What an excellent novel. Short version: I loved it, go pick it up. Read on for the long version:
Everchosen is part one of Rob Sander's duology, dedicat...moreWhat an excellent novel. Short version: I loved it, go pick it up. Read on for the long version:
Everchosen is part one of Rob Sander's duology, dedicated to telling the story of Archaon, he who would become the Everchosen of Chaos, Lord of the End Times (which is the title of the second novel).
Archaon's character first appeared in Warhammer Fantasy lore as far back as 1998, in the 5th edition book Champions of Chaos. His entry in the book described him as a former templar who was corrupted by unknown means, disowned his old name and became henceforth known as Archaon. His path took him to the great northern wastes, following the prophecies of Necrodomo the Insane, towards his fate as the death to all existence. To lay claim to his destiny, he would need to gather the treasures of Chaos and unite the rivaling tribes of marauders and worshippers of the dread pantheon.
Fans of the franchise will be aware that Archaon, at the height of his power, led the Storm of Chaos from the front, ravaging the world of men, elves and dwarves. In 2004, Games Workshop turned this war of a massive scale into a whole summer campaign for their tabletop game, with further lore on Archaon being added via the campaign book.
I have been involved in the Warhammer franchises, Fantasy and 40k both, since that time. My first White Dwarf magazines depicted scenarios and new releases from the Storm of Chaos campaign. I marveled at the new Warriors of Chaos miniatures, the Dark Prince Be'lakor's model which still has not lost its charme 10 years later, and, of course, Archaon himself, sitting atop his Hellsteed.
With that in mind, you will hopefully see that I was absolutely excited for this novel. Archaon was one of my first points of interest when I entered the hobby, and his legacy in the Warhammer World was gigantic. I was ecstastic about the novel's announcement and the promise of seeing Archaon's rise to power. Now, having finished Everchosen, I can only offer my thanks to Rob Sanders for writing this novel, and its sequel. It exceeded my expectations.
Unlike many Warhammer Fantasy or 40k novels, Everchosen is not a story of massive armies marching to war, or about the triumph of good men over evil gods. Archaon is not a hero, even though his origins could have led him further down that way. If fate had permitted it.
What we got with Everchosen is, at its core, an (Anti-)Hero's Journey. We follow Archaon's life from before his inception, through his childhood, his righteous hate for the ancient foe, to his eventual fall from grace and the vengeance he seeks to bring upon the world.
Rob Sanders managed to construct an initially complex, yet at the same intuitive and natural way of telling his story. He succeeded in showing the reader just how inevitable Archaon's destiny is, by employing more than a few clever tricks. This allows the reader to see the hero live, struggle, and succumb. We get to see him at his best and at his worst, and all the shades in between those extremes.
Most importantly, we get to see a villain in the making, and are allowed to understand what made him so. I am not exaggerating when I say that Rob Sanders has managed to present me with the best-written villain I have seen in years, while still making me root for him to succeed. That takes some serious skill.
Rob Sander's prose, as usual, felt very colorful and laden with meaning. I would not describe this novel as an easy, or quick read. It surprised me more than once just how much content he was able to squeeze into a matter of pages, without making me feel like he was rushing things. The pacing, overall, was very, very good, despite the first half of the book jumping through the protagonist's childhood and early manhood. Key events are shown, while the author also hinted at things that could have been under different circumstances.
About halfway through the book, things slow down and a lot of characters from Archaon's hordes of followers get introduced, which worked wonders in showing us the exploits of the warlord without bogging the reader down with engagement after engagement. Things picked up soon after with more significant battles and encounters, however.
But that is not to say that Everchosen lacks in the visceral action department - no, sir! In fact, the action scenes in this novel are particularly eventful and exciting. More than once did I catch myself thinking "this would look awesome in a movie!" when Archaon went about to show how bad his backside is.
Sanders essentially managed to spend enough time with the important bits that developed Archaon as a character, warlord, villain but also a tragic figure, in very creative and reader-engaging ways.
As a result, he turned the legendary Chaos Champion into a well-rounded, relatable and even sympathetic character, while keeping him despicable enough for the reader to realize that he should actually feel bad about wanting to see him succeed.
I easily got my money's worth out of this shiny hardback release, and am eagerly awaiting spring 2015 so I may pick up Lord of the End Times. Archaon still has a few treasures of Chaos to collect, and face his dark patron. I cannot wait to see how things will turn out for him in the sequel.
