Throwback Thursday – Warhammer: Runefang by C. L. Werner

Runefang Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Paperback – 24 June 2008)

Series: Warhammer Fantasy

Length: 413 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.  For this week’s Throwback Thursday I have a look at a classic Warhammer Fantasy adventure novel with the entertaining fantasy thrill ride, Runefang.

I have been reading an awful lot of Warhammer 40,000 novels lately, but deep down my heart will always belong to the Warhammer Fantasy franchise, as that was the game that I played back in the day.  Even though the Warhammer Fantasy game has ended (replaced by The Age of Sigmar), while it was going the Black Library invested a lot of time into creating some excellent novels in this setting, which I have also been enjoy recently.  This includes the awesome Broken Honour and some of the earlier entries in the iconic Gotrek and Felix series (including Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer and Beastslayer).  Even after reading these, I am still in the mood for more fun Warhammer Fantasy adventures and so I just read Runefang by established Warhammer fiction author C. L. Werner.  Werner, whose other writing credits include the Witch Hunter, Thanquol & Boneripper and The Black Plague series, came up with a compelling idea for this novel which I had a lot of fun getting through.

As civil war, discord and political instability rock the human realms of the Empire, a far greater threat marches upon it from the south.  A massive horde of undead creatures has been raised from the grave and is  cutting its way through the heavily populated province of Wissenland.  As the forces of Wissenland gather to fight, they are disheartened to find that these are not the typical shambling herd of undead horrors, but a well-organised, highly disciplined force of relentless fighters with dangerous magic backing them up.  Worse, the leader of this force is a true monster, the wight lord Zahaak, an ancient general of the legendary dark necromancer, Nagash, who has risen from his last defeat to finally achieve the victory he promised centuries before.

After several devastating slaughters, it becomes apparent that the undead force before them is unstoppable and the only way to defeat it is to kill the unkillable undead general.  In desperate need of anything that will save his realm, the Count of Wissenland and his advisors come up with an unlikely plan: recovering the Solland Runefang.  Lost years before when an orc raid destroyed the former province of Solland, the stolen Runefang, one of the legendary 12 swords signifying rulership of the Empire’s provinces, is rumoured to be the only weapon capable of killing Zahaak.

The task of finding the Runefang falls to Baron von Rabwald, who pulls together a small expedition of soldiers, knights and adventurers and leads them to the Runefang’s purported hiding place in the Worlds Edge Mountains.  However, this is no easy quest, and the chances of success are low, especially as the Worlds Edge Mountains are a notorious haunt for monsters, orcs and innumerable other dangers.  Worse, they are not the only group seeking the lost Runefang, and the fell magic of Zahaak is never far behind.  Can the expedition recover the Runefang before it is too late, or will Wissenland fall at the hands of its greatest foe from the past?

This was an outstanding and extremely exciting Warhammer Fantasy novel that I had a wonderful time reading.  C. L. Werner did an excellent job providing readers with an amazing fantasy adventure, and Runefang has a lot of great elements that will appeal to a wide range of readers.

At the heart of Runefang lies a captivating and highly enjoyable fantasy narrative that quickly drags the reader in with its impressive action, enjoyable characters, intriguing examination of the Warhammer world, and exciting adventure narrative.   Starting off with a fantastic introduction that sees the Wissenland army’s first disastrous attack against the undead horde, you are swiftly brought into the middle of the conflict as you witness the aftermath of the defeat, which also introduces several of the main characters.  Following some compelling exposition about the enemy they are facing, the story splits into two parts, with Baron von Rabwald leading most of the supporting cast off to find the lost Runefang, while the rest of the story focuses on the Count of Wissenland’s attempts to delay the undead army to give the adventurers time.  This split works really well, and seeing the disasters unfolding in Wissenland heightens the stakes of the expedition’s adventures and ensures that the reader is even more invested in its outcome.  The expedition storyline encounters multiple obstacles throughout their adventure, including monsters, traps, and orcs and goblins.  They are also forced to deal with a rival force of humans who are also hoping to claim the Runefang, untrustworthy mercenaries, as well as a traitor within their ranks who is helping the enemy.

