Review: The Wolf of Ash and Fire by Graham McNeill

Posted by DarkChaplain at 2/01/2014
Following on, I have reviewed the recent Horus Heresy eShort The Wolf of Ash and Fire by Graham McNeill. Curiously enough, this review should rival full novels' in length.
The Story:
"The Wolf of Ash and Fire is a Horus Heresy short story that takes place during the Great Crusade, before the outbreak of the Heresy. The Wolf of Ash and Fire follows Horus Lupercal, fighting alongside the Emperor Himself, as the Luna Wolves fight for control of the Ork-held planetoid of Gorro. The Wolf of Ash and Fire was released as a free e-book with every copy of Macragge's Honour."

The Review
The Wolf of Ash and Fire was very enjoyable, if not without flaws. Being a prequel story, set before even the Ullanor Crusade, this short story nonetheless references and strengthens plot points and twists throughout more recent Horus Heresy installments.
Beware, this review turned out a lot longer than anticipated!

However, the story felt much stronger during its first half than the second, and some points which were introduced in the first part never got followed up on in the second. A bigger incident which has not been detailed in the novel series, but featured in the Luna Wolves' part of the Forgeworld Horus Heresy rulebooks, was brought up - something that will undoubtedly confuse people, as it is not well known but impactful lore.

An intriguing plot device is introduced in relation to this via the Mournival and Hastur Sejanus in particular. After the introductory scene, however, it is forgotten, and its lack of inclusion in the Horus Heresy opening trilogy, and Horus Rising in particular, makes it feel like a solid idea that holds no relevance in the wider scheme of things. Maybe McNeill's upcoming novel Vengeful Spirit will pick the idea back up - it still appears to be too little to late, though.

At the end of the day, it felt good to see Hastur Sejanus and the Mournival before Horus Rising. Seeing their dynamic before Garviel Loken entered the stage was satisfying, especially paired with Horus's theatrical nature. Overall there have been quite a few good callbacks to Horus Rising and False Gods during the first half of the story.

The second half, though, focuses a lot more on action than I liked. Many of the Emperor's and Horus's elite warriors seem to find their ends here, and while the highly developed Ork antagonists feel menacing, I felt like the story was stronger when taking a step back and observing the Master of Mankind and Lupercal, focusing on dialogue rather than action.

I also noticed that Horus was described as using a power sword and storm bolter - which seems fine, until you realize that storm bolters were said to not yet exist during that timeframe. At a later point, the weapon was refered to as "twin bolters", so maybe that was just an oversight, and I am most certainly blowing it out of proportion. Still, it bugged me when I read it.

After all is said and done, it is easy for me to recommend this story to series fans and newcomers alike. I felt this short could be a nice and short introductory piece to the Horus Heresy series, reinforcing the father-son-relationship between Horus and the Emperor, which was not clearly shown but only talked about in the opening trilogy.

The Wolf of Ash and Fire should do an impressive job reinforcing the first few novels' impact on the reader, new and old. It could have done more if given a larger page count, however, and I firmly believe that turning it in a full novella would have done a lot to turn a pretty good story into a fantastic one. As it stands, though, Graham McNeill delivered a damn fine addition to the Horus Heresy series.

The Wolf of Ash and Fire on Goodreads

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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