Archaon: Everchosen gets my seal of approval and a well-deserved recommendation to fans of Warhammer Fantasy and grim fantasy stories alike.(less)
I rather enjoyed Duty & Honour. Having liked both Chris Wraight's Swords of the Emperor novels a few years back, I felt right at home with Kurt He...moreI rather enjoyed Duty & Honour. Having liked both Chris Wraight's Swords of the Emperor novels a few years back, I felt right at home with Kurt Helborg.
Helborg is as fierce as I remember him, willing to take risks to fulfill his duty. His view on the engagement is both complemented and contrasted by a lowly captain, whose views may conflict with the action taken in the story.
Seeing the events from both the perspective of the High Marshall and a rank and file captain kept the reader invested in the fighting, even where Helbrecht and his Reiksguard are not directly involved. While Helborg was the focus, this, and the nature of the feud with the Bretonnians, make for an engaging read, and the twist even surprised me a bit.
Wraight's writing is, like usual, clean and evocative. The Empire army's stalemate against the Bretonnian forces is depicted in a satisfying manner, and I had no issues seeing beyond the final events shown in the story.
I'd recommend this story to those interested in Warhammer Fantasy's Empire and its special characters, but also Bretonnia. I also feel that people who enjoy reading a good story about clashing swords and strategic stalemates set in a medieval world would not be amiss here.(less)
Skarsnik, as it turns out, was a much needed breath of fresh air for me.
Its narrative style, the gobliny wit, wrapped in humorous banter, and the stu...moreSkarsnik, as it turns out, was a much needed breath of fresh air for me.
Its narrative style, the gobliny wit, wrapped in humorous banter, and the stunning competence of Skarsnik, Warlord of the Eight Peaks, but also the incredible amount of detail put into describing the world under the mountains and greenskin society, make this novel one of my personal favorites of 2013.
The story is wrapped in multiple layers, from the overall point of view of the Doktor Wollendorp, who interviews a mad playwright in an asylum, to said madman's retelling of his experience in Skarsnik's realm, and the things the Goblin Warlord told him. Despite this, the book flows very nicely from one point of view and scene to the next.
Being a book about the life of Skarsnik at the core, this made sure that minor pieces in the story would not need to drag on unnecessarily, while still allowing for the creative freedom of the playwright. In the end, it serves to blur the line between fact and fantasy, making Skarsnik appear like a real threat to be reckoned with, but also made sure to leave things ambiguous and leave room for interpretation.
Multiple times throughout the novel Wollendorp and his companion would discuss the veracity of the madman's tale, and agree that it must be truthful in some regard, yet is undoubtedly embellished by the poet's vivid mind, and not everything should be taken at face value.
This should very well please those people who voiced concerns over the Warhammer Heroes series demystifying the special characters they portray, by taking away from the tabletop players' own interpretation of the hero. It feels to me that Guy Haley did a fantastic job at disspelling those concerns by telling his story in this particular way.
This quote from the book frames the whole novel very accurately:
"‘Make sure you tell all those humies, humie, make sure you tell ’em good, make sure you tell ’em about the king in da mountain. Tell ’em all about me, Skarsnik, tell ’em all about my life, leave nuffink out.’ [...] ‘And then, when you’ve told them all that,’ he whispered, his eyes blazing with menace, ‘tell all the other humies that I’m coming for them too.’"
That being out of the way, it is safe to say that Skarsnik's life was more than just eventful. It was a joy to read, to see the runt develop into a warlord to rival Grom the Fat, and follow in his footsteps. There have been many occassions when I just could not help but laugh about the suitably mean presentation of the goblin race, and can do nothing but applaud Guy Haley for his spot-on representation of the greenskins.
As with Baneblade, Guy Haley impressed me once more. His in-depth take on the Warhammer universe is so well put, I cannot come up with a good reason not to pick this book up if you have any interest in Black Library's Fantasy range.
In clear greenskin fashion, I give this book lots of stars. Purchase recommendation!
Headtaker is an incredibly strong novel and delivers a great demonstration of Skaven supremacy, lots of humor, schemes and backstabbing, stubborn dwar...moreHeadtaker is an incredibly strong novel and delivers a great demonstration of Skaven supremacy, lots of humor, schemes and backstabbing, stubborn dwarfs and heavy-hitting orcs, but also very visceral action and some truly thought-provoking scenes.
Queek Headtaker himself had fantastic character development throughout the book, becoming more and more menacing, shifting from pure madness and bloodlust to a genuinely fearsome warlord playing his own cards smartly. But not just the great Headtaker himself felt incredibly interesting to read about, but also the other Skaven characters, and the dwarfs. I am also not lying when I say that David's rendition of Goblins has made me laugh very hard indeed.
