Lets do this, Spoilers Ahead!
Wolf Riders - William King
In a shock decision from Editor David Pringle he has decided to lead with the Title Story! That's why he gets his name on it, by making tough out of the box decisions like that. For the first time in this series of this dubious project we revisit some existing characters as this is the second installment from Gotrek and Felix and follows on from the events in Geheimnisnacht. So we rejoin the story with Felix in some out of the way tavern where he is defending a girl from the attentions of three trappers with evil intentions. However one of them takes a shine to Felix instead, "Aye, Lars, right pretty he talks, and all that nice golden hair, like cornstalks. Could almost take him for a girl myself. When i come off the mountains anything looks good. I tell you what-you take the girl. I'll have this pretty boy." So the first page into Wolf Riders and we are dealing with what will forever be the greatest threat Felix faces, being sodomized by a mountain man. A lot of adult themes in early warhammer novels, i worry about the world the authors grew up in. Funnily enough Felix is not up for this and a brawl ensues and is saved by the appearance of the Trollslayer Gotrek. The girl he saves is called Kirsten and Felix is enamored with her and persuades Gotrek to join her people on their journey to the border princes. In a nice touch it is reveled these exiled people are the people of Gottfried Von Diehl who would be the brother of Kurt from the short story laughter of the dark gods. I like the tie ins to other stories in the early warhammer novels, it gives the sense of a conjoined world and not just a series of isolated stories. So our heroes sign up to the barons forces so Felix can spend time with Kirsten and Gotrek doesn't have to walk. Of course the trappers they fought are the scouts for the force but Felix makes the acquaintance of the Barons heir, his nephew Manfred von Diehl who Felix knows of as a brilliant but blasphemous playwright. The journey is very eventful, which is just as well otherwise it would make a terrible story. At first we deal with the aftermath of a wolf rider attack where we see some of the friction between the leading characters of the exiled people. Kirsten is apprenticed to Frau Winter the witch/healer who resents that the Doctor is not assisting her as he is busy with young Manfred. I sense some intrigue as well as action in this one. They then arrive at a town and Felix is nominated to parley with the guards. Turns out that no one will let them in as they are an armed force and too dangerous for any of the local rulers. So they journey on and of course end up in some haunted hills and it is here that Manfred explains the Von Diehl curse and also it is revealed that the Barons right man, Dieter, is his bastard offspring with Frau Winter, who resents Manfred for being named heir over her own son. So despite all this political intrigue and the fact they are camped next to the haunted hills Felix has time to go out for a walk with Kirsten and on only what i think is the second date they have sex. I guess ladies must love the threat of the walking dead. To be fair going by the start Felix nearly had in this novel he deserves it. This being a warhammer novel, guess what the dead show up. This is when King is at his best, its a great set up and the atmosphere is really tense and creepy. The battle that takes place is equally good and the sense of confusion and drama is very well written. And then you get our first picture of the book and quite rightly its of this part. Alas its awful. The culprit for this travesty is Paul Bonner, however luckily for you no amount of googling can find this "art" on the web. I did find this though -
|If this is the same Paul Bonner, he drew for Confrontation Age of Ragnarok, and looks to have improved 1000 fold.|
This tale had it all, intrigue, interesting back stories and histories, good characters, an atmospheric battle, a full blown siege and love and heartache. Very good start to this anthology.
Rating - 9/10
The Tilean Rat - Sandy Mitchell
Our first glance at Black Library stalwart Sandy Mitchell! That's not his name though, i know i am as surprised as you, its not often you see a Pseudonym in warhammer. Alex Stewart is the real name, i have no idea how you get to Sandy Mitchell from that, i like to think their is amazing story behind it that involves a man called Mitchell buried in the sand. Well what you think of this one is all down to if you have seen this film, or read the novel said film is based on -
|The 1941 film of the Maltese Falcon, I assume Alex Stewart has this on Betamax.|
|How did they not know??!!|
|Indiana Bones - A Liche doesn't let death get in the way of a good action adventure.|
|Tyranids the movie....oh wait they have already done that.|
Rating - 5/10
The Phantom of Yremy - Brian Craig
Brian Stableford is back again, lets hope for no strange sexual scenes this time, especially the dreaded flowers from the Gardener of Parravon. Once again it starts out as a narrative from a story teller which i am sure is meant to be Orfeo from Zargoz. Funnily enough it is set in a town in Bretonnia called Yremy. I can not find Yremy in any map of Bretonnia, which dosnt bode well for its fate in this story i guess. Bretonnia is Warhammer France and it shows in the names of the two main characters, Monsieur Voltigeur and Jean Malchance.
