|Submitted by Fraser Gough |
(Aug 10, 2004)
I should preface this review with notice that readers unfamiliar with the Games Workshop (Black Library) series of books should raise the rating from three globes to four; it is an excellent specimen of fantasy fiction but, for reasons discussed below, simply not up to the standards of other books in this 'series.'
Abnett is a writer of exemplary skill and his portrayl of action and description is outstanding. A mature approach is taken to the fantasy elements, which is complemented by research into the appropriate real life historical context (the fantasy Empire, is based approximately on continental Europe around the early seventeenth century). The parllel tales of the books two protagonists are well plotted and well developed.
The central weakness of the book is that the theme is by now a well travelled one in the context of Games Workshop literature. The descent of decent people into evil and the warping effects of Chaos have been covered extensively and with equal proficiency by a number of other authors (eg. Neil McIntosh's 'Star of Erengrad' series. Novelty is only partially provided to the theme by the non-Chaos related changes in the life of the other central character.
It may also be that the material is somewhat stretched. Black Library books were spawned from Inferno magazine (a collection of short stories) where Abnett and others cut their teeth (at least in the Games Workshop context). By the end I was left with a sense that scenes were doing little to drive forward the central narrative of the book.
Nonetheless, this is a compelling read which compensates for lack of originality with great style and flare of execution. If you're new to Black Library publications it is an ideal introduction as a stand alone tale. For those already well acquainted with the World of Warhammer I doubt I need to sing the praises of Dan Abnett or the mythos of the entire universe any further.