Black Library

LORGAR Bearer of the Word - A Review

Shonky pic ahoy!

Shonky pic ahoy!

Continuing my very irregular book review series with the latest in The Primarchs series...

Coming in at 248 pages for a £12.99 hardback we are certainly in the realms of novella rather than full novel, albeit printed on a larger page. However this is not the book's fault; this seems to be style of the series, essentially giving the reader a flavour of the Primarchs' backstory/upbringing.

Which leads us to the first, crucial point; this book places way more emphasis on Lorgar's upbringing than on a general 'discovery by the Imperium/introduction to/shaping of the legion in question. Specifically, huge parts of this book are given over to Lorgar's first few weeks of life on Colchis. I would take the argument that this most pivotal of primarchs is deserving of such detail, in order that we may get a sense of his studious, fey nature but to me it just felt more like it belonged to a longer novel, rather than devoting a large portion of the novel to his first few weeks and the end pretty much being 'and then after a few years he conquered all of Colchis' (spoiler?). The balance is lacking in this one, I fear.

The contrast between this approach and say, Fulgrim, which places the reader at the IIIrd legion's first solo compliance action, many years post-discovery and legion shaping, with a few recollections of Chemos interspersed, was jarring. 

I would have much preferred Lorgar to have followed the same path and given us a sense of the legion adapting to its new father figure, taking on his teachings, moulding their faith, interspersed with flashbacks to Lorgar's early days on Colchis, much like the regular Horus Heresy series do. Conversely, I would have enjoyed a novel concentrating on Fulgrim's time on Chemos, a backstory I have always found interesting. However, I'm not here to wishlist the novel I wanted, but the one that we got..

The other major bone of contention I have with this story pertains to the pivotal Kor Phaeron-Lorgar relationship. Obviously this requires some suspension of disbelief that a demi-god-like being can be manipulated by a regular human, which is fine insofar as most of the plot of the Heresy requires this, but it still felt a little...plot-device-y. If I can venture some conjecture here,  I suspect the reason so much of this book centres around Lorgar's first few weeks of (conscious) life if that this was the only time it made relative sense for him to be so impressionable and accepting of so dubious a father figure; Kor Phaeron is completely bound up in his spiralling plots - Lorgar is only ever a tool to be manipulated. (There is a throwaway line right at the end of the novel implying Lorgar allowed Kor Phaeron to believe Lorgar unconditionally accepted his teaching as a way of masking his own plans, this is so convenient it just smacks of bad writing, and if Lorgar didn't truly believe all along, how on earth would he magically end up a true believer later?)

The parts I most enjoyed were those centred on Kor Phaeron's clandestine mission to keep the  'old faith' alive wherever he found it; this allows the idea that the seeds for Lorgar's return to the first faith he knew were planted way, way before his shaming on Monarchia and his pilgrimage to the Eye, rendering this aspect of the legion's volte face of worship far more believable. It was there all along!...

There are some minor grammar/continuity issues of no real concern, with the hilarious exception of the epilogue, which is set right at the onset of the Legion rejecting worship of the Emperor, (i.e. post-Monarchia) but according to the subscript apparently takes place in M40...c'mon guys, pretty basic timeline, you're only about ten thousand years out...

Overall, Lorgar is a decent read, I just feel its subject is a little misguided, (how apt!) and it could have done with more focus on the Machiavellian schemes of the legion in the run up (and way before) the Heresy and less on baby Lorgar's first steps. I can't let my personal feelings interfere too much; Lorgar is a decent book with a decent story; certainly you'll feel the urge to take up the sword and mantle of the cultist (incidentally I am building a cultist militia all of a sudden...), I just can't help but wish for the novel this could have been.


Thought for the day; 'Blessed is the mind too small for doubt'.



FARSIGHT: Crisis of Faith, a review


Like many of you I tend to have a swift Google for a review or video review of a potential purchase. Not so much when it comes to Black Library products, as I usually buy things that I know I'll like (with a few bitter exceptions), but I did however search for any clues as to whether this particular novel was any good as I had just embarked on my own Tau expansion, and it would be my first step into Tau fiction - I found very little, good or bad, so I'm adding my tupp'orth and hopefully you'll find it useful.

