Friday, 6 December 2013

7) - Konrad

For me my favorite ever black library published novels was the Konrad Trilogy.  I absolutely loved it.  However a lot of time has passed so I am a bit worried that its not going to stand up to the test of time and I will not enjoy it the same as i did before.  Only one way to find out though.

We have quite a number of covers to get through for this one.  The one at the top is the Black Library reissue in 2001 which is the one i have.  Dont know whats happend though as its a bit tattered.  Anyway we assume this is a young Konrad mid battle.

Now it was originally released in 1990 by GW books and Boxtree republished them in 1993.  I have no idea which of the below is which.  So ill lump them together.

Looks like an old Chaos Knight.  Not sure where i have seen it before, but i have!
Looks like the same Chaos warrior from before, i have never seen this picture before, looks old school 1st edition fantasy roleplay to me.
This one is the Boxtree reissue, the fact it says Boxtree gives it away i guess.  They have used the Slaves to Darkness Realm of Chaos book for the cover....strange choice as none of the daemons depicted appear in the book.
The trilogy was also put together in one book in 2005. 
As per standard it looks like the later the novel the better the cover.  The saga one is by far the best of the lot.  At least the Black Library reissues are unique to the story as opposed to just borrowing from other GW publications.

Author this time is David Ferring, but you all know the rules by now.  A bit of research shows its really David S. Garnett, famous UK Sci-fi author with a bibliography that look very long!  The mystery of early warhammer author fake names continues!

Well I have put it off as long as possible, its time....Spoiler Bomb Detonate!!!

Garnett opens each chapter with an italic paragraph which gives an indication of a gathering chaos horde.  Then the story kicks off with a young boy of around 12 looking for firewood in the forest.  You get a really good feeling of it as the writing immerses you in the foreboding forest.  The boy senses a beastman near by and the author builds the fear very well.  Its only a single beastman but to a boy alone in the forest it might as well be a daemon.  Because of his woodcraft the beastman does not know he is there but then he hears a rider and the beastman goes for it.  He makes the instructive decision to warn the rider and as the beastman attacks her the boy is able to catch up and sink his dagger into the creatures neck repeatedly.  A brief struggle afterwards and the creature is dead.  The girl he has saved is around 12 and he recognises her as the girl from the manor and her father is the ruler of the village where he lives.  She uses magic to heal his wounds and introduces herself as Elyssa.  It is also revealed the boy has a master, not parents and is always beaten by him and nobody knows that he can talk.  Good start so far, the writing style really immerses you and you can easily put yourself in the boys shoes.

The boy has never had a name, or parents and we find that his master and mistress are Adolf and Eva Bradenheimer who run the village inn.  His treatment sounds horrific as Eva chained him up with the pigs when he was a youngster and whipped him till he stopped crying.  He has to fight the dogs for scraps of food and it looks like even the animals are treated better.  Adolf and Eva eh?
Maybe they thought Konrad was Jewish?
The boy is the lowest of the low, just another beast of burden, while Elyssa is the only daughter of the richest man in the valley.  You can see where this is going.  Elyssa gives him an exquisite bow and arrows as a thanks for saving his life, she also gives him his name since he doesn't have one, Konrad.  If this was a film we would now get a montage of Konrad growing up.  Elyssa is his only friend and him hers as well.  He becomes a very good bowman but one day the bow breaks and he has to make his own one.  Now older and stronger he sees not hatred when Adolf beats him but fear....interesting.   Elyssa asks her father about Konrads origins but its more fear and he warns her away from him.  Also despite it being years he notices the bow and arrows are missing, prompted to look for them for the first time at the mention of Konrad.  We get some more insight into their relationship together and she mentions his eyes.  Apparently one of them is blind.

The pre chapter stuff continues to point to a chaos attack but its getting a bit weird.  Elyssa takes a mirror to show him is eyes.  His normal eye is green but the Iris of his blind eye is gold.  We do get quite a long preamble of how mirrors work which is to explain that Konrad has never seen before.  But its a bit long and unnecessary. 
Hows to use a mirror by David Ferring.
We get a slight tease that Konrad can see the future through his other eye but before anything can happen he throws the mirror away, shattering it.  Which is a shame for the mirror after the lengthy lesson we just got.  Elyssa gets angry and uses her magic to fix the mirror and Konrad explains he can sometimes see a few seconds into the future but it only seems to involve danger.  He has Spidey Sense!

