HH15 – Tallarn: Executioner
“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.
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All the best,