Review: THIRD WAR OF ARMAGGEDON (Black Library)

Various-Armageddon-ThirdWarSome connected WH40k short stories

Armageddon is a world engulfed by war. As the Third War for the planet rages on, the Imperial defenders sell their lives dearly to hold back the near-endless green tide of orks. On this world of battle, legends are forged and heroes made – but against the might of the greatest ork invasion in history, even the Imperium’s greatest warriors may not be enough to triumph.

This is a series of short stories that Black Library released over a single week (one a day) not so long ago. They are all connected to the “Third War of Armageddon”, a major conflict and world in the Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi setting. Black Library have a history of releasing great short fiction, and there were certainly a couple of very good stories in this collection. Continue reading

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Horus Heresy Short Reviews: CENSURE and WOLF OF ASH AND FIRE (Black Library)

Just wanted to flag up two Horus Heresy short stories I’ve read recently, as they were both very good, and well worth an enthusiast’s time.

Kyme-HH-CensureCENSURE by Nick Kyme

In the depths of Calth’s arcology network, the Underworld War has raged for years. Aeonid Thiel, previously an honoured sergeant of the Ultramarines, once again finds himself in trouble – pitted against the daemonic forces of the Word Bearers, he has no choice but to venture back to the ravaged surface and brave the deadly solar flares that have scoured all life from this world. With a lowly Imperial Army trooper as his only companion, it falls to him to drive the maniacal Dark Apostle Kurtha Sedd and his warband from the overrun XIIIth Legion stronghold.

This was originally released as an audio-drama. When it was released as an eBook, however, I picked it up right away. Kyme is really growing as an author – each new story of his that I read, I can see that he’s just getting better and better. This story is set (once again) on Calth, the planet at which the Heresy and the extent of the betrayal truly exploded out into the open. After the battle of Calth, there could be no denying that the galaxy had indeed been set on fire. Censure is set some years after the events of Mark of Calth and Know No Fear, and Aeonid Thiel has returned to the ravaged world to fight against the Word Bearers and support the remnant loyalists. It focuses on a specific mission and conflict, and is fast-paced, nuanced, and expertly paced. Quite excellent, and very highly recommended.

*

McNeill-HH-WolfOfAshAndFireTHE WOLF OF ASH AND FIRE by Graham McNeill

The Wolf of Ash and Fire is a Horus Heresy short story that takes place during the Great Crusade, before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy. The Wolf of Ash and Fire follows Horus Lupercal, fighting alongside the Emperor Himself, as the Luna Wolves fight for control of the Ork-held planetoid of Gorro. The Wolf of Ash and Fire was released as a free e-book with every copy of Macragge’s Honour.

This short story was released free through the Black Library website some time ago. It’s a quick, battle-filled tale of Horus’s strategic expertise, battlefield fury, and pre-Heresy devotion to the Emperor. It is also one of the few stories that features both the Emperor and Horus on the battlefield together – and it is epic. The battle scenes are great, swirling and furious. I’d really like McNeill (or any of the Heresy writers, actually) to revisit this campaign, or just write some more stories like this. As with Censure, this is highly recommended for all fans of the series. I can’t wait for McNeill’s next Heresy novel, Vengeful Spirit (out later this year).

“Legion of the Damned” Digital Anthology (Black Library)

Various-BL-LegionOfTheDamnedCollection

A collection of short stories all focused on that enigmatic Space Marines legion, the Legion of the Damned, from some of Black Library’s best up-and-comers and a couple of not-quite-old-hands. The Legion are a peculiar addition to the WH40k lore. I remember when they first made models for them (they were a custom job by one of their professional modellers, if I remember correctly). Since then, there’s no doubt that they’ve fleshed out the background and the story of who and what the Legion is. Sadly, I haven’t been keeping up-to-date with more than the fiction set in Games Workshop’s science fiction and fantasy systems for well over a decade. As a result, these six stories contained some interesting new detail. I still don’t have a full picture of how the Legion ‘works’, but by no means does this bother me. These authors have done a great job of writing tales that tap into the horror and menace of the Legion of the Damned, and their mysterious appearances on the battlefields of the 41st millennium. I’ll deal with each of the stories individually, below…

I read the stories as individual short stories on my Kindle, so I have no idea if I read them in the order that the collection is compiled. I’ve listed them in the order I read them.

