Age of Legend by Various Authors – Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews Age of Legend, a collection of Warhammer Fantasy Battles – set in the multi-author Time of Legends series, published by Black Library. This Anthology contains works from Paul S. Kemp, Sarah Cawkwell, Nick Kyme, Andy Hoare, Gav Thorpe, Josh Reynolds, CL Werner, Phillip Athans and Ben Counter.
“A fantastic collection of short stories that highlight the best of what Warhammer Fantasy has to offer. If you’re familiar with the Warhammer Fantasy Universe, you’d better go out and buy this book now.” ~The Founding Fields
Age of Legend is the latest Warhammer Fantasy anthology, and the first in what seems a long time – the last one, if I remember correctly, being Death and Dishonour. Hopefully, there’ll be more Warhammer Fantasy tales to come, as I really enjoyed Age of Legend, and I particularly enjoyed the Time of Legends setting that this book portrayed. So, without further ado, let’s get started with the review.
A Small Victory by Paul S. Kemp
The first short story is around thirty-odd pages long, so not the longest in the anthology, and is written by Paul S. Kemp, author of the Star Wars novel Riptide which has had my interest for quite a while now. I have to say that despite the shortness of this story, A Small Victory was in my opinion, a really strong opener to the collection which, during the time of Nagash, shows what lengths a man will go to if he wants to rescue the woman that he loves, from hordes of the undead. Not your traditional thing you’d expect from a romance short story, but then A Small Victory doesn’t pretend to be a romance short story – it’s very much in the fantasy genre. Fast paced, full of awesome characters and scenes, this is one that you won’t want to miss.
The more you look at A Small Victory, the more you realise that, as much as you wish it could have been longer, Paul S. Kemp’s first Warhammer tale was perhaps best suited as a shorter one – as there is no dull moments in this strong opener, and has defiantly made me want to read more from Kemp now, I’ll try to pick up Riptide soon.
Following on from A Small Victory, Sarah Cawkwell’s first piece of fiction in the Warhammer Fantasy Universe, despite being Black Library’s most prolific short story author of 2011, is Bloodraven, a tale of warriors of Khorne against a small Dwarven outpost. The Dwarves are facing innumerable odds, and with the appearance of Valkia the Bloody, things look as though the Dwarfs have no hope left – but they will stand and fight nonetheless.
One might see Bloodraven as an introduction to what Cawkwell’s upcoming Warhammer Fantasy novel, Valkia the Bloody, about the aforementioned character – and I can only hope that the upcoming novel is as good as what we’ve seen here. I found Bloodraven to be just as good as The Gildar Rift, if not better. A fantastic follow-up to A Small Victory, and a fast-paced, action-packed, well-written tale that you’ll no doubt enjoy.
City of Dead Jewels by Nick Kyme
Having been largely disappointed with the other Warhammer Fantasy novel by Nick Kyme that I read, Grimblades (In fact, it was the first Black Library novel that I couldn’t finish), I wondered what Nick Kyme would make of the dwarfs – and I thought that City of Dead Jewels would either make me want to read more of Kyme’s fantasy work or not.
And I can say, that – although not a brilliant tale, City of Dead Jewels is certainly no Grimblades. Another short story that follows dwarfs, only this time – it pits a small band hunting against an unknown monster. Slightly similar to Bloodraven, City of Dead Jewels is a slow paced read that won’t exactly have you speeding through it, but does no doubt continue the theme of well-written shorts in this anthology, and despite its placement making this seem like a weaker version on Bloodraven, City of Dead Jewels was a pretty awesome read and has made me want to read some more of Kyme’s adventures within the fantasy world.
The Last Charge by Andy Hoare
Ever get those sort of novels/short stories that you can tell what’s going to happen in them just by the title? I mean, this is more common in films – with Cowboys and Aliens and Snakes on a Plane being obvious examples, but every so often – something in print form pops along with a title that falls into this category, and Andy Hoare’s The Last Charge is no different.
As much as I wanted to enjoy The Last Charge, especially seeing as I’ve enjoyed Andy Hoare’s other novels, Savage Scars and The Hunt For Voldorious, I couldn’t bring myself to like this one. The main character isn’t the best addition to the story, and things weren’t as interesting as they could have been. The Last Charge was also quite short, and I felt it could have been perhaps expanded upon and given a different title, maybe to make things a little more unpredictable to the reader.
