HH17 – Black Library Weekender II

HH17 – Black Library Weekender II

BL-Weekender-II-logo

This weekend I attended the second annual Black Library Weekender event.  After the tremendous enjoyment I had at the first weekender, I was really looking forward to this weekend and whilst it didn’t match the novel excitement of last year, I still had a great time.

 

Like last year, the Weekender was held in the Nottingham Belfry hotel, and once again Black Library had the run of the place.  The hotel foyer was dominated by the huge sales stand. I might be misremembering last year, but the range and quantity of books seemed even larger than before, far more than I could ever consider getting through.  As well as the new releases, there were plenty of Horus Heresy titles, including all the hardback collectors editions and the general release of some of the previous limited edition novellas, including Aurelian and Brotherhood of the Storm.

 

This being a Black Library event, there were several major new releases.  As well as the customary event anthology, we were treated to the only official opportunity to buy the limited edition graphic novel, Macragge’s Honour.  The icing on the cake, at least for me, was the release of the limited edition, Visions of Heresy, a wonderful book containing a brief history of the entire heresy as well as collection of classic and new artwork. Unlike the Horus Heresy Weekender earlier this year, there was a copy of each of the limited edition releases for all attendees, so everyone had the opportunity to buy whatever they wanted.  Needless to say, I immediately purchased all three, and as it was also my first opportunity to get hold of the Forgeworld Massacre book, it’s fair to say it certainly wasn’t the cheapest of weekends!

 

The event was superbly run this year.  There seemed to be plenty of Black Library staff on hand to help with any enquiry, and they were unbelievably friendly and helpful all weekend. Special kudos has to go to Claudia, the event manager – I’m not sure the last time I met someone so endlessly cheerful!  I guess in part the success of the previous Weekender contributed towards it, but the atmosphere was so relaxed that it contributed to a great event.

 

The most significantly noticeable change this year was the focus on giving the public access to the authors, artists and editors at the event.  From the structure of a number of the seminars, with huge amounts of time allocated to audience questions, through to the Kaffeeklatsch early morning session where we got to sit in a small group with a couple of authors and just have a general chat, the ‘face’ time opportunities were superb.  If you wanted to ask something specific, you had the chance, and the authors I got to spend time with could not have been more obliging (despite in some cases possessing a fairly severe hangover!!).

 

Whilst we certainly had more access to the authors, I was disappointed with the paucity of information about new releases at the event.  Thinking back to last year, we were treated to an entire seminar listing the forthcoming releases, and each seminar seemed to include details of the new works related to the seminar.  This year it simply didn’t happen.  I realise last year, being the first ever weekender, was a one off due the amount of information available, but I still expected more than we received this year.

 

Another issue was that there were fewer seminars that interested me this year.  Of course, with a relatively narrow range of interest, this is mainly down to personal preference.  It did mean I had a lot more downtime this year, which I mostly used to catch author signings – so not all bad!  From a Horus Heresy perspective there was one unfortunate clash when the Audio and Art seminars went head to head.  Big kudos to Adam Hall for arranging the BL TV team to record the audio seminar – I hope it will be released as download on the BL TV Youtube channel soon (although this isn’t confirmed).

 

Getting to see so much of the authors this year, their passion really shone through as a collective group. However once again, I was blown away by just how much Dan Abnett gets the Horus Heresy.  He has been instrumental in the development of the series, and it is evident that the other authors look up to him as a kind of figurehead.  In some kind of cheesy analogy, if the Horus Heresy authors are the Primarchs of Black Library, then Dan is definitely a pre-heresy Horus, Warmaster and first amongst equals.

 

All in all, it was another great event from Black Library. Perhaps not the wow factor of the first Weekender, but it was an even better opportunity to meet and chat with the authors. I’ll definitely be back next year.

 

Feedback

 

If you have any comments about this blog, or anything at all Horus Heresy related, please either comment here or drop me a message on twitter @Marcoos14.