David Guymer really gets Skaven and the circumstances they live in, and I cannot wait for his next work (which would be a Gotrek and Felix novel).
The story itself, only released as an ebook, is about 1000 words in total - but what these one thousand words delivered was leaving quite an impressio...moreThe story itself, only released as an ebook, is about 1000 words in total - but what these one thousand words delivered was leaving quite an impression on me. Great eShort, now even more greedy for the release of Valkia the Bloody in July!(less)
Being the latest entry to the Warhammer Heroes series, I was quite thrilled to read more about the Hammer of Sigmar, as name-giving character Luthor Huss is called by some. Even more so because the novel's author is no other than Chris Wraight, whose Swords of the Emperor duology in the same series has already blown me away. Wraight managed to not only make the Empire appeal to me, but also present a genuinely interesting and extensive plot that was not yet covered by existent background material, which made it all the more exciting to read.
With my earlier excitement in mind, I went ahead to read Luthor Huss. Can the prophet of Sigmar himself follow the footsteps of Ludwig Schwarzhelm and Kurt Helborg and provide another solid, satisfying tale set in the Warhammer world?
The Story: "Witch hunter Lukas Eichmann investigates a series of bizarre murders, which ultimately lead him into the haunted depths of the Empire at the head of an army of fanatical warriors. In the Drakwald Forest, Luthor Huss, warrior priest of Sigmar, battles to free the denizens of the forest from a plague of the walking dead. As their fates entwine, the two warriors confront a threat that will decide their future, while Huss must face a secret from his past if he is to survive and embrace his destiny as the Hammer of Sigmar."
General Information Although it should be clear by now, Luthor Huss is a Warhammer novel. It is a story about Faith. Indeed, Faith is the leading theme throughout the whole novel, and despite not knowing much about Warhammer, if there's a tiny bit of interest in how people deal with their trust in higher beings, this story might really appeal to you. Set in the Empire, the biggest human civilization in the Warhammer Fantasy world, you get all the usual medieval themes, though less of the noble side of it than in The Red Duke, but more of a poor, miserable, hopeless point of view. The story is dirty, bloody and full of worship. If you can't cope with religious themes in fiction or reading about a good share of gore, you might reconsider picking it up. But if you love dark fantasy the way I do, you'll love this book and its deeper themes.
‘We will show them the path of valour. We will expose the lie that there is no answer to the prayers of the faithful, and demonstrate with our body, mind and soul that there is but one liege-lord for mankind, one master of our destiny and one hope for the redemption of us all, and that is the Lord Sigmar Heldenhammer, the Blessed, the Mighty, the Undefeated.’
— Luthor Huss, Chapter 10
Structure & Plot As all Warhammer Heroes novels do for the most part, this book focuses on Luthor Huss, Warrior Priest of Sigmar, who founded the Empire thousands of years in the past and is venerated as a God by the people of the Empire. Luthor Huss, having been self-exiled from the churches of the Empire's capital, disgusted by the political schemes of his peers, is a wandering priest, smiting the enemies of man wherever he encounters them. Wielding his mighty warhammer with skill, precision and burning faith, Huss himself is inspiring the people around him to greater deeds in Sigmar's name.
The book mainly follows two storylines, or better, two characters and their workings towards a goal they can only reach together. Only in the last quarter do witch hunter Lukas Eichmann and Luthor Huss meet, up until then they both follow the same taint on their own, uncovering a complex tale of heresy to the reader. While Eichmann tries to get to the core of the cults he has recently uncovered and follows the trail into the Drakwald, which lies at the heart of the Empire and is home to the vile beastmen, Huss fights to protect the villages at the border of the forest, or at least cleanse whatever taint remains. Following Luthor is a peasant girl, rescued from the ruins of a village ravaged by the undead, as well as a mad peasant who lost his mind over the horrors he has witnessed and recovers his hope throughout the book. Both play a vital role in the story, and also to Huss they are important, dealing as strong devices for plot and character development. Little do these characters know about the evil they would eventually reveal. The core of the heresy lies in the middle of the Drakwald, and to face it, Huss will have to face his past first.
Throughout the story the reader encounters Huss's memories, which reveal his path from beginning his life as a priest as an apprentice of his old master and end with his leave from the temple he called home after uncovering that even the servants of Sigmar are not infallible. Indeed, while not as clearly structured as the flashbacks in The Red Duke, these glimpses at the youth of Huss are a strong aspect of the book, and show us the origins of the prophet of Sigmar - innocent, pious, strong in body and mind - and also tell us about his inner thoughts on the world he would swear to protect. The otherwise silent and distanced hero thus grants the reader a more in-depth look into his character, psyche and faith.
