Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Books in Brief : Age of Darkness (Anthology)

The second anthology of the Heresy series features a collection of short stories, nine in total, that take place during a seven year period between the Drop Site Massacre and the Siege of Terra. The tales follow the now familiar pattern of being stand alone works, some with strands connecting to previous books in the series; all the while 'drip feeding' morsels of information about the wider history.

Rules of Engagement by Graham McNeill

McNeill is on very firm ground here with the Ultramarines, a Chapter for whom he has penned numerous novels. Set some time after Calth, it cleverly serves up plenty of action as the warriors of Ultramar fight various foes in engagements where not all is as it seems. Meanwhile as Guilliman labours towards the completion of his Opus, there is a small but refreshing insight into the Primarchs thoughts about his Codex and a warning that hints at a far more complex history for the so called 'vanilla' marines, than we have thus far known. A solid start for the anthology.

Liar's Due by James Swallow

Proving that not all worlds end with a bang, many can be brought down by a whisper; Swallow returns to the shadowy world of clandestine operations he visited in Nemesis. This time focusing on propaganda, subterfuge and it's effect on the ordinary citizens of the Imperiums far flung worlds as they try to comprehend the events of the Heresy; struggling with their fears and doubts about its meaning for them. Despite a fairly obvious plot, this was very slick and enjoyable.

Forgotten Sons by Nick Kyme

No surprise in the Chapter affiliation chosen for the lead character in Nick Kyme's first Heresy story; though the task he sets the Salamander and his Ultramarine battle brother is; embarking the marines on a diplomatic mission! Again this is a story that takes us into a new arena of the war, with loyalist and heretic deploying a multitude of assets and gambits to win over planets without the need to commit to a full scale military operation; though fear not, where there are marines there is battle. Although not one of the highlights of this anthology, its a decent story and I really like Nick's more humanitarian Salamanders; they are what heroes should be.

The Last Remembrancer by John French

As with the last Heresy anthology Tales of Heresy , my personal favourite in this collection is primarily a conversation piece; this time between three characters, the Remembrancer of the title, Rogal Dorn and (making a welcome return) Iacton Qruze. The author John French is new to the Black Library and if he continues to write storys of this quality, I think he will be a great asset to the team. The story manages in the short space allowed to be dark, tragic, tense and not only sets the course for the future grim shape of the Imperium; but also poses a troubling question about its 'Golden' past.

Rebirth by Chris Wraight

A postscript of sorts to A Thousand Sons and Prospero Burns , the suffering continues for the tragic Son's of Magnus, as some of the fleet sent away before their home worlds fall return to its ashen grave. It's quite a slow paced story but it builds to a great double punch, the first concerning one of 40k's major villains (which I never saw coming) and the second hammering home what was only hinted at by Graham McNeill.

The Face of Treachery by Gav Thorpe

Dovetailing Gav Thorpe's audio book Ravens Flight and his next novel Deliverance Lost; this story follows the Raven Guard rescue mission to Isstvan V. If you've already listened to the audio book (as I had) then you'll know the outcome and this takes a bit of the drama away from the read. But Thorpe uses this opportunity to add more detail to his chosen Chapters actions during this stage of the Heresy and deploys an interesting twist to allow the Ravens to pull of the seemingly impossible.

Little Horus by Dan Abnett

As it says on the tin, this story catches up with Horus Aximand; it's a character study of sorts set against the backdrop of a skirmish between loyalist and traitor forces. I was quite surprised to find myself a little underwhelmed by this tale, being the self confessed 'Danboy' that I am. Abnett shows his usual deftness with cinematic writing whilst experimenting with delivery; I just couldn't settle into the rhythm of the telling, finding the use of repetition quite distracting.

The Iron Within by Rob Sanders

Another front runner in this collection, focusing on the Iron Warriors; Rob Sanders delivers thrilling siege orientated combat and a wealth of background on a Chapter I knew little about and up until now cared little for. Gripping stuff throughout with well defined characters that I really invested in, oh and extra credit earned for the mention of the Hrud.

Savage Weapons by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

At last a Dark Angel story that kicks literary butt as ADB's skill rescues them from the below par tales that have dogged their part in the Heresy saga so far and pitches the First Legion against traitors he knows very well, the Night Lords. This story is the perfect closer to the anthology, we not only get a Primarch on Primarch scrap but we finally get a sense of the direction the Angels will take in this war and with one sentence ADB links his tale with the revelation hinted at in the opening story; awesome!


The Angry Lurker said...

I'd read this! Nice review.

Bix said...

Thanks Angry, appreciate your comments even more than usual. I've been struggling to get any posts in this month and this one was only completed by burning rather too much of the midnight oil.

Glad that it made some sense in the cold light of day. :)

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