Review: PHAROS by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-HH-PharosThe Tower of Sotha besieged

With the noble Emperor Sanguinius ruling from Macragge, Imperium Secundus stands as a lone beacon of hope even as the Warmaster’s forces continue to ravage the rest of the galaxy. Roboute Guilliman, still Master of Ultramar, has convinced his brother that Terra has fallen and that the mysterious Mount Pharos on Sotha now holds the key to mankind’s future. But the Night Lords, those cruel and pitiless sons of Konrad Curze, have been watching from the shadows, and make ready to launch their long-planned attack on the Pharos itself…

This is Guy Haley’s first full-length contribution to the Horus Heresy series, and Pharos is a very good addition to the series. Populated by interesting characters and strange, alien tech, the novel brings some minor plot threads to a close while also moving the story forward a bit. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Review: DEATHFIRE by Nick Kyme (Black Library)

KymeN-HH32-DeathfireThe surviving Salamanders search for purpose and hope

Vulkan lies in state beneath the Fortress of Hera, and yet many of his sons still refuse to believe that he is truly dead. After a seemingly miraculous rescue by the Ultramarines, Artellus Numeon, once captain of the Pyre Guard, urges the other Salamanders on Macragge to leave Imperium Secundus and return their primarch’s body to the home world of Nocturne — there to be reborn in the flames of Mount Deathfire. But Numeon grapples endlessly with his doubts and fears for the future of the Legion, while their foes seek to carve out new destinies of their own…

It feels like a very long time since I last read a Horus Heresy novel. I used to read them as soon as they were released, but I seem to have taken a bit of a break. So, I decided to catch up, and ended up reading the last four novels in a couple of weeks. For the main, it was great to be reading back in that setting. Deathfire, the sequel to Vulkan Lives moves the Salamanders’ story forwards, eventually bringing the shattered legion some hope. It is not, however, an easy journey… Continue reading

Guest Post: “Coming Back — On Alien Races and Space Adventures” by Jamie Sawyer

SawyerJ-AuthorPicMy debut novel, Artefact, was released in February 2016. It is book one of The Lazarus War, and the story continues with Legion, released in the UK and US on 26th May 2016.

The Lazarus War is a series focusing on a far-future space war. The Alliance – the nominal “good guys” of the series  – are locked in an apparently endless conflict with the Krell – a bio-mechanical alien race. But in the universe of The Lazarus War, soldiers never really die: they remotely-operate clone bodies (called “simulants”). That means that if a veteran soldier dies, he retains his experience and knowledge, and can simply “reset” to a new body. Pretty handy, given the situations many of these soldiers find themselves in… Continue reading

Turn Back 10: HORUS RISING by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

TurnBackTimeClockIn the third instalment of “Turn Back 10”, we take a look at the third review I posted on CR.

Dan Abnett’s Horus Rising is the first novel in Black Library’s long-running, at-one-time New York Times-bestselling Horus Heresy series, chronicling the beginning of what would become the Warhammer 40,000 game and fiction universe. If you’ve been following CR for even a short while, you’ll have seen that I have been an avid, loyal reader of this series — I’ve posted many reviews of the novels, short stories, novellas and audio-dramas. I haven’t reviewed all the books, though, but probably a majority have featured in some way.

The series has experienced some ups-and-downs. The first three novels — Horus Rising, Graham McNeill’s False Gods and Ben Counter’s Galaxy In Flames — form a fantastic opening story-arc that sets the scene brilliantly, and introduces us to some of sci-fi’s most interesting characters. Sadly, the novels afterwards were of varying quality, but the series picked up again with McNeill’s A Thousand Sons, and maintained a very strong run until everything screeched to a halt with the events on Calth…

Anyway, here’s the review…

*

HORUS RISING by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

Abnett-HH1-HorusRisingThe seeds of heresy are sown

At the dawn of the 31st millennium, the Imperium of Man has reasserted its dominance over the galaxy. It is a golden age of rediscovery and conquest, and the Emperor’s Great Crusade has placed his superhuman primarch sons at the head of the mighty Space Marine Legions – the most powerful military force ever assembled. Newly promoted to serve as the Emperor’s Warmaster, the idealistic Horus now stands above his brothers, even as the Crusade enters what must surely be its final stages and dark, cosmic truths begin to reveal themselves. Far beyond the alien threat of malignant xenos breeds or rogue human civilisations, a war now looms that could threaten the final extinction of mankind… The first novel in the epic series, detailing the fall of mankind at the peak of the Great Crusade. Warmaster Horus leads his Legion in the name of the Emperor… but for how long?

