Review: Kraken by Chris Wraight

Posted by DarkChaplain at 4/28/2012
Another story by Chris Wraight. I think my review of Luthor Huss made it clear that I'm thinking very highly of Chris and his works for Warhammer Fantasy. Now, this isn't fantasy, but 40k - a Space Wolves story. Not having had time to read Wraight's Battle of the Fang, I was quite curious how Kraken would turn out.

"The Space Wolves forge new sagas as they hunt a monstrous beast of the oceans and battle the alien menace of the tyranids in a brand new tale by the author of Battle of the Fang."

The Space Wolves are a proud Space Marine Chapter. They almost appear savage to outsiders, with their long manes, sheer strength and prowess on display. It is no surprise that these proud Astartes treasure not only their own honour, but that of their whole pack, as their squads are called. Sometimes the bonds in between packmates are strong enough for the last survivor of the group to swear an oath of vengeance to restore the honour of his brethren by hunting alone, becoming a Lone Wolf.
Lone Wolves set out on many quests in search for a foe mighty enough to be worth slaying or in the attempt. Etching the names of his fallen brothers onto his armor, or even skin, the Wolf longs for the day he might return to Fenris, the head of his quarry in hands, proving that the honour of his pack has been restored.

Kraken tells the story of such a Space Wolf on his quest to hunt down a Tyranid leviathan in the hope of redeeming his brothers' honour. Following Aj Kvara on his quest has been quite a ride - a short one, I admit, but the story makes up for that with action and satisfaction. Not only does it present the wolf's battle against his Tyranid quarry, but also shows the reader key-moments in Kvara's life, from his first hunt on the seas of Fenris to the loss of his pack and the taking of his oath, granting us a complex picture of the Lone Wolf called Aj Kvara. What must Kvara sacrifice in order to restore his honour and rest in peace again?

I can't pretend to know much about the Wolves of Fenris, especially not as much as I'd like to, but the subject of these Lone Wolves has always interested me. They are an integral part of the Wolves' traditions and sagas, but are too often overlooked, so I gladly picked this one up.
The story has a really strong buildup to it; I quite honestly did not expect such depth from a short story of around 17,000 words. I should have known better, I admit, since the opening chapters of Chris Wraight's Battle of the Fang were giving a strong impression of Fenris and the Space Wolves already, but reading Kraken really felt like a story fitting of a Lone Wolf and the losses he'd be looking back on. As much as Kraken depicts the might of a Space Marine, showing off just how much even a single one of the defenders of the Imperium is capable of, I thought the core of the story was playing a much more tragic tune of regret, sacrifice and brotherhood. People say wolves are incredibly loyal and their howls feel like mourning, and I felt like this story mirrored that very nicely.

Interestingly, the people of Lyses, the world he delivers from the Tyranid menace, present a nice way of balancing the action-driven story. As little 'screen-time' as they had, the way they perceived the Space Wolf and compared him to the only other Marines they've seen before, the Ultramarines, made me chuckle. It made clear just how unique the sons of Russ truly are in their ways.
The presence of underwater action is another unique feature in the story which I haven't mentioned yet. I don't know of even a single story in the Black Library range that dealt with Space Marines combating their foes below the surface, especially not in the depths of an ocean. I'm impressed by how smoothly the story dealt with this type of action; it gave the story a cinematic atmosphere.

All things considered, I am pleased with this story. If you're a fan of the Wolves of Fenris, I clearly recommend reading Kraken. It has been an unexpectedly touching story that sucked me in and made me feel like I, as the reader, actually had a connection to the lost members of Kvara's pack. This one really was something else, a welcome distraction from the glorious defenders of humanity. Even if you're not a die-hard Space Wolves fan, you'll most likely appreciate this one.
The only thing I regret about this story would be its length, or lack thereof. I wouldn't mind it to be longer, since the final part in particular felt a bit rushed. Just a few more paragraphs and I'd have been even happier with Kraken.
Nonetheless, this was the fourth time Chris Wraight has managed to capture my interest with a story, and if it wasn't for Dead Winter lying next to me, I'd pick up Battle of the Fang right away. For the time being, however, I will just relish the thought that another Space Wolves story is waiting on my shelf. It won't rest there for long now...

Kraken on the Black Library Website

About the Author
DarkChaplain is a big nerd who spends too much time reading and thinking about books, organizing them on his ever-growing shelves, and yet increases his backlog by the month. DC is also an avid Gamer and owns more PC games than he'll ever be able to play. He is certainly spoiled for choice!
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain

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