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Home > Book, Book Review, Fantasy, Reviews > Book Review – ‘The Dwarves’ by Markus Heitz

Book Review – ‘The Dwarves’ by Markus Heitz

January 12, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Book Description:

For countless millennia, the dwarves of the Fifthling Kingdom have defended the stone gateway into Girdlegard. Many and varied foes have hurled themselves against the portal and died attempting to breach it. No man or beast has ever succeeded. Until now. . .

Abandoned as a child, Tungdil the blacksmith labors contentedly in the land of Ionandar, the only dwarf in a kingdom of men. Although he does not want for friends, Tungdil is very much aware that he is alone – indeed, he has not so much as set eyes on another dwarf. But all that is about to change.

Sent out into the world to deliver a message and reacquaint himself with his people, the young foundling finds himself thrust into a battle for which he has not been trained. Not only his own safety, but the life of every man, woman and child in Girdlegard depends upon his ability to embrace his heritage. Although he has many unanswered questions, Tungdil is certain of one thing: no matter where he was raised, he is a true dwarf.

And no one has ever questioned the courage of the Dwarves.

I picked up The Dwarves by Markus Heitz on whim – I’m used to fantasy stories that focus on human magicians and elves – so a story where the dwarves are the heroes totally got my attention. The story is set in Girdlegard, an enchanted land ruled by human kings, magicians and elves with the dwarven kingdoms defending the borders against evil. I started reading the first chapter and just couldn’t quite put it down afterwards. As first chapters go, this one was a winner – a really well-written prologue telling the story of how the dwarves of the Fifthling Kingdom in Girdlegard fell victim to the evil of the Perished Land, thus opening up Girdlegard to invasion by evil creatures. That first chapter had heroic dwarf characters and epic battle scenes marked by betrayal and grand tragedy. Sucked me in for sure!

Then the novel goes into the present story proper, and we are introduced to the hero, the scholarly blacksmith dwarf and human foundling Tungdil who ends up on a mission to save not just the dwarves but all the good men and elves of Girdlegard. In the process, he becomes heir-apparent to the dwarven high king’s throne, learns how it is to be a real dwarf, and collects a ragtag team of friends that help him on his journey. Markus Heitz doesn’t really try to break new ground with his fantasy creatures – elves are elves, dwarves are dwarves, orcs are orcs… same as in ‘Lord of the Rings’. He does add new evil creatures like the alfar (twisted elves), and he also give the dwarves a pretty well-structured society and culture (including politics) that hasn’t really been delved into that much. And since Tungdil has grown up only amongst humans & knows as little about dwarves as we do, we discover dwarven-society with him as he goes about his mission.

I have to say though that the author (or the translator?) doesn’t quite measure up to the brilliance of the first chapter; the quality of the writing becoming a bit uneven after that. For some strange reason, Mr Heitz writes majority of the dwarven characters really well, but kinda fails when he has to write humans. Any chapter that concentrated on the humans (kings, magicians) ended up with stilted dialogue and wooden, flat and poorly developed characterization.

Not that that that stopped me from reading since I really found myself drawn into Tungdil’s grand adventures. Tungdil is a really likeable character, and I’ve always had a soft touch for the outsider / nerd turned hero. And the band of characters who end up being on Tungdil’s team are a likeable (if mismatched) bunch too – from a pair of dwarven warrior-twins, an alcoholic dwarven mason, a drama troupe of human (and not quite human) actors & prop master, to a rebel magician & her mysterious demon bodyguard – I found myself just drawn in on all the action as Tungdil traveled across Girdlegard before the final battle with Nod’onn (former good magician who is turned by the Perished Land into evil). Speaking of Nod’onn, I have to say that another disappointment for me was how weak Mr Heitz’ villains were – from the supposedly villain-to-end-all-villains Nod’onn to the smaller villains – such as Bislipur (a dwarf who becomes Tungdil’s adversary). Most of the central heroes in the novel come to life, completely well-drawn flesh-and-blood characters, but all the villains remained cartoonish and removed from the emotion of the story. At the most, what I felt was maybe annoyance – lol. The lack of good fantasy villains really hurts the book (you need to be able to really hate someone! or at the least be able to admire just how evil they are!), but I don’t know if the limitations were because it wasn’t translated adequately well from the original German.

