Review: AZRAEL by Gav Thorpe (Black Library)

ThorpeG-SML-AzraelPBThe Chapter Master’s ascension, and the secrets of the Dark Angels

The Dark Angels Chapter sprang from the First Legion of Space Marines to fight and die at the Emperor’s side. But over ten thousand years, even the most staunchly loyal warriors of the Imperium can fall from grace, and the Dark Angels guard their own murky secrets most carefully — only Supreme Grand Master Azrael knows them all. A legend among Space Marines, he has fought for centuries and ever at the forefront of battle. Now, with the enigmatically alien eldar as his uneasy and unlikely allies, he must tread the fine line once more between the pursuit of victory, and keeping the Chapter’s past safely buried…

Continuing my new-found interest in loyalist Space Marine fiction, after thoroughly enjoying Guy Haley’s Dante, I dove into Azrael with pretty high hopes. It is, after all, written by Gav Thorpe — a long-time, excellent author of Black Library and, especially, Dark Angels fiction. This novel has a lot to offer fans of the chapter and setting as a whole. Continue reading

Four Quick Audio Reviews (Black Library)

 

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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

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New Books (April-May)

Featuring: James Abbott, Nina Allan, Fredrik Backman, Bandi, Paul Beatty, Robert Jackson Bennett, Marie Brennan, Jesse Brown, M.R. Carey, Don Carpenter, Ben Coes, Jenny T. Colgan, Mason Cross, Cory Doctorow, Alan Drew, Amy Engle, Steve Erickson, Nigel Foster, David Guymer, John Gwynne, Tom Holt, Christopher Husberg, James Islington, Howard Jacobson, Stephen King, Andrew Lane, Dale Lucas, Grace O’Connell, Sam Peters, Eliza Robertson, Vivian Shaw, Michael Farris Smith, Brian Staveley, Allen Steele, Stephan Talty, Gav Thorpe, Alison Umminger, Jeff Vandermeer, Paul Vidich, Chris Wraight

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Quick Reviews: Two Black Library Audiodramas

David Annandale, THE BINARY SUCCESSION

Even as the Imperium faces the renegade Legions of the Warmaster, the ruling Council of Terra is becoming paralysed from within by increasingly petty bureaucracy. Fabricator General Kane has seen his fellow Mechanicum adepts dismissed again and again by the High Lords – with his traitorous predecessor Kelbor-Hal still at large on the Red Planet, the political status of the tech-priesthood remains ambiguous. New alliances must be forged from the old, if Mars and Terra are to survive the final battle.

Performed by: Gareth Armstrong, Steve Conlin, Penelope Rawlins, Toby Longworth, Ian Brooker, John Banks, Luis Soto, Antonia Beamish, Cliff Chapman.

This was pretty cool. I wasn’t sure what to expect, not usually going for titan-focused fiction. The first thing one notices is the quality of the production: an excellent, fairly large cast, all of whom deliver great performances; and the plentiful, good sound-effects and music do a great job of enhancing, not distracting from the story. (This is a real strength of BL’s audio-dramas in general.) I think the only things that took some getting used to were the voices of the members of the Mechanicum — a couple were so tech-distorted that they came across like irate Daleks. It does fit, though.

As for the story? Very good. I enjoyed seeing the politics behind the Mechanicum, as they maneuvered for better status among the High Lords. The characters are interesting, their interactions realistic even if they themselves are so (mechanically) alien. I’d certainly be interested in listening to more audio-dramas featuring them, or reading about them in ‘regular’ fiction formats.

If you’re a fan of the Horus Heresy series (especially the Mechanicum-related fiction), then I’d certainly recommend this. A very good Black Library audio-drama.

The Binary Succession is out now, published by Black Library.

Also on CR: Interview with David Annandale (2012); Guest Post on “My Favourite Novel”; Reviews of The Carrion AnthemThe Damnation of Pythos

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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Gav Thorpe, ASURMEN: THE DARKER ROAD

It is said the Phoenix Lords arrive on the eve of great moments… Guided by fate, Asurmen the Hand of Asuryan comes to the craftworld of Ulthwé. At the behest of the head of the seer council, he joins the warriors of Ulthwé and the young seer Eldrad on a quest to the Crone Worlds in search of the oracle Hiron-athela. It is believed that this being holds an artefact that could safeguard Ulthwé’s future, but in order to obtain it the eldar must travel a dark road…

[Performed by Gareth Armstrong, John Banks, Steve Conlin, Toby Longworth, Penelope Rawlins and Genevieve Swallow.]

