The Staff of Asclepius

QUICK REVIEW : The Staff of Asclepius – Graham McNeill

The final 40k story in Black Library’s 2015 Advent Calendar comes from Graham McNeill, who returns to the Ultramarines with the micro-short The Staff of Asclepius. Fleeing through his ship carrying the precious gene-seed of his fallen brothers, apothecary Isstvan Cantaro races against time to keep his cargo from the grasp of the Emperors Children fleshsmith Dzyban and his horde of cultists. With hope fading fast, Cantaro faces the possibility of failing in his duty to safeguard the chapter’s future.

There’s an immediacy and urgency about this story that’s really appealing, as Cantaro faces seemingly insurmountable odds and seems to be heading for defeat. McNeill pulls few punches, describing both Cantaro’s injuries and strong sense of shame at his failure in pretty brutal detail, which only adds to the sense of desperation and determination throughout. All the while though, there’s just a hint that maybe things aren’t quite what they seem. It’s a clever little story all told, keeping up a strong sense of momentum while fitting in loads of nice nods to the rest of the 40k universe, managing to somehow feel both fresh and delightfully old school at the same time. As for the titular Staff of Asclepius? You’ll have to wait and see, but don’t google it beforehand.

Click here to go to the main Black Library Advent Calendar post and see the other reviews.

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