 

All the best,

Marcus

HH16 – Scars review

HH16 – Scars Review

 

Scars ‘The Legion Divided’ by Chris Wraight

Scars

 

So, 12 weeks on from the release of the first episode of Scars, and the final part has been released, read and now written about.  Be warned, whilst I have done my best to avoid spoilers, it’s likely that something has snuck in.  If you are the kind of person that doesn’t want to know anything about the novels you read, then best look away now!  As this is the first Horus Heresy novel to be released in a serialised format, I’m also going to talk about the experience of reading the story in this way.

 

First things first, let’s talk about Scars.  Putting my cards on the table, I am an unashamed fan of Chris Wraight’s work.  His previous contributions to the Horus Heresy series have been excellent, and across fan forums he’s widely tipped as one of the rising stars of Black Library.  In my opinion, Scars is a superb novel, and confirms Wraight’s entry into the top tier of Heresy authors.

 

Despite brief appearances from assorted White Scars marines earlier in the series, Wraight is the first author to truly get to grips with the White Scars as a distinct legion.  His work in the limited edition novella, Brotherhood of the Storm, gave us an insight into the background and mentality of the legion, but it’s in Scars that we discover what makes them unique.  Traditionally the most basic comparison has always been with the Space Wolves legion; both legions being tribal, ritualistic and unruly.  Wraight clearly deals with this comparison, providing distinction specifically between these two legions, without ever seeming to be giving us a lesson.  The character viewpoints that demonstrate this are well written, and also provide unexpected revelations about the relationship between Jaghatai Khan, Primarch of the White Scars, and his brother Primarchs.

 

The most memorable scenes within Scars feature the Khan alongside (or maybe opposite is a better term?) his brother Primarchs. The personal relationships – the true brotherhoods, petty rivalries and more intense dislikes – have been heavily expanded upon in recent Horus Heresy novels, and Scars ably continues this trend.  Whilst the more confrontational meetings will no doubt draw the most attention, one flashback scene featuring the Khan and his brothers following the triumph at Ullanor is a standout moment.  During one brief scene, Wraight gave deep insight into the characters of four Primarchs, and sets the scene for future confrontations.

 

For those who like more action in their novels (and let’s face it, who doesn’t like a bit of bolter porn every now and again!), Scars doesn’t disappoint.  We see several fleet engagements, and whilst some of it is too brief for my liking, each of the actions is well captured and used to demonstrate the uniqueness of the various combatants.  We are also treated to more close quarter fighting, featuring participants from a variety of legions.  Again, Wraight manages to convey subtle differences through the style of the combatants. In particular there is a brilliant contrast between the graceful, exquisite, almost perfect swordsmanship of the Khan, compared to a much more subdued style as both sides of the White Scars legion struggle to fully commit to conflict between themselves.

 

Despite my earlier praise, there are a few areas where I think Scars could have been improved.  The final episode seemed to be rushed, as though too many separate threads had to come together in too little time and space.  There were also subjects – certain legions – that were introduced early in the novel, and then failed to reappear later on, which I found particularly surprising.  It’s possible that both these relate to specifically to the serialisation of the novel, which I will touch on later, but it could also be an intentional design to lead into future works.  If that is the case, then I sincerely hope that Chris Wraight is given the opportunity to continue this story to the conclusion.

 

I was a little disappointed with the lack of depth to some of the legionaries.  Although we got good characterisation for the main point of view characters, following on from The Brotherhood of the Storm, several of the leaders of the White Scars legion seemed indistinct from one another.  In fairness, if I had to choose between excellent development of the Primarchs or various marines, then I know which I’d choose (and there is no doubt Wraight delivers the goods as far as the Primarchs are concerned).

 

So overall, my opinion of Scars is strongly favourable – in fact, I’d say it’s a superb novel. It’s definitely in the highest echelons of the series thus far (although, I seem to be saying that a lot these days!!).  I would strongly recommend this to any fan of the series, although if you haven’t gone for the serialised version I would hold on for the full novel as, according to the list in The Unremembered Empire, it’s the next novel to be released.