|Bretonnia players, waiting for a new army book since 1983|
Rating - 5/10
Cry of the Beast - Ralph T.Castle
I cant find any info on Ralph T Castle, googling only shows that Cry of the Beast was his only novel at least under that name. Id be amazed if it was his real name but i cant find anything. I wonder what the T stands for? Lets go with Thunder. Today's hero is called Tomas who lives in a cabin where he makes his living as a fisherman with his halfling father Brodie. I am guessing he is adopted. Wait a second, Brodie, living by the sea?
|Chief Brody from Jaws! I'm sure that's who Ralph Castle is meaning, his cunning spelling change doesn't fool me!|
|The monster in Cry of the Beast....ok its not really|
Cry of the beast is not a bad tale, it tells quite a good story but where it gets let down is in the beast itself. It looks terrible, its even got long eyelashes. I think Ralph Thunder Castle just threw in loads of random mutations and did not expect anyone to have to draw it which is a shame.
Rating - 5/10
No Gold in the Grey Mountains - Jack Yeovil
Good news, the author of the amazing Drachenfels (Kim Newman) is back, looking forward to this. We start by being introduced to a group of bandits who have made their camp in the grounds of Castle Drachenfels, the events of this story being set before those in Drachenfels. They are led by career criminal Joh Lamprecht and he is joined by Freder who is a huge man but clearly very simple, Rotwang who is a quite but skilled killer and the younger Yann Groeteschele who is scared of Joh and thats why he follows him. In order to fund a more elaborate criminal scheme Joh has led his men here to ambush a coach that carries gold mined from the grey mountains. He has successfully done this three times in the last year which begs the question, how inept are the people in charge that they do not learn and allow the same bandit to steal their gold? Anyway the ambush goes to plan until they can not find any gold. Under torture the coachman reveals the gold seam has run dry, hence the title of the tale! The scene of the ambush is the chosen illustration for this story, its quite good actually so kudos to the artist Dave Gallacher. They do however find a young girl in the coach, Lady Melissa d'Acques who is around 12. Now if you have read Drachenfels then you know who she is but the bandits think they can hold her for ransom and take her back to the castle where she plays along like its a game. At night the perspective changes to that of an ancient vampire who feeds on the unsuspecting Freder and the rest of the band find his decapitated head. They head to the room they are using to hold Lady Melissa and decided to make their stand there. The vampire though invades young Groetescheles mind and he runs screaming into the dark of the castle and Joh goes after him. He finds him mumbling to himself in a corridor and the young man attacks him. In the resulting brawl Joh is stabbed by a crossbow bolt which he uses to kill Groetescheles who is on fire by this stage. While this is going on the vampire is in Rotwangs mind and has discovered he has a bit of dormant werewolf blood and lets it loose. The change happens just as Joh finds his way back and he uses his silver spur to kill the werewolf but not before his guts are opened up by its claws. As he lies their dying he realizes that the vampire is the Lady Melissa who reveals she is over a thousand years old before she finished him off.
Rating - 7/10
Hammer of the Stars - Pete Garratt
From what i can tell from his bibliography this is Pete Garratt's only warhammer entry. In good news for everyone though he used his real name. Although its listed in other non warhammer novels as Peter T. Garratt, yep another unknown T middle name. This time lets go for Titan. The two main characters are called Peredur Mappavrauch and Saskia Whiteflower......this does not bode well.
