There is little question that the End times is the biggest thing ever to happen to the Warhammer world. An event of cataclysmic proportions sundering the entire realm and one which the after effects will echo for eons. Released as a series of campaign books the first installment was Nagash. Nagash had been absent for some time from the Warhammer game (though an excellent trilogy of novels by Mike Lee had been released in recent years). His return was a big thing but even back then we had no idea exactly what the End Times would entail. Accompanied by a frankly ridiculously oversized model The End Times gave people a reason to play again and the Limtited Edition books sold out quickly. The books came in a hardback slip case one book revolving around the story and the other covering rules. Even the story part of the book was interspersed with frequent battles however (it is a campaign book after all) which went some way to fracturing the overall narrative. The writing was also frequently not the best. Therefore when I saw that there was an accompanying series of black library novels I hoped that they would shed further light onto the story. Suffice to say with The Return of Nagash at least I was very disappointed.
Penned by Josh Reynolds (who’s Neferata I found particularly hard reading due to a meandering plot and complete indifference to events within) The Return of Nagash is a book that thoroughly forgets what it is actually about In the same way as Prospero Burns. Like the Thousand Sons home planet, Nagash actually only makes an appearance in the last dozen pages of the book. The rest of the novel is largely Vampires bickering and you wondering what else is going on in the wider world as this earth shattering event commences.
The main protagonist in the book is Mannfred Von Carstein, in itself that is not a major issue as he is a main character in the campaign book too but here we are also treated to several other vampires of varying importance, those of his get and other bit part players. We do get a general overview of what is going on in Sylvania and the plan to resurrect Nagash though the parties involved are dedicated to this cause for their own ends. Arkhan, Kemmler and Krell all feature to add a little variety but far too much of the book revolves around the vampires and their machinations and games. It’s just BORING. This is meant to be the End Times, it should have been easy to inject a sense of disaster and peril into the book worthy of the magnitude of events but he fails to do this. There is the odd chapter here and there that deigns to feature different characters and races but the way that the various plot threads are interwoven is very clumsy. The book is frankly a chore to read at times. Although the writing itself is not of particularly poor quality, the storytelling certainly is and the book doesn’t flow at all.
It must be said the last few chapters of the book really pick up and deliver but by then it is far too little too late, The final climatic battle is exciting but a lot of charity is required by the reader to get there. A little less focus on the vampires and more attention paid to what else is going on in the Warhammer world would have paid dividends, the book doesn’t feel overly long either, it’s not like more effort couldn’t have been made to include the missing narrative. It just seems that Reynolds has got carried away with the vampire arc to the detriment of all else. The fact that the titular character is included only at the very end of the book itself doesn’t help. Quite the misjudgment in my opinion especially as I feel his indominatable presence would have improved the book considerably. As an aside I felt a distinct melancholy when Nagash spoke as his dialogue is rendered in bold capitals much like Sir Terry Pratchett’s Death. (RIP)
It wouldn’t be so bad if this were not the ONLY book that is being published to cover the NAGASH campaign book. Reynolds has sold himself short here, by getting tunnel vision and delivering a book that feels like it will continue in the next in the series (it doesn’t) instead of this being all you get. Imagine if the First stage of the Horus Heresy was told ONLY by horus rising with a chapter each from False Gods, Galaxy in flames and Flight of the Eisenstein included and you will more or less get an idea of what The Return of Nagash is like. It is false advertisement and although not the worst thing I have read it reeks of missed opportunity.
So it’s a bit of a shame all round and certainly a disappointment given what could have been achieved. Perhaps if this had been treated differently it could have been of more worth. However, as it is I would find this book difficult to recommend. If you were enthralled (sic) by Neferata or Vampires in general then Return of Nagash may well prove to be worth your time, as it was I was bitterly disappointed by this book apart from the last fifty pages or so and can only hope the follow up, Fall of Altdorf by Chris Wraight is of more worth.