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

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