Space Marine Battles Book Review: Architect of Fate
Architect of Fate by Various Authors
It's fair to say that the Space Marine Battle series has been somewhat hit and miss. We've some outstanding books like Battle of the Fang and some absolute stinkers such as Hunt for Voldorius, the rest have been decidedly average with some faring better than others. With Architect of Fate we have four short stories based around a single protagonist Karios Fateweaver, chosen of Tzeentch. Set in the area surrounding the Eye of Terror, it tells of the Adeptus Astartes efforts to contain the Chaos forces spilling from the Eye and Fateweaver's machinations therein. The potential is there but can the reality really make for a coherent and gripping story?
I must admit my heart sank somewhat when i saw that the first installment Accursed Eternity was penned by Sarah Cawkwell, i really struggled through her Silver Dulls (sorry Skulls) book The Gildar Rift finding it to be wholly unengaging and inconsistent, and the less said about the James Bond ending the better. That said i did find Accursed Eternity an improvement even though it is still a slog at times. Coming across like Event Horizon meets a bad episode of Star Trek, i found the prose whilst competent enough to be uninspiring and will-sapping and the story and twist such as it is, clumsily handled. The protagonists themselves, the Star Dragons, are no more interesting than the Silvers Skulls and the 'Inquisitor - by - numbers' is equally forgettable. Some of the action is ok though and the story is by no means unreadable, it just requires more effort than it should.
Next up is Darius Hinks Relictors story, immediately more promising, he establishes mystery at the start that gives a reason to keep reading and the Relictors are far more identifiable than Cawkwells Star Dragons. With the advantage of pre established background their eternal hunt for lost and forbidden artifacts brings them dangerously close to being labelled heretics even as they use the same relics in a quest for redemption. With a snappy pace and only a couple of sections which drag slightly, the tale of the Relictors trying to reach a fabled artifact before an Inquisitor unleashes Exterminatus upon a doomed world is compelling. Unfortunately the end is not as strong as the rest and outstays its welcome somewhat even if it is tied up more competently than its predecessor.
Endeavour of Will by Ben Counter is the next offering, Counter is another author that i have had issues with in the past, particularly with his Soul Drinkers series. Although i must confess to having only read the first three books, i found the Soul Drinkers to be of odd characterization and the books in general to be a little far fetched. Thankfully Endeavour of Will is a straight up action story as the Iron Warriors attempt to seize the titular Star Fort defended by Captain Lysander and his small force of Imperial Fists. Yet again Counter insists upon the marine forces (Lysander in particular) doing some wholly uncharacteristic things, but the prose is well balanced between the descriptive and the action packed and if you ignore the talking Star Forts (yes really) and the frankly stupid climax it's an absorbing enough read that rattles by comfortably enough.
Which leads us to Fateweaver, despite having by far the smallest page count amongst the featured novella, John French somehow manages to not only tie together the narrative across the story as a whole, but also produces a well written fast paced tale as the White Consuls investigate a distress call from an astropathic relay station only to be caught up in a Chaos attack. Whilst not perfect (none of the stories within Architect of Fate are) it provides a strong sense of completion to matters and i found it to be an engaging and satisfying read.
So that's it, overall Architect of Fate isn't bad, its, average, sits around the middle of the scale of quality.
Certainly its no threat to the best book in the series, Chris Wraights Battle of the Fang. I enjoyed the setting and the impoverished and attrition struck nature of the Adeptus Astartes chapters featured within, and although for the most part Karios Fateweaver is a peripheral character the narrative gels quite well. I am hoping for better from the next Space Marine Battles book though, Wrath of Iron, by a certain Chris Wraight.... hmmm.....