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Retro Reviews: Tainted Blood by Nathan Long


Retro Reviews: Tainted Blood by Nathan Long



Tainted Blood
Author:  Nathan Long
Series:  Black Hearts 3
Original Publisher and Date:  Games Workshop, July 4, 2006
Availability:  You can find it used online and in omnibus format
ISBN:  9781844163717 (print)

Retro Reviews: Tainted Blood by Nathan Long
Brief History

Nathan Long started writing at the age of 12 and spent several years writing screenplays for TV and films. He's written 15 novels in the Warhammer shared world so far, and Valnir's Bane was his first book published in 2004. His first original world book is Jane Carver of Waar, a parody/ode to Edgar Rice Burroughs. He's also written a few video games.

The Black Hearts series is a reflection of Long's love of the old classic film heroes, everyday men who went through incredible events, and, just as often as they were heroic, they also showed their fear or weaknesses.


Description

Still shocked by the death of their comrade Abel, Reiner and his cut-throat companions, the Blackhearts, are horrified to learn that there may be a spy amongst them. Imprisoned and forced into dangerous missions under threat of death, they are press ganged into working as bodyguards for their "employer", Count Manfred, as he journeys to Talabheim, where the forces of magic are running wild. With enemies all around and a traitor within, can the Blackhearts solve the mystery and save the city from destruction?



Brannigan's Review

I'm sad to see this series come to an end. I found it by mistake and count myself lucky. Tainted Blood the last book in The Black Hearts series takes you out with a bang.

Tainted Blood starts out with the Black Hearts at their worst with a traitor among them. Who it is and how not knowing the identity of the traitor worms its way into all the Black Hearts and nearly destroys them. I enjoyed the intrigue and guessing and was honestly surprised with the reveal. Long continues to shine with his characters, we see several continue to grow and meet new ones along the way. It amazes me that he has been able to kill off so many members of the Black Hearts and add more with each book. So many authors are unable to find the right balance in killing their darlings, but Long is one of the few that does it right.

The main storyline is a lot of fun as the Black Hearts are once again forced into service and find an impossible path out trouble. Long continues to raise the stakes without turning the whole thing into a gross misuse of the fantasy genre. I love it when an author brings things back from past books without making corny mistakes. It gives the series as a whole a united feel and also helps bring the story to a satisfying ending.

My only complaint with the book or the series as a whole is that it's over. I wish I had another book to read of the Black Hearts. Thankfully, I bought the omnibus, so I have a couple of short stories to enjoy. Nathan Long is now an author I will be keeping my eyes on for future releases. I hope he continues to write in the sword and sorcery genre that he does so well. I'd also love to see him write in his own world. I think he could bring us something new an interesting in world building.

Tainted Blood is sadly the final book is the series, but I'm happy with how it ended, which is more important than how it all began, because now it'll be a series I'll reread for years to come—a testament to Long's skill and the characters he created. There are a few minor moments of descriptive violence and implied sexual activities, but I have no problem recommending this book to teens or adults. It's a go-to series for me to recommend to anyone who enjoys cheering on reluctant heroes without having to be disgusted by them. It's got it all folks. Go buy all three books or get your hands on the omnibus. You'll thank me later.

Retro Reviews: The Broken Lance by Nathan Long



Retro Reviews: The Broken Lance by Nathan Long


The Broken Lance
Author:  Nathan Long
Series:  Warhammer: Black Hearts
Original Publisher and Date:  Games Workshop, November 29, 2005
Still in Print:  Not as an individual novel
Current Formats and Length: Paperback, 256 pages
Availability: You can find it used online, or in omnibus format.
ISBN: 9781844162437

Retro Reviews: The Broken Lance by Nathan Long
Brief History

Nathan Long started writing at the age of 12 and spent several years writing screenplays for TV and films. He's written 15 novels in the Warhammer shared world so far, and Valnir's Bane was his first book published in 2004. His first original book written out of the shared world is Jane Carver of Waar, a parody/ode to Edgar Rice Burroughs. He's also written a few video games.

The Black Hearts series is a reflection of Long's love of the old classic film heroes, everyday men who went through incredible events, and, just as often as they were heroic, they also showed their fear or weaknesses.


Back Cover Description

A deserted outpost...A cry for help...or a trap! In the second book of the "Black Hearts series", Reiner and his band of reprobates are given a new mission. All communications with a vital Imperial border fort have been lost, and they are sent to find out what's going on - has the commander gone rogue, or are more sinister forces at work! The memorable rogues from last year's Valnir's Bane return with another tale of bravery and treachery. Reiner and his fellow criminals are back with another suicide mission. Can their luck hold out once more!


Brannigan's Review

In my review of Valnir's Bane, I mentioned I came across this series by mistake as I was looking for a different series with the word 'black' in the title. Since then, I've read the first book in each series and The Black Hearts series is by far the more enjoyable one, so I had to dive into its second book.

The Broken Lance is a superb second book. It gets right into the action and has an even quicker pace than the first book. Our favorite group of dishonorable men—and one woman—find themselves once again forced to serve the crown on a secret mission to discover the intentions of a general that feels slighted by the king. Of course, Nathan Long begins to throw enjoyable twists into the plot that force the protagonists to battle with the choice of protecting their own hides or saving the kingdom again.

I truly enjoy a well-written rogue, and Long does it marvelously. He knows how to make scoundrels worth rooting for. It's one of the reasons I hate the modern, dark, and gritty fantasies with their unlovable rogues. I want to laugh and cheer my scoundrels to victory. Even with the fun of the book, Long still allows moments of emotional weight to come into the story and show that his characters have substance.

