Quick Review: VAULTS OF OBSIDIAN (Black Library)

BlackstoneFortress-VaultsOfObsidianA collection of stories set on and around the Blackstone Fortress

For uncountable ages the Blackstone Fortress has kept its watchful silence. It patiently waits, willing those brave enough to gamble everything exploring its halls. Only the most determined of adventurers will return with riches – the unworthy are never seen again. But to many, the rewards far outweigh the risks. Among the denizens of Precipice, ratlings, robots, and rogue traders all pursue their own agendas, pitting themselves against the myriad forces of darkness that have claimed the fortress as their own. Deadliest of all is Obsidius Mallex, who aims to twist another Talisman of Vaul to Chaos’ unholy cause. Unless this traitor is stopped, the galaxy will burn beneath the wrath of the Ruinous Gods.

CONTENTS
Talisman of Vaul by Darius Hinks
Shapes Pent in Hell by Josh Reynolds
Fates and Fortunes by Thomas Parrott
Past in Flames by J C Sterns
Negavolt by Nicholas Wolf
The Three-Edged Blade by Denny Flowers
Motherlode by Nick Kyme
Purity is a Lie by Guy Haley
The Oath in Darkness by David Annandale
Man of Iron by Guy Haley
The Beast Inside by Darius Hinks
The Last of the Longhorns by Nick Kyme

I recently read Darius Hinks’s Blackstone Fortress, which served as a great introduction to this setting. Naturally, I was interested in reading more, and Vaults of Obsidian was available for review. It’s an interesting collections of stories, offering a variety of perspectives on the Blackstone Fortress and its unusual place in the WH40k setting. I enjoyed it.

These stories often evoke how the mystery, superstition, and mythical potential of the Blackstone Fortress leads characters to give in to their worst tendencies: greed, in particular. The game upon which it’s based is a sci-fi Warhammer Quest, so it’s apt that many of these stories are a form of treasure hunt — even if the “treasure” in question is not a chest of gold, or whatever.

We also see a wider variety of characters, and crews comprised of unusual mix of characters and races — something we haven’t seen too often elsewhere in BL’s fiction. For example, there are some new alien species attached to certain bands, or an Eldar and drukhari team up. This helps the stories stand out from much other BL short fiction, and offers up opportunities for new commentary — for example, the different mythologies that have risen around the Blackstone Fortress itself, the altered relations between certain races that are mixing more than one might expect. Pretty good action scenes across the collection, and each of the stories was well-written.

There is plenty of back-stabbing, hidden agendas, suspicion, ambushes and desperate survival. Each story is a nice, quick quest and/or adventure. I spread out reading this between longer works of fiction and non-fiction, which I think worked best for me: sometimes, I really lose steam with anthologies/collections, especially if they have a shared theme or setting, because the stories can blend together. I think this might have happened with Vaults of Obsidian if I’d tried to just read it through (I was feeling very biblio-restless when reading this).

Definitely recommended to all fans of the setting, and/or people who are curious to explore the Blackstone Fortress for the first time. A good read, which I think will whet readers’ appetites for more fiction in this setting.

*

Vaults of Obsidian is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK. If you’re looking for more Blackstone Fortress fiction: the second novel by Hinks, Ascension, is out now (I’ll be reading it soon, hopefully); as is Thomas Parrott’s novella, Isha’s Lament.

Review copy received via NetGalley

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