Black Library Weekender

I had the pleasure of attending the Black Library weekender on 18th-19th November.  I don’t usually attend these kinds of things but I decided to brave it on my own this year and I was very glad that I did.

 

I wondered just how big such an event was going to be but as soon as I entered the hotel there was no missing that Black Library had essentially taken over the hotel.  The foyer was essentially one big Black Library bookshop, full of pre-releases and special editions.  I was fairly conservative in my spending; only getting five books to mainly fill some gaps in my Horus Heresy series collection.

 

The day was split in to a number of seminars with a quick opening address at the start of the first day.  After the opening address I attended a discussion about the new Space Marine Conquests series.  It is essentially a continuation of the Space Marine Battles Series but taking it to be up-to-date with ‘current’ events in the universe.  On the panel were Phil Kelly, Guy Haley and Gav Thorpe, with Nick Kyme as the host.  It was interesting to hear the summaries of their new novels; off the strength of Guy Haley’s talk I ended up buying the Devastation of Baal.  They also talked about the difficulties of writing about space marines in general (i.e. limited emotional range) and the new primaris space marines and how they fit in with their ‘lesser’ brethren.  All in all it was an excellent start to the day.

 

Next up was probably my favourite seminar of the whole weekend: Beyond the Scenes of Audio Dramas and Audio Books with Toby Longworth.  Toby voices a lot of the Black Library audios, in particular he is the voice of Garro in the excellent audio dramas that James Swallow has written.  The seminar covered the process of making an audio and Toby was an excellent speaker for it.  He also covered the difficulties of coming in to Warhammer pretty much blind, as well as delving in to his general acting and voice career.  It was a very enjoyable session and off the back of it I think I’ll purchase a few more audio dramas, particularly as I’m now back to the joy of commuting in London.

 

The next seminar was one of the reasons I bought my ticket, to hear Dan Abnett talk about his new Gaunt’s Ghosts novel: The Warmaster.  Dan was surprising candid about his reasons for the long gap between novels, essentially saying he had fallen out of love with 40k and the Black Library.  I had wondered why he hadn’t written much for them recently but it looks like he’s back again and has a lot of new novels and ideas coming up.  With regards to the Warmaster, it sounds like an excellent new chapter in Gaunt’s Ghosts, getting to the heart of the Sabbat Worlds crusade for the first time.  He also announced that the next in the series (the Anarch) is being written and should be with us in the near(ish) future.  Also of interest was that Matthew Farrar is writing a novel that is almost a companion to the Warmaster, it being a Space Marines book focussing on the wider battle for Urdesh at the same time that the Warmaster is set.

 

Another reason for me buying my ticket was the next seminar:  The Road to Terra (Horus Heresy) with Nick Kyme Hosting, Aaron Demski-Bowden, Dan Abnett, John French and Chris Wraight.  As the title suggests, they discussed the path to finishing the epic series that is the Horus Heresy.  There was a lot of good general chat about pivotal novels that each of the authors had written in the series so far, particularly Dan Abnett talking about Know no Fear (one of my favourite HH novels).  John French mentioned a novel he was currently working on (the name escapes me) that will depict the traitors breaching the outer defences for the road to the Solar System as they frantically try and reach Terra before the Ultramarines counter-attack in overwhelming force: that is a novel I want to read!  Coming back to the Siege of Terra, although they wouldn’t give away any final plans (if indeed they have any), they did suggest that the Siege will be a multi-novel event.  I think that is a great move and I think anywhere between three and five novels is required to do it justice.

 

Next up I went a bit left-field and went to a seminar entitled: Boots on the Ground: Writing for the Astra Militarium with John D Hill and Chris Dows.  I’ve read a few short stories by both authors but I’m not overly familiar with their work, however they produced an excellent discussion about how to write for the only truly human protagonists in the 40k universe.  They both mentioned they preferred writing for Astra Militarium precisely because they are humans and their emotions and actions are significantly more relatable.  I’ve found that with some Black Library fictions, it is a lot easier to read (for example) a Gaunt’s Ghosts novel then a blood-curdling novel based just on Space Marines, precisely because you can relate to and emphasise with the characters a lot better.  I was particularly excited by Chris Dows’s mention of a real-time audio drama that will be ready soon, depicting a cobbled together Shadowsword tank-crew taking on Titans.

 

To finish the day, I decided to take the opportunity to get a few of my books signed by Dan Abnett.  I brought along the first three novels of Gaunt’s Ghosts, all editions I had bought back in the late 90s / early 00s.  After a very long queue I was pleased to meet the man himself and rather unwisely make him feel old when I said I’d read First and Only when I was 12.  He’s a thoroughly nice man though and his patience with all fans was immense, signing as many books as people wanted and having pictures taken.

 

On to the second day I started with a seminar on Chris Wraight’s Inquisition series and specifically on the Vaults of Terra.  Dan Abnett was the surprise guest at this and the seminar evolved in to an excellent discussion between the two on the nature of Terra itself.  It was entertaining to hear the two of them talk at length about what Terra means and how it has evolved from the time of the Horus Heresy to the ‘current’ era of 40k.  I haven’t read any of Chris Wraight’s inquisition books but off the back of this I will be purchasing them.