David Annandale, THE DARK HOLLOWS OF MEMORY

The sinister limbo of winter is falling on the Imperial archive world of Mnemosyne. A great fog rolls in, one that will not dissipate for months. With it comes unimaginable hell for the planet’s citizens as the Chaos Space Marines of the Company of Misery stage a brutal invasion. But as the defenders of Mnemosyne fall before the Traitors, something moves in the mist. There are phantoms abroad, warriors of darkness and flame. The Company of Misery is now confronted by the Legion of the Damned, and the terrified scribes of the Librarium find themselves caught in a war between the armies of horror and terror.

This was a really good story. It’s peculiar, atmospheric, well-paced and very well-written. I also liked the battle in the library-feel to it. Just right for a short story, I think. A tricky story to write about without ruining the ending. Needless to say, the Legion of the Damned and their aesthetic and tactics are perfectly suited to Annandale’s skills and style of writing – he does a great job of evoking the sinister-spookiness of the Legion. The author continues to impress, with each new piece of fiction. I’ll have to bump his latest Space Marine Battles novella, Stormseer, up the TBR (e-)mountain.

*

Josh Reynolds, REMORSELESS

After a gruelling siege, the Iron Warriors scent victory over their eternal enemies the Imperial Fists. Alongside their grand battalions is a host of Traitor Guardsmen – Skaranx is unique amongst their number, a killer of Angels. As he stalks his singular prey, he encounters Space Marines the likes of which he has never seen before. Remorseless, these warriors are beyond life and death. They are damned and so, he realises chillingly, is he…

This story didn’t start as slickly as I’ve come to expect from Reynolds. It certainly improved tremendously and quickly as the story unfolded, though. The antagonist, who is also the narrator, is sufficiently brutal and twisted. The near-claustrophobic urban battlefield setting is well-written and presented, and adds to the frantic combat and atmosphere of chaos. I imagined this could be filmed with close-focus handicam, all shaky and intense (like a baroque, military sci-fi version of the Jason Bourne movies). By the end of the story, this has turned into a very good, engaging cat-and-mouse battle. If the mouse was a genhanced killing machine, and the cat was just a creepier, more efficient killing machine…

*

L.J. Goulding, ANIMUS MALORUM

Fighting against ork invasion, Fourth Captain Erices and his few surviving warriors are prepared to sell their own lives dearly in the name of the Imperium. However, when dark legionnaires led by the mysterious Brother-Sergeant Centurius emerge from the catacombs to aid in the defence of the city, it becomes worryingly unclear what exactly they might expect in return…

This story takes on a very interesting aspect of the Legion of the Damned’s presence in the WH40k universe. Specifically, what happens after the battle? It’s a nice alternative approach to the Legion: after all, they are only usually presented on the field of battle. I had never read any fiction or background text that discussed what happens next. Animus Malorum is a well-written tale, with a superb, sinister twist at the very end. I didn’t see that coming. Very cool indeed.

*

Graeme Lyons, FROM THE FLAMES

Battle-brother Seoc of the Invaders is alone. With his brothers dead around him, killed by the avatar of an alien war god, he prepares to sell his life dearly and join the Emperor in eternity. Until something emerges from the flames… Spectral Space Marines, their black armour adorned with symbols of fire and death, move to engage the enemy, but can Seoc survive the battle between the bloody-handed horror and the terrible revenants?

This was more a micro-story, really, but it is nevertheless a pretty good one. It’s a very quickly-paced battle scene, which offers an interesting and inspired way to deal with a burning enemy (Eldar Avatar) and what that means for burning saviours (the Legion of the Damned squad that does the battlefield equivalent of a drive-by). It was a very good decision to keep this short, as it gave the story more punch.

