Review: Kraken by Chris Wraight
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
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Review: Soul Hunter by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
With the Night Lords trilogy coming to a close with Void Stalker, I finally managed to pick up and read the first novel of the bunch - Soul Hunter.
It is no secret that this trilogy by heretic overlord Aaron Dembski-Bowden is being extremely praised and, lacking a better word, hyped like the 14th Black Crusade. You can imagine how high my expectations have been ever since this hype surfaced in the spheres of the 40k fandom, so I was quite eager to get my claws on this book and read it once I'd get an open reading slot. Having been a Night Lords sympathiser ever since I saw their color scheme in one of my first White Dwarfs, I haven't come to read much about them in the past. Pure anticipation forced me to finish this book in mere days.

Can Talos and the Night Lords live up to the hype surrounding everything AD-B touches these days? Did Soul Hunter turn me from the Emperor's light? Let's penetrate the darkness...
The Story:
"The Night Lords form an uneasy allegiance with the Black Legion in order to assault the valuable planet of Crythe Primus. The Imperial world puts up a stern defence, but the biggest obstacle to success will be the disunity and mistrust between the two Legions. Will their covenant last long enough for them to succeed in their mission?"

General Information
While technically a 40k novel, Soul Hunter also ties very deeply into Horus Heresy events, so I recommend having a solid knowledge on both parts of the franchise before reading - that way you'll get the most out of it. The ties into existing lore and background material reach deep; deep enough to impress me more and more with every moment I spend thinking about the book.
Soul Hunter and its follow-ups are some of the rare Black Library novels depicting the Traitor Legions not just as antagonists, but show their inner workings. While it gets quickly clear that these aren't the shiny cover-boys from Ultramar but evil bastards out for blood, it is incredibly easy to genuinely care about the Night Lords' 10th Company.
The Night Lords Legion itself is based on psychological warfare - instill fear in the hearts of your enemies and they will struggle to even put up a fight. Their deeds, however, led them to being looked down on by the other Space Marine Legions, and eventually saw them deemed traitors. Primarch Konrad Curze, the Night Haunter, decided to cut the Legion's ties to their corrupt homeworld by destroying it, and later joined the Traitor Legions in their Heresy against the Emperor - which he foresaw, for Konrad was plagued by visions of the future.
Soul Hunter deals with events in the present timeline and the Legion's history ten thousand years in the past, addressing the Night Haunter's visions, the fate of the Legion, the Black Crusades led by Abaddon the Despoiler and picks up threads from all around, knitting a solid, believable start to Aaron Dembski-Bowden's Night Lords trilogy.

Talos of the Night Lords' 10th Company, under the command of the Exalted, has inherited his gene-father's gift of foresight. Regarded as prophet by many of his brothers, he plays a vital role in his Company. Assuming a role similar to sergeant of his squad, the First Claw, Talos often argues with the Exalted about the state of their decaying warband, and even the whole Legion. The Exalted, however, shrugs the lack of reinforcements, supplies and servants off on many occassions. Having embraced the influence of the Dark Gods, he believes himself above these matters and instead thirsts for Warmaster Abaddon's grace and to prove his tactical excellence in void battles.
When Talos delays the warband's departure for the Crythe system to support Abaddon's war, following the call of one of his visions and returning with new servitors and even a female Navigator, the Exalted feels once more threatened in his rule over 10th Company. The rare gift of the third eye the Navigators bear on their foreheads allows them to stare into the warp, guiding void vessels through the galaxy. Said female Navigator has to decide whether to align herself with traitors to the Golden Throne or to refuse and die at the hands of their betters. Meanwhile, her 'master', Talos, faces temptations, the ruin of 10th and his memories regarding his gene-father, Konrad Curze and the name he gave him - Soul Hunter.
The book's final stage is reached during the battle on Crythe Prime against the Mechanicus and their Titan Legion. At last, the Night Lords join sides with Abaddon's Black Legion - but can real unity be found among condemned traitors? Who can be trusted? When the Imperial relief-fleet arrives to defend the Crythe system, the Night Lords are force to not just stand against their old foes, the Blood Angels, but also against their own...

Final Words & Verdict
As bitter as the Night Lords present in the novel are, the story is not without humor - at least for the reader. The character interaction is top-notch, their relations a promising build up for further books. The action sequences are captivating and satisfying, making clear that being traitors to the Imperium comes with both positive as well as negative aspects. The Night Lords are grinding themselves down - they are dying in their defiance. They have to scavenge pieces of equipment from fallen brothers and foes alike, are lacking proper recruitment methods and the means to properly maintain their machines. These Traitor Marines feel realistic, gritty and act like true renegades. Even the human characters in the novel have their place in the novel, and make for an unexpected twist.

Believe me when I say that it is incredible to read such a tightly-knit book. Everything comes together in Soul Hunter - the Great Crusade, the Heresy, the wronging of the Night Haunter, his eventual assassination by M'Shen, the Night Lords' fall from grace - I am not sure I have read another Black Library novel that digs so deep into small details and aspects of the background; Even rarer for them to feel so natural and well-placed. Some scenes from the post-Heresy-era even reminded me of similar scenes from Horus Rising, as they were discussing the same principles with a different twist and angle. I'm almost convinced to call this book, maybe the whole trilogy, a fantastic addition to the Horus Heresy series. AD-B's depiction of Warmaster Abaddon, former First Captain of the Sons of Horus hit me as surprising, yet wholly pleasant. Having read the chapters featuring him, I am hoping Aaron will realise his plans regarding a Warmaster-series as soon as possible. His take on Chaos is simply that good, trust me.

Another thing Aaron obviously manages to pull of with great success is the subject of void battles. Normally I am not a fan of spaceships shooting at each other until shields go down and they may move in for the kill, but surprisingly the chapters dedicated to these battles in space were extremely enjoyable, comprehensible and kept me excited. Every single one of these scenes featured was unique and satisfying - now I finally understand why people are so excited about more void battles written by AD-B, for I am now in the same battle-barge...

You can't possibly comprehend how much I am looking forward to the upcoming Prince of Crows novella, to be featured in Shadows of Treachery. While Graham McNeill wrote The Dark King, a story about Konrad Curze's fate around the time he attacked his brother Rogal Dorn, ending in the destruction of the Night Haunter's home planet Nostramo Quintus, it is AD-B who refines the Legion, and he does so both in the Heresy era and the 41st Millenium. Having this man in charge of the 40k-Batmen is a bliss for both the franchise and the fans. He does his homework regarding the background material and utilises it in fantastic ways that add further layers to whatever he writes about without disturbing pre-existent works. If you need proof of that, pick up Soul Hunter and marvel at the richness of the story.

You won't regret picking the book up. You will, however, most likely regret having to put it down once in a while.
Now I need to kill a few days, possibly a week, until the sequel Blood Reaver arrives...

