|Police Scramble into Ashford in an attempt to stop this crime ring|
Ignorant Armies is edited by David Pringle and good news everyone, that is his real name! However i think even i could have edited it. I am not sure what is involved in the editing process but it appears it is to choose which order to put other peoples work in. Sounds ideal, let the writers slave over a story, put them all in a book together and then you get to plaster your name on the front! Rumors that David Pringle had a stint as the librarian at Ashford High School are completely unfounded.
Right the cover is a direct rip of the warhammer armies chaos box set, yep boxed set, back in 4th edition chaos was so important they got a box set with their army book. So i think this is the original one.
|Erm, not really sure what they were going for here|
Right lets get this show on the road, Spoilers Ahoy!
Geheimnisnacht - William King
And what a way to start, the genesis of the Gotrek and Felix legend. This series is by far the longest running in the warhammer world and it all started here as a short story. It is here that many of the facets of the duo are born. We find out that Gotrek saved Felixs life from the Emperors Calvary during the window tax riots and is now sworn to follow the trollslayer and record his doom in an epic poem. For those that dont know a trollslayer is a Dwarf that due to some great shame has forsaken everything and his sole purpose in life is to find death. Not just any death though, it needs to be a heroic death to offset their shame so they hunt the monsters of the world, such as trolls, hence the name.
|The Famous Duo|
Now as they approach the ring the ground is covered in a thick fog which makes it look like a misty sea. Its only one line but it adds so much atmosphere and tension. In my mind this is how it should be done. William King doesn't go overboard on the descriptions like some other authors, he focuses on the important parts allowing you to build a picture in your head allowing him to concentrate on the story. Interestingly Felix asks Gotrek why he became a slayer, something we still today don't know today. They arrive in the midst of a Slaanesh cultist ritual who are trying to summon a daemon by sacrificing a baby. Now my only issue with this story is the mutants they fight. Their mutations are pretty crazy, one guy has slime for skin and another has a pin head. I mean i know its meant for shock and to show that side of chaos but its just a bit over the top for me. Still it was a good quick fight and a nice twist at the end. This is a very good short story and i can see why they got their own series in the end with a start like this.
Rating - 8/10
The Reavers and the Dead - Charles Davidson
Except its not Charles Davidson, its Charles Stross! The curse of the Pseudonym strikes the warhammer universe again. So we meet young Helmut Kerzer in the middle of a conundrum. From wreckers point he spots the sails of reavers who are bearing down on his home village. All are sure to be killed but he can give them warning, the trouble is they will ask questions why he was up at wreckers point. Helmut has been practicing minor necromancy. This is a good start and a brief flash back of him being bullied by other kids of the village means the scene is set very well and you feel sympathy towards the character right from the start. Next we are on the boat itself and with the Reavers and their leader Ragnar One Eye. The author seeks to give you an incline into how the reavers justify their actions. It appears their fishing has been disrupted by dark magic coming from the village and now their families are starving. Makes you see there are multiple ways to look at the same events. Slight problem here, they are followers of Ulric but their actions and mannerisms strike me as more like the Norse. Anyway the focus switches once again. this time to the village itself and Helmut's parents. Interestingly they don't care much for their son, in fact his mother goes as far as to say she wishes he was some others son. Harsh! No wonder Helmut ended up the way he is! Anyway the reavers make their attack and any sympathy for their cause is lost when they kill the women and children as well. So to recap i do not support the villagers and i don't care for the reavers either. So by default it seems i am routing for a budding necromancer, i like how Stross has written this, it shows how good and evil might not be so clear cut. As the attack is going on Helmut descends into a hidden lair underneath the graveyard where a long dead liche resides. Except liches tend not to stay dead and this one entraps Helmut, giving him an accelerated learning rate. Now at this point Helmut sees in his minds eye the attack which includes this line "full of warriors dreaming of the mystery of the axe". I dont know what mystery there is with axes, maybe its in a follow up story....
|After he retired from reaving, Ragnar the One eye wrote his best selling novel the Mystery of the Axe.|
Rating - 7/10
The Other - Nicola Griffith
We come to our first female author so far. Looking forward to this as for some unbeknown reason women seem to be repulsed by warhammer. Don't they know how cool it is?
