The Warhammer world is changing, as The End Times carry on apace and the shadow of Chaos falls across the map. Released to accompany the Glottkin background book, the second Black Library novel in the series is The Fall of Altdorf, by Chris Wraight. After the dark events of Josh Reynolds’ The Return of Nagash, the focus now turns to the lands of men, as Archaon sends a vast horde deep into the Empire, led by the foul Glottkin, three siblings who have long since shed their past lives as men in favour of Grandfather Nurgle’s blessings. With the devastating loss of the Emperor, plague ravaging Altdorf, and the other cities of the Empire falling one by one, things are looking bleak for the stoic defenders of the realm.
As the title suggests, this concentrates very much on events leading up to the battle for Altdorf. Where The Return of Nagash suffered for being the first novel in the End Times series, having to cram a huge amount of story into a single book, here there is a much more streamlined approach, largely ignoring anything outside the scope of these particular events taking place. While that may not sit well with those fans who want to see as much of the End Times covered in novel form as possible, it means that Wraight has kept things focused and concentrated on telling one story as well as possible.
This is still a grand, epic story, even without looking at wider events. As the forces of Chaos move through the Empire we see through the eyes of characters from both sides, some old favourites and some new introductions. In a clear sign of the changing face of Warhammer, this book very much looks at unexpected alliances, changing power structures and events with truly apocalyptic consequences; even the most powerful or well-loved characters are at risk. Wraight is clearly a safe pair of hands when it comes to this kind of story, not just because of his experience writing for the Empire but also his ability to draw strong, nuanced characters, and pull together a wide range of plot strands.
There are some problems, unavoidable by nature of this being a tie-in to a much wider story : there’s an absence of some expected characters (Vlad, but no Mannfred, for example, while some characters and events are touched upon only briefly); some strands are left hanging in all the chaos (Huss, Schwartzhelm etc.); and in comparison with the background book there are sure to be large chunks of the overall narrative just not touched upon. As a novel however, none of those things really matter. Focused, well paced with great forward motion, full of excitement and drama, it’s everything a Warhammer book should be. Read the background book for the full story of what’s going on, but read this for a great, well-told story that cuts to the heart of what’s happening to the Warhammer world.