 

Torn between a number of options, I decided next to go to the seminar on writing about xenos.  It was with Gav Thorpe and Andy Clarke, with C.L. Werner (wearing the best outfit of the weekend) joining in part way through.  It was an interesting discussion with Gav talking about writing from an alien viewpoint from his numerous Eldar novels, Andy focussing on Orks and Werner with his unique take on Genestealers from his novel Cult of the Warmason.

 

I finished the weekender with Dan Abnett discussing his new Eisenhorn novel.  Even ahead of Gaunt’s Ghosts, the Eisenhorn trilogy is my favourite set of Black Library novels and has resulted in Dan Abnett probably being my favourite author (Black Library or otherwise).  I was excited to learn from the talk that a new Eisenhorn book is coming out early next year.  Not only will it contain a new Eisenhorn full-length novel, it will also contain eight short stories.  If there is one book I’m buying next year it is definitely this.

 

That was the end of my Black Library Weekender and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.  If I’d not had such a busy and tragic time recently (house move, bereavement, and family illnesses) then I would have been a lot more prepared, had more detailed notes and even taken some pictures.  If they hold it again though I think I’ll go next year and I’d recommend that any Black Library fan does also.

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Gaunt’s Ghosts – A Book Guide – Part I

Gaunt’s Ghosts is by far my favourite series from the Black Library.  I enjoy series such as the Horus Heresy and The Beast Arises, but if I want guaranteed enjoyment, then Gaunt’s Ghosts is to where I turn.

I started reading the series pretty much as soon as it came back, all the way back in 1999.  I remember reading the series through secondary school and in to sixth form, before taking a break during uni and then picking it up again in recent years.  It has taken me through some big moments in my life and it has a big place in my heart because of it.

It does help that Dan Abnett is an excellent writer and I can’t really think of a novel of his that I haven’t enjoyed.  His story-telling is brilliant and the characters are probably the best set in any of the Black Library Series.  I often read the books all in a row and can find myself using Feth as a curse word in the real world when I’m in the midst of reading them; no other book/series has ever had such an effect on me!

With the release of the next in the series, The Warmaster, I thought now would be a good time to go through the series book-by-book and give my thoughts on recommendations on each of them.  Part I takes us through the first two story arcs of the Founding and the Saint.

 

Book 1 – First and Only

I believe the title as a bit of a joke as this was the first Black Library novel…and potentially the First and Only!  They picked a good book and author to have first though and obviously the Black Library has produced a hell of a lot of books now.

The book itself would be an excellent stand-alone Imperial Guard story.  We have elements of trench warfare, a blood feud between commanders, the inquisition and a potentially horrifying secret at the end.

The book doesn’t necessarily make you care about the characters as much as any of the other books, but that is understandable with most of the characters being fairly underdeveloped at the time – that is except for Gaunt.  He is front and centre of the book and his past is delved in to, giving you a real idea of why he is who he is, as well as his motivations.

As an introduction to 40k literature, First and Only is a great starting point.

 

Book 2 – Ghostmaker

If First and Only could be a standalone book, Ghostmaker can only ever really be part of a series.  The book takes a different approach to the first, with a series of short stories each about a main character.  The device is clever with interspersed between each story a short section following Gaunt as he wanders the trenches, meets each of the characters and then thinks about their past actions.  It gives the needed the depth to get the series going, with characters that you begin to care about in coming books.  The end story is then more traditional with all of the characters involved and a final interesting twist at the end.  Overall it is a must-read book to get in to the series and begin to care about characters you will start to love over the next few books.

 

Book 3 – Necropolis

Necropolis is one of my personal favourites and I’ve read it numerous times.  The story is essentially a siege, holding out against all hope and numerous tales of heroism.  The story takes place in the city of Vervunhive and is the tale of its war against Zoica, a hive city that is been corrupted by chaos.  The first part of the book doesn’t even feature the ghosts, with the tale being told of the opening shots of the war, with consequences for people throughout the city, from low-born to high-born.  It also looks at the politics of the city and its hidebound approach to tackling problems; this will have consequences later on.  The Ghosts arrive in the next part, with not long after the walls of the city start to be assaulted.  From here on in it is an epic tale of the defenders holding out, whilst Gaunt becomes embroiled in the politics of the city and with his fellow imperial guard commanders.  The final part of the assault on the enemies command centre and the final duels is a fitting finale for the story, with a nice little twist at the end that means the series can continue for a fair while yet.  Overall I love this book and you could legitimately read it as a stand-alone epic siege story, though in the context of the series it is also very important.

 

Book 4 – Honour Guard

Honour Guard begins the second story arc of Gaunt’s Ghosts – the Saint.  The Ghosts find themselves on the world of Haiga where Saint Sabbat originated from; thus its significance to both Imperials and Chaos is huge.  The world has been taken by Chaos and the Ghosts are part of a liberation force.  All goes well until a disaster, leaving Gaunt in disgrace and one final mission to save face.  Events occur that result in another against-all-odds battle and the chance of salvation at the end.

