Quick Reviews: THE BONE DESERT by Robbie MacNiven & ONE, UNTENDED by David Guymer (Black Library)

MacNivenR-AoSG-BoneDesertTwo short Age of Sigmar outings for Gotrek Gurnisson, my favourite dwarf…

The world that Gotrek Gurnisson knew is long dead, alongside every soul the legendary monster slayer once cared for. Adrift in this curious new age, the duardin scours the treacherous Bone Desert in search of the axe he inherited from the God Grimnir, which too has been lost to the annals of time.

When a series of assassination attempts strike, Gotrek and his aelf companion Maleneth soon learn that it is not only the wasteland’s ravenous beasts and sinking sands that hunger for their flesh. The heroic duardin is certain these highly calculated and creative attacks are the work of his infamous nemesis – the skaven, Thanquol. But is all as it seems?

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned a couple of times (at least) on CR, I’ve been reading about the exploits of Gotrek Gurnisson for decades. I first stumbled across his adventures, alongside his human companion Felix Jaegar, in the Warhammer Armies books. Then, William King and others’ novels that I still return to whenever I feel like a fantasy-comfort-read. With the demise of the Old World, and the shift to the Age of Sigmar, the venerable dwarf returns! Continue reading

Quick Reviews: EXTINCTION and FATESPINNER (Black Library)

Two new Chaos Marine short stories.

EXTINCTION by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

The Sons of Horus are hunted by their brothers…

The Horus Heresy is over. The traitorous Warmaster is dead, his allies defeated, and the Sons of Horus are a dying Legion, fled now to the furthest reaches of the galaxy… and beyond. First Captain Ezekyle Abaddon, always among the most devoted and bellicose of his brethren, is now set adrift – who will rise to claim the title of Warmaster? Who will lead them in their long war for vengeance? And will that hallowed champion of the Ruinous Powers be able to reunite the old XVIth before they embrace extinction?

This is an interesting short story, continuing Dembski-Bowden’s growing Black Legion story. This one is set shortly after the collapse of the Horus Heresy, and is made up of a series of vignettes: in each, Sons of Horus legionnaires are being hunted down by their former brothers (traitors and loyalist). Abaddon doesn’t feature as much as I had expected, but he makes an interesting appearance at the end. Extinction doesn’t move the story along too much, but it’s a good piece to keep our interest high in advance of the next novel in the series, Black Legion. [If you haven’t already, I’d recommend reading The Talon of Horus, which started the series with a bang.]

Extinction at Black Library, Amazon (UK)

*

wraightc-wh40k-fatespinnerFATESPINNER by Chris Wraight

The Thousand Sons be tricksy…

In the underhive depths of Rigo V, the Sorcerers Ramon and Phaelius of the Thousand Sons seek proscribed knowledge. They are hunted, these witches, by the Rune Priest Thorskir who has tracked them across the length and breadth of the galaxy. At last after an arduous search, Thorskir has found where his prey will be and means to end them. But the plans of those allied to the Great Architect of Fate are not so easy to unbind and a secret lurks beneath Rigo V, one that has been long in the devising, a twist of fate and a plan so foul it is worthy of Tzeentch itself.

This is an interesting story. I’ve always liked the Thousand Sons Legion, and Fatespinner has everything one could want from them: daemons, sorcery, a great twist. Wraight’s writing continues to get better, and this is perhaps one of his best short stories. I would certainly be interested in reading more stories (short or novel-length) featuring Ramon and Phaelius. An excellent, highly recommended story — all fans of WH40k fiction should read it, and it’s a must for fans of Tzeentch and the Thousand Sons.

Fatespinner at Black Library, Amazon (UK)

Quick Review: THE APPROACH by Chris Holm (Mulholland)

HolmC-H0-ApproachA great introduction to Michael Hendricks

When a strip-club mogul puts out a hit on a dancer who won’t give him off-the-clock attention, Hendricks takes a detour to Las Vegas to stop the job in its tracks. With tech genius Lester in his ear and a fake identity as cover, Hendricks has only one problem: he has no idea what the target looks like. Against the scorching heat of the city’s desert outskirts, a case of mistaken identity nearly turns fatal, but our principled hitman has a few tricks of his own up his sleeve.

To celebrate the release of Red Right Hand, the second novel featuring Michael Hendricks, Chris Holm has written a short story that serves as an excellent introduction or prequel to both the series as a whole, as well as the main character. It’s quickly-paced, has a good twist, and is very well written. We are given a good sense of what drives Hendricks, as well as his methods and skills.

I very much enjoyed this, and fully intend to read the novels ASAP. If you’ve been on the fence about trying the series, then The Approach should definitely convince you to give them a read. Definitely recommended.

