Archaon: Lord of Chaos by Rob Sanders (Book Review)

Much like its counterpart Warhammer 40,000, the setting of Warhammer Fantasy Battles has always predicted a certain chaotic “end point”. The northern lands of the world of Warhammer Fantasy have always existed at a certain “ten minutes to midnight” level where a world-destroying event will occur and everything will be gone. The End Times series chronicled much of this event from many different perspectives as various fan-favourite characters were brought together into a battle-fest to bring about the end of Warhammer Fantasy Battles. And it all truly began with Rob Sanders Archaon duology where he charted the rise of the Chaos Lord Archaon to become the harbinger of this end.

Archaon: Lord of Chaos is the second book in the duology, a fact I did not realize until I was a few pages into the novel, and by then it was a little too late to take a pause and pick up Everchosen of Chaos instead. However, it proved to be an interesting book nonetheless and Rob Sanders was always on point bringing the various domains of Chaos to life like never before. The story meanders too much and feels like a travelogue checklist rather than the odyssey it is supposed to be, but in the end, it sets up some neat story threads for what came later.

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Sylvaneth by Various (Book Review)

The collections of the Legends of the Age of Sigmar tell many a different story and feature many a different warrior chamber of the Stormcast Eternals as they are pitted against different enemies and allied with many a different race. In Skaven Pestilens it was the Beast-Bane warrior chamber fighting alongside the Seraphons against the Skaven. In Fyreslayers it is various armies of duardin (dwarves) against all manner of Chaos Daemons. In Black Rift it was the Adamantine warrior chamber against the Bloodbound, and so on. Each a unique story as it explores some different facet of the new Age of Sigmar reality of Warhammer.

In the Sylvaneth anthology we get a sequel of sorts to Josh Reynolds’ novella War In The Hidden Vale from the Ghal Maraz anthology. Then, we saw how the Stormcasts under the orders of Sigmar fight through hordes of Nurgle daemons to find and awaken the Radiant Queen Alarielle from her centuries-long slumber and fight back against the blight affecting Ghyran, the Realm of Life. With various stories from some of Black Library’s best, we get a really good sense of scale of the battle on Ghyran, and get to see a lot of different perspectives of the Sylvaneth as they rouse to defend their homes against invaders.

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Sands of Blood by Josh Reynolds (Audio Review)

The first audio drama in Josh Reynolds’ The Hunt For Nagash series, The Prisoner of The Black Sun, was a tantalizing introduction to the Realm of Death, ruled over by none other than the greatest necromancer of the Warhammer Old World, Nagash. We met our intrepid Stormcast Eternal heroes as they traversed across the realm to find a gateway into Nagash’s Underworld and went on a bloody jaunt against Chaos forces and met a friendly neighborhood vampire with a certain… pedigree. It was certainly a fun audio romp and going by the description, the second in the series promised to be even better.

From the Vale of Sorrow, Lord-Celestant Tarsus Bull-Heart’s warrior chamber has moved on to the vast deserts of the Sands of Blood, their newfound guide leading them onwards to the fulfillment of their quest. New challenges abound however, and we get to see more of Shyish, the Realm of Death. This is important in the larger scheme of things and the travelogue written by Josh feels very rewarding as a reader. The larger cast also does its job really well in bringing more characters to life and the overall story progresses well enough for my tastes while preserving the various mysteries that abound here.

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The Prisoner of The Black Sun by Josh Reynolds (Audio Review)

Black Library has a very good track record of putting out excellent audio dramas, particularly anything that stars the likes of Toby Longworth, Gareth Armstrong and John Banks. These three have done much to provide me with some great times with various audio-based stories over the years, and it is certainly expected that once Black Library and Games Workshop phased out Warhammer Fantasy for Age of Sigmar that they would look to capitalize on these talents and more besides. Age of Sigmar is such an unexplored territory and the new avenues opened up are intriguing for sure. Combine it with these talents and you have something great.