This all translates into a very good and action-packed adventure, and I loved seeing all the epic events unfold through the eyes of the varied characters.  The story chugs along at a quick and exciting pace, with a good combination of action, dark moments and some fun, if grim, humour that I quite enjoyed.  Werner also ensures readers are in for a wild ride by not being sentimental when it comes to character survivability.  This became really apparent around halfway through Runefang when several key characters, many of whom had been built up in a big way for most of the narrative, were very suddenly killed off, and one of the supporting cast took the reigns as lead protagonist.  While this was a little surprising, I think it worked rather well, and it added to the suspense and drama of the tale, as the new protagonist is forced to make some big choices and deals to keep the quest alive.  Following this, the story keeps advancing at a great pace, with new foes and dangers appearing the closer the protagonists got to their goal.  This leads up to the epic final sequences of the expedition narrative, and it was fantastic to see the surviving protagonists go up against all the villains that had been chasing them in a big, extended confrontation, and Werner kept continuously hitting the reader with twists, surprises and dangers.  The reveal about the traitor in the ranks was pretty good, especially as Werner threw in an excellent red herring character (although by the time it is revealed, there were limited potential characters who it could be).  Everything comes together extremely well, with all the storylines and character arcs reaching their natural end, and I felt that it was an excellent, if rather bittersweet, conclusion.

I have to say that this was a particularly good and accessible entry in the wider Warhammer Fantasy canon, which is very well suited to this sort of immense and powerful story.  While Werner could have just phoned in Runefang with a generic adventure story set in the universe, he does a great dive into the lore.  This novel is set well before the events of most Warhammer Fantasy novels and takes place during the Age of the Three Emperors, where the Empire was split by a raging civil war.  As such, the province of Wissenland is on its own throughout the novel and must also deal with the substantial machinations of its neighbours as it fights to survive, which gives it a great additional edge of intrigue.  The author also spends a great deal of time focusing on the ruined province of Solland and the importance of its lost Runefang.  It was fascinating to see the ruins of Solland in Runefang, as it was still badly scarred by the orc invasion that destroyed it, and the impact of Wissenland’s absorption of it was quite interesting.  I also really appreciated the fantastic portrayal of the notorious Worlds Edge Mountains, the former realm of the dwarfs that is now controlled by orcs, bandits, and monsters.  The author did a really good job showing this to be a desolate and dangerous place, and he really did not disappoint when it came to featuring the variety of cool creatures and threats it contains, forcing the protagonists up against dangerous odds again and again.

Finally, I must highlight the author’s excellent use of the undead army in this book.  Rather than using the armies of the Vampire Counts or the Tomb Kings (which were the two undead factions at the time of Runefang’s release), Werner features a historic army of undead creatures who have risen after their defeat during the early days of the Empire to have their vengeance.  As such, they are a unique force of undead creatures, and I loved seeing them in action, particularly as you get some awesome reactions of terror from the human characters observing them.  Overall, I really loved the cool use of Warhammer Fantasy elements, history and settings in Runefang, and I felt that this was the sort of Warhammer novel that any fantasy fan could pick up and enjoy.

I also need to highlight all the impressive action featured throughout Runefang, and Werner has a clear talent for making fight scenes come to life in a big way.  There are so many battles throughout this book, and each of them is showcased to the reader in exquisite detail.  Whether it be a small skirmish, a one-on-one fight, a brawl against a giant monster, or a large pitched battle between armies, the author ensures that the reader gets the full sense of everything that his happening.  It was extremely cool to see all these fights unfold, and I was able to mentally see every sword swing, desperate charge and epic moment.  I liked how some of these fights emulated the battles from the table-top Warhammer Fantasy game, and you could really envision how they would have looked being played out on the board.  These action scenes combined well with the awesome and exciting story, and I think that they strongly enhanced my enjoyment of Runefang.

The final thing I want to talk about is characters, as Runefang features an excellent and massive cast of distinctive protagonists and villains.  Now, I am not going to go into too much detail about character arcs or development here, as to do so might ruin which key characters are killed off early.  However, I have to say that I was really impressed with the awesome way that Werner introduced each of the major figures in the book.  As such, you quickly grow to like many of the figures in Runefang, especially as Werner goes out of his way to feature a unique and often damaged group of protagonists to fit the story around.  I will say that I deeply enjoyed the Baron’s notorious and scarred champion, Kessler, who has some great moments; the dwarf Skanir, who serves as cantankerous guide; and the fantastic duo of the halfling Theodo Hobshollow and his ogre sidekick, Ghrum, who were an excellent and entertaining comic relief team.  There are also some really good villains in this novel, including the bandits who are also after the Runefang (featuring a brilliantly despicable leader and an entertaining pair of cowards), and an extremely dangerous orc warlord, Uhrghul Skullcracker.  Uhrghul was a particularly fun character, and I liked both his philosophical insights about being an orc leader as well as his effective way of questioning human prisoners (eating my legs in front of me probably would get me to talk).  I did think that the main villain of Runefang Zahaak was a tad underdeveloped, even if he was shown to be an epic badass with major historical cred to his name.  However, this might have been a deliberate choice by Werner to highlight the uncomplicated nature and motivations of the undead compared to the more insidious, evil, or animalistic plots of the humans and orc villains.  I had an amazing time following these characters, just try not to get too attached to any of them.

