Thursday, 16 January 2014

Horus Heresy Book Review: Brotherhood of the Storm by Chris Wraight

Pretty much hide nor hair has been seen of the White Scars since the Horus Heresy series began. Jughati Khan's legion have been conspicuously absent, mentioned only in passing here and there throughout the bestselling series.  Chris Wraight's 'Scars' will give everyone their first real look at them when it is released properly later this month, having already been fed to the masses piecemeal as serial downloads.
Before that however, there was Brotherhood of the Storm, one of the limited edition novellas that Black Library are so fond of. Now it has been rereleased in a format obtainable by mortals (or the sane) I was eager to find out how they fared.

Wraight paints a vivid picture of the White Scars, an elusive but proud legion that operate largely within their own remit. Loyal but wild, they are portrayed as fiercely independent, certainly not as structured as other legions, a wild force striking where they will. Characterisation is definitely not lacking in this book.

The story is set on Chondrax a desolate world much suited to the scars nomadic way of warfare. The planet is infested by Orks and the legion has been tasked to eradicate them. Brotherhood of the Storm has one of the smallest dramatis personae I have seen in a heresy story and barely half a dozen characters feature throughout its pages. The book seems oddly unfocused, broadly it reads from three different perspectives and in all honesty it feels stretched. This is the first novella that in my opinion really betrays the limitations of this format.

The first perspective is also the one with the most action, it deals with the actual campaign against the Ork horde as a Chogoris born Khan's force teams up with a Terran Khan operating in the same area with his army. Its a concept that is certainly not all that original and it does feel like it cold have been expanded somewhat, as it comes across as a little superficial and brief. Conflicts between the two commander's disciplines and tactics are glossed over and all too often take a back seat to the, admittedly well-written, action sequences.

The second perspective is a flashback of a young warrior before he becomes a Scar, its a little throwaway and feels a little disconnected although the character does loosely tie into the overall narrative, certainly its the part of the book that I feel could have been omitted, it feels more like a short story that has been adapted and shoehorned into the novella.

Lastly we have the story told from the view of a Imperial General as she seeks an audience with the White Scars Primarch.  its a good bit of writing and very evocative, portraying with finesse the perspective of a mere human suddenly finding themselves in the presence of a demigod. . For the Primarchs part he is described fairly well, a man apart but without many of the character flaws so prominent in many of his brothers. Once again it is a little superficial but at least he doesn't come across as some gross characicture

taken individually all these tales work just fine, the problem is how they mesh into the overall narrative. A novella is far to limited in scope to be presenting three completely different perspectives and unfortunately it results in a somewhat disjointed and broken narrative. It reads like three separate short stories that have been hastily adapted so that they will fit into one book. This disrupts the flow and means that all three stories are dealt a misservice. Its a shame really. There is nothing wrong with the writing and some of the characterisation is superb. Its just a shame that the whole thing is derailed by the skittish and somewhat ambitious narrative approach. Despite it being the Scars first outing i would say this is a fairly skippable effort.


Monday, 6 January 2014

Horus Heresy Book Review - Aurelian by Aaron Dembski - Bowden

Aurelian was a complete non surprise for me, a Ronseal book if there ever were one, doing exactly as expected. That’s not to say it is unexciting, ADB crams a great deal of content (and Primarchs for that matter) into the limited page count of this Novella, and as always it is a masterfully written and effortless read, being the literary equivalent of an old comfortable pair of shoes. You’ll have finished reading before you know it and the book can comfortably be consumed in one sitting.

The story itself deals, as might be expected from the title, with Aurelian Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers. The narrative switches between multiple events and shifts chronologically too, However the author keeps things from becoming too confusing by keeping the focus squarely upon Lorgar at all times although there are several of his brothers present in the story. A refreshing change as up until now in the Heresy Lorgar has been much in the shadows, All emphasis regarding the Word Bearers on Erebus and his cohorts. Amongst the Primarchs, he is one of the least featured and it is about time he was more prominent. It is much to ADBs credit that he is able to portray the Lord of the Word Bearers so convincingly. Another of the more likeable Primarchs, Lorgars character fairly blazes from the pages and his is a rounded persona rather than some of the more two dimensional portrayals. Certainly had THIS story appeared in the Primarchs then that book would have been immeasurably improved.

Of course this in-depth treatment of Lorgar means there is little time for Bolter Porn, there are a couple of standout sequences where Aurelian gets to kick arse but this is by no means the most action-packed of the Heresy Series. Nor is it the most detailed, the story told here is ambitious and far reaching and the narrative flits about frequently. This can mean the book comes off as slightly superficial, not to any great detriment of the plot but some elements are skimmed over at surface level rather than explored. Revelations do abound but there is nothing particularly earth shattering about them, that said it is a book that deserves to be read and it is a shame that its LTd edition premium status has probably lead to a diminished audience as there are a number of plot points and events within that thread in and out of the greater Horus Heresy narrative.

So overall Aurelian is exactly what it is supposed to be, a light shed on to one of the more obscure Primarchs, one who has skulked in the shadows now cast unto the fore. As you might expect it is extremely well written by Mr Dembski – Bowden and has a compelling plot even if it is somewhat unremarkable on the whole. Of course this isn’t such a bad thing given the type of book it is and I would heartily recommend it lest you miss out for it really is very good.