BOOK REVIEW: Divination, by John French

Click here for all of my Warhammer 40,000 content

  • Book Three of The Horusian Wars
  • A collection of 12 short stories
  • Focuses on the Inquisition
  • Published by Black Library in 2019
  • Grimdark SF
  • 340 pages
  • ⭐⭐

Inquisitor Covenant defends the Imperium from threats within the Inquisition itself, but he does not do so alone. Here are the stories of his most loyal followers, from their humble origins, to their finest hours.

John French is something of an enigma to me. With most of Black Library’s authors, I know if I’m going to like their books or not just from who wrote them. I know that a Mike Brooks book is going to be good, even if it’s not about a corner of the universe I have much interest in otherwise. Conversely, n matter how much I want books about Tyranids and Sisters of Battle, I’ve learned that Peter Fehervari’s writing is simply not to my tastes. But then there’s John French, who straddles the entire spectrum, and I never really know what I’m going to get. Ahriman was hard to finish, but I can’t get enough of his audio dramas.

It’s those audio dramas that led me to pick up this collection. I’ve read the two novels that precede it, and to be honest I was lukewarm on them. But the promise of more Ianthe from Agent of the Throne was too good to resist. Even one story out of twelve having some potential was enough to lure me in. You see, Diviniation is touted as the third book in the Horusian Wars series, but it’s more of an accompanying piece. A collection of short stories that delve a little deeper into the side characters of the main novels. They show different angles and viewpoints on the series main conflict, while also providing short character-centric pieces that wouldn’t fit into the tightly plotted narratives French employs.

At the end of this book, I have to conclude that French’s writing just isn’t for me. On a prose level I find it difficult to get into. Perhaps it’s only the stellar casting that made me fall in love with the audio dramas. Yet even though I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I’d hoped, I admire what French is doing with this series. In fact, I think it’s something Black Library and their authors should do more often. French hasn’t just told a story in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, he’s carved out his own corner of it.

Inquisitors have been around for a long time, and all too often they fall into the same tropes. Power hungry inquisitors being corrupted by the daemons they hunt, for one. The Horusian Wars avoids most of these pitfalls. It’s a series that delves deeper into the sprawling mass of philosophies at the heart of the organisation. While we’ve had inquisitors as protagonists before, I can’t think of any author who’s gone to such lengths to examine how the group would actually function. There’s more philosophy and religions thinking in these books than you’ll find in most Black Library offerings. Even if the stories don’t grip me, the ideas are well worth exploring.

And then there’s the interconnectedness of it all. Two novels, a short story collection, and three audio dramas. Each format can be enjoyed on its own, but put together they are greater than the sum of their parts. It’s the sort of story that you could reread and pick at, fining something new every time. I always enjoy it when an author carves out a niche for themselves within a larger setting. Even if not all of French’s work fits into this particular corner, it’s a corner that’s stuffed with storytelling opportunities. And I know there are readers who are going to get much more out of this than I did.

Did you enjoy this book? If so, you might also like:
Xenos, by Dan Abnett
Resurrection, by John French
Inferno! Presents: The Inquisition, by Various Authors

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

One thought on “BOOK REVIEW: Divination, by John French

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: