Review: AHRIMAN: UNCHANGED by John French (Black Library)

Ahriman’s reaches the end of his journey, and executes his second Rubric…

It has taken many long years and countless sacrifices, but finally Ahriman, former Chief Librarian of the Thousand Sons, now exile and sorcerer, is ready to attempt the most audacious and daring feat of his long life. His quest for knowledge and power has all been for one purpose, and he would now see that purpose fulfilled. His goal? Nothing less than undoing his greatest failure and reversing the Rubric that damned his Legion…

This is the final book in John French’s Ahriman trilogy, and it is epic. If you’re a fan of the Thousand Sons legion, in WH40k or in the Horus Heresy series, then this trilogy is a must read. Ahriman: Unchanged details the culmination of Ahriman’s long quest to fix the damage he wrought with his first Rubric. He faces a long journey home, multiple forces arrayed against him, and potentially the wrath of his father… Overall, this is a fantastic conclusion, and I very much enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: ARHIMAN SORCERER by John French (Black Library)

FrenchJ-A4-AhrimanSorcerorAhriman’s planning something twisty…

Ahriman, greatest sorcerer of the Thousand Sons and architect of the Rubric that laid his Legion low, continues to walk the path towards salvation, or damnation. Searching for a cure for his Legion, he is forced to consider – was the great ritual somehow flawed from the very beginning? The answer may lie within the mysterious artefact known as the Athenaeum of Kalimakus, a grimoire of forgotten knowledge that is reputed to contain the exact words of the lost Book of Magnus… or, perhaps, even a transcription of the primarch’s deepest and most secret thoughts.

I’ve enjoyed all of French’s Ahriman fiction: he does a great job of adding layers to the character, and presenting him as a conflicted, ambitious, and driven actor in the WH40k universe. Ahriman: Sorcerer, while suffering a few middle-book issues, is a good continuation of his story. Continue reading

Quick Review: AHRIMAN – EXODUS by John French (Black Library)

FrenchJ-AhrimanExodusA collection of short stories set in French’s Ahriman series

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. Continue reading

Review: AHRIMAN – EXILE by John French (Black Library)

FrenchJ-A1-AhrimanExileFirst in a series, good but didn’t live up to expectations

All is dust… Spurned by his former brothers and his father Magnus the Red, Ahriman is a wanderer, a sorcerer of Tzeentch whose actions condemned an entire Legion to an eternity of damnation. Once a vaunted servant of the Thousand Sons, he is now an outcast, a renegade who resides in the Eye of Terror. Ever scheming, he plots his return to power and the destruction of his enemies, an architect of fate and master of the warp.

After reading and loving Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s The Talon of Horus, I was in the mood to read more fiction about the Traitor Legions. I’ve had Ahriman: Exile for quite some time, but just hadn’t got around to reading it. Talon of Horus is told from the perspective of one of Ahriman’s greatest rivals, and because I enjoyed French’s two Ahriman short stories, this seemed like a perfect next read. It was… good. Unpolished, but good. Continue reading

Short Story Reviews: David Annandale, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, and John French (Black Library)

Three good, recent short stories from BL’s Warhammer 40,000 range

Annandale-Yarrick4-TheGallowsSaintDavid Annandale, YARRICK: THE GALLOWS SAINT

Fresh from his victory against traitors on Mistral, Commissar Yarrick deploys to Abydos to watch a great triumph in honour of the forces who liberated the world from the grip of the alien tau. But when the planet’s governor is assassinated, Yarrick is drawn into a political game with deadly consequences for himself, his Steel Legion troops and Abydos itself. Can he unravel the mystery and reveal the true traitors on the world before it is too late?

Continuing his series detailing the career of Commissar Yarrick, Annandale here offers a short tale set after the conclusion of a conflict. On a world recently ‘saved’ from the influence of the Tau, Yarrick stumbles across a mundane, rather parochial conspiracy. The story moves very fast. This was not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it certainly would have benefited from expansion – as it stands, the story is a bit of a whirlwind, and Yarrick’s investigation is executed pretty much by luck and accident. True, there’s no reason to believe such a case could never happen. I think I was just greedy for a longer, more in-depth tale. Luckily, I have the first full-length Yarrick novel (Imperial Creed) to read, which I will be reading ASAP. (I know, I say that a lot.)

Despite this minor complaint, this is a very good story – Annandale continues to improve as a writer, and writes great stories. Let’s hope there are many more from him.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Carrion Anthem, Eclipse of Hope, Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha, The Dark Hollows of Memory, Stormseer; Interview with David Annandale; Guest Post

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DembskiBowden-Abaddon-ChosenOfChaosAaron Dembski-Bowden, ABADDON: CHOSEN OF CHAOS

In the aftermath of battle, a group of Black Legion warlords – traitors to mankind, drawn from across the Legions of Chaos and sworn to the Warmaster – torture a prisoner, a captain of the Space Marines. Defiant to the last, the son of the Emperor is prepared to die, his duty fulfilled. But Abaddon, the Chosen of Chaos, has other plans for this brave warrior…

A very short story, introducing the post-Horus Heresy Abaddon: master of the Black Legion, and Warmaster of the Traitor Astartes, he has taken over from the slain Horus to wage his eternal war on the forces of the Imperium. This story, while very good, doesn’t really do anything, which was slightly frustrating. As an amuse bouche for Abaddon: Talon of Horus, however, it works very well indeed. As long-time readers of the blog will know, I’m a huge fan of Dembski-Bowden’s novels and writing, and Chosen of Chaos shows everything I’ve come to love about the way he writes. Only… not enough of it to be satisfying. I would, therefore, recommend you read this only when you don’t have a long wait until Talon of Horus.

