WWW Wednesday – 15 March 2023

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?

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix (Trade Paperback)

How to Sell a Haunted House Cover

I am still getting through the new Grady Hendrix horror book, How to Sell a Haunted House, which has so far proven to be quite the compelling read.  Following a woman trying to sell her parent’s haunted house, this fantastic book is building up to its big horror reveals while also feature some compelling family drama.  I cannot wait to see how this entire novel ends up and I am having an excellent time reading it at the moment. 

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry (Audiobook)

Son of the Poison Rose Cover

I just started listening to the awesome fantasy novel Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry.  The sequel to Maberry’s epic and exceptional 2022 novel, Kagen the DamnedSon of the Poison Rose continues to follow Maberry’s doomed protagonist as he attempts to navigate the dark and deadly new fantasy realm he finds himself in.  Sure to be one of the best books and audiobooks of 2023, I am very excited to see how this epic book turns out and I am sure it will feature a ton of deadly action, brutal depravity, and some major twists.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Warhammer: Giantslayer by William King (Audiobook)

Giantslayer Cover

I managed to quickly finish off Giantslayer last week and it turned out to be a very fun addition to the Gotrek and Felix series.  Make sure to check out my Throwback Thursday post from last week covering it.

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Warhammer 40,000: Caves of Ice by Sandy Mitchell (Audiobook)

Caves of Ice Cover

I also managed to get through the fun Warhammer 40,000 novel, Caves of Ice.  The sequel to the first Ciaphas Cain novel, For the Emperor, Caves of Ice sees Mitchell’s iconic Warhammer protagonist engage in another desperate battle for survival, this time on an ice planet loaded with all manner of aliens and monsters.  A highly entertaining and action-packed novel, I am hoping to write a Throwback Thursday review about it later this week.

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Star Wars: The High Republic: The Battle of Jedha by George Mann

Star Wars - The Battle of Jedha Cover

The latest fun addition to the High Republic sub-series of Star Wars fiction, The Battle of Jedha is a full-cast audio production that sees all out war engulf the Jedi holy city of Jedha.  An intriguing and explosive addition to the High Republic series, The Battle of Jedha is well worth a listen and I am hoping to get a review up for it soon.

Amazon     Book Depository

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan

The Tyranny of Faith Cover

I am still planning to dive into the fantasy/crime fiction hybrid novel, The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan, next.  The sequel to Swan’s highly regarded debut, The Justice of KingsThe Tyranny of Faith will contain another powerful adventure, filled with magic, mystery and political intrigue.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

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.

Throwback Thursday – Warhammer: Giantslayer by William King

Giantslayer Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 3 April 2003)

Series: Gotrek and Felix – Book Seven

Length: 10 hours and 23 minutes

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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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.  After having a ton of fun listing my favourite Warhammer 40,000 novels last week, I dive back into Warhammer Fantasy in a big way with the seventh epic entry in William King’s Gotrek and Felix series, Giantslayer.

While the Warhammer franchise has many great series, few are as iconic or long-lasting as the epic Gotrek and Felix books.  Following a doomed dwarf Slayer Gotrek Gurnisson and his human chronicler Felix Jaeger as they travel across the Warhammer Fantasy landscape, trying to find a worthy death for Gotrek, these books are amazing and fun action-packed reads guaranteed to keep you entertained with their excellent stories.  Each of these books is an outstanding read in their own way, and I have had a wonderful time getting through the previous Gotrek and Felix books by King, including Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer, Beastslayer and VampireslayerGiantslayer actually marks the end of William King’s run on the Gotrek and Felix series, and he brings his tenure of the series to a powerful and impressive end.

Following their arduous and costly battle against the vampires of Sylvania, Gotrek, Felix and their companions attempt to deal with the losses they all have suffered.  However, the evils of the Old World are never considerate of grief, and soon the heroes find themselves attacked by a horde of beastmen.  Following them to their lair, they discover a mysterious cavern full of tunnels pulsing with unnatural power.

Separated from their friends and dragged through an unnatural gateway, Gotrek and Felix find themselves transported to the legendary island of Albion, home of ancient tribes, dark forces, and massive giants.  Fate brings the two companions into contact with the legendary High Elven mage Teclis, who has journeyed to Albion to uncover the source of dangerous magical energy that threatens to sink the High Elves’ home island of Ulthuan and devastate the rest of the world.

Reluctantly agreeing to work with the elf mage, Gotrek and Felix travel across Albion, attempting to uncover the cause of the latest magical threat facing the world.  They soon discover that the island is far from tranquil; instead it is a dark land corrupted by magical power and the dangerous legacy of the Old Ones, the mysterious beings who created the world.  Worse, the island has been invaded by the dark forces of Chaos who are determined to harness Albion’s unique magic for themselves.  Caught between dark sorcerers, corrupted giants, an army of greenskins and the long-lasting enmity that exists between elves and dwarves, can Gotrek and Felix work with Teclis to save the world, or will the Slayer finally find his doom on Albion?

Giantslayer was another great and highly entertaining Gotrek and Felix novel that successfully showcased the outrageous protagonists while further exploring the elaborate Warhammer Fantasy universe.  This was another amazing book from William King, and I felt that he ended his run on this series on a great note, especially as Giantslayer contained a fantastic and fast-paced story.  Taking place in the immediate aftermath of Vampireslayer, Giantslayer quickly thrusts the protagonists into the midst of the action while simultaneously introducing the reader to the character of Teclis, who serves as a great additional central character.  The first few chapters of the book are pretty trippy in places, especially as all the characters find themselves trapped in a mystical realm, and the subsequent escape results in some fantastic sequences.  The characters are then transported to Albion and must explore this intriguing new landscape while trying to overcome their many personal issues, namely the animosity between Gotrek and Teclis, which adds a fun edge to the entire narrative.

King expands the story as the book continues, introducing the reader to several fantastic supporting characters from amongst the people of Albion, and soon shapes the major threat facing the world, namely the forces of Chaos overwhelming the magical energy of the island for their nefarious purposes.  King utilises an excellent series of villains at this point of the novel, including the recurring sorcerous twins who have been dogging the protagonists since Dragonslayer.  Everything eventually leads up to the massive final confrontation as the protagonists and their allies find themselves in the middle of a massive three-sided battle as they attempt to achieve their goal.  There is a ton of action, sacrifice, magical duels, and of course a giant, in this last part of the book, and King really built up an explosive and powerful conclusion to the entire novel.  I really enjoyed how this entire book came together, and it was great to see the characters embark on a final adventure under King’s reign.  While the story itself can be read as a standalone, the author does fit in a ton of references to the previous entries in the series and long-time readers will enjoy the cool callbacks.

I think that King did an interesting job of wrapping up his run on this series with this final fantastic action story, and fans of his writing style will not be disappointed with Giantslayer.  This is very much another epic hack and slash Warhammer novel, and King always manages to make that style of novel stand out, especially with his excellent attention to detail and ability to make all the fun action really pop.  The use of multiple perspectives, including through Felix, Teclis and several antagonists’ eyes, gives the reader a very wide narrative to explore, and I loved the fantastic and fun moments that emerged through their adventures.  King utilises very quick pacing for this book, so it is quite easy to power through it, especially as there is really never a dull moment as the characters jump from one deadly scenario to another.  I do have to be a little critical and point out that King is a somewhat repetitive writer; if he finds a phrase, description, or sentence that he likes, he tends to overuse it slightly throughout the plot.  This is particularly noticeable after seven Gotrek and Felix books and readers of this series will no doubt know what phrases I am talking about (wool cloaks and beads of blood).  However, while this repetition is occasionally distracting, it honestly didn’t mess up my enjoyment of the story too much and I had a ton of fun getting through Giantslayer.

Giantslayer also serves as a particularly interesting and lore-heavy addition to the Gotrek and Felix books as King spends a lot of time diving into the history of the Warhammer Fantasy world and the original creators, the Old Ones.  The book is primarily set on the island of Albion, the setting for the 2001 Warhammer Fantasy campaign series, Dark Shadows, and the author really leans heavily into the setting, showing the rain drizzled island in all its swampy and deadly glory.  King sets it a little before the events of Dark Shadows, and much like the campaign’s descriptions the island of Albion is shown as a very Celtic landscape, very much inspired by Scotland.  This serves as a brilliant background to the main story, and I loved seeing the characters traverse and fight across the various settings to achieve their goal.  As one of the few Warhammer Fantasy books set on Albion, fans of the Dark Shadows campaign can have a bit of fun with Giantslayer, and it was great to learn a little more about the local societies and the history of the island.  History really is a major part of the book, and the protagonists end up finding a lot of about Albion and the Old Ones as the story continues.  This includes a dive into the Path of the Old Ones, a series of magical gateways existing outside of the main reality which can be traversed.  The sequences set within this gateway are very trippy and dark, especially as they have been invaded by daemons, and King really knows how to make all these unique locations stand out with his excellent writing.  As a long-time Warhammer Fantasy fan who can remember the Dark Shadows campaign, I really liked the heavy lore inclusions in this book and I felt that King utilised them perfectly throughout Giantslayer to tell a powerful narrative with some really heavy stakes for the protagonists.