 

So, leaving the actual novel behind, let’s discuss how it was released.  Firstly it has to be said, if this novel wasn’t released as an e-book then we wouldn’t have seen it yet.  The hardback release schedule for the Horus Heresy appears to be rigidly defined, and there is no way Scars would have been released within a few weeks of the The Unremembered Empire*.  So, if nothing else the serialised format has given us more content, earlier than we were expecting.

* I’m not going to review The Unremembered Empire, so I’m just going to say the following – go and get a copy… right now… it’s a brilliant novel!

 

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of the e-book format. I’d much rather have a physical copy in my hands to read, and I love collecting series I’m a fan of.  So, having an e-book was never going to be the preferred choice for me.  That said, there are a number of features that helped with a serialised format, specifically having the ability to search for character names in previous episodes was very useful, as I found it hard to keep track of some of the characters.

 

One of the big issues I had with the release was the absence of a ‘Dramatis Personae’ section (the list of main characters for anyone unfamiliar with the format of the novels).  I guess this was intentional decision; it’s far easier to surprise the reader when they don’t know who is going to show up – and there was at least one big surprise towards the end of the novel – but I look forward to being able to read the full novel with a handy reference for the key White Scars characters who are all Something-Khan.

 

I’ve already talked about the rushed feel of the final episode in the novel, and whilst it might have always been planned this way, I can’t help feel that the format has driven the content to its detriment. I’m not au fait with the process of writing a serialised novel, but I understand from twitter that the various episodes were written and delivered individually, rather than the whole novel being written and then cut to make the separate episodes.  I also understand (but might be wrong on this – heck, I might be wrong on the whole blog!) that Wraight was finishing the final episodes several weeks after the publication of episode one.  To be clear, I don’t feel that time was an issue, as the quality of the writing never suffers, but maybe the schedule prevented earlier episodes being amended so that the final one didn’t have to cover quite so much material.

 

It’s also clear, from reading it, that we were left with a cliff-hanger at the end of each episode. Now this is great on one hand, because the tension built up over the series, and each week we were left wanting more. In fact, it makes perfect sense to have done so, both from a literary and commercial point of view.  I do wonder how this will work when the novel is read as a whole, and whether the final edited whole will have to contain any changes from the episodes we’ve already seen.  The cliffhangers, whilst great in a serialised format, become less
relevant when you can just turn the page to the next chapter of a full novel.

 

As for the weekly release schedule, I guess this depends very much on your personal reading habits.  As someone who tends to read a Horus Heresy novel in one sitting (especially when it’s a good one) I found reading this book over 3 months to be really hard.  I was on holiday in the UK summer when the first episode was released and I can barely remember the summer!!  I do however recognise this is just my preference, it’s not a problem with format, but more the reader!

 

I’m genuinely not sure whether I would pay for any future serialised releases.  I don’t think the price is unreasonable at £1.50 per episode, although of course I’d be happy if it was cheaper. However, as a collector I will always want the hardback version, and I’m not sure I could justify paying for both the hardback and digital version.  However, if you’re less interested in owning a physical copy, then a price of £18 for the entire series is less than paying for the hardback and would certainly get you the novel earlier.

 

Overall, a big thanks to Black Library for giving me the chance to review the series.  I will definitely be getting the hardback as soon as it’s available, and would certainly recommend you give it a go whichever format you prefer to read it in!

 

Feedback

 

If you have any comments about this blog, or anything at all Horus Heresy related, please either comment here or drop me a message on twitter @Marcoos14.

