Saturday, 11 February 2012

Books in Brief : Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett

Bold, original, unexpected and totally gripping; Dan Abnett produces another awesome piece of work. This novel of course follows the story arc of the opposing force in the fall of the Thousand Sons, the legendary Space Wolves and as such is a literary travelling companion with Graham McNeill's A Thousand Sons.

What struck me first was the very different tone given by Dan to his 'Saga' in direct opposition to Graham's; the bright, civilised quest for knowledge and understanding versus the cold hard darkness of brute survival. This is used to excellent effect by both authors; which banner would you place above Loyalist and Traitor?

The decision to tell the Wolves story through the eyes of an outsider was a risk that I thought paid dividends; it enables a questioning and analysis of the Son's of Russ which would be totally out of place if told from the point of view of one of their own and it brought to mind the film The 13th Warrior (although that production could have used a little Abnett magic).

The development of the story teller from Historian Remembrancer to 'Skald' is in total keeping with Dan's take on the Wolves; these Astartes are not the Viking caricatures (just lacking their comic book horned helmets) of past 40k novels. These are warriors who would not be out of place in Old Norse literature, the motivations and themes addressed would be immediately recognisable to a writer of that period such as Snorri Sturluson.

I've heard many balk at Dan's reinvention of the Space Wolves, but fail to understand why; he enriches them beyond measure. The Rout as we come to know them, are aptly named for they are the bloody executioners of the Emperor and this book ramps up their feral savagery and barbaric bluntness, but in turn reveals within them an intellectual awareness and a deep meaningful culture. There is delight in discovering these hidden qualities and I really appreciated the time devoted to the exploration.

One minor quibble is that Mr Abnett appears to have developed Mr McNeill's nasty habit of overusing a descriptive word and although 'Wet Leopard Growl' is wonderfully evocative, it is used to the point of tedium. I'm not even sure Wolves make that kind of noise...ah but of course, there are no Wolves on Fenris ;o)

That aside, this book is epic; from the trademark cinematic opening to the fan boy twist at the end that had me punching the air with glee, I half wish I had a Space Wolf army now!


Grobrezu said...

I was never to sure about this book, I have always liked the wolfs for what they are and have enjoyed them sence reading about Ragnar, but I think this fell a little short.
I did not enjoy the fact that he had made them into leather gimp wearing wolfs who lived to pitch black caves and who only ever came out to hunt and fight.
There has been so much written about the wolfs be for and this tended to leave all this behind and try and forge them in the writer own mind, not great when you are read the Horus heracy and they pop up many times changing with each one.
I have to give it's due though, there was some great writing and some under standing to the human body, even if changed by the emperor,s touch.

We all face a stark new and if not uncertain future, the HH still has a long way to go in telling the whole story, and with 6th ed being lunched very soon, I think these writer are save in there jobs for now.
The greatest questions we are faced with is the emperor coming back from the dead and is the new eldar codex going to make out in 2012 as I now hear it may be pushed back till 2014
Gamesday should be very interstesting this year, if nothing else the main release for it will be hotly debated and with GW being 25 years old I am sure that they will be pulling out all the stops.

Bix said...

'leather gimp wearing wolfs' LOL

Well I did ponder that for a bit, but it's in keeping with the more realistic Norse take on them. Vikings I believe did sometimes wear protective face masks made of leather; they also had the added effect of making the wearer look terrifying (well even more so than a giant howling warrior hefting a bloody great axe would be usually!)

Still I'll accept the new take is not everyone’s cup of tea.

As for the Emperor coming back, he has to, I've made the banners ;o) Yes Games Day should be interesting at least I hope so, last years having a big Bishy Meh!

The Angry Lurker said...

"Wet leopard growl", I'll use that one day, good review as he is a good author.....

markeh said...

This is my favourite HH book to date (not that I've read them all by any stretch). Still, you can have it back soon Bix ;)

Bix said...

@Markeh - Lol sorry mate, just found your comment going mouldy in my pending box. Really must try and get the good lady to do my admin.

I was just wondering where my copy had got to, as I was making space for the latest HH editions, thought you'd given both that and A Thousand Sons back; damn you read slower than I paint! ;o)

Tis a good read and very different from I think all of the other Heresy books thus far.

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