Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: The War of the Dwarves

Title: The War of the Dwarves
Author: Markus Heitz
Pages: 716
ISBN: 9781841495736
Series: The Dwarves #2
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 2010
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased

Buy it from:
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The dwarves have gone to battle and they have been victorious. But outside the realm, dark forces are at work...

A secret army of Orcs, made immortal by the hidden powers of the Black Water, now marches towards Girdlegard, set to unleash its fury upon the kingdom. Sooner than they realize, Tungdil and his comrades will need to summon all their courage to do battle against this bloodthirsty horde.

But the Orcs are not the only threat. An unspeakable new power is growing and threatens the very existence of the dwarves. But both enemies have forgotten one very important truth: a dwarf is never more dangerous than when total obliteration seems inevitable ...
Starting a new series is like getting a brand new toy. The pages sparkle with infinite potential – a new world, new characters and new conflicts await discovery. You devour the pages at a frantic pace and all too soon you reach the end. By the time you get to the second book the sparkle has faded and the world is no longer quite so exciting. Without the benefit of rose-tinted glasses you start noticing the cracks in the pavement, the dust swept into the corners and the hastily patched holes in the furniture.

Unfortunately that was the case with The War of the Dwarves. While I enjoyed the first installment the sequel just didn’t measure up. It took me just over a month of active reading to finish the 716 pages. Normally I’m a fast reader, but lately I’ve been suffering from reading fatigue so I read this on a sporadic basis. The thing is, up until the last 100 pages, I was never engaged to such an extent that I couldn’t put the book down and continue with something else – never a good sign.

As with The Dwarves, the plot is pretty straightforward and the few twists are fairly predictable. I can see how this might make the story more accessible to casual readers, but serious fantasy fans will find it a tad too simplistic. Where the novel really disappoints this time round is with the characters. They seem emotionally stunted to an infuriating degree and, for the most part, their actions (and reactions) just didn’t ring true. It felt as if the characters were being dragged along to fit the plot, and not that the plot developed in response to the characters actions. One example of this is where Tungdil is betrayed by someone and he just shrugs it off in order to face the threat to Girdlegard. This is no small betrayal and I would have expected him to be completely devastated as a result. Century old feuds, which played a large role in the first instalment, are also set aside far too easily for my liking.

Heitz follows in the footsteps of George R.R. Martin by killing off some major characters, but in this case it’s used as an easy way out of resolving conflicts. The deaths don’t seem to have much of an emotional impact on the rest of the characters or, with the exception of one or two, the reader.

The last 100 pages or so offers a much needed redemption for the rest of the novel. The ending is riveting and action-packed. It ends on a happy note with a truly poignant moment or two. I only wish there was more of this earlier in the novel.

The Verdict:
The War of the Dwarves isn’t a bad novel as such. It has its moments and turned out to be an enjoyable read overall. It feels geared more to the casual reader. If you are looking for a light, entertaining escape into fantasy this might be for you.

The rating: 5/10 (Average)

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