Guest Review: DARK IMPERIUM by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-WH40k-DarkImperiumA new WH40k era begins…

Fell times have come to the galaxy. Cadia has fallen, destroyed by the onslaught of Chaos. A Great Rift in the warp has opened and from its depths spew daemons and the horrors of Old Night. But all hope is not lost… A hero, long absent, has returned and with him comes the wrath of the Ultramarines reborn. Roboute Guilliman has arisen to lead the Imperium out of darkness on a crusade the likes of which has not been seen since the fabled days of the Emperor. But never before have the forces of Ruin amassed in such numbers, and nowhere is safe from despoliation. From the dreaded Scourge Stars come the hordes of the Plaguefather, Lord Nurgle, and their pustulent eye is fixed on Macragge. As the Indomitas Crusade draws to an end, Guilliman races to Ultramar and a confrontation with the Death Guard.

Reviewed by Abhinav Jain

One of the biggest criticisms that fans have leveled at Games Workshop for the Warhammer 40,000 setting is that the clock is always stuck at ten minutes before midnight. There is no forward momentum in the overall story, since the narrative is always stuck in year 999.M41 and we’ve already seen tons of stories and supplemental lore in that year. Going back and visiting the decades and centuries prior is all well and good, but many have clamoured for a change in the status quo. This picked up steam some two/three years back when the Warhammer Fantasy setting met its demise and was then reborn as Age of Sigmar. But that, too, caused problems since the new setting was a complete and total shift from what had come before and fans didn’t want that either. Continue reading

Guest Review: CALGAR’S FURY by Paul Kearney (Black Library)

KearneyP-WH40k-CalgarsFuryThe Ultramarines Chapter Master steps into battle

The Realm of Ultramar stands as a shining beacon of order and strength in a galaxy wracked by war and torment. Custodian of this realm, and Chapter Master of the Ultramarines, Marneus Calgar has fought many foes and won countless wars to ensure its borders remain safe. But when an immense space hulk emerges into the Ultramar system, carrying with it the threat of something ancient and terrible, it is Calgar once again who stands in defence of his realm, prepared to meet whatever horrors are aboard and discover the mystery at the heart of the ship dubbed Fury.

Reviewed by Abhinav Jain

The Ultramarines have been the poster-child for WH40k’s various Space Marines Chapters for multiple years. The blue-armoured warriors can be seen on most of the primary packaging for the tabletop models and rulebooks as well. As the typical example of Space Marines, over the years their image has morphed into one that says, “These are the boring old Space Marines who do everything and are just perfect little warriors.”

While true to some extent, this is also wildly generalistic. Graham McNeill, especially, has done a lot over the years to change that image with his various Captain Uriel Ventris stories. Now, Paul Kearney offers a distinctive look at Marneus Calgar, the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines. Calgar’s Fury is a no-holds-barred action story, set on a derelict space hulk, the most classic of all 40k settings, and really delves into the psychology of the Chapter’s warriors at all levels of command. Continue reading

Four Quick Audio Reviews (Black Library)



In each of the stories mentioned below, the performances are excellent, and the production values superb. This has become an always-met expectation for Black Library’s audio-dramas.

Featuring: Dan Abnett, Chris Dows, David Guymer, Ian St. Martin, Joshua Reynolds, Gav Thorpe, Chris Wraight

Continue reading

Interview with GAV THORPE

ThorpeG-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Gav Thorpe?

Hi, I’m a middle aged white guy that’s been fortunate enough to write about orcs and space marines and other made-up stuff since I was nineteen. I spent fourteen years as a games develop for Games Workshop, and in 2007 I left to become a full-time freelance writer, developer and creative consultant.

I live between Nottingham and Derby in the UK, with by partner Kez and our son, Sammy.

You work on a number of series for Black Library. Your next Horus Heresy novel, Angels of Caliban, will be published soon(ish). How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

Angels of Caliban is a story about loyalty and honour, but more importantly how those things can be measured differently. And how those measures may change depending on circumstance. It is the culmination and continuance of several storylines that have been playing out through the Horus Heresy series, including the Imperium Secundus arc, the growing rebellion on Caliban and the ongoing homicidal feud between The Lion and Konrad Curze. But there’s also a ton of stuff about the history and organisation of the Dark Angels legion, an examination on the ‘nature versus nurture’ debate on the Primarchs and all the sort of lore you would expect from a Horus Heresy novel. Oh, and an ending that will drop a few jaws and have some folks just wondering what the hell is going to happen next. Continue reading

Well I’ll Be Damned — My 16yr Old Self…

Gubbinz-1999I stumbled across a pair of articles today that have brought a rush of memories back to me: my first two “published”… well, “articles” — the quotation marks are entirely appropriate, as you will see below. The articles are on tUGS.