*

C.Z. Dunn, SHIP OF THE DAMNED

Far from home, Sister Agentha travels aboard an ancient pilgrim vessel, providing a sacred light in the vast darkness of the void. However, on answering a mysterious distress signal, she soon finds herself with far more to contend with than the ignorance of children as plague zombies flood the decks and wreak bloody havoc on the faithful. Trapped in the belly of the ship with death on all sides, Agentha’s only hope is a mysterious black object taken from a group of refugees… but will it send help, and what will be left of them when it does?

I really liked that this story was focused on a female non-combatant: Sister Agentha, who is effectively a teacher (although, one with considerable faculty for violence, seeing as everyone from her order is still trained to battle the foes of the Emperor). She confiscated a shiny metallic ball from one of her students, something he picked up after the shuttle he was originally on was left adrift, dropped by space marines in black armour. The pilgrim vessel the characters inhabit answers a distress signal that proves to contain… plague zombies! It’s been a while since I read anything about those gribbly beasties. The story is atmospheric and tense. Good stuff.

*

Nick Kyme, VOTUM INFERNUS

Fleeing in the aftermath of a terrible defeat, troopers of the Vostroyan Firstborn are being hunted by dark eldar. A pair of wyches, a brother and sister, plan to make brutal sport of the mon’keigh. But as the mists thicken a strange figure appears on the battlefield, one clad in armour of blackest night. Who are “the Damned” and what do they want with this world and the souls upon it…?

What happens when warriors who employ and embody fear are faced with an enemy more terrifying? This is a pretty interesting story. Sometimes, the description went a bit further than necessary, creating tautologies, but it’s still a solid addition to the collection. It’s perhaps not Kyme’s best, but does the trick. In addition, the twist at the end was unexpected and pretty cool.

*

General Thoughts…

There is a slight feeling of repetition, if you read all of these stories together. This is neither the fault of the authors, nor me saying that the stories are all the same (just see what I’ve written, above). Rather, the nature of the Legion of the Damned and how they “work” in the WH40k setting means there are only a limited number of ways to describe (particulars aside) their appearance on a battlefield and also their physical aspect (for example, from Lyons’s piece, “Hulking black shadows wreathed in witchfire, they are of sinister aspect, ebon armour decorated with arcane sigils made of what looks like bone” – this tells you everything you need to know, and is a variation on what’s to be found in all these stories – and probably the Space Marine Battles: Legion of the Damned novel, too…). Overall, though, I enjoyed reading these stories. If you’re looking for short stories set in the WH40k universe, with a slightly more dark, horror-feel to them, then this collection should suit perfectly.

Recent Acquisitions (Early October)…

BooksReceived-201310

Another clutch of interesting books.

A nice mix, actually. I’m really trying to broaden what I feature on here – who knows how successful I will be in that endeavour. Partly, this is because my day-job involves reading a fair bit of SFF, which means I’m finding myself drawn more to thrillers (e.g. John Sandford) and (literary-)fiction. I’m still going to be reading plenty of SFF, of course (my interest in that is never going to go away). I just hope I can at least somewhat keep on top of all of these titles. Maybe I need to get some more writers involved.

Anyway, here’s what has turned up in the first few days of October…

Abnett-GG1-First&Only-BLCDan Abnett, First & Only (Black Library)

In the war-torn future of the 41st millenium, the Sabbat Worlds Crusade has begun. With the massed ranks of the Imperial Guard hard-pressed by the evil forces of Chaos, mankind must prevail – whatever the cost in lives. Commissar Ibram Gaunt has vowed to lead the men of the Tanith First-and-Only safely through the scheming of rival regiments just as much as the lethal firepower of the enemy.