Also on CR: Reviews of Cadian Blood, Soul Hunter, Blood Reaver, Void Stalker, Armageddon, The First Heretic, Betrayer, The Emperor’s Gift

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FrenchJ-Ahriman-TheDeadOracleJohn French, Ahriman: The Dead Oracle

Ctesias, an ancient Space Marine and former prisoner of Amon of the Thousand Sons, tells the tale of one of the events that led him to his destiny. After Amon’s demise, Ctesias comes into the service of Ahriman, the exiled First Captain of the broken Legion, and is given power undreamed of – and drawn into a plot involving the otherworldly daemons of the warp, the machinations of Ahriman and the mysterious dead oracle.

This is set after the events of Ahriman: Exile, the first novel in French’s series focusing on the Thousand Sons’ greatest sorcerer. It is not, however, essential to have read Exile in order to follow or enjoy The Dead Oracle – I have yet to read the novel, but I really enjoyed this story. In fact, of these three stories reviewed here, this is by far my favourite. I think French has done a great job with Ahriman, painting him as a rather withdrawn, highly-focused and competent sorcerer, attempting to atone for and remedy what he has wrought on his Legion. The story isn’t from Ahriman’s perspective, however – rather, it is from Ctesias’s P.O.V. Through his eyes, we see how far Ahriman is prepared to go on his path to redemption. We also see just how powerful and learned he is about the way of Chaos. Not to mention how tricksy he can be, fooling even greater daemons of the Warp.

After finishing The Dead Oracle, my interest in reading Exile only grew. It has been moved up my TBR pile.

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Short Story Reviews: RIVEN and HAND OF DUST by John French (Black Library)

Two short stories by one of Black Library’s up-and-comers

FrenchJ-Riven(HH)RIVEN (Horus Heresy)

As one of the vaunted Crusader Host, Brother Crius stood as the representative of the X Legion upon the soil of Holy Terra, but when he learns of the death of his beloved primarch Ferrus Manus at the hands of the traitors, his stoic, mechanical grief imbues him with the strength and resolve to undertake a special mission on behalf of Rogal Dorn himself. Striking out into the stars, he searches for any signs of his lost Iron Hands brethren, hoping to bring them back to Terra to aid in the final defence of the Palace. The question remains – just who has survived the slaughter on Isstvan V, and what yet remains of them?

I’m always happy when a new piece of Horus Heresy fiction is released, and this one is by an author I have not read much by, before. The story follows Brother Crius, a member of the Iron Hands, struggling with the loss of his Primarch, Ferrus Manus. He is tasked by Sigismund, the First Captain of the Imperial Fists to seek out any other survivors of the Isstvan V massacre, and bring them back to Terra to bolster the defence against the eventual attack by Horus’s forces. Heading out, with the support of an Imperial Fists captain, what Crius and his companions discover is not at all what they were expecting – nor, actually, what I was expecting.

I like what French has done with this story. While I wasn’t entirely clear as to why Crius was incarcerated at the start of the story, the author nevertheless has written a pretty great story. We see a little bit more of what makes the Iron Hands tick, and also a little bit of the psychological damage that the death of Ferrus has caused. True, it’s still a relatively short story, so there isn’t too much of this, but I would certainly like to read more about the Legion pre- and post-Ferrus’s death. The final battle is pretty intense, and not over-described (which was certainly welcome to me). Overall, this is a recommended addition to the growing Heresy story.

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French-AhrimanHandOfDustAHRIMAN: HAND OF DUST

On Prospero, a solitary living soul walks across the shattered world. Beneath the ruined spires, Ahriman, exiled son of Magnus the Red and destroyer of his Legion, contemplates what once was, what is, and what may yet be. And amidst the dust of the long-lost paradise world, the sorcerer faces his mistakes and decides his destiny.

This (very) short story is part of Black Library’s Advent Calendar series of eBooks. It is also the second by French featuring the Thousand Sons (All is Dust, another micro-story, was released early last year). Hand of Dust follows one of the greatest sorcerers of the Thousand Sons traitor legion – Ahriam, the architect of the Rubric that ‘froze’ his fellow legionaries, in an attempt to rescue them from the fate that has plagued the sons of Magnus for centuries.

Hand of Dust is perhaps too short to really have much to write about it. The premise is interesting, and I think it could (and, perhaps, should) have been extended. It’s like a teaser for French’s writing and also his Ahriman fiction. It’s a good one, too. As with Riven, above, French’s writing is pretty solid and well-crafted. It is perhaps not as streamlined and fluid as some of the other, more-established Black Library authors, but it’s still very good. It will certainly be interesting to see how he develops over time.

French also wrote the first Ahriman novel, Ahriman: Exile (cover below), which is out now, and has now been bumped up my tottering TBR mountain. Ahriman also features in Rob Sanders’s Atlas Infernal and Graham McNeill’s superb A Thousand Sons (and a handful of other Horus Heresy novels). French will also be writing a follow-up to Exile, Sorcerer, which is due for publication in 2014.

French-AhrimanExile