Lord of the Night reviews the latest novella, The Bloody Handed, written by the Black Library’s resident Elf and Eldar savant Gav Thorpe.
“Praise Khaine!, and Praise Gav Thorpe!”
The latest novella has been released and its a great one, and the very first Warhammer Fantasy novella as opposed to its two predecessors which are both 40k. As usual with my limited edition reviews I will include a synopsis of events so that those who unfortunately could not purchase this book will be able to understand the plot. So beware, for their are spoilers below!.
The novella begins with Hellebron as a young Elf princess in the colony of Athel Toralien, her life is typical of a spoilt princess until one day when Malekith himself arrives in the colony on his way to deal with the Orcs encroaching on Elven lands, and with him comes Queen Morathi herself. Desperate for a private meeting with her Hellebron achieves her wish but is crestfallen when Morathi decries her and says that she has no talents, and will never achieve greatness. Rather than succumb to misery Hellebron is adamant that she will become great and show up the Queen.
Soon afterwards Malekith leaves with Morathi, but priests brought with Morathi stay and begin establishing cults to the Cyrathai, or the Underworld Gods, within Athel Toralien. The Elf populace embraces the cults and Hellebron herself joins them but each cult’s membership wains and waxes as the fashion dictates. Eventually Hellebron joins her sister Lirieth in a secret meeting for a new cult, which is revealed to be the Cult of Khaine. Enraptured by the Lord of Murder and his ways of worship Hellebron quickly becomes the student of the Khainite priest, however she feels that his refusal to fight and allowing only himself to sacrifice in Khaine’s name is the wrong way.
Hellebron and Lirieth leave Athel Toralien and study under the priest, joining him and the Nagarythe armies in battle against the Orcs where Hellebron continues to gain more prowess within the Cult of Khaine, culminating in a grand display in which Hellebron and Lirieth stride forward and disrobe in front of the entire army, proclaiming that they need no armour to protect themselves and offer their blood freely to Khaine. The priest demands they cease and denounced by Hellebron, who then convinces the Nagarythe captain to slay the false priest, who does so. The Orcs are routed and the survivors are sacrificed over a three day period.
Hellebron and her sister return to Athel Toralien and assume leadership of the Cult of Khaine, however inter-cult politics continue to present problems which come to a head when Hellebron and her fellow Khainites storm the temple of Atharti and sacrifice its high priestess, and all its members within. Soon after warfare breaks out and is only silenced when the prince, also Hellebron’s father, sends in his own army and imprisons the sisters, and shuts down the cults within the city. Though Hellebron and Lirieth are separated they continue to plan through messages to each other and after a few years their father returns to Hellebron and informs her that civil war has broken out in Ulthuan and that Morathi has been arrested. Though amused by the Queen’s downfall Hellebron is asked by her father to resume her leadership of the Cult of Khaine and deal with the other cults, who have become far more powerful since being allowed back into Athel Toralien.
The final battle occurs and the other cults are destroyed, only for Hellebron to learn that her estranged mother has led the citizens of Athel Toralien to her father’s palace and is demanding an end to the madness. The sisters enter the palace grounds and meet with their mother, who implores them to end this bloodshed and attempt to change things, to avoid leaving a legacy of murder and madness and to rather leave a legacy of peace, harmony and love. Hellebron responds by slitting her mother’s throat and ordering the Khainites to slaughter her dead mother’s followers. Thus the book ends.
The characters within the novel are very interesting. Hellebron as the main character was quite a treat and we get to see the early years of the Crone, and the beginning of her rivalry with Morathi. Hellebron’s motives in her reforming of the Cult of Khaine are very appealing and one can understand why she fights on a sympathetic level, rather than just a mental one. The remaining characters lend quite a lot to the story, from Lirieth the sister of Hellebron who is the closest family member to the aspiring priestess and provides a cautious voice to Hellebron’s ambition, and Hellebron’s father Prince Alandrian who provides Hellebron with aid, but is not afraid to show his daughters who is in charge when their exploits get too close to home.
The action scenes in the book, though few in number, are quite good and display the style favoured by Khainites and the very first two Witch Elves in exquisite detail, and against stocky brutal foes like the Orcs it is very nice to picture the Elves fighting them using fast-paced combat and attacks that rival them in fierceness.
The pacing was very good, with such a short novella at only 126 pages of text it can’t be easy to get so much of a story across with such a limited number of pages, yet Gav Thorpe has done it well and at no point I felt rushed or slowed by the novella’s progress.
The artwork is the shining piece of the novella. The pictures are quite numerous and nearly every page has at least one illustration on them, usually weapons or objects referenced within the tale but many pages feature full illustrations of the story. My personal favourite is the picture of Hellebron and Lirieth at the reception ball, they look fierce as hell. The artwork deserves a 10/10 itself. Tiernen Trevallinon is quite an artist and he simply must do more pieces for Black Library, his dark style of drawing captures the Warhammer world perfectly, would love to see what he can do with 40k.
I give The Bloody Handed a 7.5/10 for an engaging story, an interesting view into the beginning of the Cult of Khaine, and having Crone Hellebron in her early days was just great, seeing famous characters is always a treat but rarely is one as important as Hellebron given her own story outside of the Time of Legends series. Looking forward to the next novella, can only guess what its about.
Should you buy this book?, the answer is yes. If you like good stories and excellent artwork this book is worth the £40, especially if your a Dark Elf fan. But only 500 and so many copies remain, so if you decide to get it, decide soon and buy it quickly.