It’s been fifteen years since the first Black Library novel, First and Only, was published. It is, therefore 15 years since I read it first (I bought it on the first day of publication). In many ways, it was a defining science-fiction book for me. I became hooked on Abnett’s writing, and have read (almost) everything he’s written for Black Library since. The Gaunt’s Ghosts series remains one of my absolute favourites, and this new edition is rather nice. If you haven’t tried the series, yet, then I would certainly recommend that you do. This is a great collection of the original Inferno short stories and more. I may actually take this opportunity to re-read this again, for what must be the fourth or fifth time.

*

CardOS-EndersGameOrson Scott Card, Ender’s Game (Orbit)

The human race faces annihilation.

An alien threat is on the horizon, ready to strike. And if humanity is to be defended, the government must create the greatest military commander in history.

The brilliant young Ender Wiggin is their last hope. But first he must survive the rigours of a brutal military training programme – to prove that he can be the leader of all leaders.

A saviour for mankind must be produced, through whatever means possible. But are they creating a hero or a monster?

An author who is no stranger to many – almost more infamous now, than famous. Ender’s Game is one of the seminal science fiction texts of the 1980s (it was first published in 1985), lauded by many, and even (so I’ve been told) taught in some military/strategy classes. As I’ve mentioned (oh so) frequently on CR, I’m a relative latecomer to SFF, and always leaned more towards fantasy than sci-fi (Star Wars and WH40k notwithstanding). Rather than go back to the beginning, as many people do, I’ve always tended towards picking up newer titles (also because those are the ARCs I get). On Monday, I was invited to attend a Q&A with the cast of the upcoming, long-in-the-making movie adaptation of Ender’s Game. It was a very good event, and the enthusiasm the cast, director/screenwriter and producers had for the story and movie was infectious. So, despite being utterly opposed to the author’s politics and social ‘beliefs’, I am very interested in reading the novel. I’ll be reading it relatively soon, too, in preparation for the movie.

*

DelToro-CabinetOfCuriositiesGuillermo del Toro, Cabinet of Curiosities (Titan)

Over the last two decades, writer-director Guillermo del Toro has mapped out a territory in the popular imagination that is uniquely his own, astonishing audiences with Cronos, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, and a host of other films and creative endeavors. Now, for the first time, del Toro reveals the inspirations behind his signature artistic motifs, sharing the contents of his personal notebooks, collections, and other obsessions. The result is a startling, intimate glimpse into the life and mind of one of the world’s most creative visionaries. Complete with running commentary, interview text, and annotations that contextualize the ample visual material, this deluxe compendium is every bit as inspired as del Toro is himself.

Contains a foreword by James Cameron, an afterword by Tom Cruise, and contributions from other luminaries, including Neil Gaiman and John Landis, among others.

A gorgeous art and photo book by del Toro on his various movie and comic projects? Yeah, I was definitely going to be interested. I’ve already read through it – it’s a book you can dip in and out of, too – it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the man’s movies and aesthetic. It’s also another example of how gorgeous Titan Books’ products can be. Very highly recommended. I’ll try to get a review up ASAP.

*

Dembski-Bowden-Betrayer(HH)Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Betrayer (Black Library)

The Shadow Crusade has begun. While the Ultramarines reel from Kor Phaeron’s surprise attack on Calth, Lorgar and the rest of the Word Bearers strike deep into the realm of Ultramar. Their unlikely allies, Angron and the World Eaters, continue to ravage each new system they come across – upon the garrison planet of Armatura, this relentless savagery may finally prove to be their undoing. Worlds will burn, Legions will clash and a primarch will fall.

I’ve already read and reviewed this novel, so all I’ll say is that it’s excellent. You can find my complete review, here. Aaron DB’s one of my favourite authors of any type of fiction, and Betrayer is another example of his prodigious talent for characterisation.

*

KymeN-SalamandersOmnibusNick Kyme, Salamanders Omnibus (Black Library)

After the death of their captain at the hands of a traitorous brother, Da’kir and Tsu’gan, battle-brothers and rivals, face enemies from within and without. As their paths diverge and they face trials that will test them to their very limits, their destinies draw them back together for one final confrontation that will decide the fate of the Salamanders Chapter.

