'The Wolf of Ash and Fire' - Graham McNeill (Black Library)
As much as I moan about issues with the Horus Heresy series as a whole, it seems that I can't help but follow it. What's not to enjoy after all? Enhanced post-humans fighting each other in a civil war that will lay waste to a galactic empire; there's a lot of good stuff to be found here and certain authors can always be relied upon to come up with those goods. Graham McNeill is one of those authors, and has written some excellent Horus Heresy novels, so when I saw that Black Library were giving away a free Horus Heresy short story of his (for World Book Day) I was all over it like a rash.
It was a bit of a shame then that 'The Wolf of Ash and Fire' wasn't really that good. Is there such a thing as a bad book if it doesn't cost you anything? Well, I didn't hand over any money for 'Wolf' (that's true) but I did invest time in reading that I won't be getting back...
'The Wolf of Ash and Fire' is essentially a prelude to the prelude of the Horus Heresy series (Horus and the Emperor fight Orks on a scrap world before moving on to the main conflict on Ullanor). There's no real sense of connection to the larger narrative then, just a lot of fighting that is eye-catching to begin with but tails off into nothing when you realise that there is no real plot to hang it off. Orks die and then we are promised that more Orks will die in a story that hasn’t been written yet (if it ever does). A bit anti-climactic really. Actually, more than 'a bit', much more.
‘The Wolf of Ash and Fire’ works as an introduction to what the universe of Warhammer 40K is all about (hence it being free I guess) but it doesn’t actually work as a story because a key component (the plot, people!) is missing. It’s more of an advert really and I guess that’s fine if you’re happy with that, I wasn’t. As far as I know, ‘The Wolf of Ash and Fire’ is still a free download if you want to give it a go yourself.