Book Review: The Enemy Within - Richard Lee Byers

Pages : 256
Publisher : Black Library
Author : Richard Lee Byers

Betrayal and corruption abound in the fantasy world of Warhammer.
Magic is very dangerous in the Old World. Wizards are feared and strictly controlled within the Empire, and rightly so as untrained magic users act as conduits for the dark powers of Chaos. If a rogue mage survives the daemons of the warp, they can only expect a merciless death at the hands of the Witch Hunters.
The Enemy Within delves into the strange world of magic when an imperial wizard is blackmailed into infiltrating a vile Chaos cult – if doesn’t, he will be denounced as a heretic himself. Can he complete his assignment without being corrupted, and can he trust his tormenter to honour his part of the bargain?

What can I say about this book. I read it in 5 days, well 3, I usually don't read on weekends. So I think it was fast. A quick review... like the plot, like the main character and hate the handling of magic and the mostly of other characters.
Now the why... the plot is simple... a Celestial Wizard, Schumann, is capture by a witch hunter, Krieger and is blackmailed to inflitrate an important chaos cult called Red Crown that worshipped Tzeentch. Having no choice he goes to a tavern which he knows someone belongs to a cult. May I say it now that a Celestial Wizard is a wizard that uses the power of the sky, divination. He can call for aid of thunders and such and asks for guidance, that's why he goes to the tavern. He talks to several people until a tavern girl called Jarla approaches him. Seeing him bitter against the Empire she becomes interested in him. He tells her that he wants to destroy the empire and she led him to a supposedly a chaos cult but seeing that he is more that it seems she drugs him and send for her lover to discuss what to do with him. Arriving to the body of the sleeping wizard, Adolph wants to kill him but a magic snake arrives to the place and starts attacking them. Dieter helps the chaos cultists deafeting and they take him to their leader, Mama Sorveig. Sorveig talks to him about their god and ideals and explains him their enemies. One of their enemies are another Tzeentch chaos cult the Purple Hand. Even if both are plotting to overthrow the empire both have different ways to do it. Purple hand tries to plot from within putting in higher places and even in the throne a cultist and the Red Crown from outside. The help rebels with weapons and informations and take mutants to the forest to raise their numbers. The story progress with Dieter trying to continue sane without reading any chaos lore but to continue with his cover he reads parts. Due to his education of magic he becomes aware of hidden secrets that the others cultists aren't. He becomes more powerful that the others cultists and Adolph becomes jeoulos of him. Jarla is becoming intim of him and Mama trusts him and has high expectations of him.
I think the writer does a great progress with the main character (is not for nothing that Byers have a MA in psychology).
Adolph after a failed miscast spell blames Dieter and starts to plot against him.
Leading a carriage to the woods with information, arms and a fresh reinforcement (a mutant) they drive to the hidden rebels/mutants. Adolph using Dieter parting to discover where they were killed the mutant riding with them and went to the camp of rebels saying Dieter did it.
The mutants start looking for him and when they were to deliever the killing blow they notice that he was a mutant as well. An eye had grown in his forehead. An eye which permitted him to see the near future. Interesting since he was a celestial wizard. Afterwards he confronted in the main camp Adolph and kill him. He then returned to the city and began to plot against Mama to kill her and take her place. Meanwhile he was advancing in his arts and spells. Not only that deformity had appear but his mind also was changing. Several times he saw a priest which talk to him and advice him. He could see him losing his sanity each passing chapter. New feelings came to him like hate and anger. He began enjoying several things that before he though horrible and unthinkable.
After killing Mama, the leader of the cult appear to him as an apparition and talk to him to make him a new cult sub-leader, taking Mama's place. The leader said that he had to bring Jarla with him because she was going to be sacrificed. Jarla and him were by now lovers and Dieter thought he loved her but feelings like anger and the thought that she was a cultist beneath everything make him feel anger and hate.

He then took her to the coven gathering and as he was to kill her making him official cult (sub)leader he said that he wouldn't do it and he was undercover for witch hunters which appeared soon after and start killing the cultists. In the end and after the death of the cult leader of the Red Crown he asks Krieger to honour is agreement and set him free (with Jarla). Krieger agreed but Schumann saw it as a betrayal.

Krieger was not only a Witch Hunter but also a Purple Hand member. Krieger tried to betray him because Schumann (he didn't though to honour the agreement) but Schumman was already aware of Krieger double "job" and was prepared. Krieger attack him anyway and Schumman kill him after Krieger kill Jarla. The other cultists let him go away even if was defenseless against him. He didn't understant that but the priest appeard again as he had appear before helping defeating the Red Crown leader and Mama Sorveig and told him that maybe they saw that he, Schumann, was a chosen of Tzeentch. He said also that it was everything in the Changer's plan. (this gives us an impression of Fate. The problem of believing in fate. What we do is because fate has already allowed and we have no choice. Our choice would be the choice of fate, even if we do... nah I am going to go this way, not the other as everybody think. But who knows? That was probably fate choice. We will never know if fate exits or no... ) Dieter said to the priest that he will walk his way and the Priest replies that option is excellent.

Great book of Warhammer. If you can put behind you the battles with magic you will enjoy the book and will read it in a day or two. You feel what the character is feeling and try to read more to see what is happenening. Even if you know already by the beggining of the book that Jarla is going to love Dieter and if you understand even by all the words that he doesn't care about her, you know that he will not kill her. There are some things you see a mile away, others like the revelation about Krieger you don't, unless you are detective. ;)

Either way is a good book to read.
Some persons, for what I read are not happy the way the author portrayed the cultists, like mama or Jarla. He make them normal persons (to damn nice and easy to trust to someone, even if they worship of god of lies) but it's an opinion. Not all worshippers of chaos are murderers and thieves. It's like depravity. From time to time it appears on the TV that X person had abused children or womans and you say... "What? Him? He is such a nice person or something like that". Sometimes people are not what they seem and not easily labelled. The chaos cultists, the ones, y portrayed as common persons with caring afection towards others are a way to see them. You may have others and certainly other authors have other. I've read dozens books and each portrayed in various ways.

Good book Mr. Byers. Loved your Dead God Trilogy and I hope to see you again in Warhammer. For what I see in Black Library these year and until may of the next there is not book from you. Let us see what happens....
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