Ahoy there Chaos fanatics! I'm back with a 2 for 1 special book review- I'll keep them brief- just enough to give you the gist so you can think about whether they would be worth your time to read. Like it says in the title, I'll be looking at Ahriman: Exile by John French and Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeil. So, away we go...
I think I may have read a short story by French and that's about it, so I really wasn't sure what I was expecting here. I have enjoyed some of the recent Thousand Sons stories (A Thousand Sons and Battle of the Fang were great). In a way, Ahriman: Exile is a continuation of those stories, so it really adds up to a nice, cohesive whole. Naturally, Ahriman is the focus of the story, and French does a great job with the character- he is both sympathetic and very arrogant all at the same time. When the story begins, we meet a broken Ahriman- he is no longer with the Thousand Sons, he is a servant of a lesser Chaos Space Marine, and he refuses to use his powers. Comparing Ahriman from A Thousand Sons with his portrayal here, it is great to see him so broken and despondent.
However, Ahriman must re-embrace his powers and his will to live when mysterious forces come looking for him. Survivors of the Thousand Sons have come looking for Ahriman for nefarious purposes. In the course of the chase, Ahriman teams up with several desperate characters (a former Space Marine named Astraeos and a Chaos sorcerer Maroth are both really interesting characters) in order to evade his enemies and figure out what they are truly planning.
It is a fun, and interesting story, which sees a re-awakening of Ahriman. He is always sympathetic, but you also realize that he is only walking down the path that Tzeentch wants him to walk, and that, perhaps, Ahriman has ALWAYS been a doomed individual, no matter what he does- is that fate perhaps? Or simply his own arrogance? By the end, Ahriman is on the path of the renegade that we recognize from the 41st millenium.
My only problem with the story is the resolution. The Thousand Sons that are after Ahriman are led by Amon (I'm not spoiling anything there). Amon has his own plans for the Thousand Sons, and it is, quite frankly, really compelling and so much the opposite of all Ahriman's hopes for his legion- Amon's plans are very interesting, I won't say more as I don't want to give it away, suffice to say that there are now three people- Amon, Ahriman, and Magnus who are each trying to direct the destiny of the legion. However, my main problem is that Ahriman defeats Amon far too quickly. I had imagined a much longer conflict, considering that this story is obviously going to be continued- and there are many plot threads hanging by the end (deliberately). Also, sometimes the story drags a bit too much at times. Once you get through those sections, the book picks up and is a lot of fun, but it slows too many times, in my opinion.
As it is, I'll give the book 3 out of 4 Marks of Chaos. I am looking forward to part 2 a great deal, as I think this bigger story is going to be very interesting and a lot of fun.
Now, I love Graham McNeil. His Horus Heresy books are amongst the best, particularly Fulgrim and A Thousand Sons. I was very excited to see that he was doing a book about The Iron Warriors (with great ties to Storm of Iron, I must add right off the bat). Plus, they would be teaming up with the Emperor's Children too... how could you go wrong? This would be the second of what I call "The Odd Couple" trilogy (Betrayer, Angel Exterminatus, and the upcoming Forgotten Empire), and who wouldn't want to see the dour Peturabo going up against the outrageously flamboyant Fulgrim?
Unfortunately, the 2 legions just don't gel, and neither does the story. Yes, McNeil does a great job in portraying both legions and their respective Primarchs. McNeil really loves Peturabo, no doubt, but he sometimes becomes a caricature of Peturabo- he is a bit too one-dimensional. The problem is I had read Betrayer earlier- and the portrayal of Angron is so textured and complex, despite the fact that you would think Angron is one note, he simply isn't. Peturabo is motivated to join the rebellion because... the Emperor won't let him build... poor baby. That really can't be the whole thing, can it? Really? Further, I really like Forrix and I really was amused by Kroeger, but they don't get fully developed as characters either.
And that is because McNeil is also putting the spotlight on the Emperor's Children. I loved how Fulgrim ended- but after a short story and now this, Fulgrim is back in control of his body and actions- I feel that this totally negates the great story of the previous Fulgrim. I thought that was just not that cool. Yes, I think McNeil does a great job of showing the complete decadence of the legion- and he writes Lucius so well that I want to paint the model. But again, because the 2 legions have to share the spotlight, it detracts from both too much.
In Betrayer, Aaron Dembski Bowden seemed to be able to balance both the Word Eaters and the Word Bearers so very well while also tying the story to the greater Calth Shadow Crusade- with Lorgar's secret agenda coming into focus by the end of the story. Angel Exterminatus tries to do the same thing (right down to Fulgrim's end goal, it seems), that Angel Exterminatus seems to be a weaker version of Betrayer. This story simply didn't hold my interest or excite me that much. Like I said, I love McNeil's work, but this just didn't do it for me.
Thus, I would give it 2 out of 4 Marks of Chaos.
So there you have it folks. Right now I am just beginning to read the anthology Mark of Calth. I'll let you know how it is when I'm done. I'll also have a review of Star Trek Into Darkness by the end of the weekend. Until next time...