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Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom


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Just finished this, here's a thread for it.

 

My review:

 

Another very solid novel out of Brooks. Admittedly it's not my favourite of his - it's not as brilliantly enlightening as Head of the Hydra, nor as fresh a ground as Brutal Kunnin`. But it excels in the way most of his books do: set pieces are as much about mental acumen as they are about shooting things, and the characters never feel armoured in plot convenience.

 

The last point is a double-edged sword for Huron himself. On one hand, the whole novel keeps the reader, and the titular Blood Reaver, on their toes. It's engaging beginning to end, and displays very well the constant power plays a character such as Huron needs to engage in to survive. He's not the strongest of his peers, nor does he have the vastest knowledge, nor any uncommon favour of the gods. But he is a clever bastard, and he never gets a break in having to outthink his rivals. On the other hand, this also strips Huron of any gravitas he'd otherwise possess. Perhaps that's the point - Huron has no clout amongst his peers so he can never rest on his laurels - but this is the Master of the Maelstrom we're talking about. He often comes across as your average (very entertaining) Chaos Lord, not one of the big boys. Admittedly, gravitas is generally something Brooks leaves out of his works, and perhaps this is all in keeping with Huron's previous appearances - I haven't read Cawkwell's work with the guy.

 

The novel is unique in having the external threats to the Red Corsairs generally reduced to set dressing. The conflict here comes from Huron's "comrade's," and it definitely works to keep things exciting. As mentioned before, there's no down time because Huron can't afford to have any - the pressure is always high.

 

The book's written in present tense - a format that I've never found especially appealing. Even now I haven't been able to figure why it was used, either, unless it contributed to the on-edge atmosphere and I didn't notice. Like with Head of the Hydra, the book also could have used fifty to a hundred more pages. Brooks always leaves you wanting more IMO, usually a good thing but I wish his best ideas had more room to breathe.

 

7.5/10

To Taste

 

Also it's about damn time Huron got a focus novel. Jeez.

 

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The book's written in present tense - a format that I've never found especially appealing. Even now I haven't been able to figure why it was used, either, unless it contributed to the on-edge atmosphere and I didn't notice.

Well, dang. Was looking forward to this book but present tense is a no go for me.

 

Thank you for the heads up!

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Posted (edited)

Any interesting spoilers?

 

Nothing terribly mind-blowing.

The story covers the time between the Red Corsairs' stealing the Macragge's Honour, and the circumstances of its return to Imperial hands. It's mostly a vehicle for drawing Huron as a character, and fleshing out Red Corsairs high command and a bit of life in the Maelstrom.

 

 

Does the story say how many Red Corsair Marines, non-RC Pirate Marine vassals and regular soldiers/pirates Huron has?

 

If they did, I can't remember it. If anything Huron's total power base varies from day to day.

Edited by Roomsky
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The "spoiler" part has me leaning towards "I wanna read it" again after the present tense info got the book buried under a pile of myriad backlogged books. That's something that needed to be charted for a few years now, and it's nice to see it actually getting addressed.

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Been eyeing this for a while, and I'm apparently in the minority here because I'm even more interested for knowing it's written in present tense. I'm a fan of that style and I think it tends to suit 40k well.

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I've just read this and found it entertaining, if a bit short. It follows the same dynamic between CSM that we've seen before in ADB and French books. Huron is quite the pirate boss and demonstrates why he was an experienced chapter master and the Tyrant of Badab, and not just an uppity chaos lord.
 
There's a small detail (inconsecuential for the story) that bugs me, though:

At some point a ship of traitor Space Wolves appear to be part of the Red Corsairs, and they're called "Red Wolves". But that's also the name of a loyalist codex chapter which cannot be SW successors (as those didn't really exist before Primaris). I don't know if this is a mistake or the name was just a coincidence, as the loyalist Red Wolves are quite obscure (I confess I have my own fanon about them, heh).
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The Red Wolves have been around for a long time. Remember the ancient 2004 "How to Paint Space Marines", that one with Calgar on the cover? They were in that, already, and also in the Matt Ward 5th Edition Space Marine Codex.

 

Apparently they also made an appearance in ForgeWorld's Badab War books. They were made homeless by the Nids back in 8th edition... after being reinforced with Primaris, no less.

 

So yeah, not Wolves. Just got the name anyhow.

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Just like the Shadow Wolves, the Red Wolves are just another chapter with a similar iconography/ name to one of the better known ones.

 

Happens all the time. Not all "Hands/ Emperor's/ Wolves/ Dragon" named chapters are related to one another.

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They weren't previously named I think but I have a feeling the Red Wolves are the Space Wolves that turned tail turned traitor when the Wolf of Fenris was boarded by Huron and Co. This was a very short blurb in the 5th edition codex, maybe earlier too. It's cool to see they've named them though!

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Posted (edited)

I’ve just finished listening to this.  A solid, but not specular book.  I agree that it felt a bit too short - but I often am left feeling this way with BL novellas.  

 

It was an absolute delight that the voice actor was the same chap who performed the Night Lord trilogy (Andrew Wincott).  He clearly did his homework as despite the 2/3 year gap since he recorded the NL trilogy, he nailed the exact same voice for Huron.  I have previously written on here how important to me continuity of narration for beloved characters is, so this was a very pleasant surprise.  

