Review: AZRAEL by Gav Thorpe (Black Library)

ThorpeG-SML-AzraelPBThe Chapter Master’s ascension, and the secrets of the Dark Angels

The Dark Angels Chapter sprang from the First Legion of Space Marines to fight and die at the Emperor’s side. But over ten thousand years, even the most staunchly loyal warriors of the Imperium can fall from grace, and the Dark Angels guard their own murky secrets most carefully — only Supreme Grand Master Azrael knows them all. A legend among Space Marines, he has fought for centuries and ever at the forefront of battle. Now, with the enigmatically alien eldar as his uneasy and unlikely allies, he must tread the fine line once more between the pursuit of victory, and keeping the Chapter’s past safely buried…

Continuing my new-found interest in loyalist Space Marine fiction, after thoroughly enjoying Guy Haley’s Dante, I dove into Azrael with pretty high hopes. It is, after all, written by Gav Thorpe — a long-time, excellent author of Black Library and, especially, Dark Angels fiction. This novel has a lot to offer fans of the chapter and setting as a whole. Continue reading

Review: GOLDEN PREY by John Sandford (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

SandfordJ-LD27-GoldenPreyUSLucas Davenport’s first mission as a US Marshal

The man was smart and he didn’t mind killing people. Welcome to the big leagues, Davenport.

Thanks to some very influential people whose lives he saved, Lucas is no longer working for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, but for the U.S. Marshals Service, and with unusual scope. He gets to pick his own cases, whatever they are, wherever they lead him.

And where they’ve led him this time is into real trouble. A Biloxi, Mississippi, drug-cartel counting house gets robbed, and suitcases full of cash disappear, leaving behind five bodies, including that of a six-year-old girl. Davenport takes the case, which quickly spirals out of control, as cartel assassins, including a torturer known as the “Queen of home-improvement tools” compete with Davenport to find the Dixie Hicks shooters who knocked over the counting house. Things get ugly real fast, and neither the cartel killers nor the holdup men give a damn about whose lives Davenport might have saved; to them, he’s just another large target.

In this, Lucas Davenport’s 27th novel, our hero shows no evidence of slowing down. Sandford also shows no evidence of running out of ideas. Davenport is now a US Marshal (albeit, one with a special classification), entering a larger jurisdiction populated by the worst of the worst. Tightly-plotted, excellently paced, Golden Prey is another superb addition to the series. Continue reading

Guest Review: CALGAR’S FURY by Paul Kearney (Black Library)

KearneyP-WH40k-CalgarsFuryThe Ultramarines Chapter Master steps into battle

The Realm of Ultramar stands as a shining beacon of order and strength in a galaxy wracked by war and torment. Custodian of this realm, and Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, Marneus Calgar has fought many foes and won countless wars to ensure its borders remain safe. But when an immense space hulk emerges into the Ultramar system, carrying with it the threat of something ancient and terrible, it is Calgar once again who stands in defence of his realm, prepared to meet whatever horrors are aboard and discover the mystery at the heart of the ship dubbed Fury.

Reviewed by Abhinav Jain

The Ultramarines have been the poster-child for WH40k’s various Space Marines Chapters for multiple years. The blue-armoured warriors can be seen on most of the primary packaging for the tabletop models and rulebooks as well. As the typical example of Space Marines, over the years their image has morphed into one that says, “These are the boring old Space Marines who do everything and are just perfect little warriors.”

While true to some extent, this is also wildly generalistic. Graham McNeill, especially, has done a lot over the years to change that image with his various Captain Uriel Ventris stories. Now, Paul Kearney offers a distinctive look at Marneus Calgar, the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines. Calgar’s Fury is a no-holds-barred action story, set on a derelict space hulk, the most classic of all 40k settings, and really delves into the psychology of the Chapter’s warriors at all levels of command. Continue reading

Review: DANTE by Guy Haley (Black Library)

haleyg-sml-danteThe history of the Blood Angels Chapter Master

Dante is Chapter Master of one of the noblest but most troubled Chapters of Space Marines in the Imperium: the Blood Angels. From the time of his birth in the rad-scarred wastes of Baal Secundus, he was destined for glory and strife. From his apotheosis to Scout, to the hive cities of Armageddon and the alien menace of the Cryptus system, Dante has waged war against all the enemies of the Imperium. He has witnessed the divine, and struggled against the darkness within all sons of Sanguinius. Longer lived than any other Chapter Master, this is his chronicle, his great and storied legend.

This is a really good novel. I hadn’t read any of the other novels in the Space Marine Legends series before this one (I have since, so keep an eye out for those reviews over the next couple of weeks), so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, though, and Dante offers a glimpse into the life and ascension of the “oldest living Space Marine”, the Chapter Master of the perennial favourites, the Blood Angels. Continue reading

Excerpt: MARLENE DIETRICH by Maria Riva (Open Road Media)

RivaM-MarleneDietrichORMOpen Road Media recently published Marlene Dietrich, a biography of the eponymous actress, written by her daughter, Maria Riva. To celebrate its release, the publisher has allowed me to share an excerpt. First, though, here’s the official synopsis:

With intimate detail, author Maria Riva reveals the rich life of her mother, Marlene Dietrich, the charismatic star of stage and screen whose career spanned much of the twentieth century. Opening with Dietrich’s childhood in Schöneberg, Riva’s biography introduces us to an energetic, disciplined, and ambitious young actress whose own mother equated show business with a world of vagabonds and thieves.

Dietrich would quickly rise to stardom on the Berlin stage in the 1920s with her sharp wit and bisexual mystique, and wearing the top hat and tails that revolutionized our concept of beauty and femininity. She comes alive in these pages in all her incarnations: muse, collaborator, bona fide movie star, box-office poison, lover, wife, and mother.

During World War II, Dietrich would stand up to the Nazis and galvanize American troops, eventually earning the Congressional Medal of Freedom. There were her artistic relationships with Josef von Sternberg (The Blue Angel, Morocco, Shanghai Express), Colette, Erich Maria Remarque, Noël Coward, and Cole Porter, as well as her heady romances. And in her final years, Dietrich would make herself visibly invisible, devoting herself to the immortality of her legend.

Capturing this complex and astonishing woman, Maria Riva’s insightful profile of her mother has the depth, range, and resonance of a novel, and takes us on a journey through Europe and old Hollywood during an era that is gone but not forgotten.

The excerpt, which starts after the break, covers how the actress decided on her stage name.

Continue reading

Music: BARNS COURTNEY

BarnsCourtney-DullDrumsI only just discovered Barns Courtney‘s music. Thanks to the eclectic radio station they usually have on, my favourite coffeeshop in Toronto has been a pretty great place to discover new music (or, new to me in some cases). Earlier this week, Courtney’s “Fire” came on and it grabbed my attention. I’ve been listening to his EP, The Dull Drums pretty much constantly ever since. Released by Virgin EMI, here is the short tracklist:

  1. “Fire”
  2. “Glitter & Gold”
  3. “Little Boy”
  4. “Hellfire”
  5. “Hands”

Continue reading

Quick Review: THE NIX by Nathan Hill (Vintage)

HillN-NixUSA compelling, engrossing story of a son’s quest to learn the truth about his mother

It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson hasn’t seen his mother, Faye, in decades — not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s reappeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.

To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love, and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother, and himself.

It took me a long time to read this, but I’m very glad I finally did: Hill is definitely a new author to watch, and I can’t wait to read his next book. The Nix is the story of Samuel’s quest to learn the truth about his mother, who abandoned him when he was still a child. The novel has so much going on, it’s difficult to encapsulate it in just a few sentences. It’s not perfect, but it is excellent. Continue reading