Review: Some Black Library Short Stories


Featuring: Dan Abnett, David Annandale, Matthew Farrer, Josh Reynolds, Andy Smillie, Chris Wraight

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Review: THIRD WAR OF ARMAGGEDON (Black Library)

Various-Armageddon-ThirdWarSome connected WH40k short stories

Armageddon is a world engulfed by war. As the Third War for the planet rages on, the Imperial defenders sell their lives dearly to hold back the near-endless green tide of orks. On this world of battle, legends are forged and heroes made – but against the might of the greatest ork invasion in history, even the Imperium’s greatest warriors may not be enough to triumph.

This is a series of short stories that Black Library released over a single week (one a day) not so long ago. They are all connected to the “Third War of Armageddon”, a major conflict and world in the Warhammer 40,000 sci-fi setting. Black Library have a history of releasing great short fiction, and there were certainly a couple of very good stories in this collection. Continue reading

Short Story Reviews: David Annandale, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, and John French (Black Library)

Three good, recent short stories from BL’s Warhammer 40,000 range

Annandale-Yarrick4-TheGallowsSaintDavid Annandale, YARRICK: THE GALLOWS SAINT

Fresh from his victory against traitors on Mistral, Commissar Yarrick deploys to Abydos to watch a great triumph in honour of the forces who liberated the world from the grip of the alien tau. But when the planet’s governor is assassinated, Yarrick is drawn into a political game with deadly consequences for himself, his Steel Legion troops and Abydos itself. Can he unravel the mystery and reveal the true traitors on the world before it is too late?

Continuing his series detailing the career of Commissar Yarrick, Annandale here offers a short tale set after the conclusion of a conflict. On a world recently ‘saved’ from the influence of the Tau, Yarrick stumbles across a mundane, rather parochial conspiracy. The story moves very fast. This was not necessarily a bad thing, but I think it certainly would have benefited from expansion – as it stands, the story is a bit of a whirlwind, and Yarrick’s investigation is executed pretty much by luck and accident. True, there’s no reason to believe such a case could never happen. I think I was just greedy for a longer, more in-depth tale. Luckily, I have the first full-length Yarrick novel (Imperial Creed) to read, which I will be reading ASAP. (I know, I say that a lot.)

Despite this minor complaint, this is a very good story – Annandale continues to improve as a writer, and writes great stories. Let’s hope there are many more from him.

Also on CR: Reviews of The Carrion Anthem, Eclipse of Hope, Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha, The Dark Hollows of Memory, Stormseer; Interview with David Annandale; Guest Post


DembskiBowden-Abaddon-ChosenOfChaosAaron Dembski-Bowden, ABADDON: CHOSEN OF CHAOS

In the aftermath of battle, a group of Black Legion warlords – traitors to mankind, drawn from across the Legions of Chaos and sworn to the Warmaster – torture a prisoner, a captain of the Space Marines. Defiant to the last, the son of the Emperor is prepared to die, his duty fulfilled. But Abaddon, the Chosen of Chaos, has other plans for this brave warrior…

A very short story, introducing the post-Horus Heresy Abaddon: master of the Black Legion, and Warmaster of the Traitor Astartes, he has taken over from the slain Horus to wage his eternal war on the forces of the Imperium. This story, while very good, doesn’t really do anything, which was slightly frustrating. As an amuse bouche for Abaddon: Talon of Horus, however, it works very well indeed. As long-time readers of the blog will know, I’m a huge fan of Dembski-Bowden’s novels and writing, and Chosen of Chaos shows everything I’ve come to love about the way he writes. Only… not enough of it to be satisfying. I would, therefore, recommend you read this only when you don’t have a long wait until Talon of Horus.

Also on CR: Reviews of Cadian Blood, Soul Hunter, Blood Reaver, Void Stalker, Armageddon, The First Heretic, Betrayer, The Emperor’s Gift


FrenchJ-Ahriman-TheDeadOracleJohn French, Ahriman: The Dead Oracle

Ctesias, an ancient Space Marine and former prisoner of Amon of the Thousand Sons, tells the tale of one of the events that led him to his destiny. After Amon’s demise, Ctesias comes into the service of Ahriman, the exiled First Captain of the broken Legion, and is given power undreamed of – and drawn into a plot involving the otherworldly daemons of the warp, the machinations of Ahriman and the mysterious dead oracle.

