Ahriman, exiled sorcerer lord of the Thousand Sons, has many servants who do his bidding. Each has a tale to tell, but few as compelling as that of Ctesias the twice-dead, summoner of daemons. From an encounter with the mysterious Dead Oracle to the perils of the Hounds and Wrath and navigating the Gates of Ruin, Ctesias is a vital link in Ahriman’s grand plan. This is Ctesias’ tale, in his own words, of his trials and the great and terrible deeds he has performed in his master’s name. This is the chronicle of his path to damnation as he leads Ahriman to his exodus from the Eye of Terror.
Each of the short stories contained within this collection are told from the perspective of Ctesias, a member of the fallen Thousand Sons Traitor Legion. A sorcerer particularly gifted at summoning and binding daemons, he has been adopted into Ahriman’s war band, for a particular reason that his new master is keeping hidden. I had already read a few of the short stories contained herein, but the anthology was a nice way to have them all collected in one volume. As I expected, I enjoyed the collection.
The stories are set in between the first and second novels in the series — Exile and Sorcerer — and succeed at fleshing out our understanding of Ctesias’s place in Ahriman’s cadre, as well as his relationship with his master. Generally speaking, though, Ahriman remains either just off-stage or to one side — more so than expected, but by no means was this a bad thing. I’ve often found it interesting to see these larger-than-life characters (real or fictional) through the eyes of those who enter their orbits, either in support or opposition.
Some of these stories are very short, offering really a vignette in which we see some of Ctesias’s considerable powers and the heavy toll they take on the sorcerer. Others — especially The Dead Oracle and The Gates of Ruin are longer, and give us a better view of what might be going on in the series as a whole; just hints, but tantalizing ones at that.
I’m not sure that this anthology is essential reading to fully understand or follow the Ahriman series, but I would nevertheless recommend it — the stories are well written, interesting, and engaging. French is fast becoming one of Black Library’s most consistently good authors: he avoids McNeill’s tendency towards florid language, avoids pretty much all of BL’s authors’ tendency to over-describe Chaotic things. Tightly told, these stories were very enjoyable.
Also on CR: Review of Ahriman: Exile
The final volume in the Ahriman trilogy, Unchanged, is also out now.