Genre: Fantasy – Warhammer
Series: The Legend of Sigmar #1
Publisher: Games Workshop (April 29, 2008)
Length: 416 pages
My Rating: 3.5 stars
There are times when all a fantasy reader craves is a simple, action-packed, and enjoyable tale, one filled with uncomplicated bad guys (The villains who just want to conquer or to lay waste the world) and conventional heroes (Men and women of honor, who have dedicated their life to defending humanity and keeping civilization safe from the forces of darkness). Simple stuff. And Heldenhammer is exactly that sort of book; an enjoyable, if fairly straightforward, narrative, which does a great job introducing readers to the Warhammer Universe and its most famous legend: Sigmar.
As the tale begins, Sigmar is a young warrior, eager to prove to his father and himself that he is a man of might who can protect his people from their many enemies, worthy of one day leading them into a new future. For the Unberogen tribe, strong though it is, is constantly beset by war: war with other tribes of men, war with the monsters of chaos, and war with the cruel orcs who come down from the mountains. But Sigmar — mighty man of war, respecter of the ways of his people, and lover of all the human tribes — has a vision of something better, something grander for the bickering tribes of humankind: Their own mighty empire!
Yet for all his grand aspirations, Sigmar is a man divided by competing desires. One the one hand, he is filled with a longing to be the leader who finally unites (kicking and screaming if need be) the threatened tribes of humankind and leads them into a safer, more enlightened age, where they need not live in fear in their own lands. However, he knows this is a monumental task, one which will consume his life, and he is torn with the equally strong desire to marry the beloved lady he loves, settle down, and grow old with a family around him; his grand vision become a youthful ambition cast aside in the face of maturity.
But fate always plays a role in a man’s life, and it does with Sigmar as well. Hard decisions, sorrowful sacrifices,and the desires of others combining to take away his choices and place his feet firmly on the path of destiny. This initial stage of his journey a long one, ending in a fateful battle which will determine the fate of mankind itself!
As I mentioned, Heldenhammer isn’t a complicated fantasy; it is straight ahead, simple, and well meaning. Sigmar a main character who is as close to perfect as a young man can be. This warrior a specimen of a man, gifted with outstanding fighting prowess, blessed with unusual wisdom, and surrounded by a loving father, dedicated friends, and wise counselors. He does have a few minor faults, but they are nearly inconsequential when balanced against his outstanding qualities. Yet, somehow, someway, Sigmar is a person you instantly like. He is truly the leader a man would want to follow behind, fight beside. He might be better than you at everything, but he doesn’t make you feel less but inspires you to become more. His deeds, his words uplifting, not insulting. And it is his persona, his conviction, his unfailing dedication to his dream which makes Heldenhammer more than a feel good fantasy time sink.
What aids Sigmar in his task to entertain is the Warhammer world. This role playing setting a treasure trove of familiar yet interesting cultures, lore, and histories; each mixing to create a place I personally never grow tired of learning about. And since this book focused on the diverse tribes of men and introduces nearly all of them, I found it even more entertaining, as a whole new vista spread out before my reading eyes. The whole thing wrapped in the sword and sorcery trappings of Warhammer; combat always just a page flip away.
There are some easily recognized flaws in the narrative however. The most obvious one the fairly predictable nature of the various plots. For even though Heldenhammer takes place over more than a decade, each of the plots take the expected trajectory, end as you would anticipated, and fail to illicit any substantial surprise. Especially bland is the middle section of the book where Sigmar does quite a bit of traveling, basically doing the same things over and over again (though Graham McNeill attempts to give each adventure their own unique flavor), reading a lot like filler material.
Even with that significant criticism, I truly enjoyed reading Heldenhammer. It was a fun book about a good guy who is actually heroic and wants to do good things for others. (OMG, how shocking it sounds to type that these days!) The Warhammer world was as interesting as always, and the fighting was classic sword and sorcery faire. Nope, the novel doesn’t revolutionize the genre, but it is well worth a read for Warhammer fans or anyone who loves some good old fashioned fantasy fun.