Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Warhammer The End Times Book novel review: The Curse of Khaine by Gav Thorpe

So we get to the mid point in the End Times and it is the time of the Elves, or more accurately it is the Time of Malekith for this is ultimately his tale. The Curse of Khaine is also the end of his story, a journey that encompasses betrayal, defeat, victory and redemption. It is a story that Gav Thorpe began in his Time of Legends Sundering Trilogy so it seems apt that he should be the one to finish it in the End Times. This is the first End Times book to feel Epic. Its scope is such that the reader is left as to no illusion as to the stakes involved. This is the book that really FEELS like the End Times.

I've not read Khaine, the hardback campaign book that this novel accompanies, however i have to say that i don't really feel that i need to anymore. Gav does such a good job of squeezing events into this novel that i doubt there is a great deal that the campaign book will be able to add, except perhaps embellishing the fate of the Wood Elves somewhat as that aspect of the story is given lip service at best. The book doesn't really feel diminished in any way with its absence and although i will get round to Khaine at some point this was the first End Times novel where i felt i got a rounded feel of events.

What is contained is told entirely from the perspective of the Witch King Malekith as he tries once again to take his perceived rightful place as ruler of the Elves. In six thousand years Aenarion's heir has changed little and one of the only criticisms i would level at the book would be the lack of character development within. None of the figures featured really change much, and Gav's portrayal or Morathi is something i still have issues with. I felt it hindered Malekith (the first Sundering book) and it is probably best that she is reduced to barely a supporting character here.

The events within however far make up for any lack of character development. Gav manages to fit so much into this story and the pace rarely lets up. Realising that his brother Tyrion is lost to Khaine, Teclis has been colluding with the Witch King in order to bring Tyrion down and give Ulthuan a new ruler, and that ruler is Malekith. Unfortunately there is little time for embellishment of how all these machinations came to be. Gav is kept busy enough with frequent (and it must be said somewhat awkward at times) flashbacks to fill in any back story for those that have not read the Sundering Trilogy. That said i would recommend picking up Gav's previous Elf books as they really are rather good. Especially Shadow King, a character that through necessity takes something of a back seat this time round. 

And Alith Anar is not the only character to be given short shrift. Even the antagonist Tyrion is seen only as a distant threat (in fact i'm not sure he even has any dialogue). You get the feeling that Gav would have much rather embraced this tale with another trilogy, (certainly it feels like it warrants it) and is just constricted by time. It is therefore somewhat surprising that the book feels somewhat bloated then. Although the pace rarely lets up and remains exciting all the way through the writing is a little cumbersome in places. This sadly is just down to the author and his ability to storycraft. Rather than flowing the prose stumbles a bit. It's not a fatal flaw and i really do believe that Gav is a far better writer than many give him credit for but it is noticeable that Curse of Khaine lacks a certain elan, a certain effortless class. 

That said, overall the book just works. Between the focus on the twisted and tortured Malekith and the underlying study on the nature of the elves and the Curse of Khaine it just works. You do need to treat this as a Malekith book more than anything else, an addition and ending to the Sundering saga. But once you have done that then the book really does start to gel. With plenty of action and a fair amount of grimness (the Dark Elves are still DARK) its a rewarding read. Malekith is a fascinating individual, of noble blood but too twisted and embittered by the years to see the path. There is a moment in the book where it all catches up with him and he truly embraces his destiny in an epiphany six millennia in the making. You get the feeling that if Gav can just make a similar final leap in writing quality then he too could become regarded in the same circles as Abnett and McNeil and perhaps even take his place in the ranks of the Fantasy and Sci Fi greats. In fact with both of those authors having their input drastically reduced now (Graham has taken a full time gig with Riot Games and Abnett has been lured away by Marvel.. ) he may indeed be one of our last, best hopes. 


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