While ‘Blighted Empire’ had its flaws (scroll down a bit for my review or click Here if that seems too much like work for a Friday…) I had a lot of fun reading it and there was no doubt at all that I would be back for the final instalment. The series so far had been a good combination of an engaging storyline and a well realised world that is very easy to spend time. I have a feeling that if there were more Warhammer Fantasy books, I wouldn’t have time to read much else! Anyway, back to the book at hand.
It’s always a funny feeling to finish a series isn’t it? Something that you’ve invested a lot of your time in is suddenly gone and you’re left thinking, ‘oh, what now?’ There’s also that wrench where you have to leave that fictional setting for the last time (I know you can re-read but sometimes it isn’t quite the same second time round). I had all of that after I finished ‘Wolf of Sigmar’. Again, it’s not a perfect read but what it does do right is done very well and ‘Wolf of Sigmar’ is a fitting way to round off what has been a surprisingly good series.
Blurb you say? Here’s the blurb…
The Black Plague has done its work, and the ravaged Empire is ripe for the picking. As the dread armies of the skaven sweep across Sigmar's realm, each of the great cities looks to its own defence - except Middenheim. As he gathers warriors to his banner and liberates towns and villages from the verminous menace, Graf Mandred begins to embrace his destiny as the future leader of a united Empire - if he can survive the trials to come.
To be honest, ‘Wolf of Sigmar’ doesn’t do an awful lot that is different from ‘Blighted Empire’ and that isn’t such a bad thing in itself (if it works then you don’t really need to fix it do you?) He does make the same mistakes as he did in ‘Blighted Empire’ but the good stuff still balances things out. The main thing is that we’re approaching the finish line and Werner does a very good job of tying up all the loose ends. Where he leaves something hanging, you get the impression that it’s for dramatic affect and also because sometimes things don’t just come together all neatly; they drift until they’re so far away that there’s no point in recounting them. It’s an approach that works very well here as it really fleshes out the Old World setting and leaves you with the feeling that there are far reaching ramifications still to be seen. I like that and can’t help but hope, a little, that Werner revisits certain characters somewhere down the line.
The conflict with the Skaven is drawn as well as ever and the resulting battles are spectacular with Werner really making good use of the fiendish inventions that the rat men come up with. It’s stirring stuff but what I found to be more interesting though were the politics between the human factions and the journeys that several of the characters take. It’s a hard old world and Werner really puts his characters through the wringer if they are to have any chance to come out ahead of the game (and most of them don’t). Clergymen (albeit really brutal ones who you don’t want to mess with) will got to any lengths to ensure that no-one holds any power over them. Murder for political gain is commonplace and the villainous Kreyssig looks positively reasonable sometimes when you see what others are capable of. Werner is full of surprises here, the kind of surprises that make you wince and think, ‘did that really just happen…?’
Mandred’s journey is predictable but at the same time compelling to follow. Werner paints a really detailed picture of a self-aware young ruler tortured by his own base motives for pursuing a war that is righteous on the surface. The reader ends up really rooting for Mandred, a character for whom Werner saves some of the cruellest cuts of all.
If there’s one issue that I had with ‘Wolf of Sigmar’ it’s that Werner perhaps tries to tie up too much for one book; namely the pacification of an entire Empire. I get that it had to be done but Werner does it by dividing the book into two timelines which can be a little confusing at times and also robs the book of a little uncertainty that is needed to make sure that the reader’s attention is gripped solidly. Pay attention to those dates at the start of each chapter is all I’m saying here, learn from my mistakes! ;o)
It’s a small niggle though and ‘Wolf of Sigmar’ is ultimately a very solid ending to the trilogy. Warhammer fans will love it but I think there’s a lot here for the casual reader as well. I’m well behind with all the Gemmell Award business (should really pay more attention) but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if ‘Wolf of Sigmar’ was a nomination at some point; I reckon it would do well.