Friday, 20 August 2010
‘Aenarion’ – Gav Thorpe (Black Library)
Ever since I started listening to audio-books from the Black Library I’ve been waiting to see not only what they came up for their fantasy setting but also how it translated to an audio format. There have been a few minor hiccups with the ‘Warhammer 40,000’ line but, on the whole, they know just what they’re doing with this setting and it shows in some very well produced titles. There hasn’t really been anything from the Warhammer fantasy line though, until now...
I’ve got to admit that part of my eagerness here was that I really fancied hearing a tale of knights in armour, complete with the pounding of hooves and clash of broadsword on shield. Maybe the guttural sounds of orcs and goblins as well, something to really get the blood pumping on the morning commute to work! I didn’t get everything I wanted as Gav Thorpe gives us a tale of the early history of the Elves instead. It did get my blood pumping though...
The Elves of Ulthuan have fought for centuries against demons of Chaos who seek to plunder that fair Isle for it’s magic. Chief among them is Aenarion who has made many sacrifices so that his people may survive each onslaught. Some sacrifices are too great to bear though and Aenarion forsakes his gods, seeking out the legendary Sword of Khaine so that he may take his fight to directly to the demons... and win.
The Sword of Khaine lies at the heart of the Blighted Isle and many dangers lie in front of Aenarion before he can achieve his goal. Even if Aenarion reaches the Black Anvil where the sword lies though, is the greatest danger still to come...?
Gav Thorpe’s bloody tale of revenge and tragedy follows some familiar paths and you will know fairly early on where these paths will end. If you’re a fan of the setting then the odds are that you will know already! A tale that is in danger of becoming too predictable for it’s own good is balanced out though by Thorpe’s clever depiction of the main character Aenarion and particular issues that other characters raise. The trials that Aenarion faces have all been done before but his character is drawn such that you want to stick around and see his quest through to the end, even if you know what that end will be. (It is an open ended, leaving room for a sequel, but even so it’s clear where it’s going) Aenarion is such a bright and idealistic character that it really hurts to see him taken down a notch and you have to admire his steadfastness in seeing his quest through against all odds. Here is a character who is a real driving force for the plot.
I also enjoyed the questions raised over the Elves use of magic to hold the demons back; magic that serves to lure the demons to Ulthuan in the first place. Do you carry on using this magic (but risk perpetuating the war) or give it up entirely and leave your home defenceless against attack? The Elves face an impossible decision and you really get the sense that whichever way they go it will result in their doom.
All of this is played out against compelling battle scenes (during and after the main fight) where Thorpe’s prose works to very good affect with the audio-book production. Victory may have been a little too easy to come by for the Elves, at the beginning, but I still found myself getting right behind them and may or may not have cheered a little when the battle was done...
Beth Chalmers and John Banks take up the narrative duties once again (after ‘Throne of Lies’) but this time they swap round. Chalmers has the main bulk of the narration and her urgent delivery carries the plot forward at a crisp pace. Banks provides the voice of Aenarion (amongst others) and I couldn’t help thinking that he was taking his ‘Elf cue’ a little too heavily from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ films... He delivers his lines well though, especially the inspiring speeches, and gives each character their own voice (some of this is done technologically but he sounds good however it turns out).
‘Aenarion’ has a couple of niggling issues that are more to do with the format chosen for the plot rather than its execution. It does promise good things for future audio-books in the Warhammer setting and you can count on my being there to see how it all pans out.
Eight and a Half out of Ten