Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Sundering - A Great Tale of Fluff

One of the great advantages that Warhammer (be it 40k or Fantasy) has over other “manufactured” systems is the depth of its background. The backstory in both systems is very well established and has more layers than an onion. In the past this was done by the army book/codex and a variety of source books and White Dwarf articles – I have the full series of Index Astartes articles collected into one volume – and recently it is through the Black Library.

I get the impression that 5-10 years ago the BL books were novels set in the Warhammer world. However that changed with the advent of the Horus Heresy series and the Time of Legends novels.

When the Time of Legends series was announced there were three avenues they went down – Sigmar, Nagash and The Sundering. For me I always thought the most interesting was always going to be Nagash but I have been surprised. I do think the first Nagash book, “Nagash the Sorcerer” is the best BL book I’ve read but as a series The Sundering has been absolutely wonderful.

I was sceptical that I would enjoy this series as, those who know me will attest, I despise all things Elven and it was being written by Gav Thorpe, who I view as a Games Designer rather than an author. In retrospect I couldn’t have been more wrong. The books, as a series, are exceptional.

The story starts off with “Malekith” and it builds a fantastic backstory of what gives the eventual-Witch king his sense of entitlement. It builds through his achievements, particularly in the colonies a sense of why he thinks he should be Phoenix King and the psyche he develops that acts as fertile ground for his mother’s poison.

“Shadow King” is really a retelling of the Batman story – wronged son, acting as an outcast from society. Again I thought I’d struggle to enjoy it but it really is the glue that keeps the series together. You get a feeling of the breakdown across Ulthuan and the distrust that develops between kin and erstwhile allies.

The final book is “Caledor” and this book makes the series a success. Keeping the theme of the first two books, you have another flawed hero, and get a real sense of the division that exists within the various Elven kingdoms. I think the real success of the series is that nothing is black or white everything is at best fifteen shades of grey.

Certainly recommend the series to all Warhammer players, not just those with an Elven bent. The background, imagery etc is rich and diverse.


  1. See... I tend to view all the Black Library as "Fluff" rather than "real" books.

    I think I would rather be caught reading Harry Potter on the train.

    That said, I do believe the BL books are an okay read in comparison to many published works of Fantasy, but only because there are so many really bad examples to compare them to.

  2. Hmmm will have to keep an eye out for those really enjoyed Gav Thorpes Dwarf books so those should be a good a read

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed Gav Thorpe's Path of the Warrior(a real Eldar book at last) but I had previously tried to get into Malekith but ended up putting it down in favour of another book.

    As I'm playing with the 'despised' High Elves I may give it another chance.

  4. I think Gav Thorpe was always a writer dabbling his hand in game design, than a game designer dabbling in writing.

    It would certainly explain why he was a much better writer than he was game designer :D

    I may have to look into the series once I finally get up to date on the horus heresy stuff. I'm so slack with reading :<

  5. I've read a bunch of Warhammer novels, and the quality varies quite a bit. If the local library gets these in i'll check them out.