 

All the best,

Marcus

HH15 – Tallarn: Executioner Advanced Extract Review

HH15 – Tallarn: Executioner

 

tallarn-executioner-big

 

“As one of the Imperium’s many staging grounds for the forces serving in the Great Crusade, the verdant world of Tallarn has long served as a transfer point for vast numbers of military personnel and their war machines. Now, destroyed by a deadly virus-bomb attack launched by the battered Iron Warriors fleet, the entire world is reduced to a toxic wasteland where the survivors must fight to defend what little remains of their home. The remnants of the once mighty Jurnian 701st armoured regiment emerge from their underground shelters, and the opening movements of the Battle of Tallarn begin…”

 

Tallarn: Executioner is the latest limited edition Horus Heresy novella from Black Library. It is written by John French, whose heresy back catalogue includes several short stories, audio dramas and the outstanding novella, The Crimson Fist.  This is French’s first stand-alone work of prose for the Horus Heresy, and comes with one of the most eagerly awaited taglines, ‘Ten Million Tanks’!

 

The name of Tallarn holds deep significance for not only heresy fans, but for a legion of 40K gamers.  As one of the few well-known battles between the opening stages of the heresy and the climax of the Siege of Terra, I was surprised at the decision to make this a limited edition novella rather than a full blown novel.  I don’t know whether this choice is financially motivated, related to the choice of author, or simply the only way to get a ‘peripheral’ story published.  Either way, it seems a shame to me that this story will only be available to a relatively limited number of fans (although at least the ordering mechanism does allow everyone who is willing to pay the £30 price tag to get a copy).

 

Those kind folks at Black Library have once again made a preview extract of Tallarn: Executioner available for advanced review, and once again I tucked into the extract with unashamed delight.  The extract itself is 8 pages long, containing approximately 3,000 words, and appears to be the very opening section of the novella (although I assume it follows the prologue, which is previewed on the Black Library website here).

 

It is difficult to draw too many conclusions from the opening extract.  Tallarn: Executioner lacks the same level of context as the previous novella, Scorched Earth, which only had to set the scene as post-Dropsite Massacre to give readers a huge amount of information.  Without this sort of reference point, the opening to Tallarn: Executioner instead has to set the scene for what is to follow, and French accomplishes this with great aplomb. We are treated to character viewpoints from two protagonists; Akil Sulan, the (presumably native) ruler of one of Tallarn’s main cities, and Brel, an Imperial Army tank commander who has been left behind on Tallarn as the Great Crusade continued without him.

 

The descriptions of Tallarn are particularly vivid, vibrant colours, energetic life and a vibrancy surrounding the population.  Without knowing the exact details to follow, French has clearly and interestingly set up the paradise lost situation.  Fans of the series know the planet will be reduced to a life-threatening (ending?) desert wasteland; the previous contrast is well written, and a great starting point.  French also adds an element of war-weariness and cynicism, with the Imperial Army troops left behind, forgotten and neglected by parent units that have rushed off to continue the advances of the continuing Great Crusade.  The descriptions of the troopers here are novel, especially compared to the super-human Astartes, and it’s easy to compare the behaviour of these troops with the real world we live inhabit.

 

The climax of both character viewpoints is the fall of missiles, and alarms going off to signify an attack.   The author has skilfully written in enough uncertainty that we don’t know how the story will unfold for the two characters we have met.  However the detail that French gets across in very few pages is well-rounded, and gave me a real desire to see how the two characters stories progress.  I can’t say for certain how good the rest of the novella will be, but the opening section is enough to convince me to look forward to it.

 

For anyone who wants to order a copy, Tallarn: Executioner is available to order as a limited edition novella until Friday 4th October. It is only available from the Black Library.

 

Feedback

 

If you have any comments about this blog, or anything at all Horus Heresy related, please either comment here or drop me a message on twitter @Marcoos14.

 

All the best,

Marcus

HH14 – Scars! Part II

Scars! Episode II – an advanced review

 

Scars

 

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s review of Episode 1 of Scars by Chris Wraight, those good chaps at Black Library Towers have kindly sent through an advance copy of Episode 2.  If you read my previous blog, you may have sensed how much I enjoyed the first instalment, so I tucked into this one with gusto.

 

Episode 2 (re)introduces another couple of main characters from Brotherhood of the Storm, with Wraight spending time to craft out their back stories to give more depth to the characters.  We also revisit our main protagonists, particularly seeing clandestine activity of the ‘I can’t say’ variety from one of the characters which really emphasises the internal factions within the White Scars legion.

