on May 4, 2010
Let me start with the negative. I found the book to start very slowly, and struggled for some time getting going. It is a large book and I'm not sure if some of this, as well as some of the dialogue problems owe to the book being writting originally in German and translated for us to English. However, once past the first 100 pages or so I literally couldn't put the book down. It was a quick, enjoyable, action packed, and at times humorous story, with great backgrounds and backdrops.
Is it the greatest piece of fiction ever written? By no means will it be mistaken for that. However, it is an exceptionally enjoyable ride to read it. Maybe akin to the summer action flick blockbuster, that is never going to win an Oscar, but may give you the most enjoyment for your dollar all year. That is this book. Flaws aside, the characters are captivating, the ideas though common enough to fantasy have their own unique and interesting twists, and the book is just darned hard to put down once it gets going.
I couldn't recomend it highly enough, it sits in a treasured spot now in my collection.
on September 17, 2010
The main heroes in fantasy novels are usually the special human 'chosen one', magicians and elves - so a story where the dwarves take center stage totally got my attention. The story is set in Girdlegard, an enchanted land wherein for hundreds & hundreds of years, the dwarven kingdoms have protected the borders against evil. I started reading the first chapter (prologue) on a whim and just couldn't quite put it down afterwards. This one was a winner - a really well-written prologue about how the dwarves of the Fifthling Kingdom 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. He ends up on a mission to save not just his fellow dwarves, but also all the good men and elves of Girdlegard. 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 complex and well-structured society & 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.
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 - a pair of dwarven warrior-twins, an alcoholic dwarven mason, a drama troupe that includes human (and not quite human) actors & prop master, 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).
I have to say though that the rest of the novel doesn't quite measure up to the brilliance of the first chapter; the quality of the writing becomes a bit uneven after that. For some strange reason, Mr Heitz writes majority of the dwarven characters really well, but 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. 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).
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. I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series 'The War of the Dwarves' next!
on August 9, 2010
"The Dwarves" begins an exciting saga following Tungdil Bolofar, an orphaned dwarf raised by humans. The German translated novel presents a phenomenal story packed with great characters, a rich history, and a fun adventure. The blend of excellent political maneuvering and kick "axe" battles in the name of questing generates an instant classic.
The notable secondary characters are Lot-Ionan, magus and father figure to the blacksmith Tungdil, and the giant warrior Djerun, a mysterious guardian to Andôkai, another maga. The magic system though somewhat vague requires great attention from a magus. The dwarven attitude and comments are very entertaining.
An enhanced map of the significant terrains and a more comprehensive appendix would have been useful.
I haven't enjoyed a storyline as much in over a year and highly recommend the series to any fan of the fantasy genre.
on June 21, 2012
I approached this book with some anticipation, thanks to a friend's recommendation. Indeed, as other reviewers note here, the first chapter sets up what could be a brilliant story...and that's where it stops. The characterization is tissue-paper thin, the main character is moronic and the plot is inconsistent. One irritant that crept up on me was the way the author introduces convenient plot devices so often to work his way out of corners. For example, early on, dead characters re-animated by the perished land are soul-less and flesh-hungry zombies, whereas later examples show complete personalities, conscience and goodwill which allows them to intervene in positive ways to help the protagonists. In fantasy, there seems no reason for this inconsistency since the author has the opportunity to embed the seeds of the later story early in the plot. In this case, so often it feels as if Mr Heitz simply sat at his desk and started writing whatever came to mind, without a clear idea of plot development.
As for Tungdil; what can I say? He's just not believable. One is told he feels pain, sorry love and lust, but the author is so journalistic in these descriptions that the reader cannot really feel the emotions. Tolkein, Donaldson, Brooks and others are so much better at immersing us in their characters...perhaps I've been spoiled.
That said, the great shame of this book is just how much potential it has. So many of the incidental characters could have been worked into viable plot drivers. Likewise, descriptions of cities leave the reader yearning for more detail, more history, more intrigue, but the author's seemingly destructive bent sees these jewels wiped from the story before such development can happen.
By all means, if you can't get enough fantasy in your life, read The Dwarves. It won't kill you...but if it does, unlike some of the characters in this story, I wouldn't bother coming back.
on August 27, 2012
i just didn't like it. I really like the concept of focusing on the dwarves, who are usually side characters or comic relief at best.
On the positive side, the plot is fine though tired (evil sweeps the land; good is dying out; young hero loses his father figure and goes in search of his roots, ends up saving the world).
