Book Review: Shadows of Treachery / Editors: Christian Dunn, Nick Kyme / Publisher: The Black Library / Release Date: October
The Horus Heresy series tends to produce some rather strong anthologies; after all, it is an epic and sprawling tale of intergalactic warfare and heroic failure. Shadows of Treachery is no different, containing some great stories. However, it’s also a slightly odd collection; two never seen before novellas and a set of short stories previously seen in other formats such as audio plays or limited edition books. It’s also not one for the uninitiated; this book fills in some of the gaps in the series so far, and though many of the tales work fine on their own, an understanding of the series will improve the experience greatly.
Shadows kicks off with John French’s novella The Crimson Fist, a grim tale of the cost of failure, filled with regret and mourning for murdered futures. Despite featuring huge space ships smashing into things, it’s really about the death of hope and how heroes survive through it. French has an atmospheric and compelling storytelling style, and though this story is a little slow in places, it sets the mood perfectly.
Next up is The Dark King. This Graham McNeil tale was previously released as an audio, and not only does it function as a nice bookend to the previous story, it also foreshadows other stories rather nicely. It is a tale of ego and arrogance, and features two of the Horus Heresy’s signature characters going up against each other; Rogal Dorn and Conrad Kurze. Both are demi-god like figures, and it’s nice to see these characters behave not like gods, but bickering mortals.
Rogal Dorn is also the focus of The Lightning Tower by the ever popular Dan Abnett. This is a character driven drama, and worked much better as an audio; it’s a tale of one man coping with galaxy shattering changes and the audio version benefitted from voice actor Danny Webb chewing the scenery. Still, Abnett never fails to deliver a cracking read, and this is no different.
The Kaban Project is a short story that continues the theme of treachery and gives additional insight to previous novels in the Horus Heresy series. Graham McNeil has a real feel for the consequences of technology gone wrong, and this is a haunting piece about artificial intelligence unleashed into a world that has long decided that such things are for fools. It’s a little bit predictable, but still very amusing. It is also another reprint, having previously appeared in the now impossible to find Collected Visions Artbook. Another McNeil story, Death of Silversmith, also features in this collection. Previously available in a very limited edition collection, it serves as a prequel of sorts to the entire series. It’s a nice mood piece, and the sort of well paced tale that we’ve come to expect from McNeil.
Gav Thorpe’s Ravens Flight (previously available as an audio), gives the reader a grounding in one of the more unlikely events in the series, concerning the actions of the heroic Raven Guard during the Istvaan Massacre. It’s tightly packed with mystery and paranoia, and establishes Thorpe as a strong writer of character driven sci-fi.
The collection ends with Aaron Dembsky-Bowden’s Prince of Crows, and is the jewel in the crown of the collection. Fans of ADB will lap this up, as will anyone who likes the super-powered vigilante and demi-god, Night Haunter. It is an origin tale of sorts, explaining why one of the factions of the Heresy series was doomed to the path of darkness from the start. It also features everybody’s favourite bastard, Sevatar. (Though this original story has never been produced as an audio, if they ever have to find a voice for Sevatar, someone please audition Blakes 7 star, Paul Darrow. He’d be perfect for it.) This novella has all the things we love about the Horus Heresy series; big things exploding, heroes finding the monster within, brutal and bloody combat and of course, epic tragedy. I would have loved to have seen a longer version of this, I suspect it would have been very entertaining indeed.