Monday, August 22, 2016

REVIEW: Lord of Undeath

The last novel in the Realmgate Wars series is finally here and with it the master of Shyish himself, Nagash. If you're a fan of the forces of death including all three Mortarchs then this is the story for you. Makvar, Lord-Celestant of the Anvils of the Heldenhammer has been sent to secure an alliance with Neferata, but when they get more then they bargained for can they still come out on top or will Shyish claim them?

The latest book in the series by C.L. Werner opens with Neferata's city of Nulahmia under attack by the forces of Chaos. Some readers may recognize this from the Balance of Power campaign book, and that's exactly what it is. The first few chapters cover the chaos lord Lascillion's attack on the forces of death and the Stormcasts' intervention, but in much more detail then what we saw in the campaign book. Neferata has hidden her city from the forces of Chaos successfully for centuries, but a powerful Slaaneshi lord is able to find it. He is literally attracted towards the levels of depravity that are exuded from her city. It's a pretty cool idea that Neferata herself is so close to Slaanesh levels of excess that it acts as a beacon of sorts.

In the middle of all of this Makvar and his Warrior Chamber lightning strike in, only to find themselves embroiled in the battle. All of the action here is engaging and fast paced while also interspersed with some nice character moments. Neferata seems pretty in line with what we have seen of her in the past, but we don't get as much time with her since this isn't just her story alone. She is definitely the most human and sympathetic of all of the Mortarchs though. There are a bunch of cool moments throughout the battle with the Slaanesh horde diverting its attention to pursue more carnal desires, Neferata debating her options between flight and fight, and her general doing everything he can to gain her attention, even if that means attacking the Stormcast who are helping them. Just like in the campaign book this all ends with Nagash himself appearing to hear the Stormcasts' pleas for an alliance. It's a pretty cool moment, with the lord of undeath striding out of a giant soul tornado to converse with the warrior chamber's Knight-Azyros, Huld.

From here they move out across the lands of Shyish, with Nagash tasking the Stormcasts with finding his other two missing Mortarchs to prove their worth. The next battle sees them fighting over the ruins of Mephitt, a clearly Tomb King inspired city, to rescue Arkhan. The Mortarch is surrounded by a horde of Nurgle and on the back foot. Just like in Nulahmia the action is exciting and interesting with a really cool part involving a gigantic rogue Terrorgheist. Nagash is clearly putting the Stormcasts through the ringer, trying to figure them out as best as he can. This whole time Neferata is also spinning her schemes, trying to secure her own alliance with Makvar, knowing that she can't trust Nagash. The last part of the story has them going after Mannfred, the last remaining Mortarch, who is holed up in a massive fortress of his own construction. There are some mentions here of the events of Mortarch of Night and the audio dramas, but not much more then Mannfred having escaped the Stormcast in Ghur. I wish there had been some mention of Taursus, mostly just because I want to know what happened to him.

Lascillion makse a reappearance later in the book, with the chaos lord borne back to his master, a powerful Khorne lord who has been tasked by Archaon with securing Shyish. Here we get to meet other lords and champions, one from each god, who along with Lascillion are tasked to hunt down Neferata again and kill her. The only champions who really get any exploration besides Lascillion is a Tzeentch sorceress who is given command of the group and a Khorne warrior who has a really cool moment in the finale of the book.

All of the characters are interesting, with the Stormcast having several prominent heroes besides just the Lord-Celestant. They all feel like unique and realistic people (Stormcast?) too, which is good since sometimes they can get a bit too samey. All of the undead characters are great as well with my favorite being Neferata. Authors seem to connect with her the most out of all the Mortarchs, which is fine with me since Josh Reynolds did such a good job really fleshing her out in his books. I do wish that Arkhan got a bit more attention. He pretty much disappears after he is rescued until the very end of the book, but it suits the storyline. There is a great balance between action and character development, which is key to any story in my opinion. The climax with Mannfred and the forces of Chaos is a great end to the story with plenty of twists and turns. This is probably my favorite story by C.L. Werner in AoS so far. He did a fantastic job of further exploring the complex relationships and schemes of the masters of undeath. There was never a moment where I was bored and I constantly wanted to start the next chapter to find out what happened. It was nice as a Tomb King player too to see a few little mentions here and there such as chariots, bone catapults, necro-kings, and Ushabti. None of these are mentioned by name, besides the necro-king, but it's nice that they are included as little easter eggs. I don't want to go into the plot more then I have so I don't spoil it for you.

This was a great end to the Realmgate Wars series, and the epilogue has me even more interested in what will happen with the forces of Death in the future. Specifically the Anvils of the Heldenhammer. If you have read the Allgates campaign book already then you know a little bit about what I am hinting at. There is some great exploration of Shyish as realm too, with Mephitt, the Tomb Kingesque city covered in a layer of ectoplasm, being a stand out for me. Not just because of my own personal bias, but the idea of having it completely flooded by this almost jello like liquid that the armies are able to fight on top of is a really cool idea, and definitely very high fantasy.You can pretty much read this book on its own too without having to have read any of the other nine books, although either listening to the audio dramas or reading the prose versions of them in Mortarch of Night will help with establishing what's going on a little bit. I would gladly read another novel by C.L. Werner focusing on the forces of Death, he did a fantastic job here. I would definitely rate this in my top five favorite AoS stories so far.

Final Score - 4.5/5

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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