Quick Review: CORAX — LORD OF SHADOWS by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-HHP10-CoraxA short novel from the Raven Guard’s Primarch’s pre-Heresy campaigns

During the Great Crusade, it falls to the primarch Corax of the Raven Guard to humble the immense void-cities of the Carinae. Determined to bring these worlds into compliance, he unleashes the might of his Legion and a massive war host of the Imperial Army. But the lords of Carinae are well defended and without remorse.

At the height of the conflict, at the void-city of Zenith, a dread bio-weapon from an ancient time is unleashed. At once, the Imperial force is brought to its knees, as allies are turned against each other and the Raven Guard left to face almost insurmountable odds. As the campaign teeters on the brink of failure, Corax’s desire for vengeance is severely tested against the need for a swift and certain resolution to the war.

In this, the tenth novel in Black Library’s Primarchs series, Guy Haley turns his attention to the Lord of Shadows: Corax, the Primarch of the Raven Guard. A sort-of prequel-yet-parallel series to the New York Times-bestselling Horus Heresy series, the novels focus on a defining moment in the Primarchs’ pre-Heresy lives. So far, the ones I’ve read have been interesting, offering some insight into what has shaped the Primarchs’ characters and also their relationships with the Emperor and their brothers. In Corax: Lord of Shadows, Haley takes a look at the duelling impulses and responsibilities that pull at the Raven Lord and pits them against a ruthless adversary.

Corax is one of the Primarchs that has been brilliantly served by the Horus Heresy series. Beginning with Gav Thorpe’s excellent Deliverance Lost and also Corax (a collection of novellas and short stories), the character has finally received a proper story. I knew basically nothing about him before the Horus Heresy series, he has since become one of my favourite Primarchs. (If I had the time and money, I’m sure I’d want to buy and paint some Raven Guard minis.) In this novel, Haley does a great job of fleshing out the character even more, and making him and his Legion even more interesting.

Many of the Primarchs share characteristics and specialities with one or more of their brothers: whether in siege warfare, weapon-smithing, strategy, and many other aspects of warfare. Corax is an interesting Primarch, as he sees his place as a mixture of some of the darker aspects of warfare that clash with his high ideals and powerful sense of justice. The novel is made up of three main threads, each of which highlights different aspects of Corax’s character and also the ways in which the Raven Guard contribute to the Emperor’s grand plan.

The novel opens with an exchange between Corax and Roboute Guilliman (the infuriatingly aloof, seemingly-perfect Primarch of the Ultramarines). The former is unburdening himself of his concerns about his own Legion, as well as his place in the Great Crusade. The scenes are peppered with interesting insights into not only the Primarchs, but also the Raven Guard Legion and the flaw that some of them have inherited through Corax’s gene-seed (specifically, a dour, almost depressive mindset).

The second main thread is a campaign to bring a system back into compliance. We get to see Corax’s ruthless streak (the one that he fears makes him too similar to Konrad Curze, the Night Haunter, Primarch of the terror-expert Night Lords). We also see some of the non-Chaos horrors of the WH40k universe, and are shown how even non-corrupted men can stoop to atrocities to accomplish their misguided goals. It’s an action-packed campaign, mixing sneaky-stuff and open-combat.

Throughout the novel there is also a shorter, minimal thread about events back on Kiavhar, the main planet in the Raven Lords’ home system. It was interesting and well-written, but I can’t honestly see why it was included in the novel. If it had been a full-length book (as opposed to the 200-ish page series-norm), this could have been expanded into something more interesting and more revealing, I think.

Corax: Lord of Shadows, like all of the Primarchs novels so far, offers some interesting insight into the titular character. Haley is one of Black Library’s consistently great authors, and his prose and action scenes are well-composed and briskly paced. The Primarchs novels have not been what I would consider “essential” reading, but fans of the Horus Heresy series (which ends in February with James Swallow’s The Buried Dagger — review soon) will welcome the extra insight into Corax and the Raven Guard.


Corax is due out in hardcover and eBook on February 9th, published by Black Library.

Also on CR: Interview with Guy Haley (2015); Reviews of Deliverance Lost

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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