Space Marine Battles: Architect of Fate by Various Authors – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the latest instalment in the Space Marine Battles series, entitled Architect of Fate, published by Black Library and set in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. This features novellas from Sarah Cawkwell (Accursed Eternity), Darius Hinks (Sanctus), Ben Counter (Endeavour of Will) and John French (Fateweaver). This anthology is currently available in stores, having been released this month. (May 2012).
“A top of the range anthology containing some awesome novellas. A collection that truly raises the standard of themed anthologies, and one that is not to be missed by any Warhammer 40k fan.” ~The Founding Fields
The Space Marines stand against the darkness, and yet on countless battlefields they play unwitting roles in the schemes of Fateweaver. From the doomed world of Ilissus, through the embattled corridors of the Endeavour of Will, to the borders of the Eye of Terror itself – friend and foe alike follow the great plan that he set in motion many thousands of years ago. But not even the Architect of Fate himself can foresee the destiny that lies in wait for him…
Collected for the first time, all four parts of the Architect of Fate novella series are presented in a single printed volume. The infamous Kairos Fateweaver, greater daemon of Tzeentch and master of manipulation, has discovered the limits of his power – even one so prescient as he cannot divine beyond the event horizon at the end of the 41st Millennium.
There are several things that make Architect of Fate notable. Firstly, many people will notice that it’s the first anthology in the Space Marine Battles novels, a series which has so far seen mixed reactions from the readers, mainly due to the fact that they are mostly all out action. Secondly, another reason why Architect of Fate is notable is because it is a themed anthology, with four interlinking novellas in a similar way that the upcoming The Primarchs (A Horus Heresy Anthology) does. Black Library don’t often do this, and have had mixed results in the past (Fear the Alien and Gotrek and Felix: The Anthology are two contrasting examples), so I was wondering how Architect of Fate would turn out. And was I dissapointed? Well, not exactly. There is a host of really delightful novellas in here, although – they did have some issues, and unfortunately, the latest instalment in the Space Marine Battles series is not without its flaws.
Accursed Eternity by Sarah Cawkwell
An Architect of Fate novella. Space Marines of the Blood Swords and Star Dragons Chapters are enlisted by Inquisitor Remigius of the Ordo Malleus to storm the infamous daemonship known as theAccursed Eternity. But all is not as it first appears, and what should have been a relatively simple mission rapidly devolves into a hellish warp-spawned nightmare – the stage is set for a galaxy-spanning tale of Chaotic intrigue and of a war which has lasted for ten-thousand years…
The first novella in the Architect of Fate collection is Sarah Cawkwell’s Accursed Eternity, and in my opinion, is not only a strong opener to the anthology, but also the best that the collection has to offer. It’s a superb way to start the anthology, and not only because of the subject matter, but also because of the way the author has written it. What we often don’t get in Warhammer 40k stories these days is a bit of horror, and if you find yourself wanting horror with your Space Marines, then look no further than Accursed Eternity, which is possibly the closest a Warhammer 40k story has come to being ‘scary’. There is a lot to offer here in Accursed Eternity for the reader who loves the fluff, as it looks at not only inter-Space Marine Chapter relations, but also relations between Space Marine Chapters and the Inquisition.
Accursed Eternity is what more Warhammer 40k stories should be like, in my opinion. Dark, moody, well written, and full of several twists and turns, making the ending far from predictable. Sarah Cawkwell’s story is one of the two that really explores the theme of the Fateweaver the most, and that is another reason why it’s great, as both Darius Hinks’ and Ben Counter’s stories didn’t really link in well with the theme, and should probably have been published in another anthology, and not Architect of Fate. However, Accursed Eternity is pretty impressive, with well-written characters that allow the reader to get an insight into not very well developed chapters, the Blood Swords and the Star Dragons, and explore them in further detail, like the way that the same author has done with her fantastic The Gildar Rift, which focused on the Silver Skulls, who have really become Sarah Cawkwell’s ‘own’ Chapter since she’s started writing for Black Library.
