book review · miniatures.

Review: The Dark Tower series.

I have had a long and lasting love affair with The Dark Tower series; it is one of the novel series that has resonated with me, and still does so. When I first read it about ten years ago, I was captivated by the characters and world setting, and that hasn’t changed. Periodically, I have gone back and read the first three and a half books, but usually stopped part way through the fourth. Now that I listen to audio books while painting, I found the perfect opportunity to listen to the whole tale again.

Let’s get a picture of The Gunslinger in here, for it is his story after all:

Good points of the story the second time around include how amazingly well written the characters are. From the smallest role to the largest, all the characters have a surprisingly well developed sense of purpose and self. I remember taking nearly three books to decide whether I liked Roland and that when I did, it was a whirlwind. The same applies on the second reading, though perhaps not as intensely. The pace of the first four books is intense and keeps you reading, or listening, even when you know what is going to happen.

What surprised me too is the amount of phrases I use in day to day language that come from this series. Language I had forgotten the source of, phrases like ‘never in life’ and ‘say true?’ just became part of my language. It has a poetic ring to it certainly, and the different accents and nuances contained within the Dark Tower are wide and varied. The world setting is dense, detailed and wide, it is a real treat to read about and journey through. Nothing in this story is coincidence. Everything happens for a reason and the smallest detail in book one unfolds into a big part of the later story. The forward thinking of the author is incredible.

I’m still not sold on Stephen King writing himself into the story.

Everything else about the tale is great, I laughed, I cried and was taken along an emotional journey with the characters; still caught up in their lives despite knowing what happened. If you only ever read one (set of) books again, make it The Dark Tower!

miniatures.

Book Review: Blood of Sanguinius – Darius Hinks

It’s been a while since I have done a book review, though that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I have indulged in a lot of short stories, which would take forever to review them all. It doesn’t mean they are not good, or engaging and they certainly are worth reading however I would be here forever if I posted about them all.

One group of short stories has led me down a rather delightful path, and those feature the oddity that is Mephiston. Recommended by a close friend, I decided that it was time to venture out if the realms of chaos and see what the Imperium had to offer. I must say I was very well surprised with the two short stories: Eclipse of Hope and Lord of Death by David Annandale, however the character really comes into his own when penned by the capable hand of Darius Hinks.

Technically, the language is beautiful. While reading, there were no clumsy sentences, wonderfully crafted metaphors which were wrought in a careful, considerate way. Hinks’ choice of language complimented the carefully crafted world he created for the story and it was neither heavy handed or awkward. The pace of the novel was excellent and it kept me turning the pages until many a small hour – always a successful point. I was gripped.

What truly seized me however were the interactions between the three main protagonists. After reading a lot of novels set in the realm of chaos, it was a true pleasure to read about characters that liked one another. The dynamic between the young Antros, the older, sterner Rhacelus and the enigmatic Mephiston is expertly executed. The three compliment one another, even if they often do not understand each other. I never felt as though there was deceit between them and it was clear that although there was definite fear of death, none of them would die alone.

I don’t post spoilers in my reviews, but I want to discuss one point at the start of the book that was refreshing. Antros seeks the aid of a guardsman in locating a position in a dangerous place. When the inevitable danger occurs, he is desperate to ensure the guardsman survives. The fact that there are Chapters that still regard mortals as valuable and worth saving was brought into this novel clearly, however it never forgot the elements of Grimdark that are associated with Warhammer 40 000 either.

Darius Hinks has done a wonderful job with this novel, and I do look forward to reading the next one, right after Devastation of Baal, which is what I am chewing through rapidly at the moment.

Film · miniatures.

Film Review: Rambo – Last Blood

Rambo 5: It’s not terrible!

Honestly, it isn’t.

Rambo 5

I really, genuinely enjoyed watching this film. The plot was pretty simple, which was good. I went in not expecting a great deal really. I haven’t seen the other Rambo films for a very, very long time but I do remember explosion and gore. This film has both of those so I was happy on that front.