All in all though, I had a rip roaring time going through Tungdil’s journey with him, and if the journey seemed a bit too long and circuitous at times with a bit too many X saves the day coincidences (the book really needed a good editor to trim-off many unneeded scenes), well, gosh-darn-it, I liked Tungdil too much and found the story too entertaining at that point to give up.

The Dwarves by Markus Heitz is available on Amazon as a paperback ($10.87) or Kindle edition ($9.99). A second book in the series The War of the Dwarves is already available for pre-order.

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  1. Josi
    August 11, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    Hey =)
    I’m from Germany and just read your review cause I was interested what the translation of the original was like. It sounds quite good but to hear that the villains kind of lacked evilness is a little disappointing. Sure Nod’onn wasn’t the burner but I totally loved the alfars cause in the original they sure were great and I somehow admired them. 😉 That’s why Markus Heitz started a serial just about the alfars starting with how they allied with the demon (Sinthoras is one of the protagonists). I really loved the first book.
    Did you know that the dwarfs is gonna become a movie too?

    • August 16, 2010 at 8:14 pm

      I did not know that the book will be turned into a move – pretty cool. Do you know who’s working on it?

      Well, it’s good to know that the weakness I talked about in my review is due to the translation. Makes me wish I understand German so I can read how the author really wrote it.

  2. Halim
    June 19, 2011 at 3:37 am

    Has anyone noticed, that the entire story line and character of Nudin/No’donn and the Perished Land, is almost entirely based on the World of Warcraft character, Kel’thuzad, and the Lich King (Scourge). According to WoW lore, Kel’thuzad was a member of the Magi Council of Six of the Kirin Tor (Mage Order). He hungered for knowledge and seeked it everywhere. Another character by the name of the Lich King, was an evil spirit at the time, spread the plague (Scourge), which made the land it covered dead and sickly, and all who died on it were risen as undead. An almost exact replica of Nudin and the Perished Land. The Mage Council stood against the Lich King, but the Lich King seduced Kel’thuzad by whispering to him the promise of boundless information and knowledge. Kel’thuzad succumbed to this, becoming evil and the foremost servent of the Lich King, whilst also claiming huge power, and almost destroying the mage city Dalaran, which was protected from the Scourge by a magical shield, similar to the Mages Barrier in The Dwarves. Since the World of Warcraft story came way before The Dwarves was published, it’s almost garunteed proof that Markus Heitz based his story on World of Warcraft lore.

    • June 20, 2011 at 11:33 am

      I don’t play World of Warcraft, so I would’ve never noticed really 🙂 Thanks for the info – well, whether he was inspired or not by World of Warcraft, I still enjoyed his take on it 🙂

    • PhiBBs
      January 2, 2012 at 7:17 am

      Wrong!
      I guess you forgot that this book was originally written in German. It was first published in 2003, and that’s well before WOW which was published in 2004.
      So i guess IF someone was inspired by the other one, it’s quite clear who that was.

      But of course it is still possible that the story of WOW existed long before it was published in the game. Quite unlikely but possible. But according to wikipedia the lichking-addon was published in 2008, so there was lots of time for the story-writers to search for inspiration.
      I don’t play WOW but was quite interesting to read that.

      • March 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm

        Yea, but the game WoW is based on the lore, which allready dates back to the first game Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994. But it doesn’t matter IF Heitz based it on Warcraft lore, I never would’ve made the connection and I’ve played all the Warcraft games. Same with Lotr, it looks this same, but is a totally diffrent story.

  3. Nathan
    February 29, 2012 at 8:24 am

    I’ve just got the book and I’m eager to see if your reviews do hold water. will keep y’all posted about what I find out

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