Title: Warhammer Adventures: City of Lifestone
Author: Tom Huddleston
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 21st Feb 2019
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Source: Personal Collection
Raised as a slave in the Darkoath camps of Aqshy, Kiri dreams of a better life. Of a city of wonders, the place of her birth… Lifestone! She despairs of ever reaching it until a fateful day arrives when her barbarian captors are attacked by Sigmar’s noblest warriors, the Stormcast Eternals. Seizing her chance, Kiri flees through a mysterious realmgate that takes her far from the fiery lands of Aqshy. She arrives in the realm of Ghyran and finds the city of Lifestone. But a curse lies on this place, withering its noble spirit. Her path leads her to a special group of children who, like her, are realm-marked – the prophecised saviours of Lifestone. There’s Thanis, the fighter; Alish, the inventor; Kaspar; the sneak and Elio, the healer. But dark forces are allying against the children and will do anything to stop them achieving their destiny.
Considering I read and reviewed Attack of the Necron a couple of weeks ago I figured reading the first book in the Age of Sigmar counterpart should also happen, therefore, I made it so!
City of Lifestone follows the story of Kiri, slave to the Darkoath Warband. During the battle in which her encampment is liberated by the Stormcast Eternals she flees through the realmgate and, upon her mothers dying words, she finds the City of Lifestone in the hopes to seek a better life for herself; however upon arrival the city isn’t what she was promised and she is quickly swept up in a fight for survival amidst the cities horrors.
The characters in City of Lifestone offer a nice variety. The main character, Kiri, has enough about her to keep the pages turning and her stubborn, ‘I am better than, and don’t need you,’ attitude is abound to resonate with some of the younger readers. She is a strong-willed character that quickly acts as a leader to those around her. Even dominating the personalities of older children in the group that she ends up with.
The other characters, Thanis; a physically strong fighter, Alish, the young forward-thinking inventor, Kaspar the elusive, sneak-thief and Elio the studious healer, all come across as a bit of a table-top-roleplaying game group and they clearly have cliched, tropes attached to them. They are a ‘tried and tested’ group of characters but considering the age-range, this book is aimed at this is probably one of the first encounters with such tropes. Personally, I didn’t mind it much and found that the group of characters worked well together and were, overall, enjoyable.
Of course, I had sterner leanings towards the adult character in the book, Mikal Vertigan; the Shadowcaster. He was a mysterious figure that held a bit more appeal to me due to wanting to know his overall reason for his actions. Collecting a rag-tag bunch of children seems sinister; and I am intrigued to know why he is doing as he is.
The plot following Kiri’s escape from her slave masters is that of Kiri trying to find her place in the new realm she is thrust into, that of the Realm of life. She encounters some of the aforementioned children a couple of times before giving in to fate and joining with them to fight off the big nasty in the book; the Skaven – rat-men that live underneath the City of Lifestone that do the bidding of an even bigger, big nasty.
There are some pretty high-concepts in the book that are carried over from the Age of Sigmar setting; some names of things are a little unusual compared to your standard run-of-the-mill fantasy. I’ve taken my sweet time getting used to these unusual names, having come in from the older version of Warhammer, from which City of Lifestone is derived from but hope that newcomers fresh to this book don’t have the troubles that I did.
As with Attack of the Necron, there are some concepts that might be a bit dark for some younger readers; parental-figure death in particular. They are quickly swept under the table and aren’t dwelt upon by the main character for too long. I’m unsure if these are themes that should be encountered by young audiences or not, should things such as death, war and violence be sheltered from children? Or are the read differently by youngsters who just think that this sort of stuff is ‘cool’ at their age! (Personally, I was always more upset when a loyal animal companion was killed as a child rather than a human being, so maybe my thoughts are a moot point.)
The book ends rather abruptly and it feels like this is just the first part in a larger body of work, ending on a cliff-hanger rather than having a conclusion of its own. Personally, I found this rather jarring and a bit of a let-down. I don’t feel like City of Lifestone ends properly and will just continue in Lair of the Skaven. Much like Attack of the Necron, this book feels very much like a Saturday morning cartoon episode that ends with the saying “To be continued…”
One thing I really appreciated about this book was the ‘Realms Arcana’ at the back, which offers a summary of the key-characters, the Mortal Realms and it’s denizens. It offers a great, bitesize, insight to the world of Age of Sigmar which helps to give a greater understanding to the world of Warhammer.
Accompanying the story are illustrations by Cole Marchetti and Magnus Noren which help to bring additional life to the novel – I appreciated them being contained within the pages of the book and I am certain that younger audiences will too.
A characterful introduction for young readers into the Age of Sigmar setting. An action-packed thrill ride into the fantasy setting with characters that appeal to both younger readers and their parents. Featuring scary skaven and creepy banshees. A good foundation to the unusual world-setting that young readers can build upon as they get older.