The plot sees Rambo go after his adoptive grandaughter who absconded to Mexico to find her no good dad. Things go wrong and she gets kidnapped. Rambo goes in search. This was the only part of the film I personally had issues with. Rambo gets cornered and beat up by the Mexican gangsters rather too easy. Throughout this scene, I was expecting him to unload a huge can of whoop-ass. He didn’t and went down without much of a fight at all and for someone as well trained as he is, it felt a bit off.

All was forgiven however when the last part of the film kicked off. Rambo went to kill Mexico, then lured it back to his farm, where he had set a lot of interesting and brutal traps. It was a bit like Home Alone but with much more blood and guts.

The violent ways in which the bad guys were killed were almost comedic and it more than made up for the blip earlier in the film.

Another bonus was the film wasn’t dragged out at all. It was quick paced and didn’t drag. I really enjoyed the watching it. I’d watch it again!

miniatures. · painting

INSTAR Metallics

Recently, I have become dissatisfied with the Game Colour range of metallic paints. I’ve used them for a long time but only now come to realise that the particles of metallic pigment clogged the brush which made them hard to work with. I needed to try something new.

Over on twitter, I have been following INSTAR paints for a long time and decided it was time to give them a go. So, I ordered bronze, because Night Lords. Gold, two shades of silver, a purple and one of their ‘flip’ paints.

I grabbed an old Chaos Space Marine who hangs around for testing things and decided to try them out. Here are the results:

The blue/purple flip is on the shoulder pad and the purple, which is a really pale amethyst is on his upper leg. This is with a couple of coats and shows great coverage. It was easy to work with and although it required a couple of layers, it didn’t look streaky.

The bottom is something I was sent as a bonus, something called a ‘Spectrum’ paint. I did have to look it up, but once I learned what it was for, I gave it a go. What you do, is mix this with a metallic paint and it turns it into a flip paint. This one I mixed with silver and it turned into a pale green. I want to do some more messing about with this before I make a judgement on it, but it seems like a cool idea and I always like getting a little something for free.

I then did some more serious testing on the latest Night Lord:

The grain of the metallic paint is much, much finer than what I have used before, so it suits my need there. It takes washes from GW very well, so that is good too. It blends with other paints of its make easily enough and so I was able to create highlights and low lights where I wanted them. I think Gloves’s brass looks really good. The silver needs washing and highlighting but so far, so good.

I also really like how there is a little ball inside the paint which helps mix it up when you shake it up.

All in all, I love them. I will be using them and ordering some more when I need to. I might just have to try their other ranges too, to see how well put together they are.

book review · miniatures.

Review: Soul Hunter – Aaron Dembski Bowden

Soul Hunter

Several friends of mine pestered me to read this for a while. One of them loaned me the physical copy, another loaned me a digital copy and eventually I relented. I do not get a lot of time to read books, and I do not like to waste my time on bad ones. This book is not a bad book.

This book is in fact, a very good book.

I knew within the first couple of pages that I was going to like the Night Lords due to one incident. One of the characters gets shot in the middle of a discussion and his so called friend had to switch his vox off because he was laughing so hard about it.

The book is full of gems like this. You quickly come to realise that the Night Lords all hate each other. It is the typical dynamic however that as soon as an outsider starts to hate on the individuals, that they pull together and deal with problems – mostly.

I never like to write spoilers in my reviews and I do not plan to start now. Some key players appear in the book, and they are all true to their character. The novel provides another perspective on these characters which is insightful and interesting.

The story is well constructed, cleverly written and easy to read. Some of the fight scenes it contains were so good my coffee went cold as I was so engaged. There is no abundence of overly floral language, though there is no lack of description either. Some of the scenes push the boundaries of what is ‘sensible’ (I know, it’s 40K but…) however, they are not ludicrous and are certainly exciting.

I really look forward to Blood Reaver, and enthusing about this awesome read to those who encouraged me to read them in the first place.

