The Arkanaut’s Oath by Guy Haley – The Goonhammer Review

The Arkanaut’s Oath sees Drekki Flynt, captain of The Aelsling, given his first novel-length adventure, having already starred in three short stories, all written by Guy Haley.

It’s a completely different tone from the grim grind of other Age of Sigmar novels. Set in the skies of Chamon, Drekki Flynt and his crew of Kharadron privateers travel the Skyshoals looking for wealth and adventure.

It’s a high-seas, swash bucking adventure – in the skies. Maybe it’s just the pleasant ‘sea’ breeze, but there’s a real freshness to Arkanaut’s Oath, in both setting and style. There’s plenty of humour and character, but enough grit and gravity to keep the book grounded and meaningful.

Drekki Flynt is a kind of Han-Solo-Del-Boy-Jack-Sparrow-lovable-rogue type, whose reputation goes before him into every city, skyport and public house. He is equally loved and hated among Kharadron society, where greed and rule-bending is expected and celebrated, but also handled with utmost suspicion. He is something of an outlier among the Overlords, but at the same time he embodies everything they stand for.

Drekki lives by The Code, (as every Kharadron does,) only it’s his own particular interpretation of The Code, (as it also is for every Kharadron.) He is greedy and deceitful, but not without heart, conscience, morality, and a dash of romanticism.

It is to be expected, then, that Flynt has made a fair number of enemies over the years. Most notably, in this instance, his father-in-law Rogi Throkk.

Following a bar-brawl, Flynt is collared by Throkk, who has never forgiven him from marrying his daughter (a short-lived marriage, after Aisling, who Drekki’s ship is named after, left Drekki – something Drekki hasn’t yet come to terms with.) Throkk reminds Drekki that he has every right to kill him, based on the Kharadron grudge rules, but that he would be willing to drop the grudge on the condition that Drekki completes a near-suicide mission on his behalf. For the extreme danger of this mission, Throkk will be very well compensated. Drekki and his crew, on the other hand, won’t see a penny of the reward.

The contract has been taken out by a human, Lararus, who will be accompanying Drekki. Lararus, a fire mage, is powerful, serious, afraid of heights, and not in the mood for any of Drekki’s nonsense. The mission is to retrieve a MacGuffin from a magically sealed Stormvault, currently heavily guarded by grots. The artifact, a talisman that powers some sort of anti-chaos deflector shield, will help save Lararus’ city from the forces Tzeentch, who has had his eye on the bastion of Order since the start of the Age of Chaos.

Since the city has weathered the powers of Chaos for so long without the help of Sigmar, (indeed, Sigmar turned his back on the city to fend for itself while he locked himself away in Azyr during the Age of Chaos,) the story offers a really interesting, and not altogether flattering, perspective on the God King.

Drekki Flynt
Credit: Roxin

Joining Drekki and Lararus on the mission are a beautifully drawn cast of characters.

Keldren is a Dispossessed Runesmith and, as such, not entirely at home in the clouds. The Dispossessed are the thoroughly ground-based cousins of the Kharadron Overlords; duarden who are now mostly found living in the Cities of Sigmar, having lost their homes during the Age of Chaos.

Keldren‘s presence here on Drekki’s ship reminds us how utterly outrageous the existence of the Kharadron Overlords is in the first place. The duarden have evolved to be squat and powerful, perfect for a life tunneling under mountains, and here they are now, flying in ships high above the mountains; from the most confined and darkest of places, to the brightest and most open.

This has to make the Overlords one of Age of Sigmar’s flagship factions – and generally just one of the best things Games Workshop have come up with. Age of Sigmar is at its best when it is over-the-top and outrageous, and nothing is more outrageous and counterintuitive than sky-dwarves. It’s the perfect symbol of the effect Chaos has had on the realms, quite literally turning everything upside down.

Keldren, a steadfast rock of a dwarf, anchors Drekki throughout their trials, but also anchors us, the reader, in the duarden heritage from which the KO emerged.

But he’s not the only crew member that is somewhat out of place in the sky. Gord, a Maneater ogor, also accompanies Drekki. Sure, a perpetually hungry ogor is a good bit of comic relief (although, if I had anything bad to say about the book, it’s that sometimes, the jokes can be a little predictable) but Gord does also give us some interesting insights into ogor culture.

We could be forgiven for thinking ogors should be stampeding around the Mawpath eating everything in sight, not flying around in the sky with a bunch of dwarves. But, to Gord, his work in the skies is very much a part of his faith and identity as an ogor. His whole worldview, religion, ethical frame work and culture is built around eating, just like any other ogor. Flying around the Skyshouls with Drekki gives him an opportunity to explore, and thus eat, things that other ogors would never get the chance to lay their mouths on.

There’s a whole boat-load of other unique and interesting duardin at Drekki’s command. Each gets their own turn in the spotlight as the internal squabbles of a crew under immense stress plays out, often in very amusing ways.

It’s clear that Haley had a lot of freedom, and a lot of fun, in writing this book. I’m not sure Haley single-handedly created Flynt, but he’s the only author so far to write Flynt material and he has evidently been given a lot of leeway to take the character in the direction he wants.

If you’re writing a character like Gardus Steel Soul, Khorgos Khul or one of the gods, you’re somewhat restricted, because they have such massive impact on the overarching narrative of the AoS setting. But with minor characters like Flynt, the author has a lot more scope to do with them what they will, which leads to bolder story telling. That freedom definitely comes through in the narrative.

The brief for Flynt was to create a character that exemplifies the Kharadron Overlords faction in some way, and he definitely does this.

People may roll their eyes when someone shows up at the table with KO. “Oh look, someone’s brought 40K to a game of AOS.” However, there are a ton of rich themes that can be explored through them, and they’re themes that we often see in a lot of great fantasy literature: environmentalism, industrialization, greed and capitalism.


Evolution has given the duarden everything they need for a life of tunneling underground.  Their society, physiology, mentality and religion gradually shaped themselves to suit this lifestyle. But, in being forced into the skies by the invasion of Chaos, the duarden have been forced not to adapt to their new environments, but to adapt their environments to themselves.

This echoes real-life, whereby humanity have become able to inhabit new climates not through natural adaptation, but through technology. This all comes through in Arkonaut’s Oath, as well as the sense that, like real-life, the Overlords do not fully understand the natural systems they are messing with. It’s clear the industrial revolution we are seeing at the hands of the Kharadron could have massive, unknown consequences for the mortal realms.

Themes of environmentalism can so easily become preachy and clunky if an author isn’t too careful, but in the light-hearted, and sometimes silly, world of Drekki Flynt, there is enough levity to handle them in a way that isn’t too on-the-nose or sermon-y.

Interesting characters, interesting themes and interesting settings always make for interesting plots. There was no point where the story felt forced; it flowed naturally out of the motivations and values of its characters. At no point did I get bored or lose patience with the book, I was always eager to pick up and read the next chapter. It’s just simply a great read.

But if you’re not completely sure whether it would be for you, you can always read one of the short stories first; The Skyborn Grudge is probably a good place to start. The Arkanaut’s Oath, like the Kharadron Overlords faction itself, is utterly unique, and stands apart in the Mortal Realms setting; however, it is undeniably Age of Sigmar through and through, and is probably one of the best AoS books I’ve read to date.