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1/29/2017

Xathrodox86 reviews: "Warrior Priest" by Darius Hinks

I always liked Warrior Priests. Funny, since personally I'm not a very religious or spiritual man, but for some reason, in almost every fictional universe, the idea of holy men and women fighting evil in the name of their gods, appeals to me.

That's why I have 4 Warrior Priests of Sigmar in my Warhammer Army, alongside a priest of Morr and a of Myrmidia. Like I've said, there's something undeniably cool about those type of heroes, so I did not hesitate in picking up the "Warrior Priest" novel, written by Darius Hinks, which also granted him the Morningstar 2011 award (David Gemmell Legend Awards). Fortunately, once again my choice has been a right one, as "Warrior Priest" was easily one of the best Warhammer Fantasy books that I've ever read.

A great piece of fantasy fiction indeed
The main protagonist of this story is Jakob Wolff, a holy man in the service to Sigmar, the founder of the Empire and its chief deity. He's on a dire mission to track his erstwhile brother, who decided to sell his soul to Ruinous Powers. Accompanying him is Ratboy, his faithful servant, who owns his life to the Warrior Priest. We are first introduced to the them, when the holy duo stops a mad wannabe Witch Hunter, Otto Sürman, from burning Anna, a young priestess of Shallya. Wolff has a personal score to settle down with Surman, who was responsible for the deaths of his parents, many years ago. As it turns out, they weren't guilty of the heresy that got them sent to the stake. It was Jakob's brother, Fabian, who was guilty of the ultimate sin of chaos worshipping. Shocked and appalled, Wolff vows to find his sibling and bring him to justice for his crimes. But the villian is both resourcefull and cunning, as is expected from the follower of the Great Changer, and soon Jakob and his allies realise, that Fabian possesses huge amount of power in the province of Ostland. Will they be able to stop his heresy from spreading further?

"Warrior Priest" is written in a very interesting manner, which combines the elements of both an investigation-type story with a military fiction. Fitting, since it is a part of the Empire Army novel series, but while other books from this range are more focused on battles and combat, this mixes in personal struggle, family drama and questions about blind faith and the damage that it can do. There's no denying the blind zeal, that pushes Wolff forward, to confront his evil brother, but Hinks also shows just how much harm, can a blind faith actually cause. "Sigmarite dogma does not preach forgiveness" growls young Jacob to his brother, in a retrospective part of the book, and that single line shows just how little different, the servants of Order truly are from their sworn enemies. Darius Hinks perfectly encapsulated the dangers of fanaticism, whether it comes from serving the Dark Gods of Chaos, or the First Emperor. Without spoiling anything, I just want to say this - after reading this novel, I've begun to look on the Warrior Priests of the Empire in a slightly different way. Not always wading in with a huge hammer, while shouting prayers to Sigmar, can be a good thing, as Wolff finds out the hard way, during the course of his story.

It should also be noted that Fabian, Jakob's younger brother, is probably one of the better written vilians in any Warhammer story. Around the middle of "Warrior Priest's" plot, we recieve a huge retrospection, taking us to the times of both brothers youth in the harsh and unforgiving province of Ostland. We see that Jakob, a highly pious and spiritual youg man, is clealry favortised by his equally religious father. Fabian, the other sibling, is seens as weak and useless, spending whole days reading books about legends and folk tales, while Jakob makes his way up the structures of sigmarite clergy. By a pure, blind chance, the Wolffs travel to Altdorf, to meet with high priests of the Temple of Sigmar, and drop Fabian off at the place of his eccentric uncle. Soon, the young man discoveres that the old man harbors many secrets, which he's willing to share with him. The road to damnation begins with Fabian accompanying his uncle on the streets of the Empire's capital, learning about secret societies, hidden libraries and things, that should remain hidden. The author presents this slow decline into heresy in a truly excellent manner. It is never explained if Fabian's uncle and his friends are cultists, or are they only fascinated by the unknown. The author leaves a few clues here and there, but it's up to the reader to make the final verdict. Hinks also shows just how often a man can become corrupted, just by pure chance or accident. Fabian wasn't a malevolent, daemon-worshipper from his earliest days. No, he became one by pure chance and the fact that his family was cold and distant towards him. Not often are servants of Chaos presented in such a way, and it is a testament to Darius Hinks talent, that he managed to write an antagonist, that's not only human, but also relatable. Good job Mr. Hinks.