|This is clearly Photoshopped|
The other starts with Stefan Hochen and his father making their way to Middenheim. Turns out the father is a respected physician and is soon called into action as a wagon flips over. A mysterious girl is treating the injured man first and takes offense that they cause him pain willingly as he is poor. Looks like its going to be about peoples class so far. Right Stefan gets his license to practice medicine, from his father, typical nepotism that is still rife in the real world, i don't like this guy. Stefan goes to celebrate at the Red Moon and lo and behold the mystery healer is performing. Her name Katya Raine and she sings a song about a young girl mutated by warpstone. She awakes to find she has murdered her family and burns herself to death. Wow what a cheery thought, think ill give the Red Moon a miss. Katya has also applied for a license and it seems Stefan turns into a complete stalker. First he takes her application from his fathers documents and then followers her to the deputy high wizards house. This seems to make him very angry, the deputy high wizard is a women, why would his first reaction be jealousy. Even if they are romantically linked i have to point out to Nicola Griffith that men dont think like that. At least i dont, although this is for a warhammer audience, maybe she is spot on. Dirty nerds! Anyway the stalking continues and Katya catches him and kicks his ass. She takes him to the poor district to show him the people she treats for free. Stefan panics when he sees a mutant and runs. Katya explains it was not a mutant but a boy who when he was young spilt lamp oil on him. Stefan makes Katya prove she is not a mutant which she does. However later on he clicks that it was a misdirection and goes to the wizards house to warn her. The wizard already knows though and Katya is there, a piece of warpstone dust has got into her leg and the want Stefan to use his skills to cut it out. Stefan operates successfully and leaves her a license to practice medicine and resolves to help the poor. A nice tale that shows the issues of class and perception. Good to have some strong female characters.
Rating - 6/10
Apprentice Luck - Sean Flynn
I couldn't find any info about Sean Flynn and it was only when i was looking for something else i discovered he was Paul J. Mcauley. By now i shouldn't be surprised, i wonder if all the authors got together? They would need a few of these.
Right first thing i need to say comes from the very first line in the story.
"Karl Spielbrunner had been apprenticed to Otto von Stumpf….” wow amazing name choices there. The good news is that it can only get better now. Right young Karl is an orphan but luckily his late father was a friend of Ottos and he is an apprentice at a book shop. On this day Scabby Elsa (well he gets points for names, or maybe points off) comes in and sells him an old book. First major issue is that Karl thinks it dates to the wizards war...There is no wizards war in warhammer, however there is a wizards war in Fighting Fantasy, the gamebook series by Games Workshop co-founders Steve Jackson and Ian Livingston. I think Sean Flynn has become confused by all the fantasy settings.
|The book Scabby Elsa sold Karl|
Rating - 4/10
A Gardener in Parravon - Brian Craig
Ah, Brian Craig (Stableford) is back, i may have been a bit harsh on Zaragoz, lets see how this one goes. Ok i really don't know what to say about this one after reading it i am still confused. Right first thing is thatr its a story being narrated, i wonder if its Orfeo, its not mentioned at any point but it would make sense, ill assume it is. Ok funnily enough we are in Parravon, Bretonnia and our hero is a young man called Armand Carriere. He has become obsessed with his neighbors garden which is hidden behind very large hedges. Carriere observes more birds fly into the garden that ever leave and climbs to his house roof in an attempt to see in. At night though he has strange dreams and in the morning finds the outside of his shutters have strange claw marks on them. So basically the build up of whats in the garden does not sound like an exciting premise. But it is, bizarrely. I like the way Stableford builds it up, its like when you are a kid and something as mundane as a garden can be made exciting in your mind by not knowing. Eventually they are invited into the garden by the owner Gaspard Gruiller and Armand goes with his friend in this adventure, Philippe Lebel, who is the voice of reason to Armand's sense of mystery. For me now it goes downhill, the garden does not live up to the build up, in fact the detailed description of the garden adds layers of confusion which makes it hard to paint a picture in your head of it. So the birds are being eaten by the plants and then the flowers that bloom from them look like male genetailia. Yep, you read that right, it gets worse.
