Author’s note: This is an article I’ve wanted to write for some time. Though not specifically about Warhammer Online, it does deal with the Warhammer Universe and lore.

 

THIS IS A DARK age, a bloody age, and age of daemons and of sorcery. It is an age of battle and death, and of the world’s ending. Amidst all of the fire, flame and fury it is a time, too, of mighty heroes, of bold deeds and great courage.

 

And so begins The Daemon’s Curse, the first installment of a three part series of novels by Mike Lee and Dan Abnett.  The Daemon’s Curse is a Malus Darkblade tale. Malus is a lean, mean, (dark) elven killing machine with a thirst for power that would rival even the most ruthless of dictators. This tale will keep you on the edge of your seat for the whole ride and leave you wanting more.


A word of caution though, this series is not traditional fantasy; it’s dark fantasy. Throughout the novel, you’ll really get a sense for how much the Dark Elves revere pain and torture (torture is an art, after all). To me, it seemed like the darkest portions of the book were in the first half; however, gory battles are the author’s stamp and don’t relent. If you’re into long battle sequences, you’ll love this book.

 

Plot

 

The book begins by introducing you to the main character we love to hate: Malus Darkblade. He’s somewhat of an anti-hero. He’s evil, ruthless, hateful, and driven to power. He’s driven by the desire to see his enemies cower beneath him. When we first meet him, he’s returning from a slave gathering expedition that cost him more than he could afford in loans from rich nobles. Unfortunately, all of his hard work goes to waste as his warband and slaves are cut down outside of Hag Graef. Believing his brother Urial is behind this sabotage, he seeks out his sorceress sister to plot his revenge. She informs him that his brother holds a relic (the skull of an ancient sorcerer whose soul is trapped inside!) that is a key to a temple of great power in the Chaos wastes. Determined to harness that power, Malus steals the key and makes away with his small band of retainers.

 

On the journey, the warband encounters wild Autarii (Wood Elves, cousins of the Dark Elves), human nomads, an undead army, and savage beastmen who nearly cause Malus’ demise. When Malus reaches the road leading to the temple, he is forced to use the magical relic to pass the Gate of Infinity. Pursued by Beastmen, Malus enters the temple to find it brimming with the very essence of evil. Within, he finds the source of power he sought, but can he control it or will it control him?

 

Review

 

I really liked this book. It draws you in from the first few paragraphs. Malus is delightfully evil and the authors do a great job of making it okay to root for such a bad guy. He’s the underdog of his family and the underachiever of Dark Elf society but I liked how the insight given to the reader really allows you to see Malus’ inner-workings. He’s underestimated but not incapable and by the end of the book, you really believe that Malus will make them all pay – in due time.

 

The characters are fairly believable and the events that take place do a great job of keeping you hooked. There’s lots of twists and turns in this book, so there is no shortage of excitement. One of my favorite parts was when Malus stands before the Gate of Infinity and beckons the soul of the dead wizard to force unseen powers to let him pass. It was gripping and I found that I didn’t want to put it down. The whole book culminates at the temple. It’s what you push several hundred pages to get to and there’s a nice twist to leave you satisfied and wanting more. I also really liked the portion of the tale where Malus meets the undead Willow Wight. It was like something from Tales from the Crypt: creepy and cool, my kiddies. The imagery is almost haunting. It also makes a fine example of when you’re really rooting for the bad guy (Malus) to win out against the spiteful, yet understandable, Autarii.

 

The environmental detail is very well done, as well. The authors spend enough time to paint a clear, concise picture, of the landscapes while also giving the reader enough room for their own imaginings. I loved Hag Graef. That place had a definite evil, bondage vibe to it. To help you imagine what I saw in my minds eye, think of the armor styles for the Disciples of Khaine and apply that to architecture. The Chaos Wastes were also very well depicted. Mirages, half-beasts, bloody rainstorms? Yes Ma’am, I’ll have another. Probably my favorite environment out of the whole book was the temple though. It had a spooky, haunted vibe to it and once events unfold, it becomes the apex of the book.

 

I also thought that the authors did a great job of incorporating a lot of the Dark Elf lore into the book. You learn a lot about Hag Graef, societal structure, family relations, and a lot about the environment too. I went into this book sure I was going to black a Black Orc in WAR and came out wanting to play a Disciple of Khaine. It also really made me look forward to having my own Nauglir (think rideable raptor mixed with the strength of a small t-rex). If Mythic keeps true to the lore, this mount could be a lot of fun. Plus, just look at the thing! Nauglir = Win.

 

I’ll admit, as someone new to “dark fantasy” I was a bit taken back by the emphasis on violence and pain in the first half of the book; however, it really allowed me to understand how Dark Elves work. There are several instances where tortures inflicted upon victims are referred to as art or as a gift. It takes some getting used to but in the context of the Warhammer universe, I think that it was appropriate. The essence of “dark fantasy” as I came to know it also encompasses the detail the authors use in the battle sequences.

 

And of battle, there was a lot. Nearly every chapter features a several page battle sequence. Some of these were riveting. You’re always getting descriptions of severed limbs, spraying blood, pain like ice, and the like. I’ll be honest though, by the end of the book I found myself only skimming some of these. I got a little tired of it but that may just be my preference. It is Warhammer after all, so I should have expected that going in.

 

Final Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. That’s saying something too. I’m very picky about the fantasy I read, as I’m not too into the overly cliché. The Daemon’s Curse was well written and unique, which added a lot to the quality of the narrative. As a holdover to Warhammer Online, this book definitely worked. Even if there was no WAR on the horizon, this book would still be worth the time it takes to read it. 

 

I’ve only given this book 3.5/5 stars for two reasons. First, there are definitely going to be times when you remember you’re reading. Sounds silly, right? It shouldn’t. The best novels draw you in and make you part of the story. You forget that you’re reading words on a page and enter into you mind’s theatre. Personally, I found myself stopping from time to time and thinking “Could he really be running away right now?” These points were easy to dismiss though. Fantasy novels are based around extending disbelief. Second, as previously mentioned, the battle sequences were a little too frequent for me.

 

If you’re interested in exploring the lore of Warhammer, especially the Dark Elves, definitely pick this book up. It’s one of the highest rated books set in this universe for sale on Amazon. By then end, you’ll be looking forward to book number two: Bloodstorm.

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