Thursday, December 31, 2009

Warpsword by Dan Abnett & Mike Lee

I am a huge fan of Warhammer 40,000 fiction.  I think it is brilliantly done, combining a deep philosophical/religious undertone with fast-paced action, a moody, gothic environment, and great storytelling.  As I have gradually shifted to adding a little more fantasy to my reading plate lately, I had been meaning to get into some of the fantasy side of Black Library's buffet, with Warhammer.  Particularly after reading Andy Remic's Kell's Legend, which is cut from a similar mold, I thought that the time was right.  And then it just never happened.  I have no idea why, but my tastes diverged from that region a bit.  Yet, when I picked up the December releases from Black Library, the time finally was right.  The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two, the second omnibus of the novels following the saga of the titular character, Malus Darkblade, seemed like a good place to start.

The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume One (which contains the novels The Daemon's Curse, Bloodstorm, and Reaper of Souls, as well as the short story "The Blood Price") set the stage, introducing Malus Darkblade, a dark elf who becomes possessed by the demon Tz'arkan, and must search out the five artifacts that were used to bound the demon in place.  If h fails, Tz'arkan will hold his soul for eternity.  While these stories look like a lot of fun, and I want to pick up a copy of the omnibus one day, they aren't necessary to enjoy The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two.

The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two begins with the novel Warpsword.  Having recovered three of the five artifacts, Darkblade sets out for Har Ganeth, home city o the god Khaine.  Here is the resting place of the Warpsword of Khaine, the fourth item needed.  However, Darkblade's half-brother, Urial, wants to lay claim to the sword himself, and he is in far better position to do so.  What begins as a quest of espionage becomes outright was as Darkblade's plans go awry, the artifact may be more (or less) that it appears, and old enemies return.

If Warpsword is any indication of what Warhammer has to offer, then I can't wait to dive into more.  The novel was fast-paced, extremely full of action, and a clever plot that even managed to pull off some dry humor.  The character Malus Darkblade is very well thought out.  He has far more dark in him than good, but he still manages to be a character you cheer for.  His story was full of plot twists, and you could almost feel his exhaustion as he waded through fight after fight and injury after injury.  Abnett & Lee make a solid team, mixing the moody atmosphere with an exciting tale.  The story occasionally felt like it lagged a bit, but that was a rare occurrence indeed, and was made up for every time with an over-the-top action epic the following chapter.

The chracters are great, the setting is excellent for the story, and the plot was wonderful.  The most fun I have had reading a fantasy novel in some time.


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