Filled with fantastic action, a compelling adventure storyline, fun characters and great use of the Warhammer Fantasy setting, Runefang was an outstanding novel from C. L. Werner that I had an amazing time reading.  Werner really went out of his way to create the most impressive and exhilarating fantasy adventure he could, and the result is really worth checking out.  A highly recommended Warhammer fantasy novel that you are guaranteed to have fun with.

WWW Wednesday – 13 July 2022

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Taking on a World of Words, where bloggers share the books that they’ve recently finished, what they are currently reading and what books they are planning to read next. Essentially you have to answer three questions (the Three Ws):

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

So, let’s get to it.

What are you currently reading?

Kagen the Damned by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Kagen the Damned Cover

I am still listening to the Kagen the Damned audiobook by Jonathan Maberry, although I have made some steady progress in the last week, and I am currently over the half-way mark.  I am still really enjoying this impressive and exceedingly dark fantasy novel and I extremely intrigued about how it is going to turn out.  I will hopefully finish Kagen the Damned off completely in the next week or so, and I reckon that Maberry still has some major shocks and dangerous twists to come.

What did you recently finish reading?

Black River by Matthew Spencer (Trade Paperback)

Black River Cover

 

Van Horstmann by Ben Counter (Paperback)

Van Horstmann Cover

 

Runefang by C. L. Werner (Paperback)

Runefang Cover

 

The Accomplice by Steve Cavanagh (Trade Paperback)

The Accomplice Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Essex Dogs by Dan Jones (Trade Paperback)

Essex Dogs Cover

 

 

That’s it for this week, check back in next Wednesday to see what progress I’ve made on my reading and what books I’ll be looking at next.

Book Haul – Second Hand Books – 5 June 2022

Hello all, some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting for a couple of weeks.  Well there is no need to worry I have just been away on a much needed holiday and haven’t had much of a chance to do any writing.  I just got back today and I thought I would celebrate by doing a book haul post.  Specifically I thought I would do a post looking at all the second hand books I managed to grab while I was away.

So, it turns out that even when I’m on holiday I’m unable to stop thinking about books.  Throughout my trip I visited several of Australia’s very best second-hand bookshops and spent a descent amount of time perusing the shelves and finding some awesome reads.  I actually ended up with quite a collection of fantastic novels as a result, including quite a few Warhammer novels, which I have been rather enjoying lately.  I am extremely happy with this book haul and it is going to keep me extremely busy for the next few months, although it looks like I’m not going to be short of content for my Throwback Thursday posts.  So let us see what I managed to pick up.

Broken Honour by Robert Earl

Warhammer - Broken Honour Cover

The first book I managed to get was the fantastic and fun Warhammer Fantasy novel, Broken Honour by Robert Earl.  This was an exciting and enjoyable novel about a group of prisoners who are released to act as mercenary soldiers against a rampaging army of beastman.  I have already read and reviewed this awesome book and it ended up being a lot of fun.

 

Space Wolf by William King

Space Wolf Original Cover

I was also lucky enough early in my travels to find a copy of Space Wolf by William King.  As the name suggest, this novel examines the legendary Space Marines chapter, the Space Wolves, and shows a young recruit as he encounters the trials and tribulations of becoming a Space Marine.  I was quite excited to read this novel, especially after loving King’s Gotrek and Felix novels (make sure to check out my reviews for Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer and Beastslayer), and this was another book that I have already managed to read. I deeply enjoyed Space Wolf and I will hopefully get a review up for it soon.

 

The Defence by Steve Cavanagh

The Defence Cover 2

I also picked up a copy of The Defence by Steve Cavanagh, the first book in his excellent Eddie Flynn series.  I had a lot of fun reading the latest book in this series, The Devil’s Advocate, last year, and I look forward to going back and checking out how the series started.

