Book Review: The Masque Of Vyle by Andy Chambers

Andy Chambers - The Masque Of Vyle - Header

I have been waiting for a very long time to read The Masque of Vyle by Andy Chambers. It’s another Warhammer 40,000 book, and unlike some of my more recent borrowings from The Black Libray (The Last Days Of Ector and Yarrick: A Plague Of Saints) is aimed slightly closer to my beloved Eldar, being centred around their twisted and sadistic cousins: the Dark Eldar and the illusive phosphorescent link that binds them together – the Harlequins.

I first learnt about the story many months ago while chatting to the store Manager of my local Games Workshop, but sadly, the book was out of print, and 2nd hand copies seemingly unrealistic in price. However, with rumours abound of the Harlequins making a reappearance into the reality of physical gaming, it seemed fitting to download the eBook version and set about experiencing the theatre and personality of these nomadic warriors before I thought about adding them to my army, literally.

Rogue Trader Harlequins - The Masque Of Vyle

The first thing that struck me about the book is that it felt dated. It’s not that old having only arrived originally at the start of 2013 but somehow, the language and pacing, the ideas and depth don’t feel modern. They linger back towards an earlier time. In fact, I’d go as far as to say, that the imagery created in my mind felt more like that produced back by the stories of the mid nineties when I first got into the hobby. It somehow felt slightly lacking, in the same way the original models were simplistic and less refined than their modern counterparts.

The story is set out as a novella, so isn’t that long and I certainly got into it. Turning pages and happily reading away, finishing it in days rather than weeks so to speak. But that shortness of length meant that it once again, just like The Last Days Of Ector, it feels like an overview. It’s not a later recounting, it’s not reflective. You certainly feel like you’re watching not listening to the performance unfold but it lacks any depth and therefore, it lacks any emotional strength to really get inside you and twist how you feel. It’s bullet points without explanation.

This emptiness was born out greatest by the Harlequins themselves. I found the main Troupe weak and lifeless. Seemingly serving their purpose by being, rather than doing. I never truly felt I got to know them, or understand how they interacted with each other on anything other than a physical level. Their motives were never clear. And this was heightened even more by the introduction of Motley, the Solitaire, the outsider to their group. I felt he had a personality, an intrigue, and so extended the lack of detail of those around him. He stirred some inner response towards me, but only him.

My other problem is that the story never felt concluded, it felt rushed and abrupt. It’s predictable in its path, and that is unsatisfying. The magic, the trickery and the sleight of hand that I imagine the Harlequins famous for never extending into the plot. It’s too linear and too shallow. It never stops to explain why or pretend like it wants to. I feel I’ve just had the gaps filled within without any reason why.

Andy Chambers - The Masque Of Vyle

I’m really not sure whether I liked the book or not. You can tell that Andy Chambers has the knowledge and skill to bring everything to life and to connect you to it as the reader. But that just never happened for me. I’ve been left having enjoyed a story, but not felt a story. I have come away, glad I’ve read it, glad I know another angle of Eldar history and identity, but not wanting to revisit it. Aside from Motley, I am not interested in the characters and part of me doesn’t want to know more about them. I’m happy to let them pass me by.

This feeling of disappointment is a sad way to reflect upon a book I had been craving to read for many, many months. It hasn’t let me down because it never picked me up to start with, but from the expectations I mentally created, I’m wondering if I’ve missed some pages.

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

Comments are closed.