from $4.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great stuff, with a couple of issues..., July 19, 2011
****My review contains a few references to events in the books that could be perceived as spoilers, so please don't read any further if you haven't read them and don't feel like discovering anything up front****

I really enjoyed all five novels compiled in the two Malus Darkblade anthologies, especially 'Bloodstorm' and the 'Reaper of Souls', both featured in this first omnibus.

I found that the author did a great job with his protagonist, who despite being reckless, untrustworthy and downright despicable, managed to keep me (and a great many other readers) interested through five entire novels. Let's face it, Naggaroth is a grim place and Malus Darkblade is a bitter, twisted character with few redeeming features. What makes him special is his cold determination in the face of distressing circumstances and ever-worsening prospects. Despite the many obstacles and odds stacked against him, he never relinquishes his dreams of power and glory. What's interesting with Malus is that although he is a loathsome bastard by anybody's standards (in fact he is technically a bastard), we discover as the character develops that he follows something akin to a code of honour and that he is not wholly ungrateful to his retainers for the assistance they provide... It's just that he has his own way of showing them how much they are appreciated.

As said above, novels two and three are my favourite. After setting the scene and the major plotline in the Daemon's Curse, Mike Lee sends Malus headlong into two fantastic adventures - one at sea (Bloodstorm), on a ship filled with Druchii corsairs, and featuring naval battles, witch elves, Nurgle cultists and lots of intrigue going on between Malus and his siblings, and the other (Reaper of Souls) in Western Naggaroth, where Malus gets his first assignment leading a dark elf army. Both stories are riveting, totally unpredictable and well written, and kept me on the edge of my seat.

Now, it wasn't all good. As anyone who knows a bit about Warhammer fantasy lore, and fantasy lore in general, there are just too many glaring mistakes to be ignored.

To list a couple:
- the author makes several mentions of the 'Seven Treacheries of Aenarion'. This makes no sense - the druchii honour and admire Aenarion as a hero of Nagarythe, wielder of the Sword of Khaine, husband to Morathi and father to the Witch King himself. The Druchii claim that they are the true followers of Aenarion, and that it was the Asur (High Elves) who turned their backs on him by choosing Bel-Shanaar in lieu of Malekith as Aenarion's successor on the Phoenix Throne
- in a later book (ok, not relevant for this review...) great strife hits the city of Har Ganeth, and we are introduced to the upper echelons of the Cult of Khaine. However there is no mention of Crone Hellebron, the supreme leader of the cult. Instead we are told that the highest ranking priest is the 'Grand Carnifex', who is never mentioned in the official lore.
- several druchii feature beards and moustaches! Now that one is just stunning. Since when do elves have facial hair?

This third point is symptomatic of my third criticism of the books. While Lee brings the land of Naggaroth to life with these novels, its inhabitants do not seem to have anything in common with the high elves. They may be evil and cruel, but otherwise they behave exactly like humans. They are often small-minded, reckless, petty, incompetent, cowardly and/or clumsy. In fact the author often refers to them as 'men', and when the term 'elf' is used, it typically refers to their island-dwelling kin. Because of this the dark elves do not appear as alien as they probably should, and the reader might wonder why they are feared as much as they are seeing as they spend most of their time bickering and scheming amongst themselves in skaven fashion.

All in all this was a good read - without the flaws listed above it would have easily warranted five stars.

Matthias Thulmann: Witch Hunter (Warhammer Novels)
Matthias Thulmann: Witch Hunter (Warhammer Novels)
by C. L. Werner
Edition: Paperback
36 used & new from $10.12

5.0 out of 5 stars Blockbuster perfection! Five stars, easily..., July 18, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This collection of CL Werner's Mathias Thulmann novels and short stories gave me - along with William King's Gotrek & Felix series - some of the most enjoyable reading in the last couple of years.

Werner's characters, both protagonists and antagonists, are very well developed and offer colourfully contrasting points of view. The story takes place in the Warhammer world, for once in the relative backwater of Stirland, a remote province of the Empire, far from the more familiar grandeur of Imperial cities such as Altdorf, Nuln and Middenheim.

The plot evolves typically at a fast pace, aside from the first half of 'Witch Hunter', which enables the author to create an atmosphere of anguish and expectation in the eerie surroundings of Klausberg. The beginning of the novel felt to me like a cross between Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Jack Yeovil/Kim Newman's Drachenfels (for the atmospheric prologue that leaves the reader feeling like the truth is perhaps different than it appears, only to be proven right in the most unexpected way). By the time we reach the tail end of the story though, Werner has introduced two of the greatest villains of the Warhammer world and the plot accelerates and finishes strongly, tying nicely into 'Witch Finder', the second full-length novel in the collection, in which Werner conjures up yet another fantastic villain (ok, no more spoilers...). The omnibus ends with 'Witch Killer', which stops short of tying up every loose end and therefore lets us dream about further installments of the great witch hunter's saga !

Mathias Thulmann is one of my favourite Black Library characters. He is less powerful and confident than say Brunner the Bounty Hunter or Gotrek Gurnisson, but he does not lack courage and understanding of the 'powers of Old Night' and doesn't hesitate to confront ignoble monsters, armed only with his faith in Sigmar and some dodgy-sounding weapons. His vulnerability and constant struggle against great evil make him easy to root for, and his relationship with Streng contributes just enough comic relief so as not to be dragged down by Thulmann's gloomy nature.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for an exciting read, whether they are Black Library aficionados or not.

Grey Seer (Warhammer Novels)
Grey Seer (Warhammer Novels)
by C. L. Werner
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
31 used & new from $15.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read!, July 18, 2011
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel.

I must admit to being a fan of the Warhammer fantasy background, Gotrek & Felix novels, and Mr. Werner's oeuvre.

Grey Seer's main attraction is of course the paranoid, megalomaniac, villainous skaven mage Thanquol, one of a long list of memorable characters initially drawn from William King's lush imagination. The insane ratman was responsible for many delectable moments of action and humour in the G&F series, so it was only fair that he got his own series, and having skillfully featured skaven characters in previous novels of his (Mathias Thulmann, Brunner the Bounty Hunter, Vermintide...), Werner was the ideal candidate for the job.

I will disagree with some of the other reviewers as I feel that the author has managed to preserve much of the humour around the inner workings of skaven society and Thanquol himself, while making the skaven appear like an actual menace to mankind (well, at least almost as much of a menace as they are to themselves...). While I agree that the character of Jeremias Scrivener could have been more adequately introduced and seemed a bit overpowered (although Thanquol and Boneripper both had a good shot at him), I found the clash between the human Shadowmancer and his human servants against the skaven quite enthralling.

Overall, a great read for Warhammer fans, and maybe something new and unexpected for other fantasy readers.

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