Review: Some Black Library Short Stories

BlackLibrary-ShortReviews20141216

Featuring: Dan Abnett, David Annandale, Matthew Farrer, Josh Reynolds, Andy Smillie, Chris Wraight

Abnett-BA-EternalDan Abnett, ETERNAL

Captain Froer of the Astra Militarum and his men receive a new ally in their attempts to push into enemy territory – a Space Marine of the Blood Angels Chapter. But as Brother Gammarael wages war with a monstrous foe, Froer gets a glimpse of the eternal darkness that lurks at the heart of the sons of the Angel.

An interesting vingnette-style tale. There’s a brief burst of action, evidence of the post-human nature of the Blood Angels, and a still-human’s awkwardness and even fear of humanity’s hulking defenders. It’s really too short to make much more of an impact other than to whet one’s appetite for more. Which, I suppose, is not necessarily a bad thing. I do miss Abnett’s longer fiction, though, which gives him enough space and time to get into the heads of his characters. He still manages to do a bit of this, especially at the end, but if you’re even a little bit familiar with the Blood Angels and their mythology, not to mention their “curse”, then it’s not as surprising or original as he’s been able to come up with in the past. Despite that grumble, it’s well-written and Abnett at his shortest, best.

*

AnnandaleD-BA-HonourAndWrathDavid Annandale, HONOUR AND WRATH

Long ago, the Blood Angels fell upon the world of Laudamus, crushing the invasion of the renegade Flawless Host. Now, history repeats as the Chaos Space Marines once again hold Laudamus in their grip, and the sons of Sanguinius arrive to reclaim the world in the name of the Emperor.

Another very short story, but also a very good one. Told from the perspective of someone who has come into contact with, and witnessed the Blood Angels’ fury and bloodthirsty vengeance, I thought it was great. Of the three Blood Angels stories I review here, this was easily the best. Great stuff. The ‘twist’ at the end was also very good. This made me really want to read Mephiston: Lord of Death, Annandale’s Blood Angels novella, which was a limited edition but has now been made available as an eBook.

*

Annandale-Yarrick-ConcordatDavid Annandale, YARRICK: CONCORDAT

Returning to his master after secondment to the Armageddon 252nd regiment on Mistral, the young Commissar Sebastian Yarrick is drawn into a Chaos plot on Aighe Mortis. Contagion is spreading throughout the populace and the Inquisition require someone with experience of fighting the archenemy. After the horrors he has faced, can Yarrick find the source of the danger and destroy it?

Another good Yarrick tale from Annandale. I’ve said it a few times before, but I really do like the way he writes this character. This story is different to the others: less action, more about the shadowy actions of the Inquisition and its members who Yarrick has rubbed the wrong way. The story follows directly on from previous short story, The Gallow’s Saint (review). While I enjoyed this, I think this would have worked really well as a longer story: the potential for making more of the bad blood, the Inquisition agents’ attempts to get back at Yarrick… Could have been a really cool, different-style WH40k story. Regardless, this was meant to be a short story featuring the character, and it succeeds at being interesting, well-written, and raising my interest to read many more Yarrick stories. (I write that, knowing full well that I have the full-length novel, Imperial Creed, and yet have inexplicably still not read it…)

*

FarrerM-VoraxMatthew Farrer, VORAX

The Ring of Iron encircles Mars like a broken halo, standing as the last contested outpost of the Dark Mechanicum inside the Imperial Fists’ blockade. But those rogue priests and adepts lurking in the depths will soon face a new enemy, and the hunters shall become the prey…

This was an interesting story. I still haven’t read Graham McNeill’s Mechanicum, the only Horus Heresy novel to focus on the eponymous organisation and their part in the unfolding galactic civil war. Nor have I read McNeill’s more-recent Mars trilogy. As a result, I don’t know as much about the Mechanicum or their part in the Heresy as well as I do other parts of that overall story (nor as well as I would like). Vorax, therefore, was a bit weird for me — I didn’t see what it meant for the larger story. That being said, it was a pretty interesting story — an obviously mad heretical mechanicum member, attempting to execute some nefarious, malicious plan using scrap code and a captured loyalist. That, really, is all there is to the story — it’s over quickly, and brutally. I’d certainly be interested in reading more, and (again) wish it had been much longer. It’s been a long time since I last read something by Farrer, and I’m glad he is back. Not essential reading for Heresy followers, but well-written enough to justify picking it up.

*

ReynoldsJ-EnyaliusInMemoriamJosh Reynolds, ENYALIUS, IN MEMORIAM

Marakitedes, berserker of the traitorous World Eaters, fights on the hull of an Imperial starship. Battling the vessel’s beleaguered crew and the warriors of the Ultramarines, he is fighting not just for the thrill of combat or to feed the Butcher’s Nails, but to honour his fallen brother, Enyalius, and send him to Khorne with a mighty host of skulls.

This was an interesting short story. Over quickly, and (obviously) action-packed, this offered a slightly different take on the infamously violent World Eaters. True, Marakitedes is violent from the start, but it was interesting to see an alternative reason for this violence — more than just wanting to sow destruction and Kill All The People, he is doing it to honour a fallen comrade. And, you know, because he has a compulsion to do so. It’s slightly odd, but in a good way. I enjoyed this.

*

SmillieA-SoB-ASonsBurdenAndy Smillie, A SON’S BURDEN

The Blood Angels call for aid, and the Flesh Tearers answer, but Gabriel Seth’s warriors are already engaged in battle against traitorous cultists on the dark world of Nekkaris. As Seth and Chaplain Appollus prepare to leave for the Cryptus system, Sergeant Eschiros and his Scout squad fight behind enemy lines, unaware of the almighty sacrifice they may soon have to make…

Any new Flesh Tearers story from Andy Smillie is something to be happy about. His skill at humanising these (loyalist) psychotic killing machines is fantastic, and on a par with Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s. The chapter is seen as a bunch of savage butchers (not exactly untrue…), but in A Son’s Burden, Smillie shows that there’s a lot more to them than bloody warfare. Sure, they are inevitably found in the thick of things, but the author writes about their constant struggle with their violent urges and curse. It also shows their continuing loyalty to the Legion that birthed them. I really enjoyed this, and can’t wait to catch up Flesh of Cretacia and Trial By Blood. Very highly recommended.

*

WraightC-BA-TheChaliceChris Wraight, THE CHALICE

Captain Laurentis leads the Eighth Company of the Blood Angels into battle against a horde of daemons to retrieve a vital artefact. And back on Baal, a Sanguinary Priest awaits Laurentis’s return. What sacrifices will be necessary for both to complete their missions?

An interesting story. It’s over fast, alternating an introspective storyline with a more furious, bloody thread. Would have made a great novella, if it had been longer. A good introduction to Wraight’s writing, and he proves he’s just as good at writing Blood Angels as he is Space Wolves. Well-written, intriguing, says a lot without plodding or making everything explicit. Well worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of the chapter.

*

These short stories have all been released as part of Black Library’s Advent 2014 series. There are a few days left, of course, and I’ve picked up a couple more. I’ll review them in a later post, probably after Christmas.

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