Friday, 27 December 2013

12) - Genevieve Undead


After a brief cameo in Beast of Velvet Jack Yeovil's (Kim Newman) heroine the vampire Genevieve returns in Genevieve Undead.  It is a collection of three different tales collected into the one novel.  Going by the fact that Kim Newman is easily scoring the highest in this blog I again have high hopes for this one.  Shockingly I have the reissue and not the original and its the one at the top.  So its Genevieve perched on a gargoyle half covered in blood.  She does not look like she is sixteen to me in this one.

The original boxtree cover is this one -

Nope still not looking like her.
This looks like the scene from Red Thirst where she escapes with the mercenary Vukotich the Iron Man, where they jump down from the tree to kill their pursuers which is a strange choice going by how this tale is not part of Genevieve Undead.  Now finally as i wont get a chance to put it anywhere else here is the omnibus version of the tales of Genevieve.

Nailed it! 
Yep this is by far the best cover they manage for Genevieve.  It actually looks like how Newman describes her in the novels.  Right lets get going.  As always -

Spoiler Missile Strike Imminent -

We start with part one which is entitled Stage Blood. The Vargr Breughel playhouse is the location of this tale and we join it on opening night of the Strange History of Dr Zhiekhill and Mr Chaida which is a clear piss take of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.  Interestingly we start from the viewpoint of the trapdoor daemon.  This daemon is meant to be a myth but apparently does exist, sounds like a mutant.  We get brief highlights of the play which is as you would expect, Detlef Sierck is once again the writer and hero of the piece and it seems to go down well.

Meanwhile in the now ruins of Castle Drachenfels a sentient artifact awaits, its a mask and its called the animus.

Drachenfels was well ahead of his time.
Well its early warhammer novels so its time for the first sex scene of the novel.  Its pretty early on so i can imagine its not going to be the only one.  Its between Genevieve and Detlef for those still keeping count.  Back at the castle site there is an excavation going on by some priest of law.  The leader Scheydt finds the mask and guess what?  Of course finding an artifact in the dread enchanters domain the first thing you do is of course put the thing on....idiot.

We get a subplot between Illona Horvathy who is the leading lady of the playhouse but now aging and the much younger Eva Savinien who is set to replace her.  It appears Eva is getting help from the trapdoor daemon who talks to her from a hidden area behind her changing room.  In an entertaining moment the priest of law is acting like a jerk with his new animus mask.  He even pisses all over his alter, what a lad!  The animus pushes him hard, killing horses by exhaustion in order to get to Altdorf as soon as possible in order to avenge its master by killing Genevieve and Detlef.  Meanwhile tensions start to rise among the acters as young Eva continues to steal the show.

The Animus makes it to Altdorf but is refused entry.  It is here we get to see its power as it uses brute force to rip through the guards.  The body sustains terrible wounds but the animus keeps it moving like a puppet and it gets into the city.  A petition to stop the play arrives and Detlef loses his cool and starts to strangle the guy, hinting that the role of Mr Chaida is starting to become more than just a role.

Maybe Detlef played this game on the NES, enough to make anyone go mad.
 Eva meanwhile decides she wants to see the mysterious trapdoor daemon who is helping her and smashes her mirror with a vase.  She ends up seeing him and runs out of the theater screaming.

He is a squid mutant!  Although for copyright reasons not this squid mutant.
As she flees she bumps into what is left of the Animus and as it pulls her close it transfers onto her face instead.  Genevieve decides to go into the network of hidden tunnels in the theater in order to find the trapdoor daemon as she does not sense any evil and instead wants to help.  She finds clues that hint that he is the old play write Bruno Malvoisin.  I guess that would explain his fascination with the theater productions.

I was right there is room for another sexual encounter.  Eva and the Animus seduce Reinhardt Jessner who is another actor who wants to replace Detlef as the leading man and also husband to Eva's rival Illona.  For a change we get it described as a more loving union, but Eva is only doing it to have a political hold over him.  I think Kim Newman has had his heart broken by such a lady in the past.....We get an interesting twist where it is debatable whether its the Animus using Eva or is it Eva using the Animus.

The trapdoor daemon is reflecting on his life and we discover he is indeed the old play write and his mistress had been seduced by chaos and had laced his food with warpstone.  Bitch!

I get the feeling Kim Newman does not like women very much.

As Genevieve continues her search through the tunnels she come out in one of the royal boxes and sees Detlef on stage rehearsing with Eva, at least thats what she thinks.

The Animus using Eva wants Detlef to hurt her during their lovemaking.  The purpose is to bring out the darkness within Detlef himself.  Its a brutal scene and as to be expected from Newman he does not sugar coat it at all.  Finally Detlef resists and pulls away, much to the delight of his girlfriend Genevieve who was watching it all unfold.  Yeah not sure how many girls would see it that way.

The trapdoor daemon appears next to Genevieve but he is no threat and they understand each other.  However Reinhardt appears wanting to break it off with Eva and instead the Animus passes to him.  Now i should mention Reinhardt is a muscle-bound adonis so it looks like he will be very difficult to stop. 

Genevieve swings down from the rafters but even with her vampire strength, her and Detlef are no match for the Animus.  They are saved by the squid monster that is the trapdoor daemon!  Of course though when people pile in to help they think the mutant is the monster and go after him instead.  The Animus chases Detlef and Genevieve into the catacombs, surviving pistol shots, crossbow bolts and being set on fire.  They are only saved when the Animus decides to move to the trapdoor daemon, but instead of finding evil it can manipulate at its core it finds good there instead and both of them die.

Its quite a sad ending though as Genevieve decides to leave Detlef as she blames herself for his darker thinking and thinks he will be better without her.  Queue much tears.

That is part one done and it was excellent.  A tale of the darker side of human nature and i enjoyed the mutant being a good guy for a change.  Again though some parts are a bit too brutal but none of it is done without serving a purpose.  Part two is next and is entitled The Cold Stark House.

Ok i do not know where to start.  We seem to be in a storm lashed haunted house where Genevieve does not know she is a vampire and surrounded by a strange cast of immortal characters whom she thinks are her enemies as they all fight to get into an old mans will......

I don't know...i really don't!
One of the failed revolutionists from Beast in Velvet, Prince Kloszowski is escaping from jail under a pile of corpses, sounds fun.  He completes his escape and goes off into the night, looking for shelter from the intense storm.  He finds an upturned carriage where two nobles are sheltering.  There is a house nearby and make a break for it, of course its the same house Genevieve is currently in.  Oh and there is a strange blue light with a face in it next to the carriage, yeah i don't know either.

A blue light you say????
We then get a really strange dinner scene with Genevieve's new family.  Its like something out of the Adams family to be honest and i am struggling to follow all the new characters. Kloszowski arrive and there is some tension as they are invited to stay the night.  Genevieve has some dreams of past adventures and it is now clear she has been bewitched in some way and has forgotten who she is and that she is even a vampire.  Well i wish i knew that a few chapters ago.

