Wednesday, February 25, 2015

REVIEW: The Rise of the Horned Rat

The End Times keep on rolling and with them the novels that tie into each book. This time we have The Rise of The Horned Rat by Guy Haley and man was it a fun read.

I have to admit, out of all of the End Times books I was least enthused about this one. It mainly had to do with the facts that I just couldn't see how Skaven would be interesting to read about as one of the main protagonists and Karak Eight Peaks as a whole seemed like a small deal compared to everything else that's going on. Even though this novel ties into Thanquol it stuck to the battle for Karak Eight Peaks for the most part. Honestly, this was a smart choice as it kept the plot from sprawling and Guy Haley had written the Skarsnik novel before as well as some stories about Belegar. As soon as I cracked open the book and started reading it I knew I had been wrong, this book was wonderful!

It might not cover the most pivotal events of Thanquol, but the Eight Peaks are a pretty big plot point in the Warhammer world as a whole. I was immediately drawn into the way the Skaven were written. It made them feel real and alive and at the same time immensely fun to read. The whole Skaven "dialect" is great and very creative. I know Guy Haley most likely isn't the one who came up with it (I'm not the most knowledgable Skaven fan) but he utilized it to great effect-result. I love the way they speak-squeak in their weird fast, double worded way. Each Skaven even spoke slightly differently from each other. Lord Gnawdwell, a member of the Council of Thirteen, almost spoke like a normal human would due to the fact that he is older and more "cultured." In contrast Queek Headtaker speaks in an even choppier and more rushed way then any of his other companions. This is a great tool to show off his personality just in his manner of speech. He has no time for anything and is immensely impatient. All he cares about is the next battle.

Queek himself is a joy to read as well. You really feel his psychosis as he talks to his severed heads upon his trophy rack. Even if they do talk back, and it's strongly suggested by a Verminlord later that they really are talking back and it's not just his imagination, it really shows how demented he is. I particularly like later in the novel when the winds of magic are wracking the world and the heads only speak gibberish to him anymore. Another thing that was really brought to light is how short lived the Skaven are. It makes sense since they are rats, and I recall reading that somewhere else as well. To hear Queek lament about getting old and being close to becoming too infirm to battle anymore all at the ripe old age of ten really bring it into focus. It kind of makes me angry too when you think about how much damage the Skaven are doing to the world and they only have the average lifespan of a dog. Not even long enough to make a difference or really matter.

One of my favorite characters in the whole thing though has to be Skarsnik, the Goblin warlord. Again, the goblins have a very distinct way of speaking, which is almost Jamaican sounding in my mind. Of course I knew how Orcs (and Orks) spoke, but it's not something you see utilized for extended periods of time and I think Guy did a good job at it. Skarsnik is almost Queek's opposite in that he is smart, clever, and very well learned. He even has a desire to learn more. Quite frankly he seems like the only competent one in the whole story. He is definitely the most human of all the characters, even if he is a sneaky git. I am very interested to see what the End Times has in store for him.

Belegar Ironhammer should be the protagonist of the story since he is the Dwarf and they are the good guys, and he is in a way. Clearly you want the Dwarfs to win (or maybe the goblins), but he is not a very likable character. He is stubborn to a fault, so stubborn in fact that even other Dwarfs think he is overly stubborn. That's saying something. His actions seem somewhat selfish throughout the story and you constantly get frustrated with him.

The story itself follows the Karak Eight Peaks story from the Thanquel book pretty closely. There are no deviations that I noted unlike in some of the past End Times novels. In fact they fill in some of the blanks here that are only hinted at in Thanquol. The battles do a good job of drawing you in and making you feel invested. You really feel the plight of the Dwarfs as their realm shrinks and this novel has the only death so far that has really tugged at my heart strings. Really, I was sad and angry over it, but mostly sad. Bravo, Mr. Haley you glorious bastard (and I mean that in the best way). The Verminlords are kind of annoying throughout the book, but they are meant to be. All of the Skaven can tell they are being manipulated by the demons, but there is nothing they can do about it. Skarsnik has a great interaction with one that really throws the Verminlord off balance.

For those of you who have read Thanquol don't worry, this novel follows Queek till the very end. In fact the last few chapters of this book mirror the ending of Thanquol exactly, so you get to see all of that drama unfold in the novel. I am glad they chose Guy Haley to write this book as it essentially allows him to wrap up his story of Karak Eight Peaks. In fact, they have done a good job of picking all of the authors for the End Times books so far. Josh Reynolds got to tell more of Nagash's story after the Blood of Nagash books, Chris Wraight got to wrap up Helborg's tale and Gav Thorpe got to finish Malekith's. While this book may not be the most pivotal in the events of the End Times it is a lot of fun to read and very well written. I'm sure any Orc, Dwarf, or Skaven fans out there are already planning on picking it up, but I would recommend it to any Warhammer fan.

Final Score - 5/5

P.S. Guy Haley please pull an Agent Coulson and bring back that character who died. Thank you.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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