First published in 2013, Gav Thorpe’s Corax: Soulforge was the fourth Limited Edition novella to be released in the Horus Heresy series. Set after the events of Deliverance Lost it sees Corax and the Raven Guard fighting their shadow war, determined to be a thorn in the side of the forces of Horus. After learning that Word Bearers are working alongside the Mechanicum overlords of the forge world Constanix II, Corax leads part of his legion to investigate and deal with whatever the XVIIth are planning. Meanwhile Commander Agapito continues to wrestle with his emotions after the horrors of Isstvan V.
The first story in the arc that would eventually be turned into the book Corax, this is all about taking stock of where the Raven Guard are at this point in the series, whether that’s Corax musing over his place in the Emperor’s plans, Agapito’s anger that still haunts him after the Dropsite Massacre, or Branne’s sense of isolation from this brothers who had been on Isstvan. The Raven Guard are still coming to terms with what’s happened to them and what they’re capable of doing in their diminished state, but the proud heart of the legion is still very much in place…and it beats for vengeance.
Pitting the Raven Guard against the Mechanicum gives the action scenes here a strong sense of identity as the legion’s hit and run tactics run counter to the strict organisational logic of the forge world’s armies, but it also gives Gav the chance to pit Corax against some interesting characters intellectually. There’s a lot to like in the dialogue both within the ranks of the Raven Guard and between the legion and the Mechanicum loyalists, with the action serving to structure and frame the wider discussions going on. There’s a sense that Corax is being challenged, forced to evaluate and defend his approach and his beliefs; it’s the start of things to come, when seen with the benefit of hindsight.
As befits a novella it’s a fairly straightforward plot but that seems to have given Gav the opportunity to really focus the narrative, and it works well both as a standalone story and within the wider Corax arc. Corax himself is obviously in the thick of things, as the title suggests, but Agapito gets plenty of page time as well; his bright rage nicely contrasts with Corax’s more calculating anger as the legion overall tries to balance its need for vengeance with the desire to still make a difference. Is it essential reading for Heresy fans? Probably not in the end, but it manages to be both a satisfying, fast-paced action story and an interesting step forward for Corax and his legion after Deliverance Lost.