I keep forgetting to read Asurmen: The Hand of Asuryan, which I’ve had for years. The Eldar were the first WH40k army I thought was interesting. I remember reading the Codex multiple times, back in the day, and the Phoenix Lords in particular caught my imagination and attention. The Darker Road is a really interesting short story, and I enjoyed seeing how the Elder “work” together. Thorpe’s done a great job of writing interesting, alien characters who are nevertheless relatable. He includes plenty of Eldar-traits, without info-dumping, as well as some good Chaos shenanigans.

As in The Binary Succession, though, there were times when the voices came across as a little too-techno-distorted (for my taste). Not a major issue, but I think it could have been toned down a bit without ruining the story.

If you’re a fan of the Elder, then I highly recommend you check out this audio-drama. Interesting, well-performed. It also reignited my interest in reading The Hand of Asuryan. The second novel in the Phoenix Lords series, Jain Zar: The Storm of Silence, is due out in May 2017.

Asurmen: The Darker Road is out now, published by Black Library.

Also on CR: Interviews with Gav Thorpe — 2011 and 2016; Reviews of The Curse of KhaineDeliverance LostAngels of Caliban

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

New Books (October)

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Featuring: Ben Aaronovitch, Ray Bradbury, Ron Chernow, Douglas Coupland, Charles Cumming, David Dalglish, William C. Dietz, Gavin Extence, Tana French, Jilly Gagnon, John Grisham, Laurell K. Hamilton, Liz Harmer, Oliver Harris, Michael Harvey, Annie Hauxwell, Tracy & Laura Hickman, James Islington, Paulette Jiles, Reed Karaim, Joseph Knox, Mur Lafferty, Mike MacDonald, Jeffrey J. Mariotte, Elan Mastai, Will McIntosh, Nnedi Okorafor, J.D. Oswald, Benjamin Percy, Plutarch, Daniel Pyne, Scott Reardon, Noah Richler, Adam Roberts, James Rollins, John Sandford, George Saunders, Laurence Scott, Marcus Sedgwick, A.J. Smith, Gerard Stembridge, Gav Thorpe, Ian Tregillis, K.B. Wagers, Brent Weeks, Ronald Wright, Roger Zelazny

Above Image: Cover Crop of Bunker #19 (Oni Press)

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Review: ANGELS OF CALIBAN by Gav Thorpe (Black Library)

ThorpeG-HH-AngelsOfCalibanThe Dark Angels’ true nature revealed?

With the Dark Angels spread across a hundred systems, primarch Lion El’Jonson stands as Lord Protector of Ultramar – though his true motives are known to few indeed, and old rivalries on the home world threaten to tear the Legion in half. But when word comes of the Night Lords’ attack on Sotha, the Lion’s brutal actions bring Imperium Secundus once again to the brink of civil war. Not even the most fearsome warriors of the Dreadwing, nor any arcane secret of the Order, can guarantee victory if he sets himself against his loyal brothers.

Ah, the Dark Angels. One of the most mysterious and popular legions of the Astartes. But, sadly, also the one that hasn’t received the best novels in the Heresy series to date. The first two — Descent of Angels and Fallen Angels — were rather disappointing. It is on this foundation that Thorpe must redeem them. His familiarity with the Legion is a considerable asset for this endeavour, and he manages to make them interesting and nuanced again. I enjoyed this, but probably would have liked it more if the events on Caliban had been less prominent. Continue reading

New Books (June-July)

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Featuring: Bradley Beaulieu, Darcey Bell, Morgan Grant Buchanan, Michael Chabon, Bill Clegg, Paul Cornell, Claudia Christian, Mason Cross, Allen Eskens, Alice Hoffman, Chris Holm, Bill James, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Antonio Garcia Martinez, Stephen Metcalfe, Liesa Mignogna, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, Alexandra Oliva, Laurie Penny, Andy Remic, Michael J. Sullivan, Heather Skyler, Melinda Snodgrass, Gav Thorpe, Paul Vidich, Chuck Wendig, Kayla Rae Whitaker, Kai Ashanti Wilson, Tom Wolfe, Joakim Zander, Rob Ziegler

Above artwork: Roche Limit: Monadic #4 (crop), by Kyle Charles (Image Comics) Continue reading