Review – Nagash: The Undying King

As mentioned in my last post, I was at the Triumph & Treachery event at Games Workshop HQ in Nottingham this weekend, and I had the opportunity to pick up some of the items exclusive to Warhammer World.

I have already reviewed the Blood Bowl duo, Grak and Crumbleberry, so now I can move onto this bad boy:

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A Warhammer World exclusive novel for Age of Sigmar, written by Josh Reynolds and entitled Nagash: The Undying King.

It has been done in a run of 1,000 (I grabbed number 67), and comes in an embossed rubbery/plastic cover with blue foil stamping and blue-edged pages.

Before we get onto content, we have to deal with the two elephants in the room.

First off, this is a £40 book. Which is quite a lot of a (not-oversized) novel. Second, the line of novels is one of the primary ways GW has been revealing background information on their new Age of Sigmar universe, and making one of them only available to people who actually travel to Nottingham… that is going to grate on some players, I just know it.

Still, I am fortunate enough to be able to go, so I will review it as such.

Obviously, Spoiler Alerts by the bucket load…

Written by Josh Reynolds means you will generally be in for a good read if you are into Age of Sigmar, and the book opens up in Shyish (the Realm of Death), where a barbarian tribe is being attacked by Rotbringers, and not doing so well in the exchange. The barbarians are followers of Nagash, and they are wondering just what they have done to annoy him, as he does not seem to be coming to their aid. Their army is a mix of mortal barbarians, bolstered by ancestors that they raise from the dead, so plenty of Skeleton Warriors are on hand to fight the Nurgle invaders.

Things do not go so well, and as the rearguard prepare to sell their lives so their civilians can escape, Neferata turns up (always a plus in an Age of Sigmar novel!) and gives the Rotbringers a good kicking. When asked if Nagash sent her, she is very dismissive of his whereabouts.

It is in the second chapter that the novel is placed in the Age of Sigmar timeline – during the Realmgate Wars, when Nagash has yet to fully awaken. Josh Reynolds does a nice job of linking this novel to previous stories, with an appearance by Mannfred at Helstone, and references to the Lady of Cankerwall – it is a nice touch that begins to pull Age of Sigmar into a more cohesive whole.

From here, the novel follows two (maybe two and a half) points of view; the Rotbringers of the Order of the Fly, who have been set the task of conquering this rather cold area of Shyish and do not entirely agree with the daemonic Herald allied to them, and the mortal Nagash-faithful of the Rictus Clans. The half a point of view would go to Neferata who, as always, has her own agenda despite being bound to the will of Nagash.

The Rotbringers/Knights of the Order of the Fly are humanised nicely in this story and, if you could forget about their open sores, maggoty skin, and the very real chance of coming down with something terminal just by standing close to them, you could probably get on quite nicely with them. Far from your usual Baddie of the Book, they remain true knights despite their allegiance, and have a very strong code of honour which is one of the things that brings them into conflict with the Herald of Nurgle who accompanies them. The Rotbringers genuinely think they are doing the people of Shyish a favour by freeing them from the clutches of Death, and that they bring the freedom of life with them. Ultimately, this is a battle of life versus death, not good versus evil by any measure.

On the flip side, the people of the Rictus clans are indeed worshippers of Nagash, are necromancers by definition (they use their dead ancestors in battle), and are allied to Neferata – but they are portrayed as the good guys for all that, fighting to protect their homes, their people, and way of life (and death).

In short, both sides are characterised nicely, and you might have an issue picking which one to root for!

The timeline for this story is set before any others featuring Nagash (did this novel not meet the release schedule, and so was sidelined into a Warhammer World exclusive release, we wonders?), as he is still somewhat shattered after his confrontation with Archaon and has not quite woken up yet. Throughout the story, you see Nagash’s mind wandering, even as he talks to his servants, and there is a general feeling among the mortals that Nagash is actually dead – though, as Arkhan points out to them early on in the story, death has never stopped Nagash before.

The big question for devotees of the Mortal Realms is, of course, whether there are any major reveals in this book. The answer? Probably not. We have seen Nagash awakened in other Black Library novels, and it is perhaps likely that he will be a feature in the next round of campaign books.

However, the daemon is ever in the details, and perhaps a throwaway line might turn into something of greater import later on. One that caught my eye was a reference to ‘the Mortarchs and other Deathlords’.

Other Deathlords?

As things stand, the Deathlords faction of the Death Grand Alliance comprise Nagash and the three Mortarchs. We already know other Mortarchs exist (or have existed – Krell is the obvious example, though there have been others mentioned, and this novel reiterates that there are nine of them), but other Deathlords? Deathlords who are not Mortarchs? One of the characters in this story becomes one, and maybe it is a little sideways reference to something we will see later…

Also… mounted Blightkings seem to be a thing.

Overall, I would give this story a solid thumbs up, for the balanced characterisation of both Rotbringers and Nagash-worshippers, if nothing else (actually, I have just decided – I was rooting for the Rotbringers in this).  Is it worth £40 and a trip to Nottingham? Well, that is a lot tougher. Unless you are an absolute die-hard for Age of Sigmar fiction (I am), then… probably not. It is a good read, and I would recommend it, but you are probably going to be in the UK and a real Age of Sigmar nut to take me up on that recommendation.

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