This is set after the events of Ahriman: Exile, the first novel in French’s series focusing on the Thousand Sons’ greatest sorcerer. It is not, however, essential to have read Exile in order to follow or enjoy The Dead Oracle – I have yet to read the novel, but I really enjoyed this story. In fact, of these three stories reviewed here, this is by far my favourite. I think French has done a great job with Ahriman, painting him as a rather withdrawn, highly-focused and competent sorcerer, attempting to atone for and remedy what he has wrought on his Legion. The story isn’t from Ahriman’s perspective, however – rather, it is from Ctesias’s P.O.V. Through his eyes, we see how far Ahriman is prepared to go on his path to redemption. We also see just how powerful and learned he is about the way of Chaos. Not to mention how tricksy he can be, fooling even greater daemons of the Warp.

After finishing The Dead Oracle, my interest in reading Exile only grew. It has been moved up my TBR pile.



“Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha” by David Annandale (Black Library)

Annandale-Yarrick1-ChainsOfGolgothaAn excellent Commissar Yarrick Novella

From the ashes of the Second War of Armageddon a hero of the Imperium emerged. War-torn and bloody, Commissar Yarrick swore vengeance on the beast that escaped his righteous wrath, the despoiler of Armageddon – Ghazghkull Thraka.

Tracking down the ork warlord to the desolate world of Golgotha, Yarrick leads an armoured company to destroy the beast but does not reckon on Thraka’s cunning. Ambushed, his army all-but destroyed, Yarrick is captured and awakes to find himself aboard the beast’s space hulk facing a fate worse than death…

This is a very fine science fiction novella. Annandale has been writing for Black Library a while, now, and with each new release I am even more impressed. Taking on one of the most beloved Imperial characters from the Warhammer 40,000 canon, though, could be a daunting task. Annandale has risen to the task admirably, however, and has managed to capture the essence of Yarrick and his struggle against Ghazghkull excellently. Chains of Golgotha absolutely does his subjects justice.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, but predominantly from Yarrick’s. The others, from Colonel Rogge and Teodor Helm, for example, add extra colour and allow Annandale to step back and show us how those around Yarrick see him. It offers a nice juxtaposition with his own insecurities and recognition of how people view him. His loyal aide de camp, Lanner, is very good at keeping Yarrick grounded, for example.

“For my pains, my reward was a barrage of outrages too studied to be real. They were theatre for my benefit, and it was theatre that I needed, especially since Armageddon. It was one thing to be aware of one’s own legend. Lanner made sure I didn’t believe in it.”

The story takes place two years into this current campaign, and it is not going very well for the Imperial forces. Yarrik has accepted that he has a nemesis, an enemy who is making statements in his attacks and strategies aimed at him, taunting him at the same time as destroying as many Imperial forces as possible. That nemesis is Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka, a hulking beast of an ork warlord, who has been uniting hundreds, if not thousands, of ork warbands and has cut a bloody swathe across space. He is not an opponent to take lightly, but nor is he a typical ork leader.

“As much as it disgusted me to even articulate the thought, there was a monstrous truth that had to be faced: Thraka had the potential to become the ork emperor.”

Late in this campaign, we join Yarrick as he is leading his army to a rendezvous point. It’s been a long, hard-fought campaign, and as well as the continued depravations of the ork forces, support for the war (political and moral) has waned precipitously.

“I had to fight tooth and nail for every tank, every rifle, and every man of my army, every single day since the enthusiasm for the crusade had evaporated in its second year.”

Little does Yarrick know, however, that things are going to get much, much worse for him. As the Imperials are ambushed and their troops either butchered or captured, Chains of Golgotha morphs into a very interesting, unique Warhammer 40,000 tale. We’re taken aboard a vast space hulk, and Yarrick comes face-to-face with Thraka. As I just said, though, this is a highly original story, and nothing plays out as I expected. I will, therefore, not spoil any more of the plot – needless to say, though, this worked for me on every level.

Chains of Golgotha is a great intro to the character. I really liked the tone and voice of the story and of Yarrick. Annandale’s writing is excellent, as well. The author has a gift for giving all of his characters distinct personalities and voices. It hasn’t always worked for me in the past (Mephiston, sadly, was rather odd in Eclipse of Hope), but he nails it in this novella. I’ve also really enjoyed some of his other work (Carrion Anthem, especially). In this story, he once again shows his gift for bringing the maelstrom of warfare to life on the page – it’s an absolute whirlwind at the start, but on the hulk it becomes much closer, more atmospheric and in some ways even more brutal.

Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha is a fantastic novella, and hopefully the first of many Yarrick tales to come. Annandale is definitely one of Black Library’s best up-and-coming authors.

Highly recommended.

[Chains of Golgotha is also available as a special edition hardcover, but I bought the eBook edition.]