Friday, 30 January 2009

‘Malekith (A Tale of the Sundering)’ – Gav Thorpe (Black Library)


While I love some of the detail that goes into the figures used in table top war gaming I’ve never really been one for the games themselves. Not only do they look overly complicated (with dice, tape measures and all sorts) but the price of these things is prohibitively expensive to say the least! (A shameless and tongue in cheek HINT for any publicity guys who may be reading this: Prove me wrong by sending me one of the starter games, e.g. Warhammer 40K. I’ll play the game and cover the results here. Hey, it’s got to be worth a go...)
The one thing that I do love though is the tremendous amount of detailed background history, to the gaming world, that can be found behind what happens on a tabletop. These aren’t just little figures being used in a game, there are literally thousands of years worth of animosity and confrontation leading up to it. As a result I love to pick up the occasional book from the Black Library and immerse myself in these rich and varied worlds. The fact that these stories are drenched in battle and, consequently, dripping with gore is an added bonus.
When Liz gave me a copy of Gav Thorpe’s ‘Malekith’ (thanks Liz!) I was looking forward to more of the same but, this time round, I think I bit off a little more than I could chew...

The Black Library’s ‘Time of Legends’ series tells the tales of events that took place thousands of years before current Warhammer history, ‘Malekith’ concentrates on the early history of the elves in the Old World. Following centuries of warfare against the forces of Chaos, the elves of Ulthuan must select an elf to succeed the dead king and guide their nation into a new (more peaceful era). Malekith, the son of the former king, is passed over and this decision will lead him to take a path that will ultimately doom the elves for ever...

‘Malekith’ sets out to win new fans, to the Warhammer line, by starting things off right at the very beginning and getting readers to jump on. The best time to start any journey is right at the beginning and ‘Malekith’ confirms this by offering the reader a condensed history of the elves and their migration from the island of Ulthuan across to the Old World. Along the way, alliances are made with the dwarves and we begin to see the emergence of Man as a species...
It’s a good approach to take in terms of giving the reader a perspective on what it must be like to be a long lived elf and see history unfold before your eyes (along with the rise and fall of civilisations). This approach also helps to explain some of Malekith’s actions towards the end of the book. If you can live for thousands of years then what is there left to do once you’ve done everything? The problem I had though (and it was a pretty big problem for me) was that I felt the pacing of the book suffered as a result of the immense time span involved...

The book left me with the feeling that both elves and dwarves (being long lived creatures) aren’t in too much of hurry to get things done and this came across as the story progressed. Decisions could take years to be made and their ramifications not felt for hundreds of years afterwards, it’s difficult to hang a story on a framework like that and I felt that ‘Malekith’ suffered as a result. Some overly descriptive passages also contributed towards this ‘plodding’ feeling although I reckon that Warhammer fans will get a lot out of these.

When things do get going though, ‘Malekith’ is worth sticking around for as the plot explodes into life in a flurry of Chaos and blood. The battle scenes are truly epic and Thorpe doesn’t give anything away until the final sword stroke has fallen.

‘Malekith’ is worth a look as well in terms of the character study it provides for its main character. Malekith is an elf who is loyal to his king but truly believes that his people would be better served if he led them himself. It’s an internal struggle that lasts for over a thousand years and Malekith is manipulated so subtly that he doesn’t even realise it’s happening (I didn’t realise it was happening...) The end result is a smooth progression, from hero to usurper, that ends in fire and blood...

‘Malekith’ is a slow read but one that’s ultimately fulfilling in the end. Now I’ve got an idea of what to expect, I look forward to checking out more books by Gav Thorpe in the future...

Seven and a Half out of Ten

3 comments:

James B said...

You'd be better served by some of the 'Ciaphis Cain' books, I think in terms of pace; everything is rather condensed time-wise through the miracle of communications/technology yet not so much to detract from the set pieces. Also, there's a thread of humour which is quite endearing as Cain is forced to play a part he clearly is not.

Graeme Flory said...

I do need to read that book don't I... ;o)

Christoph Weber said...

Ah, so this might be a little bit of a plodding book, but don't you love it in the overall trilogy? Not everything can be as fast-paced as some madman's tale.

Yeah, it's not exactly the best written piece but fun nonetheless.