Ok when i write these reviews i do it while reading the book at the same time so i can remember the details. This was so bad i kept going and finished it and i thought it was the worst thing i have ever read. So ive waited about a week and i will try again and see if i was being too harsh. So the tale begins in Wurtbad where there is upheaval in the lower city as travelers have appeared and set up shop. Nobody knows how they got past the guards but they did. Reminds me of something.....
|Aberdeen has the same issues as Wurtbad|
|The Emperor tells Vader Hammer of the Stars will get its own series of novels.|
Rating - 1/10
Pulg's Grand Carnival - Simon Ounsley
Two real names of authors in a row? Normally id be delighted but after the previous debacle i am quite worried. Maybe fake names is the way to go after all. A quick check of Simon's bibliography shows he has worked a lot with David Pringle, lets see if that helps here. We begin at the side of a road where a young man Hans is trying to help an old man who has been attacked by robbers. The man is dying but gives Hans a strange flute before his life ends. Hans arrives at Krugenheim and is obviously overawed as its his first time in a city. Two guys make fun of him (it sounds like he isn't much of a looker) so he uses the magic flute. It is revealed that he can use it three times a year to make people do what he tells them and any more will exhaust its magic before it recharges. So what does he make them do? Take of their trousers and throw them over the bridge.....I feel he may have squandered that one.
Minutes later as he goes to a tavern he is mugged and on the verge of being killed before he is saved by Hannibul Pulg the owner of Pulgs grand carnival. Hans had wandered into the worst area of the city where Pulg says the watch don't set foot in without enough numbers to make a snotball team.
|I am glad Games Workshop went with Blood Bowl instead.|
I quite enjoyed this one, its a good little tale and i like Simon Ounsley's writing style. However it could honestly be set in any fantasy world, it seems a bit more generic fantasy rather than dark warhammer fantasy. The subject matter can be a bit mundane as well but it works to set the scene well. Of course even a bland story would seem like gold compared to the Hammer of the Stars so maybe that's having an effect on me.
Rating - 6/10
The Way of the Witchfinder - Brian Craig
Ok its Brian Craig (Stableford) back again for his second effort in wolf riders. Dare i predict a good start, excellent build and a damp squib of an end? Oh and some strange sexual innuendo. Lets find out!
Again its a story teller that is relating the tale, if they did an Orfeo omnibus they could pad it with these short stories. We are in Bretonnia, again. It makes a change from the Empire so its not a problem for me. It starts by telling of a place called Ora Lamae which used to be covered by the ocean but retreating waters had allowed the town to come into existence. The Baron is just a figurehead and it is really run by his daughter Syrene who apparently is in cahoots with daemons. It then quickly shifts to a priest of Solkon (A god of law when such things existed in warhammer) forging an apprentice named Florian who after 13 years on his 21st birthday is sent to prove himself to Ora Lamae. Florian arrives and sets up in the street of shrines to preach of Solkon. Over the next three days he hears the stories of the corrupt nobles. Eventually he is lead to a meeting with Syrene who is clearly into Slaanesh and tries to corrupt Florain by offering herself. This sounds like the review of Zaragoz, in better news i can tick off the sexual innuendo box of my Brian Craig checklist! He resists her charms and tries to smite her with a prayer to Solkon but she disappears and he gets hit from behind and he wakes up back in the street of shrines. The next day he is arrested and thrown into a dungeon for treason. They roll a rock in front of the prison where he is left for dead. For the next three days and nights he performs a mighty ritual to Solkon. Think of that for a second, three days and nights, 72 hours straight of ritual. No sleep, no food, no drink. I think even David Blaine might struggle with that.
|After 44 days in a glass box David Blaines Spell of Solkan made Florin look like a lightweight.|
|Farting in his general direction was no match for the power of Solkon.|
Well that was quick! Its only 9 pages long and reeks of being tacked on at the end to finish the anthology. To be fair to Brian Stableford that's a tough ask. As Ive said many times his best part is the build up with weak finishes. This is finish is average at best and the story to short to allow his normally excellent build up.
Rating - 3/10
So that was wolf riders, the title story is by far the best one and No Gold in the Grey Mountains is good as well. The rest are around the average mark but the last one is rushed and suffers for it. However sadly i will probably remember it most for the disaster that was Hammer of the Stars, I need something good to cleanse my pallet after that. If the black library ever turn you down just make them read Hammer of the Stars before your effort!