When I was a teenager, I was quite fond of Games Workshop’s games — especially those that didn’t require much financial investment (NecromundaBlood Bowl, and GorkaMorka). Partly this interest in the “smaller” games was lucky, because I also didn’t have anyone to play the games with, thanks to constantly changing country and attending a school whose denizens were oh-so-obsessed with “cool”. (Yup, I was that kind of geek.) Nor, for that matter, could I afford the ever-increasing prices.

Anyway, in my enthusiastic teen years, I submitted two articles of “rules” for GorkaMorka, the Mad Max-style tabletop game of ork warfare. Both of them were accepted and published in Gubbinz, a compilation of extra rules and whatnot. Up until today, I had completely forgotten about them.

So, with a certain amount of nostalgia and slight embarrassment, here are my two, insignificant contributions to Games Workshop’s back-back-list of games: Rokkit Paks and Rebel Grot Pogo Stikks. (The posts contain download links for PDFs of what I cobbled together.)


“Stormseer” by David Annandale (Black Library)

AnnandaleD-SMB-StormseerWhite Scars vs. Orks, with a dash of Eldar…

The green-skinned hordes of the Overfiend of the Octavius system have long been a thorn in the Imperium’s side – and now, with human worlds caught in the crossfire between the orks and eldar, that thorn will be removed. Temur Khan and his brotherhood descend upon Lepidus Prime to cleanse it of the green taint. The swift and brutal hammer to the Imperial Guard’s anvil, the White Scars strike hard and fast – but when the orks reveal a super-weapon, it may take more than just power to win the day?

I’m a big fan of Annandale’s Black Library fiction, and Stormseer is a great example of just why I think he’s so good. This is the first of three novellas in the Space Marine Battles series, all of which are connected to the same campaign. Fast and furious, excellently written and well-paced, this is an excellent novella. A must-read for fans of the White Scars and Warhammer 40,000 in general.

The story starts off with an excellent battle scene, which is a perfect example of the White Scars’ rather headlong approach to warfare. The action on the battlefront is only half the story, however, and we alternate between there and a lone Stormseer’s mission behind enemy lines. Accompanied by some scouts, and driven by a vague psychic vision, he infiltrates and investigates an ork manufacturing plant, joined by some mysterious Eldar. What they find explains the orks’ mysterious ability to be everywhere on the battlefield.

The story was less battle-heavy than I was expecting, but of course Annandale does not skimp on the action, which is well-presented and described (without going over the top). He does an excellent job of providing a proper story, rather than just an excuse to kill some orks in ever more brutal fashion (or “bolter-porn”, as it’s known).

There’s some mystery, and also allusion to what else is going on elsewhere in the wider campaign, with a mention of the Salamanders and Raven Guard (who, I assume, are the stars of the other two novellas). Despite the brief length, Annandale’s characters are well-rounded and believable (as super-humans and aliens go). His prose is fluid and well-constructed.

David Annandale is one of Black Library’s best new(ish) authors. If you haven’t read any of his stuff yet, you really should. Stormseer is a great place to start.

Mini-Review: HONOUR TO THE DEAD by Gav Thorpe (Black Library)

Thorpe-HH-HonourTheDead(eBook)The prose version of an audio-drama

As Calth burns, the Battle Titans of the Fire Masters legion take to the streets of the city of Ithraca, ready to massacre the fleeing civilian population in the name of their new, dark masters. But the remaining loyalist engines of the Legio Praesagius – the True Messengers – still stand ready to defend the Imperium, even in the face of almost certain death. With the nearby Ultramarines forces scattered and lost, the people of Ithraca must fend for themselves as gigantic war machines unleash apocalyptic weaponry across the ravaged skyline…

This is a pretty good short story. It doesn’t really require a particularly long review, however. It was nice to see Titans featured a bit more prominently, and to see first-hand their devastating, over-the-top capabilities.

Near the beginning, there were a few very sudden changes in P.O.V. or scene, without properly-delineated shifts, which threw me a couple times. I quickly dropped back into the narrative, however. I also liked the variety of perspectives, offering not only that of opposing Astartes factions (Ultramarines, for example), but also Titan crews and mere mortals and survivors of the bombed out city.

