I thought I would carry on my Short Read Sunday post by delving back into one of the universes that first hooked me above all else in literature, that helped my own writing (it was a piece of fan fiction that, in the end, got transformed into my own published novel): Warhammer.
The war is over, and the Mortal Realms have all but fallen to Chaos… Korghos Khul rampages across the fiery Realm of Aqshy, hunting down mortal kind to slaughter or subjugate to Khorne. His Goretide have crushed all resistance… until the storm. From the heavens hurtle paladins clad in gold. Sent by Sigmar, the Stormcast Eternals have come to liberate all the realms from the yoke of Chaos. Their leader is Vandus Hammerhand, Lord-Celestant of the Hammers of Sigmar. After a long age of darkness, there is hope. Vandus must open the Gates of Azyr to unleash Sigmar’s righteous fury against the damned. Everything depends on his victory.
Author: Chris Wraight
Publisher: Black Library
Release Date: 15/11/2016
My chosen format: Hardback
My rating of ‘Gates of Azyr’: 5 out of 5
As ever, the Black Library have produced a piece of art for a cover design. As I mention in the review, they tend to do this for 95% of their titles. It does help to have a team of artists who love the world created by the company they work for. The blurb is short and sweet. It gives you the basis for the plot and also shows you who the main players are as refers to good and evil. It also gives off some epic imagery: paladins clad in gold hurtling from the heavens to smite the evil forces of Chaos. Some of said paladins genuinely have angelic wings. So just picture angels surging down from the heavens, clad in shining gold … and clutching deadly Warhammers in their hands.
I know what some of, if not most of you will be thinking, that Warhammer is for geeks and should be avoided. Such a thought, especially where the literature is concerned, could not be more wrong. As a brand, their novels have been getting better and better with every passing year, the vastly growing reading audience attests to this. They have even had numerous novels storming up the New York Times Best Seller List in the past. And, above else, the universes they have created (both science fiction and fantasy) are so rich and so deep that anyone who has the most scant of interests in either genre could lose themselves in one work or another.
I have long been a huge fan of the franchise (both painting the figures and reading the books). I also used to proofread the occasional novel for them a good few years ago. Games Workshop recently did away with their Warhammer Fantasy brand and introduced ‘Warhammer: The Age of Sigmar’ in its place. This is still fantasy, it’s just a case of the Old World having been destroyed and this new one has risen up from the ashes. I was informed by a member of staff at their HQ that Gates of Azyr was the best place to start if one wanted to try and get into this new world.
I was deeply in love with the old Warhammer Fantasy (WHF) and I deeply hate everyone involved with the decision of ending it. So many amazing characters gone, so many wonderful memories literally destroyed. I hate you. I will always hate you for doing this. I absolutely love the Age of Sigmar, but I still hate you.
My hatred aside, this book, at only one-hundred and twenty-five pages, does a damn good job of giving you a thorough introduction into this new world. It also, for those die hard fantasy fans harbouring hatred in their hearts (like me), gives a sliver of hope that not all the old characters will have gone, just been re-positioned.
Chris Wraight is a fantastic author of fantasy, I was lucky enough that his WHF novel ‘Iron Company’ was one of the ones I was tasked with proofreading. He has an excellent command of his characters and is master of all that is transferred from grey matter to paper. I lost count of the amount of times I felt as though I was being treated to a scene of truly epic proportions. Or how many times I would think that a certain scene would translate perfectly to film or canvas. He is excellent with his descriptive powers and a master at bringing the reader along as though he or she is there as the events take place. Such is this man’s talent that I often found myself pulling for the forces of Chaos (they are the bad guys) before I suddenly realised that, as interesting as they were as characters, I should be screaming out for their deaths (they are really cruel after all … some mighty fine grimdark enemies).
I would say that ‘Gates of Azyr’ could be picked up by anybody from old fans to new. Admittedly, some terminology might throw of a new reader to the franchise, but it is not too difficult to gather an understanding of what said strange terms mean or how they impact the world around you.
I purchased the hardback from the Games Workshop HQ, purely because 95% of the covers produced by the Black Library are works of art. Warhammer books are often the only ones I go for the physical over ebook, solely for this reason. If anyone wants to see some mighty fine artwork that will have your jaw dropping, do a quick google search of either: ‘Warhammer 40k artwork’, ‘Warhammer Fantasy artwork’ or ‘Warhammer Age of Sigmar artwork’. Apologies for my fanboyish ravings, but I truly forgot how immersive this franchise is and can already feel myself being sucked back into reading more titles from the Black Library. To summarise; ‘Gates of Azyr’ is an excellent starting point to catapult you into the Age of Sigmar and I am very intrigued to see where the story for the rest of the ‘Realmgate Wars’ books go.