Josh Reynolds’ The Prisoner of The Black Sun is the first of four audios (collectively called The Hunt For Nagash) that together tell the story of how Sigmar sends his warriors to the Realm of Death to seek out Nagash and treat with him. We meet a new warrior chamber of the Hallowed Knights Stormhost in this audio and get to experience their first battle in the Realm of Death against the Bloodbound who have invaded it in Khorne’s name. Even as Josh writes a down-right brutal but fun story, Toby, Gareth, John, Ramon Tikaram and Luis Soto take things to the next level and deliver a powerful opening performance.

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Black Legion by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Book Review)

Aaron’s first Black Legion novel, The Talon of Horus was a rather sublime novel. It beat and challenged many of my expectations that I had going in, and proved to be one of the best Warhammer 40,000 books I’ve read to date. Which is no small feat, truly. It explored the psyche of the Sons of Horus as they transform into the Black Legion, led by the returned Ezekyle Abaddon and a coalition of champions from other Legions. It was full of some very memorable characters and had a stunning climax that went to the roots of some of the oldest lore of Warhammer 40,000.

Black Legion, the second novel in the series of the same name, is a worthy successor to The Talon of Horus, although it is not the equal of its predecessor. We are back to the recounting of events by Iskandar Khayon and see how Aaron writes a story that departs a little from what we saw in the first novel. There are some confusing mysteries here that don’t quite resolve themselves satisfactorily, but it has some of the best action scenes I’ve read in Warhammer 40,000 fiction, and has a battle of champions at the end that is iconic and impactful in equal measure.

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The Great Betrayal by Nick Kyme (Book Review)

The original review can be found at The Founding Fields, here.

Note: The War of Vengeance trilogy as it was originally concepted was retooled some time after the release of The Great Betrayal and after Chris Wraight’s companion trilogy from the Elf perspective, War of the Beard, was cancelled. The redefined trilogy is now a joint story from both perspectives.

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Pharos by Guy Haley (Book Review)

In many ways, we are in what could possibly be called the middle-phase of the Horus Heresy, with novels such as Deathfire and War Without End and, of course, Pharos. The Dropsite Massacre has happened, Rogal Dorn is busy fortifying Terra, Horus and his allies have spread their web throughout the Imperium, and Guilliman has holed himself up in Ultramar, cut off from the rest of the galaxy by the Ruinstorm. Doesn’t exactly paint a pretty picture for the Imperial war effort. But all the same, the more I read of the years preceding the climactic Battle of Terra, the more wide-eyed and amazed I feel, such are the many countless mysteries and concepts being unveiled.

Pharos marks Guy Haley’s first full-length entry into the Horus Heresy, having already contributed some great short stories to the humongous series. He’s  written some short stories and stuff prior to this, but this is definitely the big score and he proves yet again why he is one of the best authors in this far-flung age of never-ending war. Pharos is everything I wanted to see in a Horus Heresy novel, whether that be great characters, great plot, great action, great concepts, or anything else really. Pharos is easily one of my best reads of 2017 and is a runaway hit as far as I’m concerned.

Note: Some minor spoilers about the novel follow.

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Resurrection by John French (Book Review)

The Imperial Inquisition is not a faction that can be understood in simple terms. These agents of the Imperium have a broad remit and their ultimate governing authority is none but the Emperor himself. As such, given their wide areas of expertise and interest and personal biases and what not, they are a disparate group of individuals who surround themselves with varying amounts of temporal power. Yet, we’ve seen some remarkable characters over the years, such as Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn and Ravenor, or Sandy Mitchell’s Amberly Vail, or Rob Sanders’ Czevak, or Chris Wraight’s Crowl, among others. They are fascinating characters and I always look forward to reading more about them.

With John French’s Resurrection however, I was left disappointed. Ostensibly the novel is about Inquisitor Covenant as he leads his D&D-style party to uncover a cabal of Chaos-serving Inquisitors within the Caradryad Sector, but we got to see so little of the man himself, and the story was often tedious and overrun with dozens of viewpoints that it become a tiring read. I didn’t have too many expectations of the novel as I wasn’t particularly aware of Covenant’s existence within the lore, nor had I kept up with all the recent changes within the setting, so Resurrection proved to be a rough adjustment.

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