Genre: Fantasy – Warhammer
Publisher: Games Workshop (July 23, 2013)
Author Information: Website
Length: 416 pages
My Rating: 4 stars
Blighted Empire is a classic of fantasy storytelling, filled with heroes and villains, magic and malignance, gore and glory.; a tale from Warhammer’s Time of Legends which will thrill long time fans of the fantasy setting and persuade new readers that The Black Plague trilogy is a sword and sorcery affair not to be missed.
As the story opens, the Plague is still ravaging the Empire, pushing the greatest kingdom of humanity to the brink of annihilation; its Emperor fleeing the capital, leaving it in the hands of a ruthless madman while he takes sanctuary in the apparent safety of the countryside, wallowing in petty cruelty and deep depravity as the remaining bastions of humanity slowly begin to collapse. The instigators of the plague watching it all from their hidden burrows and tunnels; the Skaven hordes waiting for the right time to burst forth from the underworld to seize all from the man-meat. And, meanwhile, in the far east of the Empire, the fallen priest turned necromancer lurks; his motives and plans unknown to all — even his newest minion and apprentice!
What a great setup for a book two! C.L. Werner taking the dark, gritty tale of Dead Winter into fertile new ground, shepherding his cast of characters in new directions, and crafting a Warhammer tale of epic proportions. The narrative a perfect balance of fast-paced action, horrific darkness, brutal realism, historic exposition, and the smallest of light, where goodness strives to drive back the darkness. This epoch of Empire lore bursting to life before a reader’s eyes, turning the legendary figures into living, breathing individuals with understandable motivations, weaknesses, fears, and faults.
Having thoroughly enjoying Dead Winter, I was happily surprised that I liked this novel even more, finding the shift away from the plague and more of a focus on the repercussions from said plague very enjoyable. I suppose you could say I prefer post-apocalyptic struggles more than the cataclysm themselves, and that would be a fair assessment, because I do love to see people having to adapt and change to their new environment, evolve their way of thinking, and make choices they struggle with before and after the fact. This type of setting strikes me as filled with opportunities for deep introspection, contemplation about morality and beliefs, and lends itself to dramatic (sometimes tragic) story arcs; all of which C.L. Werner takes advantage of in this tale.
The only problem I had with the narrative was my continued dislike of the Skaven section of the book, which I found confusing and a bit repetitive. (Honestly, how many times do I need to read about fear scent being expelled, man-meat being eaten, and Skaven killing Skaven to understand these guys are an alien species to humankind and pretty damn dangerous.) I know, I know this trilogy is about the ratmen in large part, but they still bore me even after the first two books of the trilogy have spent a great deal of time focusing upon their culture and politics. All I can say is that Skaven aren’t for me. And, honestly, I believe this trilogy would be just as good with them remaining in the shadows, existing only as a little known and understood race of tormentors in the mold of Tolkien’s orcs.
To sum up, Blighted Empire builds upon the foundation Dead Winter laid down, directing the path of the tale into new avenues and dark paths. Yes, the horrors of the plague are not as pronounced as the first book, but everything else which comes about to fill the vacuum left behind after the pestilence is just as disconcerting and grim, though the rise of heroes to face the looming darkness is quite compelling. So, yeah, I really enjoyed this novel, and the trilogy itself is slowly growing into my favorite Warhammer read to date.