Now we get the viewpoint of the young dancer who was in the carriage, Antonia, and she has been in plays by Brithan Cragg like The Plague Daemon and Doom of Zaragoz.  Nice shout out to Brian Craig there and another example of Newman tying all the warhammer books together.  He also mentions a play about Konrad to further enforce it.  At least Antonia realises how cliche the whole setup is.  During the meal one of the men starts to choke and then his stomach starts to expand and explodes outward in a gruesome death. 

Perspective changes again to Mathilda who is held captive in a room.  Apparently with a mutation that has made her head massive and too heavy to lift.  But we start to see whats going on.  Mathilda knows she is a prisoner and has weights tied to her head so she cant move it.  She struggles to remember her real name and life but knows she had come to the house to shelter from a storm and that she must escape.  Kloszowski gets taken to a guest room where he is attacked by something coming out of a mirror.....

Next though he is making love to Antonia so it was her that came through, she had found it was a secret passage.  A series of weird events take place next and they all feature a blue light so i suspect its to do with the blue face from earlier.  One of the family plans to kill the doctor that keeps the old patriarch of the family alive so he will also die and she can get the family fortune, only to discover someone has beaten her to it. 

Antonia and Kloszowski find they are locked in so make there way into the network of secret passageways in a bid for freedom.

Kim Newman must have been playing this when he wrote this part.

They are trapped in a room with a descending ceiling but survive as without explanation it stops and reverts back to normal.  It seems nobody can die in this house as the man whose stomach exploded is back up and about again.  I can see this being someones dream....

Genevieve finds someone bleeding to death and her instinct takes over and  she feeds, breaking the spell.  She knows now these people are nothing to do with her and its a cunning trap.

Admiral Ackbar knew!
 So it all descends into madness and chaos and a fire starts and everyone burns to death but not before Genevieve and Antonia pull Kloszowski out of the house and break the spells hold on them.  So it turns out the old man has traded part of his soul in return for the power never to be bored and he plays out these melodramas every single night.  As the they watch the burning house starts to rebuild itself.....

Thats the Cold Stark House finished and it was very interesting but was overloaded with far too many characters to actually follow what was going on.  I think if it was expanded into a full blown novel of its own it could work better.  Slightly worried that Genevieve has been only a minor character in the first two parts.  Part three is called Unicorn Ivory.

Genevieve is in the hunting party of Graf Rudiger von Unheimlich as they hunt some unicorns.  We learn she is there because the Emperor's chancellor has bribed her to kill the Graf or he will make life for Detlef and the playhouse very difficult.  The Graf is painted as an arse as his son Doremus constantly tries and fails to impress him.  Also he hunts unicorns for fun.  Interesting now Genevieve is stuck, either helping the evil chancellor or letting the evil Graf Rudiger live.

Otto from the league of Karl Franz is there.  He was an outsider for being the Beast in Beasts in Velvet.  He will be leaving his position as the leagues leader soon and the Graf want him to appoint his son Doremus as his successor.  Otto is far more interested in the Grafs mistress and we get the line - "It was a week since his last harlot, and his balls were bursting."   Wow, what is wrong with these people!

I don't get it?
 The Graf announces he will be hunting a unicorn mare the next day, the most dangerous animal to hunt apparently.  However he spots Otto and his mistress at it outside while he is on the balcony.  The Graf funnily enough is incensed and says he will hunt them.  The two have to flee into the night and if they survive till dawn they can go free.

We follow the flight from the eyes of Otto who is a quite fat and drunk.  He basically smashes his way through the forest and eventually gives up.  He has an encounter with the mare unicorn who laughs at him before the hunting dogs pounce on him.  Graf Jr Doremus pulls the dogs off him and he is allowed to go home.  They find the mistress up a tree trying to cross a gorge and she is shot down by the Graf into the waterfall below.  At the same time the unicorn mare appears and attacks the Graf's friend Magnus.  Before he loses consciousness he tries to tell Doremus something but cant.  I am guessing he is Doremus's real father then.

They take the wounded Magnus back to the lodge and he will live as the others go to hunt the unicorn.  Turns out the Graf though is using his old friend as bait.  The unicorn goes back and finishes off the job.

Evil Murderer Beast!
The Unicorn has made a right mess, spilling peoples guts out everywhere.  Magnus is now very dead and the Graf goes back into the woods immediately.  Just as the have the unicorn the ground subsides into an old dwarf tunnel and they come up behind a waterfall.  There the dying mistress is found but she appears to be becoming a plant....yep its something to do with the properties of the water being magic.  She tells Doremus that the Graf killed his mother and Genevieve tells him the Graf killed his father.  Saw that coming a mile away.

Not the Graf.
Yep it was not the unicorn that killed Magnus, it was the Graf, he had killed him with a unicorn horn from a previous hunt.  Of course its silvered so Genevieve is in trouble.  They tumble into the water and a scuffle ensues.  Genevieve of course wins and kills the Graf.  The unicorn appears and lets her snap its neck.  No idea why, apparently it was very old and wanted an end to its life.  She gives the horn to Doremus who throws it into the river.

And that's an end to Unicorn Ivory.  It was a nice little tale but i could see the twist about the father/son coming but i didn't think the Graf would kill him.  Again its well written but not much Genevieve. 

Also with that we have finished Genevieve Undead.  I was going to rate each story separate but they are meant to link a bit together so will class it as one novel.  Part one is the best part, the tale of the trapdoor daemon and the human psyche was very well delivered.  Part two was a bit hit and miss.  It is a good story but its a bit rushed and far too much going on for the length it was given.  Finally part three was a nice little entertaining short story.  My main issue though is that in all of them Genevieve is only a bit part of the story.  I don't mind that per say, its just in a book called Genevieve Undead you would expect more erm... Genevieve!  Still though Newman's writing is a level above the other authors.

Rating - 8/10
 

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

11) - Warblade


David Ferring (Garnett) returns to conclude the epic Konrad saga with the final entry, Warblade.  Its time to get some answers to Konrad's enigmatic past and the relationships with Skullface and Elyssa.  Will it deliver or are we going to get a Lost type ending which asks just as many questions as it answers.  I hope he does not get captured yet again!

Again the cover above is the Black Library reissue and the one i have.  Konrad's got a lot older and looks more like a grizzled veteran leader.  Although he has an eye patch, will be interesting to see if he loses it during this novel.  I really like what they did with each of the covers showing Konrad getting older an more experienced in each one. 

This one was released in 1993 which was after GW books stopped publishing books.  So the alternate cover is from the Boxtree version -

Hmm, this looks very familiar.....
Yep, its the same cover as Warhammer Armies The Empire for 4th Edition, interestingly the first race specific army book.
So after failing to fool anyone with changing the background colour of Beasts in Velvet they have gone far more extreme this time and flipped the image.  I guess boxtree did not have any artists in their employ at this time and its probably a lot cheaper reusing other artwork.  Also while i was looking for these i found this -

No idea whats going on here!
I have no idea where this cover has come from, if anyone knows please leave a comment and let me know.

