Horus Heresy: Brotherhood of the Storm by Chris Wraight (Novella Review)
The White Scars are one of the Legiones Astartes that many fans of the Horus Heresy have been wanting to see in the series of the same name since the earliest days. One of the most mysterious chapters, and Legions, the White Scars haven’t received much attention from the writers at Black Library, though there has been the occasional novel or short story. When Black Library launched its limited edition novella products for the Horus Heresy in 2011, there were some expectations that we might get a novella finally, and such expectations came true in late 2012 when Brotherhood of the Storm was released, with the general release coming more than a year later.
Brotherhood of the Storm was described by author Chris Wraight as the White Scars novel that Heresy fans have been waiting for, and that irked me to no end since the vast majority of the fans wouldn’t be able to read the book until the general release. Thankfully, the wait for that wasn’t too long, and I myself finally got the chance to read it earlier this month, right after I listened to the Scars audiobook, which is the sequel to Brotherhood of the Storm and also Chris’ first Heresy novel. The novella itself is a damn good action story, focusing on three different personnel of the Legion, and it is quite the vital story in that it helps you understand something of the White Scars’ history on Chogoris, their legion culture, and how an outsider views them.
The three characters that the novella focuses on are quite interesting. The first is Shiban Khan, a line-Captain of the Legion who leads a company of some five hundred warriors, called the Brotherhood of the Storm. The second is Yesugei Targutai, a White Scars Stormseer who was last seen in Graham McNeill’s A Thousand Sons when he spoke passionately in support of the Legion Librarius program before the Emperor and many assembled Primarchs at Nikaea. The third is Ilya Ravallion, a high-ranking officer of the newly-found Departmento Munitorum who has been assigned to the White Scars to provide a proper accounting of their fleet operations and help manage their logistics at the highest level.
The story here alternate between the three of them. Shiban conducts a war on Chondax as part of the Legion’s wider campaign on the planet, mopping up the last Ork forces that fled from the Orkish empire at decimated Ullanor. Ilya comes to Ullanor after the campaign and the Triumph are over to take up her new post and meet with the Primarch of the Scars, Jaghatai Khan. Yesugei, for his part, is caught up on Chogoris, undertaking his trials to become a Stormseer, many years before the Emperor came to the planet.
Each story offers something different and through all three viewpoints, we really come to see the White Scars for what they are, and what they aspire to be. Through Shiban we come to understand the White Scars’ war culture as they use the Legion’s signature jetbikes to wage a relentless war of attrition against various Ork forces. Through Ilya we come to understand Jaghatai’s mindset and what he considers to be his place in the greater war for Humanity’s dominance in the galaxy. And through Yesugei we come to understand Chogoris itself, its own culture that is undergoing severe changes as Jaghatai remolds the world into his vision of it. It all works hand in hand and paints a very vivid picture of the Legion’s history and its present alike.
For my part, I read the novella after going through the audiobook of Scars, and I don’t think that the experience was negative in any way. Chris has a great handle on the characters and weaves their tales together in a really nice package. The fact that both stories are so directly related is a great thing, especially since Chris is the writer on both, so there’s a strong sense of continuity and consistency as well. Brotherhood of the Storm is indeed a great story, and some of Chris’ finer work for Black Library, and I think that it wasn’t a good move by the publisher to turn the novella into an exclusive for a year and a half. Sure, Scars followed soon after, but even then the new changes with the formats have proven to be a barrier in continuing on with the series.
Thankfully, the story is still great. I loved Chris’ particular take on the Scars’ method of warfare, utilizing lightning fast-attacks in massed jetbike charges and flanking maneuvers to defeat the Ork forces. It made for a great change in pace from the usual Legion tactics we’ve seen, which usually involve mass infantry charges or Stormbird-launched attacks. Jetbike warfare has been an extreme rarity in the series so far, limited to only a passing mention in Fulgrim if I remember correctly. The Scars are a legion obsessed with speed in all its forms and they’ve made a virtue of it even, as Scars goes on to explain in more detail. That is what Chris captures in this novella and he does a great job of it too.
But to be honest, I far preferred the scenes with Yesugei on Chogoris and Ilya on Ullanor, they capture the heart and soul of the Legion much better I think and also explore Jaghatai himself, who has been rather absent from the series till now. A Primarch makes his Legion, and that is exactly what Chris elaborates on here, by showing us Jaghatai through the perspective of both Yesugei and Ilya, an Astartes and a mortal alike. It is fascinating. Chris uses the latter method in a far more efficient and effective manner than any of the other writers have done so far. He just makes it all worth reading and coming back to. I was completely taken in with it.
Another great thing is that through Yesugei, we see how the tribes of Chogoris view the powers of the Warp. His arc on Chogoris is about him undergoing his trials to become a shaman of his people, a “weather-maker”, and at the heart of his trials, he meets a representation of all the four Great Powers of Chaos, and even the Emperor, which is one of the best dream-visions in the series, and really captures the temptations of the Warp and how a man might resist them when the Emperor himself is there as a guiding light.
Brotherhood of the Storm is a scene-setting novel, that much is clear by the end. It is meant as a… primer for Scars since three of the most important perspectives in Scars are that of Shiban, Yesugei and Ilya. Each character is different from each other, and that variety is what makes Brotherhood of the Storm so great in the end.
Highly recommended, I say.
More Horus Heresy: Angel Exerminatus, Butcher’s Nails, Fear To Tread, Garro: Burden of Duty, Garro: Oath of Moment, Garro: Legion of One, Grey Angel, Promethean Sun, Shadows of Treachery, The Outcast Dead, The Primarchs, The Raven’s Flight, Thief of Revelations, Vulkan Lives, Mark of Calth, Templar, Censure, Honour To The Dead, Know No Fear, The Devine Adoratrice.
Posted on October 11, 2014, in 2014 Reading Challenge, Challenges, Novella Reviews, Review Central and tagged Adeptus Astartes, Aliens, Black Library, Brotherhood of the Storm, Chaos, Chogoris, Emperor, Games Workshop, Great Crusade, Horus Heresy, Horus Lupercal, Ilya Ravallion, Jaghatai Khan, Legiones Astarts, Mundus Planus, Novella, Novella Review, Orks, Review, Review Central, science fantasy, Science Fiction, Shiban Khan, Space Marines, Space Opera, Tie-in fiction, Torgun Khan, Triumph at Ullanor, Ullanor, Warhammer, Warhammer 40000, White Scars, Yesugei Targutei. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.