Prince Sigvald the Magnificent has struck a pact with his Slaaneshi masters that bestows incredible power and beauty, but drives him to ever greater acts of hedonism. Despite his pre-eminence, the champion of Chaos is tricked into an impossible war with the promise of a powerful artefact to slake his dark desires. After centuries of debauchery, Sigvald rouses his army and leads them to battle against the legions of the Blood God Khorne. Obsessed with the Brass Skull, the object of his misguided yearnings, Sigvald is unaware his enemies are closing in around him. In a hellish quest that drives him across the twisted landscape of the Chaos Wastes and culminates in an epic confrontation, he realises that the lures of Slaanest can never be sated.
This is, unbelievably, the first Warhammer Fantasy novel I have read from the Black Library - so far all my BL reading has been confined to the Horus Heresy and some sterling work by Messrs McNeill and Abnett, and I was extremely interested to see how I would take to something set in the world of Warhammer Fantasy (which I've always found a little generic).
I'm pleased to report that my first experience with BL Fantasy novels is a decent one. Not a brilliant one, but more than good enough to have me reaching for more. Darius Hinks has been shortlisted this year for the Morningstar Award (handed out by the David Gemmell Legend Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer/debut) with Warrior Priest, and Sigvald showcases why the public have voted him onto that list.
Hinks' writing is some of the closest I have read to Gemmell himself - at times brisk and perfunctory, but at others willing to move into more poetic territory: "The densely packed pines knifed out of the snow like a threat."
He brings to life the chaotic, dreamy debauchery of the life of a Chaos Champion - perversions and pleasures walk hand in hand in Sigvald's world. Dark and twisted creatures revel in his shadows. I enjoyed seeing the descriptions of Chaos, having played against them for so long, and Hinks presents both the followers of Slaanesh and of Khorne with clear reverence of his subject matter.
So why is this novel merely good after the lavish praise above? Mostly for a reason that is not solely of Hinks' making: presenting a Slaaneshi Chaos Champion as a protagonist makes for rather hard reading.
Sigvald is neither a hero or an anti-hero; he is, pretty much, one of the bad guys, and as a consequence, a little difficult to root for. I like to have a little more humanity in my main characters.
The human interest is provided by the Norscan people, and this helps to mitigate the effect of Sigvald as the main character, but there were a couple of sections featuring the Prince of Chaos where I drifted badly and found my interest waning.
My other issue was that this novel felt very much like the opening novel in a trilogy or similar, which surprised me - I thought it would be a standalone book. Having said that, I would enjoying reading more about Sigvald's shenanigans and I *definitely* look forward to reading more of Darius Hinks' work.
Altogether, Sigvald is an entertaining piece of escapist fantasy fiction, and makes me perfectly happy to continue my foray into Black Library literature!
Sigvald by Darius Hinks will be published by the Black Library on 7th July.