Quick Review: VALDOR by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

WraightC-Valdor-BirthOfTheImperiumOne of the most important characters from the Horus Heresy series, and also an illuminating glimpse at the early Imperium

Explore the history of one of the most well known heroes of the Imperium…

Constantin Valdor. It is a name that brings forth images of heroism, honour and peerless duty. For it is he who commands the will of the Legio Custodes that most esteemed and dedicated cadre of elite warriors. He is the Emperor’s sword, His shield, His banner and he knows no equal. Clad in shining auramite, his fist clenched around the haft of his Guardian Spear, he is the bulwark against all enemies of the throne, within or without.

Nearing the end of the wars of Unity, Valdor’s courage and purpose is put to the test as never before. The petty warlords and tyrants of Old Earth have been all but vanquished, and the Emperor’s armies are triumphant. What now for the nascent Imperium and what fate its forgotten soldiers, its Thunder Warriors and armies of Unity? A new force is rising, one which shall eclipse all others and open the way to the stars. But change on Terra is seldom bloodless and for progress to be ensured darker deeds are necessary.

This is the first in Black Library’s Horus Heresy Character series — a series of novels that expands the overall Horus Heresy series in some way. Focusing on Constantin Valdor, the commander of the Legio Custodes, the Emperor’s personal guard. It’s a novel that not only gives us some more insight and background to the character, but also an interesting and illuminating (to a point) glimpse at the early years of the Imperium, before mankind had set out once again for the stars. A quick, interesting and engaging read. Continue reading

Upcoming: PARIAH and PENITENT by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

AbnettD-B1-Pariah2021Back in 2012, Black Library published Pariah by Dan Abnett. The first novel to focus predominantly on Alizebeth Bequin, a beloved character from the author’s other Inquisition series — Eisenhorn and Ravenor. Fans of the series have long been waiting for the conclusion to the story, and this March Dan and Black Library are going to deliver the highly-anticipated Penitent. The first novel will also receive a new cover in the (superb) style of the new book.

Here’s the synopsis for Pariah:

In the city of Queen Mab, nothing is quite as it seems. Pariah, spy and Inquisitorial agent, Alizebeth Bequin is all of these things and yet none of them. An enigma, even to herself, she is caught between Inquisitors Gregor Eisenhorn and Gideon Ravenor, former allies now enemies who are playing a shadow game against a mysterious and deadly foe. Coveted by the Archenemy, pursued by the Inquisition, Bequin becomes embroiled in a dark plot of which she knows not her role or purpose. Helped by a disparate group of allies, she must unravel the secrets of her life and past if she is to survive a coming battle in which the line between friends and foes is fatally blurred.

AbnettD-B2-PentitentAnd, for those who have been eagerly awaiting Penitent, here’s the synopsis:

In the mysterious city of Queen Mab, the forces of light and darkness are locked in a murderous struggle for truth. The dedicated agents of the Holy Inquisition battle with their shadowy counterparts, the infamous Cognitae, to discover the encrypted identity of the enigmatic, all-powerful King in Yellow. Caught at the heart of this struggle is the pariah Alizebeth Bequin. Will she stand with the Inquisition, or with the Cognitae that raised her? And if she chooses the Inquisition, will it be the wise but ruthless Ravenor, or his rival, the denounced heretic Eisenhorn? Bequin must withstand an onslaught of angels and daemons, and even the monstrous warriors of the Traitor Legions, to unpick the greatest riddle of her life.

If you haven’t yet had the chance to read Abnett’s Inquisition fiction, both the Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies have bee released as omnibus editions. The new editions of Pariah and Penitent are due to be published by Black Library in early March 2021.

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Quick Review: DARKNESS IN THE BLOOD by Guy Haley (Black Library)

HaleyG-WH40k-BA3-DarknessInTheBloodDante settles into his role as Imperial Regent, while Mephiston’s powers threaten to overtake him… and everyone else

The galaxy is in flames. Chaos is in the ascendant across the stars. The Great Rift has split the holdings of the Imperium in twain, isolating entire sectors from the light of Holy Terra.

But all hope is not lost. The Primarch Roboute Guilliman has returned from deathless sleep, and appointed Commander Dante, lord of the Blood Angels, as Regent and Warden of the newly dubbed Imperium Nihilus.

In the Baal system, the shattered holding of the Chapter is being rebuilt, and Dante plans the greatest campaign of his long life, to retake half an empire. And yet at this moment of rebirth there are dangers close to home that could overwhelm all those who carry the blood of Sanguinius in their veins, stopping Dante’s noble endeavour before it has even begun.

