Architect of Fate is a collection of 4 novellae, each of which have about 100 pages. The common thread is that they all happen in the regions surrounding the Eye of Terror and involve forces that are part of the Empire's containment efforts of Chaos in general, and daemons in particular.
Another nice feature is that, when taken together, the four pieces bring in almost all of the various types of imperial participants: Imperial guardsmen, Adeptus Astartes (Star Dragons, Relictors and White Consuls), Inquisitors and Grey Knights, Psykers, Navigators and Astropaths, to name just these. A third positive element is the variety of locations that are chosen: a battle barge, a shrine world, a spatial fort and an Astropathic Relay Station. A fourth positive and very interesting element is that the first and last of the stories are related and deal with past, present and future. The way in which this is done is, at first glance, almost as confusing for the reader as it is supposed to be for the various characters. I, at least, was largely confused until I tried to think out.
There are also several features that, to me at least, were somewhat original (or, perhaps more accuratly, had not been often used by Black Library authors up to now):
- One is a sense of decay and limited resources among the Adeptus Astartes: large ships of the line, whether battle barges or strike cruisers, only have a few squads of Space Marines on board, simply because this is all that can be spared from the main fronts and battlefleets. Also, it is these limited forces that are engaged so that rather than having tremendous battles with huge forces on either side, you have, instead, a series of relatively smaller engagements. These are just as realistic, if not more, and will certainly be easier to use and replicate by gamers
- Another is that forces of Chaos - and a couple of daemons in particular - are given distinct personalities and interact with humans (whether an Inquisitor or a Space Marine Librarian), as opposed to just trying to destroy them. This, at tmes, reminded me of Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn, which I had very much appreciated.
Of course, and since one of the major features here are daemons, whether minor or major ones, many of them are described with a great luxury of detail. There is also the kind of emphasis on possessions, gore and horror that you can expect to find in a Warhammer 40000 novel that deals with creatures from Chaos. Add to that a nice mix of different styles of writting and, at the end of the day, you are left with a very interesting and quite original Space Marines Battles Novel.
This was a five star read for me, partly because there are numerous features that are original and partly because the four authors have written short stories that either relate to each other or complement each other by addressing different aspects of the "Eye of Terror Containment". One last quality: the map of this region and the couple of illustrations that are included in the middle of the volume are also very helpful. Highly recommended.
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