Ah, the Salamanders series. Why haven’t I read this yet? Seriously. It should be right up my street, and given how good everything I’ve read by Kyme has been, I really don’t know why I haven’t already read this series. I have the novels already (in eBook), but this omnibus puts everything into chronological order, so what I’m probably going to do is read the short stories and extras in here, switch to the eBooks for the novels, and review it in chunks. Or something. We’ll see. I will read at least some of this series this year. Hopefully. Most recently, I read Kyme’s first full-length contribution to the Horus Heresy series – Vulkan Lives – and it was absolutely superb. If the Salamander novels are even half as good as that, they’re going to be great reads. Watch this space for more (hopefully) soon.

*

McNabA-SilencerAndy McNab, Silencer (Bantam)

1993: Under deep cover, Nick Stone and a specialist surveillance team have spent weeks in the jungles and city streets of Colombia. Their mission: to locate the boss of the world’s most murderous drugs cartel – and terminate him with extreme prejudice.

Now they can strike. But to get close enough to fire the fatal shot, Nick must reveal his face. It’s a risk he’s willing to take – since only the man who is about to die will see him. Or so he thinks…

2012: Nick is in Moscow; semi-retired; semi-married to Anna; very much the devoted father of their newborn son. But when the boy falls dangerously ill and the doctor who saves him comes under threat, Nick finds himself back in the firing line. To stop his cover being terminally blown, he must follow a trail that begins in Triad-controlled Hong Kong and propels him back into the even more brutal world he thought he’d left behind.

The forces ranged against him have guns, helicopters, private armies and a terrified population in their vice-like grip. Nick Stone has two decades of operational skills that may no longer be deniable – and a fierce desire to protect a woman and a child who now mean more to him than life itself.

Another author I’ve not read much of. I now have two of his novels on my shelves to read. I have no idea why I haven’t read anything by him before. Probably because I do tend to be drawn to US-based contemporary thrillers. (Interestingly, I am fine with reading historical thrillers set anywhere, but when they’re modern, I gravitate towards American thrillers… Weird.) I need to break that habit, I think.

*

NivenJ-StraightWhiteMaleJohn Niven, Straight White Male (William Heinemann)

Kennedy Marr is a novelist from the old school. Irish, acerbic, and a borderline alcoholic and sex-addict, his mantra is drink hard, write hard and try to screw every woman you meet.

He’s writing film scripts in LA, fucking, drinking and insulting his way through Californian society, but also suffering from writers block and unpaid taxes. Then a solution presents itself – Marr is to be the unlikely recipient of the W. F. Bingham Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Modern Literature, an award worth half a million pounds. But it does not come without a price: he must spend a year teaching at the English university where his ex-wife and estranged daughter now reside.

As Kennedy acclimatises to the sleepy campus, inspiring revulsion and worship in equal measure, he’s forced to reconsider his precarious lifestyle. Incredible as it may seem, there might actually be a father and a teacher lurking inside this “preening, narcissistic, priapic, sociopath”. Or is there?

You know, I only heard of this book a few days ago, and I can’t for the life of me remember where I heard or read about it… Thankfully, I received a copy from the publisher, and I intend to read it ASAP, on one of my soon-to-be-frequent breaks from SFF. The blurbs for this and Niven’s previous novels are gushing and plentiful, so I have high hopes for this. And I have a soft-spot for novels with academics as protagonists (as a wannabe academic myself, I find them easy to relate to…).

*

Pratchett-ABlinkOfTheScreenTerry Pratchett, A Blink of the Screen (Corgi)

A collection of short fiction from Terry Pratchett, spanning the whole of his writing career from schooldays to Discworld and the present day.

In the four decades since his first book appeared in print, Terry Pratchett has become one of the world’s best-selling and best-loved authors. Here for the first time are his short stories and other short-form fiction collected into one volume. A Blink of the Screen charts the course of Pratchett’s long writing career: from his schooldays through to his first writing job on the Bucks Free Press, and the origins of his debut novel, The Carpet People; and on again to the dizzy mastery of the phenomenally successful Discworld series.