The only real weakness to the story was Princeps Tyhe (the princeps of a renegade Warhound titan), who speaks like a bad, pulp villain:

“Is it not beautiful, my sweet? … See the ants spilling from their nests to be crushed. So weak and pathetic. But kill them we must! Our comrades in the Word Bearers require deaths, and deaths we shall give them. Deaths by the dozen! Death by the hundred, by the thousand!”

He even delivers a long, Evil Villain Monologue, one page later. I couldn’t help but cringe a little, whenever he was speaking.

Overall, then, this is certainly not Thorpe’s best work. But, it is nevertheless an enjoyable, quick read for a gap between novels. It doesn’t come close to matching the quality of Deliverance Lost or any of Thorpe’s other Horus Heresy fiction.

Also on CR: Interview with Gav Thorpe (2011)

Horus Heresy Series (Novels & Anthologies): Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames, Flight of the Eisenstein, Fulgrim, Descent of Angels, Legion, Battle for the Abyss, Mechanicum, Tales of Heresy, Fallen Angels, A Thousand Sons, Nemesis, The First Heretic, Prospero Burns, Age of Darkness, The Outcast Dead, Deliverance Lost, Know No Fear, The Primarchs, Fear to Tread, Shadows of Treachery, Angel Exterminatus, Betrayer, Mark of Calth, Promethean Sun, Scorched Earth, Vulkan Lives, Brotherhood of the Storm, Scars (I-III, IV-IX), The Unremembered Empire, Vengeful Spirit (2014)

Upcoming: “Vengeful Spirit” by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeill-HH-VengefulSpiritI’ve already posted the full artwork for Graham McNeill’s next Horus Heresy novel, Vengeful Spirit. Now, however, I’ve managed to dig up a synopsis, which gives me another opportunity to feature it – I’m sure everyone who reads CR is fully aware of how much I enjoy the HH series of novels and short stories. So, without further ado…

On the planet of Molech, the Titan Legions go to war against the armies of Horus.

Once the favoured son of the Emperor of Mankind, the name of Horus has become a curse to the loyal defenders of the Imperium, and a rallying call to the traitor forces tearing across the galaxy. While their allies wage war on a thousand different fronts, the XVIth Legion descend upon the Knight World of Molech – home to House Devine and their feudal levies, and a principal seat of Imperial military power. Just what could have drawn Horus to attack such a strongly defended planet, and what might he be willing to sacrifice to fulfill his own dark destiny?

I’m still not 100% sure when this is going to be released – Amazon UK has September 2014 listed as publication, but Black Library often releases things a little earlier through their own store/website. So maybe a couple months earlier? Needless to say, whenever it’s available, I can’t wait to read it.

The Horus Heresy: Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames, Flight of the Eisenstein, Fulgrim, Descent of Angels, Legion, Battle for the Abyss, Mechanicum, Tales of Heresy, Fallen Angels, A Thousand Sons, Nemesis, The First Heretic, Prospero Burns, Age of Darkness, The Outcast Dead, Deliverance Lost, Know No Fear, The Primarchs, Fear to Tread, Shadows of Treachery, Angel Exterminatus, Betrayer, Mark of Calth, Promethean Sun, Scorched Earth, Vulkan Lives, Scars (episodes I-III, IV-IX, X-X11), The Unremembered Empire

Keeping Elfy at Christmas…

WarhammerArmies-HighElves4thOver a decade-and-a-half ago(ish), I was rather addicted to reading the background sections, stories, and special character histories from the Warhammer Armies range of books published for Games Workshop’s tabletop game. They used to be considerable books, actually, before a decision was made to strip out much of the background information, army and character histories, etc. [Boo!] Because of my peripatetic upbringing, I never actually had anyone to play the game(s) with, though, despite my obvious interest in and affection for the fantasy and science fiction systems GW produced – understandably, there was only so much patience my over-worked father could have for them. So, I made up for this by devouring the books and writing Extremely Bad fan-fiction. Like, really, really bad…

Anyway, while selecting my Christmas reading for my trip to Canada, I realised something: an Elf trend. True, it’s a trend that has been broken with a massive time-gap in the middle, but one Christmas, I found Warhammer Armies: High Elves waiting for me under the tree [pictured, above]. Including this year, for the last three Christmases, I will have read William King’s Tyrion & Teclis trilogy. These two characters feature heavily in the (very well-read, now-fallen-apart) edition of WA: HE that I had, which is perhaps partly why I have enjoyed the trilogy so much.

