Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, Dark Elves, Warhammer Universe
Ambitious dark elf warrior Malus Darkblade learns the location of a powerful relic and decides he wants it for himself. Malus leads an expedition into the dangerous Chaos Wastes in search of it but finds far more than he had bargained for. Possessed by a powerful daemon, he must undertake an epic quest to save his very soul.
That blurb doesn't even begin to cover the rollercoaster ride that is this book. Let's just start by saying that this book is NOT for the faint of heart or anyone that wants a Lord of the Ring's type fantasy or some light reading about a hero on a quest.
Malus Darkblade is not a hero. He is not even an anti hero. Malus is a villain and one of the meanest and most evil ones you will come across. He never even pretends to be a hero and the book doesn't try for one minute to convince you of this since it would be completely useless. From the moment we are introduced to Malus he is doing what he does best: torturing, maiming and killing.
After all, he is a dark elf.
Let me backtrack for a little explanation. Malus is a dark elf and, thus, a character in the Warhammer universe. Warhammer is a role playing game like, say, Warcraft, etc. However, lets forget about Warhammer because, in case you are not a fan of RPG or don't care thinking you need to know about this universe I'm here to tell you that you don't need to know squat. The Malus novels are stand alone and can be read by anyone who likes fantasy.
Here is a little info from the ever reliable Wiki to introduce you to the druchii, or dark elves, of this universe:
The dark elves are sworn enemies of the high elves and try incessantly to invade Ulthuan. Dark elves enjoy nothing more than inflicting pain and suffering on others and frequently launch raids throughout the Old World in order to capture more slaves to feed their hunger for cruelty.
You begin to get the idea? The druchii's idea of fun and entertainment consists of torturing their slaves, or just about anyone really, in various ways. What makes this world a bit more interesting is the fact that the druchii are in turn tortured themselves. Even the lords, or highborns as they are called, get treated to the most horrendous tortures as a riual to their god. When you add to that the fact that nobody is safe as families backstab each other for power and to survive, you can see where their thirst for blood comes from. From the moment they are born they are subject to nothing but a world filled with torture, survival of the fittest-type deal and you have to claw your way around regardless of who or what you are.
Malus is the illegitimate son of Lurhan, the Vaulkhar of the city of Hag Graef. Regardless of this the noble family, as seems to be a tradition amongst the druchiis, don't care anything for family or familial ties. In fact, they hate each other and plot ways of destroying one another to inherit their father's fortune, etc. Malus, being the last and illegitimate son, has nothing to look forward to so he tries to make his own fortune but is ambushed and returns to Hag Graef with nothing but debts and the certainty that his enemies will seize this opportunity to murder him.
The only way he sees to get out of this problem is by going after the treasures of the legendary temple of Kul Hadar. The book follows Malus on the treacherous journey were even a black hearted dark elve's courage will be tried once and again.
I have to say that, as evil and despicable as Malus is, well, there are even worse villains here thus giving the reader an innitiative to keep reading. Nobody wants to read about an invincible villain therefore the rest of the characters Malus is forced to interact with keep things balanced and interesting.
From the get go you see just how evil and sick Malus is so you have to wonder what, if anything, will make him at the very least waver in his quest. The book didn't disappoint and kept me entertained from page one. I was also, at times, creeped out by various things, one of which is the yuck factor of Malus incestuous relationship with one of his half-sisters. Not only is the relationship itself creepy but his sister is, I do believe, worse than Malus by a long shot. And that's saying a lot.
I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the rest in the series. I recommend it for anyone that loves a good quest mixed with dark fantasy with the gore/ick level turned up a few notches yet well written and not just thrown in for good measure. Not your average fantasy reading, that's for sure, but I loved every minute of it.
I'm giving it a solid 4 out of 5.