I need to highlight the great characters contained within Giantslayer, especially as you get to see more of the titular protagonists, Gotrek Gurnisson and Felix Jaeger.  This odd-couple pair of suicidal Slayer and pragmatic human is always a ton of fun, and King keeps this up all the way to the end, as the two characters play off each other perfectly.  Gotrek’s glee at each encounter is usually only matched by Felix’s understandable reluctance to travel into the dangerous places their quests take them, and you can always count on a sarcastic and fatalistic statement from Felix, and it makes for some amazing, if slightly predictable scenes.  King has never done a lot of character development when it comes to these protagonists and this continues again in Giantslayer.  Gotrek remains the same old unstoppable and unflappable Slayer that he always has been, constantly diving into danger, with the author never showing his perspective or providing too many hints at this past.  While King does however provide some intriguing insights in Gotrek’s seemingly unkillable nature, this was pretty much a status-quo book for Gotrek, which still has its fun moments.  Felix also had some minimal growth in this book, although King does dive into the emotional impacts that the previous adventures have had on the character, which does provide some insights into his cynical and reluctant personality.  I did like the more scholarly bent that was shown around Felix in this novel as he learns more about the history of the world and it was fun to see him finally get the idea to start writing the books that have introduced all the prior Gotrek and Felix adventures.

While the character work around Gotrek and Felix was minimal in Giantslayer, King more than makes up for this with the inclusion of the master mage Teclis, one of the more significant High Elf characters in the game.  Teclis is a very fascinating character in the lore, and I deeply enjoyed how King portrayed him throughout Giantslayer.  King amped up the arrogant, ethereal and ancient qualities of Teclis in his storytelling, and you can really feel how apart from the various human characters he is, especially in the many scenes that he narrates.  Teclis is also, by his nature, a rather darker cynical figure, even compared to other elves, and it was great to see this featured throughout the book, especially when it comes to his dealings with the other characters.  Despite this, he is still a good person whose sole concern is the preservation of his homeland and the rest of the world.  I think that King utilised him perfectly throughout Giantslayer and he served as a great alternative narrator to Felix.  I loved seeing this iconic mage in action, and it was especially fun to see him interact with Gotrek considering how antagonist dwarfs and elves are with each other.  The two engage in a petty war of words for most of the book, which proves to be highly amusing, as these usually collected characters end up bickering like children.  This makes for an extremely unique dynamic throughout the novel that I found to be highly entertaining.  King backs up Teclis with a series of great supporting characters and intriguing villains, all of whom add a certain amount of flair and strength to the story.  While King once again fails to include any substantial or distinctive female characters, except for a few minor figures, I enjoyed the excellent character inclusions to the series and you get really invested in some new personal stories in this book.

While I did manage to get a physical copy of Giantslayer (as part of the Gotrek and Felix omnibus), I ended up listening to it on audiobook out of convenience, and due to my love of the format.  Coming in at just under 10 and a half hours, this is rather easy audiobook to get through quickly, and I manage to knock it out in a couple of days.  Like most of the Gotrek and Felix books, the audiobook format for Giantslayer was very fun and I loved how it managed to enhance the epic nature of the book.  Not only does it really showcase King’s elaborate descriptions of the Warhammer world, but it also ensured that all the many action scenes really popped as you were drawn right into the heart of the battle through the cool narration.

It helped that the listener was once again treated to the awesome narration of Jonathan Keeble, a veteran voice actor and audiobook narrator who has lend his voice to a huge number of Warhammer audiobooks, including all the Gotrek and Felix books.  Keeble is a particularly skilled narrator, not only because he produces a huge number of distinctive voices but because he brings a high level of excitement to his performances that really drags the listener in.  I love how Keeble’s voice speeds up to match the carnage and the enthusiasm and energy that permeate his voice as he describes every blow or crazy moment makes you feel like you are sitting there watching it.  I also love the very fitting voices that he brings to all the characters, all of which are pretty damn perfect and a lot of fun.  The gruff and brutal voice of Gotrek and the sarcastic, scared, yet determined tones of Felix are still just as good here as they were in Trollslayer, and all the new voices introduced by Keeble in the Giantslayer audiobook work just as well.  I loved the more ethereal and arrogant voice that Keeble used for Teclis, which really fit King’s portrayal of the character in the novel, and the cool Scottish accents that the natives of Albion spoke with were very distinctive and helped to really characterise these awesome supporting figures.  Keeble also brings a great range of monster voices to the book to fit the various Chaos creatures, orcs and giants that are such a prominent feature of the plot, and I loved how dedicated he got to bringing these creatures to life with his narration.  Keeble is a very talented narrator, and his performance adds so much to this audiobook while also helping to enhance the already exciting narrative of Giantslayer.  As such, I would highly recommend the audiobook version of this book, and you are guaranteed to have a ton of fun listening to it.

Overall, I felt that William King brought his run on the iconic Gotrek and Felix to an end in a fantastic way with Giantslayer which was another awesome and electrifying entry in the series.  Featuring an epic, lore-rich story, a ton of action, and the complex and enjoyable characters that King has spent seven books developing, Giantslayer is King at his best and all Warhammer fans will have a blast with this outstanding novel.  This entire impressive series has been so much fun to get through and King’s work on these books really stand the test of time as the Gotrek and Felix series are still the premier Warhammer Fantasy books.  I will hopefully dive into the next book in the series, Orcslayer, later this year, and while it will be odd not to have it written by King, I am very intrigued to see what Nathan Long brings to the franchise.

Amazon

WWW Wednesday – 8 March 2023

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?

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix (Trade Paperback)

How to Sell a Haunted House Cover

I have just started the new Grady Hendrix horror book, How to Sell a Haunted House, which looks set to be quite a fun and compelling read.  I am only a very short way into this book at the moment, but I am so far enjoying the intriguing story about a woman trying to sell her parent’s haunted house.  Knowing Hendrix, this will end up being an excellent homage to classic haunted house movies, and I look forward to seeing how it turns out.

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Warhammer: Giantslayer by William King (Audiobook)

Giantslayer Cover

I was in the mood for some classic Warhammer Fantasy action so I dived back into the always fun Gotrex and Felix series, with the 7th book in the series, Giantslayer.  Following the series’ fun duo as they land upon a deadly island, full of monsters, wizards and deadly foes, Giantslayer is an amazing and entertaining addition to the series and one I had a great time getting through.  I only have a little left of this audiobook to listen to and I will probably end up finishing it first thing tomorrow.

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What did you recently finish reading?

Burner by Mark Greaney (Audiobook)

Burner Cover

Greaney once again shows why he is one of the best spy thriller authors in the world today with his latest Gray Man book, Burner.  An epic and action-packed read that had me hooked from the very beginning, I will hopefully get a review for this one up soon.

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Unnatural History by Jonathan Kellerman (Trade Paperback)

Unnatural History Cover 2

Another fantastic and very clever murder mystery novel from the master Jonathan Kellerman.  Unnatural History had an excellent and compelling mystery to it and I loved how everything came together.

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Cold People by Tom Rob Smith (Trade Paperback)

Cold People Cover

A complex and unique science fiction read that sees a group of human refugees get up to all sort of genetic chaos in Antarctica.  A great read that I am really glad I got the chance to read.

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What do you think you’ll read next?

The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan

The Tyranny of Faith Cover

I am planning to dive into the fantasy/crime fiction hybrid novel, The Tyranny of Faith by Richard Swan, next.  The sequel to Swan’s highly regarded debut, The Justice of Kings, The Tyranny of Faith will contain another powerful adventure, filled with magic, mystery and political intrigue.

Amazon     Book Depository

 

Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry

Son of the Poison Rose Cover

I am hoping to start listening to the awesome fantasy novel Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry next.  The sequel to Maberry’s epic and exceptional 2022 novel, Kagen the Damned, Son of the Poison Rose will continue to follow Maberry’s doomed protagonist as he attempts to navigate the dark and deadly new fantasy realm he finds himself in.  Sure to be one of the best books and audiobooks of 2023, I am very excited to finally listen to Son of the Poison Rose.

