Since reading Ahriman, I also managed to finally read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and while still pondering on how to do a decent review for that book (which I enjoyed in a really weird manner), I decided to go on with my reading list and picked up Sigvald, expecting a light but entertaining read like Valkia the Bloody or Wulfrik. Boy, was I wrong…
The book is… bad. I’ve never had great expectations from Black Library books, even though some of the authors regularly seem to deliver at least decent if not all-out good writing, but Darius Hinks really, really botched this one up. Excepting the last quarter of the book, I was repeatedly tempted to simply drop the book, the only reason I actually finished it being my bias towards the Warhammer world’s Norscans. In hindsight, perhaps I should’ve been better prepared for this as the other book I’ve read by Hinks, Razumov’s Tombs, wasn’t exactly stellar either.
Most infuriating of all is repeated instances of Looney Tunes-styled attempts at humour, including with the main character who sounds more like a spoiled brat in armour than a 300+ year old champion of the God of Excess. And it’s a real pity, too, as the story had IMMENSE potential. Unfortunately, Sigvald’s story of how he came to be the Sigvald we read about in the Warriors of Chaos army book is barely hinted at through-out the book and finally told in swift manner towards the end of the book (which also happens to be the only decently written part, in my view… maybe it’s because Hinks used all his inspiration for describing the Realm of Chaos). Afterwards, when you finally realise the tragic destiny he and his companion have been cursed with, it’s too late, and all you can do is rail at the author (like I am right now). Other than that particular moment of clear vision into the hearts of two characters, the rest is laughably bad, cartoony in the worst way imaginable. Characters are all horribly unidimensional, starting with Sigvald, continuing with Oddrun and all the other characters. Galrauch the dragon makes a cameo at a certain point in the novel, and its story draws more interest than the whole list of characters combined.
And the flow of the story is almost like a kid in a wheel chair going down a flight of stairs. Either the editor took to the author’s final draft with a hacksaw, or Mr. Hinks really enjoys taking action off-screen, so-to-speak, leaving a chapter with one of the characters in a cliffhanger, moving to another side of the story, and then coming back to the character after he’s already done what he had to do or, even better, having been saved through a timely dose of deus ex machina (of which there are plenty of instances through-out the book).
Even the battle at the end, which was set to be at least entertaining (a three way battle between Sigvald’s Decadent Host, an army of Khornate warriors and a whole tribe of Norscans that have come to the Shadow Lands seeking vengeance), devolves rapidly into ‘Sigvald is awesome and kills zounds of enemies while everyone around is inspired by his madness and they kill each other and everyone mutates and they protect him and he finally fights his nemesis and he almost loses because his nemesis is a magical superhero too but he is saved at the last moment by an unexpected ally and he wins and he gets his prize’.
The only other moment when the writing comes back down to earth is when the battle is done and the emptiness of an immortal life filled with every indulgence imaginable is compared in terms of insanity with the hope of ever going back to the simple life of a mortal. This particular passage pissed me off to no end, as it shows that Hinks CAN bloody write, and if the rest of the book was like that, it would have been an absolutely awesome read, and not just for Warhammer fans.
As it stands however, I cannot recommend this book. It’s simply too bad. I do have one quote to share with you (yes, only one): “As the prince spoke, his shadow felt its mind flooding with images. They were the same scenes of lustful pursuit it had recalled earlier, but now, rather than frustrating, they seemed heroic. Every base act was a gesture of defiance: an insolent fist raised against the morbid tedium of the universe, a rallying cry to every imaginative soul who would listen.”
Now, I’ll try and get a short review of American Gods done, before I finish another book or three…