Tag: David Annadale

Reign of the Devourer

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Marvel Untold novel Reign of the Devourer by David Annadale, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am also friends with David on Facebook, but I suspect that’s more about him connecting with fans rather than being a big fan of mine!

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What is Marvel

Look at this point I would bore you with a bit of background to the game/universe, but lets not, you all know the Marvel Universe, if you don’t have you been living under a rock!

The Story

This story focuses on Doctor Victor von Doom, the ruler of the Eastern European country of Latveria, and is a sequel to last years Harrowing of Doom.

In this story Dooms desire for power and control leads him to attempt to regain knowledge that was lost on Walpurgis Night in the previous book, and with the assistance of the priest turned geomancer Zargo and surgeon Orloff, he searches for a repository of stolen memories and knowledge buried beneath Latveria.

But Maleva Krogh, a former member of Latverias ruling elite has a connection to the Devourer of memories, and is granted the power of the Urvullak, a deadly strain of Latverian vampires who steal the very soul of their victims.

Conclusion

The book is a slow burner, it takes a while to get going, but once it does the action is frantic, and epic.

It’s a very different novel to its predecessor, in that book Doom knew what was coming and was planning several steps ahead, whereas in this book, he was forced to react to the Urvullak who he was not expecting whatsoever.

In the last book you got time to know the main characters in the build up to Walpurgis Night, whereas this book takes place over a shorter timeframe, and you get less of the background. So I would say that the previous book is best read before this for maximum enjoyment.

Zargos inner turmoil is really well written, he is a man who made a choice to deny his powers and take a different path, but now has that choice taken from him. He is tortured inside and he is forced to develop his abilities further to fight the threat of the Urvullak.

Orloff gets a lot more fleshed out as Doom takes her from practising medicine to developing a new science, which is eventually weaponised as she becomes a warrior and potentially Dooms greatest tool in the fight against Krogh.

My favourite part of the book really is Krogh and the Urvullak, they are written in a way that is terrifying and horrific.

What they do is so awful, they way they rip away your soul and transform you into one of them. They feel just as much a threat on their own as they do when amassed as an army.

They are chilling and something like out of a horror film, absolutely petrifying.

This book takes a turn toward horror that I wasn’t expecting, reinforcing Annandale as a writer who is one of licensed fictions best writers of the weird and dreadful.

This book gets 4 out of 5 stars from me!


You can buy the eBook now, and the paperback is available in the US now and will be in the UK on 28th April.


The Devourer Below

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book The Devourer Below edited by Charlotte Llewelyn-Wells, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

Stories in this collection are written by Evan Dicken, Georgina Kamsika, Thomas Parrott, Josh Reynolds, David Annadale, Davide Mana & Cath Lauria.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

Also I am friends with a couple of the authors on social media, not that we are close friends, for them its probably about connecting with fans rather than wanting to be my pal!

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What is Arkham Horror

Anyway that put to one side, let’s look at this book, by first looking at the game Arkham Horror which is a cooperative game, originally designed by Richard Launius, and is now in its third edition which was released in 2019.

It’s published by Fantasy Flight Games, a subsidiary of Asmodee, and is set in 1926 in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. Each player takes on the role of an investigator, who are working to stop the Ancient Ones, eldritch horrors which lurk in the void beyond space and time.

It’s a 1-6 player game and you work together to gather clues and defeat the evil of the Ancient Ones and save the world.

As I said I haven’t actually played Arkham Horror but I do own its spin off Elder Sign the cooperative dice game.

The Story

Like the rest of the Arkham Horror novels, its set in the 1920s, and this collection of short stories all feature characters from the upcoming new revised edition of the Arkham Horror Card Game Core Set.

So lets look at each story one by one and I will give you some brief thoughts on them.

Running the Night Whiskey – Evan Dicken

This story is about Leo, a war veteran who runs into an old comrade in arms and gets himself involved with a bootlegging run with very sinister consequences.

This story was fantastic to open the book as it really did have a loveable protagonist who whilst a bit naughty, but very loveable.

The story has hints of horror that finally culminate in an ending which is quite eldritch, and sets up the rest of what’s to come very nicely.

Shadows Dawning – Georgina Kamsika

Lita Chandler, a recent widower whose husband was murdered by cultists, is desperately trying to get revenge.

The story wasn’t big on horror as the others, but was interesting to read as Lita seemed to get more and more desperate as the story went on, there was a real sense that she had lost all control of herself in her desire for vengence.

You really do find yourself rooting for her.

The Hounds Below – Josh Reynolds

This is in my opinion the strongest story in the collection as a journalist, Holsten manages to convince the doctors at Arkham Asylum to let him interview Mr Drew, a war veteran with a particularly gruesome compulsion.

This story is very sinister and chilling as we slowly hear the backstory of Mr Drew and his decent into depravity and madness. The ending is very intense and an extremely horrific twist, a real page turner.

Labyrinth – Thomas Parrott

This is part one of a two parter and is the most unique of the stories, being the telling of a story from Greek Antiquity in a Lovecraftian way.

Joe Diamond is trying to save the life of an innocent girl and his research leads him to find a connection to the myths of the Minotaur from Greek myths, and its very horror filled.

The time jump was a bit weird, and this finish left me a little confused, but the second part resolved that issue, but it would have been nice if it was clear that this was a two part story as that wasn’t clear to me.

Its a really solid story and shows that the world of the Cthulhu mythos isn’t confined to a small part of New England.

