The Dwarves Series Review, Markus Heitz
The Dwarves is a series I only found last year, whilst browsing around in Waterstones. Markus Heitz wasn’t an author I’d ever heard of before, but hey, that doesn’t mean anything. Come on, a black book with an exceedingly grumpy looking Dwarf chap on the front, combined with a blurb telling of a lost Dwarf whom has the burden of his people thrust onto him? How could I not? In this review I’ll be reviewing the series as a whole rather than single books, but I’ll reference them all.
If you know what goes on in the books, you don’t need to read these synopsis – there’s one for each book so it’s pretty long.
The series follows Tungdil Goldhand, a dwarf smith raised amongst humans. He is sent to find his people, and guided by dwarf twins Boíndil and Boendál, he finds himself thrust into a war against a corrupt sorcerer – Nod’onn (formerly Nudin). Thing is, this guy can only be killed by a special axe: Keenfire.
In the second book, Tungdil and Co. find themselves pitted against a horde of evil Orcs, as well as the mysterious Eoíl. Oh, not forgetting the treacherous thirdlings, who are out to take the Dwarven Kingdoms back for themselves. Keenfire, however, is lost. Tungdil, helped by familiar faces Furgas, Rodario and Narmora; are forced to pull up trumps again.
The third book follows the peoples of Girdlegard as they face an invasion of magical creature-machine hybrids. Orcs have been spotted in the caves bordering Girdlegard, whom should have been destroyed. Poor old Tungdil is called on again to save his people; but five years have passed, and Tungdil is now a drunken wreck. As previous ally, magus Lot-Ionan is beginning to feel a little strange, Boíndil is called on scene to get things straight.
The final book is another few hundred years on (Dwarven lives are long), and an evil looking Tungdil returns from the Black Abyss. Or is it Tungdil, because some people aren’t so convinced? Boíndil is joyful at the return of his friend, as all is not well in Girdlegard (again). Dragons and magicians control huge swathes of the land. Tungdil isn’t sold on helping out though, he just wants to sit back. Sometimes though, you haven’t got a choice..
Wow, that’s some serious goings on, eh? The plot follows on well from book to book, really giving you a sense of wanting to get your hands on the next book. The first book is pretty easy to follow, although there’s a lot of information on the politics of Girdlegard you have to take in, and wrapping your head around which dwarven kingdom is which takes a while (there are five, but the thirdlings are outcasts. They don’t play too big a role in the first book).
If this was all just for one book, I’d say it was a bit too deep, but as this is a four set, it adds a lot. The happenings of the second book seem fairly random, and the plot itself seems to meander slightly, but you should be able to work out what’s going on. The second, third and fourth books seem to work together really well as a trilogy, making the first book feel a bit like a prequel. While it’s all very entertaining, by the fourth book I found myself wondering whether it was really feasible for this many disasters to happen all so quickly. Overkill? Perhaps slightly.
The final book, ‘Fate of the Dwarves’ has the best plot, in my opinion. The atmosphere builds throughout the piece, and the question of whether it was the real Tungdil or not really begins to get to you; you really really want to know by the end of it. The final confrontation is brilliant, and really brings it all together. There’s a killer (wink wink) plot twist right at the end of the novel, which was truly unexpected (*1). There aren’t too many loose ends either, which is always a bonus.
The characters in the books are fairly standard for a fantasy novel. We’ve got our unlikely protagonist who has the end of the world thrust upon him (multiple times). There’s our awesome butt-kickin’ warrior Boíndil, and Boendál to a lesser extent, the funny guy and the big bad guy. You can’t really blame Heitz for this though: it’s tried and tested fantasy formula. The problem with them is that they seem to lack emotion. Of course, they show emotion in relevant places, like with the death of a close ally (and yes, a few do get popped off) or when Tungdil returns, but not many of the characters have emotion pervade throughout the quadruplet. It isn’t so bad that you’d actively notice it, but sometimes it’s hard to work out what a character is thinking or feeling; which makes it very slightly shallow. I had difficulty building any bonds with the characters; I didn’t find myself caring all that much as they experienced heartbreak and extreme cases of death.
Sooo then. These books are worth reading, yes. Of course you’ll want to know what happens next, but it isn’t like you’ll be sitting around at work imagining different scenarios and trying to second guess the plot (you won’t be able to either, it’s pretty good). I enjoyed reading these books, but I think that if it was just ‘Dwarves’ on it’s own, without any compatriot novels; it wouldn’t be something I’d be rushing to re-read, as the pace is pretty slow and not enough happens per book. The level of detail Heitz has put into creating his world is immersing though: there’s lots of politics and information on things like marital rites and the relations between the peoples. Perhaps if Heitz had put more into working out what was going to go on in his little world than all the intricacies of information, perhaps the books would be slightly better (<< that was all pretty badly worded, so I hope I got my meaning across.).
A rating then? I’m going to go with 7/10. If 5/10 is ‘not worth reading’, then these books are better than that; they’re just definitely not Tolkien (*2). Yes, pick these books up. They’ll probably keep you going for a long while, as they’re fairly long books, and they won’t drag you to finish them in lust of knowledge.
(*1) What with 11/22/63 and Dwarves now, perhaps happy endings are going out of fashion!
(*2) Maybe that should be a unit of how good a book is: ‘Tolks’ (Tol)Lord of the Rings is 1.00, and that can be a base measurement. Something half as good as Tolkien would be 0.5Tol. Half as good again would be 1.5Tol. Well, anyway..