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The Daemon’s Curse by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee

The Daemon’s Curse by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee
3.5
Book Name: The Daemon's Curse
Author: Dan Abnett and Mike Lee
Publisher(s): Black Library
Formatt: Paperback / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy
Release Date: May 2005

The story of The Daemon’s Curse follows a vicious dark elf called Malus Darkblade as he and his merry band of evil slave traders and all-round no-gooders venture into the Chaos Wastes in search of a mysterious treasure that is said to bring ultimate power. The path towards which is, as so often is the case, riddled with dangerous monsters and interpersonal intrigue.

Malus Darkblade is a bad elf. A really, really bad elf. He’s the kind of chap who would take the utmost pleasure in chopping your head off simply because he hasn’t seen some gore for a few minutes. He is cunning, merciless and bloodthirsty, suspicious of everyone (often with good reason) and not one to resist drawing his blade at any given chance. Malus has no redeemable features which is why, in many ways, he is such a fascinating protagonist. In fact, it is his character that truly drives this story forward and, for me, makes The Daemon’s Curse stand out from other fantasy novels. Within minutes of meeting this twisted protagonist you know exactly what to expect from this novel – wicked wit and a whole lot of bloodshed.

The story itself is in some way pretty generic. A band of mercenaries get hold of a treasure map and set off to find the sacred relic while getting into a couple of scuffles along the way. However, what keeps you turning the pages are the individual elements of the story, which are weaved expertly into one another by the authors to create a truly cool adventure tale.

The Daemon’s Curse rips along at a fantastic pace and there are very few points where it goes flat. The exception to this is, perhaps, when the merry men are trudging their way across the Chaos Wastes. While this part could just be Abnett and Lee trying to create a sense of drawn-out struggle, I personally got a touch bored. Think of the long winded bits from Lord Of The Rings where nothing happens for what seems like days except the scenery slowly changes and the characters get grumpy and you have a good idea of what I mean.

Otherwise, The Daemon’s Curse is a steady collection of set pieces, intrigue, and pithy, vicious dialogue. The fight scenes are especially effective as the authors make full use of a group of dark elves who love nothing more than to kill and torture. In fact, there are times when their love of destruction shines through in such a way that the scene becomes almost funny in a twisted and grotesque way. For Malus especially, inflicting carnage and terror is pretty much a form of relaxation and the times that he bites back his desire to tear someone’s head off really give you the sense of his internal struggle and festering rage. This isn’t to say that the adventure element of the story is perfect though, as some of the action feels a little too tagged on, as if they weren’t sure what to put in so figured they would throw in some angry, axe-wielding crazies. For example, the fight with the blue-eyed skeletons seemed more than a little pointless – Hey, nothing’s happened for a few minutes and we’re lost in the fog, what in the name of pirate underpants should we do? Hmmm…skeletons? Skeletons!

Although there are a couple of times where the creatures seem to have been jury-rigged into the story, it is a small complaint because of the incredible variety of species and ‘things’ that are presented and designed to set your imagination alight. For me, the best fantasy is that with the coolest monsters and The Daemon’s Curse doesn’t disappoint in that respect. Around every corner there are as many giant spiders, demon lions and beastmen as you could want. Personally, I was a fan of the nauglir, which are enormous lizards (I pictured them as Jurassic Park raptors on illegal steroids) and the steed of choice for Malus and his team. Where horses often baulk in the face of danger and go down after an arrow or two, the nauglir seem to enjoy nothing more than racing into the chaos of battle and biting as many people in half as they possibly can. Nauglir…Or horse? I know which I’d rather have a saddle on.

Okay so the story is slightly generic but the writing is solid. You might not expect Dickensian prose from a Warhammer novel (and in the case of The Daemon’s Curse you’d be right), but nonetheless, Abnett and Lee prove themselves to be kings of description. They weave the characters through a vividly-crafted world without distracting you from the plot. Far too often fight scenes in books can either be over in a flash or so minutely detailed that they read as sluggish. In The Daemon’s Curse however, the fight scenes are written with a meticulous care and consistently hit a sweet spot between description and pace.

Those with a weak stomach should be warned though, that things can get pretty graphic.

Obviously, I won’t give the ending away, but it’s a stroke of genius from a sales point of view. Because if you like Malus Darkblade as a protagonist (which I think you will), then you’ll find yourself grabbing your jacket and heading to a book shop to pick up the next in the series to see what happens to the evil dark elf.

I picked this book up expecting 400 pages of fun and to be honest that’s what I got. At no point do Abnett and Lee treat this tale of Malus Dakblade as anything other than a straightforward adventure story about a really nasty guy, in a really nasty world and for that, it is brilliant. It’s a chance to delve into the darker corners of fantasy and present a fully-realised world complete with all the maggots and flies you could want. Apart from the odd cheesy line scattered here and there, (for what is a fantasy story without a little bit of cheese?) The Daemon’s Curse is a joy to read as it just goes down easy. -Must not insert joke about a cheap hooker here.-

The Bottom Line

The Daemon’s Curse is unlikely to be the best book that you have ever read, but it is great fun with a compelling protagonist and some cool ideas. Definitely worth a read.

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Rating: 9.2/10 (12 votes cast)
The Daemon's Curse by Dan Abnett and Mike Lee, 9.2 out of 10 based on 12 ratings
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