There must be a Beastman near by!
And being an early warhammer novel they make love.  We even get a mention of a cupped breast and a pink nipple!  These warhammer authors are obsessed!  Anyway afterwards Konrad sees the future which is that complete love turns to utter hatred and that his only friend will one day betray him and cause his utter destruction.  Konrad mate you don't need a gold future seeing eye for that, that is known as a normal relationship.

Konrads spidey sense goes off when a knight comes to the village.  He intercepts Elyssa and they retreat to the Manor.  The knight makes no sound with his approach and is covered in bronze armor.  The knight just looks at the manor and turns away.  Does not sound like much but Garnett does a really good job of building the tension.  I think the knight is the one depicted on the early covers.  Anyway Konrad then has a vision of her death which confuses him as its a conflict with his earlier vision.  Elyssa tells him she is to marry some lord from another town she has never met.  He is 40 as well, arranged marriage being an issue in the warhammer world as well.  He decides to leave and the two part in the forest without words.  They both know they will never see each other again.  Elyssa because she thinks he is leaving and Konrad because he has seen her death.  It is quite sad all in all.

The pre chapter amble has now moved on to focus on Sigmar but it looks like the chaos forces are set to attack Konrads village.  Konrad struggles to leave, torn by the life he knew, no matter how bad, and the unknown.  In the end he spends the night in a hollow tree as its too dark to leave.  However during the night a chaos army makes its way past ready to attack the village.  Konrad knows he can not help now and decides to push further into the forest.  Instantly he comes upon a beastman with an upside down head and kills it with two arrows.
The mutation of upside down head is not just limited to Beastmen.
In order to survive the woods which are crawling with beastmen he skins this one and wears it as a disguise.  It works to a fashion but instead of escaping he is forced back to the battle lines as the attack on the village begins.

The little pre chapters stop now as the attack takes place.  The battle is one sided carnage as all the villagers are at the temple as its Sigmar's holy day.  Not that they could defend themselves anyway.  I have an issue with the chaos horde though.  Now i know chaos is all different but its sensory overload with all the different descriptions of creatures.  For the first time its hard to visualize the scene.  Konrad moves through the village, hoping Elyssa is not in the church but at home.  He sees some playing a version of blood bowl and they are using Adolf's head for a ball.  Good the guy was a dick.  When he gets to the manor house it is a raging inferno but no sign of life apart from a skull faced man that is moving through the flames as if they were nothing at all.
Ghost Rider is the main bad guy in Konrad....or does he mean Nicholas Cage?
Konrad puts an arrow through his heart but he just pulls it out without even leaving a wound behind.  Konrad does the most sensible thing you can do and runs away.

The next chapter has him being swept down the river for a few hours.  Nothing much happens in this one apart from Konrad getting his clothes dried and hunting some food.  He walks on and finds some strangers who encourage him to come back with them to town to sell the rabbits he caught.

They take Konrad into town, and the sheer scale of it shocks him.  They take him into a pub and buy him a drink, only to turn on him and accuse him of being a poacher.  Well that was inevitable.  As the baron makes his way through the town they take Konrad to him.  The baron sentences him to death for poaching.  Konrad finds it frustrating to survive the chaos horde that destroyed his village only to be killed for catching food.  The most dangerous creature of all - humans.  Yep very true that.  A black knight shows up and tells the baron that Konrad has the right of trial by combat.  He goads the baron into taking the bait before saying that Konrad can also nominate a champion.  Funnily enough he picks the black knight, who has a tattooed face to make it look like a wolf.  Guess what?  His name is Wolf and he clearly has history with the baron.  Wolf kills the baron easily.

