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Black Library Review: Warhammer Time of Legends Heldenhammer by Graham McNeill

My journey into the Warhammer universe continues! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve seen a few of Black Library’s fantasy titles in stores (and when I say a few, that’s what I mean – here in SA, most people know the PC games and don’t even know about the table-top games and the books, terrible I know!) and I’ve always been intrigued by them. The one thing that always stands out is a) the cover artwork, which is always nothing short of incredible, and b) the descriptions on the back. When you read the descriptions you know you’re being given a glimpse into something altogether different – and that’s one of the things that makes the Warhammer universe -be it the SF or fantasy side of things- so damn cool! There’s nothing else quite like it. ๐Ÿ™‚

Being lucky enough to have received a box of awesome Black Library goodies from Black Library (thanks again! You know who you are!), I spent about an hour checking out each book, admiring the covers and salivating over the tales I was on the verge of reading, and believe me, I struggled myself thin trying to choose where to start! I had already picked up Chapter War about a week earlier, so I had another look at Heldenhammer and thought, Yep, this is the one.

Graham, you bastard, you hooked me from page one! ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, it takes a lot to hook me from the get-go; either the first sentence has to be bold and brilliant or subtly amazing (or some combination of the two, probably) or I have to get the sense that something about the way the words flow in my mind, as I read them, is paving the way for something very special. Once I have that little something, I usually really hate having to put the book down to go and do such mundane and useless things such as eat or sleep, etc. ๐Ÿ™‚

Heldenhammer, the first book in The Sigmar Trilogy, is about one man recognizing that humanity is on the knife-edge of extinction, and the choices that he makes, and, at times, is forced to make, to ensure that humanity stands together and survives. That man is Sigmar.

What caught me, from the beginning, about Heldenhammer was the style that it had been written in. I immediately had the sense that I was reading a legend, or a story that had been preserved in it’s original tongue and handed down through the generations, such things as the cadence of the words and the mannerisms of the first speaker being carried through. It was weird, because it felt right. You know how some authors try and inject a quality of antiquity into their writing that just doesn’t seem right? It niggles, and it doesn’t feel true. Well, that didn’t happen in Heldenhammer. Not only did the style that Graham used suit the tale, but enhanced it, too. It really felt as if you were lucky enough to witness the birth of a legend, not just be a spectator who witnessed all the important bits.

The characters in Heldenhammer, too, are expertly done – every character has a host of deeper layers, so that, for example, the Sigmar you meet in the beginning of the tale is the same Sigmar at tales’ end, but you definitely have the sense of having grown with the character -after all, I was the same Dave when I started reading Heldenhammer, but the Dave I am now has a few extra layers (hopefully)- and it’s not only Sigmar who is allowed to grow like this; almost every character has more than a few surprises in store for readers, and those who like making predictions about where the characters will end up might be surprised at what happens! ๐Ÿ™‚

And battles? What would Warhammer be without battles? ๐Ÿ™‚ Graham delivers!

There are a host of important battles and skirmishes throughout the book, and in each one, you’re right there! Okay, there’s no arterial greenskin blood spraying your face *go on, cringe if you must* but you feel that fear and adrenaline and hear the shouts and screams and clash of weapons. Graham also makes sure that each battle is different, not the same slightly rehashed tactics and set-pieces used throughout, and each battle in which Sigmar takes part doubles as a test that he must go through in order to learn what he has to know before he is ready to found the Empire. The host of other characters, too, offer moments of brevity and humor, some working for the dark side ๐Ÿ™‚ of course, but all serve to give the world that Sigmar inhabits a welcome sense of depth and realism that really makes the reader feel at home in the tale.

Also, this aimed at those who want to be authors and, more importantly, story-tellers, take heed: this would be an excellent book to read, re-read and then study!

One thing is for sure though – Book 2 in The Sigmar Trilogy, Empire, is sure to see the proverbial shit hit the fan, and I can’t wait! ๐Ÿ™‚

heldenhammer

8/10

Check out Heldenhammer on the Black Library website, and order your copies here: if you’re in South Africa, if you’re in the US, if you’re in the UK.

Next Time of Legends book to be reviewed: Nagash the Sorceror!

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Posted by on August 7, 2009 in Black Library, Reviews

 

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Black Library Review: Warhammer 40K Soul Drinkers Book 4 Chapter War by Ben Counter

Let me first say that I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading the previous Soul Drinkers novels – I’m still a Warhammer newbie, you see, so I’ve got a lot of catching up to do! ๐Ÿ™‚ But, as with all good books in a series, I was able to read and enjoy Chapter War on it’s own, without needing to have the background of the previous books. ๐Ÿ™‚

In Chapter War, the Soul Drinkers, a Chapter of Space Marines that have been fighting a war against the Imperium and for the Emperor – sound confusing? Don’t worry, it’s not. ๐Ÿ™‚ But you’ll have to read the book to get the full scope of that statement, and once you do, you’ll understand the Soul Drinkers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Currently leading the Soul Drinkers is Sarpedon, a utterly determined Librarian who has a clear vision for the Chapter – but that vision starts to blind him to what is actually happening within the Chapter, and before long Sarpedon is fighting a war on two fronts, and the war against the Orc Waaagh! for control of a planet becomes the least of his problems…

This was my first Soul Drinkers book, and my first Ben Counter book, and I have to say, I’m impressed!

