Sunday, 20 October 2013

4) - Wolf Riders

Wolf Riders is the second collection of short stories that were set in the warhammer universe.  Just like Ignorant Armies its edited by David Pringle who once again has the difficult job of deciding what order to put the stories in.  Ok the cover at the top of the page is the same one i have.  Its a crazy kind of background image but the insert is a black and white wolf.  Now i think this is the original one and the reason for that is its got illustrations in it!  I will speak of them when we come to them in each tale but to my horror at the back of the book where it advertises the other books you can buy, there are illustrations there as well!  I don't know why they were removed in later editions, some of them are awful but i think it really adds to it.  They remind me of the ones in Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.  A couple of more cover options to take a look at.
I really like this one, its a very old school warhammer depiction of the goblin wolf riders and when i was younger this is what i always imagined them to be like in my head.
And the last one i can find is the result of the previous two covers getting it together one night after one too many drinks and nine months later have a child which has features from both of them.

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.
Ive just made myself sad as i liked Confrontation, maybe because the models were pre-painted as i can not paint models to save my life.  Right time to get back on track, if your reading the book do not look at the picture!  Let your imagination paint the scene using Kings wonderful description.  So in the aftermath Gotrek finds the rune magic that had been holding the undead back in their barrows had been tampered with recently adding more intrigue to the situation.  Interestingly as they journey on they catch sight of the Dwarf capital in the distance, Karaz-a-Karak.  Interesting for two reasons, first in the book its the old spelling of Caraz-a-Carak.  I am glad they changed it to a K as it looks better for me.  Secondly Felix thinks he may see a tear running from Gotrek' nose, although it could be the rain, adding something to Gotreks character development.  Finally they find the ruins of an old fort to set up their new lives and Gotrek wants to move on.  Felix though has fallen in love with Kirsten and stalls, wanting to tell the dwarf that he wont be going further but too scared to do so, he managed to convince Gotrek to stay for a bit to help make the place defensible.  Someone had yet to tell Felix this was a franchise with many novels still to come.  Flash forward and the little community has taken shape and one night Felix goes to tell Gotrek he is not coming with him, only to be interrupted by an army of goblin wolf riders.  So begins the siege and it appears defeat is inevitable unless Frau Winter can hold them at bay with her magic.  When the morning comes the siege is still going but Frau Winter is called away to tend to the wounded duke.  As the second night of the battle starts the goblin shaman uses magic to smash the gate and Gotrek charges into the mass of the horde.  Felix though is tasked with finding Frau Winter who has gone missing.  He finds her dead but worse is to follow when he finds a dying Kirsten who has also been stabbed.  She says one more thing and then dies in his arms.  King does a good job of selling Felix's pain when he says I love you for the first time, only to see she has died.  Quick mention of the second illustration, its of the goblin shaman and wolf riders.  I like the wolves, they are well done, the goblins look more dopey though but its much better than the first one.  So it turns out Manfred is quite mad after finding his father was a mutant, he believes he is tainted as well and must bring the line of Von Deihl to an end.  Felix duels him and eventually wins before going to meet his fate at the hands of the wolf riders.  Gotrek though has killed the shaman and the rest have fled, he has lost an eye in the process and collapses from his wounds.
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.
This story is basically a rip from the Maltese Falcon plot and set in a warhammer fantasy setting, lets see how it does.  The hero of the piece is a halfling detective called Buttermere Warble but is known as Sam.  It is set in Marienburg and a redhead elf Astra seeks to hire Sam.  She had returned from a trading mission to discover her family and homeland destroyed by Dark Elves and now here only possession that ties her to her family has been stolen, a small statue of a Rat, from Tilea, hence the name of the story.  So Sam goes about his business with his contacts around the city, both fencers and the city watch but it turns up nothing but Sam learns others are looking for the rat as well.  In addition he does not think Astra's story completely adds up.  After another meeting he runs into the Fat man and his small friend Leppo.  The fat mans character is annoying, the way he keeps laughing.  I get that Sam is meant to find him annoying but for me its too much and breaks the flow.  Anyway the Fat man (whose name is Erasmus Ferrara) explains that Astra has lied to him and the statue is worth a fortune and offers Sam a cut if he returns it to him if he finds it. Sam is then approached by the current owner of the Falcon who is a big Norscan and tells Sam to let Astra know where he is so she can buy it.  Sam visits Astra at the Swan and calls her on her lies that he has uncovered through his investigations but is content to leave her to it as she has paid well.  Alas for Sam he discovers the gold coins are in fact lead and goes after Astra who has killed the Norscan and take the Tilean Rat.  Turns out the base is magical and Astra is a Witch Elf who wants to use it in a temple of Khaine.  At the temple though the Fat Man appears and fights her for it.  In the skirmish Leppo is killed and is revealed to be snotling in clothes...yeah ok.
How did they not know??!!
Anyway Sam takes no part in the fight and flees the scene where the watch turn up to clean things up.  The picture at the end of the story is of the final scene.  Its average at best but the depiction of Sam is good, he looks like a hobbit that's had a hard paper round.  So that was the Tilean Rat, i liked to see the halfling love, its rare to see in the Warhammer setting and Sam Warble is a believable character.  For the most part it is well written and i do like the intrigue, but its all over a bit too quick and i have to remember the plot is a blatant rip.  Not sure what i think of that, on one hand it is an interesting take, on the other hand its not that original.  I wonder if there are other films that can get the warhammer treatment?

