Review: Elves War Fighting Manual / Author: Den Patrick / Publisher: Gollancz / Release Date: Out Now
Source books for their own sake aren’t very common. Typically a book filled with details, illustrations and world-building material is based on some sort of popular franchise, and is either a summary of the information from whatever the source material is, or simply makes up a load of details that may then go on to be contradicted by other works.
The Elves War Fighting Manual however, is not based on any ready-made fantasy world; rather it establishes its own setting from the start and runs with it. The fighting elves detailed in this book are of the sort familiar to fans of Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer and Norse myth. The author has taken the guise of the scholar Sebastian Venghaus, the fictional character who has translated all of this critical military information from the Elvish, and adds helpful comments along the way.
The book is played with an almost straight face; there’s a touch of dry wit here and there, but this is an in-world training manual for the military, and it’s clear that our scholar has a lot of respect for his elvish friends, and this helps the reader really get under the skin of this haughty race. The direction it takes is not without its flaws; for a species as different from humans as elves are meant to be, there’s an awful lot of things that will be familiar to any student of real world military history. This is perhaps unavoidable, but a little jarring at times.
The manual format allows the reader to delve into a fictional world in a way that is not possible with a conventional novel; because the entire work is exposition, the text invigorates the reader, and is clearly designed to inspire multiple flights of fancy. The book also has hints of dire threats and horrors to the world of the elves, and it would be nice to see these explored further at some point. There are some lovely ideas in this book, and it would be a shame if they weren’t given more exposure at some point.
This is a handy stocking-filler for those who like their fictional worlds filled with detailed diagrams, or those who are simply nostalgic for books like Volo’s Guide to the Forgotten Realms and the like.