Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: Brunner The Bounty Hunter (Omnibus)

I finally finished this omnibus, and despite some initial reservations, I have to say I quite liked it.

Let me first mention what's in the book. The omnibus contains three previously published novels- Blood and Steel, Blood Money, and Blood of the Dragon, as well as the short story "What Price Vengeance". All the books/stories in the omnibus cover the exploits and adventures of Brunner, a mysterious bounty hunter known to always get his man, creature, or anything.

Now, I listed the omnibus' inclusions as books, but two of the books are actually compilations of short stories that often have nothing to do with one another. This is one thing that is both a good and bad thing about the book.  The short stories (12, I think) let you see Brunner in a variety of situations, and interacting with a variety of people from either his past as a bounty hunter, or the hinted-at past prior to him becoming one.  However, you don't often see much connection between people in the short stories, aside from a few cases, and what seemed a fairly important character mentioned in the first story is never mentioned again, which I found a little peculiar.  Having a career as a bounty hunter in a world like the Warhammer one would probably be a life where the feel of moving from one adventure to the next would be fairly accurate, so although it's probably not to everyone's taste, it definitely moves well enough to not hinder a reader's enjoyment.

Brunner as a character is more interesting than I originally expected.  When you're starting to read through the first story in the omnibus ("What Price Vengeance") you can obviously tell he's very cold, skilled ('unbeatable' is the trait I believe the author was going for), and ruthless.  The character seems actually very shallow: he wants money; he takes jobs to get it.  However as you read along, you can feel there's definitely more to him, and that there's certainly more to his past than you'd expect.  You also learn that he does have a goal (vengeance), and find out why.  I won't say the character is very highly developed, even by the end, but there's certainly several steps made in that direction.

The setting is a little different for Warhammer.  Much of the action takes place in the city-states of Tilea, and almost the entirety of Blood of the Dragon takes place in some of the darker parts of Bretonnia.  Although I thought that the setting would add to the book's appeal, I honestly felt several times that the book wasn't even set in the 'Warhammer universe', despite the obvious appearances of Skaven, Dragons, Orcs and Dark Elves.  That's probably an unfair assessment of mine, because as a fantasy setting much of Warhammer's uniqueness is its history and not the races that make up the world... and you shouldn't expect to read its history in every book.  The setting is well enough developed to provide a good backdrop for Brunner's adventures, but that's about all- and that's really all it needs to be, given the scope of the adventures.

One thing I loved about the book, but missed much of until about halfway through, is little hints that the author puts into the story, both through characters, dialogue, and Brunner's own thoughts, that tell you more of who Brunner is, and why he's doing it.  I will say, after reading the ending of the Omnibus, I immediately read the first story again, because I didn't realize the connection between a few occurences and characters until very near the end.  I'm not sure that everyone will miss them like I did, but I think that's a testament to Werner's skill that there are still pieces to pick up from the story even after you've read it.

I would recommend this book to people who like Black Library books, although I probably wouldn't direct people who are interested in either the Warhammer or 40K settings to start with this book.  C.L. Werner has some great contributions to the Black Library collection, and although I don't think this is one of his best, it certainly is quite enjoyable, and I hope he continues to write for the character at some point in the future.


  1. By the way, I realize my book reviews aren't the best-written prose on the internet, but I'm trying to get better at writing them, so hopefully you will see progress in them as I get them written. It's harder than I thought it would be... which means it's definitely something worth me doing, just so I can get better at writing about books (never know when it comes in handy!)

  2. I have just about finished this omnibus and agree it is a bit different to usual warhammer fair but still quite a good read. Some of Mr Werners other books haven't impressed me so this was a bit of a surprise. And I agree, you pick up more and more about the character as you read it through - somethings he says early on mean nothing until a bit part later on.

  3. Yeah, after finishing I went through a few of the stories, just to try to pick up things. I'm sure if I read it front to back again I'd get a lot out of it, but I really don't have the time for a second readthrough.

  4. I also liked th book...