Publisher: Black Library
Series: Ahriman (#1-3)
Genre: Science Fantasy
Publication Date: 2018
Ahriman of the Thousand Sons. Insane Sorcerer and traitor to the Imperium? Or something much more disturbing? Follow the exiled Ahriman across space and time as he seeks answers to this question, and many more . . .
I have a mixed history when it comes to Jonathan French’s exploits in the grim, dark future. His Agent of the Throne trilogy of audio dramas is some of the best material Black Library have put out in any medium, but the novels linked to that, his as-yet-incomplete Horusian Wars trilogy doesn’t quite match that high standard. Unfortunately, the Ahriman omnibus continues that trend of disappointing prose fiction.
To be fair to French, this is a book I was hesitant to pick up, and a lot of its flaws are nothing to do with the author. You see, this is a book all about the more fantastical side of Warhammer 40,000. It’s filled with space marines, psykers, daemons, and the horrors of the warp. A far cry from the military SF that draws me to the setting. In almost all cases, I want my science fiction to have some adherence to science, and that is not what you get here. Science fantasy is a hybrid genre that I honestly don’t have much time for, and if this omnibus wasn’t on offer, I probably would never have picked it up. But I’m easily suckered into trying new things, so here we are.
If there’s one thing you should know about French before starting his books, it’s this: He has some of the richest, most multilayered writing in the setting. Particularly in recent years, Black Library has shown a divergence in styles, and French has some of the most ornate and baroque prose you’re likely to come across in Warhammer tie-ins. This complexity carries from mere word choice to full-scale plotting, making this one of the most elaborate Warhammer stories out there. But while I can appreciate the quality of the writing on a mechanical level, I personally found it rather hard to penetrate. I spent pages, chapters, and whole sections of story utterly perplexed as to what I was reading. Sure, this makes sense for the tale of a crazy space wizard, but it doesn’t make for an entertaining read when you’re constantly flipping back and forth to work out what you’re missing. More so than many others, French is an acquired taste.
What I can tell yous, is that this is a book heavily involved with the overall mythos of Warhammer 40,000. There are names plucked from the pages of the Horus Heresy, characters so famous they have their own miniatures, and a sense of scale so grand it will boggle your mind. It’s not a terribly accessible book, but it is one that would reward a reader more invested in the complexities of the grim, dark future. For casual readers like myself, it leaves a lot to be desired.
For myself, I’m going to stick with French’s audio offerings from now on, but if you want to glimpse the madness of the warp, Ahriman is probably your best shot.