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

Review: ROBOUTE GUILLIMAN by David Annandale (Black Library)

The first in a new series focusing on each of the Emperor’s Primarchs

Long before the coming of the Imperium, the realm of Ultramar was ruled by Roboute Guilliman, the last Battle King of Macragge. Even after learning of his true heritage as a primarch son of the Emperor of Mankind, he strove to expand his domain as efficiently and benevolently as possible, with the XIII Legion Ultramarines as his alone to command. Now, facing a rival empire on the ork-held world of Thoas, Guilliman must choose his weapons carefully – otherwise his dream of a brighter future could be lost forever.

It’s no surprise to regular readers of CR that I’m quite fond of the Horus Heresy series. I was both surprised and pleased, therefore, when Black Library announced a companion series — one that would comprise one novel for each of the Primarchs, loyal and traitor, set before the Heresy. Given recent developments in the WH40k game universe, it’s perhaps not surprising that the series would kick off with Roboute Guilliman. And it’s a very strong start, too. Continue reading

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

Horus Heresy Short Reviews: CENSURE and WOLF OF ASH AND FIRE (Black Library)

Just wanted to flag up two Horus Heresy short stories I’ve read recently, as they were both very good, and well worth an enthusiast’s time.

Kyme-HH-CensureCENSURE by Nick Kyme

In the depths of Calth’s arcology network, the Underworld War has raged for years. Aeonid Thiel, previously an honoured sergeant of the Ultramarines, once again finds himself in trouble – pitted against the daemonic forces of the Word Bearers, he has no choice but to venture back to the ravaged surface and brave the deadly solar flares that have scoured all life from this world. With a lowly Imperial Army trooper as his only companion, it falls to him to drive the maniacal Dark Apostle Kurtha Sedd and his warband from the overrun XIIIth Legion stronghold.

This was originally released as an audio-drama. When it was released as an eBook, however, I picked it up right away. Kyme is really growing as an author – each new story of his that I read, I can see that he’s just getting better and better. This story is set (once again) on Calth, the planet at which the Heresy and the extent of the betrayal truly exploded out into the open. After the battle of Calth, there could be no denying that the galaxy had indeed been set on fire. Censure is set some years after the events of Mark of Calth and Know No Fear, and Aeonid Thiel has returned to the ravaged world to fight against the Word Bearers and support the remnant loyalists. It focuses on a specific mission and conflict, and is fast-paced, nuanced, and expertly paced. Quite excellent, and very highly recommended.

*

McNeill-HH-WolfOfAshAndFireTHE WOLF OF ASH AND FIRE by Graham McNeill

The Wolf of Ash and Fire is a Horus Heresy short story that takes place during the Great Crusade, before the outbreak of the Horus Heresy. The Wolf of Ash and Fire follows Horus Lupercal, fighting alongside the Emperor Himself, as the Luna Wolves fight for control of the Ork-held planetoid of Gorro. The Wolf of Ash and Fire was released as a free e-book with every copy of Macragge’s Honour.

This short story was released free through the Black Library website some time ago. It’s a quick, battle-filled tale of Horus’s strategic expertise, battlefield fury, and pre-Heresy devotion to the Emperor. It is also one of the few stories that features both the Emperor and Horus on the battlefield together – and it is epic. The battle scenes are great, swirling and furious. I’d really like McNeill (or any of the Heresy writers, actually) to revisit this campaign, or just write some more stories like this. As with Censure, this is highly recommended for all fans of the series. I can’t wait for McNeill’s next Heresy novel, Vengeful Spirit (out later this year).

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)

Review: THE UNREMEMBERED EMPIRE by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

Abnett-HH-UnrememberedEmpireIsolation, Confusion and Consolidation during the Horus Heresy

Far out on the Eastern Fringe, the realm of Ultramar stands alone. Having weathered the Word Bearers’ attack on Calth and the subsequent Shadow Crusade against the Five Hundred Worlds, the Ultramarines primarch Roboute Guilliman now draws all loyalist forces to Macragge as he contemplates a new future for mankind. With the arrival of more and more fugitives from the war that has engulfed the rest of the galaxy, all distinction between friend and foe is lost – isolated from Terra by fearsome warp storms, is Guilliman making a bid for power to rival even the renegade Warmaster Horus?

In The Unremembered Empire, Dan Abnett is firing on all creative cylinders. It’s an epic novel, in many respects – action-packed, momentous, a type of bridging point in the overall Horus Heresy series. I blitzed through this, and was left desperately wanting more at the end. A very good addition to the series. Absolutely addictive. Continue reading