NOTE : I’ve already reviewed this story, back when it was first released in the 2014 Advent Calendar, but having since read the rest of the Ahriman series it seemed appropriate to take another look in context of the full series. Click here to read my original review, or read on for the latest one.
John French’s The Tale of Ctesias arc concludes with Ahriman : Gates of Ruin, in which Ctesias has been tasked with finding a way to reach the Antilline Abyss and leave the Eye of Terror. How else would he do this, other than torturing the information out of a daemon? When his mission succeeds he leads Ahriman and his brothers to the titular Gates of Ruin, but what they find there is not quite what they expect, and Ctesias finally understands just why Ahriman needs him and his particular talents.
This provides a conclusion of sorts, taking us up to just about where Ahriman : Sorcerer begins and drawing a line under what has essentially been a five-part character study of Ctesias. In doing so it introduces a couple of key characters for the rest of the novels (well, one and a bit really), sets events up nicely for what’s to come in Sorcerer, and really gets down to the heart of Ctesias. He’s being completely honest with himself here as he discusses his own abilities, his awareness of how his fellows see him, and his place in Ahriman’s plans, and there’s a powerful sense of not quite nostalgia but some kind of wistful recollection of better days. As usual it’s well plotted, full of enjoyable dialogue sparking off Ctesias’ awkward relationships with pretty much everyone else, and it’s all wrapped up in French’s evocative brand of dark and sinister language.