The book sees the introduction of the new Verghast recruits in to the regiment and they are a welcome dose of extra character and colour in to the series.  It also introduces a new commisar, Viktor Hark, who in later books has become one of my favourite characters.  My highlights for this book are the wounded wagon crew, with Corbec and Bragg really shining through, as well as the epic tank battle in the middle section.

 

Book 5 – The Guns of Tanith

The Guns of Tanith takes a very different approach to the previous books, with the focus instead being on the Tanith’s excellent scouting abilities, as well as their fairly unorthodox approach to war.  The story takes place on Phantine, a world where all the cities are above cloud level due to the toxic atmosphere.  This means the only way to attack is from the sky, with obvious potential hazards.  The first half focuses on the assault on Cirenholm, with the Ghosts managing to crack the city due to their specialist skills.  The second half sees small teams of Ghosts being sent in to the enemy stronghold of Ouranberg to assassinate the enemy commander.  There is also an excellent sub-plot with Gaunt being accused of favouring the Tanith over the Verghast’s, with a criminal trial proving the point.  The dynamic between Gaunt and Hark in this is particularly excellent.  For the main story, the use of the small teams gives a real focus on particular characters and really fleshes some of them out, particularly Bonin and Mkoll.   The novel also sees the introduction of the Phantine Air Corps, who get their own spin-off novel in Double Eagle.  Overall it is a good story, if not one of the best.  It does keep the series moving though and is probably most crucial for the story of Larkin and Cuu…

Book 6 – Straight Silver

This book has recently become one of my favourites, with its overriding theme of melancholy particularly appealing.  The Ghosts find themsleves on the world of Aexe Cardinal, where a WWI-esque conflict is taking place.  The conflict has been trench warfare for decades with no real hope of a breakthrough.  The Cardinal command hope that the Imperial Guard can make the difference, though they are seen more as new toys than anything else.  Gaunt finds himself frustrated with how he is subservient to local commanders and that his troops are used as front-line grunts.  He eventually gets the Ghosts used to their strengths but only half of them; one half stays on the front-line and the other is sent to scout out an impenetrable forest.  With the front-line there are some interesting tales with the conflict between Dorden and Gaunt particularly well-done.  There is also a better exploration of certain characters, including Daur, Zweil and Criid, though my favourite here is the local liaison Count Golke.  In the forest it is mainly about the ongoing feud between Cuu and Larkin, but each of the characters in this part get a lot of ‘air-time’.  Gutes is my personal favourite with his war-weariness, but Feygor, Muriel and Mkvenner also being very interesting.  There are no glorious battles in this book but it is an excellent story and exploration of characters, as well as moving forward the story-arc around the Saint.

Book 7 – Sabbat Martyr

Sabbat Martyr brings us back around to a last-stand story, similar in a way to Necropolis.  The Ghosts are on Herodor, where Saint Sabbat has supposedly been re-born again.  As such, this makes the world a huge target for the forces of Chaos and has to be reinforced and defended.  Unfortunately for Gaunt, in charge of the world is Lord General Ludo, who tried to have Gaunt disgraced in Honour Guard.  The Saint initially turns out to be false but during a relatively minor assault by the enemy, she does appear and leads them to victory.  Although the initial attack is beaten off, huge enemy reinforcements appear and wipe out the battlefleet cover, before landing on the planet.  As part of the invasion force there are nine specialists sent to kill the Saint, in mimicry of the nine wounds that originally killed her.  Each specialist moves in but our countered at each turn by the Tanith, until the final battle where treachery occurs and almost succeeds.

This book is a very easy read and shows the Tanith at their best; against all odds but also using their specialist skills.  I particularly enjoyed Milo’s confusion and being taken as a sidekick by the saint, as well as Mkoll’s duel with the Dark Eldar and the Blood Pact Sniper that is beaten at his own game by the Tanith Marksman.  I was also particularly pleased to see the return of Kolea; he was too good of a character to write off so soon.  The book very neatly closes of the story arc of the saint and is probably the final book that I would consider a very easy read.  That isn’t to say the next ones aren’t good, it just means they are more mature, and are probably more rewarding for it.

Book Review – Shrike by George Mann

Title: Shrike

Author: George Mann

Publisher: Black Library

Setting/Series: 40k / Space Marine Legends

Published: 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78496-496-2

Publisher Link

 

Shrike is all about (you’ve guessed it) the Raven Guard Space Marine Shrike.  It looks at Shrike in three stages:

  1. As a line soldier
  2. As Shadow Captain
  3. As Chapter Master

This essentially breaks the novel down in to two novellas and a short story at the end.  The overriding themes throughout each story is the Ork Warboss Gorkrusha and the brotherhood that the Raven Guard share.

 

If I’m being honest, I had never heard of Shrike before or read that much about the Raven Guard beyond novels in the Horus Heresy series.  I bought it though because I fancied something a little bit different and this novel certainly gave that.

