[Review] Ahriman: Exile by John French

Wednesday, July 17, 2013 K.Z. Freeman 0 Comments

To preface this review, allow me to state that Azhek Ahriman was my favourite 40k character before I read this book. Having said that, this book disappoints on some levels while delights on others.

I began reading this book after finishing King of Thorns and immediately noticed the lessened overall quality of writing. I know it's not really fair to compare the two books since they are not even remotely similar in setting and what they are trying to achieve, but my mind couldn’t help but compare them, as the span of time between them was no more than a few hours. By no means does it mean this book is terrible! I can explain it no better than to say that this tome is in the vein of Black Library. Those who have read a lot of BL (that isn’t The Horus Heresy) will know what I mean by that. John French does a terrific narrative job and the images are always clear, although he is restricted by the setting, I think, and the pre-made characters and those that can potentially exist in the universe of Warhammer 40.000.
I was surprised by the story itself and at times slightly confused at what point in time the novel takes place. That is understandable, since the story occurs near and in the Eye of Terror, so avoiding the definite location on the 40k timeline can be avoided by that fact alone, although I often times wanted to know how long Ahriman himself had been in this state in which we find him at the beginning of the novel. He couldn't possibly have fallen so far and remained there for nearly a thousand years, could he? Could a Chief Librarian of the Thousand Sons remain so, dare I say, stupid, for so long? I thought not, so this is one of the problems I had with this story. I tried to get into his shoes when it came to understanding why he plunged to such depths, but I could not. Whether that was my own problem or a flaw in the narrative I could not really tell.

The other ‘problematic’ conclusion I reached when I finished this book and put it down, is the fact that some characters don't get killed because of some obscure reason. Presumably no one really cares, or they are so broken and allowed to live because they are not even worth killing... or something of the sort. In reality, they don't die because the author has plans for them – they have some hidden agenda only the reader is aware of, a poor plot device, really.

Now I do realise that after the above paragraphs you might think I didn't enjoy this book, but that's not true at all. I couldn't wait to start reading it again after I stopped, although I have to admit that had I not liked Ahriman before, I probably would not have enjoy it quite as much. There are plenty of really, really cool scenes and an abundance of excellent writing in this book. As a result, the thing was over before I wanted it to be. 
I will buy the next instalment in the series without a doubt, although the last scene in the novel is a bit redundant, I feel, as it killed the surprise which would come had it not been revealed and the reader might have found out in the next book. Coincidently, it also revealed the story's flaw which I mentioned earlier.

There really hasn't been a book like this in the 40k universe, even A Thousand Sons didn’t come close to this, I think, although it scraped the edges of it and laid the groundwork. Simply put, the sorcerers of 40k are damn awesome. Ahriman especially so, who retains his stance on that grey line of not being a heretic, yet at the same time being so damn heretical you may just spontaneously burst into fanboy glee while reading this.


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