Soul Hunter on the Black Library Website
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Review: Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium (Omnibus)
This time I'm reviewing not an individual novel, short story or audio drama, but am going for the big bunch: an Omnibus. Including three novels plus incentives in the form of three gap-filling shortstories, not only am I trying to take a look at an individual plot, presentation and character development within a single book, but rather a package deal. I'll keep it rather short on the individual novels' contents and try to judge the Omnibus as a whole.

Can Ciaphas Cain uphold his reputation over the course of three novels? We're about to find out...

The Story:
"In the war torn future of the 41st Millennium Commissar Ciaphas Cain, hero of the Imperium, is respected by his peers and an inspiration to his men – at least that’s what the propaganda would have you believe. The reality is very different, for Ciaphas is simply looking for an easy life and a way to stay out of peril. However, fate has a habit of throwing him into the deadliest situations, and luck (mixed with self preservation) always manages to pull him through and onto the loftiest of pedestals. To survive Commissar Cain must dodge, bluff and trick his way out of trouble, even if it increases his status beyond his control!

Featuring futuristic military action, thrills and humour, Hero of the Imperium collects the novels For the Emperor, Caves of Ice and The Traitor’s Hand, plus three exclusive short stories."

General Information
Being an Omnibus, Hero of the Imperium includes the first three novels of the Ciaphas Cain series, plus three short stories. They're all set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and due to the style of the books, a solid amount of pre-knowledge will benefit the reader. Without this knowledge about 40k, you'd surely miss a lot of cross-references and jokes, which make up a good part of the series' entertainment value.

The stories themselves revolve around an Imperial Commissar, charged with maintaining a healthy morale at a newly-merged Imperial Guard regiment. Due to heavy combat losses, one of the rare mixed-gender regiments is formed, and Cain is forced to shape the rival troopers into a new, reliable unit that stands together on the field of battle. The command structure is getting restored, the 296th and 301st Valhallan regiments become the 597th and Cain earns the regiment's respect, which is vital to every Commissar. Charged with the task of maintaining morale and dealing with infractions, most Commissars are just as trigger-happy when dealing with friendlies as they are when pointing their pistol at the enemy. Expectedly, these autonomous figures are generally hated among the troopers, which is not the most secure state of things, especially during war. Ciaphas, however, wants to save his hide, and only reluctantly punishes his regiment in severe ways, playing the good guy to gain both trust and support - which only furthers his heroic reputation earned over his years of active service. Of course, to maintain his face and reputation, Cain has to play his role consistently, which often leads him directly into danger and situations of sure death - which he'd have undeniably found by now, if it wasn't for his ressourceful aide Jurgen.

It is this spiral of maintaining his reputation and having to deal with its results, both good and bad, that make up the heroic stories of Ciaphas Cain, Hero of the Imperium, and grants the reader access to a very close view on the command structure of the Imperial Guard, the way they fight and the way they deal with the time between fights, and combined with Ciaphas Cain's very own thoughts, opinions and fears, the series provides an unprecedented richness of detail on the inner working of the armies of the Imperium.
Of course this package also comes with a good dose of humor, sarcasm and curses, which break the mold of your typical 40k stories in a very refreshing way.

Written in-lore by fictional Commissar Ciaphas Cain, celebrated Hero of the Imperium, these stories consist of multiple layers, which work together to create a comprehensive account of the events described:
  • The memoirs of Cain, written by himself, presented in first person view
  • Editorials and footnotes written by Inquisitor Amberley Vail, who also knows Cain in person and met him on a multitude of occassions, usually making life harder for him
  • Selected excerpts from various sources to expand on Cain's personal views, fill the gaps left in the telling and put them into a wider scale
Luckily, Sandy Mitchell manages to give all of these a very specific character, from Ciaphas and his thought processes over Amberley and her more professional standpoint and even the excerpts are written in varying styles depending on the fictional author. Indeed, some of these excerpts are written in an almost painful way, which Amberley alludes to, suggesting the reader to skip the next part at times, or hinting at the unprofessional style of the excerpt's author.

This mix, as complicated as it may sound or look at first, is a fantastic thing I appreciate very much, as it provides balance and different views on matters Cain himself might look at with heavy prejudices, or simply gets wrong in his tale - in fact, as much knowledge he shows in areas that might save his life, he has his oversights and flaws, which often get directly addressed by a footnote or two. It is these inaccuracies that make Cain, despite his incredible luck and reputation, a believable character with clearly visible flaws (which, admittedly, he explains often enough on his own). However, this mix is only around in the full novels in case of the Hero of the Imperium omnibus - the short stories are unedited pieces straight out of Ciaphas' works.

These points make me feel that the Ciaphas Cain series is just as much about perception as it is about the Imperial Guard, Commissars, wars, heroism or simply service in the Emperor's name. It does never get entirely clear if Ciaphas Cain, who describes himself as a habitual liar, really is the coward forced into action by necessity or the actual modest hero people see him as - there are plenty of ways to look at Cain, and it is up to the reader to decide what to believe about him.

To end this section, let me again point out how the omnibus itself is structured.
Starting with a foreword by author Sandy Mitchell about the origins of the series, and the character he created, the book quickly gets to the first ever Ciaphas Cain story, Fight or Flight from 2002. Next up is the first novel called For the Emperor from 2003, which as a title holds both an important position in the whole 40k franchise and alludes to Ciaphas' selfish character. Bridging the gap to the next full novel is Echoes of the Tomb, released in 2004 and setting the stage for Caves of Ice, the second novel which got released in the same year. The final two parts of the omnibus, namely the shortstory The Beguiling and novel number three, The Traitor's Hand, interact in a similar way as the former two, albeit The Beguiling was released in 2003 as the second Cain story, with the third novel appearing much later in 2005.
All of the included stories build up on each other, cross-referring to each other on a multitude of occassions and knitting a tight profile of Cain's career and character. Read on to learn more about the individual contents of the stories, I promise I'll keep the spoilers down.

Plot Overview
Fight or Flight
"Ciaphas Cain's early years come to light as he fights alongside the Valhallan 12th Field Artillery on the world of Desolatia."
In the wider scope, Fight or Flight describes one of the earliest events in Cain's commissarial career, and introduces both him and his aide Jurgen. Chronologically this story is the first one as well; every over shortstory and novel being set at a later point in Cain's life. The story itself is rather simple, but sets the flags for Cain the Hero. Oh, and did I mention the attacking Tyranids?

For the Emperor
"On an outpost Imperial world on the fringes of Tau space, Ciaphas Cain and his regiment of Valhallan Guard, find themselves in the middle of a war. As the Imperial Guard struggle to contain worldwide civil insurrection, can the wily Commissar Cain identify the real villain before the planet is lost to the Imperium forever?"
I must admit, by now my memory of For the Emperor is indeed a bit hazy by now, but what I remember of it has been a great read from start to finish.
Set on Gravalax, a world suffering from a stalemate between the imperial forces and the Tau Empire, steadily expanding its borders, For the Emperor makes for a highly political and diplomatical tale. Apparently not only the Imperium and the Tau are trying to take a hold on Gravalax, but also a mysterious third party trying to incite a war between both forces has a few pawns in play. Cain enters the stage alongside the support troops of the newly merged 597th Valhallan regiment of the Imperial Guard, and is forced to join sides with the Tau to uncover the schemes working in the background. What he is bound to find is both unsettling and more dangerous than the threat the Tau pose.

