Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review - "Heldenhammer" by Graham McNeill

Another book in the "Time of Legends" series, this one being the first of the Sigmar trilogy. More Black Library reviews to follow - including "Bloodborn" by Nathan Long, the first in a series of books centered on Ulrika from the Gotrek and Felix novels.  

"Heldenhammer" by Graham McNeill

Sigmar. A name used sacredly in the Empire and throughout the old word. Bards and peasants alike spin heroic tales of his legendary rise to near god-like status, while temples and congregations worship his likeness and pray to his mercy for guidance and forgiveness. But well before all of this the legend of Sigmar began like most others... with a man.

Heldenhammer begins with a young Sigmar, then prince and son of King Bjorn of the Unberogen tribe, on a quest to prove his worth as a man. Sigmar is the living model of virtue and heroism and it is quickly apparent that his story is a stark contrast from the darkness and lower moral standards of most tales set in the old world. He envisions a future for all the tribes of man, one that has them working united to carve a peaceful existence out of the dangerous land within which they live. 

McNeill does a good job of portraying Sigmar as he ages throughout this first story. We see Sigmar as a young man with his friends, as a grieving son and sudden king, an envoy to the tribes of men, warrior and berserker, leader, and hero. The story is a mix of high and low fantasy - readily borrowing classic elements from writers such as Tolkien and R.E. Howard.

The battles scattered throughout the book are taught and action-filled affairs, from small skirmishes to full scale epic warfare, and you get a good sense of Sigmar as a leader, tactician, and warrior. High praise for a fantasy book right? Well, unfortunately the one battle that is less than stellar is the final one portrayed in the book - the battle of Black Fire Pass. This battle is "historic" and often referenced in the "modern history" of the old world but we're left with what feels like a rushed attempt at finishing the story "in a good place" for the next book in the series to begin.

While the story does falter in some areas the overall character development is quite interesting, especially in the first half of the book. I would gladly recommend this first novel to anyone with a fleeting interest in the WHFB old world, it's "history", or action filled fantasy stories in general. It may not be the most original tale but it is certainly an entertaining one.

Verdict: 8 out of 10. An action filled read that introduces readers to Sigmar - the man and the legend.

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