Shattered Legions – edited by Laurie Goulding

Book forty-three in Black Library’s epic Horus Heresy series, Shattered Legions is an anthology collecting together stories which have all been available before in one format or another, but not in the numbered series. Featuring Graham McNeill’s novella The Seventh Serpent as well as all the stories from the previously released Meduson collection, this is as close to a definitive picture of the Shattered Legions as we’re going to get. All three of the loyal Legions broken at Isstvan V are featured, as are various others – traitor and loyal – but it largely focuses on the Iron Hands, leaderless and damaged.

Opening with Dan Abnett’s short story Meduson, we see an organic (pardon the irony) start to the development of what became the Shattered Legions’ way of making war, introducing Shadrak Meduson and setting the tone for the whole collection. It’s a clever, well-told story, but it’s pretty bleak; a grim story for a grim Legion. That grim tone continues throughout, with the various characters struggling to come to terms with their new roles in the wider conflict – whether they’re able to understand the bigger picture or not. On the black sands of Isstvan, in the cold of the void, and within battered vessels limping from battle to battle, we see warriors who are lost, broken, angry and confused.

In fact, a key theme of this collection is confusion, in the way that Meduson’s adopted way of war is at first an advantage, but in time becomes as much an asset to his enemies as to himself and his allies. The scattered, disconnected nature of these Legions post-Isstvan lends itself well to a collection of stories rather than a single tale, with the eleven stories exploring different aspects of the wider narrative. Meduson himself features heavily, in person or just in reputation, from Abnett’s opener to Graham McNeill’s The Either, which tells at least part of the other side of the story, but there are links as well to characters and stories from across the breadth of the series. Look out for links to not just the early Isstvan-related novels but also Chris Wraight’s Scars arc, David Annandale’s The Damnation of Pythos, and Graham McNeill’s Vengeful Spirit.

With a clear theme and a strong sense of tone, this is perhaps one of the most successful anthologies in the series to date. Some might begrudge the prior publication of the (originally limited edition) Meduson anthology given that its stories are now collected here, but this conforms to Black Library’s stated intention to include every story in a numbered, mainline book. Not everything in here is entirely successful – Nick Kyme’s Immortal Duty remains a touch too opaque even after multiple readings, and not everyone is going to be as interested in standalone stories featuring previously unknown characters. With stories from eight authors though (see below), ranging from a handful of pages to novella length, there’s something for everyone here. As long as you enjoy dark tales full of desperation, anger and cold vengeance, that is.

For reference purposes, this includes the following stories:

  • Meduson by Dan Abnett
  • Unforged and Unspoken by Guy Haley
  • Immortal Duty by Nick Kyme
  • Grey Talon and Hand Elect by Chris Wraight
  • The Keys of Hel by John French
  • Deeds Endure by Gav Thorpe
  • The Noose by David Annandale
  • The Seventh Serpent and The Either by Graham McNeill

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