Here are characters both familiar and yet to be discovered; abandoned worlds and others still expanding; adventure, chickens, death, disco and, actually, some quite disturbing ideas about Christmas, all of it shot through with Terry’s inimitable brand of humour. With an introduction by Booker Prize-winning author A.S. Byatt, illustrations by the late Josh Kirby and drawings by the author himself, this is a book to treasure.

I have never read any of Pratchett’s shorter fiction. So when this unexpectedly arrived in my mailbox, I was giddy with excitement and expectation. The only question remains, as it is a given that I will read this, is in what order? Will I be able to resist the temptation to go straight to the Discworld short stories, before reading the others? Or will I be good and read it from front-to-back? A pickle, to be sure, and something that will require some thought.

*

Resnick-TheDoctor&TheDinosaurMike Resnick, The Doctor and the Dinosaur (Pry)

Welcome to a Steampunk wild west starring Doc Holliday, with zombies, dinosaurs, robots, and cowboys.

The time is April, 1885. Doc Holliday lies in bed in a sanitarium in Leadville, Colorado, expecting never to leave his room again. But the medicine man and great chief Geronimo needs him for one last adventure. Renegade Comanche medicine men object to the newly-signed treaty with Theodore Roosevelt. They are venting their displeasure on two white men who are desecrating tribal territory in Wyoming. Geronimo must protect the men or renege on his agreement with Roosevelt. He offers Doc one year of restored health in exchange for taking on this mission.

Welcome to the birth of American paleontology, spearheaded by two brilliant men, Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, two men whose genius is only exceeded by their hatred for each other’s guts.

Now, with the aid of Theodore Roosevelt, Cole Younger, and Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday must save Cope and Marsh not only from the Comanches, not only from living, breathing dinosaurs, but from each other. And that won’t be easy.

This is the fourth book in Resnick’s Steampunk Western series. Sad to say, I’ve only read the first – the middle two are in the US, along with so many of my books, which means they’ve been put on the back-burner. It’s a fun premise, and Resnick can pull it off rather nicely. I’m looking forward to being able to catch up.

*

StewartM-M1-CrystalCaveMary Stewart, The Crystal Cave (Hodder)

The dramatic first novel in the classic Merlin Trilogy, set in fifth century Britain at the beginning of the time of King Arthur.

Fifth century Britain is a country of chaos and division after the Roman withdrawal. This is the world of young Merlin, the illegitimate child of a South Wales princess who will not reveal to her son his father’s true identity.

Yet Merlin is an extraordinary child, aware at the earliest age that he possesses a great natural gift – the Sight. Against a background of invasion and imprisonment, wars and conquest, Merlin emerges into manhood, and accepts his dramatic role in the New Beginning – the coming of King Arthur.

Somehow, I had never knowingly heard of this novel before it arrived (it is the third title for the Hodderscape Review Project). I was talking to Alyssa when it arrived, and she said it was fantastic, so I have no doubt I will like this (she has impeccable taste). A re-telling of the Merlin story? Intriguing.

*

Tidhar-TheViolentCenturyLavie Tidhar, The Violent Century (Hodder)

They’d never meant to be heroes.

For seventy years they guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable friends, bound together by a shared fate. Until one night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart.

But there must always be an account… and the past has a habit of catching up to the present.

Now, recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism – a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms, of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields – to answer one last, impossible question:

What makes a hero?

Another novel I have already read (and very much liked), this is a must-read take on super-hero mythos, blended with a noir-ish reimagining of the 20th Century. It was the first novel of Tidhar’s that I read, and I was very impressed indeed. I think a lot of people are going to like this. Check out my review, here.

*

Wraight-MasterOfDragonsChris Wraight, Master of Dragons (Black Library)

For millennia, the elves of Ulthuan and the dwarfs of the mountain realm have been friends and allies. Now that time is over and the War of Vengeance has begun. Prince Imladrik, master of dragons and Ulthuan’s finest warrior, is ordered to leave his beloved homeland and lead his host in a war he does not believe in. Facing the fury of the dwarfs, the jealousy of his brother and the ever-present threat of Malekith’s dark elves, Imladrik must balance his love for his wife and home with the thrill of battle.

