Ahriman: Exile – John French

Book cover of Ahriman: Exile

Title: Ahriman: Exile
Author: John French
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 20th Jun 2013
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 416
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley/Humble Bundle

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Blurb/Synopsis

All is dust… Spurned by his former brothers and his father Magnus the Red, Ahriman is a wanderer, a sorcerer of Tzeentch whose actions condemned an entire Legion to an eternity of damnation. Once a vaunted servant of the Thousand Sons, he is now an outcast, a renegade who resides in the Eye of Terror. Ever scheming, he plots his return to power and the destruction of his enemies, an architect of fate and master of the warp.

Review

I brought a copy of this book via Humble Bundle and also requested a copy via NetGalley and was approved. So, thank you to both NetGalley and Humble Bundle for a copy of this book. I hope that you find this review to your satisfaction. There may be minor spoilers on this review for those that know absolutely nothing about the Thousand Sons Legion.


Ahriman: Exile is a book presented in three parts. In the first, Ahriman is in hiding within a band of renegade Space Marines after being cast out of the Thousand Sons for doing something utterly terribly. The second part, Ahriman is trying to find out the truth behind many of the questions laid out in the first phase of the book and the third part brings many of the plot elements to it’s conclusion.

As a whole, Ahriman: Exile is a well-rounded and complete book. The plot, all-in-all, is intriguing enough with enough of a hook to keep the pages turning; but I am afraid this is where my praise for the novel ends.

As a central character, Ahriman should he been a lot more compelling than he was. The Chief Librarian of the Thousand Sons should have a lot more wits about him and feel more intelligent than he was presented here. Instead he bumbled from one action to the next, fell for obvious traps and was too busy sulking about what he had done with/to the Rubricae – as far as I understand an enchantment to save the Thousand Sons from being further tainted by Chaos by (unknowingly to Ahriman when the deal was struck) turning them to dust. For all his grand intelligence, Ahriman was an absolute idiot with his choices, then spends a good portion of the novel in his own thoughts lamenting the choices that he had made and the fate of his beloved Legion. I personally found this aspect of the book tiresome. There’s little in the ways of character development on Ahrimans part (until right at the end of the book) and it all becomes a little trite.

While Ahriman isn’t sulking about his actions he spends a lot of time questioning the hands of fate and what that means for him. He spends a lot of time in his own head wondering who is hunting him and why. Especially early on in the novel. I found the pacing a little slow and drawn out, but plodded on, just like the main character in the book.

Surrounding Ahriman are other characters that feel like they have much more depth to them. Renegade Space Marines; Astraeos, Kadin and Thidias whose banter is unmistakably Space Marine; their quarrels settled in the fighting pits as per tradition. How they changed, physically and mentally, around Ahriman made them more engaging to read about.

After reading Mechanicum, I have come to appreciate characters revolving around Cult Mechanicus a little more as such, Mistress Carmenta and the way she interfaces with the warship Titan Child we’re brilliantly written. Her personality shone far brighter than the rest of the cast around her. At least until the introduction of Silvanus, a navigator stolen from the hands of the Inquisition, but I’ve always confessed that humanity and it’s variations and how they adapt to their challenges are what compels me to these settings far more than the monsters or the super-human, so my bias is showing here.

The writing style of Ahriman: Exile tended to lean on similes a little too much for my liking and I particularly struggled with the second section of the book which involved messing around in the Warp. This must be such a difficult thing for authors to write about, because it’s never clearly explained what the Warp is. It’s a thing that is travelled through, where daemons live and some sort of realm that hosts the ‘big bad.’ So, describing it tends to fall into the vague, contradictory, descriptions to keep it mysterious. Understandable to a degree, but Ahriman: Exile really pushed the limits of my patience of just how many of these contradictions and similes are used in one paragraph. A simple example being; ice forming on fire. It stretched me a little thin and, had I not been past the 50% mark, I’d have put Ahriman: Exile firmly in the DNF pile.

After the headache of getting through the Warp/Daemon section of Ahriman: Exile it did pick up. I took particular enjoyment in the ‘Lets steal a Navigator’ event and found it an enjoyable romp and completely different to everything else I’ve read in a Warhammer novel, but at this point it was a bit ‘too little, too late’ and the damage from the first two sections of the book was already done.

I have been assured that the next two Ahriman books in the trilogy are far superior to this one and that John Frenchs books involving Inquisitor Covenant are good reads, so I’m not giving up on the author yet, despite Ahriman: Exile not being my cup of tea.

Summary

Ahriman: Exile isn’t the strongest offering by Black Library and I struggled to get through the book for nearly two weeks. I found the initial pacing a whine-filled, grind which developed into vague, contradictory descriptions that were needlessly difficult to follow. The book picked up towards the end – last 20% – but by then I was rather fed up with it.

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