Warhammer: Defenders Of Ulthuan by Graham McNeill. Book review

DEFENDERS OF ULTHUAN by Graham McNeill, The Black Library, p/b £7.99, www.blacklibrary.com

Reviewed by Jeff Jones

I have never before read any Warhammer books and it was with some trepidation that I volunteered to review this one expecting it to be outside my comfort zone and not to my liking, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The story starts with an elf being washed ashore on Ulthuan, land of the High Elves, presumably having been involved in a shipwreck. He is found by Kyrielle, daughter of Anurion, a mage of Saphery. He cannot recall his name or what happened to him, the only clues being the uniform he is wearing and the pledge ring he is wearing. Although he cannot remember why he claims he has to see Teclis, Lord of the White Tower and the most powerful mage of Ulthuan

Anurion reluctantly agrees to try and restore his memory, but fails, discovering instead that the stranger’s memories have been locked away deliberately by use of some powerful magic. Intrigued, Anurion and Kyrielle agree to take him to see Teclis and seek his help.

Elsewhere on the island, Caelir’s former lover, Rhianna and his brother Eldain, have been mysteriously summoned to the White Tower and are being escorted there by the Swordmaster, Yvraine.

Eldain is fearful that his betrayal and deceit has been discovered. After their father was killed by the High Elves’ ancestral enemy, the Druchii, Caelir and Eldain led a raid on the Druchii homeland. In the course of the raid, Caelir was wounded but instead of saving his brother, Eldain rode away knowing that it would mean a slow and painful death for Caelir. Eldain also knew that it would be his chance to steal Rhianna away from his brother.

Unravelling the secrets of Caelir’s mind is not the only concern of the High Elves, however. The Druchii have been raiding the southern coast of Ulthuan in their terrifying Black Arks and a deadly assassin has infiltrated the key Eagle Gate fortress and killed the commander.

When Caelir arrives at the White Tower, Teclis attempts to help him but in doing so unleashes a terrifying evil that was locked away in Caelir’s mind. Fearsome demons attack and kill many of the mages and Swordmasters before they are eventually defeated.

Distraught at what he has unwittingly done, and fearful of reprisals, Caelir flees catching a brief glimpse of Eldain and Rhianna whom he still doesn’t recognise. Knowing that she is the only person left who might be able to help him, Caelir makes his way to the forest realm of the Everqueen. Upon meeting her, the true purpose of the dark magic inside him is revealed.

Meanwhile, in the west and south, the Witch King and the Hag Sorceress Morathi, have invaded Ulthuan with their vast armies of Dark Elves and corrupt humans. The war for Ulthuan has begun.

What I particularly loved about this book was the depth of the characters and the fact that they were so well-defined. It was nice to read about the emotional side of them for a change, instead of the stoic almost bland way they are sometimes portrayed.