Monday, January 23, 2017

REVIEW: Legends of the Age of Sigmar - Skaven Pestilens

I know I'm a little late on this review considering the book came out about a year ago, but I finally got around to reading the Skaven Pestilens novel and I definitely was not disappointed by it. Not only do we get to read about the Skaven and Stormcast fighting on top of a giant worm, but this is the first, and only, in depth look at the Seraphon in the novels.

This could have easily been a rather straight forward story about the Clan Pestilens fighting against the Stormcast and accomplished everything it needed to since the main focus of these Legends books is to showcase a particular army or race. Josh Reynolds went above and beyond though and also chucked in the Seraphon, everyone's favorite dream-lizards, and really fleshed them out. The story opens right at the start of the action. The main city of the story has already fallen to the Skaven and at this point the Stormcast have just started to appear to take it back. Right off the bat we are thrown a distintcly AoS styled twist with the fact that this city is on the back of a gigantic worm in the Realm of Beasts. When I say gigantic I truly mean gigantic! This is a giant sprawling city and it's all on this worms back, how cool is that? Many of the buildings are made out of hollowed out hairs sprouting from the worm itself and the city has earned the moniker of the Crawling City.

The Skaven are here to find one of the lost 13 plagues of the Great Horned Rat. In fact, it's two different Skaven clans that are present, each trying to get to the prize before the other. Vretch is the leader of one of these clans and is the smarter of the two. An expert at manipulation and subterfuge, he plans to locate the lost plague while his counterpart slows down the enemy. Kruk, the other Plague Priest of the opposing clan, is essentially a giant brute. He's slow, dim witted, but vicious and powerful and all to eager to take on the invading Stormcast forces. Both of these priests are actually being manipulated by a Verminlord Corrupter who is using them to locate the lost plague for himself. He sees his best chance at succeeding in throwing the two against each other in competition.

The Stormcast are the Astral Templars led by Zephaclaes, a character that Josh has used in a few novels and is always a delight to see. Though the Stormcast are present, I would say they are not the main force of Order in this story. That honor falls to the Seraphon who show up fairly early on to pursue their own agenda. Teaming up with the Stormcast they begin their push through the city to eradicate the Skaven. I love how Josh wrote the Seraphon. I won't lie, I wasn't a big fan of the lizards after reading their Battletome. There just didn't seem like there was enough to really make them an interesting faction. Everything was too vague and a bit contradictory. Here we get to see them interact with others for the first time in the novels outside of a battle scene, and more importantly we see into their thoughts a bit. They refer to everything in terms of dreams, which is pretty cool. For example, they call the Stormcast dreams of Sigmar. Our main heroes are a Skink Priest, a Sunblood, and an Old Blood on a Carnosaur. It's interesting to see into their thoughts since the Saurus seem to realize something is off, with their memory being a bit spotty, but they still retain their memories from the last time they were summoned by the Slann.

There is a Slann there too, but he is sleeping most of the time and instead lets his Skink Priest do the talking for him. They all felt like fully formed characters that I could relate to on some level. I could care about what happens to them, which is essential. There are definitely some areas that are left a little vague, most likely because Josh didn't have the answers to them, but all in all he did an excellent job at fleshing them out. I was half tempted to start a Seraphon army after reading this.

The Skaven are also handled fantastically, with the two priests really feeling different from each other. There are plenty of quasi-comedic moments for them too, which is only fitting for the Skaven. One of my favorites is that Vretch likes to stuff his tail in his mouth when he is nervous or scared. The plot is fun, and not as straight forward as you would think. A lot of this is thanks to the extremely imaginative setting that Josh placed them in. The Skaven literally burrow into the worm at points and venture through his insides. The interaction between the Stormcast and the Seraphon is great and insightful, since the Stormcast kind of act as our stand in, being unsure of what the Seraphon are as well. The Verminlord is another stand out character. It's a lot of fun seeing how he is trying to manipulate the Skaven beneath him without revealing that he's doing so. He has some pretty cool fight scenes as well, especially one with a Knight-Venator.

This was a fun, fast paced novel that I never once got bored of. The Skaven were fun in their Skaveny way and the insight into the Seraphon was fantastic. Seriously, if you are a Seraphon player you need to read this book. AoS books are at their best when they incorporate crazy, off the wall elements like a city on the back of a giant worm, and Josh is never one to shy away from embracing that. It's a quick read, but well worth the time. While not essential to the main AoS storyline at all, it still manages to add a whole lot to the setting. I would definitely recommend reading this.

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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