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

BDD 315 – Nick Kyme Interview Pt 3

Nick Kyme Interview pt 3

In this episode Marcus Pitt joins me to chat with Black Library Author and Editor Nick Kyme about all things Horus Heresy related. This is the 3rd part in the interview, the 1st part can be found on episode 313 and the 2nd part on episode 314

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If you have anything to say about this episode feel free to let me know by leaving a comment below or sending an email to bencurry@baddice.co.uk

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BDD 314 – Nick Kyme Interview pt 2

Nick Kyme Interview pt 2

In this episode Marcus Pitt joins me to chat with Black Library Author and Editor Nick Kyme about all things Horus Heresy related. This is the 2nd part in the interview, the 1st part can be found on episode 313.

Feedback

If you have anything to say about this episode feel free to let me know by leaving a comment below or sending an email to bencurry@baddice.co.uk

BDD 313 – Nick Kyme Interview pt1

Nick Kyme Interview pt1

In this episode Marcus Pitt joins me to chat with Black Library Author and Editor Nick Kyme about all things Horus Heresy related.

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Feedback

If you have anything to say about this episode feel free to let me know by leaving a comment below or sending an email to bencurry@baddice.co.uk