Wolf offers Konrad a job as his squire, although he mentions that if he accepts he will own Konrad for five years.  With no other option Konrad agrees.  His first job is to get Wolf's horse, Midnight re-shoed.  The guys that tried to shop Konrad as a poacher though are waiting for him and they try to Kill him.  Konrad is able to fight them off and kills one.  Wolf appears to have watched the whole thing and tries to get Konrad to kill the other.  Konrad cant so Wolf does it instead.  He sees potential in Konrad before declaring that he is currently broke and wants to head to Konrads village.  Oh and it turns out the fat baron he killed was the one Elyssa was meant to marry!  They head back towards the village and Wolf tells of how he is a follower of Sigmar despite the wolf being the symbol of Ulric.  He belongs to no order though for he wants to be a lone wolf.
I think wolf was just trying to get his own set of gamebooks.
We then get a brief history of the Sigmar and the geography of the Empire as Konrad does not have a clue about any of it.

When they get to the village they find it completely gone.  Some magical force has wiped out all trace that anyone had ever been there.  Only a few stones remain of the manor house.  Wolf seems fascinated with the emblem on his quiver and commands him to leave it at the site of the manor house.  Konrad then tells Wolf of the strange bronze clad knight.  A shocked Wolf tells him that the knight is his twin brother.  They are then attacked by three winged beastmen.  They are after Konrad though and ignore Wolf.  Wolf kills two and Kondrad duels with another one, his foresight allowing him to see where each blow would fall so he is able to beat the creature.  They camp for the night and are encircled by wolves.  Wolf seems to talk to them though and they act as guard dogs. 

Wolf leads them to Erengrad in Kislev, Wolf goes off and of course Konrad gets attacked by two sailors.  Midnight kills one, trampled by its hooves and  the other is eventually killed by Konrad after they end up in the river.  I am pretty sure the cold of the river would nearly kill him but he just gets out and empties his boots.  Konrad's not having much luck, everyone and everything seems out to try and kill him.  They head to Praag to fight Beastmen but all of a sudden they appear to be guards at a gold mine deep in the mountains. 

Its time for another montage!
Montages allow people to learn skills by training long and hard while only taking up 2 minutes of the film.  Or in this case a few pages of a book.
Wolf soon takes control of the mines defenses and there Konrad gets an education in every form of combat you can think of from various other soldiers that defend the mine.  He even learns to read and write from a scholar.  The five years in Wolfs service all go by and we get to Book 2!  Ok ill be honest i didn't even notice it saying Book 1.

Wolf outlines his major plan.  He is after an old Dwarf temple in the area that is loaded with treasure.  He enlists the help of a female Dwarf, Anvila and with Konrad intends to leave the mine the next night.  It appears Konrad has found a new girlfriend but the first we know is when he is leaving her.  Konrad is still always thinking about Elyssa though, his first and only love.  I think this could have been a bigger part of the story but it feels a bit tacked on.  It could have easily been in instead of the geography lessons.  So the three of them leave but at one point it gets too difficult for the horses so Konrad needs to stay and guard them.  During the night though he has a vision of Wolf being ambushed so he goes to help.  It takes hours though and the ambush has already happened.  He finds Anvila down a crevasse and saves her but it looks like Wolf has been captured by goblins.  He heads into the mountain to try and save him.

Konrad finds Wolf about to be sacrificed by the goblins and Wolf shouts out to kill him.  Instead Konrad uses his only arrow to kill the goblin shaman.  He then wades into the mass of goblins with his axe and just when he is about to be overwhelmed a shining light appears in the darkness blinding the goblins.  Konrad has visions of being Sigmar as he kills around two hundred goblins and rescues Wolf.  Hmmm...two hundred...really?  Thats starting to get a bit absurd, i know he is meant to be channeling Sigmar but two hundred?  I find that hard to believe.

The light had appeared thanks to Anvilla finding lenses that the Dwarfs had used to deflect sunlight into the hold.  When Konrad checks them out he sees the image of the bronze knight, Wolfs twin, and goes off in pursuit.  Wolf is still weak and can only whisper one word, Chaos.  Very enigmatic.

Well i was on holiday from work today and read the book in one go.  And its not what i remember.  The start is excellent but when Konrad finally leaves the village after the battle it starts to go a bit downhill and drags a bit in the middle.  Also i have issues with the final battle being so unrealistic.  But the sense of mystery and intrigue keeps you reading.  I think it gets better as the trilogy goes on.

Rating - 6/10


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