The Flaw in Sanguinius’ sons is growing. As the twin curses of the Red Thirst and the Black Rage threaten everything, the hardest ordeal will fall upon Mephiston, twice-born Lord of Death and Chief Librarian of the Blood Angels. Among the mighty lords of Baal, perhaps only he can save them all, by mastering the darkness in the blood…

First released as a special edition, I’ve been looking forward to Darkness in the Blood for some time. Continuing the story of the Blood Angels begun in The Devastation of Baal and in Darius Hinks’s Mephiston trilogy, it presents an important piece in the puzzle that is the Angels’ place in the changed universe. With new allies, technology, and challenges, it has plenty of action as well as quieter moments that really add to our understanding of the Blood Angels and their heroes. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: VAULTS OF OBSIDIAN (Black Library)

BlackstoneFortress-VaultsOfObsidianA collection of stories set on and around the Blackstone Fortress

For uncountable ages the Blackstone Fortress has kept its watchful silence. It patiently waits, willing those brave enough to gamble everything exploring its halls. Only the most determined of adventurers will return with riches – the unworthy are never seen again. But to many, the rewards far outweigh the risks. Among the denizens of Precipice, ratlings, robots, and rogue traders all pursue their own agendas, pitting themselves against the myriad forces of darkness that have claimed the fortress as their own. Deadliest of all is Obsidius Mallex, who aims to twist another Talisman of Vaul to Chaos’ unholy cause. Unless this traitor is stopped, the galaxy will burn beneath the wrath of the Ruinous Gods.

CONTENTS
Talisman of Vaul by Darius Hinks
Shapes Pent in Hell by Josh Reynolds
Fates and Fortunes by Thomas Parrott
Past in Flames by J C Sterns
Negavolt by Nicholas Wolf
The Three-Edged Blade by Denny Flowers
Motherlode by Nick Kyme
Purity is a Lie by Guy Haley
The Oath in Darkness by David Annandale
Man of Iron by Guy Haley
The Beast Inside by Darius Hinks
The Last of the Longhorns by Nick Kyme

I recently read Darius Hinks’s Blackstone Fortress, which served as a great introduction to this setting. Naturally, I was interested in reading more, and Vaults of Obsidian was available for review. It’s an interesting collections of stories, offering a variety of perspectives on the Blackstone Fortress and its unusual place in the WH40k setting. I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Very Quick Review: SCIONS OF THE EMPEROR (Black Library)

HorusHeresy-ScionsOfTheEmperorA short collection of stories to add colour to some of the Primarchs

From their shadowed origins to the desperate battles that ensued when half of them rebelled against their father, the Sons of the Emperor – the vaunted primarchs – were among the greatest of humanity’s champions. They were warriors without peer and heroes whose deeds became legend. From a tale of Ferrus Manus in his earliest days to mysterious murders that lead Rogal Dorn into peril on the eve of the Siege of Terra, the eight tales in this volume lay bare key moments in the lives of these mighty heroes.

CONTENTS
Canticle by David Guymer
The Verdict of the Scythe by David Annandale
A Game of Opposites by Guy Haley
Better Angels by Ian St Martin
The Conqueror’s Truth by Gav Thorpe
The Sinew of War by Darius Hinks
The Chamber at the End of Memory by James Swallow
First Legion by Chris Wraight

Each of these stories adds a bit of colour and depth to what we know about the Primarchs. There are eight stories, so they don’t cover all of the Emperor’s sons, but a good range is featured. I enjoyed these. Continue reading

Review: SATURNINE by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

AbnettD-HHSoT4-SaturnineA superb novel: action-packed, revelatory, both grand and intimate in scale.

As the traitors tighten their grip on Terra, Rogal Dorn must marshal the Imperial hosts to weather the storm. But not all of the defenders will survive the onslaught…

The Traitor Host of Horus Lupercal tightens its iron grip on the Palace of Terra, and one by one the walls and bastions begin to crumple and collapse. Rogal Dorn, Praetorian of Terra, redoubles his efforts to keep the relentless enemy at bay, but his forces are vastly outnumbered and hopelessly outgunned. Dorn simply cannot defend everything. Any chance of survival now requires sacrifice, but what battles dare he lose so that others can be won? Is there one tactical stroke, one crucial combat, that could turn the tide forever and win the war outright?