 

Thoughts

Shrike was one of those novels that took me a bit of time to get in to but after about 20 pages I was hooked.  Shrike is a really interesting character and it is surprisingly easy to feel empathy for him, unlike quite a lot of space marines.  His actions and thoughts are also surprisingly human; this isn’t a criticism at all, in fact I would say it is a positive.  Too often Space Marines are portrayed as inhuman and perhaps too much.  Although their superior physicality and minds take them a step above humans, it has to be remembered that they were human in the first place.

The empathy and humanity of Shrike makes him (and the novel a lot easier to understand).  I particularly thought the relationship with Shrike’s brothers Corus and Kadus was really well done.  This theme throughout the stories worked very well and tied each piece together.  The flashbacks to the three of them as initiates and the revelation the final flashback makes Shrike’s actions even more understandable.

As for the Orks and Gorkrusha, I can’t say they were portrayed any better or worse than in other novels.  Orks are Orks in the end but the final short story gave an interesting twist on Gorkrusha’s intentions.

 

Memorable Moments (no spoilers!)

  • Gorkrusha fight 1 – with Shrike as a line trooper
  • Gorkrusha fight 3 – with Shrike as Chapter Master
  • All of the flashback scenes with Shrike, Corus and Kadus
  • The interactions between Shrike and Kadus when he is Shadow Captain and then Chapter Master

 

Conclusion

Shrike is a really solid 40k and Space Marine novel.  If you are a fan of the Raven Guard or love Shrike as a character from elsewhere then this a must.  If you are a 40k and/or Space Marine fan I would also give it a go as it is something a little bit different from the norm.  Non-40k fans would probably struggle but I wouldn’t discount it either.

I think the best thing I can say is that Shrike has made me want to know a lot more about the character and the Raven Guard and I will be looking to get some of the other novels and audio dramas relating to them.

 

Further Reading

Thoughts on…The Beast Arises

Throughout a fairly chaotic year for in 2016, one of the best things (books wise) was the regular publication of the Beast Arises series.  It guaranteed me a new book to enjoy each month and I hope the Black Library will do something similar again in the future.

 

The series had some flaws and I know some people found it disappointing but overall, I found the story really good and interesting, particularly considering the difficulty of having so many different authors across the books.  If you were to take the books in isolation then you could find yourself disappointed, but if you instead read them as one continuous story, then it makes a huge difference to your enjoyment; it did for me anyway.

 

If you don’t know already, then the premise is as follows:

  • It is 1,500 years after the Horus Heresy
  • The Imperium believes itself relatively safe
  • The Orks shatter that illusion with a huge invasion of Imperial Space
  • The Orks are more organised and dangerous than ever before
  • Intrigue and politics amongst the High Lords hamstring an effective response
  • It gets a lot worse before it gets better

 

It was quite nice to have the orks as such a major threat in the series, instead of just an annoyance that will eventually be dealt with.  Although the orks are the main ‘enemy’ in the series, what is most interesting to read is the changing Imperium.  I particularly mean with regards to how the High Lords function, as well as other branches and institutions such as the Astartes and Inquisition.  My favourite passages in the book weren’t the huge battles but the intrigue between the High Lords.

 

Many great characters are in the series, but the stars of the show are:

  • Drakan Vangorich
  • Inquisitor Weinand
  • Inquisitor Veritus
  • Koorland
  • Thane

Those five really make the books, with almost all of the main events containing at least one of them.

 

I’m going to read through the series again over the coming months and as I do, I’ll set down a review of each of them on the blog.

Thoughts on…Overfiend

Thoughts on…Overfiend by David Annandale

 Overfiend is another instalment of one of my favourite Black Library series, Space Marine Battles.  It is written by one my favourite BL authors, and one of the most prolific at the moment, David Annandale.

 

The book contains three fairly equally sized stories that form a sequential narrative of a plan to lure the Ork Warboss, the Overfiend, in to a trap and kill him.  For those of you who know the background, the Overfiend is the leader of the Ork Empire of Octarius that has been locked in perpetual warfare with Hive Fleet Leviathan for many years.

 

The three stories are:

  • Storm Seer – follows the White Scars on a small moon in the system. The main focus is that of the Storm Seer (unsurprisingly) Ghazan as his visions show him an unlikely path to what he must do, much to his commander’s annoyance.  A running theme throughout the stories is an encounter with the Eldar that begins to unravel a series of mysteries.
  • Shadow Captain – following the Raven Gard as they fight against the Orks on the main planet in the system. The Eldar show up in force in this story and there is an uneasy alliance between them and the Raven Guard.  This story reveals why the Orks are here and what is making them stronger and tougher than normal.
  • Forge Master – this is the strongest of the three books and follows the Salamanders as they board the Overfiend’s flagship to save an Elder Farseer. What makes it the best though is the relationship between the two Salamander ‘brothers’, the Techmarine Ha’garen and the Sergeant Ba’Birin

 

Overall thoughts

I must admit that I struggled to get in to the first story and it took me quite a while to get through it.  However the questions the story posed towards the end led me wanting to read the other two and the overall story arc really shone through across the books.