Not only are the Soul Drinkers as a Chapter intriguing and entertaining on their own, and a definite fertile ground for many tales, but they also show a side of the Space Marines that is well reading about – I mean, this Chapter has been outlawed by the Imperium; where they go, they are hunted, and the good they do is usually twisted into yet more evidence against them. For those who haven’t yet read anything involving the Soul Drinkers, there is also another, very important reason -one of the reasons for the Soul Drinkers being outlawed in the first place- why the Soul Drinkers are in the position they’re in, but I wont spoil that. ๐Ÿ™‚

Reading this book, you realize quickly that Ben has many strengths as a writer – not only does Ben create great characters, but the action -and action is important in Warhammer- is excellent, too.

Character-wise, the characters that stood out for me were Sarpedon (of course, there would have been a problem if he didn’t stand out) and a certain member of the nobility who gives his all in trying to keep the Greenskins from laying waste to his people; the grim determination of these characters wasn’t over-done or over-used, and you end up feeling that perhaps, just perhaps, some deaths shouldn’t have happened. ๐Ÿ™‚

The action is, as always, excellent! Ben gives us scenes that pound with explosions, bolter fire and charging Space Marines! Starting at a parade to showcase the strength of Nevermourn’s nobility and ending with a final showdown aboard the Chapter’s hulk, Brokenback, Ben takes us through urban battles, jungle battles, even space battles, showcasing his talent at writing war in any environment. Ben really puts the reader right among the roar of close combat with greenskins or the titanic struggles between matched Space Marines!

Brought together with some great, memorable characters -as well as some Chapter secrets that are pretty damn intriging and an ending that’ll have you wondering just how much hell is going to be let loose in the next book – this is a great book that can be enjoyed in series but also stands on its own as an excellent example of what makes the Warhammer 40K universe such an extraordinary place to read and tell stories in!

7/10

chapter-war

For more info on Warhammer and Black Library products, be sure to check out this site – there really is no better place to get your Warhammer fix! Not only will you find comprehensive info on the authors writing these kickass tales, but you’ll find info on the books, downloadable content and much more!

Those in the US can order their copy here, those in the UK here and here, and our South African readers can get their copy of the first 3 books in the Soul Drinkers series here. ๐Ÿ™‚

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2009 in Black Library, Reviews

 

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Black Library Review: Warhammer 40K Assault on Black Reach by Nick Kyme

Other than playing Dawn of War 1 with a friend about 4 or 5 months before reading this book, I had never really paid much attention to the Warhammer universe; a shame, right? I totally agree! ๐Ÿ™‚ This same friend bought Dawn of War 2 for himself and was showing me the game, explaining the universe to me and the different chapters of Space Marines (still can’t decide whether I like the Ultramarines or the Blood Ravens more), not to mention much much more! And as he told me about this huge universe I realized that I had been sitting with my head in the ground – so I decided to get myself a Warhammer novel ASAP (while waiting for a favour from an awesome guy and an awesome company ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and start making my way into the 40K universe. ๐Ÿ™‚ Nick Kyme’s book grabbed my attention with its length and the blurb on the back, so I started reading it…

As an intro to the Warhammer mythos (40K, I should add, since there is SF- and Fantasy-Warhammer, and 40K is SF) Assault on Black Reach is, in my opinion, a perfect place to jump aboard.

There is just enough history, back-story and worldbuilding to satisfy a newbie like me as well as those more versed in the Warhammer 40K universe, something that must have been pretty difficult to do considering the length of the novel, and though I haven’t played the boardgame (and probably never will, considering the extent of Warhammer-related products in South Africa, this blogger laments) it seems like Nick also did an excellent job translating the events from that game into the novel.

The action is fast-paced and incredibly brutal (Warhammer is definitely not for kids!) with a level of tension maintained throughout that most novels battle to achieve, and to be honest, I was expecting a 300-type of story: the Space Marines that land on Black Reach number around 500, if I’m not mistaken, while the Orks number around 10000, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Nick had not taken this route – instead, the novel goes a long way to showing just how incredible these Space Marines are, and that odds such as what they face in this novel aren’t too much to contend with. ๐Ÿ™‚ But it’s not all plain-sailing, believe me!

The Space Marines arrive to cleanse Black Reach of an Ork infestation, and as the action unfolds, many of the Marines begin questioning their purpose there and if they can, in fact, trust their leader to pursue the battle against the Orks on this front without it becoming a quest for personal glory; if this novel falls short in any way, it’s probably here:

The length of the book must have put a crimp in Nick’s efforts at characterization; I’m talking about the kind of characterization we’re used to where we are offered deeper windows into characters’ souls, growing (or not) as the characters do (or don’t), but Nick doesn’t do badly at all – the characters we meet have their motivations and come across as unique, reacting in their own way to situations brought up in the novel.

I definitely recommend this novel to fans of Warhammer (be it the boardgames, the PC-games or the novels) and to newbies like me looking to get hooked on and lost in a new universe – if you like your SF populated with great characters, interesting technology and epic events, then this will be for you! ๐Ÿ™‚

Assault on Black Reach the Novel

7/10!

The next Warhammer 40K book that I will be reviewing is Ben Counter’s Chapter War! ๐Ÿ™‚

For more info on Warhammer, don’t forget to check out what Black Library and Games Workshop have, and here’s a link to the Warhammer 40K wiki! ๐Ÿ™‚

Plus, check out Nick Kyme’s site here.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2009 in Black Library

 

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M.D. Thalmann

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