Ok, its time to finish the trilogy, I hope it is as good as i remember and we get the amazing cliffhanger of Shadowbreed answered. Needless to say -  SPOILER EARTHQUAKE -

Right just like Shadowbreed the first chapter is the last chapter of the previous novel so i wont repeat it here.  We also get a quick recap of the village being attacked and thinking his true love Elyssa was dead.  At the end of Shadowbreed he had jumped into the river to escape and now he is struggling against the current.  He is swept into the river and makes his escape.  Konrad was initially planning to escape Altdorf, now he needs to get back in so he mugs a soldier for his clothes and gets back into the city, interestingly past Filthy Harold from Beasts in Velvet!

He then goes all solid snake and creeps his way back to his barracks over roofs and in shadows.  Then he manages to steal all the kit that he lost in his last escapade.  During all this though Garnett keeps referring back to previous events from the other novels, no doubt to help people who have not read them still enjoy Warblade but it gets a bit frustrating at times for people that have...like me.

Konrad's Sergent suspects he is up to something and they have a meeting in a tavern.  There he says that he has no love for the Emperor and Empire and he leads Konrad to a strange house.  A fat man is then introduced and it appears they are chaos cultists of some sort.  He promises Konrad that he get him to Elyssa  if he joins them.

Fat men, worshiping chaos since 1983




During some downtime while waiting to be summoned by the fat man Konrad ventures into the city to go to the College of Heraldry to investigate the mysterious coat of arms that keeps poping up during his adventures.  Could we be on the edge of a big revelation?  Nope, all he finds is that the image is not a coat of arms, or if it is then its not human....more mystery.  Also while there he checks Elyssa's family tree, she is not listed.  Even more intrigue!

Konrad should try Google.

Konrad gets invited to the fat man's party and oh my god, its a sexy party!  Turns out the fat man has a women's breast and they are all Slaanesh worshipers.  Well this really does confirm that early warhammer was not for kids as Konrad is basically witnessing an orgy.

The obsession early warhammer authors have with sex continues!
The Fat man has kept his promise though, if Konrad joins he has his girl, but its Krysten, his girl from Shadowbreed!  Well that's a good twist.  It looks like they are both as good as dead, but it appears Krysten has been spending the missing time getting to know Khorne.  She goes all berserk crazy and in the madness Konrad sets everything on fire and kills the fat man before carrying the wounded Krysten away from the flames.  Interestingly it seems a higher power protects their escape.  Krysten dies from her wounds and Konrad flees Altdorf.

He gets a job as security for a coaching inn and seems to be very friendly with the girls....oh well so much for being upset at Krysten's death then.  Eventually he is found by what appears to be the Imperial Guard, but its really Beastmen dressed as men.  Yeah not sure how that would work.... anyway they are led by his Sergent whose face is a burnt mess from the fire at the fat mans house.  He is saved in the nick of time by Wolf, his mentor from the first book.  Again we get an unnecessary recap of previous events and again he starts to tie in more threads of conspiracy.  We do however get the answer about the bronze knight, it was wolfs twin brother Juergen who was a sorcerer and believed his soul was not complete and created the amour to help him kill Wolf.

Wolf takes him into the wasteland to see someone that can answer all his questions.  He ends up on a mystery island which seems to be in a different part of the world when he gets there.  This chapter is a complete cop out and just a filler chapter.  Instead of getting any answers form someone that can tell him everything he ends up having a conversation with some daemon spirit about the nature of gods and the world.  We get nothing on the big mysteries of the Konrad trilogy.  I don't mind filler chapters that serve a purpose, this one does not and feels tacked on. 

Wolf and Konrad arrive in Mairenburg and we get a fairly detailed description of the port city.  Normally i am all for that but at this stage in the third book i feel we have passed that stage.  As they cross the High Bridge though we get treated to a spectacular scene where the encounter the wizard Litzenreich and his dwarf bodyguard.  Litzenreich was the wizard from Shadowbreed who freed Konrad from the bronze armor and it looks like he and Wolf have some previous.  As a fight breaks out at the pinnacle of High Bridge between Wolf and the Dwarf bodyguard a mob of Skaven ambush them from each side.  A good fight ensues and after the Skaven are dispatched they agree a truce.  Much Better!  They make their way into the city and come up with a battle plan to save the Emperor from the Skaven plot, although really they are all serving their own interests.  More signs that everyone in Konrad's life are linked. 

We then get a chapter dedicated in great detail to Konrad getting a new sword.  Its made by a dwarf smith and is called the Warblade...ah i see, its the title of the book.  It seems odd we get a chapter like this in the final third, it feels like it should have been near the start of the novel.  Anyway its laced with warpstone.

Warpstone, gets a bad press these days.

Yep in order to fight chaos you need chaos.  Its an interesting concept but finding a dwarf to agree to it in today's warhammer is not going to happen.  It was a lot less black and white back in the day and a lot more shades of grey and i much prefer this line of thinking.

So in order to provide a distraction for them to get back into Altdorf, Wolf manages to convince some pirates that its currently defenseless and to attack it.  They hitch a ride with the pirates down the river but when they go to leave the pirates tie Konrad to the mast.  Looks like he is a captive again.  Wolf is one step ahead of the game though and had a man on board to release any that were held captive.  Again not sure if this chapter was needed, seems to be individual set pieces rather than a concurrent story.

They reach Altdorf.  Konrad, Wolf, Litzenreich and his dwarf bodyguard and the pirate Guido who had freed them.  A massive spell has taken place and time has frozen in the capital.  They rush to the imperial palace and the guard all appear as beastmen.  They each start succumbing to invisible foes from the past that the others cant see.  In the end its just Konrad and his pirate friend Guido left as they reach the room dedicated to Sigmar. 

Guido erupts as some king of skaven bomb goes off inside him as it seems his insides are made of rats.  Not  a nice way to go.  Konrad is then assailed by the ghosts of all he has killed and they are leeching his life.  Only by using the relic knife of Sigmar does he survive as once again he channels the power of the god and slays all the ghosts.  Watching is the Skaven Grey Seer Gaxar who has the Emperor and his Doppelganger they want to replace him with.  He casts a spell on Konrad and he is forced to kill one of them.  He manages to mouth the word Sigmar though and a lightning strike hits the palace and causes the massive replica Hammer on the roof to smash into the Doppelganger and release Konrad from the spell.  Time starts again and Wolf and Litzenreich return to help him defeat the mutant guards and he kills Gaxar.  It does say though that no Skaven can outrun a man......

Look at those Movement Stats!!! No Skaven can outrun a man my ass!
Anyway the Emperor is exhausted and thanks them for saving his life as his guard appear and take him away.  They find a hidden passage that leads underground and decide to go down it.....instead of just informing the mass of guards and letting them deal with it, i mean its not like they have done enough already?

Funnily enough they are ambushed by a mass of Skaven.  Wolf turns into a werewolf and holds off the skaven.
Same thing happens here.
Litzenreich vows not to leave Wolf behind again and brings the cave down with some magic, leaving Konrad alone to go on.  Everyone seems to know whats going on apart from Konrad......and me.

He eventually comes to a door at the end of the tunnel and after a tense standoff opens it.  There is only a few pages left, i better get some answers!  Ok he is in the tavern he grew up in as a slave, that makes sense.  We get a good moment where he looks into Elssya's mirror and sees his reflection exactly like he saw back in the first book and waiting for him having a drink is his nemisis, skullface!