 

What really impressed me was how the author managed to make each of the Space Marine Chapters feel so distinct.  I don’t mean just in terms of the way they waged war, but also around their personalities and philosophies.  It made them surprisingly more human and easy to understand than in some Space Marine focused novels.

 

Another real positive for me was the involvement of the Eldar.  There is a range of different Eldar involved in the stories and all of them are distinct in what they were and what they wanted to achieve.  This added a good deal of mystery to the stories as you weren’t quite sure when (or even if) the two sides were going to come to blows.

 

Overall I think this is a really good set of stories and more of a thinking mans novel than many of the others in the Space Marine Battles series.  I particularly recommend if you are a fan of any of the chapters involved or of the Eldar.

 

If you like this try…

The Beast Arises Series – starting with I am Slaughter

Roboute Guilliman by David Annandale

Salamander by Nick Kyme

The best Warhammer Old World Novels & Series

With the success of Total War: Warhammer, there has been a renewed interest in the Old World that the game is set in. Ironically the Old World no longer ‘exists’, it having been destroyed in the end times and rebooted as Age of Sigmar. It is now euphemistically called ‘the world that was’. Before the end of the Old Old World (that makes perfect sense…), there were quite a few good novels and series depicting it; some of which you can still buy. Some of my favourites are:

Gotrek and Felix (originally by William King)

The longest and best of series set in the Old World. I’m a particular connoisseur of the first set of novels written by the excellent William King.

The stories tell the tales of the Trollslayer Gotrek and his human companion Felix, who has sworn to record Gotrek’s deeds when/if he falls in battle. What follows is a series of increasingly incredible scenarios that manage to show off some of the best elements of the old world. We see everything from chaos cultists to Skaven and daemons to dragons. They are rip-roaring fun, easy to read and a great introduction to the setting.

I believe they are still all available on the Black Library as eBooks.

Zavant by Gordon Rennie

A left field one this and you can only find it on places like Amazon and eBay second-hand. It tells the tale of the great sage Zavant and his Halfling manservant Vido. The best way to describe it would simply be Sherlock in the Old World! The book is a series of short stories told as cases; my particular favourite being the one involving feuding vampires.

For something beyond the blood and mayhem of the old world, and instead something with a bit of urban adventure and mystery, Zavant is well worth a read.

Hammers of Ulric by Dan Abnett, Nik Vincent and James Wallis

This is the first ever Warhammer book I read (and the frist Dan Abnett one) and as such, it has a very special place in my heart. It isn’t the best novel I’ve ever read but it is still a damn good read. The book tells the story of the White Wolves of Middenheim and how they stop an evil threat to the city. It’s a great standalone adventure and another great urban tale in the Old World.

Available as an eBook on the Black Library website.

The Legend of Sigmar by Graham McNeill

The Sigmar Trilogy by Graham McNeill is possibly the best series of Warhammer novels that has ever been written. Each of the books is well-paced, easy to read and they tell possibly the most important story in the Old World without disappointing.

The series shows the rise of Sigmar from the son of the Unberogen King to becoming the Emperor. All the expected events are there; the tale of saving the Drawf King, the battle of Black Fire Pass and the war against Nagash…amongst so much more. All the main characters were well written and believable, particularly Sigmar’s closest companions such as Wulfgar.

Possibly the best compliment I can give the series is that they are a great read even if you aren’t interested in or know nothing about Warhammer. In their own right they are simply a great collection of fantasy literature.

You can buy the trilogy as an eBook on the Black Library Website.

The Rise of Nagash by Mike Lee

My final pick is this excellent trilogy from Mike Lee. The tone of this series is significantly different and darker to the others on this list. This is mainly due to it following the utterly evil Nagash, of whom you can’t really feel any empathy for. This doesn’t detract from the books but it can make it difficult to read at times. The style is also vastly different to almost any other novel/series set in the Old World; it is almost more akin to a story set in ancient Egypt.

As with the Sigmar Trilogy this is an excellent trilogy in it’s own right, without being tied to the Old World. If you want something a bit different from a Warhammer novel and/or have a thing for Nagash and the undead, this is an excellent trilogy of books.

Available on the Black Library website as an eBook.

Thoughts on Roboute Guilliman: Lord Of Ultramar

Thoughts on Roboute Guilliman: Lord Of Ultramar by David Annandale

I’ve always been a fan of the Ultramarines since I’ve been in to W40k back in the early 90s, and I’ve been a huge fan of the Horus Heresy series. My favourite HH book to date as been Know No Fear so I was excited to receive Roboute Guillimam: Lord Of Ultramar as a Christmas present.

I must admit that I didn’t quite know what to expect. When I first heard about the Primarchs series I originally thought it was going to be going to be about their origins and stories about their ‘home’ worlds; this is definitely not the case! Instead, if the first book is anything to go by, the series will give greater insights in to the personalities of the Primarchs and almost explaining their future decisions during the Heresy.