 

This story also brings together a couple of elements of the Horus Heresy that have been hinted at, or covered in more detail, in earlier works.  The most obvious link is back to the twin Prospero novels (A Thousand Sons and Propero Burns).  We have references back to the Council of Nikea (where the Emperor banned the use of psychic powers), and the relationship between certain legions and individuals who featured heavily in the Council.

 

One section of Episode 2 harkens back to brief passage within the novella, The Serpent Beneath (written by Rob Sanders, and contained in The Primarchs anthology).  Clearly the seeds of this story were planted deliberately a long time ago, but it is developed seamlessly into this novel by Wraight.  The Serpent Beneath was an Alpha Legion novella, and throughout this episode of Scars, the threat of the Alpha Legion is palpable to us as readers (despite remaining unknown to the main viewpoint characters).

 

The last nugget, is that a third legion (not the White Scars or Alpha Legion) makes an appearance, possibly unexpectedly to some although probably not to anyone familiar with Horus Heresy Collected Visions art book.  This legion is fresh from action, and the depiction of their emotions at what they have been involved in is superbly executed.

 

Wraight’s prose remains excellent.  The descriptions are vivid, the characters are fleshed out in great detail, and there are many brilliant gems of background information to enthral any Heresy fan.  One description in particular, that of an Astartes space fleet mustering for deployment, is superb, a vivid, almost poetic description of the threat such a fleet contains.  Episode 1, the opening chapter of Scars, held the promise of greatness, and Episode 2 only enhances this.  I cannot wait for the next instalment!

 

Feedback

 

If you have any comments about this blog, or anything at all Horus Heresy related, please either comment here or drop me a message on twitter @Marcoos14.

 

All the best,

Marcus

HH13: Scars!

Scars!

 

 Scars

 

It’s only a week since I last blogged, with a review of an extract of the forthcoming Limited Edition Novella, Scorched Earth.  Since then, Black Library has pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the surprise release of an unexpected novel, in an unexpected format!

 

For those who closely follow the news and rumours about planned Horus Heresy releases (and I’d like to consider myself one of them) the release of Scars, a Horus Heresy novel by Chris Wraight, was not on the radar.  Having only recently finished Vulkan Lives, I was ready for a couple of months wait until Unremembered Empire becomes available.  Hell, it’s even listed within Vulkan Lives as the 27th (and therefore next) full length novel in the Horus Heresy.  It’s fair to say the release of Scars has caught me out!

 

What’s even more unusual, at least as far as the Horus Heresy series goes, is the format.  Scars is being released as a serialised eBook. The first episode hit the eShelves earlier this week.  The remaining 11 instalments will be released over the next 11 weeks.  This is the first instance of Black Library releasing a Horus Heresy novel in this format, although some previous short stories have gone on sale as eBooks before making their way into other formats.

 

I have to confess; I’m in two minds as to whether I like this turn of events or not.  On the one hand, we’re getting more Horus Heresy content earlier than we could otherwise have hoped for, but I’m not a fan of a serialised novels in general.  I like to read a book to completion, and am naturally impatient. I can get through a new Horus Heresy novel in an evening at first read, so waiting an enforced 7 days for the next chapter will be hard for me to take. However, the biggest concern I have with this is the value for money it provides.  A typical Horus Heresy eBook costs £11.99. Each individual episode of the Scars serialisation will cost £1.50 (assuming the price for the 1st episode remains constant), giving a total price of £18 for the full book.  I personally couldn’t justify that to myself, especially when the stunning hardback edition is only £2 more.

 

At this stage I have to admit, I’m in a very fortunate position. The fantastic guys & gals over at Black Library have kindly sent me a review copy of the Scars Episode One.  Hopefully this hasn’t biased my opinion of the novel – I’d like to think I can give an honest opinion even about a series I feel passionately about. So here we go…

 

Scars  Episode 1  Review

 

Scars sees a return to the forefront of the Horus Heresy of the White Scars legion, one of the (if not the) least represented legions to date within the series.  The White Scars, as revealed in Brotherhood of the Storm, have been out of contact with most of the other legions in the timeline following the end of the Ullanor campaign up to the early events of the actual Heresy, including Isstvan III and V.