There's not a single doubt that Luthor Huss tells a story about faith, first and foremost, however. Faith is a strong thing indeed, and Chris Wraight expertly shows just how it affects people, both positively and negatively, how it inspires them to unknown heights and how losing one's faith may crush his very existence. It is a story about people dealing with faith in their own ways; from witch hunters pursuing those who turned from Sigmar, the priests preaching His word, the people clinging to their miserable lives, looking to the Gods to lend them guidance, or even the zealots who have nothing left, nothing to lose, and pledge their bodies and souls to their Lord. Wraight shows us the matter of faith from a lot of different, yet intertwined angles, crafting a coherent tale that is both tragic and inspiring, proving the very point why faith is a very important thing in the Warhammer multiverse, and should never be neglected. They're just as important to Warhammer as sword and magic are, or the heroes wielding them.
Final Words & Verdict I genuinely enjoyed Luthor Huss from the first to the last page. I didn't find any chapter that unnecessarily dragged on, or didn't get to the point. In fact, it drew me in so easily, I felt bad whenever I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore or had other things to do than read (I almost read it while cooking easter lunch). Especially the religious aspects the book touches are impressively well written and mind-provoking. How is man supposed to deal with despair, the loss of hope and faith? What makes them believe? What brings them to embrace damnation?
Much like The Red Duke, Luthor Huss provides the reader with plenty of material to study the great character we've known for many editions of the tabletop game. In fact, Luthor Huss is once again featured in the 8th edition armybook of the Empire in Warhammer Fantasy, but did not get a new model (yet?). His background section in the armybook also does not match up completely with the novel, but if you ask me, I'd take his final test before becoming a full-fledged priest in the novel much superior than the version of the armybook. Rest assured, these minor inaccuracies are neglectable, and I'd rather think that they're due to deadlines rather than oversight. I'd also like to point out that this novel is set before the Storm of Chaos and the coming of Archaon the Everchosen of Chaos Undivided. There are some clever hints and references especially at the end of the book, that make me hope for a successor-novel, as Huss has yet a vital part to play.
Chris Wraight once again earned my deepest respect with this recent contribution to the Warhammer Fantasy world. It lived up to my expectations, and even better, it exceeded them. For the first hundred-or-so pages, I really did not know where the story would lead to, as it gradually built up the setting and cast, but at no point was I lost or lacked the excitement to go on reading. While the stage is rather the Drakwald rather than the cities of the Empire, I thought Wraight really pulled it off to make the old forest appear just as dangerous and deadly as it is supposed to, beastmen or not. The way the men dealt with the fear of being close to the treelines, or even venture into it, was both realistic and unnerving, even more so than the living dead attacking the human settlements. This sets the story into contrast to the Swords of the Emperor duology, as they played mostly in open field or cities, showing the human, civilized side of the Empire instead of the animalistic and frightening aspects normal folk has to deal with, apart from the big cities and the protection of armies. However, it appears that Chris can do both justice, and this makes him the ideal candidate to write more about the Empire of Man.
Dear Black Library, if you want to do the Empire justice, please invite Chris Wraight to write more books about it. If his name is on the cover, I'll buy it - not because of blind fanboyism (although it might have a minor role in it), but because his stories feel alive, right and to the point. He clearly knows what he is doing, and it shows. I clearly recommend picking up Luthor Huss, especially if you are tempted to pick up the Empire's 8th edition armybook.
As if Sword Guardian wasn't enough already to get me reading the Sigmar trilogy, the next thing I started after finishing Luthor Huss was Heldenhammer - I'm quite curious if Sigmar will be worth the Empire's faith. Looks good so far!(less)
The Red Duke ended up being exactly the type of novel I was expecting to read. It pulled all the right strings for me, invoked the right feelings and...moreThe Red Duke ended up being exactly the type of novel I was expecting to read. It pulled all the right strings for me, invoked the right feelings and thus leads me to recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys dark fantasy stories without any hint of hesitation. It might even be a fantastic novel to use for an in-depth character study. If you like real vampire stories, chances are excellent that you'll enjoy this book. If you enjoy knightly honour and human flaws set in a gritty world full of dirty realism, you should pick this one up. If you're a fan of Warhammer Fantasy, this book should be mandatory to read anyway.