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Rating: 3 out of 5.
  • A Standalone Novel
  • Focuses on the Chaos Space Marines
  • Published by Black Library in 2022
  • A Grimdark Space Opera
  • 200 pages

Once a servant of the Imperium, Huron Blackheart now makes his own way as a devotee of the Chaos Gods. But while the Warmaster and the reborn Primarch wage their endless war, Blackheart gathers marauders for his own cause. But when the winds of Chaos blow, no course stays true for long . . .

Of all Black Library’s many novel ranges, their character-focused run provides some of the most interesting stories. These are the tight little hardback exclusives that bear the name of their central figure on the cover, usually with some in-universe label applied to them. For example, Master of the Maelstrom is an epithet attached the Chaos worshipper known to his few friends as Huron Blackheart. These books allow for a more intimate form of storytelling than the usual galaxy-shaping battlefields of the setting as a whole. Yes, they’re basically extended adverts for the miniatures of said characters, but even when you’re interested in neither collecting models nor in character-driven narratives, these books still offer a real chance to get into the psychology of these famous faces. What exactly is it that makes the heroes of the grim, dark future tick?

Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom doesn’t quite do this. At only two hundred pages in length, it’s rather overstuffed with characters. Blackheart pulls together quite the warband, with both true dedicates of Chaos and disaffected Imperial citizens in their ranks. Notably, his warband contains members of multiple Space Marine chapters, including renegades from both the Blood Angels and the Space Wolves. Early on, it seems like the leading figure will be a tech-priest taken captive by Huron (and had that been the case, I dare say the story would have been stronger, as she is easily the most interesting of the many side characters), but said individual soon fades away into the massed ranks of the supporting cast. For a novel with his name on the cover, there’s precious little Huron Blackheart to go around.

If there’s one thing that Mike Brooks has proven with his forays into Warhammer 40,000, it’s that he never sits still for long. This is his second Chaos-focused novel, after his Alpharius novel for the Horus Heresy. But he’s also tackled gang warfare in Necromunda, the high politics of feuding navigator houses in Rites of Passage, and outright comedy with his standard-setting Orks stories. In Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom, he gets to go all-in on the visceral horror, with all the splattering of blood you’d expect from the forces of Chaos. But there are hints of the larger state of play too. Whispers of dissension in the ranks, and evidence of the brutal lengths Blackheart and others will go to to ensure they emerge in charge of the pack. I do feel as if this might have worked better as a longer novel, or even a series, with all of the characters given a bit more room to breathe, and the story moving at a less breakneck pace. As it is, it’s a case of not enough good, rather than too much bad.

While it may be one of the weaker character novels from Black Library, Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom still has a lot to offer, especially for those interested in keeping up with the current state of affairs in the Imperium, and in its archenemy.

If you enjoyed this book, you might also like:
Brutal Kunnin, by Mike Brooks
Ahriman: The Omnibus, by John French
Avenging Son, by Guy Haley

3 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom, by Mike Brooks”

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