In the last installment of this series, it was Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Gav Thorpe, Rob Sanders and John French. This time it is Matthew Farrer, Nick Kyme and Chris Wraight. As it turns out, this past weekend we’ve also had the first ever Black Library Weekender, a two-day weekend event at which there was a ton of information released about the Heresy: more audios, more novels, more anthologies, a new author joining the ranks, and more time-limited edition novellas among other things. So instead of what I thought I’d cover for the fourth installment, It’ll be how the new stuff announced matches up with what I had envisioned. But anyway, here’s today’s writeup for you all.
Matthew Farrer’s contribution to the series so far has been confined to a single short story, After Desh’ea in the Tales of Heresy anthology. The narrative deals with the conclusion and aftermath of Primarch Angron’s first meeting with his legionnaire sons, the War Hounds. Angron is in a really bad mood however, and he has already slaughtered most of the legion leadership in a fit of bloody rage. Now Kharn of the 8th Company is the most senior officer remaining and he goes in to the Primarch’s chambers to attempt to calm him down. The story is one of the best short stories of the series to date. The reason for that is that it is written in a really compelling way that explores Angron’s past and brings him forwards to what his future can be as the commander of an Astartes legion. Angron and Kharn aren’t just berserkers without regard anymore, there is a very definite humane cast to them now.
Going forward, that is a relationship I would dearly love to see explored further (although currently Aaron Dembski-Bowden appears to be in charge of Angron/Kharn stories for the near-future). One angle that Farrer could take is to show how the War Hounds turn into World Eaters under Angron, how his psychotic rages change the nature of the legion and brings them both to the point of how he (Angron) is being portrayed right now, ever closer to becoming Khorne’s chosen mortal champion. Another thing I’d like to see, based on how awesome his novella The Masters, Bidding was in Treacheries of the Space Marines anthology, is relationships between the traitor legions as they change after the Istvaan V Dropsite Massacre. There’s a fair bit of potential there to see how the Luna Wolves change as they become even more ascendant in the traitor hierarchy and how the others react to this, or any combination of the legions.
Nick Kyme is one of the editors for the series alongside Christian Dunn, and he has contributed a short story and two novellas so far to the series. I haven’t read the Promethean Sun novella, but I’ve read Forgotten Sons (short story in Age of Darkness anthology) and Feat of Iron (novella in The Primarchs anthology). What I’ve read, I’m a bit mixed about, the novella is definitely much better than the short story, in which the events aren’t really explained all that well. What Nick gets right though, is how the average bog-standard Astartes feels, and their relationships to their Primarchs (Vulkan and Ferrus Manus respectively). One of his particular “styles” is also that he goes heavy on the legion/chapter imagery, something that I’m totally fine with, although I recognize that a lot of people don’t like the approach. I think there’s a very good niche for such things in 40k in its entirety because sometimes you just got to ignore that subtle approach and be somewhat “in-your-face” with things. Way too much of the former going on around at the moment, and barely any of the latter.
With his larger body of Salamanders work for the M41 timeline, he has a good handle on the Salamanders too, and I think he’d be a good fit for more work on the legion in M31, although I’d definitely like to see him branch out and do some other stories, perhaps some human-interest stuff with “normal” human characters, perhaps Imperial Army or some such in a big planetary assault naval battle. We already know that he is working on a novella called Scorched Earth which takes a pair of Salamanders back to Istvaan V to discover what has happened to Vulkan, whether he survived the massacre or not. I have very high hopes for that one, as I find Vulkan to be one of the coolest Primarchs around, alongside Sanguinius and Corax, and anything dealing with him is awesome by association alone.
And then we have Chris Wraight, who is quickly becoming a heavyweight in 40k fiction, which is not an undeserved reputation as he is definitely one of the better writers currently writing for Black Library. He has done some work for the Heresy series before, with the short story Rebirth (in Age of Darkness anthology), and the novella Brotherhood of the Storm. In one he deals with (ostensibly) loyal Thousand Sons as they return to Prospero some time after it is devastated by the Space Wolves. In the other, he deals with the White Scars and their Primarch Jaghatai Khan. The novella was just released and I was unable to get a copy so its going to be a while before I get around to reading it. In general, what Chris gets right with his 40k fiction is exploring the deeper nuances of a chapter culture, as he demonstrated with his Space Wolves in Battle of the Fang and to a limited extent with the Iron Hands in Wrath of Iron. However, that was something that was missing in Rebirth, although I’m told that Brotherhood of the Storm has plenty of it. The approach is something I love to read in BL fiction, since it imparts a very detailed, in-depth understanding of the legion/chapter in question (although Dan Abnett’s approach in Prospero Burns totally failed for me, largely because of his main POV character choice).
For future Heresy stories, I’d like Chris to take in some of the other under-developed legions, like the Death Guard and the Imperial Fists and spin something up with them. We’ve seen very little of either of them, which means that the sooner they get something substantial done for them, the better. We’ve only seen Dorn to any degree in all the Heresy publications to date, none of which have really hammered home the culture of the Imperial Fists. James Swallow’s Burden of Duty has a line from a legion librarian (paraphrased): “We are the Imperial Fists, sir, and we obey in all things”. That alone is very exciting stuff. With Mortarion and the Death Guard, a pre-Istvaan story would be fantastic, one which shows how the Dusk Raiders turn into the Death Guard as the legion adapts to the presence of its Primarch. Coincidentally, given how well he wrote the Imperial Guard side of things in Wrath of Iron, and the cameos of the Mechanicus personnel therein, I wouldn’t mind if he knocks out a few Imperial Army stories. For example, an expedition fleet under the command of an Imperial Army general with some limited Astartes and Mechanicum support affecting a planet-wide compliance. And depending on which bent the characters have, loyalist or traitor, that opens up yet more possibilities that can be explored with the idea.
That’s all for now. The next installment, it’ll be how the most recently released information is going to change things around for the series as a whole.