Being a Tomb King fan, the Nagash books from the Time of Legends series, is of course, a favorite of mine. I read Nagash the Sorcerer back when it was first released and decided to give it a second read recently between other books. So, how did it hold up?
This book was the first to really delve into Nagash as a character, and not just a boogeyman of the Fantasy world. We of course now have all of the End Times material which features the Usurper, but at the time this was it. He is also a much different kind of monster at the start of his tale than at the end against Archaon. I purposely used the word "monster", because there is no mistaking that's what he was even as a mere mortal.
The story opens with Nagash already having been in power for centuries, and now all of the city states, except for Numas, Zandri, and Bel-Aliad, are in open revolt against him. The priest king of Ka-Sabar stands defiantly against the Usurper and the opening battle is a great way to see how far Nagash has already fallen. The other cities of Nehekhara have no clue that he has power over the dead at this point, and are taken almost completely by surprise when the enemy soldiers they just killed rise up again to tear and claw at them. I was entertained by pretty much all of the battle scenes in this novel, and they are all pretty varied so you don't get bored. The chapters switch between being set during the cities' revolt against Nagash and his rise to power two centuries before.
It's pretty interesting to see how he learned Necromancy and stole the throne from his brother. There really never was any point in time when Nagash was not a horrible person. You will definitely not sympathize with him. For me though, the main story is the revolt set during the "present." Mike Lee did a ton of world building in this book, making each of the Nehekharen cities feel distinctly different from each other. This was almost entirely his work, since there wasn't much detail written about them before besides a few throw away lines. He also worked on their pantheon of gods, expanding them and explaining how they work in more detail. In general, the entire Nehekharen culture is expanded upon and made to be a believable, and working society. We get a ton of nods to current Tomb King units, such as the steam powered giant scorpion and giant constructs created by Lybaras. We even get to see their modern contemporaries in use as Nagash takes inspiration from them, creating the bone versions we know now.
The major players in the story are Nagash, Arkhan the Black, the priest kings of Ka-Sabar, Rasetra, and Lybaras, and a priest of Mahrak, Nebunefer. Each of these characters is equally as interesting as the others, even though most of them don't ever interact with each other. One of my favorite parts was the feint that Ka-Sabar's army executed against Bel-Aliad and the unintentional horror that ensued. The cities wage war according to a certain code of ethics, which Nagash has no intention of honoring. This forces all of them to adapt or be annihilated, which they come pretty close to several times.
The story in Nagash the Sorcerer is enthralling and entertaining and has some of the best world building I have seen in awhile. I would love to see more books set in the time before Nagash turned Nehekhara into the land of the dead. It's extremely rich and deep and even across the entire trilogy we only see the very surface of it scratched. This is no fault of Mike Lee's, as he just had so much story to cover, and a lot of Nagash's story in the second two books doesn't take place within Nehekhara, so our time is split. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is a Warhammer fan, and especially if you are a Tomb King player. It's definitely Warhammer, but it has its own distinct flavor since it is set so long ago and in a completely foreign land. The story of Nagash's rise and fall is the basis for the entire Undead faction in Warhammer and much of the story that comes after, so it's pretty essential to the Fantasy world.
The picture at the top is from the cover on the German version by the way, which is a larger format and extremely awesome! I would love to get that cover in English (hint, hint Black Library).
Final Score - 5/5
Until next time,