 

Over the Edge by Jonathan Kellerman

Over the Edge Cover

Another series that I was quite keen to go back to the beginning of was the Alex Delaware series by Jonathan Kellerman.  I have been deeply enjoying the latest entries in this series over the last couple of years (check out my reviews for The Wedding Guest, The Museum of Desire, Serpentine and City of the Dead), and I thought it would be good to see some of the earlier books.  As such I ended up grabbing a copy of the third novel, Over the Edge, mainly because it had such an interesting story to it.  These books tend to be pretty self-contained, so it should be pretty easy to dive into, and I am sure that I am going to get really addicted to this older mystery.

 

The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade – Volume One by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee

Malus Darkblade Volume 1 Cover

Back in the day I was a massive fan of the Malus Darkblade comics so I just had to grab a copy of this massive volume when I saw it.  Containing the first couple of Malus Darkblade novels, this book will follow the titular Dark Elf as he journeys through the wilds attempting to find several ancient relics in order to reclaim his soul from a demon.  Facing off against monsters, creatures of Chaos and his own treacherous people, this is an epic adventure series and I cannot wait to fully sink my teeth into it.

 

Van Horstmann by Ben Counter

Van Horstmann Cover

An interesting Warhammer Fantasy novel that sees a talented wizard go to the darkside and attempt to unleash a deadly dragon hidden under a magic school.  Sounds like an excellent and fun read to me.

 

Kingsblade by Andy Clark

Kingsblade Cover

An entire book about the Imperial Knights (giant war walkers), yes please! Of course I am going to have a blast with this one.

 

Faith & Fire by James Swallow

Faith & Fire Cover

I have heard some great stuff about James Swallow’s writing and I cannot wait to see his take on the infamous Sisters of Battle in this awesome sounding novel.

 

Forged in Battle by Justin Hunter

Forged in Battle Cover

Another interesting soldier-focused book in the Warhammer Fantasy realm, Forged in Battle sounds like a fun and action-packed read that I will no doubt have an amazing time with.

 

Grudge Bearer by Gav Thorpe

Grudge Bearer Cover

I really love the Warhammer Fantasy dwarfs (who doesn’t), so picking up a novel about them attempting to settle one of their legendary grudges was a real no-brainer for me.  Plus, it is written by the legendary Gav Thorpe so you know it is going to be good.

 

Oathbreaker by Nick Kyme

Oathbreaker Cover

The more the dwarves, the better!

 

Grey Seer by C. L. Werner

Grey Seer Cover

I was particularly happy to pick up a copy of Grey Seer by C. L. Werner as it sounds like an amazing read.  Grey Seer focuses on the Skaven character of Grey Seer Thanquol, a legendary schemer and sorcerer who was a major antagonist of the early Gotrek and Felix novels. Grey Seer spins off from William King’s novels and sees Thanquol get dragged into some deadly Skaven politics.  Thanquol was an exceedingly entertaining antagonist in the Gotrek and Felix books and I can’t wait to see what happens when they get a novel all to themself.

 

Runefang by C. L. Werner

Runefang Cover

A very fun book about a group of adventurers setting out into territory controlled by the undead in order to find one of the legendary Runefangs.  This sounds like an extremely cool story, and I am very tempted to check it out as soon as possible.

 

The Konrad Trilogy by David Ferring

Konrad Saga Cover

I was lucky enough to find good quality copies of the entire Konrad saga, including Konrad, Warblade and Shadowbreed, and I look forward to reading them.  One of the earlier Warhammer Fantasy series, the Konrad books sound like impressive fantasy adventures and I look forward to seeing how different the earlier books were to the more recent additions of this canon.

 

Space Marine by Ian Watson

Space Marine Cover

The final book I received was Space Marine by Ian Watson.  Just like the Konrad novels, Space Marine was one of the earliest novels in the entire Warhammer 40,000 canon, and shows a different side to the extended lore that was ironed out over the years.  Following a group of Imperial Fist cadets, Space Marine has an intriguing story to it, and I am very curious to see the early days of the extended universe.

 

 

Well that’s the end of this latest Book Haul post.  As you can see I have quite a bit of reading to do at the moment thanks to all these awesome books that have come in.  Let me know which of the above you are most interested in and make sure to check back in a few weeks to see my reviews of them.