When I first began writing for Rites and overviewed the state of things in Black Library. Between the 40k universe and the 30k universe I outlined what I thought were some strengths and weakness of each publication series. I was particularly excited for the state of 30k publication because a new segment was being launched beginning with "The Unremembered Empire". I had high hopes that the novel would blow my mind and maybe even call me in the morning.
I was so, so very wrong... and there is a reason why, for the weeks after I finished it, I couldn't bring myself to write a review. I still can't.
So, I was a little excited to see that the White Scars were getting some love with frequent, serialized releases of "Scars", an entire novel spread out into episodes available for purchase. Well, now that the serialization has concluded Black Library is releasing the entirety of it into one collective. However, after the last experience with "The Unremembered Empire" I was beyond wary. Chris Wraight, however, was helming it, which provided me with enough assurance to read (Wraight wrote the Space Wolf series from olden times and "The Battle of the Fang" Space Marines Battle Book, which is a favorite of mine).
"Scars" is a continuation of the novella "Brotherhood of the Storm", detailing the White Scars pacification of the world of Chondax after the Triumph of Ullanor. Our main characters are Torghun, a Terran born legionary who has some series bro-love for the Luna Wolves, and Shiban, a native from Chogoris who is all about fighting and loving his Khan. These two are backed up by a Terran administrator, Illya Ravallion, who provides non-Astartes commentary as she tries to "domesticate" the White Scars for their prosecution of the Great Crusade (they tend to run to whatever enemy is next, disregarding orders to proceed elsewhere). And in between is Jaghatai Khan, Leman Russ, Mortarion, Sanguinius...with splashes of the other Primarchs that were at the Ullanor Triumph.
So many characters, especially HUGE names like the Primarchs mean that the novel should feel cramped. Afterall, Primarchs tend to take the limelight. However, the novel does a fantastic job at giving Torghun and Shiban plenty of limelight with the Primarch's playing distant characters that we only get to see occasionally. However, their appearance usually comes with some kind of profound insight into the current situation, which is a nice change of pace than, say "The Unremembered Empire", which featured Primarchs EVERYWHERE.
The plot largely focuses on the time period after the pacification of Chondax, where the White Scars are trying to decide where to conquer next. During this time they begin receiving communication that Horus has rebelled...and then communications that the Emperor has become a tyrant..and then communications that the Wolves have gone rogue by destroying Prospero. Amidst all of the confusion, Jaghatai Khan decides the best course of action is to see and decide for himself. On the other side of the void, the Wolves are licking their wounds from Prospero when they are attacked by the Alpha legion and, needing help, call to Jaghatai for aid. And WITHIN this plot is the conflict within the legion itself and between Torghun and Shiban. See, Torghun spent time with the Luna Wolves as a legionnaire. and brought back the Lodges with him.
You know, the same Lodges that corrupted half of the loyal legions?
What is striking about this treachery is that the White Scars do not openly declare for Horus. They hope to convince the Khan to side with him through reason and brotherhood. Only when the last possible moment comes do they engage their fellow legionnaires and, when the fighting is done, most fall back into line once they realize the utter insanity that Horus is trying to commit.
It's a good pacing which I suggest owes something to the serialization of the novel first. The White Scares don't burden themselves with a lot of ornamentation or decorum, preferring to kill and ride their bikes on open plains. And it's so, so enjoyable. Jaghatai might be taking the spot for one of my favorite Primarchs after my read through.
There is also some rather lengthy discussion on Nikea as well, suggesting that the entire event might have been priorly orchestrated by Mortarion to deprive the loyalist legions of their Librarians. The Stormseer in the novel, Targutai Yesugei, is probably the most sagely character that the series has produced and, from what has been put in the novel, is going to be a direct foil to Ahriman in the unfolding story (the two were supposedly good friends beforehand). It's curious that Jaghatai is the third Primarch to stand by the Librarius at Nikea, since he is definitely not a psyker or even mystical.
Magnus is talked to on the ruins of Prospero, Mortarion duels Jaghatai, and Yesugei picks up survivors from the Istvaan Massacre. The Wolves are largely there for your standard dose of bolter porn, which would be boring except for that the perspective for the Wolves is from Bjorn the Fell-Handed, who has NEVER ceased to be awesome whenever he has appeared in any Black Library publication. Even better, the running joke with Black Library publications has become that, whenever Bjorn is brought up in a publication he almost always mentions his dislike of Dreadnoughts, which is just fantastic.
ConclusionOne would think that so many events and personalities would spoil the book by overcrowding it, but Wraight does the most fabulous job blending them all in seamlessly and with purpose, never giving us a scene that is unnecessary and trivial, which goes a long way when you have to work in so many plot points.
So what do I think of "Scars"? I loved it. After the huge let down that was "The Unremembered Empire" it is awesome to see a Horus Heresy novel do well and not make me feel like bashing my head in with the hardback copy. It's got good pacing, awesome characters, and gives the White Scars some much deserved loved that they haven't really received yet in the 30k universe. Wraight doesn't disappoint in giving us a well crafted story and I think I can recommend the book to any White Scar's fan and any fan of the Horus Heresy series thus far. You'll need some background info to appreciate it, but you don't need to be a fluff master to enjoy it.
This is Trooper, signing off.