Indiana Bones - A Liche doesn't let death get in the way of a good action adventure.
The Last Tomb King of Scotland - A guy from Scotland goes to Khemri where he befriends a tomb king.  Unfortunately he screws around with his wife and has to escape....that might be necrophilia actually scratch that.
Tyranids the movie....oh wait they have already done that.
Not a bad story, just nothing to write home about either.

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
So the premise is that much to the delight of the common folk their is a thief abroad Yremy that is robbing the rich.  The thief had only been glimpsed a few times wearing a black cloak and a leather mask to cover his face.  None could catch him and he was known as the Phantom of Yremy.  The art on this page is of the the phantom stalking someones bed chamber and it is hauntingly brilliant.  It is drawn by Martin Perrott and it is the best illustration so far and adds to the atmosphere of the Phantom, more like this please!  So Voltigeur is the Magistrate for Yremy and is known for his unusual punishments dished out for example making someone that stole cloth has to wear a prickly coat at all times or a prostitute that steals from her clients pocket to have her own "pocket" sewn shut with cat gut......I would have no idea what that meant when i was younger and i wish i still didnt, not sure Brian Stableford has a healthy mind.  Lets push on, so Malchance is his best friend and also his clerk and the two are forever linked and even chased the same women when they young and Voltigeur married her and Malchance vowed to remain a bachelor for life.  After a guardsman almost catches the phantom it is revealed he is coming for Voltigeur.  Also it appears the the phantom is taking only a single thing from each house, something that was given to the owner by Voltigeurs now late wife.  Erm i thought he robbed a man earlier of all his wealth, not sure if he was just practicing then?  Right my early guess is that its either his wife or Malchance.  So that night he prepares by getting his staff all armed and in position and getting a wizard to set spells on his door and chests of all his valuables and Malchance waits outside the bedroom door.  Well it would be rubbish if these precautions worked and they caught the phantom, so of course the phantom appears in his bedroom.  The phantom proclaims he is here to pass sentence and will return the next night to hear his plea and the third night to carry out the sentence.  So the phantom escapes and no one can figure out how he got in and of course the scene repeats itself in the next night as well.  Malchance comes to the conclusion that the phantom is Voltigeur and he does not know he is doing it, under some kind of spell.  Voltigeur snaps and sends Malchance form his home.  By the time the third night comes i will admit the build up has been good and there is a sense of excitement and tension by this stage.  If you don't want to know who the phantom is stop reading now.  So Voltigeur apparently works out who it is and it turns out it is Malchance who is angry that he stole the love of his life.  He explains that everyone has believed his theory that Voltigeur has snapped and that he is the phantom himself.  So what ingenious way did he break past all the fail safes?  Petty Dark Magic apparently.  What a let down, how bad was the wizard they had to set the magical alarms that he didn't notice the use of dark magic???  Just feels like a cop out to me, also Voltigeur has a pistol and tires to shoot Malchance, who has used more dark magic to go unseen and block the barrel and Voltigeur is killed by the misfire.  I am noticing a trend in all the Brian Stableford tales so far, they all have a really good build up of suspense and intrigue but so far none have followed through on it and the endings have been a bit limp.

