A Murder in Marienburg (Warhammer) Mass Market Paperback – 8 May 2007
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About the Author
"David Bishop was born in New Zealand, becoming a newspaper journalist at the age of eighteen. He emigrated to Britain in 1990, and worked as the editor of 2000 AD before becoming a freelance writer. A prolific author, he writes tie-in fiction, articles, audio dramas, comics and has been a creative consultant for a number of video games.
Top customer reviews
Warhammer novels interconnect, rendering it easy to read one book and then find the same small details again in another. Thus, as with all Warhammer publications, the context and atmosphere of the story (grim and darkly foreboding, here too with old rodent acquaintances playing a significant part in populating the plot's background) fit into the pre-established background of Warhammer World, which plays a decisive role for the story-telling. David Bishop, the author, remains true to the Germanic nature of the empire and it's cities by lending Marieburg the feeling of a 16th century Dutch harbour city: localities and institutions are given Dutch-sounding names (e.g. Winkelmarkt, Suiddock, staadsrad), while the political and commercial systems are bourgeois in nature with guilds holding the reigns of power and ruling trade, operating on both sides of the law. At the same time, the gap between layers of society remain wide, adding to the clouded atmosphere of despair and impending violent change. Admittedly, though, this novel is easier on the blood-and-gore part of things than others I have read before, which is a welcome change [I get the feeling that more and more Warhammer authors, such as Graham McNeill or Andy Jones, refrain from focussing their story on slaughter and obsessively detailed descriptions of various kinds of malformation or ways of dying].
Bishop's main characters are not one-dimensional (i.e. being neither the walkover hero nor the all-evil idiot oblivious to the all too obvious tactics of the hero), although character-development is limited, e.g. to insights regarding the story's main plot. Supporting characters usually get their 15 lines worth of attention when they eventually die... An idiosyncrasy of some Warhammer novelists that I find slightly annoying, and that is displayed in this novel, is the way of naming characters: by chosing German or German-sounding adjectives as names, the supposedly main characteristic of that particular figure is drawn out. Often, though, the utility of using such names is rather limited by the author's acquaintance with the language. After a while, though, one doesn't actually 'read' the names anymore but simply recognises the character by the letter combination in a kind of cognitive dissonance.
In summary, "Murder in Marienburg" is an entertaining and quick read with a likeable group of protagonists, and I would enjoy reading another instalment of Marienburg's city watch around Captain Schnell. It's another good example from Warhammer's rich world of fantasy (and BlackLibrary authors' plethora of adjectives...).
Most of the characters are quite well presented, the watchmen are reasonably 2 dimensional, but some have good development potential. Protagonist, Kurt Schnell, reads like a bit of a cliché: the old soldier who becomes a copper. His blend of cynicism and idealism has also been seen many times before, usually better presented, and at times the character even directly quotes Commander Vimes of Ank Morpork of Discworld fame.
In general, however, the first 70% of the book is a decent read.
After this, though, Both bishop and the story fall face-first in a puddle of brackish Marienburg seawater: firstly he uses the Skaven Ratmen as the monstrous enemy under the city, something that has been overexposed so badly in Warhammer fiction that they are no longer particularly scary. Nor are the Skaven even believable as hidden monsters from the shadows any more. The fact that their existence is unknown after several open battles and, as in this book, a full scale assault on a building in an overpopulated area, is just simply too far fetched.
In addition, once the great, inevitable climactic showdown comes around, Bishop seems to have no idea how a simple crossbow works despite having written them quite realistically earlier. By the end of the book he seems to have become obsessed with the idea that every crossbow is some kind of super repeater weapon with a "clip" of bolts that is "slotted in" somewhere. Admittedly such weapons did exist, but they were not in regular use in Europe where the Warhanner world takes most of its inspirations.
And to add insult to injury, when Kurt's "tragic background" (tm) is revealed it's so full of soppy, illogical plot holes it almost made me put the book away in disgust.
Like I said, this book begins well, it's decently written, and it has great potential. If Bishop could do his research better next time, and possibly keep his pen sharp enough to stay the course of a book there may be something gleaned from it.
Good cast of well developed characters help make this a great read. I just feel the end is a bit weak, but I wouldn't let this put anyone off.
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