The pace is fast, the action is gripping and the novella is really the best one that you’ll get in this Anthology, as mentioned earlier. It’s unpredictable and unlike previous Space Marine Battles novels, which were based around ‘important’ 40k events where everyone knew the outcome, this is a pretty minor one and as much of the Warhammer 40k that I’ve read, I’m struggling to recall which this incident is based on, because all Space Marine Battles novels had been based on already established events so far. However, Architect of Fate was still really enjoyable, and it’s also best not to get attached to any of the characters in this novella. It’s safer that way.
More by Sarah Cawkwell: The Gildar Rift, Valkia the Bloody.
[You can buy Accursed Eternity individually as an e-novella, here.]
An Architect of Fate novella. The Relictors are sent by the Inquisition to loot the repositories and libraries of a world on the cusp of annihilation. With the countdown to Exterminatus looming over them, they realise that even the Chaos Space Marines of the dreaded Black Legion are not the worst threat that they will have to face before they can escape, and that their true enemy may lie elsewhere.
Following on from Sarah Cawkwell’s amazing Accursed Eternity, we have Sanctus, Darius Hinks’ entry into the anthology. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Darius Hinks has written any Warhammer 40k novels before, so I was interested in seeing how he would tackle this, especially as it focuses on the Relictors Chapter, which is one of my favourite of the not-explored-in-much-detail-but-enough-t0-get-you-interested-about-them Chapters, who have been declared renegade by the Imperium for their ‘unhealthy’ fascination in tainted artefacts.
A lot happens in Sanctus, perhaps a bit too much in my opinion for this novella for my liking. The pace is fast, there is lots of action, but, as a whole, Sanctus whilst enjoyable, didn’t really work for me as well as Accursed Eternity did. Despite the awesome cover art of this novella, which is one of the better looking of the whole lot, I still felt a little let down by this title. I wanted to love Sanctus, I really did. However, the characters weren’t really that interesting, whereas one could like and feel sympathy for the characters in Accursed Eternity, I couldn’t really say the same for Sanctus, which was a shame. And on top of that, Sanctus doesn’t really fit into the theme that was presented with the rest of the collection, as whilst it could have worked well (and probably better) as a standalone, e-novella, I didn’t really think that it was suitable for this anthology.
However that’s not to say that Hinks’ story is all bad. He does have an interesting way of writing things, and there are various things that I liked in Hinks’ story. The tension that he’s created is interesting, and the novella is particularly fast-flowing, with an even pace throughout the whole story. Hinks’ plot is well created, and one of the things that would have really made it better was if Sanctus had something to do with the theme of the overall story…
More Darius Hinks: Sigvald, Orion: The Vaults of Winter (Coming Soon)
[You can buy Sanctus individually as an e-novella, here.]
An Architect of Fate novella. Chaos Space Marines of the Iron Warriors Legion launch a devastating attack upon their hated foes the Imperial Fists, crippling one of their principal starforts. Unperturbed, the heroic Captain Darnath Lysander withdraws his warriors to a second stronghold, the Endeavour of Will, to weather the rest of the assault. But as the Iron Warriors’ methods are revealed, critical and desperate decisions must be made, lest their insidious techno-contagion spread throughout the Imperial Fists’ fleet and beyond…
Iron Warriors? Hell yes. Imperial Fists lead by Lysander himself? Hell yes. Ben Counter? Not really sure here. I mean, I enjoyed his Grey Knights Omnibus, the first Soul Drinker novel and Galaxy in Flames, however – I still maintain a strong dislike for his last Horus Heresy entry, Battle for the Abyss. However, the pros seemingly outweigh the cons here, and I dove into Endeavour of Will almost as soon as I’d finished Sanctus, hoping for something better. Indeed, I found something I better. Although Endeavour of Will is not the best novella in the anthology, it certainly is a pretty good one, and as close to a standard Space Marine Battles novel as you can get. Tying into the theme of the whole anthology pretty well, Counter’s latest tale is enjoyable and a good read. The action is brutal, intense and enjoyable, and the pace is fast throughout the novella.