The Broken Lance is the second book everyone wants to read. It adds to the mythology of the characters and amps up the action and twists. I'll be reviewing the third book in the near future so keep an eye out for it. There are a few minor moments of descriptive violence and implied sexual activities, but I have no problem recommending this book to teens or adults. After enjoying the first and second book, I recommend you go out and buy your own copy, or better yet, the omnibus.

Retro Reviews: Valnir's Bane by Nathan Long



Retro Reviews: Valnir's Bane by Nathan Long


Valnir's Bane
Author: Nathan Long
Series:  Warhammer: Black Hearts
Original Publisher and Date:  Games Workshop, December 16, 2004
Still in Print:  No
Formats and Length: Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
Availability:  You can find it used online
ISBN:  9781844161669

Retro Reviews: Valnir's Bane by Nathan Long
Brief History

Nathan Long started writing at the age of 12 and spent several years writing screenplays for TV and films. He's written 15 novels in the Warhammer shared world so far, and Valnir's Bane was his first book published in 2004. His first original book written out of the shared world is Jane Carver of Waar, a parody/ode to Edgar Rice Burroughs. He's also written a few video games.

The Black Hearts series is a reflection of Long's love of the old classic film heroes, everyday men who went through incredible events, and, just as often as they were heroic, they also showed their fear or weaknesses. He has mentioned that he likens Valnir's Bane to the Dirty Dozen in the world of Warhammer.


Back Cover Description

Fantasy heroes come in all shapes and sizes, but few are less able to fit the classic image than the Blackhearts. In a terrific twist on the classic war story, this disreputable band of convicts is released from the dungeons and given a grim choice: volunteer for a suicide mission or die by the noose. They do the former, of course, but when they learn their quest is to venture deep into the lands of the enemy and retrieve an ancient relic that could turn the tide of the war, they begin to seriously regret their choice. With broad characters and violent action, this riotous novel introduces the Blackhearts in just the first of a planned series of adventures.



Brannigan's Review

I have two confessions to make. First, I actually bought this book by mistake. Back before I had a smartphone to take notes on, I read an article talking about a great fantasy series called The Black Company, and while I was perusing a bookstore I remembered the article, but only that the word black was in the title. I saw this book, saw Blackhearts, and thought, this is it. Once I got home, I found out I had purchased the wrong book, but the back cover description sounded good so I wasn't too upset. Later, I found The Black Company by Glen Cook. My second confession is I have only ever read one Warhammer book before, and, to be honest, I wasn't impressed. I have also never played their role-playing games, so I have no real background in the Warhammer world. For these two reasons, I left this book on my bookshelf unread for several years. Once again, the Retro Review has come to make amends in my life. For my second Retro Review this month, I will finally read Glen Cook's The Black Company, as it inspired this whole serendipitous event.

Reading Valnir's Bane felt like watching one of your favorite childhood or teen movies on a day you had nothing better to do. I know we all had those films. I can't tell you how many times I watched Die Hard on an old VHS tape as a kid. I loved that film. Valnir's Bane is like that almost immediately: you like the characters, their interaction with each other, and their disdain for authority and rules. The 'heroes' (I use that term lightly because no one but the villains of the book would ever consider themselves heroes) are all very real. Well, let me stop myself, most of them feel real. For the most part, all of the characters are fleshed out as they attempt to fulfill their mission. At the beginning, it takes some time to figure out who everyone is. There are nine prisoners and a leader/guard. Out of the 10, only five make it to the end. Reiner Hetzau, a pistolier, is the primary character and closest thing to a true hero. I say closest because for the first half of the book he's only concerned with protecting his own hide and using the others as bodyguards. He's also a gambler, womanizer and disgraced noble.

Now, I wouldn't consider these characters anti-heroes in today's sense of the word. In today's fantasy fiction with the sub-genre of dark and grim fantasy that's out there, you would expect these guys to be much much worse than they are to be labeled anti-heroes. I'm more apt to call the Blackheart group reluctant heroes. I actually prefer a reluctant hero over an anti-hero because I feel good about rooting for someone even if they try to deny the good inside themselves.

The pacing of the book is perfect for its length. It has an episodic feel as one trial after another hurtles the group toward the climax, where fighting against every opportunity to be heroic until they realize if they don't save the world, no one else will. Long has a talent for putting his characters through hell. I kept thinking that sooner or later these guys have to catch a break, but for the most part they never do. Still, you're kind of glad they don't because they come up with some entertaining ways out of those messes.

For being a book in a shared world, I didn't feel like I was missing anything. Long provided enough information to get a feel for the world and the different warring factions. And, for a book this size, Long did a great job spending time with the characters that mattered.

Valnir's Bane is a comfort book, immensely satisfying, with a quick pace. After reading the first book in the trilogy, I look forward to reading the other two books to spend some more quality time with heroes I could relate to. There are a few minor moments of descriptive violence and implied sexual abuse off camera, to borrow a film term, and little if any bad language, for these reasons I have no problem recommending this book to teens or adults. This is definitely a book to borrow from a friend or the library. I personally will be keeping my copy for future reads, but due to the fact you have to hunt for the book, maybe wait to read it before grabbing your own copy.

Retro Reviews: Tainted Blood by Nathan LongRetro Reviews: The Broken Lance by Nathan LongRetro Reviews: Valnir's Bane by Nathan Long

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