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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

In addition to all the recent books I have received, I’ve also done a bit of second-hand book shopping that I want to talk about.  Not only did I majorly clean up at an awesome second-hand bookstore in the Blue Mountains, but I also scored big at the recent Canberra Lifeline Bookfair (a great event to check out if you’re ever in Canberra).  I honestly probably went overboard with some of the books I picked up, but the end result is a pretty awesome collection of older books, including some fantasy classics I have been keen to read for a while, and a ton of Warhammer fiction to fuel my current major obsession.  So let us see what epic second-hand books I managed to obtain.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

The Lies of Locke Lamora Cover

I managed to grab a copy of the epic fantasy crime-fiction novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.  I have actually already read this book before (on audiobook), but I wanted to quickly re-read it before doing a Throwback Thursday review in the future.

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Ashes of Prospero by Gav Thorpe

Ashes of Prospero Cover

The first of many Warhammer 40,000 novels I managed to grab, Ashes of Prospero is an epic Space Marine focused read that see the Space Wolves return to Prospero, the ravaged planet of their greatest enemy

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13th Legion and Kill Team by Gav Thorpe

13th Legion Cover 2

I was extremely happy to get a copy of the first two Last Chancers novels by Gav Thorpe, which I have been trying to get for a while. Essentially billed as The Dirty Dozen in space, the Last Chancers are an epic series and I’ve actually already read and reviewed the first book, 13th Legion, in the last week, and it was everything I hoped it would be.

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Temeraire by Naomi Novik

Temeraire

After enjoying some of her previous books, I decided to grab a copy of iconic fantasy author Naomi Novik’s first novel, Temeraire.  An alternate history novel that imagines the Napoleonic Wars fought with dragons, I have heard some great things about this series and look forward to seeing how fun they actually are.

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Gotrex and Felix – The Third and Fourth Omnibus – by William King and Nathan Long

Gotrek and Felix - Third Omnibus - Cover

Of all the Warhammer Fantasy series out there, few have been as iconic and epic as the Gotrek and Felix novels by William King and later continued by Nathan Long.  Following a suicidal dwarf slayer and his human companion, the Gotrek and Felix books are some of the best books in the Warhammer range and I have been having a lot of fun getting through the first several (see my reviews for Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer, Beastslayer and Vampireslayer).  As such, I was extremely pleased when I managed to get the third and fourth omnibuses of the series that contain the next six books I need to read.  I cannot wait to dive into these epic fantasy reads, and I know I am going to have a ton of fun with them.

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Space Wolf series – Ragnar’s Claw, Grey Hunter and Space Wolf: The Second Omnibus by William King and Lee Lightner

Space Wolf Cover

Another series that I got a ton of books for in my recent second-hand book hunt are the next five novels in the iconic Space Wolf series of Warhammer 40,000 fiction.  I deeply enjoyed the first book, Space Wolf, last year, and it was pretty epic to find good copies of the next several entries, including the single copies of Ragnar’s Claw and Grey Hunter, as well as the second Space Wolf omnibus.  This should set me up with some cool space viking adventures I will ever need and I can’t wait to continue this fantastic series.

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Ulrika the VampireBloodborn by Bloodforged by Nathan Long

Bloodborn Cover

I’m always happy for some cool Warhammer Fantasy vampire fiction and few vampire series sound better than the Ulrika the Vampire books by Nathan Long.  A spin-off of the Gortek and Felix books, Bloodborn and Bloodforged will follow recent vampire convert Ulrika as she comes to terms with her condition and new place in society.

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   Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Helsreach Cover

There was no way I could resist an epic novel about orks versus the Black Templar Space Marines on the planet of Armageddon, which is going to result in quite an epic read.

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Hunt for Voldorius by Andy Hoare

Hunt for Voldorius Cover

Another Space Marines focused novel, Hunt for Voldorius will see the White Scars and their allies go to war to kill an evil Daemon Prince.

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Death & Dishonour, edited by Alex Davis, Nick Kyme and Lindsey Priestley

Death & Dishonour Cover

A cool Warhammer Fantasy short story anthology that should make for quite an interesting and fun read.

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Soul Drinkers Series – Soul Drinker, The Bleeding Chalice, Crimson Tears and Chapter War by Ben Counter

Soul Drinkers Cover

I was very pleased to grab the first four books in Ben Counter’s iconic Soul Drinkers series, which I have heard some excellent things about.  Following the doomed Soul Drinkers chapter of Space Marines as they attempt to save themselves from corruption and mutation, only to be declared heretics and traitors by the Imperium.  I have had a lot of fun with Ben Counter’s books in the past (such as Van Horstmann) and I have a feeling this is going to be an outstanding and great series that I am going to really love.

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Shira Calpurnia series – Crossfire, Legacy and Blind by Matthew Farrer

Shira Calpurnia Cover

The last addition to my collection I got during my second-hand book foray was all three Shira Calpurnia books by Matthew Farrer.  An intriguing Warhammer 40,000 series that follows a member of the Arbites, intergalactic space cops, these books look set to blend crime fiction with high-concept Warhammer 40,000 elements.  I am very interested in checking these books out and I think I will have a great deal of fun doing so.

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That’s the end of my post and as you can see, I have managed to grab quite a few second-hand books in recent weeks, perhaps too many if that’s a thing.  All of the above sound pretty epic to me and I cannot wait to dive into all of them in time.  This will probably be a bit of a lengthy process, so make sure to check back over the next year or so to see how I do.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Pre-2022 Novels

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  This week participants of Top Ten Tuesday get a freebie to list whatever topics they want.  So, I am going to take this opportunity to start my annual end-of-year lists here by looking at my favourite pre-2022 novels that I read this year.

Each December I have a lot of fun looking at some of the best and most impressive books and comics that I have read throughout the year in a series of Top Ten Lists.  While these lists usually focus on 2022 releases, for the last few years, I have also taken the time to list out some of the best novels with pre-2022 release dates that I have read in the last 12 months.  There are some excellent older novels out there that I haven’t had the chance to read before this year, and it is always fun to go back and explore them.  I ended up reading a bunch of awesome older books throughout 2022, including some pretty incredible novels that got easy five-star ratings from me and are really worth checking out.

To come up with this list I had a look at all the novels I read this year that had their initial release before 2022.  This list includes a range of pre-2022 releases, including quite a few that I had been meaning to read for a while.  I was eventually able to cull this down to a workable Top Ten list, with a descent honourable mentions section.  This new list ended up containing an interesting combination of novels, although there was a bit of an overload of entries from the Dresden Files’ series by Jim Butcher, as well as some Warhammer 40,000 novels, both of which I really got into throughout this year.  Still this honestly reflects the best pre-2022 novels I read throughout the year, so let us see what made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

Space Wolf by William King – 1999

Space Wolf Cover

I was lucky enough to find a copy of this book in a second-hand shop and started reading it as soon as I could.  A brilliant start to a great Warhammer 40,000 series about a group of Viking inspired, werewolf Space Marines, Space Wolf was an awesome, classic Warhammer read that I am really glad I got a chance to read.

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Tribe by Jeremy Robinson – 2019

Tribe Cover 2

After having an epic time with Jeremy Robinson’s epic 2021 novels, The Dark and Mind Bullet, I went back to check out the preceding novel, Tribe.  Following a mismatched pair of newly discovered Greek demi-gods as they are chased by a deranged cult, Tribe was a fun and fast-paced read, loaded with so much action and excitement.  I can’t wait to continue this series in the future, as everything Robinson writes is pure fun.

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Dredge Runners by Alec Worley – 2020

Dredge Runners

A compelling and impressive Warhammer 40,000 audiobook presentation, Dredge Runners was a clever listen that followed two dangerous abhuman criminals as they navigate the deadly underbelly of an industrial planet.  Thanks to a clever story and some amazing narrators, this was an outstanding presentation, although I left it as an honourable mention due to it being a short story.  However, it did inspire me to check out Worley’s follow-up release, the 2022 book The Wraithbone Phoenix, which was particularly epic.

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Unforgiven by Sarah Barrie – 2021

Unforgiven Cover

A dark and captivating Australian crime thriller from last year, Unforgiven was an excellent book I checked out towards the start of 2022, which proved to be a gritty and memorable read.

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Top Ten List (by original publication year):

Vampireslayer by William King – 2001

Vampireslayer Cover

This year I made an effort to continue the excellent Gotrek and Felix series that was part of the awesome Warhammer Fantasy franchise.  Following on from such fantastic reads as Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer and Beastslayer, Vampireslayer was a particularly epic entry in this series, that saw the protagonists chase a powerful vampire across the continent to most dangerous place imaginable.  A quick paced and exciting novel that explored vampires in the Warhammer Fantasy setting, Vampireslayer was an excellent read and one I powered through very quickly.

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Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill – 2002

Storm of Iron Cover 2

I was in the mood for some cool siege warfare this year, so I turned to the outstanding sounding Warhammer 40,000 book, Storm of Iron by one of the franchises best authors, Graham McNeill.  Storm of Iron sees a vast futuristic citadel besieged by the Iron Warriors, legendary siege experts, resulting in a massive and bloody battle to the very end.  I had an outstanding time with this elaborate and wildly entertaining read, especially as McNeill did a wonderful job setting the focus on the villains and showcasing their twisted tales.  A highly recommended read, this is easily one of the best siege novels I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

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Death Masks by Jim Butcher – 2003

Death Masks Cover

After all the amazing fun I’ve been having with Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files (see my reviews for Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, Summer Knight, Battle Ground and The Law), I had to continue this series in 2022 and I am exceedingly happy that I did.  I started by going back to the fifth book in the outstanding urban fantasy series, Death Mask, which placed the protagonist in the middle of a bloody battle to recover a sacred artifact from criminals and fallen angels.  Tense, powerful and so much fun, this was a particularly epic entry in the series, and I had an exceptional time reading it.

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Blood Rites by Jim Butcher – 2004

Blood Rite Cover

I had so much fun with Death Masks that I immediately listened to the next book in the Dresden Files series, Blood Rites, which saw the protagonist once again tangling with vampires.  While this was one of the more controversial entries in the series, I deeply enjoyed it, especially as Butcher featured several great enemies, a compelling murder mystery, and some major revelations that will haunt the protagonist for books to come.  A very fun and highly addictive read, I can’t wait to get through more of these books in the new year.

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World War Z by Max Brooks – 2006

World War Z Cover 2

I finally got the chance to listen to the iconic zombie novel, World War Z, by Max Brooks, who previously impressed me with DevolutionWorld War Z lived up to all the hype surrounding it as it explored a world-ending zombie apocalypse through a series of testimonials from survivors on the ground.  Extremely clever and highly inventive, this was an exceptional book, and it is made even better by its epic audiobook format which contains a ton of brilliant actors doing the narration.  Easily one of the best books I have read in a long time, World War Z comes highly recommended and I am exceedingly glad I managed to listen to it this year.

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Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno – 2012

Star Wars - Darth Plagueis Cover

I was in a Star Wars mood earlier this year, so I went back and listened to the deeply intriguing Star Wars Legends novel, Darth Plagueis.  Telling the story of the Emperor’s hidden master, Darth Plagueis, this is a very compelling read that explores a never before seen figure in Star Wars lore, while also giving some insight into his apprentice, Darth Sidious.  Despite no longer being canon, this is a very compelling read for Star Wars fans, and I loved how it filled in several gaps in the Legends lore.  Highly recommended, this is one of the best Star Wars books I have ever read.

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Van Horstmann by Ben Counter – 2013

Van Horstmann Cover

Warhammer Fantasy fiction really does not get much better than the clever standalone read, Van Horstmann by Ben Counter.  A twisted tale of ambition, revenge and change, Van Horstmann gives history to an old-school character from the Warhammer game and showed the reader his complex youth as a student wizard in the enlightened and pure Light Order.  However, Van Horstmann has his own plans, which see him burn the order down from the inside to get what he wants most in the world.  This was a brilliant and very intense read, and I loved all the awesome twists and turns that Counter featured throughout it.

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Star Wars: Kenobi by John Jackson Miller – 2013

Star Wars - Kenobi Cover

Another excellent Star Wars Legends book I checked out this year was the intriguing Kenobi by John Jackson Miller.  An outstanding, currently non-canon, book that explored the early years of Kenobi’s exile, this great read sees the titular character caught up in all manner of trouble as he tries to settle down on Tatooine.  I mainly read it in preparation for the Obi-Wan Kenobi series this year, but this book really stands on its own and is very much worth a read.

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Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer – 2020

Dragon Mage Cover

The most recent pre-2022 book I read was Dragon Mage by M. L. Spencer, a massive fantasy epic that has been on my radar for a while.  Following a gifted protagonist and his friend as they discover their inner magic and learn to ride dragons, Dragon Mage is a highly compelling read with a great, classic fantasy vibe to it.  While it took me a while to get through this book, it was extremely worth it, and I am very happy I managed to cross this off my to-read list this year.

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The Sandman – Act 1 by Neil Gaiman – 2020

Sandman Act 1 Cover

The final entry on this list is the audiobook adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s epic comic series, The Sandman.  Read by an all-star cast, this audiobook production perfectly brought to life the first several The Sandman comics and told the elaborate story of Dream, who is captured and imprisoned by a magician, who must escape and reclaim his kingdom.  I loved the complex and multifaceted narrative contained within this comic, and I cannot emphasise how impressive the audiobook version was, especially as you have some major talented really diving into these insane characters.  Easily one of the best audio productions released in recent years, this is a highly recommended listen that I could not get enough of.

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And that is the end of this list.  As you can see I have managed to check out a bunch of epic pre-2022 novels this year.  Each of the above were exceptional and fun reads and I would strongly recommend them, especially if you are in the mood for some fun fantasy or science fiction adventures.  I look forward to reading some other older books in 2023, and it will be interesting to see what makes my next version of this list then.  I imagine it will end up looking a little similar, especially as I have plans to continue several of these series, especially the Dresden Files, as well as examining some other outstanding Star Wars and Warhammer novels.  Make sure to check back in next week for some other end-of-year lists as I continue to highlight some of my favourite reads from 2022.

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Sieges in Literature

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday revolves around favourite words, which, while interesting, isn’t something that I felt I could really contribute to.  So instead, I thought I would dive into one of my favourite story elements from fiction, the good old-fashioned siege.

Now I have made it very clear over multiple reviews that I absolutely love sieges in fiction.  To me, there are few battle scenarios more awesome, more epic, and more impressive than watching a powerful attacker attempting to wipe out a fortress garrisoned by a group of desperate defenders.  Whether you are rooting for the besiegers or the defenders, there are so many outstanding moments that can be woven into a siege scenario.  From fighting on the walls, to a desperate stand in a breach, to watching an attacker slowly gain ground on the defender by a careful and elaborate series of siegeworks, artillery bombardments and the careful administration of traitors from within the walls, everything about a siege is just so amazing to me and I love reading about them in fiction.  Sieges don’t even have to be that long or epic, as even a quick and bloody siege can be pretty impressive, especially if the attackers are desperate to achieve their goals.

Fans of this blog might have noticed that in recent weeks I have read a couple of books that contain some great sieges.  Well, after getting really caught up in a few of them, it started making me think back to all the other awesome sieges scenes I have enjoyed over the years.  Naturally my only option then was to come up with a list of my favourite sieges in literature and it did not take long for me to come up with an intriguing list of books.

This proved to be quite a fun list to come up with, and it was really interesting to dive back into some books from the past to see what great sieges I could find.  I didn’t put a lot of limits on this list, and if the scenario in the book could be considered some sort of siege, I would consider it for this list.  I did try to come up with a few examples that were outside the traditional medieval castle situation most people would associate with a siege, and I wanted to show a little variety.  Despite that, most of the books I have featured on this list ended up being fantasy reads, which isn’t too unexpected.  There are a few good historical fiction reads thrown into the mix, as well as entries from other genres, and I think this ended up being a very well-balanced top ten, with my usual generous honourable mentions section.  So, lets dive into the breach and find out which glorious sieges made the cut.

Honourable Mentions:

River of Gold by Anthony Riches

River of Gold Cover

A fantastic historical fiction read that saw an outnumbered group of elite Roman soldiers take control of an abandoned fort in the middle of Africa to stop an invading army.  An excellent example of a Roman siege from historical fiction.

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Devolution by Max Brooks – Siege of Greenloop

Devolution Cover

One of the more unusual examples I could think of was the fantastic novel Devolution by World War Z author Max Brooks.  Devolution sees the residence of a small, elite community get cut off from the rest of the world by a natural disaster, only to be then attacked by a group of sasquatches driven out of hiding by the same calamity.  Forced to defend themselves against the hungry beasts, the community finds themselves in an impromptu siege against a group of monsters, which results in a very inventive and intense read.

