Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

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New Books (and a few old ones)

August 16, 2008

Storm of Iron is an older book, but this book leads directly into the ultramarines omnibus and as such deserves a mention. Graham McNeil is one of the black library’s finest writers and he doesn’t fail in this drop down drag ’em out sci-fi battle. The Hordes of Chaos have descended on Hydra Cordatus and a scratch defence is hastily erected. This book has it all Heroism, Courage, Disgrace, Defeat. The very fact that Graham Mcneil treats all characters with respect and gives each of them a valid part to play on his stage makes him one of my top 5 authors.

Now, after Storm of Iron I picked this book up and considering that it’s three books in one and about one of the chapters that when I worked for Games Workshop I absolutely despised I thought I may be a bit disappointed. For me the very subject matter of the ultra marines didn’t fill me with excitement. They don’t have the nordic influence of the Space Wolves, The inherent creepiness of the Dark Angels or the Noble but savage vamipiric nature of the Blood Angels. But then I started to read and realised that unlike every other chapter of the Space Marines they see themselves as the protector of man, and also with some sadness that man has a inherent nobility of character that because they are lesser mortals makes it all the more special.

This book for me cements why Graham Mcneil is a talented author. His ability to make you feel for both the supermen and the normal man is amazing.

Right, back to the book. The trilogy follows Sergeant and then Captain Uriel Ventris as he is thrust into more and more dangerous missions. From the Necron warriors to the horrors of the Tyranid to exile and death quest in the eye of terror.

This is the latest book from Graham Mcneil, it follows the furthering adventures of Captain Uriel Ventris.

This is a hard book to quantify, it has all the usual work that makes me rant about Graham Mcneil, but then it has me wondering, Could he have made a successful horror writer. I don’t know if he intended it or not but there are one or two shudder moments where you pause and go phew I am in the room and not in the book. There are parts that remind me of Japanese Horror, and I suppose that’s a plus sign, but I like My Sci-Fi Dark but also Sci-Fi. Now don’t get me wrong I loved the book and I loved the fact that these characters are true hero’s and when the mission is concluded you grip you hand and go yes, So in conclusion I did like this book.

For years I avoided the single issue books that made up this anthology, I never seemed to have the time or the cash to spend on it. But when your feeling down and need something to read this was that book for me.

It is written By Dan Abnett & Mike Lee, and let me tell you this, if you purchase any book that I recommend let it be this series. Dan Abnett is a superb writer (and I’m biased) but apart from the sensational Fell Cargo, i had never been drawn to his fantasy side. What a schmuck I was. Malus Darkblade is evil, sarcastic, self serving and those are all the reasons that you’ll love this book. Dan (whether intentionally or unintentionally) had me laughing all through this book. Don’t get me wrong, this in itself is not a comedic book, but rather a book of dark fantasy. But the one liners, the snide banter. The Character reminds me of My Mate Gez.

Malus is a typical Dark Elf, evil conniving, sarcastic and those are his good points, After being possessed by the demon Tz’arkan he is given a stark choice recover 5 items of legendary power or loose his soul.

This continues the adventures of Gez (sorry Malus). I can’t say too much about this book or the fifth book in the series without spoiling it but in short Malus Darkblade must foil his brother to retrieve a sword, look for the usual dark humour,the biting comments and the dark fantasy that Dan Abnett does so well.

The fifth book of the series. I must point out that I love this series and the only bad point was the flips to the current day, but hey I’m not an author who’s sold millions and writes some of my favourite comics, but it’s just a niggle. Malus sinks further into depravity and his year is almost up, follow Malus as he battles to save his soul, Make some money and further his rise into the ranks of notoriety

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Flint and Silver

July 29, 2008

This is the story before treasure Island. How Long John Silver went from law abiding sailor to Gentleman Buccaneer and how Captain Flint went from a member of the Kings Navy to one of the most feared Pirates around. It answers the question how did Long John loose his leg. How did blind Pew become blind. And why did Flint and Silver fall out.

Good news is that this has been picked up as a movie. I can’t wait for the follow up

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Book Reviews

July 5, 2008

Well I have been reading like crazy this week.

First up is.