Another author in the Black Library stable that has been improving in leaps and bounds. I’ve been reading his serialised Horus Heresy novel (Scars) and been very impressed. I haven’t read much of his Warhammer fantasy fiction, though. I enjoyed his novella, Dragonmage, which was also focused on the High Elves and their dragons. This is the second book in the War of Vengeance series, part of the Time of Legends line of novels, but I’ve not read the first – Nick Kyme’s The Great Betrayal. Anyone know if it’s necessary to do so? I know the ‘history’ behind it, but I don’t want to jump right into this if it is a direct sequel-proper to The Great Betrayal

*

ZiskinJW-Styx&StoneJames W. Zisken, Styx and Stone (Seventh Street)

Ellie Stone is a professed modern girl in 1960s New York City, playing by her own rules and breaking boundaries while searching for a killer among the renowned scholars in Columbia University’s Italian Department.

“If you were a man, you’d make a good detective.”

Ellie Stone is sure that Sgt. McKeever meant that as a compliment, but that identity – a girl wanting to do a man’s job-has throttled her for too long. It’s 1960, and Ellie doesn’t want to blaze any trails for women; she just wants to be a reporter, one who doesn’t need to swat hands off her behind at every turn.

Adrift in her career, Ellie is back in New York City after receiving news that her estranged father, a renowned Dante scholar and distinguished professor, is near death after a savage bludgeoning in his home. The police suspect a routine burglary, but Ellie has her doubts. When a second attempt is made on her father’s life, in the form of an “accident” in the hospital’s ICU, Ellie’s suspicions are confirmed.

Then another professor turns up dead, and Ellie’s investigation turns to her father’s university colleagues, their ambitions, jealousies, and secret lives. Ellie embarks on a thorny journey of discovery and reconciliation, as she pursues an investigation that offers her both a chance at redemption in her father’s eyes, and the risk of losing him forever.

Another interesting-sounding novel from Seventh Street. I haven’t read nearly enough of their novels. I shall endeavour to rectify this oversight.

Guest Review: PROMETHEAN SUN by Nick Kyme (Black Library)

Kyme-HH-PrometheanSunReviewed by Abhinav

The Horus Heresy series has proven to be rather spectacular, right from the very beginning with Dan Abnett’s game-changing opener, Horus Rising. As an exploration of the entire origin-mythos that defines the Warhammer 40,000 setting, the series has done well in exposing how this galactic civil war happened, and how all the players reacted to it, each in their own way. Being a multi-author series (projected to go on to roughly 50 full novels and anthologies, plus additional novellas, short stories and audio dramas), the quality hasn’t been entirely consistent, and there have been some let-downs, or books that don’t seem to fit into an ongoing arc.

Two years ago, Black Library changed the game once more, by offering direct exclusive limited-edition novellas set as interstitials within the larger narrative at work. Being limited to a select few thousand copies, these hardback stories with extra content (such as special faux-skin and illustrations) gave way to a lot of controversy with regards to pricing for the series. This was compounded last year by the publisher’s inexplicable decision to change formats mid-series and offer books in hardback and hardback-sized trade paperbacks before the regular and familiar mass market copies were made available.

As such, novellas like Promethean Sun and Brotherhood of the Storm among others have had to field quite a bit of negative criticism completely unrelated to the actual fictional content within. And that’s what I wanted to focus on in this review. Promethean Sun was re-released a few weeks ago as a non-limited hardback with an accompanying eBook, which is what I got. The two-year wait in between definitely didn’t hurt my enthusiasm.

