Commissar Ploss here with another book review. His first review for 2011, no less. Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett.
The Vlka Fenryka – Be it man, beast, xenos, daemon, or demigod, they will kill it. They are the Emperor’s sanction.
-The Founding Fields
So i’ve just finished reading Prospero Burns. I have to say, there was a lot of anticipation surrounding this novel. Lots of hype. I for one was one of those who couldn’t wait to get their hands on it.
So when i finally did (The folks at BL were nice enough to send me one), I was very eager to get going.
The novel’s central character is a man by the name of Kasper Hawser. Founder of the Terran “Conservatory”, he has been a driving force behind the compilation and collation of knowledge from Terra’s past. A crazy turn of events has him leaving on a trip to Fenris to “observe” the Space Wolves on their home planet. It’s nothing but trouble from then on through.
I have to add here that Abnett has taken the name “Space Wolves” and almost struck it completely from the manuscript. Settling on something much more badass. Vlka Fenryka. The Rout. It is the name the space wolves give themselves in their own tongue of Juvjk, their “hearth-cant” language. With Juvjk comes another “language” of sorts that Abnett has added. Wurgen, is their war tongue, used to describe things associated with battle and war.
Getting back to Hawser and the main plot, Hawser does become an observer of sorts to the Vlka Fenryka. He becomes what is known as a skjald. The Rout’s version of a remembrancer. Although instead of using recording devices in the classic sense, a skjald uses his memories to make accounts of battles and tell of the wondrous deeds of the Vlka Fenryka. Traveling with the men of Tra (Third Company), Hawser makes accounts of the battles that he gets to witness with them. Recounting those tales in front of all the men usually after the battles or during times of rest.
The book is very flash-back heavy… very very very flash-back heavy… To the point where it really drags on you. Unlike Mr. Abnett’s other books, i found it waaay to easy to put this story down and move onto other things. That’s probably what took me so long to read it. I just couldn’t read another recurring dream sequence anymore… it really got old after a while.
Another thing. I mentioned up at the beginning of this review that there was a lot of hype and expectation surrounding this novel, and with a cover as grand as this, and a title just as tantalizing, i have to say, i was sorely disappointed for about 15/16th’s of this book… If you’re looking at this book thinking, “ooh, Russ is on the cover, there must be some awesome fighting in this book! It’s gotta be about the battle of Prospero, just look at the title!,” I’m sorry to say that you’re wrong… Very little of this book has to do with Prospero burning… almost equally lacking are any scenes with the Wolf King. That’s not saying he doesn’t make an appearance, it’s just that he’s a minor character at best… Even the description from Black Library is a sad misrepresentation:
The Emperor is enraged. Primarch Magnus the Red of the Thousand Sons Legion has made a terrible mistake that endangers the very safety of Terra. With no other choice, the Emperor charges Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves, with the apprehension of his brother from the Thousand Sons home world of Prospero. This planet of sorcerers will not be easy to overcome, but Russ and his Space Wolves are not easily deterred. With wrath in his heart, Russ is determined to bring Magnus to justice and bring about the fall of Prospero.
It felt like it isn’t until the last 30-50 pages or so that Prospero is featured in the setting. I’m sorry to say, but it was frighteningly disappointing. My expectations were unnaturally high, and why wouldn’t they be, just look at that description, cover, and title…
Now, with all that said, the story does wrap up quite nicely. With all of the flashbacks coming together in a climactic conclusion that makes utterly no sense until those end pages. I was pleased with the way that things came out, even though i’ve just slagged the novel’s preparation by it’s publisher. lol In the end, you realize that this book was more of a psychological thriller than a gritty hardcore war novel. Which is fine! just…not what i was expecting. That being said, it was written quite well. Very well i might add. My disappointments were dulled some by the ending and the way that Mr. Abnett wrapped things up.
I have to unfortunately give this book a mediocre 6/10.
Reason: with the way that BL hyped this thing up as a Wolves vs. 1k Sons book, it sure wasn’t. This isn’t meant to be a stab at Dan Abnett’s character mind you, it’s just my honest opinion. Had i expected something along the lines of a psych thriller i probably would have rated it higher. I just can’t in good conscience give it anything more that 6. I did put it down a lot, it dragged along, and only at the end, was the story slightly redeemed. I had that “Is that it!?” feeling running through my gut, when i read the account of Prospero… perhaps 20 pages at most being dedicated to the subject plastered in the title.
Should you buy this book? No.
I feel horrible having to say no. But, if you are a fan of the 40k Universe and have read all the Horus Heresy books thus far, then you’ll want to pick it up just for the sake of your collection. Otherwise, if all you’ve heard is the hype, don’t do it. I’m sorry to say that like me, you’ll probably be disappointed… And Abnett is my favorite author… So i’ll always buy his books, i’m just shocked i wasn’t enthralled by this manuscript…
If you would care to buy the book, you can find it below: