Genre: Fantasy — Warhammer
Series: Tyrion & Teclis #1
Publisher: Games Workshop (November 29, 2011)
Length: 320 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
Sometimes, I find myself craving pure old-fashioned sword and sorcery escapism. You know, tales of action, adventure, and intrigue with vile villains and jaded heroes. Books where the exploits of legendary figures are chronicled, as they stride across a world, meting out death and destruction to their enemies, even while they carry around their own personal crosses upon their back. And Warhammer novels are tailor made for these moments.
The best part of these sugar-coated fantasy stories are the characters. Every Warhammer fan has their personal favorite. But few of them are as interesting or as ill-fated as Aenarion, the first Phoenix King of the Elves; the warrior who braves death by godly flames and the Curse of Khaine (when he draws the vile sword of the God of War and Murder) not for personal glory but to obtain the power to defend his people from the endless hordes of Chaos. So, naturally, when I saw this book, realized it was all about Aenarion’s descendants and promised to reveal, at least, a sliver of lore about the legendary Phoenix King, I had to read it.
Blood starts things off with a mesmerizing tale of Aenarion’s final battle. This too brief introduction to the Phoenix King taking a reader into the head of the doomed legend, revealing his true feelings about his life’s choices, exploring his complicated relationship with Caledor Dragontamer and Morathi, and, ultimately, setting the stage for the stories main villain, N’Kari the immortal Daemon prince.
Shifting from the ancient past, the story finally comes to rest on a pair of Aenarion’s ancestors: Tyrion and Teclis. These twins reared in the wilds of the continent of Ulthuan by their widowed father, who is more obsessed with repairing the ancient battle armor of Aenarion than spending time with his children. Tyrion is the athletic twin, endowed with amazing physical ability and with a mind for strategy; Teclis is a sickly youth, whose mind is better suited for magic. The two of them content with their current life, shielded by their father from the truth of what it means to be of the blood of Aenarion.
But peace never lasts. Things changing abruptly for the twins when their aunt arrives unexpectedly. The current Phoenix King having decreed that Tyrion and Teclis must be examined for the taint of Khaine’s curse. The fear of the elves that Aenarion’s ancestors will be born with the taint of the Bloody-Handed God of War and Murder, causing them to slip into some form of madness and bring untold misery to their race. And, thus, are our ill-starred twins ripped from their isolated childhood home and immersed in a world of power and intrigue they are not prepared to handle.
While I usually do not warm to coming-of-age stories anymore (too old and grumpy, I think), I enjoyed this one. William King doing a wonderful job of fleshing out the twins (especially Tyrion here), creating real individuals who lived up to their legendary Warhammer status but also were more complex. The pair exhibiting moments of confusion, sadness, weakness, and actual mistakes! Not Chosen Ones in the usual sense (though the twins are definitely gifted in different ways and viewed as having potential by those who wish to be their benefactors) but youths who have much to learn and seemingly not enough time to do so before doom befalls them. This personal portrait of the real Tyrion and Teclis, not the legends, a huge reason I enjoyed the narrative from start to finish.
The other element I thoroughly enjoyed throughout Blood was William King’s simple yet perfect observations regarding the differences (or lack of differences) between the Elves of Ulthuan and their Druuchi cousins. Specifically, I am referring to how the author deftly and subtly shows the High Elves and their demented cousins to not be so terribly different after all; each people merely a different side of the same coin. The Druuchi of Naggaroth and the Elves both flawed races, overflowing with intense passions and hopeless hubris. This seemingly simple and insignificant observation clarifying the eternal conflict for me better than any multi-page info dump ever could have.
The only problem I had with this story was the lack of suspense. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with Warhammer knows Tyrion and Teclis are important figures in the lore, legendary figures even, so the possibility of their tale ending here was basically zero. Certainly, all stories have a tendency to never ask more of their heroes than they are able to overcome, but with specific details of Tyrion and Teclis’s lives already set down in stone, William King had his hands tied to a certain extent as to what he could actually do with and to these characters. Unfortunately, that did hold back the narrative from reaching its full potential.
Blood of Aenarion had its grip on me from the first page of Aenarion’s story, building in me a deep desire to know who and what his ancestors would be. Tyrion and Teclis definitely lived up to my expectations, providing me with a nice action and adventure story in a world which I found comfortable yet intriguing. And, yes, I did like it enough to immediately move on to book two of the series.