Another recent purchase from the Black Library and another book review for the site. Still working my way through a fairly massive stack of books, hope to have another review up within the next few months!
The "glorious king" Teiyogtei Khagan was once worshipped as a god on earth. An unstoppable warrior of the Tsavag tribe, Teiyogtei managed to unite the warring tribes near the Chaos Wastes - aided in part by an extraordinary weapon known as the Bloodeater. A weapon crafted on the Black Altar deep within the Chaos Wastes, the Bloodeater thrived on raw hate imbued by a fallen daemon Teiyogtei had slain. While he held this weapon no one dared oppose the will of Teiyogtei, to do so meant a swift and brutal death. And so it was within and without the tribes until the Skulltaker came...
The Skulltaker - an executioner of Khorne who had come to kill those who had been deemed traitors of the Blood God. In an epic battle between Teiyogtei and the Skulltaker, Teiyogtei slays the champion of Khorne with the Bloodeater but at the cost of his own life. Once destroyed, the Skulltaker's mortal shell is banished for over five hundred years - but prophets claim the Skulltaker would return once again to wreak his bloody vengeance on the descendants of Teiyogtei. And that is where the story begins, with the Skulltaker having returned to tribes intent on adding a few skulls to the Skull Throne of Khorne.
Werner does a great job of depicting life within the northern lands of the Chaos Wastes, highlighting the humanity of the Chaos hordes while emphasizing each Tribe's particular beliefs and traditions. The story is at its best and most interesting while delving into the political relationships between each tribe and their Warlords. The region is held in place by each tribe in a sort of diplomatic stalemate that has formed between them. The stalemate is finally broken when the Skulltaker returns to the lands intent on cutting the legacy of the King Teiyogtei from the flesh of each tribe's Warlord.
The fight scenes within the book are fairly one dimensional and overly simplified and there are quite a few of them in the story. Most encounters with the Skulltaker can be summed up with the following series of events:
1. We can kill this guy! Who does he think he is! We are the descenders of Teiyogtei and have been gifted by the ruinous powers with wondrous abilities and magic weaponry.
2. Go my minions! Kill this intruder! The Skulltaker is a myth!
3. Holy crap he just killed hundreds of my best warriors. I will have to be careful fighting him.
4. Oh crap. I can't kill this guy.
5. Oh crap, I am dead.
6. Skulltaker takes the Warlord's skull as a trophy for the Skull Throne.
While some of the story's characters are interesting and unique, many come of as your typical Fantasy cliches and are treated as such. Some stretches of the story can drag as Werner like to use long-winded descriptions to get across simple plot points. If you can work your way through these few tedious sections there is plenty of fantasy action to be had with treason, war, magic, bloody battles, and a rather unexpected ending as your reward.
Overall I enjoyed this book and would love to see more stories which center around the Northern Chaos tribes. This may not be the best example of Werner's writing, and I still prefer the Witch Hunter series over this book, but if you are looking for a blood-drenched tale of death and doom then look no further.
Verdict: 6 out of 10.