Saturday, August 15, 2015

Eye Of The Storm (The Realmgate Wars: Call Of Archaon 2)

The Realmgate Wars: Call of Archaon 2 - Eye of the Storm by Rob Sanders. A Warhammer: Age of Sigmar short story, originally published by The Black Library, August 2015. Approx. 28 pages.

HachiSnax Note: Apparently the full title of this series is The Realmgate Wars: Call of Archaon. When the first installment, Beneath the Black Thumb was released, it was billed as simply Short Story 1. Still haven't decided if I am going to change it, but I wanted to clarify. Cheers.

To start this review off, I have to admit one thing: not being up to date on all that transpired during The End Times (other than everything ending), I am not 100% sure why Archaon is "calling" warriors in this recent series. Well, I am assuming it is to cause some trouble, but I am not sure of the specifics.

So, in the last installment, we focused on Copsys Bule, Champion of Nurgle. In Eye of the Storm, we meet Orphaeo Zuvius, aka The Prince of Embers, who basks in the favor of Tzeentch. This was pretty exciting, since the first few Age of Sigmar shorts were Khornate overkill, and I wanted to see how a talented author like Sanders would portray a champion of the deceptive and treacherous God of Change.

I'll say this: the best part of this story is at the very beginning, encompassing the first three pages or so. We meet (again) the Many-Eyed, Tzeentch's watcher, and see things as he sees them. These opening paragraphs play out in a way that is both poetic and lurid. This is followed up by an excellent backstory that Sanders crafted for Zuvius.

From there, we follow Zuvius as he travels with his entourage to what he believes is his destiny: to traverse the Blasted Plain and prove his mettle on the Beaten Path before Archaon.

Sanders pens this short very well; one of his best skills is delivering rich detail through brief, figurative terms. He makes sure to keep a running motif of contrasts in the narrative, as befits a Tzeentchian tale. And he inserts the right amount of wit into the dialogue, especially in the interplay between Zuvius and his avian familiar Mallofax, who speaks in cryptic terms such as "Death?" and "This storm has teeth."

Also along the way, Zuvius manipulates Skargan Fell-of-Heart, a Khornate deathbringer, into bringing his retinue along on the trip (The Prine of Embers most potent weapon is his figurative and literal silver tongue). This leads to some more interesting interactions between the deceitful champion and the brutal one.

There are two aspects to Eye of the Storm which drag it down a bit. First is the fact that a journey is often only as interesting as the road it travels. You can write a whole book about walking around in NYC or Tokyo and never be bored, because those places have a vibrancy as strong as any fleshed-out character. But this is more of the same old, redundant Age of Sigmar scorched earth: barren, and always raining blood. It gets real old, real fast. Luckily, Sanders uses these moments to insert some of the winning dialogue, and a great action scene with some daemon spawn.

Then there is the second problem. Sigmarines. For no good reason, in spite of the fact that the Chaos champions are carrying the story fine on their own, we get the mandatory battle with some Stormcasts, because I guess Games Workshop felt the need to see the Judicators (archer units) get some page time. Although, I must admit, there is an excellent duel in that portion between Skargan and the Lord Castellant. Trust me, this is more a testimony to Sanders authorial talent than any inherent awesomeness in Sigmar's Reforged.

I mean, all the action scenes are pretty good. Some of the descriptions are deliciously over the top. My only issue with them is trying to keep count of how many troops are out there. You might read that one of the Champions has a very finite number of a certain troop type, then have 'swathes' of them cut down, and yet always have enough to put into a formation for the next clash. On the other hand, when the units are being portrayed so well (especially Zuvius' sorcerers, The Unseeing), you don't mind as long as the action keeps going.

In the end, it all ties up nicely. The ending scene is handled in a superb manner, if not as spectacular as the opening pages. But so far, in two Realmgate Wars stories, we have two very likable Chaos champions to root for.

So far this series is two for two.

Here's what it is:
Focusing on a devious mind rather than a brutal one, Eye of the Storm gives us a villain that is easy to love to hate. Handled by one of The Black Library's better authors, it makes for a solid, most enjoyable read.

Final Score:


Cover Score:

What's going on here? Who is that supposed to be? It isn't Zuvius, going by the story description. I don't think it is the Many-Eyed, even though it has many eyes. It looks like some bastard offspring of a Monsters, Inc. reject and the Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth. No bueno.

Cover Final Score:


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