Five books in, and the End Times are well and truly here for the Warhammer world. The latest in the series of background books, Archaon sees the forces of Chaos poised to finally triumph over all else. Nations and races are crushed and scattered, with only a handful of heroes remaining to stand against Archaon and his armies – Karl Franz has rallied what remains of the Empire at Averheim, supported by a handful of remaining Bretonnians and dwarfs, while the elves battle to keep Athel Loren free of taint from within and without. Even Nagash is assailed on multiple fronts. Things look bleak for the world.
The culmination of a truly immense story told across these five books, Archaon brings events to a head in cataclysmic style, with an overriding sense of impending doom that only builds as the book progresses. If the previous books weren’t clear enough, this hammers home the fact that the End Times is not just another flash in the pan for this 30 year-old fantasy setting…it really is an ending. To that purpose, it has everything that an ending should be – seriously massive battles, fatalistic heroism, tragedy, a real sense of pathos; all combined in a story where the main characters are some of the most famous and best-loved (or hated) names in the setting.
What’s been most impressive with this series has been its focus on narrative, on crafting a story that hangs together properly as opposed to just a series of big battles. Where the first four books in the series looked at grand, wide-ranging events, Archaon feels like it’s focused more on key characters, with the result being that the story has boiled back down from an enormous tangle of threads to something much more manageable. Some characters are as a result given less time than others, or not included at all, but that’s a small price to pay for the sense of focus and momentum that the book manages to maintain.
This series as a whole has been excellent, but quality has naturally varied throughout. With Archaon the series has an final volume that matches the standard of the first volume, Nagash, with a high standard of writing to match its beautiful presentation. With events coming to a head and the final battle(s) approaching, the story keeps up a fast pace and a constant sense of momentum, incorporating all of the diverse armies and heroes still in play without sacrificing the writing or the narrative. It’s a hugely exciting story, even more so for long term fans who will maybe appreciate the scale of it the most. Regardless of the reader’s knowledge of the setting however, this caps off an epic, ambitious series in emphatic fashion. Only time will tell what comes next after these dark days.