Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Sins of the Father-A review of Gav Thorpe's "Malekith"

I was very anxious to read Gav Thorpe's new novel "Malekith." In fact, I haunted the bookstores until I found one in Austin at Book People. I quickly started it, although I was already two-thirds through a biography of Robert Frost. It was a good read and I quickly submitted a review to Amazon.com. Here is the review.

Although Gav Thorpe's new novel is entitled, "Malekith," its scope is greater than the story of one man. Instead, it delineates the development of the Warhammer world as we know it and recounts the rise and fall of Malekith. In a sense, the story of Malekith is a tragedy rather than an epic. Although the novel has "epic" qualities--the expansion of the elves and the exploration of the unknown world--it is ultimately the story of one man's greed and lust for power. Like Macbeth, a great warrior is lured from the light to the dark by greed and the ministrations of a woman. In Malekith's case it is the greed and ambition of his Mother, Morathi, that taunts him, goads him, and tricks him. Thorpe's Malekith, however, is not one dimensional. Throughout the novel, the reader feels that the means, no matter how despicable, have within Malekith's twisted thinking a logical and noble end--to protect the elves from the Chaos gods. It is this element that raises Thorpe's novel from simply being a good Warhammer story to being a great Warhammer story.

The first novel of the planned trilogy begins with the end of Aenarion and concludes with the death of Bel Shanaar, the Phoenix King. The narrative involves four major set pieces: the expansion of the elves in the east and the alliance with the dwarves; Malekith's exploration of the west and the Chaos waste; Malekith's war against the cultists in Nagarythe; and the betrayal of the Phoenix King.

Thorpe handles the exploration of the east and the establishment of the elven colonies in the old world brilliantly. His description of the dwarven cities is meticulous in its detail. However, the dwarven segment is not simply a side show; it is important to the development of Malekith's character and to the reader's understanding of that character. Although Malekith's anger and ambition are apparent from the beginning of the novel, Malekith truly respects the dwarves and their king. At the end of Part One, Malekith mourns for his lost friend and intends to honor his oath to the Snorri Whitebeard. However, the next section of the novel finds Malekith on his way to the Chaos wastes in the west, where he discovers an ancient city of the Old Ones and discovers a magic circlet that imbues him with new power and insight into the threat of the Chaos gods. From this point on, Malekith moves toward his inevitable fate. His hubris ultimately leads him to the Shrine of Asuryan.

As I read the novel I was struck by several things: the psychological complexity of Malekith's character; the clear detailed descriptions of all the locations; the distinct personality and character of the various Warhammer races; an abiding continuity to Warhammer lore and fluff; and the lucid prose. I have read most of Gav Thorpe's work and I think this may be his best. I am quite anxious to read the second volume of the trilogy.

I highly recommend this novel to both fantasy lovers and gamers. The Warhammer intellectual property is so rich and so developed that it transcends tie-in fiction. With the Time of Legends series, it seems Black Library has decided to up the ante; to create epic works that can proudly compete with any non-IP fantasy fiction. As a companion piece to this work I recommend Graham McNeill's "Guardians of Ulthuan," and "Heldenhammer," Mike Lee and Dan Abnett's Malus Darkblade series, Mike Lee's "Nagash the Sorcerer," and Nathan Long's "Elfslayer."

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