Rogue Trader Lucian Gerrit learns the true meaning of profit and loss! Andy Hoare presents an epic adventure in his debut novel for the Black Library. Lucian Gerrit is a rogue trader – a starship captain granted ancient trading rights along the Eastern Fringe of Imperial space. But his family’s fortunes have been steadily declining for many generations and his inheritance amounts to little more than a pile of debt and misery. In a final desperate gamble to restore his family’s former glory, Gerrit strikes a deal on a forgotten Imperial world to aid its commander in a long-standing war with his rival. As Gerrit commits his family’s assets to the escalating conflict, he may lose more than his livelihood.

I Really like space opera, I especially like space opera set in the 40k Universe. This is a good book that even if you don’t know the 40k universe it is still accesable.

Rogue trader patriarch Lucian Gerrit and his family get swept up in an Imperial Crusade to track down and exterminate the alien tau. Having crossed the desolate area of space known as the Damocles Gulf, the fleet arrives on the borders of the tau empire. Can Gerrit’s resourcefulness save the day when the Imperial forces find themselves outnumbered and outgunned, thousands of light years from home?

This being the followup, works well. Now comes my problem with the Black Library. Try contacting them you get a stock answer. These books are popular but they won’t commit the writers to finish series. OK that may be harsh but thats my observation, you may have years between books.

First Officer Ward of the Imperial Navy cruiser Relentless, on patrol in the Eastern Fringe, is less than pleased when a new commander, hardliner Captain Becket, is appointed above him. To protect his own corrupt schemes and ambitions, the first officer arranges to have the new captain assassinated.

Unbeknown to him, though, Becket survives and embarks on a ruthless campaign to fight his way up through the ranks to seize back control of his ship.

This is Richard Williams first work and foray into the Warhammer 40K universe and as such I was surprised at how the characters unfold and how effortlessly he jumped into the subject matter.

First let me just say that I love books about Rome, And I really loved this book. However after reading Simon Scarrows series I did kind of feel that I had been here and seen it before. That being said, this is a first rate book and one I would recommend anyone who is a fan of Rome to read.

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Long Awaited:James Barclay

May 27, 2008

Thanks for taking the time to drop by and have a chat. What first got you started as a writer. It couldn’t have been for fame and fortune as so many try and fail.
I’ve just always loved writing stories. Ever since I can remember. I wrote my first recognisable piece of prose at the age of seven and by age eleven was writing plenty of little bits and pieces in my spare time. I had an English teacher at secondary school who really encouraged me (and one who actively discouraged me like the prat he was) and I wrote a couple of novella length stories as a result. Both awful but great practice.

So I’ve always wanted to be a writer. The fame and fortune were never important so long as I could make a living. I just about do that so I have to consider myself happy.

What was your first published work?
It was a short story called ‘Goldstone’ and it was published in a Sheffield literary magazine called ‘Sheaf’ in 1985. The story was about birds cavorting around the walls and roofs of houses. I was delighted to see my work in print though I was paid not a penny for it. A special moment only bettered in writing terms by seeing Dawnthief on the shelves of Waterstone’s for the first time.

When did you realise that you had something real special with the Raven series. As a father did your literary child come easily, or did you have to drag it screaming into the world.

I always knew it was a good concept and that I’d executed it pretty well but that doesn’t guarantee a publishing deal. I knew it was special when it shot up the amazon bestseller charts shortly after it was published. It reached no18 or something in the Hot 100 at one stage which was amazing for a first time author of a fantasy novel. I was just so pleased that readers were getting out of it what I wanted them to.

But no, it didn’t come easily. Actually, The Raven began life as comedy fantasy years and years before it was actually published. I’m glad I changed tack because it would have been rubbish. I worked on the serious action fantasy version for five years before I got a publishing deal. Rewrite on rewrite, deletion, addition… but I knew I’d get there in the end. As the rejections came in, it occasionally became a tough thing to do but somewhere inside, I knew it would be worth it in the end. I’m glad I listened and kept on going.

I have to admit that I got upset several times in the books, and i judge that the mark of a good storyteller when you are totally immersed within their world and living with the characters, Does it get emotional for you when such and such happens to a character?

Yes, it certainly does. I’ve cried while writing the deaths of some characters and feel physically very low after writing such scenes. I guess when that happens, it means I’ve got them right. I’ve never taken a decision to injure, kill or write-out a character without a huge amount of thought as to the consequences further down the line. I can’t let it become a gratuitous thing to do or the emotional force is lost.

