Age of Legend is a collection of ten short stories that take place during the various periods of history of the Warhammer World by authors such as Nick Kyme, Andy Hoare and Gav Thorpe. The stories are as follows:
Small Victories by Paul S. Kemp: This story sees a man searching for the woman he loves as the armies of Nagash close on the city of Bhagar. The story is short but good with some nice scenes, even if the end result of the story is inevitable. The story is well written and is worth around four stars on its own.
Bloodraven by Sarah Cawkwell: Bloodraven is the story of the Dwarf hold of Karak Ghulg that is besieged by a Khornate warband lead by Valkia the Bloody. This is a bit of an odd story as at times it felt that it had been written as something else before being rewritten in its current form. There are some minor annoyances in the story such as a Dwarf prince switching from an axe to a sword for some reason and the prose style got a bit flowery in places. On the other hand the action sequences were generally well written and although she may come off as slightly Mary Sue-ish, the Daemon Princess Valkia the Bloody is still a relatively interesting character. The main problem with this story though is that there is no sense of where it fits within the Warhammer timeline and therefore feels inappropriate for this collection. Overall the story is reasonable and shows promise, and is worth a low three stars.
City of Dead Jewels by Nick Kyme: This is an entertaining story that follows a group of Dwarves as they delve into the ruined hold of Karak Azgal searching for a monster. The story has some faults, mainly being a little slow and the ending could have been handled a little better but I enjoyed it despite this. The action is good and the story is relatively well written. The story deserves a low four stars.
The Last Charge by Andy Hoare: Duke Corentine is an aging Bretonnian knight who wants nothing more than one last enemy to fight before old age catches up with him. His wish is granted in the form of Beastlord Rakarth and his Dark Elf army as they lay siege to the city of Brionne. This story begins very well but unfortunately seems to just trail off towards the end. The story is generally well written and Duke Corentine is portrayed quite well as a man past his prime who wants to relive his glory days. The main problem with the story is that it is far too short and could have done with more length. The story is worth a low four stars.
The Ninth Book by Gav Thorpe: During the time of the Three Emperors a group of Kislevite mercenaries travel south to make their fortune. On the way they are caught in a storm and take refuge in an abandoned tower but dark forces are closing in, searching for the tower's hidden treasure. This is a very good story that is well written, has an interesting plot and some reasonable action. The only real problem with the story is that it keeps switching between third and first person prospective and while this does give a good insight into the mind of one of the characters, it takes some getting used to. I would give this story a good four stars.
The Gods Demand by Josh Reynolds: Set during the final stages Gorthor the Beastlord's siege of Hergig it details the actions and thoughts of the Beastlord and the Elector Count Mikael Ludendorf. This was a surprisingly entertaining story that has some nice action and did a good job of getting into the minds of the two main characters. The main problem with this story though is that it does come across as somewhat overwritten, taking far too much time on some unimportant details. As well as this there are times Gorthor seems far too eloquent for a Beastman. Other than these minor annoyances, this was a good story and is well worth five stars.
Plague Doktor by C L Werner: Set during the reign of the Emperor Boris Goldgatherer when the Black Death ran rampant throughout the Empire, this story follows two outcast peddlers who are mistaken for a plague doktor and his assistant. This is a well written story with some interesting characters but nonetheless has a somewhat insubstantial feel to it. The plot is relatively simple and it is a nice read but not as good as some of the other stories in the anthology. The story is worth a reasonable three stars.
The City is Theirs by Philip Athans: Waaagh Gorbad is at the gates of Nuln and the citizens of the Empire's second city are struggling to survive and escape. The only hope for the people of Nuln is an alchemist with a rare weapon and a Halfling refugee. This story is a reasonably entertaining one, even if I am unsure the technology level shown is a little lower than it should be. The story is focused more on emotion and loss than action and so probably won't be to everybody's tastes but I found it reasonable. Overall I would give the story a high three stars.
Second Son by Ben Counter: This story sees a wizard of the Bright Collage investigate the journal of a hedge wizard from before the founding of the Collages of Magic. The story is short but entertaining with an interesting twist ending. There is little in the way of action but the story is well written and has some interesting scenes and overall I would give this story a low five stars.
Aenarion by Gav Thorp: As daemonic hordes ravage the Ulthuan only Aenarion, the first Phoenix King has the strength to stand against them. After one victory over the Chaos forces, Aenarion receives word that his wife and children have been killed. In his despair, Aenarion gives in to his grief and despite dire warnings, travels north to retrieve the Sword of Khaine, God of Murder, from its resting place upon the Blighted Isle. Originally an audio novel, this story is probably my favourite of all the stories in this collection. The story is very well written with great scenes. There is a little action at the beginning but the story is really about Aenarion's decent into grief, his journey north and the warnings he receives along the way. Aenarion is easily worth a full five stars.
Age of Legend is a nice collection of stories, and while the quality of the stories in the book vary somewhat they are never less than entertaining. Overall I feel the book is well worth around four and a half stars.
I love a short story compendium and for me, the Black Library really pulls out the stops with these titles as it allows the reader to try an author that they may not have had chance to see before. It's a great way to launch new talent such as Sarah Cawkwell, whose previous Warhammer 40K novel, The Gildar Rift (out last month) was a real triumph.
Not only do you get new names but established hands of the Star War's Universe like Paul S Kemp who writes a mean fantasy tale. Back that up with the old hands to the Warhammer world like Gav Thorpe and Clint Werner which guarantee's some old favourites return. All in, this is a cracking release and one that I had a lot of fun with which is a cracking way to begin the New Year.