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!
So Tomas is awoken by some strange inhuman howl and goes to find out what it is but Chief Brodie stops him and clearly knows more than he is letting on.  The next day Tomas finds a half drowned elf women whom they save and bring her back to the cabin.  Her name is Linna and she was shipwrecked close by and fears her brother has drowned.  That night a boozy Chief Brodie tells a tale of Richard Crowell, who decided to take the fight to Chaos and leads a band to Norsca where he disappears.  Chief Brodie says it was just a story he heard, clearly lying again.  Another night comes and Linna's brother is outside and she goes out to greet him before anyone can stop her.  Turns out its a massive chaos spawn type monster as Chief Brodie has a dawnstone which reveals its true form.  Before Tomas can save her some goblins attack and Brodie drags him back into the cabin.  Tomas tries to go after her to save her and the Chief tells him that the story about Richard Crowell is true as Brodie was there as the ships cook and that Crowell was indeed Tomas's farther.  Apparently his mother was killed by a Beastman and that was the reason for Crowells crusade.  Brodie was left on board to look after the baby Tomas but when survivors of the horrors of Norsca returned to the ships they set sail and left straight away.  He gives Tomas the dawnstone, saying it was his mothers and his father has an identical one.  So Tomas goes off into the night and tracks the monster back to a cave near the beach.  After a quick interlude fighting goblins he finds Linna in the cave.  However he uses the dawnstone and it turns out Linna is dead and that it was the monster waiting for him.  Its at this stage we get the picture of the monster in the cave.  Wow, just wow.  Its drawn by Tony Hough and in fairness to Tony its well drawn and it is exactly how the monster was described in the book.  The problem is that the monster looks ridiculous but i put the blame on Ralph Castle who wrote it like that, all the artist did was put his description on paper. 
The monster in Cry of the Beast....ok its not really
So Tomas gets a bit of luck and the monster brings down part of the cave and the falling boulders kill it.  Well i say kill it, it Shat convulsively and died.  Yep it actually says that, thats the fist instance of a proper swear word i think  When he goes to see if its dead he finds an identical dawnstone being worn by the monster, its Richard Crowell and Tomas's real father!
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.
Awwww Crap
Ok this was a good twist but as i said if you read Drachenfels you already knew that the Lady Melissa was Genevieve's grandmother in darkness.  Still though even if you know that its still not a bad read.  Now i think the story and twists in the previous two tales are better but the difference is in the writing as despite this i enjoyed this one better.  The reason i prefer this writing style is just that you invest in the characters a bit more despite the limits of a short story as Kim Newman seems to be able to give them all unique personalities and motivations in a short space of time.  In addition his descriptions of the area are excellent, this is probably as its the second time we have been at Castle Drachenfels.  I am not an author, i am just an ignorant reader but to my mind despite the plot not being as good as the previous stories it just felt like it flowed better to me and as a result i enjoyed it more.

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
Peredur is a scholar but bunks off to see the Graf address the strangers.  They finally manage to persuade them that they are friends and Peredur goes back to the university.  This one sentence sums up four pages of the story which is filled with poorly written descriptions that just doesn't flow very well.  So the spring equinox comes around and the travelers invite everyone to a festival of Taal the god of the wild places.  Peredur gets a crush on one of the traveling girls who turns out to be the sister of their leader, N'dru which during the festivities leads to an embarrassing moment as he spots Peredur making eyes at his sister.  Awkward for everyone, including me the reader for having to read it.  Not a bad idea to add to the story just poorly executed.  So the travelers pop out the wine of fallerion and start singing the Riddle of the Song of the Seals, a recipe for a pleasant evening you may think?  Well Peredur and his teacher at the university go and look it up and it turns out that people who drink the wine are more likely to succumb to hypnotic chants and mesmerizing songs!   And guess what the Riddle of the Song of the Seals happens to be!  So Peredur, his annoying best friend Safia and the teacher are the only ones unaffected.  His mum gifts him his fathers armor and weapon as he was a great hero as they go into the catacombs after the travelers who are trying to work out the riddle of the song of seals.  So they catch up to them and it turns out they are after the Hammer of the Stars for good reasons and they have found a sacred amulet that will help them.  Peredur duels N'dru for it which is depicted in an ok piece of art, in fact its the best thing so far to happen.  So the scholar who just got his armor (but it apparently a good squire) versus the hardened barbarian warrior.  Peredur is further handicapped that as he fancies N'dru's sister he cant kill him so has to just try and incapacitate him.  Of course he wins and N'dru puts the amulet back.....wait what?  He goes to all that effort and then just gives up?  Guess he didn't want the Hammer of the Star that bad then.  Peredur flush with success decides that he will go after the Hammer himself, no doubt in Pete Garratt's mind leading to a Gotrek and Felix type series.  The thought of that makes me ill.
The Emperor tells Vader Hammer of the Stars will get its own series of novels.
The main problem with this story though is the way the writer structures the sentences and also the pacing feels way off.  Its just hard work to read and any good ideas with the plot just get lost in the chore of reading it.  Saying that the plots cack as well.  I have to question editor David Pringle for letting this in.  More worrying if he has edited it how bad was it before?  I didn't want to do this so early as if i find anything worse i cant go lower on the rating scale.  However if i do find worse i am packing it in!  Gets a point for using his real name, that's all i can give it.