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Warhammer: Beastslayer by William King – Siege of Praag

Beastslayer Cover

William King has featured several awesome sieges in his legendary Gotrek and Felix Warhammer Fantasy series, however, my favourite so far had to be the siege of Praag in Beastslayer.  This book-long siege sees the doomed duo face off against all manner of monsters and demon worshipers on the walls, while traitors attempt to destroy them from within.  A classic siege scenario that fit perfectly into the iconic Warhammer setting.

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Inheritance by Christopher Paolini – Siege of Aroughs

Inheritance Cover

I have a lot of love for Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, especially as it features several awesome sieges.  However, my favourite probably occurred in the final book, Inheritance, when the protagonist’s cousin, Roran, is sent to take the fortified town of Aroughs with a small force.  Running out of time and resources, Roran uses some unconventional tactics to invade it.  Not only did this show how much Roran had grown as a tactician and commander over the series, but it featured some fantastic scenes of a great siege.

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Top Ten Tuesday

Legend by David Gemmell – Siege of Dros Delnoch

Legend

Let us start this list off with the book that might have the very best siege scenario I have ever read, with Legend by David Gemmell.  Legend is an exceptional read that sees an invincible army attempt to conquer their world’s most impregnable fortress, Dros Delnoch.  Utterly outnumbers, the defenders of Dros Delnoch have one advantage aside from their six walls, they are led by Druss the Legend, the greatest hero of all time.  This is such an epic siege, which the late, great, David Gemmell, set up perfectly.  Loaded with amazing characters, you really grow close to the defenders as you watch their desperate battle to hold off an unstoppable enemy till the very end.  A must read for all fans of the siege; you will not be disappointed by this book.

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Servant of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist by Janny Wurts – Siege of the Acoma Suite

Servant of the Empire Cover

Next, we have a book that shows that sieges don’t have to feature giant fortresses to be epic, with Servant of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts.  The second book in the outstanding Empire trilogy, Servant of the Empire has many amazing moments, but the best is the compelling and intense siege of the Acoma Suite in the Imperial Palace.  Following a massive calamity that plunges the Empire into chaos, all the great lords flock to the Imperial Palace to be close to the action.  However, many take this as an opportunity to take out their rivals and the protagonist, Mara of the Acoma, finds herself one of the main targets.  Barricaded in her suite in the palace, Mara, her allies, and their bodyguards must fight off waves of assassins that come for them during the night.  This proves to be extremely impressive, and you really get caught up in the action watching the defenders attempting to hold a luxury apartment against an unending horde of assassins.  A clever and amazing siege that makes full use of its smaller setting and intriguing scenario to create some exciting moments.

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Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker – Siege of the City

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City Cover

I had to feature the brilliant and hilarious Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K. J. Parker, as it contained an extremely fun take on the siege concept.  This hilarious read sees the massive City besieged by an army of vengeful folk, intend on killing everyone within.  With their army already destroyed, the defence of the city falls to a conman siege engineer, who uses his engineering knowhow and ability to BS anyone, to establish one of the most elaborate and inventive defences ever.  This ended up being an incredible story, that perfectly blends humour and fun characters with the compelling siege scenario, to create an utterly addictive read.  I have so much love for this siege novel, and Parker followed it up with the equally good How to Rule and Empire and Get Away With It, that showed the surprising outcome to the siege, which I really loved.

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Fire in the East by Harry Sidebottom – Siege of Arete

Fire in the East Cover

While much of this list is focussed on fantasy fiction, I had to include the outstanding historical fiction read, Fire in the East, the debut novel of the amazing Harry Sidebottom.  Set in AD 255, this book follows Roman siege specialist, Ballista, who travels to the Roman town of Arete to reinforce it against a besieging Persian army.  Forced to hold out for months with no reinforcements, Ballista prepares a complex and deadly defence, while dealing with traitors and discontent from within his walls.  A fast-paced, but extremely detailed read, this is easily one of the best historical sieges I have ever read, and it made me a life-long fan of Harry Sidebottom, who is still releasing distinctive and captivating historical fiction reads.

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling – Siege of Hogwarts

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Cover

After six books spent within the magical castle of Hogwarts, it was appropriate that the Harry Potter series end there, and the author chose to finish everything off in a big way.  With Harry, Ron and Hermione attempting to find and destroy the final Horcrux, Lord Voldemort sends all his forces in a massive assault on the magical school, facing off against students, teachers and the Order of the Phoenix.  This is a pretty epic siege, which, while great in the movie, comes across as a lot more exciting and complex in the novel.  Seeing the various dark forces attempt to destroy the castle you have come to know and love is pretty heartbreaking, and you can’t help but cheer at the desperate defence the supporting characters put up to give Harry time.  Throw in a ton of tragic deaths, as many of your favourite characters are brutally killed off, and this becomes a key moment in the series that you will never forget.

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The Martyr by Anthony Ryan – Sieges of Walvern Castle and Highsahl

The Martyr Cover

One of the more recent siege-based books I have read, The Martyr is the second Covenant of Steel novel by Anthony Ryan, and its elaborate chronicle narrative quickly drags the reader in with an amazing siege scenario.  The Martyr actually has two sieges in it, but as they occur back-to-back early in the book, I decided to combine them.  The first, sees the protagonists occupy and defend a dilapidated castle against a massive host in a foreign land, which proves to be a lot of fun as the series canny protagonist and his apparently blessed leader, engage in quite an elaborate defence of their new bastion.  I got pretty stuck into this book during the first siege and was pleasantly surprised when Ryan immediately followed it up with a second siege, with the protagonists this time acting as the attackers.  Using the lessons they learned from defending the first time, they soon attempt a deadly attack on the city, which results in a particularly bloody and intense struggle through the breach.  I had an outstanding time with this book, and I was absolutely spoiled with the two sieges it contained. 

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Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie – Siege of Dagoska

Before they are Hanged Cover

The First Law trilogy is one of the bloodiest dark fantasy series out there, so naturally it is going to feature at least a couple of great sieges.  There are actually several impressive sieges I could talk about here, especially in the third book, Last Argument of Kings, but my favourite siege occurred in the second book, Before They Are Hanged.  This novel sees fan-favourite character, the crippled Inquisitor Glokta, take control of the city of Dagoska and hold it against a massive Gurkish army.  Striking a devil’s bargain with a mysterious benefactor for resources, Glokta is able to fund a sustained defence, while trying to keep the city from turning against his forces.  However, his greatest threat is within the walls, as several magical assassins are planning to kill and eat him to win the battle.  This is such an awesome siege, especially as it sees Glokta in his element as a master manipulator, and there are some amazing scenes set around it.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkein – Siege of Helm’s Deep

The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers Cover

I was never not going to include a siege from The Lord of the Rings on this list, and naturally I had a couple of good choices here, such as the siege of Minas Tirith in The Return of the King.  However, based on the recommendation of my wife, who recently re-read these books, I went with the siege of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers.  A much more fast-paced siege, the battle of Helm’s Deep sees a small force from Rohan face off against a giant army of Uruk-hai over a single night in their ancestral fortress.  A classic siege which got an easy place on this list.

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Warhammer 40,000: Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill – Siege of Hydra Cordatus

Storm of Iron Cover 2

I had a hard time coming up with any good science fiction books for this list, but luckily, I only just finished reading an older Warhammer 40,000 novel, Storm of Iron by Graham McNeill, that was essentially one giant siege.  This book sees the defender of the planet Hydra Cordatus, come under attack by a massive army of Iron Warriors Chaos Space Marines, who besiege the planet’s seemingly impregnable fortress.  However, the Iron Warriors are the universes’ best siege engineers, and they soon start smashing down the walls to get to their foes.  A very elaborate and detailed siege book, there is so much incredible action in this book, and McNeill did an outstanding job setting up a siege story in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

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City of Lies by Sam Hawke – Siege of Silasta

City of Lies Cover

The final entry on this list is the extremely impressive City of Lies by Australian author Sam Hawke.  Another great fantasy read, this novel sees the culturally rich city of Silasta suddenly come under attack by a mysterious army, intent on destroying it.  With their army mostly away, the cities artists are forced to abandon their works and take up weapons.  At the same time, the book’s protagonists, a pair of poison-eating siblings, work to defeat a massive conspiracy that is building within their walls.  The encroaching attackers adds a great layer to the intrigue and politics going on within the walls in City of Lies, and I loved how well Hawke established this siege in this fantastic book.

