Review: Mark of Calth / Author: Laurie Goulding (Editor) / Publisher: Black Library / Release Date: Out Now
Mark of Calth is a short story anthology and part of the long-running Horus Heresy series. Typically, anthologies like this appear to tie up parts of the arc plot and various loose ends before going on to another part of the ongoing story. This particular collection is a sort of ‘what happened next’ following on from events of previous novel Know No Fear, as well as a summary of some of the significant scenes so far.
The main event is the novella Calth That Was, written by Graham McNeil. The author is well known for his portrayal of Ultramarines and as they’re the defenders of Calth, he’s the perfect choice here. The poor Ultramarines get a bit of a bad press, they’re to the Warhammer 40,000 franchise what Manchester United are to football’s Premier League: popular, ubiquitous and resented by some of the fans. McNeil deals with them extremely well, making them the modest and hard-working heroes they always have been. The story hammers home the sum of the main themes of the entire series; the loss of hope, the duality of faith and the sheer bloody-minded struggle for one more precious day. Oh, and there’s plenty of things exploding as well.
Another great tale well told is Deeper Darkness, by Rob Sanders. The author has a particular talent for broad and sweepingly cinematic prose, and he delivers in spades here. Warhammer 40,000 is a setting that thrives on a well-mixed mash-up, and here we get Greek myth blended in with a tense action thriller. Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s The Underworld War is of the high standard we’ve come to demand of stories featuring the other faction in this war, The Word Bearers. ADB writes villains very well and to call this a character-driven piece is a bit of an understatement. Again, it brings storylines and themes of the series to the fore and adds depth to the growing space opera that is the devolution of the Word Bearers. Other highlights include Dan Abnett’s Unmarked (which deepens the larger mystery) and John French’s nicely creepy Athame.
Overall, Mark of Calth is a great anthology, filled with something that will appeal to anyone following the series. It is not for those new to the Horus Heresy, but those struggling to keep up will find this a good place to get back on board, especially if they’ve only been following one or two authors.