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.


1 comment:

  1. You know what, this is spot on. I'm actually a fan of how Chris Wraight has been dealing with the Scars, and I don't dislike this book as I enjoyed all of the good points you mention here. You critique is well observed though, it could have/should have been better as three short stories spread out in one of the other antholgies maybe? I note it appears in Legacies of Betrayal, but in its Novella form. If it was going ot end up in an anthology at some point, why not have them as three seperate but coherent and complimentary stories exploring the chapter? Frustrating!