Usually the Old World bad guys are less... subtle about being evil a-holes
The fight scenes, where they finally happen, are tough, brutal and visceral. Jakob Wolff, despite being a Warrior Priest, is still only a man, and an older one at that. It really shows how much he's fuelled on by his righteous fury, rather than his fading stamina and old muscles, to win the day. Not often do we see a simple human, in his latter days, who wins by the skin of his teeth, rather than by wielding a magical sword, while also sporting a set of impressive abs. Likewise Ratboy, who is a de facto narrator of this story, is also a very down-to-earth character. He's just a young kid, trying to survive day after day, in a province ravaged by war. While Wolff chases after his accursed brother, a huge Chaos army rampages through Ostland, burning everything in its path and killing all they encounter. The armies of the Emperor are hard pressed to contain the danger, which the Ruinous Powers bring to their borders, and the victory over the hated enemy seems less likely, with each passing day.

Also worth noting is the character of Anna. As a priestess of the Goddess of Mercy, her observations and insights on Wolff's methods and motivations, present a really nice contrast to the Warrior Priest's harsh and unforgiving philosophy. The banter between those two provided some of the most interesting points of this book.

The ending, when it comes, is both satisfying and highly melancholic, just like the ending to any Warhammer Fantasy book should be, in my opinion. However there's a sort of "after the credits" scene, and it is... weird. Without spoiling anything, I don't really think that this one was completely necessary and looked more like an eventual sequel hook. Given that the book was released back in 2010, and in the meantime the Old World was blown up by a bad case of shitty writing, any continuation of Jakob Wolff's adventure seems unlikely. Shame, because a lot of time has passed, since I've read a Warhammer novel that got me so interested in its plot and heroes. I know that Darius Hinks also wrote a couple of other stories for the Black Library, including a book about Sigvald the Magnificent, the Orion trilogy and some Space Marine action. After finishing "Warrior Priest", I can safely say that it is fully worth it to check his other works.

Great job Mr. Hinks!
Pros:

- A set of interesting, fleshed out heroes.
- The main villain is interesting, well written and relatable.
- Teaches about the dangers of blind faith and fanaticism.
- Combat is brutal and visceral.

Cons:

- That one ending scene was completely unnecessary. You'll know which one I'm talking about, once you'll finish the book.
- While the combat scenes were really good, there were not that many of them. For some that can be dissapointing, especially since this is an Empire Army novel.

Until next time!

Xathrodox86

1/19/2017

A new year, a new plan. 2017 is going to be hot! Plus a reblog.

Wow, it's the middle of january 2017 and only now I'm actually posting something here. No excuses of course, but I just wanted to say that I'm very happy to kick off another year on my little slice of internet.




I think that most of us can agree on one thing: 2016 sucked major ass. Not to get into many details, but for me, it was especially bad. Personal stuff was bad, my mindset was bad, job tensions and social contacts - it was all bad, bad, bad. That said, I don't think that giving up is the way to go, at least, not yet and hopefully not ever. That's why I've decided to make 2017 a year to remember for all time, for all the good reasons, of course.

It's gonna be epic!
So for starters I just want to present you with a post from one of my players, Sean, who decided to upload his notes from our last session. You see, when I run any RPG, I urge people to take notes about different stuff: locations, people they've met, strange occurences, etc. That way, no important information will be lost by the party. However Sean really upped the quality of note-taking. His writing was crisp, interesting, dramatic and simply wonderful. Far from being a dry recollection of events, it read like a good drama. So here is a link  to his blog, Sean's Wargames Corner, where you can read the whole thing. I hope you'll like it, just like I did, and many other people on the Oldhammer in The New World Facebook group. In all honesty, for me as a long time GM, this is very humbling, to see my players wanting to share their experiences with the whole world. It is a really, really great thing to see.