This is the first story which features Inquisitor Amberley Vail, who sadly wasn't really featured in the other two included books, despite having a cameo in both. It is her who reveals quite major information on Cain's aide Jurgen, which is vital to the full understanding of the series. Another thing it presents, just as importantly as the mentioned revelations, is the founding of the 597th, which Cain would serve for a very long time without getting shot in the back by his own troopers. The early struggles of the regiment are both interesting to read and they also give the reader an understanding of Cain's place among the Guard, his work-philosophy and how he came to be so respected amongst the men and women of Valhalla.

Echoes of the Tomb
"Ciaphas Cain battles alongside the Reclaimers Space Marine Chapter against a mysterious foe."
Now this description feels entirely inaccurate to me. While the Reclaimers are featured in this short story (and would be heavily featured in the 7th Ciaphas Cain novel, released in 2010), it is only during the last paragraphs that Cain encounters them. Instead, the story focuses on the events that happened when Cain was supposed to meet up with the Reclaimers for a mission but ended up waiting at the site of an expedition of the Mechanicum until the Reclaimers' arrival. It depicts very nicely that some things should never be stirred in their sleep, and sets the stage quite impressively for Caves of Ice.

Caves of Ice
"On the ice world of Simia Orichalcae a spate of mysterious disappearances is causing unrest amongst the mine-workers, and, as senior officer, Cain is nominated to investigate. Unbeknownst to him, the planet is right in the path of a major ork incursion and, as the savage greenskins attack, a malevolent evil begins to stir deep in the ice caves."
This second novel shares some essential parts with Echoes of the Tomb, which, as an event in Cain's life, serves as an important plot device throughout the story. Cain is forced to hold his own fears in check to maintain his reputation, while diving straight into the depths of his nightmares. The imperial defenders find themselves in a struggle against time, which only succeeds due to Cain and Jurgen's ressourcefulness.
While the story features plenty of twists, it somehow felt rather repetitive to me during the third quarter. It kept me going nonetheless, however, due to the deep trouble our main character found himself in, and there's enough incentive to motivate the reader to read yet another chapter. What I found very enjoyable were Cain's interactions with the troopers he attached himself to, and the different civilians involved in the defence. Seeing the Valhallans' Colonel Regina Kasteen and her second-in-command Major Ruput Broklaw scaring the arrogant Mechanicum and Administratum representatives was a pleasant occurance, and also the stark contrast between the native valhallan iceworlders and Ciaphas in the cold of Simia Orichalcae.
Overall this was an enjoyable read, which introduced quite a few characters that the reader may meet again in the following novels.

The Beguiling
"On Slawkenberg, Ciaphas Cain is a long way from the front lines and that's precisely what he wanted. However, Chaos is present on Slawkenberg and Cain finds himself back in the firefight against his better judgement. "
Being the second-ever story written about Ciaphas Cain, The Beguiling is quite essential to the Commissar's life, as it marks one of his early encounters with Chaos, and proves the strength of his character in the face of temptation. Interestingly, it serves as sort of prologue to The Traitor's Hand, and does that job rather well.

The Traitor's Hand
"Ciaphas Cain's latest missions takes him and his Valhallan regiment to the planet of Adumbria to defend against an approaching Chaos invasion. However, infighting with fellow Imperial Guard regiments and the uprising of a sinister cult on the planet puts paid to any hopes of an easy life."
The Traitor's Hand, hands down, is the best of the included stories if you ask me. It delivers a healthy balance between action, diplomacy, conflicting cultures and insane heretics. From wonderful descriptions of the planet Adumbria and its unique status among the myriad worlds of the Imperium to the almost blasphemous behavior of Cain towards the pious Tallarns, one of the other regiments involved, this novel simply keeps you excited and reading, manages to get plenty of chuckles out of you and even adds a slight horror-factor to the story. The 597th Valhallan gets a lot more action than before, allowing the reader to experience the iceworlders in solid action rather than continuing the waiting game seen in the earlier novels. This is the war the books have managed to avoid so far, and it is bloody, cruel and unpredictable.
Above all, The Traitor's Hand gives Cain more opportunities to further his reputation than I thought possible, even providing him with a rival Commissar from his days in the Schola Progenium, who is presented as the absolute opposite of the good Ciaphas. This makes for more than just fun, but also adds an immense tension to the book, which manifests in the last stage of the story and delivers a very pleasant and satisfying ending to the omnibus as a whole.

Final Words & Verdict
The Ciaphas Cain series might not suit everybody's taste, but it is certainly a 40k subseries I'd recommend to fans of the franchise. Even if the stories appear to be quite formulaic (Cain considers the upcoming mission an easy one, gets into trouble, everything seems lost, Cain saves the day), they are no less exciting. In fact, despite knowing that Cain survives, it is always quite questionable how he manages to escape the heat without losing face, and what is the price for survival. This makes for enough of an uncertainty to enjoy the tension building up throughout the stories.

Let me once again stress the immense entertainment value this omnibus volume holds for the reader. The books are straddling the field of 40k fiction in ways you'd hardly find anywhere else. Taking themselves serious enough to tell a comprehensive and authentic story of the Commissar's service attached to the Imperial Guard, I didn't feel like the sarcasm, curses, ignorance or snide comments featured are detracting from their internal realism. The inner quarrels between the imperial institutions representatives, the prejudices between Guard and Mechanicum and Cain's antipathy towards certain characters make the cast feel very much alive and comprehensible. Even side characters got their own characteristics, making the Guard look much less of cannon fodder as they're usually depicted in the usual 40k Bolter-Porn novels.
And at the end of the omnibus, I admit, it was like I knew these Valhallan troopers much better than your typical Space Marine squad or bunch of heretics. They've made an impression on me, and it will probably last well until I'll manage to start the second omnibus, and grow even further as a result. Ciaphas Cain brings the reader as close to the typical Guard regiment as it may get, which I am very much thankful for.

Hero of the Imperium is a damn good read, especially for those who are getting tired of brute force and forcefully heroic characters and know quite a bit about the franchise. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and will keep a lot of fantastic scenes in good memory. The 9th Ciaphas Cain novel cannot get announced soon enough... I clearly recommend picking this omnibus up!

Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium on the Black Library Website
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Review: Luthor Huss by Chris Wraight
Being the latest entry to the Warhammer Heroes series, I was quite thrilled to read more about the Hammer of Sigmar, as name-giving character Luthor Huss is called by some. Even more so because the novel's author is no other than Chris Wraight, whose Swords of the Emperor duology in the same series has already blown me away. Wraight managed to not only make the Empire appeal to me, but also present a genuinely interesting and extensive plot that was not yet covered by existent background material, which made it all the more exciting to read.