So, on to the review itself. Here’s the synopsis…

As the Great Crusade sweeps across the galaxy, the forces of the Imperium encounter a world held in thrall by the alien eldar. While the Iron Hands of Ferrus Manus and Mortarion’s Death Guard battle against the hated xenos, it is the Salamanders who brave the deepest and most deadly jungles, encountering monstrous reptilian beasts and foul witchery along the way. Ultimately, it falls to their primarch Vulkan himself to thwart the sinister designs of the eldar, if the Legions are to liberate this world and bring illumination to its inhabitants.

Promethean Sun does one thing really, really well: it delves deeply into Vulkan’s psyche and explores his character through the present and the past alike. That’s what the entire story is about. The Primarch of the Salamanders Legion has been a fairly unknown quantity so far, outside of extremely brief cameos in other stories, most notably Graham McNeill’s Fulgrim, if I recall correctly, and so it was great to finally see more of him. Continue reading

Upcoming: “Master of Dragons” by Chris Wraight & “The Great Betrayal” by Nick Kyme (Black Library)

Wraight-MasterOfDragonsIt seems like Chris Wraight is having a very good, busy year. Alongside his Space Wolves and Horus Heresy work, he has a couple of Warhammer fantasy novels coming out, too. Today, I want to highlight Master of Dragons, part of the Time of Legends series, which is due to be published by Black Library in November 2013. Here’s the synopsis…

The epic war between dwarfs and elves continues.

For millennia, the elves of Ulthuan and the dwarfs of the mountain realm have been friends and allies. Now that time is over and the War of Vengeance has begun. Prince Imladrik, master of dragons and Ulthuan’s finest warrior, is ordered to leave his beloved homeland and lead his host in a war he does not believe in. Facing the fury of the dwarfs, the jealousy of his brother and the ever-present threat of Malekith’s dark elves, Imladrik must balance his love for his wife and home with the thrill of battle.

I’ve read a fair bit of Wraight’s work, now, and I’m really looking forward to this novel. After all: dragons! I really must catch up with his Space Wolf novels, too (Blood of Asaheim and the upcoming Stormcaller – both of which I’ll post about tomorrow)… If you want a taste of his work with the High Elves, be sure to check out his novella, Dragonmage.

Kyme-WoV1-GreatBetrayal2I think the novel is a sequel (of sorts) to Nick Kyme’s The Great Betrayal, which is also getting a re-issue in the same month. Here’s the synopsis for that novel…

The war between dwarfs and elves that shaped the Warhammer world begins.

Thousands of years before the rise of men, the dwarfs and elves are stalwart allies and enjoy an era of unrivalled peace and prosperity. But when dwarf trading caravans are attacked and their merchants slain, the elves are accused of betrayal. Quick to condemn the people of Ulthuan as traitors, the mountain lords nevertheless try to prevent conflict, but the elves’ arrogance undoes any chance of reconciliation and war is inevitable. At the city of Tor Alessi a vast army stands against the dwarfs. Here Snorri Halfhand, son of the High King of the dwarfs, will meet his destiny against the elven King Caledor as the first blow is struck in a conflict that could bring about the fall of two great civilisations.

Review: VULKAN LIVES by Nick Kyme (Black Library)

Kyme-HH-VulkanLivesA superb, different Horus Heresy novel

In the wake of the Dropsite Massacre at Isstvan V, the survivors of the Salamanders Legion searched long and hard for their fallen primarch, but to no avail. Little did they know that while Vulkan might have wished himself dead, he lives still… languishing in a hidden cell for the entertainment of a cruel gaoler, his brother Konrad Curze. Enduring a series of hellish tortures designed to break his body and spirit, Vulkan witnesses the depths of the Night Haunter’s depravity, but also discovers something else – a revelation that could change the course of the entire war.

How does one review a novel that packs in so very many revelations? With great difficulty, as it happens… Vulkan Lives is a great novel. It is a superb addition to Black Library’s New York Times-bestselling sci-fi series. It is a superb example of intelligent, thoughtful science fiction. It’s not flawless, true, but I loved it. I have a feeling it won’t be met with universal acclaim from the more action-oriented sections of the WH40k fan-base, but I think it does a great job of fleshing out some hitherto overlooked events and questions of the era. Continue reading