So, I guess, this is how I keep Elfy over Christmas…


William King’s Blood of Aenarion, Sword of Caledor and Bane of Malekith are all available now, published by Black Library. I would also strongly recommend the Gotrek & Felix series, which he created.


I apologise (only a little) for the fact that this post was, basically, all about getting to use that pun…

“Scars” Eps.IV-IX by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

Wraight-Scars(HH)-pt4The next six parts of the serialised Horus Heresy novel

Of all the Legiones Astartes, the White Scars of Jaghatai Khan remain the most enigmatic and elusive. Born of a civilisation that prizes honour, speed and fearsome loyalty, their allegiance has yet remained unclear even as the galaxy is torn apart by Horus’s treachery, and both sides have apparently counted them among their potential allies in the war to come. But when the Alpha Legion launch an unexplained and simultaneous attack against the White Scars and Space Wolves, the Khan must decide once and for all whether he will stand with the Emperor or the Warmaster… or neither.

Originally, I was going to read this serialised novel in chunks of three ‘episodes’. However, after leaving things for a little longer than intended, I ended up blitzing though the middle six parts in one go. While I’m still not entirely sold on the serialisation-aspect of this project, I do believe Scars will shape up to be Wraight’s best Black Library work to date. This is a very good novel (so far).

I’m still not entirely sure how best to approach reviewing these episodes. As with the previous review, it’s a little difficult to decide on what is a spoiler, what isn’t, whether it should be approached as if these were a single, complete book? I’m going to try to walk a middle-ground, and just highlight some of the things I really liked about Scars so far, and some more general observations. The synopsis, above, does a good job of situating the reader, and I think only needs a little bit more for the purposes of the review.

Two of the best things about the novel are, first the plethora of Legions represented (eight with ‘proper’ characters, but another on the sidelines, referred to quite frequently), and second, the continued examination of what the new revolt and civil war has done to the Astartes – collectively and individually. Many of the characters are still struggling with the idea of open warfare between the Legions, how peculiar and abhorrent fighting their own kind, their cousins, is.

Fighting another Legion was an unsettling experience: they thought like he did, were as quick as he was and almost as familiar with the layout of his vessel. It was like fighting a mirror.

The Thousand Sons had been different. They’d already been half beaten once the Space Wolves had made planetfall, and their defence had been desperate and messily, confusedly defiant. The Alpha Legion had no such disadvantages: they were in better shape than the Wolves, better resourced and with the advantage of the initiative. They had come looking for this fight, for reasons that even Russ hadn’t fathomed with any precision.

In addition to the confusion borne of the rebellion, the machinations of the Word Bearers and their allies in the Warp has only increased the problems facing the loyalists. Communications are effectively down – messages through the Astonomican are either delayed, garbled, contradictory, or nonexistent. At one point, the White Scars Primarch’s frustrations bubble over:

“I have the strength of the Legion arrayed before me, ready to strike. The ordu has assembled, and yet none can tell me who the enemy is. Tell them if they cannot interpret correctly then I shall come up to their spires and hammer their dreams into order for them.”

And later, he reflects on the situation:

The Khan almost felt like laughing. Nothing made sense. After years insulated from the rest of the galaxy, locked in a campaign that had promised little glory and much routine hard work, every certainty seemed to have been twisted into a comical level of incongruity.

True, these have become central themes of the Horus Heresy series as a whole, but the fact that it remains interesting after so many novels, from so many authors, is a testament to the skills of the writers involved, but also the strength of the overall project. It’s no mean feat to juggle all these novels, short stories, and audio dramas and maintain the quality (in fact, as I’ve mentioned before on the blog, from Graham McNeill’s A Thousand Sons onwards, the quality has been improving).

Wraight-Scars(HH)These episodes are littered with examples that explain the White Scars’ rarefied position among the Legions. They are set very much apart from their fellows. Sure, the Alpha Legion are mysterious, but they are known. They are infamously opaque and mysterious, and yet known because of that. The White Scars have simply been… absent. Off persecuting their own part of the Crusade, away from their brother Legions, without much support. This makes them very difficult to judge. When orders do arrive for the White Scars, however, and the Emperor and Dorn order the Khan’s Legion to return to Terra, to reinforce the throneworld’s defences, the Khan does not react well:

“I will not take direction from anyone, not even the Throneworld that only now, now that its Legions are tearing one another to pieces, deigns to remember that it has eighteen warrior-sons at its service… You are nobody’s slaves… We take orders from no one. We take no one’s word. We are on our own, just as we have always been, and if there is truth to be found in this, then we will find it for ourselves.”

