The first short story in Black Library’s 2016 Summer of Reading campaign, Chris Wraight’s Blackshield follows Khorak, a Death Guard legionary commanding an old and battered warship and a handful of legionaries. Pursued by unknown enemies and forced to set down on the murky, toxic world of Agarvian he leads his men in the sort of stoic, stubborn slog typical of the Death Guard, determined to stay alive long enough to blood his pursuers. All the while the identity of his enemies remains unclear, while Khorak’s loyalties are…uncertain.
Having tackled them before (see The Path of Heaven or Daemonology) Wraight is comfortable writing Death Guard, and it shows. Khorak and his men are battered and corroded, worn down and embittered, yet stubbornly proud of their ability to suffer through what others can’t. It’s a matter-of-fact depiction that’s in keeping with both the story and Khorak’s temperament, and a chance to see the Death Guard as protagonists, and in their element. It’s gritty and bleak, becoming progressively more so as the story continues – there’s plenty of action but the point of the story is to look at the question of loyalty among a Legion whose father is bitter, unloving and not entirely honest.