With my earlier excitement in mind, I went ahead to read Luthor Huss. Can the prophet of Sigmar himself follow the footsteps of Ludwig Schwarzhelm and Kurt Helborg and provide another solid, satisfying tale set in the Warhammer world?

The Story:
"Witch hunter Lukas Eichmann investigates a series of bizarre murders, which ultimately lead him into the haunted depths of the Empire at the head of an army of fanatical warriors. In the Drakwald Forest, Luthor Huss, warrior priest of Sigmar, battles to free the denizens of the forest from a plague of the walking dead. As their fates entwine, the two warriors confront a threat that will decide their future, while Huss must face a secret from his past if he is to survive and embrace his destiny as the Hammer of Sigmar."

General Information
Map of the Empire
Although it should be clear by now, Luthor Huss is a Warhammer novel. It is a story about Faith. Indeed, Faith is the leading theme throughout the whole novel, and despite not knowing much about Warhammer, if there's a tiny bit of interest in how people deal with their trust in higher beings, this story might really appeal to you.
Set in the Empire, the biggest human civilization in the Warhammer Fantasy world, you get all the usual medieval themes, though less of the noble side of it than in The Red Duke, but more of a poor, miserable, hopeless point of view. The story is dirty, bloody and full of worship. If you can't cope with religious themes in fiction or reading about a good share of gore, you might reconsider picking it up.
But if you love dark fantasy the way I do, you'll love this book and its deeper themes.

‘We will show them the path of valour. We will expose the lie that there is no answer to the prayers of the faithful, and demonstrate with our body, mind and soul that there is but one liege-lord for mankind, one master of our destiny and one hope for the redemption of us all, and that is the Lord Sigmar Heldenhammer, the Blessed, the Mighty, the Undefeated.’

— Luthor Huss, Chapter 10

Structure & Plot
As all Warhammer Heroes novels do for the most part, this book focuses on Luthor Huss, Warrior Priest of Sigmar, who founded the Empire thousands of years in the past and is venerated as a God by the people of the Empire. Luthor Huss, having been self-exiled from the churches of the Empire's capital, disgusted by the political schemes of his peers, is a wandering priest, smiting the enemies of man wherever he encounters them. Wielding his mighty warhammer with skill, precision and burning faith, Huss himself is inspiring the people around him to greater deeds in Sigmar's name.

The book mainly follows two storylines, or better, two characters and their workings towards a goal they can only reach together. Only in the last quarter do witch hunter Lukas Eichmann and Luthor Huss meet, up until then they both follow the same taint on their own, uncovering a complex tale of heresy to the reader. While Eichmann tries to get to the core of the cults he has recently uncovered and follows the trail into the Drakwald, which lies at the heart of the Empire and is home to the vile beastmen, Huss fights to protect the villages at the border of the forest, or at least cleanse whatever taint remains. Following Luthor is a peasant girl, rescued from the ruins of a village ravaged by the undead, as well as a mad peasant who lost his mind over the horrors he has witnessed and recovers his hope throughout the book. Both play a vital role in the story, and also to Huss they are important, dealing as strong devices for plot and character development. Little do these characters know about the evil they would eventually reveal. The core of the heresy lies in the middle of the Drakwald, and to face it, Huss will have to face his past first.

Throughout the story the reader encounters Huss's memories, which reveal his path from beginning his life as a priest as an apprentice of his old master and end with his leave from the temple he called home after uncovering that even the servants of Sigmar are not infallible. Indeed, while not as clearly structured as the flashbacks in The Red Duke, these glimpses at the youth of Huss are a strong aspect of the book, and show us the origins of the prophet of Sigmar - innocent, pious, strong in body and mind - and also tell us about his inner thoughts on the world he would swear to protect. The otherwise silent and distanced hero thus grants the reader a more in-depth look into his character, psyche and faith.

There's not a single doubt that Luthor Huss tells a story about faith, first and foremost, however. Faith is a strong thing indeed, and Chris Wraight expertly shows just how it affects people, both positively and negatively, how it inspires them to unknown heights and how losing one's faith may crush his very existence. It is a story about people dealing with faith in their own ways; from witch hunters pursuing those who turned from Sigmar, the priests preaching His word, the people clinging to their miserable lives, looking to the Gods to lend them guidance, or even the zealots who have nothing left, nothing to lose, and pledge their bodies and souls to their Lord.
Wraight shows us the matter of faith from a lot of different, yet intertwined angles, crafting a coherent tale that is both tragic and inspiring, proving the very point why faith is a very important thing in the Warhammer multiverse, and should never be neglected. They're just as important to Warhammer as sword and magic are, or the heroes wielding them.

Final Words & Verdict
I genuinely enjoyed Luthor Huss from the first to the last page. I didn't find any chapter that unnecessarily dragged on, or didn't get to the point. In fact, it drew me in so easily, I felt bad whenever I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore or had other things to do than read (I almost read it while cooking easter lunch). Especially the religious aspects the book touches are impressively well written and mind-provoking. How is man supposed to deal with despair, the loss of hope and faith? What makes them believe? What brings them to embrace damnation?

Much like The Red Duke, Luthor Huss provides the reader with plenty of material to study the great character we've known for many editions of the tabletop game. In fact, Luthor Huss is once again featured in the 8th edition armybook of the Empire in Warhammer Fantasy, but did not get a new model (yet?). His background section in the armybook also does not match up completely with the novel, but if you ask me, I'd take his final test before becoming a full-fledged priest in the novel much superior than the version of the armybook. Rest assured, these minor inaccuracies are neglectable, and I'd rather think that they're due to deadlines rather than oversight. I'd also like to point out that this novel is set before the Storm of Chaos and the coming of Archaon the Everchosen of Chaos Undivided. There are some clever hints and references especially at the end of the book, that make me hope for a successor-novel, as Huss has yet a vital part to play.

Chris Wraight once again earned my deepest respect with this recent contribution to the Warhammer Fantasy world. It lived up to my expectations, and even better, it exceeded them. For the first hundred-or-so pages, I really did not know where the story would lead to, as it gradually built up the setting and cast, but at no point was I lost or lacked the excitement to go on reading.
While the stage is rather the Drakwald rather than the cities of the Empire, I thought Wraight really pulled it off to make the old forest appear just as dangerous and deadly as it is supposed to, beastmen or not. The way the men dealt with the fear of being close to the treelines, or even venture into it, was both realistic and unnerving, even more so than the living dead attacking the human settlements.
This sets the story into contrast to the Swords of the Emperor duology, as they played mostly in open field or cities, showing the human, civilized side of the Empire instead of the animalistic and frightening aspects normal folk has to deal with, apart from the big cities and the protection of armies. However, it appears that Chris can do both justice, and this makes him the ideal candidate to write more about the Empire of Man.

Dear Black Library, if you want to do the Empire justice, please invite Chris Wraight to write more books about it.
If his name is on the cover, I'll buy it - not because of blind fanboyism (although it might have a minor role in it), but because his stories feel alive, right and to the point. He clearly knows what he is doing, and it shows. I clearly recommend picking up Luthor Huss, especially if you are tempted to pick up the Empire's 8th edition armybook.

