“In the Emperor’s Name, fire in the hole!”
The Masters, Bidding by Matthew Farrer. An Iron Warrior lord gets his hands on 12 eldar soulstones and offers them up for auction to representatives of the other legions. Showing up to participate are a Night Lord, a Word Bearer, a Slaaneshi warband leader of the Emperor’s Children and a sorcerer of the Thousand Sons. While the action and plot in the story isn’t anything special, the result is more like a character piece designed to illustrate the particulars of the five legions featured through their personas. The writing is exquisite, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Carrion Anthem by David Annandale. Not the best of the bunch, but interesting nonetheless, showing that not every disease is one transmitted through air, blood, or other mundane means. The ending is also suitably grim, and you can’t help but feel sorry for the main character, even if the story didn’t exactly leave room for a lot of attachment. This one also appeared in Hammer & Bolter 11 & BL 25 for 25.
Liberator, by Jonathan Green, is another experimental piece of writing, telling the story of Sergeant Constantinus of the Sons of Guilliman, based on a tidbit from the Chaos Space Marine Codex (something I’ve always found rather splendid). The story is told backwards, sort of, from various points of view, and unfortunately with nothing to keep the reader on his toes, it ends up being a bit of a drag, as the multi-perspectivism, while interesting and suitable in a full-blown novel, turns this short story into a collection of linked, two-page stories. If it were more unified and coherent it might have turned out more like Gav Thorpe’s ‘Renegades’ from Heroes of the Space Marines…
The Long War, by Andy Hoare, featuring Warsmith Ferrous Ironclaw and his grand company of Iron Warriors, reads like the author was commissioned to include all the new models that were released by GW at the end of that same month. Nevertheless, it is nice to read how the protagonist’s current battle blends in with his memories of the fight for Tallarn during the Horus Heresy. The story ends somewhat abruptly though. Hopefully it will be continues, either in a 40k book or perhaps in a Horus Heresy novel.
Throne of Lies, by Aaron Dembsky-Bowden. This is the audio-book now published in written form. Somewhat touching, somewhat boring, it ties in ADB’s Night Lords series with the Lord of the Night book (which I still think is a far better representation of how a Night Lord thinks and behaves).
Bitter End by Sarah Cawkwell is the kind of story I like finding in anthologies like this. Short and sweet, it has some action, it has some neat dialogue and it comes with a suitably chaotic twist. Far better than her story in Architect of Fate, makes me curious to read more about the Red Corsairs. This one is also found in BL 25 for 25.
We Are One by John French is a great short story perfectly illustrating the perverse ways of war of the Alpha Legion. I am really starting to like this author. So far he’s only had short stories published for the Black Library, but I really hope he stretches his muscles in a few novels soon.
Torturer’s Thirst, by Andy Smillie, was a short and sweet action story featuring the Flesh Tearers mainly (as well as the Brotherhood of Change, but they’re somewhat irrelevant (which is kind of unfortunate, as I’d love to read more about Tzeentchian covens that are NOT the Thousand Sons, as much as I appreciate them). While the story as a whole is nothing to write home about, it’s well paced and it has a particularly fun action scene.
Vox Dominus, by Anthony Reynolds, features that well-known and well-hated Dark Apostle of the Word Bearers, Marduk. Written as well as his previous books in the series, the story is entertaining to the end. Also, a special mention has to be made of the description of a particular Plague Marine, as well as various other followers of Nurgle. The ending however is a bit of cliffhanger. I hope it won’t be too long until the story is continued.
All in all, this anthology was an enjoyable and relatively quick read (at least for me… I tend to be rather slow with my books). Up next, The Annals of a Fortress. Or maybe more 40k. Or perhaps I’ll finally get back to catching up on the Horus Heresy. Gods only know…