The Lord of the End Times (Warhammer: The End Times)
Publisher: Games Workshop
Cost: $30.00 (Hardcover)/$15.99 (Ebook)
Page Count: 411 Pages
Release Date: 03/20/2015
Get it Here: The Black Library
…and so it ends. Not just Warhammer, Eighth Edition mind you, but all of Warhammer‘s history and characters. Of course. Warhammer, Ninth Edition will be back later this year, with mostly the same rules and factions, but it will be an entirely new world without any of the history and characters from the previous decades the game has existed – or at least we think. Games Workshop has been even more tight-lipped than ever about what 9e will look like and rumours are flying from “Pokehammer,” where armies bounce around in picket universe and fight when two or more collide, to just a soft reboot with some armies like the Lizardmen, Bretonnians and Tomb Kings out of the game. Of course, since the Lizardmen are the army that actually escaped the extinction of everything (more or less) and four of the last five characters left standing were all Tomb King major characters, I have to assume that a lot of the rumours are just that.
The Lord of the End Times is a novelization of The End Times: Archaon, which is the fifth and final sourcebook for Warhammer: The End Times. It gives you a slightly different look at the events of Archaon but for a LOT less money. If you buy the ebook, it’s almost SEVENTY dollars less and you get the same core story. So The Lord of the End Times is by far the better choice if you have a limited budget or you just want to see how everything ends and how everyone dies. Of course, there are some differences. A full third of the novel is devoted to the last stand of Middenheim, which actually happened in Thanquol. I have to admit, this was the weakest part of the book and it was a shame a full third was devoted to it, but it was needed for setup, especially for those people who are only reading the novels. That doesn’t mean this part of the novel is bad – merely that a good portion of the people who pick this up will be devoting a lot of time to an event that they already read months ago and this might have been better off as its own separate novella, rather than part of the core novel.
The novel is divided into five parts. The first is the Prologue, which is essentially the final battle between Boris Todbringer and Khazrak the beastman. It’s a way to give some old characters a spotlight before going into the core novel. Indeed, much of the novel features a lot of classic Games Workshop characters that haven’t been written about for years or even decades. As the novel progresses you’ll get references to Abhorash, my beloved Red Duke, Grombrindal the White Dwarf, and many others. It’s nice to see so many classic characters show up for the finale of Warhammer Fantasy as we know it. I had been waiting for all of the End Times to hopefully get a combined Bretonnian/Red Duke undead army or at least 9e stats for the Duke (My first taste of Warhammer was the old “Circle of Blood” campaign for 5e), so I’m glad to have at least this bone thrown to me and other long-time fans of the game.
The second part of the novel is the aforementioned fateful battle of Middenheim and the eventual encounter between Sigmar and Archaon. I have to admit, I have never cared for either character. Valten has always been super lame and even now Archaon’s best moment was falling down and crying after Grimgor (DA BEST) hit him in the balls during the Storm of Chaos (THAT NEVER HAPPENED) series. That said, Josh Reynolds made me care about both characters, or as much as anyone could, with his exceptional writing of them. He really is the best Warhammer Fantasy author GW has had for many, MANY years. Of course, part of his ability to make me care is that this section of the novel didn’t focus on him. Instead, while they were indeed the main characters in this part, the novel really honed in on other characters and their place in the battle. Gregor Martak, Axel Greiss, Volker and the Chaos Warrior Canto Unsworn all take turns throughout this section as the focal point. This was the right choice because Valten and Archaon are two-dimensional characters at best and so to have a full third of the novel written from their perspective simply wouldn’t work. By taken (or creating) more fleshed out characters and showing their place in the last battles ever, you get a better look at how the rank and file people of Warhammer Fantasy are reacting and dealing with the end of all that is. You also get a much better look at both main characters because you see how they are viewed by their allies and enemies alike. Of course, the results of this battle have been known for months, but this novelization of them are a far better read than those in Thanquol.
The third part of the novel is “The Last Council.” Where the second part was one giant battle scene with a bit of talking, “The Last Council” is mostly major characters having their personalities defined. It’s a lot of chatter, monologues and personal introspective. In many ways this section is more Vampire: The Masquerade than Warhammer Fantasy, but that’s really what the novel needed. These are the most powerful (and egotistical) players in the history of Warhammer and of course their coming together is going to involve a lot of talking, petty arguments and wheeling and dealing before action is taken. Of course, the sheer amount of talking is probably WHY the world ends. Had they just gotten their shit together and been decisive, they might have had more time to ensure things ended on a better note.
This is perhaps the best section of the novel as every major character gets screen time and a real in-depth look at their thought process. Even lesser characters like Duke Jerrod of Quenelles gets a huge subplot devoted to him as it wraps up the whole “Lady of the Lake” debacle and shows why Bretonnia (justifiably) abandons the alliance against Chaos. Hint: Elves are dicks. The novels brightest when Reynolds is writing undead characters like Vlad Von Carstein and Arkhan the Black. These characters just pop off the printed page into your imagination. It’s easy to tell the author really cares about these characters, as they have a lot of character development devoted to them and they seem to be the most fully developed out of everyone in the alliance of the Incarnates.
