I have often felt the need to make the case for franchise books. I have utter faith in some franchises, and know that almost every book they provide us will be of decent quality. Not only in the world they have to work with – which is normally always rich and vast – but also in the style of writing.
Sadly, however, there are those franchises which seem to go out of their way to continue the stereotype which hangs on franchise novels.
‘Defenders of Ulthuan’ by Graham McNeill is a Warhammer book which, from the beginning, fulfilled every expectation I had of it; which sadly, isn’t much.
Let’s not get the wrong impression though. Warhammer books have the chance to be brilliant and truly fascinating books. However, in this instance, McNeill seemed to focus every ounce of his writing ability in matching all those expectations people have of franchise series.
It could have been so much better as well. The underlying story is captivating, and while maybe not new, it definitely could have been told in a way that was enjoyable. The characters were a little predictable, but in the end, they had me caring for them. And the world, the scope of the story is quite impressive, and one of the reasons why I think I’ll continue to read these books.
But McNeill was the problem with this book. His execution of the plot was contrived and unnecessarily predictable.
Worst of all was the excessive flourishing language which seemed to pop up out of nowhere every few pages. Words that even I don’t know or have ever heard spoken or written kept appearing, giving the book an appearance of high-literature, but only ever for a few paragraphs before it reverted to a more comfortable style.
If you want to write in a manner which James Joyce might appreciate, then do it for the whole book, or not at all. You can’t have a middle ground without it appearing ridiculous.
The cliff-hanger ending really did leave me excited, and the overall journey the story is taking will have me diving back into the second book as soon as I can. While the underlying storyline of betrayal is going to hamper my ability to enjoy the book as a whole, the invasion and individual battles are well written and keep my attention.
In the end though, it’s just a little off being mediocre, when it could have been so much more. Maybe the second book will do better.
Review by Joshua S Hill
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