London transport may be many things but the one thing that it does have in its favour is all the extra time it gives me to read and then read some more. I seriously considered missing my stop, yesterday, to read a few more pages but that’s another story.
The bottom line is that all this bonus reading time has totally spoilt me so spending a fortnight’s holiday with a hyperactive baby was a real shock to the system. Don’t get me wrong, I will always love spending time with Hope but she has an annoying habit of grabbing whatever you’re reading and expecting you to blow bubbles for her instead. I was after quick reads then, books that I could get in and out of fairly easily, and as luck would have it Darius Hinks’ latest contribution (from the Black Library) proved to be just what I was after...
The Black Library’s output isn’t tie-in fiction as such; it may be set in the worlds of tabletop war games but authors seem to have a larger degree of freedom to develop their own stories in the overall setting. Well, perhaps more so than in other settings.
Black Library does have form though for releasing novellas that tie-in with the equivalent release from Games Workshop. I’m looking at you ‘Assault on Black Reach’ and I think that ‘Island of Blood’ might be another (don’t quote me on that though). ‘Storm of Magic’ is the latest expansion to the Warhammer game and Black Library has come up with three novellas to support it. I only bought two of them (still not a hundred percent sure how I feel about C.L. Werner’s output) and ‘Razumov’s Tomb’ was first up to the plate. The format of the book perhaps isn’t the best one for a story like this but I couldn’t deny that it was a hell of a lot of fun to read.
The Empire of the Old World is in serious trouble. The moon Morrslieb has spun wildly off course and bizarre plagues of monsters ravage the land as a result. Grand Astromancer Caspar Vyborg must come up with a solution to this threat although he is perhaps more concerned with retaining his position (as head of the Celestial College) than coming up with a cure. His investigations lead him to the half remembered grave of the long dead sorcerer Razumov, a man who summoned immense power before being killed by his own ritual. Could the completion of this ritual be the key to saving the Empire? By the time that anyone is in a position to find out, it may already be too late...
‘Razumov’s Tomb’ is only a hundred and twenty four pages long, an incredibly slim book that looks like a short gust of wind would blow it away! Don’t be fooled though as there is a lot going on here, certainly more than you’d think just by looking at the size of the book. What we’ve got here is a boiling cauldron of magic and men having to deal with an unceasing flow of monsters, a book where I found it incredibly easy to keep turning those pages.
Like I said earlier though, the size of the book isn’t necessarily a great thing though. I got the impression that there was more story to be told here; directions that the story could have gone in, or things that could have been expanded upon, that didn’t happen as there just wasn’t the room for it all. I sometimes felt like I was reading the outline of a story rather than the story itself. For a tale to be told in a hundred and twenty four pages you’d expect things to be a little tighter than this but that wasn’t the case here.
It’s nothing short of an extremely entertaining read though, I couldn’t get enough of it personally. Hinks throws everything into his plot, stirs it up and lets the sparks fly for the whole of the book. If you’re after a book where the use of magic has deadly consequences for everyone in the immediate vicinity then this is the book that you’re after. It's visceral and more than capable of turning on the spellcaster just as easily as the person it was originally aimed at. There were some nice touches to its use as well, especially in terms of the way that certain characters use particular plagues to achieve their own ends. If you play ‘Warhammer’ then I can definitely see this book getting you all excited and eager to check out the ‘Storm of Magic’ expansion set.
The twist in the tale is a little predictable, if only because the blurb tells you it’s going to happen. The fun is in getting there though and it’s a road liberally sprinkled with doomed heroes fighting for their lives and the Warhammer equivalent of bitterly fought office politics. You come away with the feeling of having stepped off a particularly violent rollercoaster and if your read is anything like mine then you will have to catch your breath after putting the book down.
I can’t help but wonder what ‘Razumov’s Tomb’ would have been like if it had been the full length novel that it seemed to want to be but I can’t complain with what I got in the meantime. A thoroughly entertaining read that has got me eager to get started on Chris Wraight’s ‘Dragonmage’.
Eight and a Half out of Ten