All my Friends are Monsters – Davide Mana

This is one of my favourite stories as it sees the morgue worker, Ruth Turner find herself blackmailed into helping sinister and dark forces when her other life of cross-dressing, speakeasy visits and a queer relationship is discovered.

This is a tragic tale of how Ruth slowly finds herself getting involved deeper and deeper with the cult. Its a deeply engaging tale and you find yourself rooting for her and Charlie.

The plot is in my opinion the most engaging in the book and it got me hooked more so than the others.

The Darkling Woods – Cath Lauria

This is an okay story, but I found it less engaging than the others simply because it felt so obvious in its nature.

The characters didn’t speak to me and the plot felt rather forced.

But it was really well written and cleverly crafted story, I just couldn’t connect with it, and I felt it lacked the same horror as the other stories, but that was just me and I am sure others will feel differently.

Professor Warren’s Investiture – David Annandale

This story shows how easy it is to succumb to darkness and evil, as they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In this story Professor Warren has been working on a book about the occult for the past two decades, mocked by his colleagues at Miskatonic University, when a mysterious woman approaches him at the library and offers him all the occult secrets he ever desired.

Professor Warren feelings of anger and humiliation come through quite well and this story really does show how he was susceptible to the approach of the cultists.

Its a very interesting story in the way it plays with your emotions, you sympathise with Professor Warren, but at the same time are horrified by his choices.

Sins in the Blood – Thomas Parrott

The conclusion to Labyrinth and sees Joe Diamond team up with a waitress called Agness to save the life of Nadia.

I enjoyed this one, the pacing was just right and it built upon very solid foundations from the first part with the characters involved in a race against time and cultists to prevent Nadias life being taken by a horror of the old times.

My only negative comment about this story is that Joe kind of got overshadowed by Agness, despite his being the hero of sorts, perhaps had Agness been involved in the first story that would have felt better. But they had to do a lot to shoehorn her and her story into the limited time she featured.

Conclusion

This was a very enjoyable and creepy book, a lot of emotions were played with and some fantastic characters to root for, or be horrified by.

There were of course stories I enjoyed more than others, but in general they complimented each other very well and built a general idea about the particular cult who form the antagonists in this collection.

The length of each story was just right and allowed me to dip in and out over a couple of days, making it a very very easy to read book.

Its a good primer for the general idea of Lovecraftian horror and sets up the card game very well, potentioally giving you new insight to the characters you will play with.

The editing I would add is extremely good, other than the slight confusion about the two partner, nothing feels off, and the stories flow very nicely from one to another.

A good balanced anthology that leaves you wanting more.

5 out of 5 Stars


The eBook is out on the 6th July and the paperback on September 2nd.


The Harrowing of Doom

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Marvel Untold novel The Harrowing of Doom by David Annadale, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.

I am also friends with David on Facebook, but I suspect that’s more about him connecting with fans rather than being a big fan of mine!

I am going to try my best to not let that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

What is Marvel

Look at this point I would bore you with a bit of background to the game/universe, but lets not, you all know the Marvel Universe, if you don’t have you been living under a rock!

The Story

This story focuses on Doctor Victor von Doom, the ruler of the Eastern European country of Latveria, and his quest to free his mothers soul from Hell.

He teams up with a hermit witch Maria von Helm, as they work to change the rules around Dooms yearly duel with a champion of Hell, so that he might fuse science and sorcery to free the soul of his beloved mother.

But as with all things, there are forces allied against him, in particular an old enemy from before his revolution.

So the story whilst being about Doom, isn’t Dooms story, whilst a lot of it is told from his point of view, you also get the points of view of an enemy who hates him more than any other, his head of security, a priest reluctantly drawn into his web, his archivist and a nurosurgeon.

It would be so easy for David to have just done a story about a cackling mad scientist super villain, but this isn’t that story, instead its a bit more nuanced, its more insightful, giving us a glimpse into Dooms determination to not only free his mothers soul, but to protect his people.

And that’s one aspect of Doom, which is very much out there, he cares for the people of Latveria, yes they are his tools, yes they live in fear of him, but he genuinely cares and wants to protect them, with his rulership even coming over as considerably more liberal than that of his predecessor with trans citizens being afforded equal rights.

Whilst these books do inhabit their own universe in the Marvel multiverse, I think this book, a bit like the previous Domino novel, offers a look at a character is a way the comics, simply don’t manage very easiy.

David has managed to connect me to Doom in a way, i didn’t think possible.

Now if you listen to Edge of Empire, you will know I am not the biggest fan of Davids writing style, but in this novel, he manages to take a huge leap forwards, perhaps its having an editor who knows how the get the best out of him, but its a much easier read than most of his Black Library work. His sentence structures has tended to be so short and sharp, but in this book they flow so much easier than they did in say Ruinstorm.

I know David is an established writer, but over the past three or so years, it feels like his writing has become so much better, I used to be a bit irritated if he got to write a story in a series I was enjoying, but now I look forward to them.

Conclusion

This book works really well, and you know what, one of its strongest points is that it doesn’t even bring in much of the larger Marvel universe, it focuses solely on Doom, with a few mentions of other stuff, I think Richard Reed is mentioned once, AIM gets a couple of mentions.

But this book stands on its own and really gets you into the character and actually gets you rooting for him, especially given that one of the Marvel Universes biggest villains stands for trans rights!

This felt like it could easily be adapted into a movie in the MCU, its a very strong story and very well written.

You can buy the eBook now, and the paperback is available in the US now and will be in the UK on 7th January.


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