Publisher: Black Library
Series: Eisenhorn (#4)
Genre: Grimdark SF
Publication Date: 2020
Gregor Eisenhorn. Inquisitor, loyalist, and pariah. For over two centuries Eisenhorn has fought against the enemies of humanity, but his methods are not always approved. Witness now his humble origins, and his ultimate fall from grace . . .
For a long time, Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn series was a trilogy, later followed by a sequel trilogy in the form of Ravenor. Abnett also wrote a near dozen short stories tied either directly or tangentially to the famed Inquisitor, found in various anthologies. But with the upcoming release (partially a re-release) of the Bequin trilogy, Black Library have put together all of those short stories. In addition, Abnett has written a new novel featuring Gregor Eisenhorn to provide a capstone for the volume.
Now, putting all the linked short stories together is a great idea. With a full chronology (covering all the shorts as well as the eight novels) included, it’s a nice opportunity to track the development of Abnett’s plots across two decades away from the page and five centuries in-universe. I don’t think there’s any real stand-outs in the bunch, but they are all strong stories, some more closely tied to the events of the novels than others. There is, however, a minor issue. Every one of these stories also appears in Lord of the Dark Millennium, in the same order as they do here. Having read that massive collection only a year ago, the stories were still pretty fresh in my mind. Add to that the fact that some of them even appear in the other novels in this series (at least in these editions) and the sense of deja vu does rob the stories of their impact.
Of course, the real reason to read The Magos is the titular novel. Though its a little shorter than the other books in the series, it still covers roughly half of the book and is indisputably a full novel rather than a novella. With the long gap between books three and four in the series being written, Abnett’s style has shifted considerably. Gone is the first person perspective and asides to the reader. To some extent, it reads more like a Ravenor novel, with multiple main characters and a more complex mystery than Eisenhorn’s first three cases. Perhaps the most surprising aspect is that Eisenhorn himself is not the central protagonist. This is a major shift from previous books, but with Eisenhorn drifting further into the clutches of Chaos, it’s a change that largely works.
Overall, however, The Magos is less than the sum of its parts. As a refresher for readers heading into Pariah, it serves its purpose perfectly well, featuring all the main players and a rough recap of where they are and what they are doing. As an individual story, however, there is little to distinguish it from any other Inquisition tale aside from the names. Pariah and Penitent both release at the February, and although I don’t rate Ravenor that highly, I’m keen to see where Abnett takes his story next.