Endeavour of Will also gets across the portrayal of Captain Lysander and his Imperial Fists very well. Even though the outcome is never in doubt because Lysander as a character is a model for the Warhammer 40k tabletop game and therefore has been granted 99.9% certain immunity within the pages of Black Library stories, the novella is quite predictable. However, don’t let that detract you from reading it. The characters are gripping enough to get behind, and the story as a whole is engaging, fast and you won’t want to miss this, as Endeavour of Will is Counter at his best. Although some parts feel a bit rushed, the novella is still pulled off well and I think that this may be a victim of its format, which seems to be a problem with a lot of audio-dramas and novellas published by Black Library. You just feel as though they would be better if it was, say – a full blown novel. Speaking of which, I for one – would love to see a full novel by Ben Counter focusing on the Imperial Fists, which – in my belief, would salvage their reputation after the disaster that was Sons of Dorn.
More Ben Counter: Galaxy in Flames, The Grey Knights Omnibus.
[You can buy Endeavour of Will individually as an e-novella here.]
An Architect of Fate novella. The White Consuls Space Marine Chapter answers a distress call, only to discover that the source of the signal is far more terrifying than the message it relays. As a psychic backlash sweeps through their astropathic choir, the infamous Kairos Fateweaver, greater daemon of Tzeentch and master of manipulation, reveals his final hand in a game which has lasted since the beginning of time. Destiny awaits.
Fateweaver is the final addition to the epic Architect of Fate anthology, and in my opinion, is slightly ahead of Ben Counter’s Endeavour of Will, making it my second favourite out of the whole collection. The characters are possibly the strongest of the entire anthology, and we’ve got a wide mix of them in here, and we really connect well with them, getting us even more attached to the characters than we did with Accursed Eternity. French’s prose is well written and not all-bolter porn, making it a huge difference from what we have come to expect from the Space Marine Battles novels, and I hope that the shift towards the Characters over the battles continues with Chris Wraight’s upcoming Wrath of Iron (which I have on my shelf right now, waiting to be read), and the rest of this series as a whole.
Fateweaver again, like Accursed Eternity and Sanctus, takes a lesser known Chapter, the White Consuls, and fleshes them out a bit more. The last time I read about the White Consuls was in a Word Bearers novel by Anthony Reynolds, and It’s nice to know more about their Chapter, although they are possibly the least interesting in the whole anthology, with the Relictors being the most interesting – followed by the Imperial Fists, with the Blood Swords and the Star Dragons coming next. That said though, they’re no slouch in combat, and French writes the action scenes well, and I for one, would love to see him write a full-blown novel for Black Library. So far, he’s only written short stories, including the amazing The Last Rembrancer, which was in the Age of Darkness Anthology, and I can only wonder what he’d bring to the table with a full blown novel, as he’s the only author in this anthology not to write one yet.
Although the pacing isn’t as clear-cut in this novella as it is in the other one, Fateweaver, as expected – does tie in particularly well to the Architect of Fate anthology, and even manages to connect it to Accursed Eternity, making both stories all the more awesome because of this. French’s novella is unpredictable as well, and is probably the most unpredictable of the lot – you won’t see the ending coming.
More John French: The Last Remembrancer (Short Story), Hunted by John French (Short Story)
[You can buy Fateweaver as an individual e-novella, here.]
So there you have it, my review of all four of the novellas gathered in Architect of Fate. This is a wonderful collection of stories, and the combined works by Cawkwell, Counter, French and Hinks have all raised our expectations of what to look forward to in future – similar collections, such as The Primarchs, which I have read and will eventually get around to reviewing. If there was only one thing that would have made this collection better, was if there had been a story from the Chaos Space Marine point of view, just to balance it out a bit. I know this is technically a Space Marine Battles novel, but we’ve got CL Werner writing a Chaos Space Marine Battles novel in this series (coming out at the end of the year), so why can’t we have Chaos short stories?
In conclusion, I believe Architect of Fate is an anthology that you won’t want to miss. Go out and buy it now, as it’s currently avaliable to buy, both as an ebook, and as an individual story.
Verdict of Overall Anthology: 4/5