Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Call to Arms by Mitchel Scanlon

NOTE: Call to Arms was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by The Black Library.

Of the admittedly small amount of Warhammer Fantasy fiction that I have read, I’ve seen elves and monsters of Chaos, demons and dwarves, but beyond some of the stories in Death & Dishonour, there has not been a lot about humans. Warhammer’s Empire Army series is rectifying that, putting out stand alone novels that focus on the soldiers of the Empire (similar to Black Library’s SF-nal Imperial Guard series). Call to Arms is the third book in the series, although they are all self-standing and don’t need to be read to enjoy the others.

Dieter Lanz is on his way to join with the 3rd Hochland Swordsmen, known as the Scarlets, when an orc army begins to march through the countryside. Arriving just in time to join the Scarlets in a crushing defeat, Dieter and his new comrades fight to stay one step ahead of the oncoming orc army, hoping to survive long enough to find a way to stop them.

Mitchel Scanlon begins his story with a bang, and the action never lets up throughout. His battle scenes feel realistic in their lack of romanticized maneuvering, and instead focus on the mindless pushing and surging of army against army. Dieter gets lost in the waves of battle, and only figures out what is going on after the confusion of combat dissipates. Fancy swordplay is not the mode of the day, but using what you have to stop your enemy any way you can.

Dieter, along with his companions Holst, Grier, and Gerhardt, are very well developed. In between battles soldiers tell stories, and we get to see a lot about each as they interact, along with how they think before, during, and after they fight. The ending is also well done, climaxing with a large battle, but not seeing the end of the war.

Scanlon crafted a wonderful novel with Call to Arms. While it is an entirely different story from The Chronicles of Malus Darkblade: Volume Two by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee, it sits up with it as the best Warhammer Fantasy and the Black Library have to offer.


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