I can't be the only one that pictured Skeletor as the bad guy....can i?
Skullface says that he is Elyssa's father and that the mystery symbol is from Konrad's father.  But before anything is explained he disappears and is replaced by Elyssa.  So finally he is reunited with his long lost love who can answer all his questions about his mysterious past, but he decapitates her and book over.  Wow.

Well that was Warblade.  It had some good moments in it, especially with all the ties between everyone being built.  But it comes with no payoff at all!  Either David Garnett did not have an answer to the questions he was writing, in which case this is an utter travesty.  Or he was setting up for another novel, which never happened.  The third option is that we have the Lost ending where you are meant to think about it and all come to different conclusions depending how you read into it.  Also it felt he was trying to pad a bit in the middle to build to the ending.  How about instead of padding have a more detailed ending that answers some questions!?  No?  Just me?  This was my favorite one when i was younger, now i am just left frustrated with a cheap ending.  Although part of me was amused that he thought F*ck it bitch and just killed her.

Rating - 5/10






 

  

Thursday, 19 December 2013

10) - Beasts in Velvet



We continue our journey through the history of warhamer fantasy novels with Jack Yeovil's Beasts in Velvet.  Jack Yeovil is really Kim Newman and the author of Drachenfels which is still the highest scoring book in the blog so far so hopes are very high for this one.  The cover is the Black Library reissue which features the three main protagonists in the story.  Its not bad but neither is it anything amazing, its a bit...well boring really.  The original GW Books one from 1991 I think -

There is a lot more stuff happening in this one.
I actually prefer this one to the reissue.  Although its less to do with the story itself as i think its a battle scene but you can imagine it as the riots later in the novel and i am pretty sure its reused art from something else.  Probably some WFRP 1st edition stuff which seemed to be the trend.  I remember seeing it in a White Dwarf when the first Empire army book came out.  So lets see what Boxtree did when they reissued it themselves -

As you can see they radically changed the design beyond all recognition with a splash of red.
Enough talk of covers!  Lets get to the best bit!

Spoiler Annihilation Ahead!

Ok Beasts in Velvet is a murder mystery and the sad news for me is that i remember who the killer is from last time i read it.  I have forgotten almost everything with these books but this one stuck in my head which is a shame.  I will pretend i don't know though for the purpose of the review.  Or we can make it like an episode of Columbo.

Erm, maybe not.
The prologue follows an old used up prostitute Margi as she makes her way through the dockside area of Altdorf.  Its quite a brutal tale as she thinks back on her life so far and the problems she faces now.  We get a shout out to Orfeo during this which i love but as she trys to murder a drunk she finds it is in fact the person known only as the Beast who is a wanted serial killer.  This is a really rough opening and paints the Dock area of Altdorf to be really rough.  Some of Margi's memories of her...cough "career"... are very dark and disturbing.  This most certainly is not for kids but it makes the city feel very real indeed.

Newman starts the first main chapter by cleverly tying in the stories from his previous novel Drachenfels and also the short story Ignorant Armies.  The star of Ignorant Armies was Johann von Mecklenberg who is now the Elector Count of Sudenland (fluff breaker, Sudenland was smashed by the Orcs) and is currently in Altdorf at the Imperial Court teaching the Emperors son how to fire a crossbow.  The other tutor is Leos von Liebewitz who is teaching the young heir fencing.  We get a shout out to Konrad to show that Newman is keen to draw all the novels together to make a coherent world.  A mob shows up at the gates demanding that the nobles do something about the Beast and his murders.  The Emperors confessor Mikael Hasselstien confronts the mob which is being led by well known political agitator Yefimovich, the glass with flames mutant from Red Thirst, i assume he is in disguise.  Hasslestien gets the palaces sewage dumped on them and the mob disperses.  Johann is worried though that the murderer is his brother Wolf who was mutated in Ignorant Armies and only restored by the sacrifice of innocent blood.

Now we get to see things from the beasts point of view.  It is him growing up.  The real life person it knows as the boy shell and it details his first kills as he grows up.  When he kills his uncle with an axe through the head it is described as looking like the forbidden place on the female body.

I googled female body to see what he meant...none of them are publishable so have a euphemism instead.
Anyway the beast kills his first women and decides that will be his only prey from now on as they are disgusting creatures.

Now we switch gears to the docks where Filthy Harald Kleindeinst is stopping a bunch of guys taking a cut from a shipment.  He is portrayed as a bad ass and backs it up by easily winning a fight.  Halfling detective Sam Warble even makes an appearance, i think that's the third different author to use him!

Back we go to Johann who has gone to the murder scene under the pretense that the emperor has asked him to investigate, where the truth is he wants to find out if its brother.  The scene is complete carnage as Margis body has been so badly mutilated you can barely tell the victim is female.  Told you this book was not for kids!  They find a piece of green velvet which is only worn by nobles and the corrupt watch captain burns the evidence, not wanting to get embroiled with nobles as it wont end well for his career.  They also arrest some sailors who found the body instead, who just happen to be from a ship captained by the women in the Voyage South short story!  How ace is that!?

Again the perspective of the story changes to that of Johann's brother Wolf.  He has lost all memory of the events in Ignorant Armies but when he sleeps it comes back to him.  His girlfriend has scratch marks on her and even comments that he was an animal last night.  He has no recollection of the previous evenings events, setting it up to appear he is in fact the beast.  So much so that its clearly not going to be him.  All these perspective changes could be a confusing mess but Newman is an excellent writer and i really enjoy it.  Oh and he gets another Konrad plug in when Wolf thinks back to meeting the Wolf from that novel and also a meeting with the werewolf Erik from the Star Boat short story.  He really is building a unified world and it really adds to the tale.  Oh and the love making scene that takes place feels more natural, not a tripped out Brian Stableford dream.

One thing i have just noticed is that the corrupt watch commander is constantly referred to as Dickon of the Dock Watch.

Even old BBC documentaries are not safe from the Warhammer treatment!
We are next introduced to Rosanna Ophuls who is a psychic who was been brought in to help solve the mystery of the beast.  Unlike real life she really does have some powers.  We get a brief history over her talent where she feels things by touching.  For example she slept in a bed in an inn and felt the last three people that died in that bed.  This chapter also further shows its not for kids, they talk about it being a potential sex crime, this story is very real.

Another scene change and now we are introduced to Dien Ch'ing an ambassador from Cathy, except he is not, he is really an agent of Tzeenetch and the principle bad guy in Red Thirst.  He has an audience with Hasselstein who is also painted as potentially being the beast. Dein Ch'ing is together with Yefimovich again trying to fan the flames of unrest in the city.  And that's Part One done.  That's a lot going on but it has been set up nicely.

Part two is called the fog and has Johann in a carriage going down the street of a hundred taverns.  Not much goes on in this chapter but its an interesting social commentary of life in Altdorf.  Meanwhile Wolf is out with his girlfriend and bumps into Genevieve the Vampire, its only a quick cameo.  Wolf has developed an addiction to the drug weirdroot and feels the beast coming back inside him.  It ends with him lashing out at his girlfriend.

