Name: Blood Royal
Author: Will McDermott and Gordon Rennie
Length: 254 pages
Type: 40k, Necromunda
Hive world: Sprawling spire cities reaching to the stars, dense populations easily numbering in the hundreds of billions, centers of trade and power; a thing of absolute beauty. From orbit that is; on the surface a hive is a completely different world, or rather two. The Spire, residence of the upperclass, the ruling elite locked in a constant power struggle for who leads and who plots to try and take over; and Hive City, where its generally kill or be killed. Gangs are ever prevalent; fighting, crime, and death are all everyday occurrences; life is harsh and unforgiving, and bounty hunters like the infamous Kal Jerico would have it no other way. But when a horror descends from the Spire to wreak havoc on Hive City, the swarthy bounty hunter is thrust forward to stop it, and maybe cash in on a bounty or two, by an employer he simply cannot refuse: Gerontius Helmawr, lord of Necromunda and Kal Jerico's own father.
Yet again I find myself reading a book in which I must begin the review with praise. This time it is Blood Royal, a novel taking place in the hive of Necromunda and I honestly would want this no other way.
Like my previous book of choice, Blood Royal begins with a prelude of sorts. We are presented with the bounty hunter Arin Bester and this brief bit serves to give a taste of the general feel that is the world of Hive City and its occupants. Not to give anything vital away, but Bester is looking for a place to sleep, and one thing leads to another, a chainsword revs up and things happen. From here, we begin the story proper, staring with the chapter: family business. Amongst many things, this chapter serves to introduce the primary characters, Kal Jerico, Yolanda Catalus, and Scabbs. A true blue bounty hunter with a knack for being able to strike some of the best poses, a former Escher ganger turned bounty hunter, and a half breed cross of man and (likely) rat.
Since there is a whole world and way of life that needs to get established, at the start things are slow; but then I'd have it no other way lest detail be lost. Kal and Scabbs begin by trying to run down a potential snitch, and manage to do so despite some mishaps, until the beautiful Yolanda shows up to give them a hand. Through means of some less than honest methods, their snitch is forced into helping them obtain a bounty and things more or less go according to some plan.
Meanwhile, two side-plots that will eventually run into the main characters are going on. The first involving deaths up in the Spire, and then into Hive City itself as some form of evil descends, what is eventually known as the hive vampire. The second involving Yolanda's former gang, whose leader feels that Catalus needs to be killed for one reason or another. The first of these two is great because throughout the first half of the book you get hints that this vampire is more than it appears to be (or rather is rumoured to be) so you get the sense that it will have some important impact upon the story as a whole and are not disappointing.
The second serves more to bring us back into realizing that Necromunda is gang heavy, and this is how life works down there in the hive. You never really feel for the gang leader, she is the epitome of arrogant bitch, if you ask me, but her second displays an air of awesome and win that makes you want her to be the real leader. This side plot eventually merges with the main one, and not outright in a way you expect it to but by the end your rather happy things worked out the way they did.
After those two and the trio of bounty hunters do their work; they celebrate a job well done and its here that Kal is more or less snatched and thrust forward to learn of a real danger that only he seems able to put an end to. For those of you smart enough, you probably guessed it, Kal is charged with stopping that hive vampire and its more than just some sort of vampire. A few hours of aimless wandering and a mechanical dog later, Kal meets up with the rest of his crew, an epic scene unfolds, family is kidnapped, and Kal solves the mystery of how the vampire is getting around and rounds up a small army to put an end to things.
In the end, things culminate into a struggle between family; Jerico's father has given life to many sons, and no less than eight of Kal's relatives make appearances in this story. Leverage is gained for some, a vampire is slain for others, and at least one bounty hunter go's home with a warm feeling in his or her belly. (And at least one gets out with some decent stuff for making a few credits.)
The pace is glorious, Blood Royal isn't slow but its not to fast; you never feel like your missing something major. Better than that, it never feels like a drag because it has to explain to much, and when it does its not so much explaining things for the readers sake; and that was pretty cool. To fans of the game, Escher's, Goliath's, Spyrer's, Van Saar's, bounty hunters, the noble houses, assassin's, half breed mutants all get some sort of face time and thats even better.
-When the shit hit the fan at The Breath. You'll know where and what I'm talking about when you get there.
-Pretty much anything having to do with Derindi
-All those elements of Necromunda that are seen
-Sub-plot with Dutt and Bobo; I found their little bits a tad boring and helped to drag me out of any mood Kal and others were pumping me up to.
My final thoughts are a mix to be perfectly honest. Blood Royal is a great book and works well on its own, but I know full well it is the middle of the series of Necromunda books. Once upon a time I was looking for a new black library book to read, I saw the cover to Blood Royal and that it featured 'the underhives deadliest bounty hunter' and picked it up without a second thought. Honestly though, look at that cover: that's from '03, you tell me that is not bad-ass and awesome.
Looking back on that I wish I had gotten the preceding two novels and later the ones that followed. (They are stories of Necromunda, not necessarily of Jerico and company.) So while I say give this book a read, it is definitely worth it, I would also say give the others a read through as well. Well, assuming you can obtain copies of any of these that is.
Again, thank you for taking the time to read this; I am now off to try and decide what I should read next. Be it Drachenfels, Warrior Brood, or Bringer's of Deaths? (And remember, I pick a book and review it regardless of previous feelings. If the work is shit I'll say so when I get to the review.)