I found all the characters flat, and mostly annoying. I didn't like anyone in the book. The dialog, too, was flat and very simple.
With books I love, I look at my progres and think, "Oh, no, I'm already halfway done!" Here, I keep looking at my progress, depressed at how much more there is to go.
on March 6, 2016
Something about books that are translated that just makes the dialogue feel forced and empty. I love dwarves and love the premise of this book. It had potential, I wish I could read German because I bet things would have made more sense and lines would have been better. I could not get into the writing. It felt quirky and forced and the way the translation described the characters and what was happening was hard to tune in to. Eventually I had to put it down because I felt like I was forcing myself to read it. Like anything, you have to read it for yourself to decided. I couldn't get into it. Hopefully there will be a better dwarf novel written by someone in English.
on November 28, 2011
Imagine a world where every character's inner monologue is forced and fake-sounding. Where every race is cliche to the point of ridiculousness. Where fantasy-racism is apparent in every line about how ALL dwarves automatically know how to bludgeon people to death with an axe on the genetic level, and that while they may befriend humans they would NEVER be attracted to them. Where the only character to actually feel real is killed off within a few pages and everyone else feels like a paper-doll cut out. Where new races and major powers can appear out of nowhere without anyone ever noticing their existence until TOO LATE! Where the main character was apparently dropped on his head as a baby and totally lost the ability to prioritize the importance of saving the world versus helping a family chop wood. Where every chapter must contain the same whiny inner monologue about how hard it is to now know how true dwarves live. Where every journey is made long and ponderous by needless side trips and errands. Where a book that had the potential to be be really interesting and have some cool dwarf-politiking was a complete and utter fail. Welcome to the world of Dwarves...
on November 6, 2013
As many of the other reviewers stated, I wanted to like this book. Too few fantasy novelists focus at all on the dwarves, and they were even given short shrift (pardon the height reference) by Tolkien. It gets an extra star for taking the road less traveled. That being said...
This book is formed of 100% pure, compressed trope. If there is a single original thought anywhere in its pages, it is well hidden from the reader. I got through the first half of the book by making allowances for possibly poor translation, since the original was in German and many concepts just don't make the hop easily to English. Despite that, the characters are flat, repetitive, and many are almost two-dimensional. Good dwarf is good. Evil monster is evil. The entire book is almost a fantasy burlesque; it's Lord of the Rings as interpreted by vaudeville. Good characters shout and cry out when bad things happen, evil characters twirl their mustachios and laugh... In fact, if the writer took more of an ironic, tongue-in-cheek approach, this could really sparkle. Instead it is merely leaden and dull, dull, dull.
on July 3, 2013
This book was... interesting.
It's not a great book, but it's not a bad book. Unfortunately, the one place the author truly fails is names. His race names are long tread, and it really hurts the book.
It's kind of sad because the result is that it *feels* like you're doing a derivative retread of LotR, even though you're not. But with Dwarves, Elves, Alfar, and Orcs and Ogres... you just can't help it. And while the Dwarves have some interesting familial affinities, they're still all anti-magic, anti-woods, anti-sun, and have an affinity for smithing. ::yawn::
That said, the story isn't as derivative as it feels, there's some interesting bits and it's definitely still a fun adventure.
The other biggest weakness is the use of Deus Ex Machina. Every book gets to use one or two, but this one... they sometimes seemed totally random. I.e. "Oh, you can't get the magic whatsamabob because the floom is dead! But it's ok, because there's a replacement." "Oh no, you lost the magic whatsamabob, but it's ok because it turns out you NEVER NEEDED IT."
It's worse than Dorothy's Ruby Slippers.
There's a couple odd plot points they gloss over too. Like how a character managed to get somewhere they shouldn't be, faster than others, with a bunch of stuff, without any of the intervening people/places knowing about them (explicitly not knowing).
All in all, though, it was still fairly enjoyable. I just think the author has the skill for a better book, so it was sad this wasn't. But... it's also a debut. So...
P.S. Just use "days." "Orbits" used obsessively just... draws attention to the fact that no other thing was renamed.
on October 17, 2015
A good beginning to a great dwarvish saga! The first half of the book was a little uneven, but as the author tunneled more deeply into his tale, the sense of adventure grew and creative scenes and exciting battles improved. With a little "willing suspension of disbelief" the story is engaging and the characters begin to come to life. Dwarves are great creatures, and it's time they took center stage! Eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series, which I've ordered from Amazon! There is even a video game coming out soon based on this book.