The Black Rift of Klaxus Part : Assault on the Mandrake Bastion by Josh Reynolds. A Warhammer: Age of Sigmar short story, originally published by The Black Library, July 2015. Approx. 30 pages.
In our last post, I reviewed the freshman Age of Sigmar novella, The Gates of Azyr. Obviously, I am not too crazy about all this Age of Sigmar nonsense, and the story wasn't the greatest to boot either. I had my fun, but realized in all fairness I should give another AoS title or two a chance, just to see what some of the other authors could do with it.
I've really enjoyed the other stories I've read by Reynolds (there are a few shorts by him I need to get reviews up for). I don't know how best to describe it more succinctly, but he writes very well for how you would imagine your miniatures to move. He also describes specific attacks/spells within the Warhammer canon well. He choreographs decent enough action scenes. And his characters are usually approachable enough on a cinematic level (but no real emotion or pathos).
That's what readers can expect here. The rather long title perfectly summarizes the plot. I wish I could add more, but I can't. Once again we are assailed with numerous geographical names and specific unit types. I really cannot get myself to care enough about anything in this setting enough to memorize or care to differentiate.
This isn't to say that there isn't anything of merit in this installment. It is written well enough. The Sigmarines are more enjoyable this go-round. The leader, Orius, has the same past-life memory hiccups as Vandus in Gates of Azyr, so I guess this is officially motif. These are interesting to read about. There is obviously a bit of a puzzle to sort out regarding Orius and Anhur, the Khornate warlord (who, in a nice twist, seems to be suffering the seeds of doubt regarding his life choices). Other than that, most of the good guy dialogue is barking directions, formation orders, and some sardonic one-liners (which work more or less). I couldn't keep up with the names. Two characters, Kartus and Tarkus, I kept confusing, and the fact that their names have the same letters, just rearranged, didn't help. They were both pretty cool, I won't lie. One didn't talk. There is also the Chaplain type unit. I remember his name - Moros, simply because he is somewhat morose.
The topography is detailed fine enough: it's red, ashy, and bloody. The concept of the Black Rift is realized very well.
The significant action scenes are done very well also. There is one scene where the sky units (whatever they're called) are assailing the Mandrake Bastion (btw, the mandrakes themselves are a great feature in this story). This whole scene was executed in a pretty exhilarating manner. Matter of fact, I was waiting for Brian Blessed to fly in and bellow "Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiivvvvvve!!!!!"
Some weird looking Bloodreavers in this scene....
In the other fighting scenes, Reynolds does a good with the physical descriptions and fight choreography. He just suffers with some arbitrary action events between plot points. I can't really fault him for this; there isn't much to do between plot checkpoints. There will be some walking and skirmishing. But what to do? None of these characters are fleshed out enough for poignant interactions, there is nothing remarkable on the landscape, and we all know that the lower-echelon baddies don't have much more than primitive javelins to hurl at these gold-clad hulks. And yet, those pages need to be filled.
I have a feeling most of the future Age of Sigmar titles will suffer from these same dull parameters that seem to handicap creativity rather than inspire it.
Here's what it is:
The first part of an entirely unnecessary sequence sets up a major confrontation between two somewhat interesting, rather powerful fighters. Orius and Anhur have my interest piqued just enough to maybe stick around for Part II. Other than that; decent dialogue, exciting fight scenes, nothing else. Not great, not bad.
One of the flying units. Not the best detailed picture of one, either. And nothing about that bright background screams "Black Rift".
Cover Final Score: