I do not read many Warhammer Fantasy books from Black Library, though I’ve long wanted to pick up Gilead’s Blood. I vividly recall the cursed, gloomy and enigmatic elf warrior named Gilead from way, way back in Black Library’s old Inferno Magazine.
Gilead’s Blood reprints several of the old, loosely connected Gilead stories (though I don’t have copies of the old Inferno issues… there might have been changes). I wasn’t disappointed by (re-)reading the tales of Gilead. My fond memories weren’t only rose-coloured nostalgia.
Gilead’s Blood was great. The stories were as good as I (vaguely) remembered them. It’s doom-laden, dark and heavy, but – I think – some of Dan Abnett’s and Nik Vincent’s very best stories.
Gilead te tuin Lothain, last of the line of the elf princes of Tor Anrok, is a shadowfast warrior without a war, an inspirational leader without an army and a tortured soul without a home. With his faithful retainer Fithvael at his side, Gilead wanders the Old World, slaking his thirst for vengeance on the dark creatures that stalk the forests, the mountains and the cities of man.
From foul, corrupted beastman to the elite warriors of the Dark Gods, Gilead brings death to the servants of Chaos whenever he finds them, no matter the cost to himself.
#1 – About the Book
First up, this is a regular ol’ trade paperback book (re-)published a year or two ago. It’s slightly slimmer than a “full” Warhammer 40K (and presumably Warhammer Fantasy) novel, running to about 300 pages. Black Library sells it for £8.99 and Amazon a few pounds cheaper.
As noted, Gilead’s Blood is not really one single novel. Neither is it a short-story anthology. It is a collection of six “Gilead-stories”, which were (mostly?) published previously in Black Library’s bi-monthly Inferno Magazine. Thus, they are stand-alone stories for the most part, though there are frequent references in later stories to events in the previous ones. Moreover, the stories tell different, but consecutive tales in the life of the Elf-Warrior Gilead and his companion Fithvael.
#2 – Why Gilead’s Blood is a Great Read
Gilead’s Blood is not an easy book to review. It’s great, but not so much because of the story told, but because of the character – Gilead – who features in these tales.
Not that the story – or stories – are bad. They are not. Far from it. The final tale in the book for example – Gilead’s Swords – is a brilliant Old-World-Fantasy take on the classic Seven Samurai story. Lots of great side-characters, as well as bloodshed and mayhem galore.
Still, the book’s is Gilead himself. He is a true rarity, a brilliant, deep character who is interesting to read about, even when he isn’t shadowfast, tearing apart Chaos worshippers with his blade.
Gilead is a noble-born Elf Warrior, who loses his twin brother Galeth early on. This defining event in Gilead’s life itself a brilliant opening story. Though Gilead is a deadly warrior, his brother’s death throws him into a deep, brooding depression for the rest of his life, forsaking his inheritance and roaming the Old World, last of his line, finding respite usually only in bloodshed and battle.
Gilead is a dark, gloomy and unsettling character. He’s not just a “little dark”, to be more edgy, the way apparently everybody these days – even Superman – needs to be a little dark and gritty. No. Gilead is downright “this-guy-seriously-needs-heavy-medication-mental-illness” dark.
Few works of fiction – Black Library or not – play the bleak anti-hero-theme as unflinching as Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent do in these stories. Gilead is a cursed, cold-blooded killer, whose own inner demons make him oblivious to the sometimes-heroics he occasionally ends up doing, usually at the nudging of his companion Fithvael.
And every time I thought the story was about to take a gentle turn to more main-stream heroics, things end in bitter tears or phyrric victories, all of which only drive Gilead deeper into brooding madness.
#3 – The Verdict
Gilead’s Blood is definitely a book worth reading.
I was tempted to give it a five-star rating. I shaved off half a star, simply because not all six stories are equally brilliant (though all are equally bleak). Even the weaker ones are worth reading however, and the better stories are among the best Dan Abnett and Nik Vincent have ever written!