This book is 416 pages of awesome. It took me completely by surprise. I haven’t read “Iron Company,” the only other black library book by Chris Wraight, but I hope he keeps writing for a long time, because he hits all the right spots with Sword of Justice.
Usually, when a book’s summary blurb says something like “events that will shake the foundations/shape the destiny of the Empire.” You take it with a grain of salt. I mean, they all say that. Normally, its some big battle that totally messes up some unimportant part of the countryside, but they win, and everything is fine afterwords.
Not so here. I haven’t seen setting level plot development of this degree in a BL book outside of a Horus Heresy novel. (and a really good one at that) But here, its not about “ancient history,” its about the current timeline. This is Ludwig Schwarzhelm, champion of Karl Franz, bearer of the Standard of the Empire. The events of this book don’t expand and add detail to events we already knew about (though they do that too!) they are breaking new ground, making totally new stories that really do shake the foundations of the Empire!
On top of that, the writing itself is excellent. The characterizations are great, the imagery is vivid and interesting, and even if it weren’t a Warhammer novel, it would still be a really good fantasy novel. That, on top of the excellent leveraging of the setting and its totally epic plot, make this book top quality.
Speaking of characterizations, not only do we get a deep look into the mind and a bit of background on Ludwig, (obviously) but we also get a neat look under the fancy hat of the big mustache himself, Kurt Helborg. The rivalry between the two characters is a major element of the plot, and the contrast between them also serves to better define both characters. As an added bonus, Ludwig’s closeness to the Emperor also gives the reader a closer look at Karl Franz himself.
Overall, this book is both a great Warhammer novel, and a darn good fantasy novel at the same time, something that is all too rare among “licensed” fiction. Usually these kinds of books rely a bit to heavily on the established IP, or are simply a retelling of another story in a different setting. Sword of Justice manages to be an awesome story on its own merits while also exemplifying the things that are awesome about Warhammer. It is a shining example of how a great story and a established IP can come together and become greater than the sum of their parts, and I cannot wait for the sequel, “Sword of Vengeance” so I can see what Kurt and his epic mustache are gonna do next. Trust me, if you read this book, you wont be able to wait either.
~ This book gets a 5/5. Just, wow. If you like the Empire, or Warhammer Fantasy, or… books, you should give this one a go. Seriously.