 

Earlier novels have hinted that Horus believed Jaghatai Khan, Primarch of the White Scars, would side with him in the rebellion, and yet we know from the distant origins of the Horus Heresy that the White Scars remained loyal to the Emperor, fighting in defence at the Siege of Terra.  Scars promises to explain how the legion came to remain loyal as a whole, whilst dealing with dissention amongst the ranks.  The title no doubt refers not only to the White Scars, but the mental scars of a legion divided!

 

Scars is the first full length Horus Heresy novel by Chris Wraight, following on from the excellent limited edition novella, Brotherhood of the Storm, which I talked about on the blog last October.  Episode 1 contains the first chapter of the novel, and can be downloaded from Black Library.

 

Scars episode 1

 

Of all the Legiones Astartes, the White Scars of Jaghatai Khan remain the most enigmatic and elusive. Born of a civilisation that prizes honour, speed and fearsome loyalty, their allegiance has yet remained unclear even as the galaxy is torn apart by Horus’s treachery, and both sides have apparently counted them among their potential allies in the war to come. But when the Alpha Legion launch an unexplained and simultaneous attack against the White Scars and Space Wolves, the Khan must decide once and for all whether he will stand with the Emperor or the Warmaster… or neither.

 

Let’s be clear; this is the first chapter. It’s a set up for events later in the book, introducing us to the main protagonists.  Nothing really happens. There is very little in the way of action.  And yet… it is utterly compelling!

 

The main protagonists are characters we are already familiar with.  Chapter one gives their background story, which provides just enough information to understand how they differ in upbringing, beliefs, battle doctrine and loyalty (although who knows what twists and turns might be contained within the rest of the novel).  The story adds fascinating detail to some of the events of the early pre-heresy era , specifically around recruitment of Astartes into the various marine legions.  The physical development of Astartes, both the training regime and surgical enhancements are also covered, adding more depth to the story.

 

I only have limited experience of Wraight’s work, but I have to say I am really impressed with what I have read.  Brotherhood of the Storm was excellent, and Scars promises to deliver more of the same.  The White Scars are in safe hands it appears, and Black Library looks to have added another stellar writer to the high table of the Horus Heresy.

 

Feedback

 

If you have any comments about this blog, or anything at all Horus Heresy related, please either comment here or drop me a message on twitter @Marcoos14.

 

All the best,

Marcus

 

Hot off the Press

Hot (some might say Scorching*) off the Press!

* groan!

It feels like Nick Kyme month at the moment. Not only has Vulkan Lives just gone on sale, not only has Scorched Earth come up for pre-order, but today we’ve had the MP3 release of the audio drama, Censure! It must have been a fairly hectic time for Mr Kyme, something I hope to be able to share more with you all about in the not-too-distant future (hint hint!).

Censure by Nick Kyme

audio-censure-MP3

So there I was merrily listening to Censure, when a particularly intriguing email arrived. I’m fortunate enough to have been asked to write an advanced review of an extract of the forthcoming novella, Scorched Earth. To say I was excited about this would be something of an understatement! It would, of course, have been churlish to turn down this offer, and so two readings later here I am.

To provide context, the review copy is approximately 3,000 words in length, so it’s probably no more than 5% of the entire story. I also don’t know which section of the novella I have been given for a fact, although it reads like the opening section to a book so that is my assumption. It’s certainly set before the brief extract that was posted on the Black Library blog earlier this week (see here if you want to read it).

Scorched Earth ‘From the Ashes of Isstvan’ Review

Scorched Earth is the 6th and latest ‘limited edition / limited release’ Horus Heresy novella from Black Library. It is written by Nick Kyme, and follows on from his previous Horus Heresy works for Black Library, including Vulkan Lives, Feat of Iron and Promethean Sun. Scorched Earth is available to order until Friday 2nd August 2013 – see here for details.

