Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Age of Darkness Review


Age of Darkness is a compilation of 9 short stories of the Horus Heresy, set in a time frame between Isstvan V and 2 years later. It is nice to see the story moving forwards, and hopefully the next few years until Horus reaches Terra won't require 20 books again.

The book has clear highs and lows. The first stories aren't really great, and some of them are plain boring.

This is a small recap of the stories:


Rules of engagement
Black Library's best-seller writer Graham McNeill brings this piece about Captain Ventanus, one of the main characters in Know No Fear. The story has advanced since the Word Bearers attack and we can start to see  some cracks in Ventanus' faith and loyalties. Since when does an Ultramarine, a captain nonetheless, questions the purpose of his actions? Interestingly I read this book after Know No Fear (which was launched before) and I think this order fits better, as the timeline is now in order and you have a deeper knowledge of Ventanus.


Liar's due
Set in a small farming settlement in a corner of the galaxy with no strategic nor military importance at all, tells the story of one of Horus' agents manipulating its inhabitants to their cause. It's one of those stories that help to provide richness to the HH background, covering small details far away from the main action. The story is far from exciting and seeing little action doesn't help much. I would say pass unless you're truly absorbed by the HH.


Forgotten sons
This is a rather strange story of an Ultramarine and a Salamander send to convince a world to stay loyal. They would not do this by bolter and chainsword as you would expect, but rather by debating against an iterator sent by Horus (?). The story is more interesting that the plot though and it has some memorable moments, such as the Salamander recollections of the battle at Isstvan V and the last moments in which he saw the Primarch Vulkan alive, fighting for his life and his honour. All in all a decent read.


The last remembrancer
A traitor vessel appears in the Sol system, carrying a lone remembrancer. Dorn and the Half-Heard will have to find out why he's here.



Rebirth
A Thousand Sons captain is held captive by a Space Wolf (is it?) and slowly remembers how he got there. He had gone down to the surface of Prospero to look for survivors.


The Face of Treachery
This is a short prelude to Deliverance Lost and depicts the evacuation of the few remaining Raven Guard from Isstvan V, and how the Alpha Legion are already pulling some strings. Interesting and helps to better understand Deliverance Lost, which is a fine novel on its own.

Little Horus
The story I was most looking forward too, both for the author (Dan Abnett) and the subject. Little Horus has some scars than Abaddon after the Isstvan events, but fights to carry on his duties. We see here the continuation of the Mournival as a 4-men group again, and some fight against the White Scars.

The Iron Within
Definetely the story I enjoyed the most in the book. Reminds me of Storm Of Iron from Graham McNeill, although in a much smaller scale. A few loyal Iron Warriors are holding a fortress and making their enemies pay for every meter they gain with the help of an Ultramarine captain.


Savage Weapons
The last story, and finally we get some bloody, direct action! after some time chasing each other in a lost region of space, Konrad Kurze and the Lion decide to confront each other in a lonely planet, just the two of them plus a couple of bodyguards.





A good number of stories and a fine selection of writers, unfortunately the end result is far from satisfactory.





The best
The Iron Within is the only truly good story of the bunch. Little Horus is passable but I was expecting more of Dan Abnett.


The worst
Some of the novels are plain boring, and most of them lack any action or interest. Save 2 or 3, the rest are not good enough to be published, in my opinion.

Rating
3/10 Accepting the format is different to a normal novel, the bar has been set too low for this compilation. The lack of action makes it boring to read at times, and the fact that the stories are short don't mean they can't have any depth, but sadly this is the case. Finally, it would have been nice to use the small stories to uncover some loose threads, some mysteries to be solved, or to shed light on Legions that are not getting much attention right now. Unfortunately, nothing of this happens and we get a  collection of dull, flat stories that will disappoint many BL readers. A good wasted opportunity.

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