Elves War Fighting Manual by Den Patrick (book review).

November 17, 2014 | By | Reply More

Den Patrick’s trio of ‘War Fighting Manual’ books are portrayed as in-universe studies of a real where Elves, Dwarves and Orcs live alongside each other as well as human beings. This is, of course, the central conceit of numerous fantasy novels and role-playing games, and Patrick manages to find the common ground between them all, building upon the most familiar tropes while adding his own thoughtful elaborations.


The result is something unique yet comfortingly familiar, eminently readable by any fan of fantasy literature as well as providing a rich seam of detail for fantasy role players. For example, the Elves here are portrayed as practically ageless, but whether they are immortal, like Tolkien’s Elves, or merely extremely long lived, like the Elves in ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ isn’t really made clear.

Perhaps the explanation here is that Den Patrick has gone back to the original myths and folk tales from which the modern conceptions of Elves have been derived. These are the Fair Folk of the woods and wilderness, beautiful but dangerous, skilled with bow as well as magic and the implacable enemies of any who would attempt to destroy their beloved forests. At the same time, Patrick adds his own spin to this, revealing the philosophical nature of the Elven warrior. While their peacetime pursuits may be artistic and benign, the realities of war dog, the Elves as much as anyone else and to be a successful warrior an Elf must put aside his introspective thoughtfulness and adopt the guise of a dark, merciless killer.

Such Elves have something of the Tuatha Dé Danann of Irish mythology, reinforced by the frequently Celtic-sounding words Patrick uses, such as the name given to the Elves’ forest scouts, the ‘Drae Adhe’. In the same way as the Tuatha Dé Danann were ultimately replaced by the human settlers on the island of Ireland, so too, are there hints that Patrick’s Elves are a waning people, still strong, but doomed in the end to give way to mortal men. This was, of course, a major theme of Tolkien’s legendarium, but the mentality and motives of such Elves could just as easily be put to work by fantasy role players.

Indeed, there’s a weariness to the subtitle, ‘War is the only constant’, that hints at the irony here. The Elves may see themselves as benevolent guardians of the wilderness, but that doesn’t stop them fielding a cruel and effective army. So, while this isn’t the world of endless warfare seen in, say, the ‘Warhammer’ games, this is a world where even the Elves have to fight at time if they’re to survive. This is, of course, the necessary message of any book written as a ‘War Fighting Manual’, but that doesn’t stop this book from being entertaining in all sorts of ways. In short, a recommend read for anyone who wants to know more about the Elves of film, fiction and fantasy role playing.

Neale Monks

November 2014

(pub: Gollancz. 152 page illustrated small hardback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-13277-1)

check out websites: www.orionbooks.co.uk and www.denpatrick.com

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Category: Books, Fantasy, Games

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