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Markus Heitz
Blacksmiths, warriors and heroes

Markus Heitz impressively demonstrates what fantasy can do - create a visually-stunning world that feels both familiar and strange and a story with surprising yet logical twists that is never dull.

By Julian Karl

Heitz: Das Herz der Zwerge 1 © Knaur Herz der Zwerge (1. Teil) (Heart of Dwarves, part I) takes the most successful German fantasy saga into the next round. In this dwarf epic, the protagonists are not humans, elves or magicians. The smallest are the greatest – at least, they think they are. You do not need to have read the first six volumes to understand the seventh book in the series. Although some of the Hidden Land’s protagonists put in another appearance, this is a standalone story. As usual in the fantasy genre, the action develops from a number of narrative strands that converge and diverge, interweave, or clash loudly in battle – always with cliffhangers at the end of a chapter, always stimulating readers to read on. The many dramatic events ensure the action is always exciting, and spectacular images are conjured up by the detailed descriptions of fictional scenes.

The world of Vraccas and Lorimbur

The story of dwarf hero Goïmron is set in the city of Mellaniaswacht. Despite his gemstone wizardry, he succumbs to the most powerful magic of all – love. And so we encounter a moorland witch on a campaign of revenge. Disguised as a scissors grinder, she hurls scissors into the throats of orcs, dwarves and humans. Eventually, Goïmron encounters Mostro, the main antagonist, who has settled in the “land of miracles“ and, with his unloved “famulus”, wants to use his magical powers to subdue the entire kingdom. The plot takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious dwarf appears from nowhere, claiming the great king’s throne: “A muscular middle-aged dwarf stood on the heavily armored wagon, his magnificent light blonde beard and mane of the same colour positively luminous. I am Vraccimbur Smartfist from the clan of the Allfive Everwinners.“ The show fighter attempts to unite the dwarf peoples just as his self-given name unites the two great gods of history, Vraccas and Lorimbur. But as leader, to become the “heart of dwarves”, he first has to prove to the dwarf tribes that he is worthy of that title.

Of orcs and slaves

The appearance of shady characters casts a dark, powerful shadow over the stories of magnificent cities and friendships between loyal dwarves. The orcs are classic characters of fantasy literature and their appearance often contrasts with that of elves or humans. Markus Heitz, too, lets the “beasts from the underworld“  play a decisive role. But in his narrative, as so often, the fantasy beings do not follow the prescribed patterns. In his story, the normally brutal, bloodthirsty monsters are sensitive, erudite and “cleaner than you think“. Their leader, Orc Prince Borkon, too, who adorns the book cover with his night-blue skin and white tattoos, is presented as being as eloquent as he is terrifying. His goals are opaque, not only for readers.

As if orcs and dark magicians were not enough, an enigmatic slave people also rise up. In homage to their god Doul, they subserviently fulfil every task, while secretly operating a sophisticated spy network. “We Doulia must endure slavery as Doul commanded. Until the awakening. Only after that will we be free.“ An alliance between the Doulia’s all-seeing eyes and the orcs’ brachial force appear to be leading towards a dangerous end. But they should not be too sure of victory. To quote a dwarf saying, “When you’re over the mountain, you can still fall down on the other side.“

Fantastic adventures

Fantasy novels usually describe a fictional, dreamy world and are therefore often dismissed as being remote from reality. But precisely therein lies the genre’s strength. The supernatural world with all its conjuring and magic characters can depict love, friendship and longing, but also betrayal, battles and death, in a very moving and compelling way. So it is in the world created by Markus Heitz. You share the excitement of the archetypical dwarf hero Goïmron, accompany him on his adventures and can empathise only too well with his fear of confessing his love.

With the eternal battle between good and evil, truth and deceit or progress and decay, Markus Heitz holds up a fantastic mirror to his readers; you just have to dare to look in it.

Logo Rosinenpicker © Goethe-Institut / Illustration: Tobias Schrank Markus Heitz: Das Herz der Zwerge 1 (Die Zwerge, Vol. 7)
München: Knaur Verlag, 2022. 478 p.
ISBN: 978-3-426-22785-5
You can find this title in our eLibrary Onleihe.