At the bleeding edge of Chamon sits a lone outpost: The Grave of Heroes. Once a great fortress, it’s now no more than a thinly disguised prison for soldiers the armies of Sigmar would rather forget. Into this oubliette comes Byrun Hess, disgraced Captain of the Sigmarite forces, who finds himself buried in a dead-end posting with a tiny garrison, ranging from the undisciplined to the almost heretical. While Hess attempts to instill some measure of discipline, one of Chamon’s brutal shardstorms quickly shifts his priorities to simple survival. Things go from bad to worse when the garrison’s Warden is viciously murdered in a bloody scene that shows signs of dark sorcery, and tempers flare as the survivors accuse each other of the crime. Not sure who to trust, Hess’ disquiet is compounded by the chilling discovery of a newly exposed ancient vault in the mountainside that once confined a terrifying supernatural force – the likes of which these mortals have never seen before.
I brought a copy of The Red Hours after reading the review post on Track of Words. It sounded like an entertaining read featuring characters revolving around an army that I collect from the Age of Sigmar range; Cities of Sigmar/Freeguild.
After reading Nemesis, I felt like I needed a bit of a palette cleanser before tacking anything larger and remembered that I purchased a copy of The Red Hours a couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to read something short and, hopefully, enjoyable.
Captain Byrun Hess, after a large error of judgement, finds himself sent to the minor garrison known as ‘The Grave of Heroes’ to live out the rest of his days in exile, while still serving the Freeguild in some capacity. Set in the Realm of Metal; Chamon, where the sun burns hot and where freak shardstorms happen without warning. The setting is a foreboding one at best and lethal at worst. The perfect setting for a grim story like The Red Hours.
The groundwork that goes into describing the setting for The Red Hours, gives great insight into the Realm of Metal; although my reading of Age of Sigmar is slim compared to Warhammer 40k, I have found that the lands are usually just backdrop material for the stories they host. The Red Hours made the world-setting play a much larger part throughout the entirety of the novella, feeding little tidbits of information as well as using the world to further the narrative of the plot.
There is a limited number to the cast of the novella and each of them has a part to play; they are precisely cast and each of them varies in their own way. Each of the characters has a reason for having been sent to the remote guardhouse of The Grave of Heroes which gives them a unique feel above that of their physical differences in race. There is more life and reason for this select handful of characters, their aspirations (or lack thereof), their fears, their quirks all have a role to play; much like the role of Chamon, and they all advance the story naturally through their choices. There are reoccurring themes of recovering from a past that has done the characters wrong and proving that they are not worthy of the exiled fate that has befallen them; which once again feeds into the plot as it advances.
Roughly halfway through the novella, as the reveals are slowly happening, the tension in the narrative comes clawing in- combined with suspicion and paranoia. Captain Byron Hess doesn’t know which of his companions are trustworthy and which ones may have fallen foul of the antagonist. There are scenes that reminded me of the tension in The Thing, which is, for me, a perfect example of apprehension and suspense done right! Yet, written in a way that’s easy to access and lets the imagination flow. Unstifled by over-bloated, wordy prose.
At the heart of it, The Red Hours is a murder-mystery with an Age of Sigmar twist to it, it keeps the reader guessing right until the main bad-guy reveal. There are scenes of well-written action that help to keep the novella fast-paced and entertaining.
Everything about The Red Hours is well-crafted. The plot, characters and setting are wrapped together well and hold this story higher than some of the larger novels I have read within the Age of Sigmar setting. It tempts me to try out some of the other short-novellas that this book was originally attached to; see if they’re also a cut-above the rest.
I’d also like to give a nod to the very ending of the story which holds it’s very own feeling of dread!
A highly-entertaining, tense read. The Red Hours combined the Murder-Mystery Genre with the Age of Sigmar setting. Some varied and interesting characters that are molded nicely with the Realm of Metal; which plays a larger part to the novella than just the backdrop.