Baron Johann and his friend from the watch, a young man named Elsaesser, go to recruit Filthy Harold to help them with the case.  We get a very very dark tale of why Harold was kicked out of the watch.  He had killed an electors nephew who was abusing an under aged girl, this really is adult stuff.  He did the right thing, what anyone would do and killed the evil aristocrat but of course it cost him his job.  He had freed her at the cost of everything he had.  Filthy Harold is my new hero.  Johann uses some fake seal to reinstate him into the watch.  Oh and he is called Filthy as he gets all the worst jobs.

Meanwhile Rosanna is summoned by Arch Lector Hasselstein who tells her to report any findings to only him and offers her retirement and riches if she does.  She cant help but read his thoughts.  Its seems he had once been a lover of Margi the Prostitute that was murdered by the beast.


Everything is linked in this story, my diagram is more complicated than this one.
For the first time in a while we are back with the beast, and it is hunting Wolf's girlfriend, again pointing to Wolf being the beast.  Ch'ing and Yefimovich meet up, it is a disguise as he is still a glass mutant that is filled with fire.  Yefimovich plans to release a book called beasts in green velvet, a list of all the noble families of the Empire along with their many crimes.  As the beast kills Rosanna sees it in her dream, she sees the girl thinking of Wolf.  Part two end and the plot thickens!

Part three continues the story from various viewpoints.  A young bitter apprentice finds the body.  The vampire Genevieve is positioned as a potential beast as she two has a green velvet cloak and was out feeding the previous night.  Elsaesser contemplates why he wants to catch the beast so much and the students of the League of Karl Franz wake up and their leader also hinted at being a possible outsider for being the beast.  Now it does sound like its all over the place but its not, its very well written and i love this style of telling the story.

Wait I've figured it out, its the Green Arrow.  After watching Arrow on TV he was so distraught by how awful the acting was he went on a murdering rampage in Altdorf.
Then next few scenes don't seem to mean much but they do seem to hint at something bigger.  The fencing instructor from the start Leos is engaging in a duel to the death over a slight to his sisters honour.  Yefimovich has assembled more agitators and the watch are called to the scene of the latest death. 

The duel with Leos is against the champion of a petty noble.  The man is massive and is described to have muscles like Gotrek the Trollslayer.  Leos kills him within seconds with a well placed slash across the neck.  It is heavily hinted that Leos is gay which is an interesting twist.  For some reason though we are now with the Bretonnian ambassador, who is a dwarf...and is watching girls dance.  In the end he goes for a fat chick with big tits, yep he is a chubby chaser.

Back with Leos through the eyes of halfling detective Sam Warble who is in the palace in disguise as a servant as he watches Leos kill the Graf who had slighted his sister.  Then we get a quick flash to the beast, smelling blood.  Add Leos to the list of potential beasts.  Part three ends with Rosa and Harold examining the body.  Rosa senses the name Wolf and draws the man as well.  Wolf wakes up on a boat covered in blood with no memory of the previous evening.

At the start of part four riots have broken out in Altdorf due to all the factions prowling about and the fog that has the city in its grip. Filthy Harold meets up with Rosana and the suspicion is now on Wolf although Harold knows he is not necessarily guilty yet.  Wolf wakes up covered in blood, still no memory and Dien Ch'ing does some crazy Bruce Lee moves on some racist rioters.
 
I imagine Dein Ch'ing is Shang Tsung, they both came out very close together.......
Well there is no doubt anymore that Leos is gay as there is scene with his secret lover Dany.  Now instead of celebrating the open mindedness of a gay character in warhammer even back in the early 90's i instead despair how its just a gay stereotype.
Leos lover Dany is this gay in the camp scale....
All the great and the good including Johann and Leos are on their way to the Bretonnian ambassadors party where Dein Ch'ing is hoping to convince them all to sign a treaty to attack the goblins in the dark lands.  I assume he hopes they get wiped out but who knows Tzeentch's plans, they are as complicated as this plot.  Meanwhile Yefimovich has started his revolution as the common people rebel against the nobles.  The face of this revolution is a women called Ulrike who is known as the angel, the people love her but she is part of Yefimovich's band.  He takes her across the river on a boat and halfway across declares himself the beast and murders her.  Hmm i still think its too early to reveal the beast, as a chaos mutant Yefimovich is too obvious, i think he is going to use the beast as cover for his revolution against the nobles.

The riots hit the watch station Filthy Harold is at and its up to him to get everyone out alive as it burns around them.  He manages but the chapter is an interesting take on human psyche.  Rosanna comments that there is not one beast, they are all beasts.  It looks like all the players in this tale are converging on the party, its getting really interesting now!

Wolf learns of his girlfriends death at the hands of the beast and runs off in anger blaming himself.  He is convinced he is the beast and as he flees he starts to change.  Harold and Rosanna find him, a confused mess as Rosanna uses her gift to show him his girlfriends death.  The contrast in the chapters are now very interesting with the struggle with Wolf on one side and the absurdity of the party on the other.  The future emperor sees some large cleavage for the first time and marks it down as a five star day.  During this Yefimovich's plan works, he blames the girls death on the beast and produces some green velvet as evidence.  The crowd go nuts and want revenge and make their way to the street where the part is ongoing.

Common people v Nobles = Angry Mob
The absurdly large chested dancer at the party now enters the fray looking for a target.  Of course she targets an unknown person, a shy man.  Well we know the beast hates women so its odds on he is the one she is targeting, which rules out Yefimovich and Wolf, the two prime suspects so far!  It is revealed that she is trying it on with camp Leos, good luck with that love.  Anyway the revolution hits the pub and Johann makes his escape with the future Emperor in tow.  Of course he ends up in the room his brother Wolf is hiding in just as he is caught by Harold and Rosanna.  I would try and tell you what happens next but its chaos, everyone is running around.  Yefimovich gets exposed as a mutant and the revolution starts to loose momentum.  The large lady is indeed the next victim of the beast and as Rosanna feels the murder taking place they all rush to get him.  Only young Elsaesser makes it and the beast kills him before the identity is revealed.

Well that's act four done.  It was intense, very fast paced and frantic.  I loved it!  Final act coming up and its called....erm...Bestiality.  I hope that meant something else in the early 90's.  So we get a flash forward to a commission investigation where they pin the tag of the beast on Yefimovich, out heroes of course know different.  They then notice poor Elsaesser is missing and they find his body, he has drawn a code with his blood as he died but they cant make head nor tale of it yet.  They do piece together a clue though, the green velvet cloak was frayed and the only way it could reach the ground to fray would be if a dwarf was wearing it, the Bretonnian ambassador is a dwarf!  On queue he appears in the rooms of the Leos sister the elector countess Emmanuelle. 

But its a swerve!  Rosanna finally realises that the velvet has come not from the cloaks of the aristocrats but a dress.  The beast is a women!  They recon its the countess Emmanuelle and make haste to the palace.  At the same time the countess's brother, gay Leos is kicking out all her various admirers who are intimidated by his swordsmanship.  She goes all beast like and then it says within seconds the great swordsman is killed by the beast!

Rosanna senses all this and leads Johann and Filthy Harold to the room the brother and sister are in, along with a handful of guards.  They break down the door.  Finally the beast is revealed.  Ok last chance if you do not want to know who the beast is stop reading now and read this amazing book instead!