The Book Itself

I’ve really enjoyed David Annandale’s recent work, particularly on the Beast Arises series and he hasn’t disappointed with this book either. The main premise of the book is the Ultramarines invading the planet Thoas to finish off an Ork Empire. Obviously the fighting is important but it mainly provides a backdrop to the main themes across the story.

The first main theme is the relationship between Guilliman and Marius Gage, the Chapter Master Primus. They have an interesting relationship that veers between father-son and brotherly. Guilliman is always trying to teach Marius, with the implication that he won’t always be around and Marius may need to lead them in the future. It is also revealed that this campaign takes place not long after the humbling of the Word Bearers, giving further insight in to Guilliman’s actions throughout the campaign.

The second theme, although very much tied in to the first, is the question of leadership in the 22nd Chapter and that Chapter’s component of Destroyers; last-resort troops that practice chemical and biological warfare. The 22nd is a chapter with a high component of Terran-born and Guilliman feels it is not integrated in the legion as much as it should be. This leads to some controversial choices but ultimately a satisfactory conclusion.

The third theme for me was a more blunt one – Guilliman in combat. There is no other way to describe him in combat other than awesome and every passage involving it was enjoyable. The Orks were pretty good as well, though I think I’m feeling a bit orked-out at the moment after the Beast Arises.

Favourite Part – Fighting – Guilliman charging in to the middle of the Ork horde

Favourite Part – Other – Guilliman and Marius’ exchanges

Conclusion

An enjoyable book if you don’t misunderstand what the book is in the first place. What it is, is an insight in to Guilliman and further backstory to why he is the way he is.  From my point of view – Recommended

Horus Heresy #16-18

After the strong novels of The First Heretic and Prospero Burns, the series doesn’t exactly kick-on, rather it plateaus for a short period.  This series of books are all interesting in their own right, with one of them (Deliverance Lost) kicking-off a major storyline, but none of them are great.

 

Book 16 – Age of Darkness (Edited by Christian Dunn)

Age of Darkness is the second short-story anthology in the series and it is by far superior to Tales of Heresy.  The stories in summary are:

  • Rules of Engagement by Graham McNeill – A series of tactical simulations run by the Ultramarines using the new codex astartes, focussing on the character of Remus Ventanus
  • Liar’s Due by James Swallow – An Alpha Legion operative plays with the minds of the populations of a backward world, causing mayhem in his wake
  • Forgotten Sons by Nick Kyme – An Ultramarine and a Salammander try to convince a world to choose the Emperor over Horus
  • The Last Remembrancer by John French – The greatest rememberencer appears on a ship on the edge of the Solar system – what is Rogal Dorne to do with him?
  • Rebirth by Chris Wraight – A Thousand Son finds himself a prisoner in the ruins of Prospero, but who is his tormentor?
  • The Face of Treachery by Gav Throrpe – The Raven Guard are saved from destruction on Istvaan V, but why does a World Eaters battle barge not attack them as they escape?
  • Little Horus by Dan Abnett – Little Horus has been having haunting dreams, what do they mean? At the same time the Sons of Horus assault the world of Dwell
  • The Iron Within by Rob Sanders – Strife between Iron Warriors in a brilliant siege story
  • Savage Weapons by Aaron Dembski-Bowden – The Lion and Curze face off on the ruins of a dead world

Favourite Story – The Iron Within

Best character – Little Horus

Best fighting story – Savage Weapons – two primarchs going at each other

Best non-fighting story – The Last Remembrancer

Primarch count:

  • Rules of Engagement – 1 – Guilliman
  • The Last Remembrancer – 1 – Rogal Dorn
  • The Face of Treachery – 1 – Corax
  • Little Horus – 1 – Horus
  • Savage Weapons – 2 – The Lion and Konrad Curze

 

Book 17 – The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill

The Outcast Dead is one of the strangest novels in the series, though the lore it offers up to fans makes it a worthwhile read.  Some people have criticised the book for inconsistencies in the chronology, though I can explain this away to myself with the warp bending space and time.

The premise centres on an astropath, Kai, who has suffered from the loss of a ship he was on and the horrors he had to witness/listen to. He is being re-trained on Terra when Magnus’ attempt to communicate with the Emperor occurs and disrupts all those with a psychic gift on the planet.  During the incident, Kai ends up with a war-changing secret implanted in his head that everyone wants to get out of him.

Concurrently a group of space marines known as the ‘Crusader Host’ have been incarcerated in a maximum security prison. It is never explained what the Crusader Host his but I assume it is a group of legionaries from all legions left to represent the interests of their legion on Terra.  Anyway the legionaries manage to break out from the prison and take Kai with them (who was also in the prison).  What follows is a hunt for both Kai and the legionaries.

If my synopsis sounds far-fetched then unfortunately that is part of what the novel suffers from.  There are too many unexplained events and characters that it left my quite frustrated. The first two-thirds of the novel for me became quite a struggle to get through.

On the plus side though, parts of Terra are explained like never before and then of course there are the Thunder Warriors…

Overall the book is average and it really isn’t necessary in the grand scheme of the series. Read if you enjoy McNeill’s work or really want to be a completionist.