The Loyalists have their backs against the wall. Resources are fast depleting, and nobody knows the status of potential reinforcements. The Traitors are throwing everything they have — corporeal and never born — at breaking open the Imperial Palace’s walls. Primarchs Dorn and Perturabo are locked in a deadly game, trying to find chinks in the other master tactician’s plans. When one appears, both sides rush to exploit it. This is a superb novel: it packs quite a punch, drops revelations all over the place, advances the overall meta-story, and is utterly gripping. Continue reading

Quick Review: MANFLAYER by Josh Reynolds (Black Library)

ReynoldsJ-FB3-ManflayerThe conclusion to the Fabius Bile trilogy

As his Homo Novus project comes to fruition, Fabius Bile faces a new threat – the dreaded haemonculi of the Thirteen Scars. Can he marshal his forces to protect his creations, or are the New Men doomed to death?

In the centuries since his return from Commorragh, Fabius Bile has distanced himself from the affairs of friend and foe, content only to oversee the cruel evolution of his New Men. But when his creations are threatened by the monstrous haemonculi of the Thirteen Scars, the Manflayer is forced to seek out new allies and old enemies alike in an effort to preserve all that he has built. Homo Novus must survive… even if Fabius Bile must die to ensure it.

Josh Reynolds brings his Fabius Bile trilogy to a dramatic close. Bile is one of the most intriguing WH40k characters, one of multiple contradictions and eccentricities. The author once again brings him to life on the page, displaying in full his narcissism, mania, and insatiable thirst for knowledge. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: SONS OF THE SELENAR by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeillG-HHSoT-SonsOfTheSelenarThe Shattered Legions’ story comes to a heroic, tragic, and fitting end

The Shattered Legions crew of the Sisypheum, broken and at the end of their endurance, find themselves divided – torn between following their resurrected captain on a suicidal mission or obeying orders to return to Terra and rejoin their Legion brothers.

Following a series of garbled messages intercepted by the Kryptos, the divided warriors descend to the shattered surface of Luna. Here, their bonds of loyalty, duty, and their devotion to one another will be tested as ancient horrors of the earliest days of gene-manipulation are unleashed, and a long-buried secret is revealed.

A secret that will have far-reaching consequences for the future course of the galaxy, no matter who eventually claims Terra.

Following the betrayal at Isstvan, a handful of loyalist legions were shattered. Various members of these forces — Salamanders, Raven Guard, and Iron Hands — eventually coalesced into mixed forces that have persecuted their own crusade against Horus and his Traitor Legions. As the Siege of Terra begins, the vestiges of this ragtag force makes its way to the Solar system. I really enjoyed this novella. Continue reading

Quick Review: MECHANICUM by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeillG-HH9-MechanicumThe Heresy comes to Mars

As the flames of treachery spread throughout the Imperium, Horus plots to subvert or destroy all those who would stand against him. On Mars, home world of the Mechanicum priesthood, the great manufactory-cities have long produced much of the weaponry required for the expeditionary fleets across the galaxy – making the world invaluable to whoever controls it in the coming war. Now, the Warmaster’s agents begin to stoke the fires of rebellion, turning the loyalist forges and the mighty Titan Legions against one another. And, with whispers spreading of an ancient terror lurking beneath the Red Planet’s surface, the Dark Mechanicum rises…

For some reason, I missed reading Mechanicum when it first came out. I was reminded recently that I hadn’t read it yet, and decided to plug this gap. The ninth book in the Horus Heresy series, it’s an interesting look at how Horus’s betrayal split the Mechanicum forces and saw Mars fall into civil war, grounded in some human stories of those who were either at the centre of events or existed on the periphery. I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: ANARCH by Dan Abnett (Black Library)

AbnettD-GG15-AnarchThe Victory Arc comes to an intense, bloody close…

‘Men of Tanith… do you want to live forever?’

On the forge world of Urdesh, the massed forces of the Imperial Crusade engage in a final bloody battle with the Archenemy commander known as the Anarch, and his elite warriors — the barbaric Sons of Sek. A victory for either side will decide more than just the fate of Urdesh… it will determine the outcome of the entire Sabbat Worlds Crusade. Ibram Gaunt — now serving at the right hand of Warmaster Macaroth – finds himself at the very heart of the struggle. His regiment, the Tanith First “Ghosts”, holds the vital key to ultimate success. But as the forces of the Imperium and Chaos square up for the final, large-scale confrontation, Gaunt discovers that the greatest threat of all may come from inside rather than out.

The previous novel in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, The Warmaster ended with a number of cliffhangers — beloved characters’ fates were left in question, and tension on Urdesh was building towards an almighty confrontation between the Imperial and Archenemy forces. It took me a long time to get around to reading that novel, but I knew I didn’t want to wait too long before reading Anarch. I’m glad I didn’t — this is an intense end to a the series’s most recent story-arc, and it packs quite a punch. Continue reading