And the beast is...............
A cross dressing viscount Leos von Liebewitz............wtf!?  So they are taken by surprise and Harold is knocked out of the fight leaving Baron Johann to duel Leos.  Its a good final fight and Johann finally lands a blow, slicing open the dress Leos is wearing.  Harold sees his chance and throws his knife, killing Leos.  And in another shock reveal it turns out Leos is not a cross dressing homosexual, but a women!  I can't handle all this!  Well it turns out that the Countess was so desperate to be the greatest beauty in the Empire that when her little sister was born she convinced her parents to make her a boy.  Leos had spent his whole life fighting what he/she was and that's how the beast had come to be. 

Ok first let me apologies for the fractured nature of the blog.  The chapters switch between so many multiple viewpoints it is really hard to do a running commentary of whats going on.  Beasts in Velvet is an avalanche of characters, motivations and sub plots.  It may sound like too much and normally it would be but Newman blends everything together perfectly making it a thrilling story.  My only complaint is that sometime the subject matter can be dark, very dark.  It is always used to build the character and the story but some of it is too dark for me and not what i am looking for in a warhammer novel.  This is minor though and far outweighed by Newmans attempts to draw the warhammer world together, great plots, super characters and excellent writing.  A must read.

Rating - 9/10

 

 




Friday, 13 December 2013

9) - Storm Warriors


I really, really wanted to read Warblade next and finish the Konrad trilogy but if we are going chronologically then i need to read a couple of others fist.  So we come to Storm Warriors, the third and final tale of Orfeo.  First off once again i have the re-issue cover as above.  I must admit i really like cover for this one.  Forget the figure on the front, its all the shadowy characters in the background combined with the shadows and moonlight that really gives it a sense of a foreboding atmosphere.  The original cover looks like this -


Its a bunch of Dark Elves which is related to the story.  I am sure i saw this cover on an old paint set.  I cant paint so i cant say i took much notice.  Might have been a Golden Demon set.  Pass, i am sure you don't really care.  Reissue one wins again for me.

Ok Brian Craig (Stableford) is back, it does feel like he is the most prolific writer of this era.  The previous ones have been more miss than hit so i hope he finishes the trilogy well.  I will of course keep an eye out for the scene where he is quite clearly tripping when writing and of course everyone's favorite, the strange sexual encounter. 

I really wanted to read Warblade, this better not be rubbish....

Spoiler Barrage!

We start off just where Plague Daemon left off as Orfeo has just finished telling the tale.  As he is about to retire for rest two armed attackers burst in, looks like they mean to kill the Caliph.  Orfeo defeats them with a chair and a candlestick....ok its not as bad as it sounds, Stableford does a good job with this fight.  However he gets nicked by a poisons blade and looses consciousness.  We then get a tripped out dream, already!
I have no idea what happened, something to do with flying, dancing and storms.  This picture makes more sense.
It appears the assassins were actually after Orfeo and the Caliph has hidden him away and pretended he had died.  As he cant go anywhere while he recovers its time for another of his tales!

Now i know i give Brian Stableford some stick on this blog but credit where it is due, the man knows how to set up a fantasy setting.  Previous tales took place in Estallia and the Border Princes and now we are taken to the misty shores of Albion.  Well a smaller island off the coast called Morien to be precise.  We get a brief history of the location, description of its agriculture and troubles as well as details on the three kingdoms.  Its very detailed and its easy to completely immerse yourself in it.  Slight problem though in that in the modern warhammer setting Albion is not that far advanced.
Only time Albion got any Love was back during the Dark Shadows Campaign.
So the current version of Albion does not correspond with this setting and i start to understand why they never did an Orfeo omnibus.  I won't let this spoil it though, i like the setting.  The names though, i am not so sure about.  Its very old Britain, a mix of Arthian legend and welsh.  The main character is the young king Herla of Plennydd and his trusted bard, Trystan.  As much as i enjoy the location set up i have never been convinced by Stablefords character naming.  Still its early doors yet for Storm Warriors.  The start is basically Hera off on a hunt when his father dies and he becomes king.  A mystery stranger shows up and asks him for the antlers of the stag he has hunted.  He says no and gets a cryptic message for his troubles.

We get an early indication of the problems facing the young king and bard, a lot of the nobles are worried about their young age and that the other two kingdoms will take advantage of them.
One island, three kingdoms, will only end in a fight.  And if anyone recognises the game give yourself five points.
The big news on Morien though is the arrival of a band of apparently shipwrecked elves.  Trystan is sent to find out what they want.  When he gets there he finds they are all ready well on the way to building a settlement and that they are indeed shipwrecked.
Luckily the elves had been playing minecraft and were well prepared.
The leader of the elves is Thoron and of course they come in peace.  Trystan detects a bit of a haughty attitude but recognises that the elf is trying to be courteous and thankful.  The elves only need to stay till they can build a new ship, in about three years time.

Trystan spends the night and is assailed by nightmares.  Brian Stableford, strange dreams.... here we go.  At first he dreams of being hunted like a stag which is fair enough.  But then he dreams of shadow daemons who are far too amorous for their own good.  Hands groped at his private parts....yep we have the strange random sexual encounter!  So early on as well!  Oh wait the dreams not finished.  His soul is being twisted into unbearable excitement...he is having a wet dream, when he is staying with the elves, thats a tad embarrassing.  No wait he is left unsated and unrelieved, must have woken up in time.  Trystan then has an audience with Slaanesh who wants his soul.  He does not put two and two together though and blame the elves.  I do, they are clearly Dark Elves.  On his way back he is whisked away from reality as an ancient bard delivers a prophecy to him.  Surprisingly its not about the elves.  But its suitably cryptic to not mean anything at this early stage.

Trystan makes it home and advises King Herla to be wary but treat the elves fairly.  Bit of a filler chapter but it hints that although they are childhood friends there is an element of distrust.  Only a tiny hint but still its there.  So summer goes by without incident other than the elves are building a stone castle and its time for the Kings wedding.  The elves arrive as guests but tension is in the air.

During the day its like a mini Olympics is held.  The elves are allowed to enter 3 events, middle distance run, archery and fencing and to the shock of the crowd (but no warhammer player) they sweep the board.

The Warhammer Olympics features such sports as snotling tossing and skaven shaving.
The politics continue from the day into the evening meal where the elves ask if they can play some music and listen to Trystan playing the harp.  It seems friendly but its another attempt to see who is better.  Surprisingly Trystan wins, however it feels like the elves are manipulating the humans.  Although i have to say the descriptions of the music is...well...interesting...it just feels very airy fairy to me.  I am sure more cultured people will rave about it but to me it feels out of place in a warhammer novel.

So the marriage ceremony goes off without a hitch.  Its an arranged one of course and the bride is beautiful however King Herla is not that interested.  Problem is though, Trystan is very interested.  As time goes by he becomes better friends with the Queen and Herla gets jealous.  Ah typical, life long friendship ruined by a women.  Bros before Hoes Trystan!  We get a bit of a mystery as well where some wedding gifts go missing but show up later, for example a dagger appears in a murdered mans back.  Not sure where this is going.  Trystan gets another Brian Stableford weird sexy dream.

