Thursday, April 25, 2013
For me (and many others) Gav Thorpe has always been the custodian of Eldar lore. His writing has graced both Eldar Codices and the glossy pages of White Dwarf since time immemorial. Recently I stumbled upon a Thorpe short story entitled 'Rebirth' which tells the tale of an exarch giving his life to allow Phoenix Lord, Karandras, to be reborn. With my interest piqued in the strange ways of our craftworldian cousins I turned to the 'Black Library' for more curiosities.
Enter 'Path of the Warrior'. The story follows the journey of Korlandril the youthful and arrogant artist as he unwittingly sparks a cataclysm of events whilst trying to gain the affections of his love interest, Thirianna. Angered by her lack of reciprocation and jealous of his love rival, Aradryan, Korlandril turns to the strict martial training of the Striking Scorpions to vent his frustrations.
The first half of the book is mainly character driven as we see the protagonist struggle with his short-tempered emotions and over-inflated sense of ego; such flaws are not commonly tolerated in Eldar society. Thorpe goes into great detail to paint a picture of everyday life on the Alaitoc craftworld in which the novel is set, as we eat, drink, walk and talk with its lofty inhabitants. With their love of song, sculpture, philosophy, and beauty we are put in mind of the golden-age of ancient Greek and Roman civilisation. In fact with each new chapter we are shown snippets of ancient Eldar history written very much in the style of epic poems such as the Odyssey or those found in celtic mythology; these are continually intriguing almost to the point of being a worthy narrative within their own right.
As the story delves deeper, new faces are introduced and the focus turns to the Samurai-esque lifestyle of the Striking Scorpions. The student-mentor relationship between Korlandril and his exarch Kenainath is typical of martial-arts flicks of old with scenes of elaborate fighting stances combined with pearls of abstruse wisdom. It reads well however and although it sometimes borders on the cliche it never drifts into the parody. Let's be honest, that's no great criticism seeing as Warhammer 40,000 is practically built on cliches.
By the last act we are driven into the familiar world of war porn in the 41st millenium as the stakes are consistently raised in a crescendo of destruction. For those that found the pace of the first two parts too slow, this is the pay-off. At times it reads like a narrative battle report, but it is well described and certainly exciting enough to keep your attention. The closing section is very well done and will leave you absolutely satisfied with no cheap cliff hangers or open-ended teasing.
This was my first foray into a full length Black Library novel and I was pleasantly surprised with the character depth, pacing and twisting narrative of the piece. I can't go in to much detail without spoiling anything but I particularly enjoyed the method of repeating paragraphs in parts of the book. It's an interesting technique I'd not seen before and it was used to great effect. All in all, my initial intrigue has not been fully quenched and I will be eagerly turning to the other novels in 'the path' series for my next fix in the near future.