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Well, that is the end of this list.  As you can see from the above entries, I have had a lot of fun reading about sieges over the years, and I love when they are fit into a good book.  All the above books have some exceptional sieges in them, and they all come highly recommended to those people who love a great siege storyline.  I am pretty happy with how this list turned out, and I will probably revisit this at some point in the future, especially if I am lucky enough to read some more siege-focussed books.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite sieges in literature are in the comments below.

Throwback Thursday: Warhammer: Vampireslayer by William King

Vampireslayer Cover 2

Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – August 2021)

Series: Gotrek and Felix – Book Six

Length: 11 hours and 13 minutes

My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

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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 my latest Throwback Thursday I continue my recent obsession with Warhammer Fantasy fiction by checking out another entry in the iconic Gotrek and Felix series by William King, Vampireslayer.

I have been on a real roll with looking at the cool fiction associated with the now defunct Warhammer Fantasy tabletop game over the last few weeks, including the fantastic novels Runefang and Van Horstman.  However, few Warhammer Fantasy books have grabbed my attention or interest more than the Gotrek and Felix series, which serves as one of the central pillars of Warhammer fiction.  The Gotrek and Felix books, which were originally written by William King, follow the titular characters, dwarf slayer Gotrek Gurnisson and his sworn human companion Felix Jaeger, as they journey around the Warhammer Fantasy realm, finding monsters to fight and kill, all in the hope of finding a worthy death for Gotrek.  This is an awesome and unbelievably exciting fantasy series that take the reader to some of the darkest parts of the Warhammer Fantasy world and sees them face off against all manner of crazy foes.

I have had an absolute blast getting through the Gotrek and Felix books over the last year, as there have been some cracking reads in there.  The previous books, Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer and Beastslayer, have all had their own unique charm, and all of them have been well written and compelling reads.  Vampireslayer is the sixth book in the series, and as the name suggests, it pits Gotrek, Felix and their allies against one of the most dangerous creatures in the Warhammer canon, an ancient and deadly vampire count.

Following their victory at the siege of Praag, Gotrek, Felix and their surviving allies, have finally been able to relax after a never-ending series of battles. However, the ever-restless Gotrek is still determined to find a worthy death to fulfil his suicidal oath, and Felix knows it is only a matter of time before they journey out to face the rising hordes of Chaos that are building around the realms of man.  But before Gotrek and Felix can head out, a new evil rears its head; one that is far more cunning and ancient than anything they have faced before.

After accepting a job from a wealthy Praag nobleman, Gotrek and Felix find themselves investigating a mysterious man who is attempting to steal one of their client’s treasured artifacts.  But the closer they look, the more apparent it becomes that their target is no ordinary man, but a powerful ancient vampire named Adolophus Krieger, who has been stalking the streets of Praag, feasting on the innocent.  Determined to slay this beast, Gotrek and Felix’s confrontation goes poorly, when the vampire outsmarts them, steals the artifact and takes their companion, Ulrika Magdova, hostage.

Determined to save Ulrika and get their revenge on their foe, Gotrek and Felix, as well as their allies, Snorri Nosebiter, Max Schreiber and Ulrika’s father, Ivan Straghov, pursue the vampire lord.  To kill Krieger, they will have to travel to one of the most dangerous places in the Old World, the haunted lands of Sylvania.  Controlled by the Vampire Counts for generations, Sylvania is a wicked place where the dead never rest, and dark creatures lurk around every corner.  Worse, their foe is powered by an ancient artefact forged by Nagash and has designs on becoming the supreme vampire ruler, leading them in a new war against the living.  With the odds stacked against them, Gotrek, Felix and their companions must dig deep if they are to kill Krieger, rescue Ulrika and save the world.  But after spending time trapped with the vampire, can Ulrika truly be saved?

King once again shows why his Gotrek and Felix books were the defining Warhammer Fantasy series with this epic and fast-paced read.  Vampireslayer is easily one of the stronger entries in the series and takes its distinctive protagonists on an intense and captivating adventure that I deeply enjoyed.

Vampireslayer had an amazing fantasy narrative, and I think this was one of King’s more impressive and enjoyable stories.  Taking off right after Beastslayer, the initial story sees Gotrek, Felix and their allies still at the city of Praag, planning out their next adventures.  They quickly find themselves dragged into another adventure when a distant relative of Ulrika reaches out to them for help with a mysterious threat.  This initial part of the book was rather interesting, and not only does it have some great follow-ups from the previous entry in the series but it also sets up the narrative and the current characters really well.  There is a fantastic cat-and-mouse game going on in the early stages of the novel, as the protagonists attempt to discern the new evil they are going up against, while their vampiric assailant, Adolophus Krieger, puts his plans into motion.  Following the first encounter between the heroes and the vampire, which is set up and executed to drive up anticipation for later interactions, Krieger escapes and the protagonists are forced into a deadly chase across the world.

The rest of the novel is primarily set in the dread realm of Sylvania, and sees the protagonists chase after the vampire and his kidnapped victim.  This second part of the book is filled with some fun and exciting classic horror elements as the protagonists go up against a variety of foes from the vampire count’s army.  There is a lot of great action, fantastic chases, and some substantial character development occurring during this part of the novel, as the author brings together many of the threads from earlier in Vampireslayer, while also introducing some intriguing new supporting characters.  King makes particularly good use of multiple character perspectives throughout this part of the book, and I loved seeing the conflicted thoughts of the main protagonists (minus Gotrek as usual), as well as the many plots of the villain and his new minion.  This all leads up to the big confrontation between the protagonists and their foe at the legendary Drakenhof Castle, as the heroes face off against an army of the undead and the vampire himself.  The action flows thick and fast here, and King pulls no punches, showing the brutal and dark nature of the Warhammer Fantasy universe.  I did think that the final confrontation was a bit rushed, with the anticipated battle against Krieger lasting only a short while, but it was pretty fun to see.  There are a couple of good tragic moments in this conclusion, as well as some interesting developments for some long-running supporting characters, and King brings everything to a good close as a result.

I think that one of the things that made this story particularly enjoyable was that it was a lot more focused than some of the other books in the series.  This was mainly because it was the first book since Skavenslayer not to feature a sub-story that focused on recurring villain, Grey Seer Thanquol.  While Thanquol’s perspective was good for Skavenslayer, its use in the following novels, while usually very fun and entertaining, seemed a bit unnecessary and often affected the pacing or stole the impact away from the book’s actually antagonists.  This became more and more apparent in Dragonslayer and Beastslayer, especially when Thanquol’s actions rarely had any impact on the main plot.  As such, not having a Thanquol focused side story in Vampireslayer was a bit of a blessing, and it really increased the impact of the remaining storylines.  It also ensured that the parts of the book told from Krieger’s perspective really pop, as he was the only villain you could focus on.  I had a brilliant time with this impressive story and it ended up being an excellent adventure to follow.

Vampireslayer proved to be a pretty awesome entry to the wider Warhammer Fantasy universe, and I loved the cool details and references that King added in.  Like most of the books in the Gotrek and Felix saga, Vampireslayer can be read as a standalone novel (probably more so than the last three books in the series), and very little pre-knowledge about the Warhammer Fantasy or the previous books in the series is required to enjoy this excellent book.  King does a great job of once again introducing the key elements, recurring characters, and wider evils of this universe, ensuring that new readers get the information they need without making it too repetitive or boring for established fans.

One of the things that makes Vampireslayer standout a little more from some of the recent entries in the series is the move away from Chaos focused opponents and instead brings in a new faction from the universe in the form of a vampire and his undead hordes.  This is a fantastic change of pace, and I rather enjoyed seeing one of the more compelling factions from the game, even though I have bad memories of facing my brother’s Vampire Counts army.  King does a brilliant job diving into the lore and history of vampires and the general undead in the Warhammer universe, and the protagonists get a good crash course on them, which new readers will deeply appreciate.  I loved seeing a vampire antagonist in this novel, especially as it is one of the classic Vampire Counts types (a Von Carstein vampire).  This vampire has a lot of the classic European elements associated with Dracula, and it was fun to see the protagonist deal with this sort of creature, especially as Krieger takes the time to taunt them in a way they’ve never dealt with before.  King also adds in several of cool units from the Vampire Counts book, and it was pretty fun to see them in action in some brilliant fight scenes.  I also deeply enjoyed the dark setting of Sylvania, where much of the story takes place.  Sylvania, a Warhammer realm based deeply on Transylvania and ruled over by vampires, has always captured my imagination and it was fun to see it used in Vampireslayer.  You really get the sense of fear and despair surrounding the countryside, and all the locals, many of whom are just a step away from becoming some form of creature, are a depressing and scared group.  Watching the characters attempt to traverse this land was really entertaining, and I think all these awesome Warhammer Fantasy elements helped to make this great story even more impressive.