Best Character – Kai

Best fighting part – the final battle with all 3 factions

Best non-fighting part – Kai’s conversations with a mysterious hooded figure

Primarch count – 1 – Rogal Dorn

 

Book 18 – Deliverance Lost by Gav Thorpe

Deliverance Lost picks up the story from The Face of Teachery (from book 16) and the Raven’s Flight audiobook.  Corax is saved from the face of Istvaan V and is determined to take the fight back to Horus.

The Primarch takes himself to Terra to speak to the Emperor, though unsurprisingly the Emperor is indisposed for various reasons. Corax does though find the secrets of ‘making’ new legionaries and take this secret back to the Raven Guard’s homeworld.  Here he sets about re-building his legion, though with outcomes that he had not expected.

Alongside this, the Raven Guard who fought on Istvaan V and those who didn’t are struggling to gel back together, causing significant tensions.  In addition the Alpha Legion are up to their tricks, trying to steal the secret Corax has acquired.

The story is very interesting and we get to see the Raven Guard properly for the first time, albeit after they have been signficantly reduced after Istvaan V. I found Corax a fascinating character and he had a real depth and humanity to him. I also enjoyed the Alpha Legion element, but then I always enjoy the Alpha Legion in any of these books. The book also begins a major storyline that will be revisited in later novels, with Corax and his Raven Guard at the forefront.

Worth a read!

Best Character – Corax himself

Best fighting part – Strangely none really stood out for me

Best non-fighting part – Corax’s reminiscense’s of his past

Primarch count – 4(5) – Corax, Rogal Dorn, Horus, Alpharius/Omegon

Horus Heresy #13-15

With Book 12 (A Thousand Sons) the heresy series finally kicked-off properly and the next three continue to get in to the real heart of the background and ever-expanding story.

 

Book 13 – Nemesis by James Swallow

Despite what I’ve said above, Nemesis does take us somewhat off the beaten track again.  It is a very interesting book but in the grand scheme of the overall storyline it is of limited value.

The premise is for Horus to be assassinated by a an elite kill-team comprising assassins from all of the major temples. Simultaneously Erebus has set loose his own assassin to steal an artifact with a drop of the Emperor’s blood on it.  Events then play out on an unfortunate planet that the Sons of Horus are forced to bring back to compliance after the assassins stoke up rebel resistance to a Horus-turned world.

The main appeal of the book for me was that story delved in to each of the assassin temples; a first for me to read. There is also an excellent sub-plot involving Erebus’ assassin that is more like a murder mystery plot for a while. The story also looks at the real cost of the war for the ‘normal’ people and you can empathise with the fear and the struggles that they face.

Overall I enjoyed it, I just don’t think that the story was necessary as a full-blown novel within the series.

Best Character – Iesta Veracrux

Best fighting part – most of the assassins trying to subdue an Eversor

Best non-fighting part – Intrigue on Terra between Valdor the Custodian and Rogal Dorn

Primarch count – 2 – Rogal Dorn and Horus

 

Book 14 – The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

The First Heretic was Dembski-Bowden’s first full-length foray in to the series and it has set him up as one of the series and Black Library’s premier authors. Without doubt it is one of the best books in the series and tells a much needed story to fill in a lot of gaps from previous novels.

The book tells the story of the Word Bearers fall in to damnation, all the way from well before the heresy starts to the Battle of Istvaan V.  It is told mainly through the eyes of the Word Bearer Argel Tal, a sometimes reluctant particpant in events. Argel Tal is a brilliant character and it is a testimant to the author that he is such a sympathetic character! His friendship and inevitable betrayal of the Custodians was heart-breakingly written.

As well as the brilliant writing, as mentioned previously the books fills in many gaps and is crucial to understanding why the Heresy happened.  It shows why the Word Bearers turned from the Emperor and how they were secretly the first to fall in to heresy.  As well as Argel Tal, the characters of Lorgar, Erebus and Kor Phaeron are well-written. Lorgar in particular is one of the most complex and interesting characters in the series.

This is a must-read book within the series!

Best Character – Argel Tal

Best fighting part – Lorgar vs Corax

Best non-fighting part – Argel Tal’s many conversations with Cyrene

Primarch count – 7 (!) – Lorgar, Gulliman, Magnus, Corax, Perturabo, Ferrus Manus, Konrad Curze

 

Book 15 – Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett

I know I said the last book was one of my favourites but this one is as well! Abnett got some very undeserved criticism for the book but I think it is well-written and tells the story from a very interesting perspective. For me, the Space Wolves have never been better understood than through this book and I think that is because we look at them from an outsider’s perspective. In a way, the story reminds me of the film The 13th Warrior (obscure film reference!).

The story’s ultimate focus is the Space Wolves ending up on Prospero to complete the story from A Thousand Sons. It does this in a roundabout way though with the story being told through the eyes of Kasper Hawser. Hawser is a conservator and pseudo-archaeologist who rose to a position of influence on Terra but ended up coming to Fenris to document the wolves. Due to a misunderstanding his ship is shot down and the story then comprises of his experiences with the wolves as a Skald, with in-between sequences of flashbacks to his past and how he came to be there. Events bring Hawser close to the Wolves as they fight through compliances, as well as the Council of Nikea and ultimately the razing of Prospero.

