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)