The king grows colder with his wife when Trystan is away and goes hunting.  He always wins the hunt, much to the annoyance of his knights.  It almost becomes open hostility and it looks like the herds are sickening.  Meanwhile Trystan is visited again by the ancient druid and it looks like the elves wedding gifts are cursed but only if the people let them be.  Trystan gives him some cheek that he speaks in riddles and cant just tell him whats going on.  Good lad Trystan, just won back some man points.

Trystan and Herla start to make up and come up with a plan to save the realm.  But before they can enact it the elves invite them to a wedding of their own.  They know its a trap but have no choice but to accept.  When they get there the wedding preparations are under way but it looks like Sir Godwin, who is a crap knight whose land the elves landed on, has given his daughter away to be the bride!

Yes he is.
So to explain, everyone on the island lives by a code, the code of Agam, which is like any bog standard code.  It defines their lives and focuses on your usual stuff like honour and be friendly to those that need it etc.  Well by marrying a human the elves are basically insuring themselves against attack as it will be breaking the code.
The Code of Agam rule number 7 - Never tweak an elf by his right nipple.

Trystan and his wizard counterpart for the elves, Kerewan have a frank exchange.  Trystan basically calls him out on what they are up to and the elf does not deny it, just points out that its the same thing they did by inviting the elves to the kings wedding.  In all seriousness its an interesting take on racism where the marriage should have been a celebration of two races coming together but instead its all about politics again.  Hey they might even make a half-elf, don't think Dungeons and Dragons will like that.

Anyway, what are they moaning about, it could be a lot worse!
Anyway the elves had made a harp and the elf mage Kerewan plays first.  Its laced with magic of course and speaks to everyone's soul.  Trystan has feelings for the kings wife again and its all loved up nonesense.  This really is like a battle of the bands.  Trystan is up next!

By the gods its a daemon harp!!!  Trystan tries to resist but the power is too strong and he starts playing the music of the storm.  It then descends into madness as per Brian Stablefords norm.  I am convinced he must be smoking something when writing these parts.  Trystan is clever though and instead of trying to beat the storm music he instead dissipates it.  The human bride to be admits to being bewitched and King Herla goes to take her away.  The elves though say this is in violation of the code.  There is only one way to settle this....a duel!

My name is King Hera, you corrupted my kingdom, prepare to die!

The duel between Herla and the Elf captain is superb, its really well written and has you on your toes.  Herla is victorious and surprisingly the Slaanesh worshiping elves are gracious in defeat and allow the humans to depart safely.  What the elves didn't mention though was when they could go.  In thick mist they find a farm which should not be there and after speaking with the farmer they find they are in the future.  Not the far far future of 40k but King Herla is nothing but ancient legend.  One of them jumps off his horse and disappears into nothing.  They keep riding and find the castle in ruins before a huge storm appears.  The storm is the Storm Riders, or the Storm Warriors of Slannesh per the book title.  Lost souls who ask Herla and co to join them.  A few of the remaining knights join the spectral host but Herla and the main heroes turn them down.  The hunt is on!

They split up and Herla takes the hunters on.  Each warrior that catches him is killed and he gets stronger and faster with each kill.  Trystan however reads the storm like music, the sound of hoofs like a drum and is able to navigate around them....really thats how he escapes i am not making it up.  Meanwhile up in the clouds Slaanesh appears in the stars and offers Herla to join his ranks again.  He refuses and the storm hunt surrounds him and the remaining knights who are killed and he is the only one left.

Trystan finds the real Bavian, the first druid, held hostage by an evil tree and is able to free him.  Now they must sing using the music of their hearts to save Herla as two hearts in harmony are more powerful by far than one.  What a load of cack.

So they arrive and the three beat the storm hunt, which turns into daemons by singing it to death.  As they go back to the real world Herla dies in Trystans arms.  Anything to avoid more singing.

Herla's death though gave Trystan a perfect back story when he entered Warhammer Factor the next year.
Back to Orfeo and the Caliph to finish the book off.  Orfeo is basically saying that even though the heroes sometimes die and the victory is small, its still worth it if you make other peoples lives better.  Finally he leaves the Caliph who thinks he is either the finest man to have lived or the worlds greatest liar.  Yeah he is probably a liar, the spoony bard!

Well that's Storm Warriors finished.  Highlights include a great backdrop with the isle of Morien, good intrigue and discussion of racism with the elves and a great duel between the king and the elf captain.  Storm Warriors should have been great but as typical with the Orfeo trilogy it suffers from having good highlights with a lot of poor stuff in-between.  The whole music thing which runs through the story is pretty poor.  I understand what Stableford is trying to do and it may be a lot of peoples cup of tea.  Its not mine.

Rating - 4/10

So that is the Orfeo trilogy concluded.  Ive always wondered why it never got its own anthology in later years but i can see why now.  Not only would it be difficult to fit in today's warhammer fluff but it's also just not that good.  Now i am not saying they are bad, just average.  The most frustrating thing is that there are signs of great stuff in them, but it just does not deliver on that promise.


Sunday, 8 December 2013

8) - Shadowbreed


No messing around, released in 1991 (or 1990 if you believe wikipedia) the second novel in the Konrad saga, Shadowbreed.  The cover is the Black Library reissue and is the one i have.  It looks like Konrad is getting older, has more scars and better armor and weapons than the previous cover.

The old warhammer art was really good, it feels darker than the stuff we get today.  Although saying that the quality has definitely improved.  Well apart from John Blanche, his is getting worse.
For a change the original GW books and Boxtree reissue cover are exactly the same.  Its got some knights charging in, i think they are Chaos knights but its hard to make out.  Re-issue cover wins this one for me.

David Ferring (Garnett) is back in the drivers seat unsurprisingly.  I must say i love the name, Shadowbreed.  Out of all the books i have gone through so far its the most dark fantasy sounding.  Not sure if that last sentence even made sense.

Please be better than Konrad, don't ruin my memories!!

Spoiler Grenade Thrown - 

Like the previous novel we get some Italic pre chapter text.  This one focuses on Sigmar and the battle of Black Fire Pass.  Well the first half of chapter one is the end of the last book so ill gloss over it.  Its now five years to the day that he and Elyssa had first seen the bronze knight, Wolfs twin brother and the next day he had seen the hordes of Chaos united when they destroyed his village.  He does not believe in coincidence and is expecting the same thing to happen again and rides through the night to try and get back to the mine in time.

Konrad makes it back too late, the battle has happened and its an absolute blood bath.  David Garnett does not pull any punches here as some of the visuals he describes of the scene are pretty horrific.  It is all to get across just how evil Chaos is and it does.  Again though the sheer difference of all the chaotic troops is overkill and hard to take in.  Chaos is different i know i get it, move on.

Good Point!
 As he tries to find whats happened to his girlfriend someone tries to kill him so he gives chase.

