Tallarn: Executioner by John French – Dual Preview [Bane of Kings/Bellarius]


Allowed to view the opening pages of the upcoming limited edition novella by John French, Bane of Kings and Bellarius give their thoughts on the opening.

An excellent (if very small) extract promising greater things to come. If you can afford the pricetag of this limited edition novella, then Tallarn: Executioner, from this extract at least – is a very interesting read from the awesome John French. ” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

“An interesting beginning to the conflict which adiquately outlines the basics before the battle.” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields

 Bane of Kings

As one of the Imperium’s many staging grounds for the forces serving in the Great Crusade, the verdant world of Tallarn has long served as a transfer point for vast numbers of military personnel and their war machines. Now, destroyed by a deadly virus-bomb attack launched by the battered Iron Warriors fleet, the entire world is reduced to a toxic wasteland where the survivors must fight to defend what little remains of their home. The remnants of the once mighty Jurnian 701st armoured regiment emerge from their underground shelters, and the opening movements of the Battle of Tallarn begin…

Tallarn: Executioner is the latest novella in a long line of limited edition releases from Black Library, written by relative newcomer John French, author of Ahriman: Exile and various short stories. Whilst I have not read Ahriman: Exile, the various short stories and novellas from French that I have read in the past, including his spectacular additions to The Primarchs and Shadows of Treachery, I was looking forward to seeing what he could do with Tallarn: Executioner despite the rather steep price for the novella. I was actually sent only an extract of this myself, and I rather liked what I saw, with John French delivering an impressive showing that makes me want to read more.

It’s rather difficult reviewing an extract as you haven’t been given enough time to really connect with the characters for them to make any lasting impression – and when you add the fact that this is an extract of not a book, but a novella – the impression that French has to leave on the reader is harder still (9 Pages!). But one thing’s for sure is that whilst the characters may not have stuck with me, John French’s prose certainly did – and the epic tank battle that this book looks set to be all about is portrayed pretty well.

As most fans of Warhammer 40,000 lore will know, Tallarn is an iconic battleground in the pages of the Horus Heresy. Whilst it may not have as much game-changing significance as Prospero or Isstvan V in the ongoing events of the Horus Heresy, it certainly is a pretty memorable element – I mean, how many people when they read this aspect of the source material thought that they’d want to re-enact a battle with this many tanks on the tabletop, or see how well it would be handled at the hands of Black Library authors? For those of you who don’t know or need reminding, then the event pretty much follows the invasion of the Iron Warriors, who launched virus bombs before planetfall in an attempt to destroy any potential resistance before they risked the lives of any of their troops. This thus turned the planet into a hostile desert atmosphere, but the Imperial forces were not as crushed as the traitors might have hoped from the initial bombardment, leaving the Chaos Marines with a battle on their hands.

Based on the impression that I received from this extract, Tallarn – Executioner is a pretty solid read and I can’t wait to read more. Unlike my normal reviews where I usually leave a rating and include a longer review, I’m not going to do either of those things here – purely on the basis that the extract that I received is just too short for me to leave a rating of. However, I’m really tempted to pick this book up if I had the funds available for it when it comes out as a limited edition novella. I mean, Tallarn is a setting that I really would love to read about – and I hope that this isn’t the last we’ll see of this. French is a superb author and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table.

You can expect this book to be available Black Library’s website (and Black Library’s website only) on the 27th, in other words next Friday. Rather than being a limited amount of numbers, if you order between the 27th and October 4th, you will be guaranteed to receive a copy, which is individually numbered and signed, benefits from exclusive internal artwork and several other features.



The problem with trying to judge Tallarn: Executioner at this stage is there’s so little to actually go on. With only nine pages to cover showing the novel’s very beginning it’s hard to comment how effective an introduction this is. While there are certain elements there which can be praised and criticised we simply don’t have the full story to compare it to. As such consider this an early look more than an actual review, commenting upon the writing style and effectiveness of what is on the pages.

Depicting the opening attack which began to ravage the world, the preview we were given for Tallarn: Executioner spent time introducing two very different sets of characters. First the head of a city state, one of the most prosperous on the planet, then an Imperial Army regiment stranded on the world since the rest of their force moved on. While the latter are most likely the group people will be interested in the most, the former does give some insight into the story’s direction and the impact of the war. Better yet, some idea of what the world was like prior to the wasteland it returned to being following the attack. Not much but enough of a hint to keep things interesting.

Wandering the streets of the city he governs, Akil Sulan reflects upon what his world will be like, the problems with the lack of supplies coming from off-world and his children. While there is a fight unfortunately shoehorned in at this point, we get descriptions of the place and a good impression of the man himself. It’s not overtly descriptive or done to any great visual degree, but it is enough to leave an impression of what was lost. Better still, showing that while this is one of the single greatest tank battles in the Imperium’s history we will see how it affected civilian life to some degree.

What’s disappointing is that while this section does allow for readers to be quickly introduced to the world and one of the characters we will be following, we don’t see much of its culture. Beyond a few somewhat stereotypical Arabian traits, nothing overly offensive just a few basics you’d expect to see given Warhammer’s futuristically feudal style, little is actually shown about the people themselves. This can be accepted given the short page length yet it does rob the attack of some impact. We know about the city and a few individuals at risk, but not the populations or the cultures which will be lost.

The other viewpoint group besides this is the crew of a Leman Russ Vanquisher, members of the Chalcisorian 1002nd Imperial Army armoured regiment. Having been stuck on the world for over a decade which, given the opinion of officer Brel, has had an effect similar to the Iron Warriors’ predicament. Stranded away from war, conflict, action and surrounded in an alien environment. Many are described to having succumbed to stimulants to keep themselves entertained, the only difference being that Brel doesn’t want to go back to the war itself, even after getting word of the Heresy. Much of the time is spent more focusing upon how the force seems to be in no apparent state to fight the astartes, emphasising upon the tanks’ lack of use or “mouldering stores”, so there is less of an introduction. Instead we see one minor plot point set up which could come back to haunt him and elements which can easily be expanded upon during the conflict. Assuming they actually survive, otherwise these would be slightly pointless.

Both sequences stop just as the opening strike enters the atmosphere, suggesting there will be a more detailed description of the impact away from either viewpoint. This would definitely be a strength as it would allow French to emphasise upon the scale of the bombardment, but at this point this is only an estimated guess of what might come.

As Bane of Kings stated, overall it looks like this will be a solid novella. Adequate if not excelling to an outstanding degree. It’s hard to tell if this will be worth the hefty price tag attached to the title given its limited run, but should it ever be printed en mass it will be worth looking up. Assuming of course the rest of the book remains as effective as these opening pages.


Long time reader of novels, occasional writer of science fiction and critic of many things; Bellarius has seen some of the best and worst the genre has to offer.
Find more of his reviews and occasional rants here: