With a new version of the legendary Warhammer Quest game just announced, Black Library are in on the act as usual with the release of the novella Warhammer Quest Silver Tower : Labyrinth of the Lost by Andy Clark. Harking back to the classic game but updated for the Age of Sigmar setting and a more contemporary audience, it follows a disparate group of heroes trapped inside the titular Silver Tower and forced to work together to survive and reach the master of the tower – the Gaunt Summoner. Cue an adventure full of monsters, treasure, bickering and lots of blood.
What could have been a straightforward quest story (generic heroes, mild peril, dastardly enemy defeated at the last) is instead enjoyably fresh with a good set of characters and a more substantial plot than might be expected, given both its length and its nature as a tie-in to a game. There’s a nice friction between the characters, with none of them really prepared to trust the others, from the sullen and secretive Fyreslayer to the brash, antagonistic Darkoath (read: Chaos) Chieftain. Given the Age of Sigmar setting it’s inevitable that there’s also a Stormcast Eternal amongst the cast, and Clark does an impressive job with him, showing him as suitably powerful but being slowly worn down and cleverly humanised.
It’s a clear nod to the archetypal heroes in traditional quest stories (and games) but gently twisted – you don’t often see an outright baddie in amongst the group, for instance, and while two of them are pretty straight-laced good guys, the others are interestingly ambiguous. The plot essentially hinges on the question of what each of the heroes hopes to achieve within the tower, whether that be slay the Gaunt Summoner or acquire his power, and each character contributes in its own way. There’s a surprisingly high body count, even for a Warhammer story, and a suitably Tzeentchian sense of confusion and manipulation.
It’s a simple story really, but executed well and nicely updated for the tastes of the modern fantasy reader. Interestingly it also knows what it is – it plays on the reader’s preconceptions, with nice references to the expected tropes and a knowing sense of fun. The writing is generally good, barring a few cases of telling where it should be showing and an occasional moment of uncertainty around whose viewpoint is being focused on, and it’s really well paced and structured. The novella format is perfect for this sort of story, and overall it’s thoroughly enjoyable and very much in keeping with what Warhammer Quest should be.