I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.
Age of Darkness by various authors
Age of Darkness is another collection of short stories in the Horus Heresy line. Like the others, it delivers a collection of stories that provide background to the various conflicts breaking out along with the occasional character piece. For this review, I’ll write briefly about each individual story before posting an overall impression at the end.
Rules of Engagement by Graham McNeill
I loved this story that pitted the Ultramarines’ commitment to their Primarch with his own, in person teaching on how to fight a battle. The Ultramarines are not nearly as boring as I thought they might be.
Liars Due by James Swallow
Lots of buildup that mostly just shows how planets outside big realms of influence might react to the heresy. A decent read with some good intrigue.
Forgotten Sons by Nick Kyme
A seriously action packed novelette about trying to sway a planet’s loyalty towards Horus or the Emperor. I liked how this shows the challenges faced by planets that could be torn apart by conflict.
The Last Remembrancer by John French
Layers of trust are wiped away in this intriguing short story about a remembrancer telling the Iron Fists about Horus. The payoff isn’t as strong as I hoped, but it’s okay.
Rebirth by Chris Wraight
The Thousand Sons are turning into my favorite of the traitor legions, and this short story just solidified that even more. It’s got enough layers in it to make it interesting throughout, and the ending, which apparently reverberates in larger WH40K lore, was great.
The Face of Treachery by Gav Thorpe
A huge battle has its tide turned by betrayal. I loved this one for both its action and the tight plotting Thorpe gave it.
Little Horus by Dan Abnett
Little Horus leads the Sons of Horus in battle and effectively springs a trap intended for Horus himself. It’s got tons of action and great plotting, as is typical of Abnett. A very good read.
The Iron Within by Rob Sanders
Big action with Titans is one of my favorite things about the Warhammer universe, and this short story delivers on that. It’s not as thoughtful as some of the others in the collection, but makes up for it in cool vistas and solid action scenes.
Savage Weapons by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
A surprisingly tight-knit scene is the core of this story, but that scene is set for a clash between Primarchs. It’s got tons of great action and certainly seems to loom larger than the short story itself.
I greatly enjoyed Age of Darkness. Every single story included was well done, with some standouts mixed in to an overall great collection. To me, these short stories help prove a point I’ve made several times in my reviews of the series: a lot of the novels would make better short stories. Too often, there is excess fluff that keeps readers away from the action or plot. In these short stories, we don’t encounter that issue. One problem that did arise is that I was listening to this as an audiobook on Audible. I have listened to a few of the Primarchs novels as well, and they all have the same issue this collection did: the sound balancing is terrible. The readers shout, whisper, etc. and do it all to the point where I find myself constantly having to adjust the volume as I listen to it on the go. It’s quite annoying, to be honest. The readers do a good job, but all of these audiobooks could do with much, much better sound balancing, so that as a listener I’m not straining to hear one moment and then having my eardrums pummeled the next.
Age of Darkness is a great collection that should not be skipped. There’s a lot here that fills in details of previous and future conflicts, along with great character building throughout. I definitely recommend the collection.
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