Saturday, January 5, 2013
A Great Read: Ahriman: Exile by John French
Old School here with a quick look at Ahriman: Exile, a Black Library novel that was released electronically recently. I was sick the day after Christmas and downloaded it expecting to maybe hammer it out over the course of the week, but I actually read through the whole book in a sitting. The last time a 40k novel entertained me this much was the original Soul Hunter novel by Aaron D.B. I will give a quick break down of what the book is about and what I thought about it. I will avoid making any real huge spoilers, but if you like to go into books blind, please avoid the rest of this post and just know that I thought it was a good read.
With that all said, the book doesn't portray Ahriman as the super villain that the codices have in the past, but rather an extent ion of the Ahriman that Graham McNiel delivered in a Thousand Sons. This makes sense as the book begins centuries after the Rubric ritual was performed.
We find Ahriman disguised as a low level sorcerer in a coven serving a savage Chaos lord. He no longer uses the powers he commanded in a Thousand Sons and no longer identifies himself as Ahriman or as a Thousand Son. We discover through his own reflection that he has bounced from warband to warband this way for some time and throughout the book some of the warbands pictured in the 4Ed codex are named.
When he is discovered by a ship of Thousand Sons, everything changes. He has been hunted down by a former friend and has the choice to fight or submit to capture. When he chooses to fight, we see the old Ahriman come out as he rises through the Enumerations again and we see the re-emergence of one of the most powerful sorcerers in the galaxy.
Ahriman then begins a quest to find out why his former brother in arms is hunting him and in the course of his mission, we meet other Thousand Sons, Tech Priest renegades, renegade Space Marines and a cast of characters who are almost as mysterious and haunted as Ahriman himself.
The quest takes the reader through the Eye of Terror and beyond and explores the past as well, finally breaking the mystery of how the Rubric occurred and who was involved. We also learn how the Thousand Sons turned from crimson to blue!
Overall, the book was fantastic and John French gave it the gritty feel of Aaron D.B.'s work, which I really have enjoyed, while also capturing the aspects of psychic combat and post-human emotions in a way that readers can believe. The book includes so much detail from the heresy era books that it has a HH feel, though we are certainly closing in on modern times in the book. The fact that the author was able to bridge the two eras successfully (which have practically become separate genres at this point) is a true mark of a skilled professional who took the time to really get to know the subject.
Ahriman is in many ways a story of a character seeking redemption rather than a book about a villain. He seems more like a hero who has had to walk the road of damnation on his quest to battle what fate he has unleashed on himself and his legion rather than some twisted "skeletor-esque" stereotype. French manages to portray all of this without ever turning Ahriman (or any of the cast) into "emo kids," which is a trap I find some HH and 40k era authors regularly fall into when trying to write about the fallen characters.
I would recommend this book to anybody who has read the Heresy series and would market it as a continuation of the story of a Thousand Sons. I would also recommend it to those who haven't read the series, but enjoy the Black Library and the 40k Universe. I don't write book reviews very often, but I also don't read too many books in a single sitting, so take it for what it's worth and if you pick it up, let us know what you think.