Despite being a fan of Games Workshop for longer than I care to remember, Warhammer Fantasy has never really grabbed me in the same way as 40K. The same is true for the books from the Black Library; although I read every 40k based book that comes out I am rarely interested in the fantasy novels asides from a certain Dwarf slayer and his companion. The debate as to whether Gotrek is in fact the worst or best slayer ever is a debate for another time.
However based on Iron Company the second novel in the Empire army series I may just have to revise my opinion of the Warhammer Fantasy range in general.
Iron Company is the third Black Library novel by Chris Wraight.
Now the way I understand it is that each novel in the Empire Army series focuses on a specific unit taking part in some huge battle. In the first novel in the series Reiksguard the action focussed on well a unit of Reiksguard (must have taken a long meeting to think up the title for that one), in the second novel Iron Company the action focuses on the Imperial Engineers a specialised job in the army where the end results of the Engineers work can be as equally dangerous to its own side as the enemy.
Our Hero for this story is Engineer Magnus Ironblood, forced into retirement after an accident he is lured, although forced might be a better term, out of retirement for one final campaign. Sent with a Hochland army to bring secessionist forces to hell to prevent civil war, the army finds itself outgunned and must muster all of its wits, strength and courage to survive.
The first thing that hit me about this novel is its Epic feel. This novel isn’t about a little skirmish somewhere in the empire, it’s about huge armies having a massive drawn out holds bared fight as a siege develops, as the Hochlanders try to force the rebels from their citadel. Chris Wraight has done a really fantastic job of bringing the empire army to ‘life’ with a wide array of characters that are well rounded and not simply walking clichés. The disagreements between the Warrior Priest and the Engineer were especially good as the Priests Faith clashes against the Engineers logic.
Unfortunately this is also one of the weakest points of the novel; Chris Wraight does such a good job with the build up that the siege itself seems rushed and over far too quickly. For a castle that they talk about in such awed tones their able to break it down remarkably quickly.
Secondly the ‘reveal’ that Ironbloods rival/mortal enemy is working for the rebels comes very late in the book and doesn’t have a much impact as it could have done if it had been worked into the story earlier.
I feel that these two points do detract from the novel and pull it down slightly from the heights it could have reached. However this far from a mediocre book and based on this offering I would say that Chris Wraight has plenty more to offer to the Black Libraries Warhammer Fantasy range because he defiantly has potential to become one of their better fantasy authors.
I will look out for his next book with anticipation.
Three stars out of five for Iron Company from the Gabbling Geek.