As if Sword Guardian wasn't enough already to get me reading the Sigmar trilogy, the next thing I started after finishing Luthor Huss was Heldenhammer - I'm quite curious if Sigmar will be worth the Empire's faith. Looks good so far!

Luthor Huss on the Black Library Website
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Black Library is 15! Review Collection
If you ended up here, on this site, you'll probably have noticed that the publisher of Warhammer-based novels, the Black Library, has just recently turned 15 years.
15 years ago, it all started, this increasingly impressive range of novels set in the grim darkness of the far future and the tales of the old world.
To celebrate this important anniversary, the Black Library has gathered their active authors to contribute short stories of about a 1000 words each (with exceptions, I might add), which have gone on sale one after another, with every passing day, starting at this 15th annual milestone.

Every day surprised us with yet another exciting, if short story, which allowed the authors to experiment and let us see the grim darkness and fantastic world of Warhammer in a slightly different light than usual. There's some really exceptional stuff right there, worthy to attend the celebration.

If you can't wait to pick them up yourself, go visit the Black Library -
the eShorts are £0.79 / 1.00€ / $1.25 each.

Now also available as a single ebook at £11.99 / 14.99€ / $18.99!

Day One
Kill Hill
by Dan Abnett

Priad of Damocles, of the Iron Snakes of Ithaka, reaches the end of a long and gruelling campaign against orks. All he has to do is survive to reach Kill Hill…

Kill Hill is loosely tied to Dan Abnett's Brothers of the Snake from 2007 (Harcover; Paperback in 2008). It has long been out of stock, however, so your only option to pick it up is by searching through second-hand stores or buying the ebook. Hence I have never read it, or anything about the characters before Kill Hill. To my relief, I did not find that necessary to enjoy this story.
This eShort shows just how incredibly superhuman a Space Marine truly is, and with which indifference they might reflect on what might seem like an eternity for us mere mortals. Kill Hill is a cinematic, highly detailed yet short depiction of just a few moments in an Astartes' prowess. What could possibly stand against Priad of Damocles?

There actually isn't much to say about it, since it is a rather straightforward, self-contained story, even though it makes you wonder... will we see more of Dan's Iron Snakes in the future?I would not mind, as Dan's approach on the Iron Snakes seems highly interesting and unique.

Day Two
Blood Blessing
by Sarah Cawkwell

Approached on a blood-soaked battlefield by the terrifying, yet enthralling, Valkia the Bloody, a dying warrior is offered a choice: a bloody end or a life of eternal slaughter.

Valkia the Bloody by Sarah Cawkwell is one of my most-anticipated novels of the year. Ever since I first heard of Valkia, her character intrigued me, and knowing that it's Sarah who's providing her entry to the (so far excellent) Warhammer Heroes series makes me jump for joy.
Using this opportunity to experiment a bit further, Sarah has crafted a truly powerful first-person story. She herself calls it a 'one-way conversation', which holds true. The way this conversation is presented leaves the reader with no doubt that Valkia is more than just a pawn of Khorne. She is Khorne's chosen queen.
The story's point of view and style immidiately set you into the position of the fallen warrior the Bloody is addressing, and it is left to the reader to give his reply to the Blood God's chosen avatar.

What will it be? Eternal slaughter in Khorne's name or salvation in death? Either way, I'll be picking up Valkia the Bloody as soon as possible.

Day Three
by Andy Smillie

Most men only die once. Some are not so lucky. Hear the last confession of one of the Emperor’s Angels, a Space Marine of the Flesh Tearers, as he meets his final end.

Andy Smillie impressively shows the tragic fate of a Fleash Tearer - dying once is not enough for a Marine of Sanguinius's bloodline. From the Marine's fall to the black rage to his rebirth, entombed in a dreadnought; This eShort shows just what it means to serve even in death, and Andy Smillie pulled this rarely described twist of fate off very nicely and crafted it into a satisfying story.

If you ever wondered what the unlucky men of the Death Company felt and thought about their fall from grace, or what it is like being entombed in a body that is that of a warmachine, this story might be just perfect for you. You might also want to pick up Beneath the Flesh for more action from Andy and the Flesh Tearers.

Day Four
Blood Sport
by Josh Reynolds

Gotrek and Felix visit a trading post where the locals use a captive hippogryph in vicious pit fights. The Slayer seizes a chance to find his doom and challenges the beast…

A Gotrek & Felix eShort, Blood Sport has what you'd expect of a story featuring an oath-bound poet and a dwarf in search of his own doom. While I once again mourn that this story didn't make it into the recent Anthology, it was indeed a great read, and turned out to end in a rather unusual way. I won't tell anything more about it, however. Read for yourselves!

Josh Reynolds really caught me off-guard with Blood Sport, and is slowly becoming the most dominant among the crowd of authors to have contributed to the Gotrek & Felix cycle, which brings a question to bear: will Josh take Nathan Long's place (who took the place of William King, who has just recently returned to the Black Library, delivering Blood of Aenarion) and continue the franchise with his fresh ideas? Only time will tell, I'm afraid.
For the time being we all should enjoy his G&F stories as best we can. If you liked Blood Sport the way I did, I urge you to pick up Josh's Charnel Congress.

Day Five
Only Ash Remains
by Nick Kyme

An underhive gang ambushes newcomers to their territory. But the interlopers are deadlier than the gangers can imagine. They are Salamanders Space Marines, and they are on the hunt…

I must admit, I have not yet had the pleasure of reading any of Nick Kyme's Salamanders novels - the closest I have come to one is a short story in some anthology and listening to the Audio Drama Fireborn and the Audio Short Vulkan's Shield, none of which I could really get into due to having no actual relation to any of the characters. They're tie-ins to the novels, so that was to be expected, I guess, and I am indeed planning to pick the novels up at some point (hopefully in an Omnibus).
Now, the Salamanders series consists of a trilogy and an upcoming anthology of all these spread-out fragments so far, with a new trilogy in the planning, for all I know. The Tome of Fire story-arc has ended, and Only Ash Remains supposedly is the first link to the upcoming Circle of Fire arc.

For all I understood about the story, a group of Salamanders is hunting a comrade who's supposedly turned traitor. On their short trip down into the underhive of some planet to pursue their quarry's trail, a group of gangers makes the foolish mistake of challenging the Astartes, and quickly pay the price before the Salamanders continue on their search.

While the actual encounter was enjoyable to read, and showed fantastically just how superior even a single Astartes is to the normal human, this story alone left me with a sour aftertaste. Not because it was bad, or that it wasn't enjoyable, but because I could not actually relate to the Salamanders, or their task. If you ask me (which you obviously do since you're reading this post), I would not recommend this shortstory as a stand-alone read. I am fully aware of its teasing nature and that it probably makes fans of the series anticipate the continuation's release even more eagerly, but if you haven't read the Tome of Fire trilogy at the very least, you might be found wanting, just like myself.