 Scorched Earth by Nick Kyme

Scorched-Earth

 “Nearly a quarter of a million loyal Space Marines lost their lives on Isstvan V – the Dropsite Massacre
lasted only a few hours, and yet the Iron Hands, Raven Guard and Salamanders were slaughtered by those
they had once called kin. With the disappearance of their primarch weighing heavily upon their
hearts, Ra’stan and Usabius of the XVIIIth Legion leave behind their fellow survivors and strike out
into the Urgall Depression. Their mission: to find what, if anything, remains of mighty Vulkan…”

The first thing that strikes me about Scorched Earth is the mood of the piece. Set in the immediate aftermath of the Dropsite Massacre, two survivors have to cope with the reality of the sudden annihilation of their legion, and the psychological impact of their betrayal at the hands of former brother legions. Kyme captures the despair of the situation through the eyes of the main protagonist, Ra’stan, a Captain of the XVIII Legion Salamanders, reflecting on the contrast between the hope and belief during the trials of Ra’stan’s early pre-Astartes life compared to hopelessness of the present. The desperation and bleakness of the environment, and its effect upon Ra’stan is a theme that is regularly returned to, reinforcing the chilling reality for the reader.

Earlier Horus Heresy works dealing with the fighting upon Isstvan V rarely captured the full effect of the cataclysm… one which saw well over 250,000 Astartes lose their lives in less than a single day. This is absolutely not something of which you could accuse Scorched Earth. Kyme superbly demonstrates the sheer destruction and carnage through detailed description of the destroyed vehicles and piles of dead carcasses, most memorably portrayed in a scene during which the protagonists are forced to hide in order to evade capture.

Following on from the same treatment in Vulkan Lives, Kyme writes in the first person from Ra’stan’s perspective. Without checking back through my Horus Heresy collection, I cannot remember this being a common style (if used previously at all). In Scorched Earth, the use of first person is brilliantly executed, and really enhances the effect of the carnage, destruction and despair experienced by those ‘lucky’ enough to survive the initial massacre.

Particularly in the extract published on the Black Library blog, but also in this extract, we see the lengths that the survivors are driven to in order to extend (however briefly that might be) their lives. In close encounters with traitor forces, the protagonists make life-and-death decisions (their lives, others’ deaths) in the rational, almost clinical, manner of a true professional. The conflicting emotions faced by the two Salamanders as they make these choices are beautifully portrayed, adding yet another layer to the tragedy of Isstvan V.

I do have a few minor issues with the novella. A couple of phrases seem out of place. I could live with ‘super-man’ to describe an Astartes if it was uttered by one of the more arrogant legions (Emperor’s Children, I hear you cry), but it doesn’t fit with my impression of the more compassionate Salamanders legion. More disappointing though was the use of the word ‘heresy’ to describe the massacre. I may be imagining this, but I believe that Black Library have deliberately tried not to use the ‘h’ word at this stage in the storyline, preferring to describe it as a ‘rebellion’. Some of the narrative could have benefitted from a little more pruning at the editorial stage, especially the opening sentence of the extract.

However, setting aside these minor quibbles, this extract demonstrates that Scorched Earth is going to be a worthy addition to the Horus Heresy collection. The novella does a superb job of transforming the fantasy of clashing forces portrayed in such celebrated works as Fulgrim and The First Heretic into the tragic reality of the aftermath of a massacre. It would be unfair of me to rate the novella based upon one extract, but it was a genuine pleasure to go back to the events of Isstvan V, and to touch upon one out of a potentially hundreds of untold stories. I’m really looking forward to finishing this story, and eagerly await the next works from Mr Kyme. Hurry up Black Library, send my copy scorching* its way to me!

* sorry, last one I promise!

Feedback

If you have any comments about this blog, or anything at all Horus Heresy related, please either comment here or drop me a message on twitter @Marcoos14.

All the best,
Marcus