Horus Rising is the first book in a trilogy from Black Library that chronicles the events of the Horus Heresy, a time when humanity was ripped apart in an intergalactic civil war, under the leadership of Warmaster Horus, one of the Emperor’s Primarchs and formerly the Emperor’s favourite. Continue reading

Review: Recent HORUS HERESY Short Fiction

HorusHeresy-2016eBooks

It’s been a while since I read anything set in Black Library’s ongoing Horus Heresy series — even longer when you just consider novels (I’m now two behind). I’m also having a rather long, frustrating bout of reader’s block. Over the past week or so, BL released a handful of new eBooks, and I thought the familiarity of the series and the slim length of the stories might help knock me back into a reading rhythm. Some of these stories were published before in other formats (as audio-dramas, for example).

Featuring: John French, Graham McNeill, James Swallow, Gav Thorpe, Chris Wraight Continue reading

Review: THE PURGE by Anthony Reynolds (Black Library)

ReynoldsA-HH-PurgeAn excellent new Horus Heresy novella (one of the best so far)

The Shadow Crusade spreads across Ultramar, with the Word Bearers 34th Company falling upon the isolated world of Percepton Primus. As the fighting draws out into a programme of extermination, embittered commander Sor Talgron begins to question his part in Lorgar’s grander scheme – for one who stood beside primarchs and high lords in the grand halls of the Imperial Palace, what glory can there now be in punishing Guilliman’s upstart sons? But the price of doubt is known all too well, and if the Word Bearers are ever to return to Terra in triumph then they must purge the last remnants of such unbelief from the face of the galaxy…

Originally published as one of Black Library’s ever-increasing deluge of limited editions, The Purge is now available in hardcover and eBook for a wider audience. And any fan of the Horus Heresy series should be very happy about this — it’s easily one of the best Heresy novellas the publisher has released. Continue reading

Review: BLADES OF THE TRAITOR (Black Library)

Various-HH-BladesOfTheTraitorThe latest Horus Heresy anthology from Black Library

Across the war-torn galaxy, those sworn to Horus’s cause shake the Imperium to its very foundations. Before the traitors’ relentless onslaught, the wisdom of ages past is lost and forgotten, daemons hide amongst the common people and the warp’s corrupting influence can be seen in almost every facet of the Heresy. For those who would become champions of the new order, there can surely be no redemption – only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods…

This book collects five short stories set in the Horus Heresy age. Two of them I’ve already read and reviewed: the excellent Daemonology by Chris Wraight, and the very-short-but-also-very-good Black Oculus by John French. These three new stories are excellent. While not the longest anthology BL has done, this may be their best in terms of quality in a long while. Very highly recommended for fans of the series. The collection probably has more to offer fans who have read the novels that sowed the seeds for these stories, but they are also five examples of excellent, dark science fiction. Continue reading

Review: DEATH AND DEFIANCE by Various (Black Library)

Various-Death&Defiance(HH)A collection of Horus Heresy novellas

Words alone can no longer convey the horrors of the war that now grips the Imperium. In what should have been an age of enlightenment and glorious triumph, instead warriors on both sides reel from the twin agonies of betrayal and bloodshed. The hatred of a sworn foe, the ire of a primarch, or the unholy wrath of a daemon-lord – none but the mighty Space Marines can hope to weather such torments unscathed…

Death and Defiance is the latest anthology from Black Library – originally, it was only available as a hardcover (possibly at the Black Library Weekender?). The short stories it contained were recently made available through the publisher’s website as individual eBooks. Naturally, given my addiction to Horus Heresy fiction, I snapped them up right away. On the whole, it’s a very good collection. Surprisingly, though, my favourite author featured did not deliver the best story (in fact, it was by far the weakest). Continue reading

Quick Review: “The Truth of Valour” by Tanya Huff (Titan)

HuffT-C5-TruthOfValourUKReviewed by H.

The fifth Torin Kerr/Conferderation novel

Having left the Marine Corps, former Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is attempting to build a new life with salvage operator Craig Ryder. Turns out, civilian life is a lot rougher than she’d imagined. Torin is left for dead when pirates attack their spaceship and take Craig prisoner. But “left for dead” has never stopped Torin. Determined to rescue Craig, she calls in her Marines. And that’s when her mission expands from stopping the pirates to changing the balance of power in known space.

