A review of The Hour of Shadows from Big_Cheddars
I know I've been reviewing a lot lately :P But it's only because I recently joined this site and I'm clearing out a backlist of BL books I've read and I like writing reviews. But anyway, onto the book at hand.
The Hour of Shadows (from now on adressed as THoS) is a book by C.L Werner released to celebrate the Warhammer update Storm of Magic. It is a novella, but on the kindle it is shown to have more in common with a long short story than a novella, and I must admit that characterisation was at a noticeable lack in this novel(la). The two races featured are the Wood Elves and the skaven.
The plot is actually quite complicated for such a short novella. It has a decent sized cast (about eight or nine characters, as I recall) but these aren't exactly explored in a lot of depth.. at all. I suppose the main character is a Wood Elf mage, and the antagonist is a skaven black seer called Huskk Gnawbone (like a grey seer but black seers are basically skaven necromancers - black magic=black seer). The story revolved around Huskk recruiting other skaven to his cause: To attack the Wood Elf home of Athel Loren to get at a big thingy made out of amber with an enigmatic name (I read the book about a month ago, I can remember the plot nad how it panned out, but not many names). Among Huskk's followers there is a rogue grey seer and a cockatrice, which was quite cool. But back to the plot. The novella progresses quickly through itself, and because there is pretty much always a battle on the pacing was quite frantic. While this approach provided little attention to detail, the opening was very good, and by very good I mean I was disappointed with the rest of the book after the opening as it all started speeding by too quickly.
Like I said, the characters in THoS are varied and distinct, but not particularly detailed as C.L Werner seems to rush through this novella with little regard to anything but getting to the end. I appreciate this is a novella and C.L Werner has a lot to cover, but THoS would have made a great full-on novel in my opinion. The ending contained quite a twist which I didn't really enjoy. I won't spoil it, but to put it in a veiled way a new enemy appears out of ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE and so does another hero.
You can clearly see the mark of GW upon this book. It feels rushed, but it isn't bad because of that. No, the GW influence comes in with all the blatant use of features from within the Storm of Magic rulebook. Mythical beasts being slaved to an army, a huge use of magic, and a completely blatant 'arcane fulcrum' scene are all in there. In all honesty, the end battle was good (please don't get me wrong, I heavily enjoyed this novella, but it was rushed!) but not brilliant, and the early parts of the book which had a bit of skaven politicking were the best bits, as Huskk gathers his forces. C.L Werner evidently has little experience with elves, and the elven parts suffered as a result. Respect to Mr. Werner though as he did strike out into waters he had never ventured into before, with moderate success.
To sum it up, THoS is a nifty little look into the attack on Athel Loren that could really have benefited from a longer deadline and a bit of expansion, because it could have been brilliant! Good premise, but a little rushed. I recommend you get it as an ebook, the paper copy has sold out anyway I think and it's 50p cheaper electronically. A nice little read, and definitely worth it. I'd give The Hour of Shadows an 8/10 (I really did enjoy it, but it should have been longer!).
I thought this was a brilliant novella (as are all of the Storm of Magic novellas) - though it's a few months since I read it.
I am not sure whether when you say 'rushed' you just mean the story had too quick a pace or that the writing was rushed too. The former can be said of many novellas, but I don't believe the latter is true. If it was of a quick pace, I personally did not find it cluttered or confusing - I would argue, if you have read them, that the others two Storm of Magic are more 'rushed'.
I am not convinced that the ending was rushed to either. Although I would agree that the finale - the set piece - had little to it. This may be the opposite of what you say.
I completely disagree with the comment that characterisation was lacking. I thought, with the skaven in particular, the characters were clear, distinct and interesting.
I think it's perhaps wrong to see the Wood Elf as the main character. Werner often has the villain as the main character and it was evident in this piece that the Skaven necromancer and Grey Seer were the the leads. I think it's a credit to the author that he didn't settle with the Wood Elves as cardboard good guys and he developed them some way. Werner went a different way with the Elves than what I would consider to be the typical Wood Elf, but I didn't see anything that could be construed as a mishandling of them.
I am not sure I agree that the enemy at the conclusion came out of nowhere. There were a number of subtle references that something sinister was going on.
I do agree that the earlier politicking was probably the best of it with the eventualy uneasy alliance.