 

Wincott also delivers a cool Easter Egg for the closing credits - I’ve listened to 100+ BL audiobooks and this is the first time any voice actor has done this before.  It took me by surprise!

 

I have to say I would a bit disappointed that the liberation of the Macragges Honour was tackled in this book no not in the DoF series. I felt like such a significant event should have been a focal point for a major novel, and not an afterthought in a novella. Still, I am glad that it’s liberation has now been dealt with as it has been bugging me ever since the events of Gathering Storm.  

Edited by Ubiquitous1984
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  • 2 weeks later...
Most disappointing read so far of the year. Pitty as I’d started to enjoy Mikes other work. Left it unfinished. Probably had looked forward to this way too much. The lack of fiction on the tyrant had left me really hoping for a great read.
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Most disappointing read so far of the year. Pitty as I’d started to enjoy Mikes other work. Left it unfinished. Probably had looked forward to this way too much. The lack of fiction on the tyrant had left me really hoping for a great read.

Would you care to elaborate? Genuinely interested, as I've not picked it up yet.

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Posted (edited)

I would say I also found it disappointing too, but still enjoyed and finished it. It was just a bit bland, and (to be cliche) it tended to "tell" than "show" a lot of key themes. I rather enjoy Mike's pulpy necromunda work which has a great sense of mise-en-scene, and alpharius was very strong; this just didnt cohere well enough, with flat characters and a lack of depth to anything.

 

Maybe it also relied on you being familiar with works like the Badab books, and other works, thus didn't do heavy lifting introducing a lot of characters or setting, but it meant even key secondary characters like Valthex were very cardboard. Huron himself also just felt a bit flat - it's a great plot to see someone so brilliant wrongfooted, and I liked that that was the plot - a chance for deconstruction, except no, it wasn't really. It was done in a way that didn't capture the real effect of this on other characters or the man/monster himself (the final part felt rushed too!). It didn't help that the antagonist was a sketch with a sneer too, and no sense of him really beyond ambition.

 

I am not sure if I will reread this, which is sad, as it was not what I was expecting when I saw Mike's mohawked name on the cover.

Edited by Petitioner's City
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  • 4 weeks later...

Finished this up a few days ago. It’s quite good fun, though it feels more disposable than Brooks’ other works for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. It’s not the length, as Alpharius was similarly short, so much as it is something about the feel of the sentences. It’s like Brooks wanted to take a quick stroll through Huron’s mind, defining him without really diving deep. The plot feels similarly light, with a whole lot of murdering to solve problems. The writing remains excellent and the ending is enjoyable. Brooks’ view of the Imperium and Chaos through Huron’s eyes is philosophically quite compelling, if somewhat under-explored. I don’t think this is the kind of book I’m going to look back upon with great fondness in a decade, but I really enjoyed reading it. At times it felt to me like a sword and sorcery novel, but I haven’t read enough Conan to know if that’s accurate or not. 
 

8.5 or 9/10

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I liked this book. The audiobook was particularly well acted. It wasn’t the deepest plot, but I think it did a good job laying out life for Huron and his ilk. The old sentiments Huron has towards the remaining Astral Claws is touching, even if it comes from a murderous warlord.  It probably won’t be a book I look back on in years time, but it was a nice “popcorn flick” type of book

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I'm roughly halfway through.  Its a very quick read. I'm not very impressed with it so far. There's a lot of "Tell, don't show". One stylistic thing that annoys me is that many of the sentences could easily be broken up into two or three shorter sentences and would be better for it. One example

"The mountain that rises in front of him is like nothing he has seen before- the summit is not just shaped a little like a claw, it is as though a god has sculpted the glass of this world into a massive representation of a clawed hand, which is quite possibly what actually happened- but this is just a target."

That's one sentence. An editor should really have gone to town on that. 

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The long sentences happen a lot in Mike Brooks' writing. I have read Brutal Kunnin (twice), and associated Ufthak shorts, Da Red Gobbo and Alpharius to my son as bedtime reading. I really noticed the long sentences when I had to read them out loud. Trying to pace the lengthy sentences sight-unseen is difficult, and I'd have to stop, read the sentence myself to work out what the point was, and then re-read it once I'd made sense of it.

Brutal Kunnin had several 5-6 line sentences that (a) a writer should have picked up on in a second draft, and (b) an editor should have picked up on.

Prose quality is a real sticking point for me. Apart from these monster sentences, Mike Brooks is pretty good. His pacing of humour is spot-on.

 

Conversely, writers such as Dan Abnett and Sandy Mitchell (both of whom I'm reading at the moment to my son) read like butter. The prose is so smooth and so controlled that I rarely, if ever, have to go back and re-read a sentence to make sense of it. The natural flow of their writing, the grammar, syntax and word choice, are all so well done.

 

 

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Haley is another one with very short sentences, sometimes not as evocative as Abnett in these few words, but good. I usually attribute this to his journalistic training. My editors were ruthless in splitting sentences, breaking them down into easier digestible chunks. It‘s one of the easiest writer’s tools to make your work easier and quicker to read. I quite love that.
 

Wraight and ADB tend to be more flowery with looong sentences all the time. But they get away with it because their prose is evocative and well-crafted. The sentences pull you in despite the length. Absolutely fascinating from a craft perspective. 

Edited by Kenzaburo
Typo
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