|I suspect Slaanesh may have a hand in this.....|
Rating - 5/10
The Star Boat - Steve Baxter
More fake name chicanery! He is really Stephen Baxter! Ok ill let that one slide. Right at the start of this book i know its going to be a fluff buster. As mentioned in earlier posts these tales were written before the established warhammer story we know and love today came into effect. Now so far there has been some oddities but with some creative thinking you can make it fit. The Star Boat might be very difficult though to fit in today's cannon. Lets see how we go. We start in a Norscan tavern with Eric the Ware who is an ulfwerenar, which is basically a werewolf, but not a full blown one so he his an outcast among humans and the werewolves also see him as an outsider. However the famed warrior is approached by the Slann Cotza who wears a rubber suit that hydrates him with warm water. Now from the description if you swap Slann for Skink you could make it work but this harks back to how Slaan were in the 1980's. But the start of this is very well written and the story of the warp gates and the crash of one of the slaan ships is epic, i like the sound of this!
|Evolution of the Slann|
|This is the only thing that i think comes close, imagine it covered in Mithril.|
|What they Should have gone in!|
|Ancient Aliens theorists were delighted with the Star Boat|
The Ignorant Armies - Jack Yeovil
Kim Newman is back under the guise of Jack Yeovil, it is the title story of the Anthology so i am expecting good things. It starts with a quote from the poet Mathew Arnold and his work Dover Beach which end "where ignorant armies clash by night". Now if i was a good reviewer i would research this poem and its relevance.....i am not a good reviewer, but i will make this prediction, i dont think we will see any more real life poetry in the black library. We begin with the mercenary Vukotich and Johann Von Mecklenberg who are tracking the Chaos warband of Cicatrice in the frozen north. After a brief introduction we get a flashback to why they are on this adventure. Its a pretty brutal tale. Johan and his brother Wolf are the sons of the Baron of Sudenland. I dont think Sudenland exists anymore, Gorbad Ironclaw smashed through it and it was wiped off the map. Anyway during a hunt Johan accidentally hits Wolf with an arrow and he has to go back to the estate. It is poor timing though as when Vukotich, who is known as the Iron Man, and Johan get back from the rest of the hunt the warband of Cicatrice has attacked. Everyone is dead but the youngsters are missing, Wolf included. Instead of becoming the new baron and Elector Johan goes off with Vukotich to save his brother from the clutches of chaos. So far so good, i am buying into the sense of guilt Johan has over the fate of his brother. We snap back to present time as some of the warband have turned and gone back to hunt the two men. A brief skirmish ensues and Vukotich is injured badly.
|Vukotich was injured by a toad man no less!|
|Back when John Blanche could still draw, Don't know what i mean? Take a look at the latest Daemons of Chaos book.|
Rating - 8/10
The Laughter of the Dark Gods - William King
William King gets a second story and the final one in the Anthology, only fair since he used his real name! We begin with Kurt von Diehl who is an aspiring champion of Khorne just as he arrives with his retainer at the edge of the wastes. Kurt seeks to overthrow his family and take back his lands from those that have exiled him. What we get here reminds me of the short stories in the Realm of Chaos books about a champion of chaos and their various battles and the ones that follow them. I really enjoyed the description of the chaos wastes as this is an area that can be very hard to describe in written form as its constantly in flux and is an area of pure madness. Anyway Kurt has various encounters which leads to him gaining more followers such as Chaos Dwarfs, Beastmen and the mysterious Dieter the Unchanging. All the while Kurt is waging an inner war for his soul. You get the feeling his thoughts and actions may not always be his own as the more he mutates the less human he becomes. Kurt is shocked to not be able to recall his home or family or even why he is here. King makes a good point, purpose is more valuable than anything else in the wastes. Its not just a focus on Kurt, we get an incline into the changes of his followers as well and their is a real sense that becoming a mindless spawn or elevated to a mighty champion or even an immortal daemon is balanced on a knife edge. One of my concerns is one of the battles is against the Slannesh Champion, Aazella Silkenthighs, sorry i just think the name is rubbish. Although she does have a standard that is described as having a childs head atop it which comes alive and warns her of Kurt's ambush, very dark! Just a side not for fluff nuts, Kurt beats a champion of the renegade god Malal, not sure if Malal gets any other mentions in the Black Library before he gets retconned out of the fluff so we may have the only mention here. Also Kurt picks up a crossbow that shoots light that melts the target. That sounds to me that like a plasma gun from 40k. I think in these days the two were meant to be connected, of course this has since changed.
|Advantage, Kurt von Diehl|
Rating - 7/10
Well that was Ignorant Armies, i really enjoyed most of it and its a very good anthology, that's a mammoth post though, i am off for a lie down.