The twists in the tale thoughout the story are very well done and the first time I read it, I hadn’t guessed what Hawser really was. As mentioned above, I think seeing the story through the eyes of Hawser gave a really good perspective and understanding of the wolves.  They are not simply savages but a legion with a specific purpose that they will always undertake, now matter how much they may not want to.

Even as a standalone novel I think this book is excellent and Abnett has once again shown he is the best writer the Black Library have.

Best Character – Kasper Hawser

Best fighting part – On Prospero with Bear vs Chaos

Best non-fighting part – The Council of Nikea

Primarch count – 3 – Russ, Magnus, Fulgrim

Horus Heresy #10-12

Continuing the series looking at the Horus Heresy in clusters of 3, we move on to books 10-12.  My general feeling is that the series is still not quite kicking off properly, with expected story arcs still not appearing yet…that is until we get to book number 12!

 

#10 – Tales of Heresy

Tales of Heresy is the first of many short story anthologies in the series and brings together a disparate group of stories, mostly set in the Great Crusade…maybe it should have been called Tales of the Great Crusade?!

The stories in the book are:

  • Blood Games by Dan Abnett – a Custodian testing the defences of Terra.  I really enjoyed the descriptions of Terra and as ever, Dan Abnett’s writing is exemplary.
  • Wolf at the Door by Mike Lee – a very interesting story looking at Space Wolves defending a planet from Dark Eldar and then having to take a tough decision at the end.  A good insight in to the morals that govern the superhuman astartes.
  • Scions of the Storm by Anthony Reynolds – a story that links in with the later book, The Last Heretic. This story explores the Word Bearers compliance of a world with a few surprising twists along the way.
  • The Voice by James Swallow – a first proper look at the Sisters of Silence; if nothing else it is worth reading for that.  However James Swallow has crafted a good short story exploring the Sisters personalities; all whilst dealing with a terrible threat aboard a Black Ship.
  • Call of the Lion by Gav Thorpe – a Dark Angels story exploring the difference of opinion between those of the legion from Terra and those from Caliban.  It wasn’t the most gripping story but it does go towards explaining conflicts within the legion.
  • The Last Church by Graham McNeill – a tale exploring philosphy in the last church on Terra, with a conversation between the church’s custodian and a mysterious stranger.  One of the most interesting stories ever from the Black Library.
  • After Desh’ea by Matthew Farrer – Angron’s introduction to his legion; unsurprisingly it is bloody and angry! A good insight in to Angron’s background and how his mind works (after a fashion!).

 

Best story (overall) – The Last Church

Best story (fighting) – Wolf at the Door

Best story (non-fighting) – Blood Games

Primarch count – 1 (Lorgar) in Scions of the Storm, 1 (Angron) in After Desh’ea

 

#11 – Fallen Angels by Mike Lee

It might just be me but I really struggle with the Dark Angels.  Their strange ways and mystery I feel is only ever partly and non entirely satisfactorily explained.  I wonder if this hamstrung the various authors that have tried to take them on in the Horus Heresy series.

As with Descent of Angels, unfortunately this book is not the best in the series.  It is perfectly well written but the story struggled to engage me, particularly within the wider arc of the Heresy.

The story follows two narratives, The Lion on campaign, and Luther back on Caliban.  I found Luther’s story more engaging as it showed his fall and made it believable.  As for the Lion’s part, I struggled with it, even the climactic battle at the end.

Read this if you are a Dark Angels fan or really want to read all of the Horus Heresy books, otherwise I would skip this one.

Best character – Zahariel (also my favourite in Descent of Angels)

Best fight – Zaheriel and co. vs corruption on Caliban

Bets non-fight part – Luther’s conversations with Zahariel

Primarch count – 2 – The Lion and Perturabo

 

#12 – A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill

Finally the Heresy kicks off again!  This book is the first one since the opening trilogy to begin the telling of one of the major story arcs. It covers numerous big events and includes some of the most important characters in the whole series.

The story predominately follows the story of the Thousand Sons through the eyes of Ahriman, as well through a group of rememberencers.  For the first time in a while in the series, I felt that I really understood the motives of a legion and why they were exactly how they were…as well as why they fell.

In a a way the story is heartbreaking, particularly if you already know what is coming.  In a way the Thousand Sons are one of the most loyal legions, yet their methods and hubris bring about their downfall.

Partiuclar highlights are an initial stand-off between Magnus and Russ, the Council of Nikea and the final battle for Propsero.  Thankfully, by and large, the series really kicks on from here and begin to give fans exactly what they want.

Best character – Ahriman

Best fight – The fight for Prospero

Bets non-fight part – The Council of Nikea

Primarch count – 6 (!) – Magnus, Leman Russ, Lorgar, Mortarion, Sanguinius, Fulgrim