Valkia the Bloody by Sarah Cawkwell – Review [EJ Davies]

Valkia

Hetwoman, Gorequeen, Consort of Khorne.  Call her what you will – Valkia the Bloody is a character as large as any character in the Warhammer Fantasy universe.  Following on the heels of Luthor HussSigvaldWulfrik, and others Sarah Cawkwell turns her pen to the majesty of Khorne and EJ Davies gives us his impression.

“Bloody, gory, visceral, and full of fighting.  This is what you want to see from Khorne-based novel.” ~ The Founding Fields.

The blurb:

“Warrior-maiden and consort of the blood god Khorne, the name Valkia the Bloody is feared among all the tribes of the north – friend and foe alike. From her earliest days as a shield bearer for her father King Merroc, she has known nothing but unending warfare and the brutal politics of the tribal leaders, and soon reaches out to seize power for herself. Though her feral beauty might attract unlikely suitors and her enemies may plot against her in secret, Valkia holds the patronage of the Ruinous Powers, and Khorne will not allow his chosen queen to fall.”

What we have is an origin story.  Starting with witnessing the myriad of colours of chaos swirling in the skies about the northern tundra on the shoulders of her father, we see young Valkia develop from a youth intent on picking up a weapon and shield and fighting along with the warriors of the Schwarzvolf, to the mighty daemon-queen of Khorne.  It seems without a maternal influence she develops a more masculine personality, and follows more in her father’s footsteps; angered, it seems, by her own femininity and the weaknesses shown within her tribe.  Her father takes another wife, Valkia develops as a warrior and a leader, feeling jilted by her father’s desire to have a son and the patriarchal society she’s been born into.  Along the way she acquires her spear, Slaupnir; and the daemon’s head mounted on her shield.

There are some great bits in the book.  The fact that Valkia devotes herself to Khorne and there are numerous battles throughout the book wasn’t lost on me.  The battles themselves are brutal, visceral affairs steeped in (you guessed it) blood.  The politicking and barracking behind the scenes within the Schwarzvolf tribe – especially by those closest to Valkia herself – is nicely pitched and well structured.  Valkia’s own headstrong nature is well explored, and her descent into daemonhood is nicely detailed and inexorable.

There were some areas that I felt were a little weaker than others.  There is an early scene with Radek – a similarly aged scout who becomes an important player within the tribe – where Valkia acts with uncharacteristic femininity to quasi-seduce Radek to her cause.  While I can see what this scene was attempting to do it jarred with me for her to behave in this manner, having ostensibly eschewed male romantic involvement to this point and had no interest in acting in this way before.  During the latter stages there is a claim that Valkia cares only for blood and slaughter, but then goes on to show her motivation is also revenge; this confused me a little.  I’m not sure that the Schwarzvolf would fear and respect Valkia, and perhaps there was more dramatic potential had the people’s of the Schwarzvolf been so in fear of her, that an uprising built on spite and hatred could manifest.

This said, all I can do is give my opinion as I’m not in Sarah’s place, and I haven’t had a novel published.  I think it’s great that there is a novel with a female protagonist set in the fantasy genre, and one where not all of the women are scantily clad and merely pawns in political and sexual games.  I think more could have been done with the novel, the scenes and the characters.

I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the novel.  What I am saying, is that as enjoyable as it was I felt a little disappointed.  So, all in all it was a solid read with some good features.  Certainly worth reading.

Valkia the Bloody is available as an eBook download from Black Library, and in print from retailers now.

EJ Davies

EJ Davies: reader, reviewer, writer; and an avid lover of Black LIbrary products since the release of the seminal Horus Rising. EJ is currently working through the massive back catalogue of Black Library titles, and plugging away at his own fiction-based efforts in the vain hope of cracking his way into the author pool.

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