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 Reviews: EXTINCTION and FATESPINNER (Black Library)

Two new Chaos Marine short stories.

EXTINCTION by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

The Sons of Horus are hunted by their brothers…

The Horus Heresy is over. The traitorous Warmaster is dead, his allies defeated, and the Sons of Horus are a dying Legion, fled now to the furthest reaches of the galaxy… and beyond. First Captain Ezekyle Abaddon, always among the most devoted and bellicose of his brethren, is now set adrift – who will rise to claim the title of Warmaster? Who will lead them in their long war for vengeance? And will that hallowed champion of the Ruinous Powers be able to reunite the old XVIth before they embrace extinction?

This is an interesting short story, continuing Dembski-Bowden’s growing Black Legion story. This one is set shortly after the collapse of the Horus Heresy, and is made up of a series of vignettes: in each, Sons of Horus legionnaires are being hunted down by their former brothers (traitors and loyalist). Abaddon doesn’t feature as much as I had expected, but he makes an interesting appearance at the end. Extinction doesn’t move the story along too much, but it’s a good piece to keep our interest high in advance of the next novel in the series, Black Legion. [If you haven’t already, I’d recommend reading The Talon of Horus, which started the series with a bang.]

Extinction at Black Library, Amazon (UK)

*

wraightc-wh40k-fatespinnerFATESPINNER by Chris Wraight

The Thousand Sons be tricksy…

In the underhive depths of Rigo V, the Sorcerers Ramon and Phaelius of the Thousand Sons seek proscribed knowledge. They are hunted, these witches, by the Rune Priest Thorskir who has tracked them across the length and breadth of the galaxy. At last after an arduous search, Thorskir has found where his prey will be and means to end them. But the plans of those allied to the Great Architect of Fate are not so easy to unbind and a secret lurks beneath Rigo V, one that has been long in the devising, a twist of fate and a plan so foul it is worthy of Tzeentch itself.

This is an interesting story. I’ve always liked the Thousand Sons Legion, and Fatespinner has everything one could want from them: daemons, sorcery, a great twist. Wraight’s writing continues to get better, and this is perhaps one of his best short stories. I would certainly be interested in reading more stories (short or novel-length) featuring Ramon and Phaelius. An excellent, highly recommended story — all fans of WH40k fiction should read it, and it’s a must for fans of Tzeentch and the Thousand Sons.

Fatespinner at Black Library, Amazon (UK)

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: 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.

*

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