I also found some of the character work in Vampireslayer to be pretty intriguing, as King examines several great characters in this book.  The central two characters are naturally Gotrex and Felix, although not a great deal of character development went towards them in this book.  Gotrex is his usual gruff, murderous and unreadable self, who is essentially shown as an unkillable beast at this point, and you really don’t get much more from him, especially as Gotrex’s perspective is deliberately not shown.  Felix also doesn’t get much growth in this book, although he does serve as a primary narrator, recording and observing the events of the book.  Despite this lack of growth, Felix is a great everyman character to follow and it is really entertaining to see his quite reasonable reaction to facing off against the evils that gravitate towards Gotrek.

A large amount of focus went to the supporting characters of Max Schreiber and Ulrika Magdova, who have been major parts of the series since Daemonslayer.  The attention on both has been growing substantially through the last couple of books, especially in Beastslayer, and they had a massive presence in Vampireslayer.  Max, the team’s wizard, is pushed to the brink in this book after investigating a dangerous magical artefact and having his companion Ulrika kidnapped.  Max, who has always had a crush on Ulrika (it was pretty creepy at first, but better now), becomes obsessed with saving her before its too late, and this drives him to some extremes in this book.  Ulrika, on the other hand, must survive the evil attentions of the book’s villain, especially once the vampire takes an unhealthy obsession with her.  I must admit that I have always found Ulrika to be a fairly annoying character (which isn’t great when she’s usually the only female figure in the books), however, this was one of her best appearances as she goes through a physical, mental and magical wringer.  Her attempts to resist the vampire are extremely powerful and her eventual fall to darkness is one of the more compelling and best written parts of the book.  This was an excellent outing for both these supporting characters, and it actually serves as a wonderful final hurrah, as I know they don’t appear in many books in the future.

The final character from Vampireslayer that I need to talk about is the book’s primary antagonist, the titular vampire Adolophus Krieger.  Krieger, a centuries-old creature with connections to Vlad von Carstein, serves as a brilliant villain for this adventure novel, especially as King takes a substantial amount of time to dive into his history, personality and motivations.  Rebelling against his sire and attempting to become the next vampiric master of the Old World, Krieger is shown as a complex and intense being with some major issues.  Not only does he have to temper his intense ambition, but he also finds himself mentally deteriorating towards savagery and must constantly fight for control as his afterlife’s goals comes to fruition.  King does a great job capturing this compelling figure throughout the book, and I particularly enjoyed his introductory chapters where his temper and inability to suffer fools is shown with gruesome results.  Krieger has a brilliant presence throughout the novel, and he was a great villain opposite Gotrek and Felix with his gentlemanly airs (he has a great comeback to a line from Snorri Nosebiter).  I deeply enjoyed all the outstanding characters in Vampireslayer, and King did some superb work with them throughout this novel.

After reading paperback versions of Dragonslayer and Beastslayer, I’ve finally gotten back onto the Gotrek and Felix audiobooks with Vampireslayer, which was a lot of fun to listen to.  The audiobook format did an amazing job of capturing the dark tone and fast-paced action of this intense novel, and I felt that listening to Vampireslayer on audiobook really helped me appreciate a lot of the book’s more interesting details.  With a runtime of just over 11 hours, this is an easy audiobook to power through, and I personally managed to get through it in a few days.  This great audiobook was further enhanced by the excellent narration of Jonathan Keeble, who has narrated most of the other Gotrek and Felix audiobooks.  Keeble has an amazing voice for this sort of novel, and I loved the fantastic way he was able to move the story along at a brilliant pace while also enhancing the book’s horror and action elements.  I particularly loved the range of excellent voices he attributes to the various characters, many of which are carried over from his previous audiobook experiences.  All the characters get some distinctive and very fitting tones here, which I think worked extremely well.  Examples of some of the best voices include Felix, whose calm voice of reason, serves as the narrator’s base tone for most of the story; Gotrek, who is given a gruff and menacing voice that contains all the character’s barely restrained anger and regret; and even the new vampire character, Adolophus Krieger, who is gifted a French/European accent to match the classic vampire vibe that goes with the Vampire Counts characters in Warhammer, and the character’s likely origins as a Bretonnian Knight.  This expert voice work was extremely good and I had a brilliant time listening to this version of Vampireslayer.  As such, this format comes highly recommended and it is usually one of the best ways to enjoy a cool Warhammer novel.

Vampireslayer was another epic entry in the fantastic and ultra-fun Gotrek and Felix series by William King.  Bringing in a great new opponent who pushes the protagonists to new lows, this was an excellent adventure novel that shows some of the best parts of the Warhammer Fantasy world.  With a captivating and fast-paced narrative, this was one of the better entries in the series and I had an outstanding time getting through Vampireslayer.  An awesome read for all Warhammer and general fantasy fans, especially on audiobook.  I love this series so much!

Vampireslayer Cover

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WWW Wednesday – 3 August 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?

The Darkening by Sunya Mara (Trade Paperback)

The Darkening Cover

I just started reading an intriguing new young adult fantasy novel today with The Darkening by Sunya Mara.  The Darkening is an intriguing and exciting novel set in a city surrounded by a magical storm that is slowly eating it away.  The story follows the daughter of a notorious rebel who joins the city’s elite magical guards to free him and get revenge on an evil prince.  I have made some decent progress on The Darkening and it is proving to be quite an awesome read with an outstanding story to it.  I am aiming to finish The Darkening off by the end of the week and I think this is going to turn out to be one of the better debuts of 2022.

 

Star Wars: The High Republic: Midnight Horizon by Daniel Jose Older (Audiobook)

Star Wars - Midnight Horizon Cover

I have also recently started listening to the audiobook version of the cool Star Wars tie-in novel, Midnight Horizon.  Part of The High Republic sub-series, Midnight Horizon is a young adult read that follows a group of young Jedi as they investigate Nihil on the planet of Corellia.  A continuation of several other great young adult High Republic books, such as Into the Dark and Out of the Shadows, Midnight Horizon has an interesting story to it so far, and I am really powering through it.  This is another book that I am hoping to finish off by the end of the week, and I am very curious to see how Midnight Horizon ties into some of the other High Republic books out there, such as the pivotal novel, The Fallen Star, which was released around the same time.

What did you recently finish reading?

Warhammer: Vampireslayer by William King (Audiobook)

Vampireslayer Cover

 

Dirt Town by Hayley Scrivenor (Trade Paperback)

Dirt Town Cover

 

Tribe by Jeremy Robinson (Audiobook)

Tribe Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Upgrade by Blake Crouch

Upgrade 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.

WWW Wednesday – 27 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?

Warhammer: Vampireslayer by William King (Audiobook)

Vampireslayer Cover

Many people will be unsurprised that I have once again drifted back to the world of Warhammer with Vampireslayer, another entry in the Gotrex and Felix series by William King.  Set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe, Vampireslayer is the sixth entry in the Gotrex and Felix series, which follows a mad dwarf slayer and his human companion as they travel across the land seeking out every deadly monster they can find.  As the name suggests, Vampireslayer will see them face off against the hordes of the undead after a deadly vampire takes one of their companions. I have been deeply enjoying this epic series over the last few months, will all the previous entries (Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer and Beastslayer), being extremely fun and loaded with action.  I have only just started Vampireslayer, but it is already proving to be a compelling and awesome read for me and I look forward to seeing what violence and death lies in wait for me.

What did you recently finish reading?

The Lawless Land by Boyd and Beth Morrison (Trade Paperback)

The Lawless Land Cover

 

The Omega Factor by Steve Berry (Audiobook)

The Omega Factor Cover

What do you think you’ll read next?

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

Stay Awake 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.

Throwback Thursday: Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolf by William King

Space Wolf Original Cover

Publisher: Black Library (Paperback – 1999)

Series: Ragnar series – Book One

Length: 266 pages

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Amazon

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 latest Throwback Thursday I dive into the world of the Space Wolves chapter of Space Marines with the classic Warhammer 40,000 novel, Space Wolf by William King.