The Ninth Book by Gav Thorpe
After the disappointment that was The Last Charge, Gav Thorpe’s first contribution to the anthology, The Ninth Book, certainly proved to be a strong one. This is another one of the better short stories in Age of Legend, and I couldn’t help but wonder if this was one the things that If I knew more about the Warhammer lore then I’d understand more about what was going on in the short story. However, I enjoyed it and think that you should as well, some great characters in this short story, and leaves me pumped for Aenarion by Gav Thorpe, the print adaption of the audiobook that is already available, which comes later in the collection.
Although another slow burner, The Ninth Book shows that Thorpe is a strong writer of fantasy and another good choice for Age of Legend.
The Gods Demand by Josh Reynolds
Josh Reynold’s short story, entitled The Gods Demand, has perhaps one of the most memorable characters in this anthology, if perhaps not for the right reasons (Not due to the author’s writing skills, but the actions of the character himself). That character is Count Ludendorf, and in order to see why he was the stand-out character for me in this anthology, you’ll have to read the short story yourself.
Moving on from the characters, The Gods Demand is another firm addition to the anthology that pits a seemingly numberless horde of Beastmen against the soldiers of the Empire. This is a fast paced tale that makes a nice change from the slow burner that is The Ninth Book, and includes several awesome action scenes. One of the better shorts in this anthology, Josh Reynolds totally blew me away here with what he can offer the reader and I look forward to hearing more.
Plague Doktor by CL Werner
CL Werner’s latest addition to Warhammer Fantasy is another short story and this one is another of his best. Dealing with a scavenger whose luck has finally run out, proves that there are hardly any happy endings in the Warhammer World when CL Werner comes to town. And, when you think that Werner is just about to end the story, you are finally left with one ‘big reveal’ at the end that you won’t see coming. Plague Doktor continues the pace of fantastic short stories, and reminds me why I need to pick up Grey Seer as soon as possible.
The City is Theirs by Phillip Athans
Phillip Athans is another author who has written his first addition to the Warhammer Fantasy world with this anthology, and deals with Orcs, the City of Nuln, and even the odd Halfling or two. It’s a tale that I thought could have been a whole lot better executed, despite the fast paced action that kept me reading. However, Athans has a lot of potential to improve within the Warhammer Fantasy universe, and I look forward to seeing where he takes the reader when he next decides to return to this universe.
The Second Sun by Ben Counter
The Second Sun is perhaps one of the most unique short stories set in any Black Library anthology that I’ve ever read, and – there is actually no battle in this short story. Nope, not even one small skirmish. However, it shows you the inner workings of wizards in the Empire, and especially enlightening for a reader that doesn’t know much about them.
My opinion of Counter has really changed, having gone to loving his work (Galaxy in Flames), hating his work, (Battle of the Abyss) and then liking it again (Soul Drinker, Sacrifice), and I believe that The Second Sun is clearly one of the better tales told by this author.
Aenarion by Gav Thorpe
The final addition to this short story is one that ends it on a high note, the print adaption of the original audio-only Aenarion. It’s also Thorpe’s second contribution to the anthology making him the most prolific author in this collection of authors, and fans of the Warhammer’s Elves will rejoice in this short story as the Phoenix King becomes his legend.
Aenarion makes up for the lack of action in The Second Sun by including several fantastically written fight scenes that will have you flicking through the pages to find out what happens next. Thorpe is at the top of his game here, although I didn’t enjoy Malekith that much, the only novel in The Sundering trilogy that I’ve read, I may have to return to it and reread it at some point after I get Shadow King. On a final note, it’s also worth pointing out that Thorpe is the only author who contributed to the original Time of Legends stories that appears in this anthology – and twice!
Overall Anthology Verdict: 4/5
Favourite Short Story(ies): Bloodraven by Sarah Cawkwell, The Ninth Book by Gav Thorpe (I really can’t decide between these two, they were both fantastic.
More Time of Legends: Heldenhammer by Graham McNeill, Empire by Graham McNeill, God King by Graham McNeill, Malekith by Gav Thorpe, Shadow King by Gav Thorpe, Caledor by Gav Thorpe, Nagash the Sorcerer by Mike Lee, Nagash the Unbroken by Mike Lee, Nagash Immortal by Mike Lee, Age of Legend by various authors, Dead Winter by CL Werner (May 2012), The Great Betrayal by Nick Kyme (August 2012)