Trigger Warning: violence, discussion of sexism
Disclaimer: I am a Press Ganger for Privateer Press, and I play Skorne as my primary army. I have had no contact with Privateer Press about this review, nor have they discussed any of this with me.
Instruments of War is a new novella from Privateer Press (through their Skull Island eXpeditions label) that details Makeda’s rise to become Archdomina of House Balaash. It provides an interesting perspective into one of the more iconic characters of the Iron Kingdoms.
I was initially skeptical of fiction set within a game world. Historically, it has been pretty hard to find good examples of said fiction, and it often is hackneyed and strung together without focus on good writing, instead depending on the label to sell copies. I was pleasantly surprised by this novella, and am looking forward to reading the others that have been released.
The novella starts off with Makeda early in life, during her training under her grandfather, and progresses through her early adulthood. It gives an interesting insight into her thoughts, and her focuses. One of the really refreshing things about the book is the portrayal of Makeda as a strong, independent woman. This is uncommon in literature, and is severely underrepresented in fantasy and science fiction. There is no requisite love scene, no pining over love interests, etc. She has her own desires, goals, and life beyond what a “standard” depiction would suggest. This is true of other women mentioned in the story as well.
I should note that there is some violence in the story. And not just “and the armies crashed and clashed, etc etc” but some rather graphic depictions. I am easily squicked out by such things, and it was pushing it for me. They are fairly quick, but they are there (this is the Skorne, after all). If that seriously bothers/triggers you, I would avoid it.
For anyone who is interested in the lore of the Iron Kingdoms, or enjoys a quick fantasy romp, this is a fantastic story that really captures the essence of a very important and iconic figure in the world. I really enjoyed the writing and the fast pace, and my biggest complaint would be that it was over too soon (which is all too common for novellas). The quick pace was refreshing, and meant it was over in an afternoon.
Recommendation: Read it