Tales from the Ten-Tailed Cat by Marc Gascoigne and Christian Dunn

(7.5/10)

Axminster the sage has wondered the empire - all four corners to be exact, yet he has not seen anything the likes of which he found at the Ten-Tailed Cat in Talabheim. A drinking den of debauchery, ale sipping and interestingly enough tale telling, for anyone who should stroll through the doors of this inn they have to abide the law of the Cat - tell a tale to those who listen or else!

The novel has several stories in it which span different times in the Warhammer world involving thieves, dwarves, skaven, daemon, musicians and assassins to name but a few. Each story is short, sweet and to the point, and as a graphic novel it is illustrated by several well-known artists in the field as well as a few who are just starting out.

The best art comes from Karl Kopinsky, Ian Peterson, Clint Langley, Roman Sydor and Jon Howard. Scripts by Dan Abnett, Gordon Rennie, Stu Taylor and James Wallis are unforgettable as they are read, but the real bonus to this book is that it can be re-read and lose none of its appeal. Even for those who are not familiar with the Warhammer universe, the humour and interest will still be there for the individual.

Each tale covers the main races of dark elves a corrupted race of pure elves, skaven who are mutated rats who live in the sewer system, daemons who try to lure humankind into slavery, Norsemen who should never be trifled with, wood elves of Athel Loren, and witch hunters who try the presumed guilty for their heinous crimes. Everyone is either comical, dark and doom laden, horrible, bloodthirsty or leaves a shiver down the spine, but as it is one of those novels that is comprised of several stories, the reader will rarely find those he does not like as they are written by some of the best tellers around. The initial introduction has the power to bring the reader right in straight away even before they get to the series of stories available. The stories tend to cover many time lines, all different, some that could span at least hundreds of years while some could have happened only months before. This aside, each one is powerful and enthralling enough to keep readers occupied for hours as they will have the urge just as I did of reading one a night and savouring the experience as it will certainly feel like such a guilty pleasure.

There are a few stories where themes are quite unexpectedly interesting. These included street performers, prophets and musicians which form the unusual while 'The Tale of the Brawl' proves that stealing is not always so profitable, certainly not in so ancient a time as this one. The story tells of a regular night in the Cat where the ale is watered down and business of the shady sort is going on as normal among Zern Slitbelt and Judder the Fence, their chat broken up by a fellow who decides to cause a fight. It is not long before that fight spreads; the whole place in a state of chaos while someone unknown tries to steal something of great value, yet it turns out badly for him in the twist at the very end. In 'The Vampire Hunter's Tale' Count Murnau weaves a story of treasure hunting and deviant activities to a pretty young woman, though a lone traveller decides to tell them his tale, a darker one of vampires who seek to drain the sustenance from unsuspecting humans. Only the traveller's story has its own twist the reader will only get at the very end. 'The Tale of the Musician' is a story on a more humorous note as a music player and an exotic dancer enter the Cat offering to entertain for only a few coins if the patrons wish to throw them in the players' hat, only something else unexpected happens ending in a very funny story. In 'The Witch Hunter's Tale' Richt Karver, a witch hunter from the Order of the Templars of Sigmar takes the opportunity to tell his own story of the part of the city no one knows about where evil lurked safe until it met with him and the rest of his order. One such evil, a servant of Slaanesh the god of pleasure and desire is caught and taken for questioning in the darkest of their dungeons. No matter what they do to the follower they cannot get him to tell them who lead the cult as this is a gory and bloody story where the ending is not what the reader would expect.

The characters in each story are either believable or humorously unbelievable but in any case they are impressive shorts in their sequential art format.

Every story had its own well-written punch-line humour or dark foreboding message or warning. The best stories tend to be the ones dealing with the daemons, dwarves and elves, as they have already been a great part of the Warhammer world. Any fan or would be appreciator of this type of fantasy compilation will be happy to get their teeth into such a great series of dark fantasy stories.

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