The would be assassin is a miner called Heinler who only has one arm.  He thought Konrad was a bad guy and tried to get revenge as he felt bad about hiding from the battle in a pile of corpses.  Heinler tells Konrad they took prisoners and he saw Skullface so Konrad decides to follow them south.  They march on in order to catch up with the chaos horde which divides up into three forces.  Under the cover of darkness Konrad goes to the camp hoping to find his girlfriend Krysten.  I hadn't bothered to name her earlier as all he obsesses about is Elyssa but he seems intent on finding Krysten and saving her.  Finally he is getting over Elyssa, it just took a chaos horde to murder everyone he knew.  For the second time in his life!  Doesn't go well though and he is knocked unconscious by an unseen enemy.

Konrad does not wake to a good situation.  He is tied but he can see the tortures going on around him.  Again its pretty brutal and when they die he is the last one alive.  He is released but only so two naked girls can make sport of killing him.  After being on the losing end he spots a shield design he recognises and shouts the name.  Its Kastring, the rich man from the village he was from and Elyssa's brother???  The man takes Konrad for a chat and we find out a bit about Elyssa's life and how he suspect they are not blood related.  Also some mentions of Incest, or at least attempted Incest as well, this book is not for kids.

He wakes the next day and Kastring is impressed by his resilience and decides to take him in his band as a slave.  We then get a very interesting insight into the chaos band as they drag Konrad around for the next few months.  One of the naked girls called Silk (she killed her twin, Satin) is his jailor.  Eventually he is offered a place in the warband but must kill a captured 15 year old boy to dedicate himself to the blood god, Khorne.  Konrad is in quite the conundrum as he doesn't know if he does it even though he doesn't want to does that mean he will be doomed.  Its a good question.  In the end Silk ends up saving his soul by killing the boy instead.  Silk then takes him away to make love to him.  Konrad has to put away thoughts of her forked tongue and tail as its his chance.  He kills her during it with a stolen knife and her look is almost of one of thanks.  This was a really good chapter and one you might not see in today's novels.

Khorne, kill the boy and we will send you your welcome pack in the post.
Konrad makes his escape but he spots the Bronze Knight who he has been chasing since early in the last book.  What he finds though is just the horse and the armor.  As his pursuers close in he decides to disguise himself like he did before.  As the bronze knight he kills all the pursuers and goes after Kastring.  When he catches up he kills him easily enough and then tries to remove the armor, he cant and he is locked into it.  Konrad has become the bronze warrior and the armor is feeding off of his life force and giving him life for every life he takes.

In good news though he made it into Magic the Gathering.
It seems the suit is also robbing him of himself for he struggles to remember any of his life from before he was the bronze knight.  During what appears to be a routine challenge though the horse buckles and throws him. Konrad is unable to move and can only watch as a strange man and four dwarfs dismantle the armor of the horse to reveal just a skeleton.  The strange man, Litzenreich tells him he plans to remove the chaos armor.  They take Konrad to Middenheim on a cart, he is still unable to move and is in constant pain as his body feels like its on fire.  The dwarfs ride horses....woah wait a minute....Dwarfs dont ride horses in warhammer, ever!
No, no, no none of this Tolkein nonsense here please.
They get him back and he mentions that he needs a lot of warpstone to perform the operation, yeah not sure he would survive in modern day warhammer, and that would make these Chaos Dwarfs, things were a lot less black and white in the old days.  They have some metal spider like contraption to open him up, only problem is that the armor has become his skin and he feels everything, more pain.  Not had a great life so far old Konrad.

We then get a strange chapter where Konrad has an out of body experience and David Garnetts take on the afterlife in the warhammer world.  Its weird but if you concentrate it makes sense.  Memories flood back as he is dragged back to life, but interestingly the memories though similar are not the same.

Konrad is back in his body but is very badly wounded, he is no more than a skeleton and most of his skin is gone.  Sucked away by the bronze armor he was in.  The man appears to be a wizard and he says he will look after him.  He is taken to a room and over time he starts to heal and plot his escape.  Oh and it looks like his future seeing eye is now a normal eye.  Konrad continues to recover and its obvious now that he is meant to be Sigmar reincarnated.
Reminds me of the bleeding effect in Assassins creed.  Time for David Garnett to sue Ubisoft.
Also i don't think warpstone is the same as it is now.  Litzenreich tells him its safe in powdered form and despite all the warpstone in the bronze armor and the tools used to free him he does not appear to be tainted.  Its still considered illegal and dangerous though and to pay him back for freeing him the wizard wants Konrad to steal some more warpstone from the Skaven.

So Konrad and four Dwarfs go Skaven hunting, nothing much happens here apart from desending into the dark beneath the world.  They split up and the Dwarf Konrad is with is killed and he finds himself in a Skaven lair fighting his doppelganger which is a bit random.  When he kills it he is restrained by none other than Heinler the miner that was still alive!  Except he is a Skaven.....what?   This is what Garnett does well, what felt like a slow chapter ends with a blockbuster revelation that of course asks more questions rather than give you answers.

It turns out Heinler is a grey seer, a Skaven wizard, and had used magic to change his appearance.  Konrad is once again in captivity and starts to contemplate all the coincidences of his life and starts to think they are all linked.  The dwarfs blast through a tunnel to save him.

Back at the wizards lair the city authorities appear in an attempt to arrest them, Konrad has the idea to lead them to the Skaven so that they will fight them instead.    It works and they descend into the depths at the head of a task force of the Grafs forces.  We get a good battle royal here and i find it much easier following Garnett's writing when he focuses on the action and not constantly trying to describe all the different types of Beastmen you get.  As he closes on the grey seer he must fight the guard that watched over him when he was in captivity, Silver eye.  The shock comes though when he sees Silver eye using a shield with the same motif that the bow and arrows Elyssa gave him.  The only clue to his enigmatic past.  The skaven are driven away but they have a doppelganger of the Emperor so Konrad, Litzenreich and the last Dwarf head to Altdorf to foil the Skaven plot.

Pesky Skaven, always plotting.
When they arrive at Altdorf Litzenreich and the dwarf are arrested for breaking Imperial Law.  The Sergent in charge recognises Konrad from his time in Kislev and offers him a job in the Imperial Guard.  Konrad accepts and for the first few weeks gets accustomed to his new life.  Finally he is not in captivity, so what does he do?  Decides to go and rescue Litzenreich and the dwarf.
He has had a terrible life and escaped certain death loads of times, he now had a cushy job and decides to throw it away.
 So he pretends to be an officer and gets all the way to the cell only to discover them missing.  Following the sewer system he finds them crucified by the Skaven Grey Seer and Silver eye.  In a great moment Konrad reveals his hidden crossbow and puts a bolt through the Grey Seers eye and killing him, genius move!  He then frees his comrades as they fight off a strange troglodyte baby horde before jumping into the river to escape.  When he looks around he sees Skullface and none other than Elyssa watching him!  Oh my that is a cliffhanger and a half!  Superb!

So that's Shadowbreed finished.  I did think it flowed better than Konrad with there being some really interesting scenarios that he finds himself in.  Although he really needs to stop getting captured.  Captivity starts to grate after a while.  At least there did not seem to be a ridiculous fight this time at least and the Skaven were better enemies.  The best part though is the intrigue, so many questions!  There better be a payoff but for now it keeps you hooked.

Rating - 8/10