With the release of Age of Sigmar, the Black Library have started a new series called The Realmgate Wars, to tie in with the new game and the campaign presented in the starter box and the first book released. After a spectacular trip around the world, I finally got my hands on the first book of the series, The Gates of Azyr, and tore through the pages. But is it any good?
The short answer is no. It’s poor craftsmanship, it’s uninteresting, uninspired, and it’s simply not good enough compared to the standards set by other titles from the same publisher. In fact, and trust me, I am not saying this lightly – this is quite probably the worst Black Library release I’ve ever read. And I’ve read some REALLY trash ones.
The longer answer is that this novel represents a complete lack of depth and intrigue. It is, from page one, a given what the outcome will be. As much as this is a relatively common theme in hero literature, the problem I have with this novel is that the author doesn’t seem to even pretend to create a narrative of making it exciting. No matter what manner of foulery the minions of Khorne stir up, be it releasing a huge brutish monster charging like a killdozer through the ranks, or killing and eating alive one of those angelic lads with wings, or even summoning a gateway to the Realm of Chaos itself (yep, that randomly happens, not much comes of it), as long as you raise your hammer to the sky in a firm grip and shout “For the God-King!” you’ll be mostly fine.
The narrative is simple; a tribe of human-type people with no hope and no life are on the run from a band of Khornate bloodreavers. They’re mostly the same as the Firefly reavers, with the word “blood” added to them. When the human-types escape through a canyon, the bloodreavers are ambushed by a band of stealthy, sneaky, plate-wearing Khornate army hiding among the rocks (yep, you read that right), and inducted into said army. Together, they pass through the canyon; Stormcast Eternals appear; battle happens; the Khornates are wiped out. A couple of Stormcasts dies as well, but mostly they stay alive to ensure the surviving human-types that war is coming and Sigmar will win. The end.
And that’s basically it.
Not the first two chapters, preceding the actual story. That’s it. The end of the novel. Some chasing around a plain, and a battle so one-sided you could mistake it for a mirror. It’s uninspired in its descriptions, particularly of the scenery and characters, and the combat is just plain dull. I lost count of how many times the unending horde pressed the advantage, only to be struck back by the disciplined skill of the warriors clad in gold, but it was around every other page or so. Usually preceded by a hammer raised to the sky in a firm grip while yelling “For the God-King!” (which also happens every other page or so).
Because there is really no character depth, whatsoever. Something of an attempt is made in making a sort of vague, forced connection between the Khornate warlord and the Lord-Celestant of the Space Marines (because really, they are Space Marines; in literally every single paragraph containing the Stormcasts, you can replace the names and titles with Space Marine equivalents and you have a Horus Heresy novel) through a series of flashbacks to when the Stormcast general was still a human and his tribe was butchered by said warlord. Apart from this, their personality traits are largely limited to laughing a lot (the Khorne lord seem to laugh at everything; watching architecture, sending his troops to war, lifting his axe, being butchered, it’s all fun to him), or raising a hammer to the sky in a firm grip while shouting “For the God-King!”
This book, more than anything, stands out to me as the epitome of a wasted opportunity. I’ve become increasingly uninterested with the Horus Heresy series as the amount of retconning and flat out re-inventing of lore going on there has taken over from the grimdark Warhammer 40,000 that I fell in love with 20 years ago. With the death of the Old World and the invention of the new Age of Sigmar, I really hoped this would be good. I wanted The Realmgate Wars to be good. But if this is the standard they’re aiming for, I’ll take a pass and write up my own campaign.
Because honestly, I’ve read better fiction than this on porn sites.