August 30, 2015

The Masque of Vyle
by Andy Chambers
(A Book Review)

Note: This Is A Minor-Spoiler Review

I often like to read novels/information about what I'm painting for a couple of reasons. First it opens the doors to ideas in the painting/conversion process that you previously didn't even know were there. Secondly it keeps me more vested in the project during the tedious lows of every project (as there often are). A certain level of excitement to move forward with a project comes along with some of the 40K novels out there and this book is one of them, despite some disappointment that came along with it. More after the jump.

The Masque of Vyle follows a troupe of harlequins as they investigate the destruction and mutilation of a craftworld in a 'who-done-it' sort of introduction to the rest of this short story. From the start, we are thrown into the world of the Harlequins (something very few authors attempt to go into detail on). We learn of the hierarchy fairly early on, the roles of each troupe member and even more interestingly, how they perform (teehee) in combat.

A fight for a harlequin is no mere brawl as with...well, any other faction in the 40K universe. How they fight depends on the setting, mood and what choreography they have learned. While their deadly, precise and quick movements in combat would seem like just that to the common observer, Eldar would definitely notice their patterns for what they are; a performance. Every member of the troupe taking a role and performing it accordingly, knowing where every one of their members are and having memorized what they're doing just like a choreographed performance on a stage.

The author excels at these descriptions in a way that has a beautiful, yet deadly imagination (that I'm failing to describe correctly here). Just know that the fight scenes in this novella are unlike anything you've read in the 40K universe, and probably beyond.

Moving forward there are several viable (I'm being kind using that word) suspects as to who took over this craftworld and the Harlequins make their way to a world currently ruled by a Dark Eldar Archon to sniff out the perpetrator. And this is where the book falls short on two fronts:

1) I've never read any Dark Eldar novels, but if they're anything like the Dark Eldar in this book, I'll never find myself reading one. They are very one dimensional, over-the-top and predictable which makes for a very boring and hard-to-get-sucked-in read when they're the focus. I often found myself just pushing forward so I could get back to the Harlequin troupe.

2) The mystery of the destroyed craftworld quickly switches to a procedural. Without spoiling anything, it goes from a who-done-it mystery novella to a flood-the-sewers (to force the rats out) story about half-way through. The latter has its own charm, but the mindset of a mystery is quickly stolen from you and the rest of the book seems like a bit of a letdown because of it.

Overall, I would most definitely recommend this short story. First, I have yet to find a book aside from a their codex that truly explains how a troupe works together and what the roles are of each. At the same time, it still manages to keep the mysterious surroundings of the Harlequin faction as a whole in-place as you dive further into the roles of each troupe member rather than the characters themselves (something I can see frustrating some people, but I truly appreciated it). Second, though the fights/performances are few and far between, when they do occur they're unmatched in their execution, beauty and descriptions.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Diamonds

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