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Bane of Kings reviews Sarah Cawkwell’s second Black Library novel and her first set in the Warhammer Fantasy Universe, entitled Valkia the Bloody, and gives a dark look at one of the champions of the Blood God, Khorne.
“Fast moving, bloody and a delight to read – Sarah Cawkwell proves that she is no one-hit-wonder and delivers a stunning look into one of the darkest characters that this series has given us to date.” ~The Founding Fields
What I love about the Warhammer Heroes series is that it continues to produce a high-quality collection of novels despite the wide subject matter (the chronicles of a hero/villain of the Warhammer Fantasy Universe), and the fact that it’s got a large number of authors working on this project. I mean, we’ve had Chris Wraight, Darius Hinks, CL Werner and now Sarah Cawkwell is added to that rooster as well, with Ben Counter set to be the next one with his upcoming Van Hortsmann. Unlike the similar Space Marine Battles Series of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, the response to the Warhammer Heroes series have been largely positive, whilst the SMB series has had mixed feedback, having produced sometimes the best Warhammer 40k novels, whilst sometimes offering some of the worst that I’ve read. At least I can say that’s not the same with Warhammer Heroes, as Sarah Cawkwell offers an interesting perspective into Valkia the Bloody, warrior-woman and champion of Khorne.
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.
I’m likely to be a little biased towards my favouritisim of the Warhammer Heroes series because CL Werner’s Wulfrik was the first Warhammer Fantasy novel that I read. I know, I was late in starting, but Warhammer Fantasy has, since I’ve started reading the novels, always maintained a higher quality of novels than the Warhammer 40k one and I’m yet to come across a novel set in this universe that I don’t like (that I can recall, anyway). However, I believe that Valkia the Bloody is a strong novel that I couldn’t put down. Valkia is a unique anti-hero, more of a villain, and proves that not all characters in a universe based of a table top wargame have to be male. Another reason that I prefer the Warhammer Heroes series over Space Marine Battles is that I, with about 99% of the characters on offer, haven’t heard of them before reading the novel, whilst my knowledge of Warhammer 40k lore is extensive, rendering the Space Marine Battles series predictable, whilst the Warhammer Heroes books continue to boast some levels of tension. As was the case with Valkia the Bloody.
A common theme with Warhammer Heroes novels is that they’re like “superhero origin” tales of the Warhammer Fantasy Universe. They’ll chart the rise of the hero, rather than picking up once the hero is well-renowned and already famous. Valkia the Bloody didn’t disappoint in this, and those who have heard of Valkia before will hopefully find something to enjoy in this novel. It’s not often you find yourself reading about a strong female character in a universe dominated by men, but Sarah Cawkwell has nailed this perfectly.
The pace is fast, and you will have no problem devouring this book. Bloody action is strewn across most of the pages of this novel, as you get an in depth look as to how certain tribes in the Northern Wastes lived. Valkia is of the Schwarzvolf tribe, and what is interesting about this novel is that rather than pick up straight away with Valkia finding out about Khorne, we’re allowed to have a glimpse as to what the Schawrzvolf tribe is like before the coming of the Blood God. I liked this addition as it allows the reader to get a comprehensive look as to how the tribe undergoes several changes, and how they change over the course of the novel, as it builds up to an epic, action-packed climax.
As much as I enjoyed Valkia the Bloody, it is by no means a perfect read. There were some scenes that I felt didn’t quite work for me, as the pace, even though it is generally fast as mentioned earlier, there are a few bits towards the middle of the book that ran at a different pace to the rest of the novel, and I share my views with Shadowhawk that the time jumps weren’t pulled off exactly as they could have been, but otherwise, despite its flaws the book was an enjoyable read, and you don’t have to know everything about Warhammer Fantasy to understand what happens.
The Warhammer Heroes Series: Sword of Justice by Chris Wraight, Wulfrik by CL Werner, Sword of Vengeance by Chris Wraight, Sigvald by Darius Hinks, The Red Duke by CL Werner, Luthor Huss by Chris Wraight, Valkia the Bloody by Sarah Cawkwell,Van Hortsmann by Ben Counter (Coming November 2012)