40K · book review · Warhammer 40000

Review: Dark Imperium – Guy Haley

815M7vUNz+L Talk about late to the party! This was released a while ago now and I’ve only just gotten around to ‘reading’ it. Bit of a confession, I listened to it on Audio Book instead. This was a new venture for me, and after I got over the voices and overly English accent of the reader, I found it enjoyable. I was able to paint and listen at the same time. Who knew…

I’ll start with the good. There are some really well constructed scenes in this story that enable the characters to show their core values well. For example, there is a part of the tale where Calgar and some of his cronies are dealing with an uprising. The opponents are mainly youths who are being used by adults because they are impressionable. The Ultramarines quickly realise how shoddy the work is but instead of just wading in to kill them, they decide to capture them and re-educate them so next time they can do a proper job of it. It made me laugh, could anything be more Ultramarine?

There are other interactions as well, Mortarion, Typhus and a daemon prince are talking via phychic ‘phone’, to which the Death Guard Primarch is outraged. The part where Uriel Ventris introduces himself to Guilliman is also marginally hilarious. All the characters play to themselves and are enjoyable in one way or another. The internalisation of Guilliman’s thoughts are also interesting and the contrast between the modern Imperium and what he knew are good to read. His frustrations are very relatable too. The language used to convey the characters, and the setting as well, is easy to follow.

Description wise, I think there are good and bad parts. The language used to describe the Death Guard and the Nurgle aspects of the novel are exceptionally well done. I had no idea there were that many words for guts. It allows the reader to really picture what the disgusting creatures look like. Some of it is quite nauseating and I liked that part. When it came to describing arches and other such things, I was less bothered. Some of the pacing of the novel is lost due to long descriptive passages or history lessons, which while vital for the background, I found rambly. There are some that enjoy such aspects, I am not one of them. I like to read the action and I like it to be fast paced.

There is also a lot of information on the Primaris marines and how much superior they are to the older spec of marine as well. It was when they had first been released however and I suppose they needed to be bigged up to the readership. They are fine by me and I rather liked the characters, especially when they they were relaxing in the mess hall lamenting that there was no booze to toast with. It made them seem human in many ways and I have always enjoyed reading about the human side of Space Marines.

This novel ambles, rather than surges, along and I am sure that if I was to tackle this as a read rather than a listen, I would have struggled with it. Still, it is worth reading all the same to get an insight into the mind of Guilliman. The other characters are no less engaging either and are certainly interesting.

40K · science fiction · Wh40K

Review: Prince of Crows

Time for reading is limited at the moment, however when I found myself with an hour to spare I knew what to do. I had left the Night Lords Trilogy at home but knew I had Prince of Crows on my iPad. I didn’t get it all finished in the one hour, I am not that quick at reading, but I certainly wanted to. I could not put this story down.

I shall try and relate its merits without too many spoilers.

Prince-of-Crows

The novel occurs after the disasterous Thamas Crusade and depicts the Kyroptera trying to piece back the broken fragments of their legion and work out what to do next. The first thing that struck me with this novel is that Sevatar is hilarious. I don’t think detatched, mass-murdering bastards are supposed to be that funny but he is written in a way that makes him utterly relatable. From the moment he decides to clean house, to the end of the novella, he is cracking one liners and shows an irrepressable cynicism that keeps the reader on his side. There are aspects of his personality that surprised me, and he does the COOLEST thing I have read about for a long, long time.

The narrative shifts in the middle of the novella to show an exploration of the childhood and growing up of Konrad Curze. I enjoyed the insight into the homeworld of the Night Lords. It was interesting, dark but interesting. It made me feel more sympathetic to him as well, in many ways.

Moving on from the great characters, I want to talk about the superb minimalist writing of the author. I always enjoy Aaron Dembski-Bowden and this novella is no exception to that. There was a particular line that gave me goosebumps when I read it, ‘The pale man burst the minister’s heart in his hand, in a rustling squeeze of abused meat.’ I don’t want to think waht thay says about me but this line really got me. It is not over described, it’s not over written and it allows the reader to fill in with their own imagination what it actually looked like. I discussed this with a friend of mine and they indicated this was one of the aspects that made the author brilliant and I find I am inclined to agree with them.

I won’t waffle on further about how amazing this novella is. Just go and read it. Do it for the quick witted, one liners. Do it for the immense action scenes, it is well worth the read.