I was sure whether your overall rating of the book equated to your criticisms - what is your scale? what's a 1/10 for you and a 5/10?
Well, I see what you mean, but I just felt that the elves were quite thick and less interesting to read about than the skaven. And since the viewpoint kept switching I was never sure who the main character was (though maybe there is just more than one and I'm being thick). I admit the elves were given some characterisation, but for me the skaven were the reason I bought this and I wanted to see lots of them, though perhaps that is an unlikely expectation. I didn't really care for the elves in the end, and that's why the ending wasn't really satisfying as the skaven all sort of disappeared and then this sudden new enemy appears and gets defeated by this sudden other good guy. It just sort of grated a little, this is a story about a battle between wood elves and skaven, and in the end, neither were really the deciding factor, although I suppose in Athel Loren the elves are never really the most important people, the tree-spirits and denizens of the forest always seem to take priority.
I suppose it's a little bit to do with Josh Reynolds' novella Grail Knight, which was in hammer and bolter at some point last year (I've got the collection, and read it in there). In that novella, the elves are presented excellently, and a lot more like Tolkien elves I suppose, but they have character and motivation and agendas, and this is all in one novella. The wood elves in THoS were not up to this standard, and so it was a little disappointing.
On the other hand, the skaven were awesome, as they always are, and written brilliantly. I'm probably just more of a skaven person than a wood elf person, and that's why I preferred the skaven bits.
Oh, and about my rating, THoS did impress me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, maybe I went on a bit too far about its criticisms, but the fact you can write so many things about a novella (like how we're both presenting different points), shows that it is a successful and thought-provoking story that people have different opinions over. That marks it as a success, and also, anything that has skaven in is usually good. Though the one exception to that that I have found is the Island of Blood novella, which I will review soon.
So basically, I rate things with my instinctual feeling of what is the best score for it. I had a lot of not-good things to say about this novella, but it was still pretty good and I enjoyed it, so I gave it a pretty high score. I'm not a fan of low scores, and I think that pretty much everything I have read from BL (apart from Fifteen Hours and the Island of Blood to a certain extent) was either very good or impressive. I think my initial scores for the books I reviewed were perhaps too high, but that was my instinct then, and I won't change that. In the end, THoS was good, Dragonmage was probably better (but didn't have skaven) and I haven't read Razumov's Tomb yet, but I will soon hopefully.
Razumov's Tomb is a different kettle of (cuttle)fish - you'rll see what I mean when you get round to it.
I haven't read Grail Knight yet, so can't really comment on that, but thanks for setting out where you are coming from on this.
I'm a huge Chris Wraight fan but I didn't find Dragonmage as interesting as this book because (1) The Slann stuff was imo more interesting, but didn't go anywhere (2) Once the story was fit into the timeline and Finubar was mentioned the outcome was obvious (3) The dragon stuff was a bit meh for me personally. There were a huge number of good bits that I ought to set out in your Dragonmage review post.
In terms of THOS, the only problem I had with the elves was that they were too similar to High Elves - my expectation was that they would be more tree huggy. But I just read it as a different angle.
As to your love of the Skaven and how awesome they are, Werner is the lead author on Skaven characters. Definitely have a look at his Thanquol stuff if you haven't already.
I would add that Werner has touched on Elves at least once before - Wulfrik comes to mind, but that's not here or there.
The scoring remark was not a jab (just making that clear), but everyone seems to rate these books at 8/10 or thereabouts and normally it means that there is no real scale of interesting book or boring book (then again that probably comes down to likes and dislikes).
Overall an interesting review with plenty of room for debate - have some rep.
Well I haven't read Razumov's Tomb, but thanks for the advice about it, I'm intrigued now.
And you know I hadn't thought of those things about Dragonmage, but I suppose I just read without thinking and don't think that deeply. I would say that Wraight writes elves in general better than Werner, and I agree with you about the Slann stuff, unexpected and abrupt.
Haha, good way of putting it, tree-huggy, but I see what you mean. I suppose Werner was trying to portray the elves as sot of 'noble defenders' of Athel Loren or something similar.
I've read the first Thanquol book, and it was the reason I bought THoS because I just wanted more skaven afterwards!
Oh, and I didn't mean to get defensive, but thanks for the rep! :) I seriously do just put instinctual scores, and it usually works out. But thanks for the debate, and the rep, repped back cause you're awesome :)
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