Genre: Fantasy – Warhammer
Series: Time of Legends
Publisher: Games Workshop (August 26, 2008)
Length: 528 pages
My Rating: 3.5 stars
A calculating priest, a cunning sorcerer, a ruthless king, and a mass murdering necromancer. Nagash has been each and every one of them. This legendary figure in the Warhammer Universe as black-hearted as any being in a world populated by a pantheon of badass characters.
But Nagash is a bit different from other villains like Malekith and Archaon. From the Egyptian-inspired culture he sprang from to the complete disdain he has for all living things, this guy distinguishes himself from the others. Well, that and the fact that in this book, Nagash is still a man, a demented and diabolical one, but still a man who willing chooses to destroy everything a normal mortal holds dead – without one ounce of remorse.
Covering several centuries, Mike Lee’s Nagash the Sorcerer has a lot of ground to cover, and so his narrative resorts to time skips forwards and backwards. The past showing Nagash’s royal lineage, his jealousy and contempt for his brother, and his initial steps into necromancy, as well as highlighting the glory of the Nehekhara culture and its divinely created nature. The current scenes showing the struggle between Nagash and a group of fellow kings who risk all to desperately attempt to stop the undead hordes and seemingly unstoppable ambition of the first necromancer.
Like all Warhammer books, Nagash the Sorcerer is a fast-paced affair, heavy on bloody battles and their minute details. Numerous armies clash in titanic struggles throughout; horrible and vile deeds are done; and the slow death of a civilization is shown in detail. Definitely, things do get confusing at times, keeping all the players and their roles straight a chore, but overall, Mike Lee does a great job making the war and the different clashes noteworthy and memorable in one way or another.
As for the characters themselves, they are a mixed bag. Nagash himself is a powerful presence whenever he appears. His unquenchable lust for power at any cost, his complete lack of empathy for other human beings, and his unbridled desire to rule or ruin perfectly portrayed. There is no struggle between good and evil, right and wrong in this man. Nagash is beyond such petty human concerns and more memorable for it. Unfortunately, none of the other characters around him every develop into anything other than adequate co-stars. Sure, you feel bad for them when their brutal ends come, but you never knew them well enough to need to grieve at their demise.
What Mike Lee excels at in this novel is creating the Nehekhara culture. Reminding one immediately of ancient Egypt with some elements taken from other cultures such as the Aztecs, Nehekhara is a richly developed society built upon mystical gods, powerful magic, and a unique societal traits. This vibrant land very compelling, well worthy of grief when Nagash’s undead hordes begin to trample it into the desert sands.
Whether Nagash the Sorcerer offers enough to keep a reader interested is up to them. Like most sword-and-sorcery, this novel is not for everyone, nor is it trying to be. This is a Warhammer book filled with magic and combat, death and necromancy, brutality and deception, war and more war. You might like or you might not based upon your expectations and your reading preferences. Try it and see for yourself if it suits your tastes or not.