Jagatai Khan is a pretty interesting Primarch. He’s enigmatic, even after reading this much of the novel. But this is, really, the root of his charm and why he remains a popular figure in Warhammer 40,000 mythology. There’s a great scene in which four Primarchs are gathered, shortly after Horus’s investiture as Warmaster (at Ullanor), and we get some interesting insight into his character. For example, this shrewd observation about his brothers:

Fulgrim and the Angel looked similar in some ways. They had the same sculptural faces, the same flamboyant armour. Where Sanguinius looked as though he had been born wearing gold-rimmed pauldrons, though, the Khan had always thought Fulgrim looked to be trying a little too hard. In the end, he guessed that Sanguinius would have been happy to cast off his trappings; Fulgrim gave the impression that he would rather die.

And then, as the four of them (Mortarian is also there – another Primarch who has remained rather out-of-sight for most of the series) discuss Horus’s new position:

Sanguinius smiled. “My brother, I think you are the most inscrutable of us all. I know what Rogal wants, and I know what Roboute wants, but even after so long I have no idea what you want.”

“He wants to be left alone,” said Fulgrim. “To shoot off into the stars and hunt down xenos on those delightful jetbikes. They’re devilishly fast…”

And we get to see just how fast all of the White Scars’ vessels can be. Much to the Alpha Legion’s surprise and detriment…

Things really start to hot up near the end of Ep.V, when White Scar psyker (or “weather witch” as his fellow Astartes call him) Yesugai stumbles across a Sons of Horus ship, crewed by a small band of Salamanders and Iron Hands, who have recently escaped the massacre on Isstvan V. He learns of the betrayal, putting to rest some of the confusion that has resulted from the White Scars’ isolation. This sets into motion the events of episodes VI-IX, which sees the White Scars hurtling towards revelations upon revelations, disappointments and betrayals. The story is shaping up very nicely indeed, and I can’t wait to read the final three parts of the novel.

As well as these larger issues are unfolding, we start to see more of Shiban’s investigation into the mysterious deaths on Phemus – deaths that appear to have been caused by Legion weapons. This leads him to his Terran friend, another White Scar, who is also an active member of a Warrior’s Lodge. A Lodge who may not be working in accordance with the Khan’s wishes, and are probably being manipulated by… well, long-time readers of the series will no doubt know the answer to that.

Of the other Legions featured in the novel, the Space Wolves come out of this in a very interesting light as well. The timeline places the novel shortly after their attack on Prospero to punish Magnus and the Thousand Sons. They are uncharacteristically somber, introspective, as they see the ripple-effects of their actions (sanctioned though they were), which leaves Leman Russ, their warlike, impulsive Primarch, to lament the state of affairs in the galaxy, of which he played an instrumental part in bringing about. Speaking to Bjorn One-Hand (who is well-known to fans of the tabletop game, as the Space Wolves’ dreadnought character, Bjorn the Fell-Handed – he also featured in Wraight’s SMB novel, Battle of the Fang), he muses:

“I never asked him [the Emperor] what he had in mind for us once the Crusade was over,” Russ went on. “I never asked him if we would be needed. Hardly matters now – if this madness can’t be stopped there will never be a time when we are not needed… The irony of it. Horus has given us the purpose we were beginning to lack. He’s made us useful again… Look what a mess we have made of things – me and my beloved brothers. You will have to pick up the pieces.”

Overall, then, this is shaping up to be another superb addition to the Horus Heresy series. Wraight has really outdone himself. I’m enjoying this a great deal. [But, yes, I would have preferred to read this all in one go, rather than in weekly instalments.] Bring on the final three episodes, and the next book in the series, Dan Abnett’s The Unremembered Empire.

The Horus Heresy: Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames, Flight of the Eisenstein,Fulgrim, Descent of Angels, Legion, Battle for the Abyss, Mechanicum, Tales of Heresy,Fallen Angels, A Thousand Sons, Nemesis, The First Heretic, Prospero Burns, Age of Darkness, The Outcast Dead, Deliverance Lost, Know No Fear, The Primarchs, Fear to Tread, Shadows of Treachery, Angel Exterminatus, Betrayer, Mark of Calth, Promethean Sun [Stefan’s Review], Scorched Earth, Vulkan Lives, Scars (I-III), Unremembered Empire