Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Ahriman: Sorcerer by John French (Black Library)

I return to the world of Black Library, with the latest entry in John French’s Ahriman series, Ahriman: Sorcerer, focusing on the infamous titular sorcerer of the Thousand Sons Legion.

Ahriman, greatest sorcerer of the Thousand Sons and architect of the Rubric that laid his Legion low, continues to walk the path towards salvation, or damnation. Searching for a cure for his Legion, he is forced to consider – was the great ritual somehow flawed from the very beginning? The answer may lie within the mysterious artefact known as the Athenaeum of Kalimakus, a grimoire of forgotten knowledge that is reputed to contain the exact words of the lost Book of Magnus... or, perhaps, even a transcription of the primarch’s deepest and most secret thoughts.

I don’t read as much Black Library fiction as I used to – the days of me keeping up with pretty much every newly released book have fallen behind and now I only return to the worlds of Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy sporadically. However, reading John French’s Ahriman: Sorcerer, even though it was the second novel in a series and I had not read the first, I didn’t encounter any major difficulties understanding who was who (because obviously, Ahriman is a major character in the Horus Heresy series and one of the more famous playable characters in the game.) He’s an intriguing character and I will leap at the chance to read anything Thousand Sons related, especially when it’s handled by John French, who is a reliable writer who has been previously responsible for the awesome short story The Last Remembrancer and the novella The Crimson Fist. This is the first full novel that I’ve read from French (his previous one is the first entry in the Ahriman series, Exile) and he certainly didn’t disappoint.

Let’s get this out of the way early on. The cover art is awesome. It pictures Ahriman in all his glory and it was one of the main reasons why the book screamed ‘must buy’ for me when I saw it on the shelf. It just looked so good, and certainly joins the list of impulse buys (one of which is Douglas Hulick's awesome Among Thieves) that I’ve made purely based on the cover alone. But then again, Black Library titles have for the most part earned excellent covers, so there’s always something to look forward to from the newer titles.

The book itself sees Ahriman searching for a cure for the Thousand Sons Legion, after being the architect who crippled them in the first place. For more backstory on why this happened you’ll have to check out Dan Abnett’s Prospero Burns and Graham McNeill’s A Thousand Sons, both of which are awesome and probably familiar to most Black Library fans by now. So chances are, if you’re coming into this book already, you’ll know the backstory, and it’s great to see that there are no pages wasted in repeating what you already know. French handles it very well, with Ahriman desperately searching for the Athenaeum of Kalimakus, a lost artifact of high value to his legion. However, Ahriman is being hunted, and has to deal with not only a fearsome Inquisitor, but also the Space Wolves on his tail. So needless to say, this makes for some thrilling reading indeed, with the novel balancing the action sequences with the more character driven ones pretty strongly. It certainly doesn't fall into the trap of being just another bolter-heavy novel.

The plot itself is handled well and the pacing is pretty good, with nothing ever feeling rushed or too slow. It remains engrossing throughout and as I was reading this on a long journey with nothing else to do, I managed to get through it in pretty much two sittings (I couldn’t quite finish it all in one go) and it was incredibly refreshing to read, feeling unlike anything I’ve read from Black Library in a while now.

It’s safe to say then, Ahriman: Sorcerer is for me, a welcome return to Warhammer 40,000 and has reignited my interest in the setting once again. I will most certainly be picking up Ahriman: Exile whilst I’m waiting for the third novel (in what is a planned trilogy) to be released and it’ll be very interesting to see where French takes the book going forward for sure. So if you’re looking for some continuation from the events of Prospero Burns/A Thousand Sons then this book is certainly going to be up your street, especially if you want something different from the usual bolter-heavy action. This is certainly one of the better impulse buys that I’ve had in a while, and as a result it comes recommended.


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