Warhammer: Forge of War
by Dan Abnett, Ian Edginton, Rahsan Ekedal (Boom, 2008)

While talk of dwarfs, mages and evil armies from beyond might give the impression of a fantasy tale, make no mistakes about this book, especially given its name. Warhammer: Forge of War is a war story (that's probably why the word is used twice in the title). While the setting is certainly fantastical and medieval, the ongoing omnipresent theme is the brutality of war. While Rahsan Ekedal and the many colorists offer beautiful scenery and delicate details (such as the ornate black-and-yellow crushed-velvet sleeves of the Averland soldiers), there is an abounding visual cacophony of viscera, blood and gore. Before anyone thinks about poo-poo'ing such violence and bloodshed, this IS a story about war.

And this is a war story in which Abnett and Edginton waste no time capturing the reader's attention from the very start. Cleverly employing the in medias res technique, the story bluntly opens in the midst of the gruesome battle, followed by segments of "10 minutes earlier" recapturing what each company had experienced prior to joining the fight. In this riveting first chapter, all the knights and soldiers of the Empire, including the noble greatswordsmen, the cunning dwarfs and the mysterious mages, seek to hold the line from the impending onslaught of the dark forces from the realm of Chaos Wastes. Something seems to affect the companies of man, who abruptly fall back, leaving the dwarfs to fight against the armies of darkness on all fronts.

The following chapters focus on particular characters in a done-in-one fashion. Franz Vogel and his company are taken in by sisters of a secret convent, but are they as benevolent as they seem? Vargni Valnirsson and his fellow dwarfs are pitted against the enemy's pet monster (think the Rancor from Return of the Jedi). The rather dramatic mage, Master Konig of the Celestial Order, helps a village that is being brutally attacked by something unknown in the skies.

The final chapter has all of the survivors meet up and take a final stand against the enemy at a narrow mountain pass. Is it a fools' errand or are these noble warriors making their own Charge of the Light Brigade against the dark forces of Chaos?

While there is a satisfying end to this story, it is by no means a definitive ending. Perhaps (and hopefully) Abnett, Edginton and Ekedal will pick up where this book ends. Those seeking pulse-pounding action and an attention for detail will find plenty in Warhammer: Forge of War.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

12 July 2008

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