Monday, 2 March 2020

QUICK REVIEW: The Fist of an Angry God (short)


Zipping in with a quick review today is The Fist of an Angry God, a short story that sees Knights Excelsior Stormcast Eternals do battle with the Disciples of Tzeentch, released by the Black Library as a digital short last week, and then as part of of the Oaths and Conquests anthology, written by none other than seminal Warhammer author and Gotrek and Felix creator William King, in his Age of Sigmar debut.

If you're a lot younger than me, or have only made recent acquaintance with Games Workshop and its worlds, then you may have never heard of William King (often credited as Bill), but will almost certainly have encountered the characters and concepts he created when developing the modern iterations of the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 settings, and be familiar with the house styles he helped establish for both mainline design studio background and the Black Library. If you've got a favourite character or part of Warhammer or 40k, chances are they were created by, or at least have something to do with King.

Almost consistently excellent in his previous work for GW, King's prowess certainly hasn't diminished, and although I've probably got a fair bit of nostalgic bias, despite, or perhaps playing to its succinct nature, The Fist of an Angry God is probably the best Age of Sigmar work the Black Library have put out so far, and speaking as a Stormcast-apatheist, is the most compelling I've found AoS's poster boys to date (including the times they've significantly differed from the norm or were teased as classic WFB characters). No mean feat when the short story's protagonist Balthus (no relation to Josh Reynold's Balthas Arum) is a Liberator-Prime, and about the most 'default' rank and file Stormcast you're likely to get.

Disclaimer: If anyone's skimming this post curious to find out if Balthus or any of the other Stormcast appearing in The Fist of an Angry God are Felix Jaeger, he's not, and there's nothing to indicate any of his companions are, so don't feel obliged to read the rest of the article if you don't want to.


King's trademark cynical whimsy is present from the off, with Balthus questioning whether the kaleidoscopic nature of the Tzeentchian fortifications the Knights Excelsior are laying siege to are designed to serve any purpose outside of being mildly annoying, and attributing any negative emotion he feels to being a sorcerous trick on the enemy's part. Along a few suitably old school denotians and details like the story's spellcasting Tzeentchian antagonist referring to herself as a Sorceress and not a Magister, and Blue Horrors not splitting into Brimstone Horrors on death (though the latter may be an oversight), the short is the most 'Warhammer', an Age of Sigmar story has felt to date, unsurprising when it comes from the definitive 'Warhammer' writer.

The Fist of Angry God is set in the Tzeetchian fortress of Azumbard, defended by cultists, Tzangor and daemons, defending it from an assault by a Warrior Chamber of the Knights Excelsior, who are accompanied by large battering ram called a 'Towerbreaker', crewed by a Sacristian Engineer (named Sextus in a charming King aptronym) - whether the Towerbreaker is an impending siege engine in what's probably an overdue by now wave of Stormcast releases, or just something cool King came up with at the time of writing we may never know. The prevalence of Warrior Chamber troops, combined with the relatively 'fresh' feel of the Stormcast and their novelty to the Tzeentchian antagonist suggest that the story probably takes place during the Storm of Sigmar, following the reopening of the Gates of Azyr, and the first appearance of the Stormcast in the Mortal Realms, ending the Age of Chaos, but no solid timeline indicators are given. Also notable is the depiction of the Knights Excelsior in a comparatively relaxed manner compared to the militant zealots they're usually pigeonholed as - perhaps also a timeline indicator that they haven't been reforged as much as the Knights Excelsior we're used to.

I'm not going to provide a full breakdown of the short's plot in the way I normally do in my reviews, as no major developments in the setting or lives of established characters occur, it's a very concise read, and at only £2.49 there's really no excuse not to check it out yourself. If you're only going to read one Black Library story this year, then make sure that it's The Fist of an Angry God, what I can only hope is the first of many opportunities for King to explore and make his mark on the new setting.

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