However that's not all. Another of my players, Jason, made a few, awesome sketches, portraying the player characters. He now muses about drawing scenes from the party's adventures, and I honestly can't wait to see them done. His style reminds me of the old, 1st edition WFRP drawings, which I like tremendously. I'll take the liberty of posting them here, with author's permission of  course.

Genaro Vesuvio and Salvatore "Sally Balls" Sabatino. An unlikely pair of Tilean ne'er-do-wells (picture by J.Brisken)
I've decided to make 2017 a year, when I'll finally run all the stuff, that I always wanted. Among all the campaigns and adventures is, of course, the venerable "The Enemy Within", a legendary module for WFRP 1st edition (that I'll be running, using the rules for the 2nd one). At the beginning of the month I've begun looking for a team to run it for and... ended up with two! Yup, 2017 is the year when I'm going to run "The Enemy Within" twice. Can I handle it and manage my timetable with my Roll20 group and my old team, now playing the cWoD's Vampire: The Masquerade? Sure I can, it's all a case of planning your time and being determined to achieve success.

Oh, for one of the groups, I will also run the "Lichemaster" campaign, another gem from the times of 1st edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. In fact we've already had our first session yesterday evening, and it was good to know that after almost 3 year hiatus from running WFRP "in real life", I still have what it takes to make my players happy.

Lukas Kohler, Talabeclander and Charcoal-Burner. One of the most resilent bastards, this side of the Reik (picture by J.Brisken)
I should also add that my Roll20 group will no longer enjoy any more, one-shot adventures. It's finally time, after playing for more than 1,5 year together, to test them against a real challenge. That's right - it's time for yet another campaign! Which one? I cannot say that just yet, for it is a mystery and a surprise, and my players frequent this blog from time to time. I don't want to ruin the suspense for them.

So that's it for my RPG plans for this year, running 4 campaigns. Some might call it overly ambitious, I just think and hope that they will turn out to be heaps of fun. I also hope to play a bit more tabletop games, including new ones like Malifaux and Frostgrave. If everything goes right, I will attend the Eurobash event, organised by the wonderful Warhammer-Empire community in may.

Vincent Deriosh. On a first glane, a simple servant. During combat, however, he turns into a whirlwind of death and fury. Man of duty and a servant of Morr, the god of dreams and death (picture by J.Brisken)
Aside from that, I plan to make this blog more Warhammer Fantasy-centric, so to speak. I honestly think that now, after all the fuss with End Times and the Age of Sigmar, good, old WFB/WFRP deserve to get some love and be kept afloat, if you excuse the metaphor. Sure, they're not perfect, and yes, I will post more about what irks me with both of these games in the future, but the thing is... they just work for me. Despite all their flaws and problems, they are THE titles that I love and cherish the most, when it comes to both role-playing and tabletop games, and I certainly plan to help in keeping their flames alive.

That, and the fact that 40K is apparently going down the shitter. But that's a rant for another time, after I'll finish "The Fall of Cadia". Already halfway through it and... well, let's just say that I have a bad case of deja vu. Like I've seen a similar thing, done by this company, a while back. It didn't end well.

Leopold Boselmann. Once a dirty grave robber, he recently found a new purpose in life. However, old habits die hard... (picture by J.Brisken)
Next post will contain a review of the novel "Warrior Priest" by the Gemmel Award-recepient, Darius Hinks. I've read it last year and I think it's... oh, you know how it works. Just tune in next week, to read about my opinion on this title. Also it will be the first ever review of a Warhammer Fantasy book on this blog. About damn time, eh?

Until next time!

Xathrodox86