Day Six
Easy Prey
by CZ Dunn

Brother Terach of the Dark Angels finds himself in a desperate life-or-death search for the hiding spot of a sniper, before he becomes the shooter’s next target.

Easy Prey surely is one of the surprise hits I took this time. Even while I just finished reading (and reviewing) Descent of Angels, I went into this story not knowing what exactly to expect.
What I got was quite a different view on the Dark Angels.
The Emperor's finest had been sent to purge a world by the Inquisition, which meant leaving nobody alive. The story's main character Brother Terach is shown with a detached, emotionless relation to their mission. Due to the planet's vital ressources, Exterminatus was out of the question - this world would not be eliminated from orbit, but from up close, with the Dark Angels as bringers of Imperial judgement.
In total contrast to the noble way Space Marines, especially Dark Angels, are usually depicted, Terach and his squad show no mercy and the Angel does not even shed a thought for the civilians he kills in this purge. But all of a sudden, his Brother in arms was killed by a precisely-aimed bolter round, and the detached executioner becomes the prey instead, finding himself at the wrong end of an Astartes' weapon...

I really enjoyed this story, especially since I cannot recall having read another story by CZ Dunn, who is usually editing Black Library novels and anthologies. He's got an Audio Drama up in the pipes, however, which also features the sons of the Lion, and I do hope it has at least some ties to this short story of just a thousand words.
The story smartly asks the reader what the Emperor himself would think about the destructive deeds done in His name, and even brings up a figure shrouded in mystery, whose appearance will be a source of excitement for fans of the 40k lore and especially the Dark Angels. Well played, Mr. Dunn, I applaud you!

Day Seven
by Darius Hinks

As the dissolute Captain Zelter considers drastic action to secure his future, he hears a tale that blurs the line between reality and fantasy, of a rat king and the Cankerworm.

Judging from its cover, Cankerworm promises an exciting Skaven-tale; for those unfamiliar with the term 'skaven' - they're ratmen, nasty beasts that dwell in the underground and curse humanity (and everything else), and only their own cowardice usually keeps them from invading the surface.
Interestingly, Cankerworm did not approach the skaven directly, but presented the tale of the 'Cankerworm' and a certain rat-warlord named Longfang, in a dialogue between a captain of the armies of Ostland, a province of the Empire, and his, seemingly mad, aunt. While he finds himself in dire financial trouble, facing the threat of being expelled from his regiment, he resents the fortune of his aunt, and considers to set up an accident. The woman, seemingly being around too many animals, has the habit of talking to her little friends, and when the both of them descend into the villa's cellars to fetch a new bottle of wine, the captain sees his chance.
While trying to find the resolve necessary for his vile deed, his rich aunt tells him the story of Longfang and the Skaven, and only during the closing of the story does the man realize, that he would share the same demise as the warlord...

At two thousand words, Cankerworm is by far the longest of the eShorts - you could argue that you'd get the most bang for your buck. Indeed, the story is one of my favorites out of the bunch, as it gave both an interesting insight on Skaven-history as well as a tale of pure treachery. While reading this eShort, I was constantly on edge, trying to guess what might happen next, but when the end came I found that I did not see it coming before it was too late.
The story itself feels just as dirty, gritty and grim as Warhammer should feel. Hinks surely has a solid grip on the world of Warhammer Fantasy, which makes me wish I had already started reading his Warhammer Heroes novel about Sigvald. This man gets Warhammer, which I am truly thankful for.

Day Eight
For the Fallen
by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

A historian visiting the ruins of Rynn’s World has an unexpected encounter with Crimson Fists Space Marines that will change the way he looks at history forever.

For the Fallen was quite the opposite of what I'd have expected of an AD-B story. In this eShort, nobody dies, nobody strikes at anybody. It is the story of a quiet remembrance, witnessed by a historian who traveled to Rynn's World to get a closer, more personal view on the Crimson Fists and their fallen heroes. What he finds would be more than he had ever hoped for.

This story comes along at roughly 1600 words, which I felt were doing the scenario absolute justice. Longer than the other stories yet still shorter than Cankerworm, For the Fallen covered just the right amount of space to make a deep impression on me, which moved it directly to my favorite 40k stories until this very day. The calm nature of the story, the deep bonds between brothers, all this short depicts is well placed, incredibly well paced and left me in awe. It breaks the mould of constant, grimdark action in the 41st Millenium, but still feels so grim and immersive, you can't help but appreciate this more emotional side to the universe. It reminds the reader that the shared brotherhood between Space Marines is a thing to last even beyond death.

Day Nine
by David Guymer

Take a glimpse into the twisted psyche of infamous skaven warlord Queek Headtaker as he plots and schemes between battles – but just who is telling his devious plans to...?

Now this is a Skaven-tail (haha) that actually has a ratman-protagonist - the legendary warlord Queek Headtaker, no less! David Guymer not only managed to make Queek appear just as violent, arrogant and, quite in the contrary to normal skavenfolk, eager to fight the man-things himself, but also added a new twist to this character: the Headtaker is insane. He hears the voices of his victims, speaking to him from the head-trophies he collected.

What can I say, it works incredibly well! This trait is giving the warlord much more depth while making him appear even more aggressive, violent and unpredictable. This is the Queek I'd love to see serialized. An utterly violent, unpredictable, insane anti-hero? That would most certainly pull the right strings for me (for the record, I am still praying for a continuation to the Malus Darkblade series), but I guess I should be content with C.L. Werner's Dead Winter being just ahead...
Nevertheless, David Guymer gets my seal of approval for more vermin-madness!

Day Ten
The Weakness of Others
by Laurie Goulding

A terror stalks the cold night, killing foe and friend alike. As his tally of skulls rises ever higher, one warrior earns the name that will follow him forever: Khârn the Betrayer.

Khârn. The once noble and level-headed Captain of the World Eaters, who more than once stood up to the rage of his Primarch Angron. The Betrayer. Bearer of one of Angron's own chainaxes, Gorechild. The Champion of Khorne, the Blood God.
Of Khârn we have known for a long, long time, that his madness would drive him to wiping out most of his own Legion during a battle against the Emperor's Children. When night on the planet Skalathrax fell, the World Eaters were looking for shelter to protect them against the extreme cold the world was known for, despite victory already being upon them. Khârn, however, did not accept his Legion's cowardice, and with his axe and flamer he burned down the protective buildings. His comrades turned on one another, desperate to secure a place for themselves inside the few buildings still standing, but Khârn went out to kill. Both friend and foe fell to his axe, as he showed no mercy for his former brothers.

This story came as a surprise for myself, as I wouldn't have expected a Khârn story written by anybody else than Aaron Dembski-Bowden (see: Butcher's Nails or the upcoming Betrayer, both parts of the Horus Heresy series) or Anthony Reynolds (see: Chosen of Khorne), but this one was written by Laurie Goulding instead.
Now, did this new author pitching his views on the Betrayer disappoint me? No, he did not.