Of course, things don’t run smoothly – because this is Warhammer. As the characters argue amongst themselves, Chaos itself rains down on Athel Loren – one of the last remaining safe places in the world. Some people are mauled, some people die and the forest essentially dies. It takes a massive attack by the enemy to make the Incarnates and their troops realize that to prevent the end of the world…maybe they should be a little proactive. Eventually though man, elf, undead and dwarf get their heads on straight and take the battle to Archaon and his Chaos hordes directly.
This brings us to the fourth part of the book – the final battle itself. Here you will see pretty much everyone die horribly. You will see heroes and villains alike fall in dramatic fashion including the biggest names in the game. There are some fantastic character moments to be had such as Hellebron getting to be sane for a few seconds before dying, Vlad and Isabella’s tragic reunion, Mannfred being the biggest douche in the history of the game, Nagash taking out troll and bloodthirster alike without even blinking and my personal favorite moment – SETTRA THE IMPERISHABLE RETURNS! At the end of Nagash, the writers tried to make you think that Settra would join up with Chaos. Of course, long time Tomb Kings players know that would never happen because SETTRA WILL RULE, but also because even though he is undead Settra is perhaps the biggest antithesis of chaos in the game. He is pure order to the extreme and so it was wonderful to see hib snub chaos and save, NAGASH of all people. Even Nagash and Neferata are shocked by Settra helping out his immortal foe, but these are The End Times and old enemies ally in order to save the world. Of course these are The End Times and it IS the end of a decades old game in its current form, so it’s not really a spoiler to say MacGuffin explodes and everyone dies – but do they really? Some character have most certainly survived in some fashion. We don’t know what happened to the remnants of Bretonnia, especially since Giles Le Breton and the Nameless are insanely powerful beings. They and their troops could have survived. There’s also a pocket universe filled with Bretonnians and Wood Elves that were stashed away. Some Skaven and Lizardmen escaped the planet. Nagash doesn’t need a physical form to exist. That’s a usual Wednesday for him. We also don’t see actual deaths for the Emperor or Archaon. They just fight inside the rift and the Warp, as we know from 40K, does not mean death. Tryion, Alarielle and Malekith all face the rift, but they aren’t necessarily dead. Hell, Malekith has survived for eons in the domain of Chaos, why not a second time? So a lot of characters are potentially alive. Hell, Settra, even with his tiny cameo should still be alive. Like Archaon, he was infused with the power of all four Chaos Gods but he was strong willed enough to reject their control, so his survival in the rift is pretty much guaranteed. What matters though is that the world of Warhammer Fantasy is indeed completely wiped out and unless someone got off planet or had a way to survive in the rift, they are indeed dead.
So with everyone dead, how can there be a fifth and final part to discuss? Well, it covers the very end of the world. It’s the epilogue and I’m happy to say out of all the armies in the game, THE TOMB KINGS (My personal favorite) are the last army standing. It’s canon baby! Settra, Arkhan the Black, Neferata, Khalida and Isabella are the last five named characters in the game still alive in the epilogue. That’s four Tomb Kings and one Vampire Countess if you are counting. More importantly, that’s three women and two men – which is HUGE for Warhammer. I guess the aforementioned Bretonnia/Vampire Counts team alluded to for a page or two like the Red Duke, Green Knight, Erikan Crowfiend, Elize Von Carstein and Abhorash are all still potentially alive since they didn’t get a death scene (or much of anything), but as far as the novel goes, it’s the Tomb King contingent who stands and no one else.
What’s important here is that we don’t see any of the five die so if Nagash still exists, he could possibly save them. More importantly, Arkhan’s curse from the Everchilde turns out to be a gift allowing him to help whoever or whatever eventually recreates the world. Hell, it could even BE Arkhan the Black that causes the existence of ninth edition. We don’t see him die, merely a flash or purple from the corner of Neferata’s eye which she assumes is his death. Could the Everchilde’s gift have been activated? Could the flash have been Nagash saving Arkhan, as the two share as close to a touching moment of friendship and camaraderie as Nagash is as possible of having. What we do know from the book is that Arkhan helps the being that recreates the world/9e (or is the being itself as he is listed as pkanted “the seeds of life,” and so it’s safe to say he at least survives the novel, if not into the next version of the game. Because Arkhan can see what is coming, he does say that Neferata has a chance to survive as well (“Outrun the end” are his exact words) and since she is with Isabella and Khalida when the book ends, there’s a strong chance they have fulfilled Arkhan’s quasi-prophecy. As for Settra, well he definitely survived. He’s f’n Settra. If he can snub the four Chaos Gods to their face, he can survive something as simple as a mere planetary implosion.
Overall, The Lord of the End Times is a fantastic read and a truly wonderful way to close the book on a decades long fantasy setting. Some of the characters will no doubt carry over to 9e, but we have months to go until we know what exactly that world will look like. You really have to be a long time fan of Warhammer to truly understand or appreciate this novel, but I promise you, it is a great read full of terrific moments from beginning to end. I was really worried how Games Workshop was going to end this, especially as very few, if any, fans of the game wanted Chaos to win. We saw that with Storm of Chaos. Thankfully even though the world ended, it was done in a brilliant fashion. Even if all three of my armies aren’t coming back for 9e, it was still fun while it lasted.