Review: The Death of Antagonis by David Annandale
This one, like the Skarsnik review, was posted on Goodreads earlier this year. It dates back to March 4, and does not care about previous structure on this blog.
The Story:
"The Black Dragons fall upon the world of Antagonis, summoned to combat the plague of undeath that has engulfed the planet. Allying themselves with Inquisitor Werner Lettinger and a force of Sisters of Battle, the Black Dragons endeavour to save the souls of the Imperial citizens who have succumbed to the contagion. But there is more than a mere infection at play – the dread forces of Chaos lie behind the outbreak, and the Black Dragons stand in the way of the Dark Gods’ victory…"
Getting through this one was a breeze. It never bogged me down, no scene overstayed its welcome and before I knew it, I was getting mad at the Internet and my Computer for throwing games and videos at me again.
This was one of the few books that made me wish restarting the machine or booting up a game would take longer than it did, so I could read just another few pages...

But I digress.

The book provides a really fantastic view on the Black Dragons Chapter, from their non-Codex organization to the way they fight and the mutations they bear, but also shows the risks inherent in deviation from the Imperial norms. My knowledge about the Chapter was minimalistic at best, but the way the Dragons were presented really clicked with me.

The antagonists were fairly unique as well, not least due to their origin, and there was plenty of tension at all times. The main villain of the story is told to have a longer history with the Black Dragons, and the connection gets deepened throughout the book in various ways.
Once the Dragons realized who their enemy was, he became more than just a villain covered in mystery, but an everpresent threat.

But the titlegiving Death of Antagonis marks more than just the first of many genocides the reader gets to read about; it also opens the curtain for a schism within the Black Dragons themselves.
Especially in that regard did David Annandale score highly, in my opinion. He developed a very intriguing conflict between very contrasting characters, and made it the leading theme of the novel.

The book also gets you around a lot; from Antagonis itself to tiny moons and massive Hive Worlds. I might go as far as to call it the most diverse SMB novel yet, in terms of interesting locations. All locations were described tangible ways, no matter how exotic they were, without ever losing their charme.

The Death of Antagonis tells us a story about many Phyrric victories and how they wear a company of Space Marines down not only in strength of numbers but also erodes their confidence, convictions and unity of purpose.
It is not just a Space Marine Battles novel, but one about sacrifice, doubts and finding one's place and role in the service of the Emperor.

The book did have some rare lines that had me scratch my head, but nothing that broke it for me in any way, or took away from my enjoyment of the story.

If there's anything I can say about David Annandale, judging from The Carrion Anthem (printed in Treacheries of the Space Marines), Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha (and Evil Eye ) and now The Death of Antagonis, it is that he simply nails characters, settings, universe and the grimdark side of the franchise down.

This novel specifically presented the bleak side of the Imperium, the hopelessness inherent in a galaxy that has never been kind to humanity, in believable ways. There are no shining victories to be found here, and faith is a limited currency.
What it delivers, though, is a well-presented series of events that lead up to a satisfying, characterful climax, and a good balance between SMB-action and character interaction.

David clearly embraced the grandiose and the macabre once more, and I cannot wait for his next offering.

The Death of Antagonis on Goodreads
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Review: Skarsnik by Guy Haley
Alright, let's try this again, shall we? From here on out, I'll likely abolish the old review structure, in favor of quicker, shorter impressions. Curiously enough, I have not stopped writing reviews/impressions, not at all. I just could not bother to adhere to the structure I set for myself anymore, as it felt too formal for my brain. I did, however, keep writing the occassional review on, which I will now use to get things going again.

I wrote this review right after finishing the book, back on July 11. I still stand by my opinion, so this was a no-brainer to repost here.

The Story:
"The goblin chieftain Skarsnik’s name is known and feared throughout the Old World. When a greenskin horde threatens the borders of the Empire, the greatest military minds in Altdorf seek assistance from a most unlikely source – the disgraced poet Jeremiah Bickenstadt. Though long since consumed by madness, he claims to have spent a great deal of time in the company of the feared Warlord of the Eight Peaks, and can offer a unique insight into what it is that drives and motivates him. From humble beginnings, a monstrous legend is born."

Skarsnik, as it turns out, was a much needed breath of fresh air for me.

Its narrative style, the gobliny wit, wrapped in humorous banter, and the stunning competence of Skarsnik, Warlord of the Eight Peaks, but also the incredible amount of detail put into describing the world under the mountains and greenskin society, make this novel one of my personal favorites of 2013.

The story is wrapped in multiple layers, from the overall point of view of the Doktor Wollendorp, who interviews a mad playwright in an asylum, to said madman's retelling of his experience in Skarsnik's realm, and the things the Goblin Warlord told him. Despite this, the book flows very nicely from one point of view and scene to the next.

Being a book about the life of Skarsnik at the core, this made sure that minor pieces in the story would not need to drag on unnecessarily, while still allowing for the creative freedom of the playwright.
In the end, it serves to blur the line between fact and fantasy, making Skarsnik appear like a real threat to be reckoned with, but also made sure to leave things ambiguous and leave room for interpretation.

Multiple times throughout the novel Wollendorp and his companion would discuss the veracity of the madman's tale, and agree that it must be truthful in some regard, yet is undoubtedly embellished by the poet's vivid mind, and not everything should be taken at face value.

This should very well please those people who voiced concerns over the Warhammer Heroes series demystifying the special characters they portray, by taking away from the tabletop players' own interpretation of the hero. It feels to me that Guy Haley did a fantastic job at disspelling those concerns by telling his story in this particular way.

This quote from the book frames the whole novel very accurately:

‘Make sure you tell all those humies, humie, make sure you tell ’em good, make sure you tell ’em about the king in da mountain. Tell ’em all about me, Skarsnik, tell ’em all about my life, leave nuffink out.’
‘And then, when you’ve told them all that,’ he whispered, his eyes blazing with menace, ‘tell all the other humies that I’m coming for them too.’

That being out of the way, it is safe to say that Skarsnik's life was more than just eventful. It was a joy to read, to see the runt develop into a warlord to rival Grom the Fat, and follow in his footsteps. There have been many occassions when I just could not help but laugh about the suitably mean presentation of the goblin race, and can do nothing but applaud Guy Haley for his spot-on representation of the greenskins.

As with Baneblade, Guy Haley impressed me once more. His in-depth take on the Warhammer universe is so well put, I cannot come up with a good reason not to pick this book up if you have any interest in Black Library's Fantasy range.

In clear greenskin fashion, I give this book lots of stars. Purchase recommendation!

Skarsnik on Goodreads
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