The story is roughly set after Khârn finally snapping - flamer in hand, he sets out to kill. Interestingly enough, this makes for a fantastic contrast to the Khârn seen in Butcher's Nails or Tales of Heresy and is the first time I have read about the truly mad Champion of Khorne. We even get a closer look into Khârn's way of thinking, his hate and the old traditions of the Legion when it was still called War Hounds. Khârn even faces old shame while his memories drift back to his time as a neophyte of the Legion, and makes clear that the World Eaters were already taking skulls long before their fall to Chaos. They have been collecting skulls for the skull throne all along, unknowingly...

The Weakness of Others cleverly gives Khârn's rage purpose, direction and allows us to take another glimpse at the road he has taken. The way Goulding wrote it, I found it easy to immerse myself in the setting and see the blood dripping from Gorechild in my mind's eye. I very much enjoyed Khârn's perspective on the carnage he was wreaking and am eager to hear more about this side of the Betrayer later this year in Chosen of Khorne, but I sure wouldn't mind more stories by the hands of Goulding either.

Day Eleven
Gilead's Craft
by Nik Vincent

In the aftermath of battle, Gilead Lothain remembers his recent deeds and reflects upon the events that led to him practicing his deadly craft.

This is, like Only Ash Remains, one of those stories that I cannot really relate to. Having read neither Gilead's Blood nor the currently being serialized Gilead's Curse, the characters mentioned in the eShort mean nothing to me. Yet, it was not quite unenjoyable.

Gilead the elf is shown in the process of retrieving his used arrows, collecting their heads and crafting new ones from the pieces. Indeed, all that actually happens in the story is Gilead crafting his tools for the hunt, everything else are events he reflects on during his work. While the elf takes his time and puts an incredible effort into the making of his arrows, he thinks about the men and women he shot with them just recently.
We never really get to see the action, yet the memories feel vivid and the task of the elf feels both natural and realistic; you can easily retrace his steps and imagine every single one of them.
I'm not going to lie, Gilead's Blood still is not on my to-read list, but Craft certainly brought the series a step closer to getting on it. I am not as oblivious to the tale of Gilead anymore as I was just yesterday, and if by chance I get to pick up Thunder and Steel, Gilead's story will be the first I'm going to read.

Day Twelve
All is Dust
by John French

To their foes, Thousand Sons are automata, deadly walking armoured suits who feel no pain or fear. But what is it like to live inside that armour, a spirit divorced from flesh?

This story clearly was a risky move. The Thousand Sons once suffered from severe mutations due to a fault in their gene-seed, and to fix this error, one of the Legion's brightest, Ahzek Ahriman, studied the Book of his Primarch Magnus, and found the solution to end the Thousand Sons' misery: A spell he would name 'the Rubric'.
While the spell certainly stopped the wild mutations rampant in the Legion, only the most potent sorcerors of them were able to retain their bodies and souls - the less fortunate legionaires lost their fleshly existance, and their minds were torn to shreds, condemned to an existence as walking automatons, one with their armor. While it stopped the inevitable flesh-change, it made them unchanging figures, bound to the powers of their betters. Ahriman was expelled from the Legion, but is still roaming the galaxy in pursuit of knowledge. Some think he might be looking for a way to set things right again, and bring salvation to his old Legion...

Now, how should one imagine what it is like, being nothing more than a broken soul bound to an almost eternal body? John French asked himself that question and used this anniversary's opportuity to experiment on that field. He achieved something which I felt was both very satisfying and tragic to read. The way he depicts our silent protagonist sounds all the right tunes, and even sets the struggle against nothingness in a context with the Thousand Sons' old nemesis, the Space Wolves.
All is Dust is as close as it can get to showing the life of a Rubric Marine, and the understanding of their eternal damnation makes it clear, just what unimaginably high toll Ahriman's Rubric has taken on this proud Legion.
Where once they lusted for knowledge, they now struggle to maintain even a tiny fraction of their own selves...

Day Thirteen
Evil Eye
by David Annandale

A tortured prisoner on an ork warship is protected by a fellow captive. But what manner of man dares to stand up to a mighty ork? Only one man: Commissar Sebastian Yarrick.

'Evil Eye' Yarrick. The Hero of Armageddon. The 'Old Man'. Commissar Sebastian Yarrick got many names to go with his reputation.
It speaks a lot of one's strength, willpower and character to not only be on the frontlines at all times while there's an Ork invasion going on, more so when it is led by what might be the biggest, meanest and strongest Waaaghboss alive - Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka.
Yarrick, however, did not only manage to lead the Imperial Forces to victory, inspiring them to new heights, but also stood face to face with Thraka himself. While the battle cost him dearly, mainly one of his arms, he managed to beat Ghazghkull and took the mighty Ork's Power Claw as a trophy. Only afterwards did he pass out, while the Orks were retreating. The Claw was later refashioned to serve as Yarrick's own, new arm, and he dedicated his life to hunting down the surviving Ghazghkull.
Among the Orks, however, spread a rumour. Not only were they impressed by Yarrick's sheer strength which allowed him to beat their boss in combat, but they also started the rumor of the Commissar's 'Evil Eye', which was supposedly able to kill an Ork with a glare. When Yarrick later lost his left eye, he made this tale a reality, using a bionic implant that served as a kind of laspistol. If they thought his glare could kill, then they should die by his Evil Eye!

It is not entirely clear when the story is exactly set, since the events of Yarrick losing his eye and his capture by the Orks are only loosely lined up. This, however, is nothing one has to worry about with this story, as the few lines above are all one could wish to know before reading this shortstory.
The story is written in first person, of course from Yarrick's point of view. He's a slave among an Ork warship, caught between hard labors under the watchful eyes of Ork overseers and short breaks of rest when too many other slaves already lost consciousness. Yet Yarrick refuses to show weakness. He endures these hardships and shows courage of a kind which even the Orks find impressive.
With determination beyond comparison, Yarrick makes uses of the rumors surrounding his 'Evil Eye'...

The story has been easily one of the best stories out of the bunch (which says a lot already), and makes me eagerly wish for a full trilogy about Commissar Yarrick in the near future.
The Black Library's question on the accompanying blogpost, whether or not we'd like to see more of David Annandale's Yarrick could only have one answer, which I can only hope to utter with as much determination as Yarrick has shown countless times: YES!
This short alone had a power to it that is worth of the Hero of Armageddon, and I'd rather not wait too long for more tales about the Evil Eye...

Day Fourteen
Army of One
by Rob Sanders

As civil war blazes across the galaxy, the hive world of Proxima Apocryphis turns traitor and Malcador the Sigillite despatches punishment in the form of a living weapon…

This story is part of the Horus Heresy series, although it is only loosely tied to it. For the second time, we get a story focused on the assassin clades, with the spotlight going to a specific Eversor assassin this time. A short clip of the assassin's life before going through the process of being remade into the killer he would become, and his mission to revisit his old homeworld make up this eShort. While it confused me in terms of internal chronology, after reading it a second time I now hold this story in high regards.
A thrilling story, quite different from what Sanders has written for the Age of Darkness anthology with The Iron Within, yet still a quite fantastic read. It shows precisely why you should not step onto an assassin's toes... they won't forget.