I’m glad you’ve been upset too – for me that’s a huge compliment because it tells me I’ve put across that emotional force correctly and that you loved my characters enough to feel sad when tragedy strikes.


Which of the Raven members are your favourites? Mine are Sol and Denser. Two complete opposites, but I also like the character journey that Denser undergoes to become a better man.

Hirad is my favourite. No surprise as he was my character way back in my role playing days. I love him for his passion, his belief and his unquenchable drive and desire for The Raven to succeed. And Ilkar too, because he’s sharp-witted and his banter with Hirad is something I loved to write. I love what he does for The Raven. He’s their techie, if you like, but impatient with it.

Your second series was a slight departure and while as you know I was critical of the first book, the second book allowed me to gel with the characters, any plans to revisit any of the characters again?
I have no current plans to return to Estorea though there are plenty of stories to tell there. I never say never but I can’t see anything happening for a good long while, if at all.

I understand from our communication that you have a new raven book coming out, what can you tell us about it?
It’s called Ravensoul and it comes out in November this year. It is set a decade after the end of the wars depicted in Demonstorm. It deals with an enemy that has cast the dead from rest and threatens the entire world. An enemy that barely even recognises the Balaians as sentient, let alone a threat. It is a chance for The Raven to ride one more time (metaphorically speaking) and is a story of how belief can turn the tide and how the pursuit of power can poison the minds of men.

Several great books have been picked up to turn into comics, how would you feel if the raven was picked up bringing it to a whole new series of fans.
I’d love it. I think the Raven would translate very well into graphic novel or comic format. And onto the small or big screen come to that.

How are you managing being a new(ish) father and successful author.
Well, it’s a tough balance to strike at times. I look after Oscar two days a week and that leaves just three for writing. It means I have to work a few evenings but that’s OK. What I find difficult at the moment is doing too much beyond my current project. That’s very frustrating as I have a million and one ideas sloshing about and precious little time to flesh them out to see if they have legs. But I can’t complain. I have a wonderful son and I get paid to do the thing I love best. Anytime I feel low, I remind myself of that…I’m a lucky man when all is said and done.

What do you have planned for the future?
Well, I’ve just agreed a trilogy of books based around the elves of Calaius. Can’t say too much at present but suffice to say that they will cover a couple of thousand years of history before The Raven began but will still have familiar names for fans to read about. The idea is that raven fans will love them for their history and new readers will love them just because they’re great books about cool elves J.

Any plans for a signing tour of Wales as so many of the big names tend to ignore us guys when the tours are announced. I know it’s down to agents but Welsh fans do deserve to meet their hero’s and people who take so much of their lives with their books.

I’ve no plans for a tour of anywhere at the moment. Whether there’ll be one around the launch of Ravensoul, I don’t know yet. Best to check my website for details nearer the time. But I do make as many appearances at conventions as I can. I’m at Fantasycon in Nottingham this September and also at Gamesfest in Tring this October. Neither is Wales, I admit but I’m happy to travel anywhere where I’ll get a warm welcome, can meet fans and have a good pint of ale!

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The Eagles Conquest

April 21, 2008

The Second book is just as much fun as the first. Mainly because you already know Cato and Macro. The action is hard and fast and the scripting is well paced.

Official Blurb

When Centurion Macro arrives on British soil as one of Emperor Claudius’s invasion force in AD 43, he is facing one of the toughest campaigns of his battle-scarred career. In a series of bloody skirmishes, Macro and his young subordinate, Optio Cato, and the desperately outnumbered Roman army must find and defeat the enemy before he grows strong enough to overwhelm the legions. But the Britons are not the only foe facing Macro and Cato. A sinister organisation opposed to the Emperor is secretly betraying the invaders. And when rumours of an assassination attempt coincide with the Emperor’s arrival on British soil, the soldiers realise they are up against a force more ruthless than their acknowledged enemy…”
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Simon Scarrow-Under the Eagle

April 12, 2008

Ok I know technically this isn’t a new book. But for any of you out there that loved Gladiator or Rome or have actually read the last legion or Leopard in the Snow, this will be right up your street. The story is about a centruion and a young under officer and their invasion of Brittania. It is the first in a series and the action is paced right, The characters jump out of the pages at you and it leaves you wanting more. As an indication of how good I found this I started it this am and finished it at 2pm.