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

November 17, 2014 | By | Reply More

Alongside his books on Dwarves and Elves, this ‘Orcs War Fighting Manual’, taken from the perspective of the Orcs gives an insight into the methods and motivations of this classic warrior race. More than the simple cannon-fodder they once were, thanks to the ‘Warhammer’ gaming system and Stan Nicholls’ novels in particular, author Den Patrick has further developed the idea of Orcs as having depth and spirit all their own. His Orcs may be impetuous and violent, but they’re also hardworking and loyal to their leaders. They have a cultural history that may be based around warfare, but at the same time their motivations have always been driven by the need to survive and frequently resist persecution by the other humanoid races.


In short, Patrick’s Orcs may be trouble for the humans, Elves and Dwarves of his imaginary world, but they’re not mindless predatory animals. The ‘Orcs War Fighting Manual’ is thus presented as the collected researches of one Sebastian Venghaus, an anthropologist who managed to spend some time living among the Orcs and learning their history. Most of the text is given as translations from conversations with an Orc leader called Kani Brakespeare, hence a rather free and often colourful style that plays up to the idea of Orcs being salt-of-the-earth types when it comes to status and language. Humans, in particular, come in for a fair amount of stick and role players will certainly find the psychologies of the Orcs as presented here useful for making Orc and Half-Orc player-characters that bit more rewarding.

Whereas the ‘Elves War Fighting Manual’ was introspective and rather sad, and the ‘Dwarves War Fighting Manual’ as solid and technically precise as the race it describes, the ‘Orcs War Fighting Manual’ is both funny and knowing. There are subtle puns and send-ups, but most noticeable is the way Orc-leader Brakespeare comments on the recent history of the Orcs and the interactions of the different elements of Orc society, such as it is. His delivery is very dry and cynical, particularly with regard to the influence of Orc shamans. Whether or not Brakespeare is uniquely insightful or intelligent isn’t really made clear, but the reader is definitely left with the feeling that if Orcish society was more cohesive it would make the Orc race very much more dangerous to men, Elves and Dwarves.

It’s been said already that this book will be thoroughly enjoyed by anyone playing an Orc or Half-Orc character in a role playing game or, for that matter, fielding an Orc army in a Warhammer-type setting. But Den Patrick is such a good writer and the subject matter of this book so obviously and easily entertaining, that pretty much any fan of fantasy literature will find ‘Orcs War Fighting Manual’ a wonderful read. Highly recommended.

Neale Monks

November 2014

(pub: Gollancz. 129 page illustrated small hardback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-575-13275-7)

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


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Category: Books, Fantasy, Games

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