So no major spoilers ahead, indeed my review will be more of a comment on the Tau's and Xenos in general's fiction (or lack of), and the community opinions/response to this. Don't worry, I'll talk about the book too!

So what do you get for your £18.99 or regional equivalent? 

A hardback, fairly large print novel of 355 pages by Phil Kelly (more on him later), centering on the eponymous hero's exploits crossing the Damocles Gulf and generally plot device-ing himself and his super awesome squad of justice and tolerance out of the various slightly sticky situations they find themselves in. Presumably there's more to come too, as we don't get any Enclave action at all; this is a prequel, or backstory of sorts.

That's the plot in a nutshell, without spoiling anything - there are subplots involving the Inquisition, an oddly-behaved member of the Water caste, the machinations of the Ethereal caste and the best efforts of the Scar Lords chapter to derail Farsight's expedition. Beyond that, we glean something here and there about Farsight's relationships with Commander Shadowsun, That Guy Kais and his old mentor Puretide, but nothing anyone with a basic grounding in Tau lore wouldn't be au fait with. (I'm not including myself in that group, as a Tau noob).

As for Commander Farsight himself, there's plenty of him getting slightly miffed and emotional about things not going the way he wants, presumably as a prelude to him having the eponymous crisis of faith (at some point). Whether you find it natural or too jarring with the traditional ideas of the Tau obediently going about their for the Greater Good business is largely down to you. His command team are blatantly OP though. One of them is basically a Dreadnought and another is a Cylon. Come at me, bro! 

You also get a brief but useful Xenolexicon at the back, (although if I'm being uncharitable, it would've been nice had this been mentioned in a contents page, I only found it about a fifth of the way through my reading...)

This brings me onto a more general discussion - many of the Tau's hardcore fans have very strong feelings about Mr. Kelly, usually positive in regards to his original involvement with previous Tau codex fluff, and vehemently negative when it comes to his recent move into novel writing.  

I'm as bad as anyone else when it comes to debating my favourite sci-fantasy universe, but the 'colour of Tau blood' debacle (alluded to in the recent Community post announcing the novel) and the somewhat shaky ground of the 'kind of make it up as you go along' Tau language are problems laid at Phil Kelly's feet. As a Tau noob, these things don't bother me unduly, but I know instinctively that they probably would be doing if I'd had a longer relationship with the little blue guys.

On a wider scale, these issues are felt more by a fan base when that group is smaller; write a bad Space Marine novel and enough people will buy it and/or think it's half-decent, and encourage the company to publish more - write a 'bad' Xenos novel and the relatively few people who buy it will desperately wish for it to be good and be all the more enraged when it's not, usually leading to no further novels for that particular faction for a while. It's a vicious circle but hey, newsflash, Marine stuff is popular, sells well, and thusly gets more stuff published for it.

In summary, this is a decent read. Caveat: I have notoriously low standards when it comes to films, TV, etc. It's not that I like bad things, it just that something can be 'ok' and as long as it's vaguely enjoyable I'll be accepting of it. We live in an age where anything and everything is held up to the light and picked apart, and whilst this is good insofar as it encourages things to be done better, it also frequently takes some of the magic away. Everything will seem a little worse if you stop to really scrutinise it. If I hadn't delved a little deeper online in trying to gauge the community's response to this book, I probably would've had a higher opinion of it. Make of that what you will.  

Equally, if you want to read something Xenos-related, you never have much choice. If I had to compare this book to another (in order to give you a sense of how it feels, not in terms of quality) it would probably have to be the notorious Descent of Angels from the Horus Heresy series; it gives a flavour of its subject but leaves you feeling somewhat let down by the lack of actual content/progression.

Not so much a 'crisis of faith' as a mild perturbation. Here's hoping for more to follow.