Quick Review: INVOCATIONS by Various (Black Library)

WarhammerHorror-InvocationsReturn to the dark places of the worlds of Warhammer for a new anthology of sinister stories that dive into the arcane, the unexpected and the downright terrifying.

An Imperial Priest extracts a monstrous confession; a widower embarks on a doomed pilgrimage; a witch hunter returns to the place of his nightmares… Invocations is Black Library’s second Warhammer Horror anthology, featuring more short stories set in the chilling hellscape of the 41st Millennium and the arcane gloom of the Mortal Realms. From the whispering corridors of an abandoned medicae facility to the shrieking dungeons of ghostly castles, this collection of sinister stories further explores the unspeakable evil haunting in the worlds of Warhammer.

An interesting, engaging collection of horror and suspense fiction, set in the Warhammer science fiction and fantasy worlds. Atmospheric, creepy, and featuring varied protagonists, this is a solid anthology. I enjoyed it.

Four of these stories were available previously as eBook shorts, released during the Warhammer Horror Week mini-event. The rest are new to this collection. Here’s the full table of contents:

  • The Hunt by David Annandale
  • The Confession of Convict Kline by Justin D Hill
  • He Feasts Forever by Lora Gray
  • Stitches by Nick Kyme
  • The Healer by Steven Shiel
  • Blood Sacrifice by Peter McLean
  • The Growing Seasons by Richard Strachan
  • Supplication by Jake Ozga
  • From the Halls, the Silence by David Annandale
  • A Sending from the Grave by C L Werner
  • Flesh and Blood by Ray Cluley
  • The Summons of Shadows by David Annandale

Each of these stories offers an intriguing, often chilling look at just a small part of the Age of Sigmar or WH40k settings. Be they strange goings on in the various Mortal Realms (fantasy) or the far corners of the Imperium and reaches of space. Invocations works well as a horror binge-read, but equally as something to dip into between longer books. The stories do a good job of casting a pretty wide net, in terms of faction focus and type of horror story, too. Allows the collection to avoid feeling same-y, and kept my interest up throughout.

There were a couple of stand-outs for me. First, David Annandale’s “The Hunt” was a twisty story about a Witch Hunter who seems to have made a terrible decision years ago, when his home region was under the control of the forces of Nurgle. It’s an interesting tale, one that dangles a couple of potential terrors and fates for Devan. Good, fiendish twist at the end.

In “Blood Sacrifice“, Peter McLean brings readers back in the lives of some of his characters that have survived his previous stories — such as the excellent “Baphomet by Night”, a story whose atmosphere and content brought to mind the worst small-scale atrocities of the Vietnam War, filtered and exaggerated through the lens of the grim far future of WH40k.

“After Baphomet, he was redeployed. There was no respite in the Astra Militarum, no end to the killing. Not ever.”

As the story opens, Corporal Cully and the Reslian 45th are on non-combat duties, helping to dig trenches and reinforce territory. It’s unglamorous, and kind of pointless (in their eyes) to be wasting veteran soldiers on such tasks. As a result, he and his comrades are bored and restless. “Luckily”, one of them has been offered a freelance gig in the Hive — good for some income, and also something to do. What could possibly go wrong? It’s a very good story, with great characters. McLean has a real gift for making characters feel very real, and make readers invested in their continued survival. (You won’t always be happy about this…) He remains one of my favourite new authors playing in BL’s sandpit.

As I’ve mentioned before with regards to the Warhammer Horror imprint, there are definitely times when I’m not sure what separates the “horror” fiction from much of the regular Black Library fiction. This collection does a good job of helping provide something of an explanation — there air of menace and potential threat is enhanced, but not through action or battles. Rather, it is the small moments of personal and small-scale horror that take place between the larger-scale madness of warfare on such a huge scale. In other words, even away from the battlefront, life in the Mortal Realms and in the Imperium are… well, not my first choice. Don’t expect happy endings.

*

Invocations is out now, published by Black Library. For more information about the growing range of Warhammer Horror fiction, check out the imprints website.

Review copy received via NetGalley

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