The Warhammer 40,000 expanded universe is truly blessed with the sheer range of unique stories that it contains.  From pulse-pounding crime novels (Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty), deeply fascinating novels about aliens (Ruin, Reign and Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh!), haunting horror tales (The Bookkeeper’s Skull), and even brutal war stories by common soldiers (Steel Tread and First and Only).  However, at the end of the day, most of the more intriguing stories focus on the iconic and awesome Space Marines.  These genetically enhanced and over-armoured warriors are often the true MVPs of the Warhammer canon, with some great series based on them (for example, the 50+ book Horus Heresy series).  There are a ton of great Warhammer 40,000 series around the Space Marines that I am exceedingly keen to get into, and I was recently lucky enough to find a copy of the first book of one of them which I immediately dived into.

That book was Space Wolf by William King, who I best know from his epic work in the Warhammer Fantasy franchise with his Gotrek and Felix series (check out my reviews for Trollslayer, Skavenslayer, Daemonslayer, Dragonslayer and Beastslayer).  Space Wolf is the first book in King’s six-part Ragnar series (also known as the Space Wolf and Wolfclaw series).  Focused on the character of Ragnar, a legendary member of the Space Wolves chapter, this series sounded really cool, especially as I have been really enjoying King’s writing lately.  I ended up having a great time with this novel which contains an awesome and very fun story.

In the far future, humanity is constantly at war with aliens, daemons, traitors, and heretics, all of whom wish to tear the massive and fragile Imperium of Man to shreds.  Humanities best and often last line of defence are the mighty Space Marines, the Emperor’s angels who fight the very worst xenos and spawns of the Chaos Gods.  Out of all the Space Marine chapters, one of the most respected, feared and honoured chapters are the Space Wolves.  Born from the genetic material of their legendary founder, Leman Russ, and bearing the touch of the wolf, the Space Wolves have stood tall time and time again.  But how does a mere man become a bestial and lethal Space Wolf?

On the planet of Fenris, Ragnar Thunderfist is a young warrior, content to work on his father’s ship and contend with the many dangers of his fierce and low-tech home world.  During a raid upon his village by a rival tribe, Ragnar is killed in a mightily duel after felling many enemies.  However, this is not the end of Ragnar’s journey; instead he finds himself waking up healed, resurrected by one of the mysterious Wolf Priests who watch over the planet.  Taken from the ruins of his village with other worthy aspirants, Ragnar learns that he has been chosen to become a member of the next generation of Space Wolves.

However, earning the right to join the Space Wolves is no easy task, and Ragnar soon embarks on a gruelling and lethal training regime that will test him to his very limit.  Working to hone himself into a living weapon, Ragnar will face trials, monsters and deadly rivalries as he attempts to prove himself.  But even if he is found worthy, the greatest trial involves the final transformation into a Space Marine.  The Canis Helix, which is implanted into all Space Wolves, bears a dangerous curse, which may turn even the strongest of wills into wild beasts.  Can Ragnar overcome the bestial rage that comes with this awesome gift, or will he lose his mind before he can serve the Emperor?  And what happens with the legions of Chaos arrive upon Fenris?

Space Wolf Cover 2

This was another exceptionally exciting and compelling read from William King, who perfectly starts another epic Warhammer series.  Space Wolf had a very different tone and structure to some of King’s other books that I have enjoyed, and I found myself getting really invested in this intriguing story of survival, self-discovery, and destiny.  Starting with an intriguing glance at the present, Space Wolf jumps back into the protagonist’s past, showing Ragnar’s formative years and the events that led to him being chosen by the Space Wolves.  Primarily told from the perspective of Ragnar, with a few sections told by an antagonistic alternate narrator, Space Wolf quickly turns into a fascinating examination of the intense training faced by potential Space Wolves recruits.  Most of the story follows the various stages of this intense military training and eventual genetic modification, and it was absolutely fascinating to see the changes the protagonist goes through.  While there is a lot of focus on expanding the lore and the character changes associated with it, King tells a concise and powerful story that really dives into the mind and personality of its protagonists.  This extended and brutal training sequence and initiations eventually leads up to the protagonist’s first mission as a Space Marine, which sees him and his team, many of whom you have also come to know, face off against an insidious foe on their own home world.  This last part of the book provides a ton of action, some intriguing horror aspects, and the introduction of a compelling antagonist who will likely show up in future entries in the series.  This final section really brings the entire narrative together extremely well, showcasing what the protagonist has been working towards, while also resolving some great character arcs.  I had a really fun time with this entire novel, and it has definitely made me keen to check out the rest of the series when I get a chance.

One of the most intriguing parts of Space Wolf was the way that it fits into the wider Warhammer 40,000 universe.  Specifically, this novel serves as a particularly good introduction to the legendary Space Wolves Space Marines chapter, who are one of the more popular factions in the extended universe.  King chooses to look at them from a rather unique direction, showing them purely from the perspective of the protagonist Ragnar, an inhabitant of a Norse-esque society with no concepts of space travel, advanced technology, or the wider universe outside of their lands, and whose understanding of the Emperor, the Chaos Gods, the Space Marines and more comes purely from myths and legends.  As such, for much of the novel Ragnar and his fellow initiates have no idea who the Space Wolves are, or what they have been chosen for.  The snippets they continue to get slowly inform them of the wider picture, and it was fascinating to see their blind faith that they were working towards something greater.  Their eventual initiation comes as a great shock to them, and seeing these previously simple warriors become elite Space Marines with knowledge of the wider universe results in some awesome and intriguing scenes.  I found it really fun to see the similarities and differences between the characters when they were normal and when they were Space Wolves, and it was fantastic to witness how their harsh roots results in Space Marines with some major Viking vibes to them (it’s one of the things that make them such a cool chapter).

However, King also ensures that the reader is given some intense insight into the dark side of the Space Wolves.  While their training is often harsh and lethal, and their treatment of the tribes of their home planet is very manipulative, there is something far more worrying lying beneath the surface.  The genetic manipulation that goes into creating them awakens a beast within them, with many losing their sanity or even their humanity entirely, reverting into beastlike creatures known as the Wulfen.  King does an awesome job highlighting the various ways in which the characters are changed, body and mind, throughout the course of Space Wolf, and there are some powerful scenes where they are forced to battle to control their new inner nature.  This really ends up being a particularly fascinating and well-balanced examination of the Space Wolves chapter, and I honestly could not think of a better introduction to this faction.  This cool lore, as well as the Norse-inspired aspects and Nordic-like wild settings, serve to beautifully enhance the entire narrative, and King’s choice to show all events from an uninitiated character’s perspective was just brilliant.  The use of Ragnar as a narrator also ensures that readers unfamiliar with the Warhammer franchise can also easily enjoy this novel, as they can learn about the wider universe at the same time as the protagonist.  Established fans, on the other hand, will get a lot of joy out of seeing the Space Wolves in this much detail, and they will no doubt have fun viewing the myths and unique interpretations that the various Fenris tribes place on the Space Marines and other elements of Warhammer lore.  As such, this is a novel that will really appeal to a lot of different readers, and anyone with interesting in fantasy, science fiction, or even historical fiction, will probably have a great time reading Space Wolf.

Finally, I must highlight how good Ragnar was as a point-of-view protagonist.  Not only do we get the great insights into Space Wolves initiatives that I mentioned above, but there are multiple intriguing personality and mental aspects to his character that come across extremely well in the narrative.  Ragnar starts the book as a young warrior whose life is changed in a single day as his tribe is destroyed by a rival clan, his family is killed, and he himself is killed and then resurrected by the Space Wolves.  Worse, he is resurrected alongside the man who killed him, Strybjorn Grimskull, and is forced to train and work with him, despite their hatred for each other.  This results in a great deal of inner struggle for Ragnar as he is constantly torn between his honour and new responsibilities to the Space Wolves and his desire for revenge against Strybjorn.  Watching these two constantly circle each other through the training parts of the novel is awesome, and their issues get even more intense once they undergo the genetic change and become Space Wolves with bestial urges.  These intense inner issues and rivalries proved to be an excellent central plotline for much of the novel, and I felt that they dramatically enhanced the entire narrative very well, adding in some much need drama, comradery, and character development.  I cannot wait to see more of Ragnar and his fellow Space Wolves in the future, especially after how his first mission turned out.

Overall, Space Wolf was just as impressive and awesome as I hoped it would be.  William King did an exceptional job writing a fantastic introductory Space Wolves tale, and he continues to remain one of my absolute favourite Warhammer authors, especially with the excellent range he showed here.  Readers will love this outstanding dive into the Space Wolves and the wider Warhammer 40,000 universe that this novel contains, and Space Wolf is a highly recommended novel to anyone looking for an action-packed and exciting read.

Space Wolf Cover

Amazon