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.
It is revealed Hans is an Albino with a red birthmark and has left his village to get away from the taunting.  Pulg wants to display him as a freak but sells it a bit better than that.  Having no choice Hans accepts with the plan that it only a temporary measure.  It turns out that he has a pet Wyrven that he keeps on a lead which i guess would be an awesome substitution for a guard dog.  They make their way to a pub where a deal to sell dung goes wrong and Pulg is accused of bringing dark forces to the city with his carnival.  Pulg defuses the situation well but confesses to Hans he fears the city may be turning on him.  And then we get an explanation of Snotball!  It turns out its football but with a wicker ball with a snotling caged in it.  Pulg takes him home and we are introduced to a few of his menagerie (including a bog octopus which sounded amazing and a blind basilisk) and also his co workers including Hedi who Hans has an instant crush on.  So far this novel has an unhealthy obsession with shit.  It seems to be the reality of the carnival that all these magnificent beasts shit a lot.  Despite being lumbered with the job of shoveling the excrement and mucking out the cages Hans is delighted with his new life as its still much better than where he came from, he even gets a lesson riding the tame wyrven including a flight over the city while Pulg gets drunk at the tavern.  Things repeat for a while until the city council declare there will be an inspection in three days for a suspected rodent infestation.  This sounds quite mundane but this being a fantasy setting he hires a wizard to cast a spell to kill all the rats.  Pulgs nemesis the man Grunwald tries to buy the property but runs off when Pulg threatens him with a blunderbuss.  However Grunwald turns the city against them and Hans is chased by some louts.  Pulg seems to be oblivious to all the hatred and Heidi tries to persuade Hans that they need to leave and that he has gone mad.  Before that can happen though the Knights of the White Wolf appear at the local inn to arrest Pulg but he and Hans are able to just escape on the back of the wyrven.  This is the scene that they use to throw a picture in for.  Its not great, so ill gloss over it.  When they get back home though the knights are waiting for them with Heidi their prisoner.  They charge Pulg of heresy so Hans gets the flute out.  The knights freeze allowing Heidi to escape but it breaks the spell that is keeping the Wyrven docile and it tears the knights apart.  The flute has broken the spell on all the monsters in the carnival and surrounded by knights they use a secret passage to escape when Hans realises Pulg still has the flute after he gave it to him to examine, Heidi is waiting for them, with the knights who arrest Pulg.  She has sold him out for the freedom of herself, Hans and the animals.  They decided to take Grunwalds money for the place and then take the carnival on the road.  Pulg winks to Hans as he is taken away as he still has the flute.
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.
When its finished he is a walking avatar of his god and the rock melts in front of him as he makes his escape.  Both guards and daemons try and stop them but are brushed aside.  This scene is depicted in a picture.  The illustration of Florian is excellent as he looks like a holy angel, however the rest of it looks ridiculous, there is one guard behind him who looks like this -
Farting in his general direction was no match for the power of Solkon.
Anyway he makes his way to the top of the highest tower where Syrene meets him.  Instead of a fight she begs for help from the daemons and will do any penance.  At that point he feels pity for her and his spell is broken.  Must have been gutted that took 72 hours to cast!  He says there might be forgiveness in the world as well as law and therefore dammed himself in Solkons eyes.  The waves start to reclaim the land.
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!