Corax: Soulforge by Gav Thorpe – Limited Edition Review [Lord of the Night]
Lord of the Night reviews the latest of Black Library’s Limited Edition Novellas range, the Horus Heresy novella Corax: Soulforge by Gav Thorpe.
“An enjoyable return for Corax and the Raven Guard, and a very good stand-alone adventure for both.” – The Founding Fields
Another limited release and one that I of course bought for completion, and was rewarded with yet another gorgeous matte-black cover with shiny black lettering and blacked out edges. Really the unique Raven Guard design to their limited novellas is beautiful, and when the story within is quite enjoyable with plenty of the Raven Guards always enjoyable smart-fighting and stealth tactics, it only makes it better.
On the edges of space, where Horus Lupercal’s Legions have been and gone, another force is operating in the shadows. The Raven Guard, once a mighty Legion, now reduced to a shadow of it’s former self, is taking the fight to the traitors wherever and however it can. After a routine sacking of a Word Bearers ship yields unexpected information Corax leads his Legion to an obscure Forge World, only to discover that the Word Bearers are plotting something horrific in the acid-seas and floating barge-cities of Constanix II, and only the Raven Guard can stop them from unleashing a nightmare of metal and madness upon the galaxy, and from making sure that nightmare serves the Warmaster’s twisted goal. But with strife in the Legion can Corax keep the Raven Guard together, or will they succumb to hatred and lose themselves in the fires of righteousness.
The story in C:SF is obviously a stand-alone in of itself, yet it connects to the novel Deliverance Lost and all of the other short stories that have featured the Raven Guard, and continues their story through that, but also has the benefit of not being essential to the series-wide plot for the RG, as befits a limited edition. But it is still very enjoyable and focuses mainly on Corax himself, on how he wages war and how he views himself and his brothers with led to some very deep answers that really provide an insight into the mysterious XIXth Primarch. The key aspect of the Raven Guard plot was also quite enjoyable dealing the rage they feel at Istvaan and how their method of war values intelligent over wrath, and how they have to deal with not being able to vent that wrath on their enemy when tactics say they must not.
The characters are small in number, only two really matter in the wider scheme of the story. Corax and Commander Agapito, both of whom go through a fair bit of development in the story and each face a crisis of belief, Corax in himself and Agapito in his Legion’s beliefs. Thorpe really makes these characters problems feel strong, Agapito’s grief and rage over the massacre at Istvaan drives him to make bad decisions and it’s understandable that he feels he needs to avenge his fallen and perhaps atone for surviving where they did not, and as Corax begins to learn more about himself both he and we as the reader can start to wonder just how much of what he knows about the Emperor and the Primarchs is the truth. Thorpe also shows how Corax views himself and one or two of his brothers, and it’s a pretty impressive answer as he compares himself to them and even his opinion of the Emperor and the traitors is revealed, and all of them paint an interesting picture of Corvus Corax that I would very much like to see more of.
The action is very enjoyable and well-written, the Raven Guard are always fun to read about as they differ so greatly from the majority of Space Marines and fight in ways that are theirs and theirs alone. This of course means that reading their battles is a nice change of pace for fans like me, and it’s interesting to see all the different ways that the RG use to fight like ghosts. Some more very interesting details about how the Raven Guard fight are revealed in this novella, including the mystery behind a particular Raven Guard character’s “ability” and plenty of new name vehicles are introduced that enhance the RG in battle and make them a unique Legion to read about in action. Thorpe writes these scenes very well, giving the Raven Guard that unique twist but not making them infallible and living up to the creed of the Legion, “Attack, withdraw, then attack again.”
The pacing is well-done and the story moves at an enjoyable rate. I was never bored at any point during the novella, one thing that I think really helped was that travelling was completely cut from the story which focused on the brief lead-up to Constanix and the actual campaign on the planet itself. Thorpe’s Raven Guard are a very interesting group to read about, the multiple divides between the Legionnaires that are outlined in the book show how different each group of Raven Guard is from the others and hopefully once another RG novel comes out those groups can be explored more and these divides can really be tested, but for now Thorpe did a good job in showcasing the differences between each one briefly in the story. I also enjoyed his depiction of the Mechanicus and their logical approach to everything, and how Corax viewed it and their religious beliefs.
My favourite quote, a fair few good ones in the story but this one is definitely the best in my opinion,
“Chaos may be immortal. Flesh is not.”
The ending is quite a nice moment against the bleak backdrop of the Heresy, and it’s a nice alternative to what was expressed in the pages before it. I felt it was a good place to end the novella on, though I would have liked to see how the battle ended and perhaps Agapito getting a little bit of revenge on the Word Bearers, but I suppose the latter might have upset the point his story made so I can accept that part of the ending the way it is. But I do think the novella should have been a few pages longer, just enough that we could see how the battle ended and who lived and who died. But I have no problems with what was in the epilogue and I found it to be a very touching scene.
For a good story with some very good character development and for just bringing us more of the Raven Guard who I always enjoy reading about I give Corax: Soulforge a score 8.0/10. This is definitely an enjoyable novella, one that I think fans of the Raven Guard should make it a point to read when it is released generally down the line, but if Gav Thorpe’s writing or his Raven Guard are not something you enjoy then this isn’t a novella or story that you should collect or read, as I doubt you’d like either. But I very much enjoyed the book and it’s a beautiful one to look at, and i’m glad to have it in my collection.
That’s it for this review. What will come next I am not sure, likely it will be Blighted Empire by C.L Werner or Skarsnik by Guy Haley, or something else. Have to find out when it happens. So until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!