Book Review: Valedor By Guy Haley

Valedor - Header

It’s been a long time since I last sat down and read a book “cover to cover”. And this is something that I am slightly ashamed of. There are reasons for it; personal difficulties with reading, a lack of time, a preference to start and finish a story quickly all marry together to mean that reading takes a very back seat in my life, especially in comparison to the narrative story telling of films, and this actually upsets me.

While I don’t want to be someone who lives with their head in a book, I do wish that they played a greater part in my life. I like writing, I like being creative, and however much of a struggle at times it may be, I do draw immense satisfaction from reading, whether it be a magazine, newspaper, website, or hardback novel.

And it was to this end that I decided I wanted to really give reading a go, so-to-speak. They say practice makes perfect, and with films playing a lesser role in my life recently for a number of reasons, mainly financial, reading seemed an ideal way to plug the vacancy. But what to read? It seemed to make sense to pick something I’d have an interest in first, before throwing myself at Tolstoy, and so with Wargamming and Warhammer playing a larger and louder role in my life, heading over to Games Workshop’s Black Library and picking a novel connected to my hobby seemed to make sense.

Iyanden Eldar & Tyrands - Valedor

And, with my Eldar army slowly taking on the yellow and blue of the craftworld Iyanden, the Valedor novel recounting the tales of the Iyanden’s fight against the biomorphic Tyranids seemed to fit the bill.

While the novel is a standalone text in its own right, it is also essentially just an expansion to the gaming supplement of the same name. The idea being that you can read the novel and see how the fight pans out, and then recreate the battles yourself on your table top. It’s this cross over that creates the first problem for me. I don’t own the gaming supplement, and I have therefore, never recreated the epic struggle of battle depicted and that meant a lot of the actual fighting within the story, which obviously makes up large portions of the book, was hard to follow.

This is reinforced by the way that the author, Guy Haley, has brought the conflict to life; I know the Eldar and Tyranids by type, by the name on the box you buy in the store: Wraithguard, Fire Dragons, Spiritseers struggling to contain Hive Tyrants, Carnifexes and Termagants but Haley brings them to life through description or unit name, the “Wings Of Fire Swooping Over The Red Lake took aim at the monstrous warrior, who stood perfectly balanced on a single pair of legs, allowing it’s 4 outer limbs, you would naturally expect to aid in the support of the overall weight to have perfectly evolved instead into a pair of claws and a bioweapon spewing acidic venom, bring death, destruction, and instant darkness.” which meant that the longer the novel went on, the more the story flirted from war to peace and back again, the harder it became to keep track of how the swing of power was affecting the bigger picture.

Biel-Tan Eldar & Tyranids - Valedor

Haley, to me at least, also struggled throughout to really bring the world to life. There were countless times when you felt that he was almost too close to the image in his head he was trying to describe, that he’d forgotten that we couldn’t see it without his words, and I therefore, never felt I truly saw the bigger picture that Haley had in his mind.

However, all is not lost, because when the story movies away from Valedor, when the fighting stops and Haley spends time discussing the individual characters the novel really shines and I really, really enjoyed it. It’s strange, I’d almost have preferred to have 330 pages of character tales, to have really delved into the personalities and back stories rather than we treated to the fighting and the confusion of narrative that created for me. But in a novel born out of Wargamming, that sadly won’t happen.

Also, Haley manages to change the pace brilliantly, in the times of peace things slow down and you really get a sense of calm and then during war, during the fighting, even though the images portrayed by the words on the page may not have been overly clear to me, the emotion, confusion and pace of war certainly was.

Sadly, I’m not sure I’d recommend this book, even to somebody interested in Wargamming, and certainly not to anyone just looking for something to read. I must, however, admit that it is the first Games Workshop Black Library novel I’ve read and so I may just have got unlucky, or started at a point to deep into the ongoing tales to be able to give it a fair fight.

It’s really reignited a passion for reading, and I will read more as a result, I just think I may move on to something a little less specialist next time… any suggestions?

Posted on by 5WC in Book First Edition

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