Day Fifteen
Sword Guardian
by Graham McNeill

Emperor Sigmar rides for Reikdorf, summoned by his sword-brother Wolfgart on a matter of the greatest urgency. Will he arrive in time? And what could be so important?

The Legend of Sigmar got another contribution on the final day of the celebration. Sword Guardian plays after the battle against Nagash in God King, but that does not mean Sigmar is growing complacent! The individual Sigmar novels from the Time of Legends series have been standing on my shelf ever since they were released, but - shame on me - I never honestly started reading them far enough. Sword Guardian, however, did not feel out of place as a one-shot at all; it had everything you'd need to enjoy the story, and delivers a tale, however short, of duty, brotherhood and friendship. The way the eShort is set up is intriguing right from the start, and I smiled broadly when I reached the end - this is one of those little things I'd like to read more of! But then again, Graham McNeill's tie-in shortstories were always interesting and evoked satisfaction for all I can tell (the Ultramarines-shorts come to mind).

Sword Guardian has given me more than enough incentive to finally go over to my shelf and pick up Heldenhammer, and I think you'll feel quite similar, if you have any interest in the Warhammer Fantasy setting.

That's it, folks, these are the 15 eShorts released over the last 15 days to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Black Library! I hope you enjoyed reading these short reviews and are eager to read the stories for yourselves - I've quite enjoyed almost every single one of them, and I can tell you there's certainly something for everyone's taste to be had. If you're anything like me, you'll find more than enough things to pick up next. Now excuse me while I'll get onto my couch to read the tale of Sigmar Heldenhammer...

Black Library is 15! on the Black Library Website

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Review: Eye of Vengeance by Graham McNeill
I finally found enough concentration to listen to this audio drama by Graham McNeill (which, officially, is not yet available) in one sitting. After I heard the closing lines, I decided to sit down and write this review (which, officially, seems to be my first real take on an audio drama).
I hope you enjoy reading this review and decide to pick up the CD or MP3 version as soon as it gets available to everyone.
The Story:
"When the twisted Dark Mechanicus priests of the Bloodborn descend upon Quintarn, the Ultramarines are quick to move in defence of their prized agri-world. However, it soon becomes apparent that the planet’s fate will not be decided by the massed battle companies of the Space Marines, but by the actions of just one lowly sergeant – Torias Telion. A master marksman and Scout with a long history of service to the Chapter, Telion must now face the worst of the Bloodborn’s technological terrors and secure the city of Idrisia from the enemy advance, if the Ultramarines are to have any hope of prevailing against an enemy whose numbers swell with every victory."

General Information
Space Marine Scouts in Warhammer 40,000 usually appear less powerful and noteworthy than their power-armored counterparts, at least from what I noticed reading all these tons of Bolter-Porn, and it is true that these are still Marines-in-training, but that does not make them ineffective or less heroic in any way. Often enough, scouts are the ones to save the main forces a lot of trouble, or even take out enemy leaders.
Yet there is one scout among the Ultramarines that has seen every possible threat to humanity already, who has served under multiple Chapter Masters and is being looked up to even by veterans of the Chapter: Torias Telion, the 'Eye of Vengeance'. He refused to rise through the ranks of the Chapter and has trained multiple future Captains of the Ultramarines personally. His high status in the eyes of his Chapter has given him a wide room for deviance from the Chapter's traditions and even the Codex Astartes, and he resists joining the typical hierarchy on the field of battle. Telion even sets out to teach other Chapters' recruits at times. He has served on many more battlefields than his brothers could imagine.

One of these battlefields was Quintarn, one of the many worlds of Ultramar. The planet was being invaded by the Bloodborn, a cult of the Dark Mechanicus, and required the help of the 5th and 6th Companies of the Ultramarines. When they arrived, Telion had already been scouting the field, landing blow after blow against the Mechanicum and their horrifyingly corrupted machines before finally revealing his presence to the army leaders of the Ultramarines.
Despite their demands to join their forces and drive the enemy back together, Telion only agreed to support the army for a short time before taking his squad to strike at the Bloodborn where it actually hurt them: their machine factories. The scouts set out to venture into the enemy's very lair. Disabling the Mechanicum's production of war engines would tip the balance in favor of the Ultramarines, and rob the heretics of their sharpest weapon.

There are quite a few risks to be taken on the way, and there are some exciting twists before the story finds its end with Telion's success after about 65 minutes of playtime.
Go listen to the story yourselves and learn why Torias Telion earns even your respect...

Final Words & Verdict
I very much enjoyed Eye of Vengeance. The character of Torias Telion has been one of the most interesting figures in the 5th edition Codex: Space Marines, so I was delighted when this audio drama was announced, and even more so when I finally got to listen to the old sergeant's wisdom for myself. Telion was well-depicted as the natural leader he is, despite being in a rather inofficial leadership position. The respect he receives from his brothers also gets clear from the drama, and I chuckled when a certain venerable Chaplain appeared on the stage to have a word with Telion. Getting this glimpse behind the combat lines of the Chapter was a great thing to behold, especially since it showed just well that, even for the Ultramarines, there can be no full unity where different mindsets are working.

The action sequences were nicely played, and while I'm not yet used to Heavy Entertainment's productions for the Black Library (they just recently switched from Big Finish), the used soundeffects and mixing was not bad at all, and made it easy to immerse myself in this audio release (admittedly, not receiving calls all the time helped immensely). I found it interesting how easily the scouts' deeds were producing images into my mind, and how fluid the combat felt once Telion and his squad engaged. Nonetheless, the scouts did not appear too successful or invulnerable in any way, and thanks to Telion's way of addressing the recruits as lads, you wouldn't easily forget that these aren't battle-hardened veterans just yet.

There were some scenes which I found most reassuring of all; scenes that depicted Torias Telion as a man, rather than a legend, with his own doubts, quirks and hopes. This made it fairly easy to build up a relation to the scout sergeant, which quickly led to even more sympathy for the old man.

Should you pick it up?
Yes, yes you should. If you like Space Marines, you should. If you're tired of straightforward battles, you should. If you want to get more, closer background material on this specific character than the Codex offers, you should. If you simply like to hear more about the recruits of the Ultramarines, yep, you should. There are plenty of reasons why this audio drama is well-worth listening to, and I haven't even scratched the surface of them. You also don't have to worry about Graham's other Ultramarines novels, as they don't actually play a role in Eye of Vengeance. They're being hinted at, and if I remember correctly, the mission on Quintarn is being referred to in one of the later novels, but nothing stops you from enjoying this audio drama in its own right.
If you're still unsure, despite all, check out the audio sample on the audio drama's storepage.

Now let me restock my equipment and grab my Stalker-pattern Bolter and I'll be on my way again.

Eye of Vengeance on the Black Library Website
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