I am a big fan of Tanya Huff’s writing, and have read almost all of the novels Titan Books has issued in the UK. The Silvered was a very good fantasy novel (more please!) and the Torin Kerr/Confederation novels have been particularly excellent. The Truth of Valour sees some major changes to Torin’s life and adventures. While I didn’t think it was quite as good as the first four novels in the series, it was nevertheless a gripping, entertaining read.

As the synopsis states, Torin Kerr has left the marines. Now a civilian, our heroine must adjust to her new life. Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events means that she can’t quite hang up her fighting skills just yet. After the pirate attack mentioned in the synopsis, she is forced back into action in order to save Craig.

Much of what I loved from the first two books remains – the tight writing, Torin herself, and the very well-written action scenes. However, the action felt different, this time. Perhaps, with the lack of a military framework, the violence feels more brutal, more prominent for some reason. When in the army, Kerr’s story was more about protecting her comrades and solving a problem. She also was, effectively, in charge of inter-species relations. She was the oil in a complex and difficult machine. Here, however, she’s still solving a problem (captured love interest), but the camaraderie aspect felt peripheral – she teams up with some fellow ex-military pals, though they weren’t focused on, much. The more action-adventure aspect of the story, as opposed to military sci-fi, may be a welcome change for many – and, indeed, it did make sure this novel differed from previous and avoided repetition, or treading well-worn ground.

Nevertheless, the novel is still a lot of fun, and I read it pretty quickly. Torin remains a great character, the plot still moves briskly, and Huff’s prose is as good as ever. If you haven’t tried out the series, yet, I really recommend it – it’s engaging, very well-written, and addictive. I’m really looking forward to the next novel in the series, Peacemaker (not sure when it’ll be published).

Also on CR: Reviews of Valour’s Choice, The Better Part of Valour, The Heart of Valour, Valour’s Trial

Mini-Review: “Valour’s Trial” by Tanya Huff (Titan Books)

HuffT-C4-ValoursTrialUK

Reviewed by H.

Huff’s Military Sci-Fi series returns for a strong fourth installment!

Unexpectedly pulled from battle, Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr of the Confederation Marines finds herself in an underground POW camp that shouldn’t exist, where her fellow marine prisoners have lost all will to escape. Now, Torin must fight her way not only out of the prison, but also past the growing compulsion to lie down and give up – not realizing that her escape could alter the entire course of the war.

Four books in, and Tanya Huff is still keeping this series interesting and engaging. Much of what I liked in the first three books can also be said for this one. The characters are pretty much all engaging and well-developed. Torin Kerr remains a fantastic heroine. The action sequences are fantastic. And the setting is well-realised. So, I’ll keep this short, to avoid repeating myself too much. Needless to say, though, this is another great addition to the series.

Torin Kerr still saves the day, through her dedication not only to the Confederation but also to the members of her team (whoever they happen to be on any given adventure). In Valour’s Trial, after waking up in a hellish prison, Kerr and some new comrades are up against a hitherto unknown enemy. After a short while, she attempts an escape with some of her fellow prisoners. While breaking out, she discovers that some of the Others – the opposition in the war in which she has been fighting – are also held captive. Who, then, are their gaolers? What does this mean for the wider war effort?

As before, it’s great to see how Torin deals with the obstacles that her adventurous (perilous) career keeps throwing in front of her. She’s a great character, and thus far has never been dull. Reading about her is entertaining. Huff has done a great job in this novel of writing some great characters – they’re really well-rounded and enjoyable guides to the world/universe, most of all Torin. The humour remains – perhaps a little too similar and repetitive after four books – which adds a welcome levity to certain scenes, and avoids the series from becoming too bleak.

The ending of the novel offers some tantalising possibilities for the next in the series, The Truth of Valour, too. It’ll be interesting to see how different that novel will be. If you have any interest in military science fiction, or science fiction in general really, then Tanya Huff’s Confederation series is a must-read. Highly recommended. Can’t wait to get my hands on the next one!

For Fans of: Rachel Bach, Jack Campbell, Ann Aguirre, David Weber, Elizabeth Moon, Jean Johnson, Mike Shepherd