Part of the ever-growing Space Marine Battles series, The Hunt For Magnus is the latest novella to be released as a companion piece to a previous novel, in this case Chris Wraight’s excellent The Battle of the Fang. Available either as a standalone novella or packaged with its accompanying novel into a collection called War of the Fang, it takes the form of a prequel following Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm as he searches far and wide for signs of his chapter’s old enemy, determined to finish what Russ started and finally kill Magnus the Red.
While it includes various characters from The Battle of the Fang, the focus of this is mostly on Ironhelm and his strange obsession with Magnus, as it aims to shed some light on why the Fang was left virtually undefended while most of the chapter was off chasing shadows. Set two thousand years after the Heresy, when the Wolves were still closer to their Heresy predecessors than their 40k counterparts, it’s a really interesting look at the chapter and their knowledge of the Thousand Sons at that point. We see the seeds being sown of not just what will lead into The Battle of the Fang but also the ongoing enmity that defines the two factions in 40k times.
As always with these novellas there’s a limited amount of space for the story, so Wraight keeps things fast and simple. He balances Ironhelm’s obsessive hunt with events back on Fenris, showing enough of each to maintain a good pace and balance while providing enough depth and character to make the story feel believable (inasmuch as any Black Library stories do) and connected to future events in The Battle of the Fang. Wraight’s Wolves are flawed, aggressive, confrontational and arrogant, still very much the headstrong outsiders of the Heresy, but he manages to imbue them with sufficient humanity to be much more than the space vikings of old, and continues his usual high standard of character-driven writing.
As a standalone book this ticks all of the right Black Library boxes – powerful, visceral action scenes, strong characters, vivid descriptions of places and settings, and plenty of ties into the wider 40k canon. It also works brilliantly as a prequel – without having to literally lead straight into The Battle of the Fang, it nicely sets events up for what happens next, cleverly playing to the characteristics of both the Wolves and the Thousand Sons. Much more than just ‘what happened beforehand’, it’s an interesting, exciting story that feels characterful and absolutely appropriate, and once again reflects Wraight’s impeccable storytelling skills.