608 pages, GW Books, ISBN-13: 978-1841542768
Lo, many moons ago, during the elder days of Games Workshop’s production of tie-in novels, one of the coeditors of GW Books (their publishing subsidiary before they reached a deal with Boxtree, which lasted until the foundation of the Black Library, the current Games Workshop publishing arm) was David Pringle, who at the time also edited the widely-respected SF magazine Interzone. This allowed him to draw on a wider range of talent than, say, the publishers of Dungeons & Dragons tie-in novels ever could, although many of the people he convinced to write for GW Books chose to write under pseudonyms. David S. Garnett, known more for his revival of classic SF magazine New Worlds as an anthology series than for his writing, is one of those individuals; under his “David Ferring” pseudonym, he wrote a trilogy of novels set in the Warhammer fantasy world – Konrad, Shadowbreed and Warblade – which were latterly collected into an omnibus edition called The Konrad Saga, reviewed here.
The tale of Konrad revolves around the eponymous character, an orphan who works in a tavern in a small village in the Empire who, after launching a quest to discover his origins after his village is destroyed, becomes a hero through the intervention of various important mentor figures at various points in his youth to young adulthood. That’s how the story begins and that is what much of what Konrad covers, and this first part of the story isn’t too bad, but after this promising start the author never really pursues this storyline. Unfortunately, the Shadowbreed and Warblade are nowhere near as good, as both of these books spend a lot of time going over old ground that was covered in the previous books. Really, now, there is no need to constantly remind readers of what happened in previous books to this degree, especially if you’re selling them in this omnibus format; the editor or whomever should have removed these constant recollections/remembrances as they seem to have been nothing more than filler for parts two and three of this trilogy. And the ending…well, don’t get me started.
The Konrad Saga starts strong but eventually peters out without any real purpose or drive and suffers from a lack of originality and a sense of pointlessness; it just feels like the author couldn’t figure out where to take the character or how to develop the story, and so chose to chase his own tale over 600-or-so pages. Just compare it to another early work in the Games Workshop library, the Inquisition War trilogy by Ian Watson: both are different in nature to other Black Library books set within the Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000 universes (respectively), as each was written before the respective “canons” were settled. But whereas Watson’s series was a masterpiece of Picasso-like mind-bending insanity, Ferring’s (or rather Garnett’s) is like a paint can turned on its side; it isn’t clever art, it’s just a mess that needs to be cleaned up before someone trips over it and makes an even bigger mess. Worth a read for dedicated Black Library fans, perhaps, but otherwise don’t worry too much about pursuing this one.