Harran Blackwood was a priest of Sigmar, full of righteous fury and zeal. Now, he’s an embittered drunk, scraping a living on the edges of society. Blackwood haunts the back-streets of Greywater Fastness, offering his services to those who can’t – or won’t – go to the proper authorities. While Blackwood’s faith has long since guttered to nothing, he still retains his knowledge of the workings of evil, something that comes in handy on the fringes of society.
Blackwood receives a letter from an old friend – a plea for help to find his friends missing daughter. So begins Blackwood’s journey to the isolated village of Wald, a community unwelcoming of outsiders and with secrets to hide. What Blackwood finds there threatens more than just his life – it threatens his very soul…
I was recommended this book by local GW store manager, Dan. We were just chatting about books and he enthused about this one enough for me to grab a copy and give it a go. I am glad I did.
Dark Harvest is from the Warhammer Horror range of books – I’m not wholly convinced about this series as I don’t really see anything additionally horrific about them compared to other titles in the Black Library range, but they are nonetheless decent reads.
Dark Harvest is set in the Age of Sigmar realm of Ghyran and follows lead character, Harran Blackwood; a former Sigmarite Priest turned dogs-body for one of the head-honcho-goons working on the city of Greywater Fastness. Upon receiving a letter from a former friend he leaves the large city behind and heads to the small, isolated village of Wald with the intention of removing this persons knowledge of his whereabouts via the method of murder. Along the way he manages to pick up tag-along Gint – a card cheating rascal who has his own agenda for his presence on Wald.
As a lead character Blackwood is going to be a character that splits readers; you’ll either enjoy his dreary, anti-hero nature or you’ll detest it! There’s nothing sympathetic about him and little in the way of redeeming features; aside the fact that he’s there to get the job done and begone from the vile village. There’s a lot of intriguing elements to keep the character engaging beyond his penchant for solving all his problems with violence; the history of his former profession and the fact that he can see the gheists of those gone before him – creepy, ghostly manifestations that torment him at every opportunity they get. Blackwoods answers to his problems are usually found at the end of the knife and there isn’t much in the ways of mortal opposition for him; I did find that this element of the story detracted from the horror narrative of the story – if everything can be solved by fighting your way through it, what’s left that can really scare you?
This isn’t to say there aren’t horror elements to the story; throughout the novel Blackwood is being hunted by something ultimately sinister. Something that compliments the setting of the novel perfectly. The imagination behind the village of Wald is an inspiring feat in itself; when thinking of the Realm of Life images of rampant, overgrown forests come to the fore. However, Dark Harvest has a much more ominous setting in the form of atmospheric swamp-land. The descriptions give clear, unsettling depictions of a decrepit bog, in which the peasantry of the nearby village has to somehow make a living. The location, and it’s wicked descriptions help to elevate the horror aspect of the novel. Wald is not a nice place to spend a fortnight; it’s bleak and unwelcoming – this is conveyed not only in the setting but the inhabitants of the eerie place; each of which have their own part to play as the novel unfolds.
The plot throughout Dark Harvest is relatively straightforward. Blackwood travels to the village of Wald in order to track down a former friend in order to keep his own personal secrets hidden. While there he uncovers a mysterious plot which has left him marked by one of the Old Gods. Along the way there are several tormentors that exacerbate this problem; making Blackwoods ultimate task all the more difficult. Told in the first-person perspective makes for easy reading and the plot just as easy to follow.
What I found most enjoyable about this novel – aside from the grim, delightfully disturbing imagery – was the mind-set of the main character. He’s a man that knows his worth and place in the world and his dry personality was one that I found myself appreciating. He won’t be everyones cup-of-tea, but I found him most entertaining to read about. I’d have loved for Dark Harvest to delve a little more into his past, but I don’t think that the book suffers from that lack of depth; if anything it could have shattered the illusions of the character; we don’t need to know the deep ins and outs of his time as a Warrior Priest only that he was one but somewhere along the line he fell from Sigmars Good Graces. There is a good contrast between the horror of Blackwoods previous path and the one he uncovers in the village of Wald and the secrets of the God they worship; the cult of one comparing nicely with the mainstream religion of the other; prompting questions of theology – for those that wish to delve deep enough. If not, there’s still the masterfully crafted scenes of abject horror to enjoy.
Alongside Blackwood is his tag-along, Gint. A character that offers a refreshing brightness to Blackwoods dryness. His developments are ones that I didn’t see coming, despite asking myself why he was so invested in his companions trials.
Another aspect of this novel that I appreciated was the fact that it wasn’t just another story of Good vs Chaos. The sours of antagonism came in the various forms of the Syvaneth, creatures of nature that, while in a tentative pact with the humans of the Greywater Fastness, play the part of both tricksters and hunters of the mortals they share the Realm of Life with. While I do like the tried and tested ‘Good vs Evil/Order vs Chaos,’ it’s also nice to read something that deviated from the usual factions of Age of Sigmar fiction. Dark Harvest also adds another enlightening layer to the grittiness of the Sylvaneth faction; what ties them together and what divides them – a keen look into their past and the Gods that they worship. Dark Harvest did a lot to develop the Age of Sigmar setting for me, as my overall knowledge of the world is limited; thus my desire to know and read more of the world is only expanding when I get to read fiction as glorious as this.
An atmospheric story set in the Realm of Ghyran – offering an alternative depiction of the values of life. Featuring a main character with a dry personality that solves most of his problems with violence; that you’ll either love or detest. Not a ‘scary’ horror but one that offers an insight into the abject horror of some of the Age of Sigmar factions that wouldn’t usually be attributed to such depravation.