Review: Dwarves War Fighting Manual / Author: Den Patrick / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
One of a trio of books interconnected within the same universe, the Dwarves War Fighting Manual describes the habits and mentality of the stunties of author Den Patrick’s unnamed fantasy world. With no specific plot as sort, it serves as an in-universe record by a scribe, which covers their origins, fortresses, armies and one of their conflicts. Consisting of transcribed thoughts of dwarves, the book is punctuated by the personal thoughts of the human, Sebastian Venghaus, in an Amberly Vail-esque mixture of information, opinion and snark.
The War Fighting Manuals' main strength is the level of detail and thought that goes into fleshing out each race. This ranges from the opening idea that dragons were responsible for the creation of dwarves and providing them with gold for their hoards, hence their own obsessions with mining, to the very formation of their army. The latter point takes clear inspirations from the formation of the Roman legions with dwarf warriors, with personal services and roles beyond the military.
The level of thought and detail, which has been put into how the society works, is easily its greatest strength. As well as going through each weapon individually and giving concise reasons for the dwarves’ favouring of hammers and distaste for magic, it goes into extensive detail about citadels. The overall defenses, which systems are in place to help deter attackers and even the basic differences in bridge constructions, are all present.
Delving into these ideas helps sell the idea that this race could exist, but it unfortunately relies a bit too heavily upon certain aspects over others. Sketches within the book often cover comparatively simple things while leaving others to the imagination. There is no general layout of any citadel present and the descriptions of its long halls and winding corridors don’t do the idea justice. Furthermore many weapons help to show the aesthetics of the race, but are all seemingly common items lacking artistic inscriptions or obvious differences with variants available to their lords. Furthermore, the one battle actually described is largely won in spite of the dwarves rather than because of their prowess or skill. It’s an elf that strikes the final blow and other creatures that seem to kill the majority of the enemy rather than the dwarves themselves.
The book does many things right and has a lot of intelligence behind it, yet often it just doesn’t go far enough at points. For its page-length and price it’s well worth your time and money, especially if you enjoyed the likes of The Jedi Path, yet you’ve probably read better elsewhere.