DEATH & DISHONOR (WARHAMMER)
Anthology – Various Authors
(January 26, 2010, $8.99, 320 pages)
Over the years, the stories based on the Warhammer games & miniatures have gained their own following. No longer do you have to be a player to know the intricate details of this fantasy world, though it helps. Several of the books have branched into a series of novels, each with their own trademark characters. Populated with various races, such as elves, dwarves, and rat-men called Skavens, just to name a few, the world of Warhammer offers tales of bloody battles, political intrigue, and tests of faith. Bad guys are usually agents of Chaos – demonic forces accidentally unleashed upon the world, and the good guys are usually complex characters with loads of baggage that grow with each new adventure.
In Death & Dishonour, the Black Library has very wisely compiled a collection of the very best Warhammer fantasy sagas…a sort of literary appetizer that offers a sampling of the characters and creatures they have to offer. It would be unfair to write a general review of a book with nine different stories, especially when considering the talent of the authors, so I wrote about each one:
“Red Snow” by Nathan Long is a Gotrek & Felix tale set in the Mountains of Mourn. They’re guarding a caravan of merchants because Gotrek is hoping to find his doom along the way, but they’re delayed by an avalanche. A Sigmar priest, Father Gessler, invites them to stay in a nearby village while they dig out the mountain pass. He tells them about a monster roaming the mountains, so – of course – Gotrek wants to fight the monster. Long does an excellent job of writing a new story without disturbing the timeline of the Gotrek & Felix saga. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading Shamanslayer.
“The Assassin’s Dilemma” by David Earle was a sweet surprise – I wasn’t expecting a Skaven story. This tale takes place years after Skavenslayer, but includes several references to the Battle of Nuln. Sneeq Foulblade of Clan Eshin has been contracted by Warlord Glut to steal human weapons, and kidnap the engineer, Werner Grunhelm. Grey Seer Qik wants to kill Grunhelm himself, so Sneeq is forced to make alternate plans…yet another example of Clan politics undermining the Skaven race. If you enjoy this Skaven tale, then you should read Grey Seer (Thanquol & Boneripper novel).
“Rest Eternal” by Anthony Reynolds begins with the last moments of a battle between the knight Calard and a wyvern, in the Grey Mountains – although, those few moments are described over several pages. For the life of me, I didn’t see a reason for stretching out the battle, until I read the twist halfway through the story. This was one of the most unpredictable stories I have ever read, and the best fantasy-fiction that I’ve read in a long time. Reynolds has an amazing imagination. If you like this tale, consider reading Knight Errant.
“The Miracle At Berlau” by Darius Hinks is a tale concerning a young man nicknamed Ratboy, and his friendship with a Sigmar priest, Brother Wolff. As the two struggle to defeat a creature called The Reaver, details are revealed bit by bit about how the two met, and how they came to be in a blown-up temple. I love that the priest teaching the boy to read, in the past, played a part in the discovery of “The Miracle.” It was a nice enough story, but not nearly as much action as I would have expected from a Warhammer tale, although his Warrior Priest is a good book.
“Noblesse Oblige” by Robert Earl gives us a taste of the Florin & Lorenzo saga. The story unfolds with a watchman happening upon some Skaven (yaay!) in a grain store, presumably up to no good, and quickly moves onto Florin & Lorenzo selling corn to an Empire merchant named Gristwald. Afterwards, Florin & Lorenzo decide to visit a fighting pit that has Skaven as entertainment. After a bad decision on Florin’s part (several bad decisions in a row, actually), the two find themselves in the middle of complicated murder plot, which leads to a unique mêlée. One of the best tales in the collection!
In “The Last Ride of Heiner Rothstein” by Ross O’Brien, Heiner is apparently already dead. The tale is told from the point-of-view of his son, Wolfram. Over half the story is spent describing the unrest among the pistoliers, who have been drinking and telling stories in their campsite. They all seem to be having trouble remembering the details of their previous battle. Eventually, they find themselves fighting again, and that is when Wolfram begins to see people he thought were dead. While the plot twist was slightly predictable, the very end was not at all what I expected.
“Broken Blood” by Paul Kearney is about two brothers, Gabriel and Michael, separated in battle by Chaos sorcery. Two years later, Gabriel is near the end of a campaign to find out what has become of his brother, and the details of the separation are revealed in Gabriel’s flashbacks. Most of the story is pages upon pages of his final battle with the Chaos horde, in which I began to lose interest. By the time he learned what had happened to Michael, I didn’t care anymore. Broken Blood failed to impress me as much as the first six stories did. However, the ending wasn’t too bad.
“The Judgment of Crows” by Chris Wraight centers around the Amethyst wizard, Katerina Lautermann, sent to save Herrendorf from the unquiet dead. Unfortunately, she does not have the support or confidence of the villagers. A Sigmar priest, Boris, tells her the mausoleum of another Amethyst wizard may hold the key to saving the village, but when she summons the spirit of the wizard Arfol, she discovers a horrible secret. This story is a decent zombie-fantasy tale. Wraight also wrote Masters of Magic.
“Wolfshead” by C.L. Werner is a Brunner the Bounty Hunter adventure. I am not a fan of the trilogy, but I still thought the story was well-written. Brunner is not happy about having to keep Victor Schwartz alive to collect his bounty; to make matters worse, while trekking through a dense forest, a witch appears to warn them that they are being hunted. I could see where the story was going right away, but it was still fun to read.
One of the things that I liked best about this collection was the length of the stories. I also enjoyed having so many characters and settings from the world of Warhammer brought into one book. If you’re already a fan, you’ll recognize a lot of the names, places and time frames but if you’ve never read Warhammer before, this is an excellent book to begin with. You’ll have an idea whether or not Warhammer has any fantasy sagas you would enjoy.
~ Ursula K. Raphael
Ursula K. Raphael is a 35 year old wife and mother of one child living in Grand Rapids, MI. She homeschools her son and in her spare time reviews books, music, and movies. In addition to her interest in sci-fi/fantasy literature, she’s also preparing for the zombie apocalypse. You can find her parent survival tips at http://www.zombiephiles.com/author/astradaemon