Both novels — The Killing Kind and Red Right Hand — are out now, published in the US and UK by Mulholland Books.

Also on CR: Interview with Chris Holm (2012); Excerpt from The Wrong Goodbye

Review: FALLING IN LOVE WITH HOMINIDS by Nalo Hopkinson (Tachyon)

HopkinsonN-FallingInLoveWithHominidsA new anthology of short stories

Nalo Hopkinson (Brown Girl in the Ring, Skin Folk) has been widely hailed as a highly significant voice in Caribbean and American fiction. She has been dubbed “one of our most important writers,” (Junot Diaz), with “an imagination that most of us would kill for” (Los Angeles Times), and her work has been called “stunning,” (New York Times) “rich in voice, humor, and dazzling imagery” (Kirkus), and “simply triumphant” (Dorothy Allison).

Falling in Love with Hominids presents more than a dozen years of Hopkinson’s new, uncollected fiction, much of which has been unavailable in print, including one original story. Her singular, vivid tales, which mix the modern with Afro-Carribean folklore, are occupied by creatures unpredictable and strange: chickens that breathe fire, adults who eat children, and spirits that haunt shopping malls.

Reviewed by Ryan Frye

I typically read short fiction for one of two reasons, either it’s an author whom I love, and I’ve devoured everything else of theirs so I dig into their short-form stuff, or it’s an author whom I’ve never read before and I want to sample their work without trying to pick out a full-length book to start with. The latter was the case with Nalo Hopkinson’s Falling in Love with Hominids. Hopkinson is an author who’s been on my radar for a while now, so when the opportunity came along to check out her yet-to-be-released short fiction collection I jumped at the chance. Continue reading

Short Review: THE FINAL COMPLIANCE OF SIXTY-THREE FOURTEEN by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-HH-FinalCompliance6314A great new Horus Heresy short story

As Horus grinds the Imperium beneath his boot, emissaries from the XVIth Legion return to worlds sworn to the Warmaster during the Great Crusade to have them renew their fealty. With the Sons of Horus already at battle readiness over Sixty-Three Fourteen, a grim decision must be made…

As is always the case with short stories, it’s tricky to review them at great length. In short, this is a great short story — it feels like an aside, of sorts, presented from the perspective of an Imperial governor and his aide, as they discuss how to deal with the Warmaster’s request for fealty. Well, “demand” would be a better word.

It’s an interesting story — not exactly essential reading, but I welcomed the different type of story, the alternative perspective, and also the tension at the end. The final paragraph was good, speaking volumes in just a few well-chosen words. If you’re a fan of the series, and want a quick fix to fill a half-hour or so, then this should suit very well.

Review: MURDER AT THE KINNEN HOTEL by Brian McClellan

McClellanB-PM-MurderAtTheKinnenHotelAnother very good Powder Mage short story

Special Detective Constable Adamat may be the most capable young investigator in all of Adopest. He’s sharp, thoughtful, and his particular sorcery gives him a flawless memory. A transfer to the First Precinct seems like the perfect opportunity to showcase his abilities and advance his career.

But things work differently in the First Precinct. The murder of a businessman’s mistress quickly pulls Adamat into an unexpected world of conspiracy and politics where he’s forced to use all his wits to stay one step ahead of unseen enemies and keep his friends — and himself — from the guillotine.

Set twenty-two years before the events in Promise of Blood, this is a great introduction to Adamat — dogged, honest investigator in a system that is corrupt and nepotistic. In that respect, this may seem like a typical crime story, only with fantasy elements. And that’s what it is, really, which is a good thing. I enjoyed the investigation, seeing Adamat use his “knack” (perfect memory) to figure out what really happened at the hotel, while navigating the dangerous waters that make up the Adopest police force. There’s some political machinations, economics, magic, and mild character peril. Everything a short story needs.

I really like that McClellan is writing so many short stories set in his Powder Mage series: thus far, they have all been well-written and enjoyable. They add flavour and colour to the world and characters in the novels (the third of which, The Autumn Republic, is due out early 2015 from Orbit Books). While others of the short stories have focused mostly on powder mages, I welcomed the added background for Adamat and the fact that this meant the story was rather different.

You can buy Murder at the Kinnen Hotel from a number of places — check the author’s website for details.

Also on CR: Interview with Brian McClellan; Guest Posts on My Favourite Novel and Protagonist Ages in Epic Fantasy; Reviews of Promise of BloodThe Crimson Campaign (novels), The Girl of Hrusch Avenue, Hope’s Way, Forsworn, Face in the Window (short stories)