The Dwarves by Markus Heitz

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The Dwarves by Markus Heitz

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Elaine Dingsdale
Reviewed by Elaine Dingsdale
Summary: A long book and the first of a quartet but this is fantasy writing at its best and a fabulous addition to the genre.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 752 Date: July 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-0316049443

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The charismatic dwarf, Tungdil, abandoned at birth, and brought up in the land of long-uns (humans), was raised and apprenticed to a magus. He finds that his peaceful life is about to change dramatically. Plucked from obscurity and anonymity, he is sent on a quest to find his fellow dwarves, delivering messages en route: naturally, adventure will follow him, and perhaps he is even the long lost heir to the dwarves' throne - time will tell!

Translated from the original German by Sally-Ann Spencer, this novel is a fabulous addition to the fantasy genre. It's a long read, standing at just over 700 pages, and is one of a quartet, so this opening book in many ways simply sets the scene, and I assume we have much more excitement to follow in subsequent books. Following the adventures of Tungdil, (a wonderful creation, who will no doubt join the ranks of his illustrious forebears, such as Bilbo Baggins,) we are immediately immersed in action and intrigue. Tungdil had long wanted to meet his fellow dwarves - although accepted and integrated into the human world, he felt a natural curiosity to meet his own kind - especially the female variety! His relationships with the human cast are simultaneously touching and amusing - he has a close bond with one of the kitchen workers and her children, is teased by some of the apprentices, but handles all with good humour and compassion.

So, when dispatched by his magus, he undertakes his journey with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. Naturally, it's not long before he finds himself embroiled with the strange happenings which are threatening the hitherto peaceful kingdom. His courage and bravery whilst being set adrift from his familiar environment was engrossing - and, at times, humorous too. One of the many strengths of this work, is its underlying sense of humour. Too often fantasy can fall into the trap of taking itself much too seriously, but I'm glad to say, that this doesn't happen with this work. Humour is never far from the surface, even in something as simple as the characters names (Knowledge Lusty, the magus, and Page Muncher, the scholar, being my two particular favourites).

Adventures continue apace, and soon he's touted as a worthy successor to the soon to be vacant throne. He grows in stature , and in no time at all becomes the leader of the rival faction, both of whom are dispatched on an errand to forge the sword which will defend their realm, and hopefully defeat their enemies. Naturally, battles, ambushes, and hair raising escapades abound. Some are truly gruesome, some are incredibly sad (such as the slaughter of the unicorns), whilst some are just ripping good yarns! All are necessary however, and I was pleased that there was little gratuitous violence, as each battle moves the plot forward, and emphasises the importance of the mission.

The author also paid great attention to detail (one of the reasons, I think, for the novel being so long). This added hugely to the pleasure of the book, and created a real and very tangible world. I was glad that there were several maps to the front, as this helps the reader keep a geographical order and picture in mind. Likewise, I was pleased to see a glossary of the main characters. Although there weren't too many central characters, it was useful, particularly in the early stages, to be able to see where each and everyone fitted - especially as there are five realms of dwarves alone.

At no stage did I feel that the outcome was going to be clear cut and obvious, which lent a certain degree of mystery and uncertainty to the proceedings. I'm not sure if I'll continue to read the rest in the series when they become available - but I suspect that I will at least read the second one. My interest in this wonderful new world and its intriguing characters has been sufficiently whetted to ensure that I'd like to know the next part of the saga, at the very least. My only, very slight, criticism, would be the length. Some of the events seemed superfluous, although they did add in some detail in terms of history. But the interest level was sufficiently high to ensure that I kept on reading, desperate to find out more. Tungdil is really such a well rounded and compassionate character, that it would be hard not to follow his journey without feeling protective towards him and his kind. Overall, this is an engrossing read, which I think would appeal to a wide audience, ranging from the beginner to the more seasoned fan of the genre. If only all fantasy was written as well as this!

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we hope that you'll also read The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien.

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