Of all the Legiones Astartes, the White Scars of Jaghatai Khan remain the most enigmatic and elusive. Born of a civilisation that prizes honour, speed and fearsome loyalty, their allegiance has yet remained unclear even as the galaxy is torn apart by Horus’s treachery, and both sides have apparently counted them among their potential allies in the war to come. But when the Alpha Legion launch an unexplained and simultaneous attack against the White Scars and Space Wolves, the Khan must decide once and for all whether he will stand with the Emperor or the Warmaster... or neither.
The exciting story begins in this first eBook episode of an all-new novel by Chris Wraight.
Making up the first seventeen pages of the Horus Heresy novel, Scars: Episode I is an introduction to the legion and its recruits. Not just those from Chogoris but those recruited from Terra and divided among the legions astartes, forced to adapt to the traditions and mentality of their primarch as they are effectively phased out of the legion. The book explores this through two such recruits from differing origins, Tamu of Chigoris and Haren Svensellen of Skandmark (Terra) as they are recruited by members of legions and undergo the arduous tests to become astartes.
Emphasising upon the presence of Terran marines within the legions is a good move and in the short page count Episode I conveys a good deal of information. What little we’ve seen of their existence was only briefly touched upon in Flight of the Eisenstein and Betrayer, even there being more a personality quirk than an emphasised trait. Stark contrasts are made between the initiates just by showing their experiences in points in their lives, from the methods of their recruitment to their choices and even basic training.
Whereas the “Withdraw and then return” mantra the White Scars embrace is repeated by Tamu, Haren’s training by the Luna Wolves teaching him “No backward step” is constantly in his mind even after initiation. It’s a detail which seemingly distances him from his legion, something only made worse given his initial determination to join Horus’ legion and low regard for the V’s “mystic savages”.
The Terrans’ lack of choice in the legions they are integrated into, the distances between themselves and their primarch’s world and other elements, go a long way to explaining how so many marines we’ve seen all had the potential could become so distanced from their gene-fathers. By the installment’s end Haren has lost everything from his chosen legion to his birth name, whereas Tamu is effectively still among his people.
None of what is explored here is subtle in any sense of the word but it’s well paced, balanced between perspectives of characters and gives great insight into a sparsely seen part of 31K.
This said the tale isn’t without its problems and with good reason. From the opening quote to final words, this episode is only seventeen pages long. It gets a great deal of information conveyed in that time, but it often opts to telling the reader certain details rather than truly showing them in order to fit everything in. Details like the fact Targutai Yesugei has killed more men than any in the legion, save for the Great Khan himself, carry no weight and the same occasionally goes for the focus character’s thoughts. The pages also do not give as clear an introduction to the legion itself as they do the characters. This effort to save space for the main subject is made clear from the very beginning with the story starting in the middle of a confusing brawl. It’s only later the character involved is even named and we see neither the beginning nor the chase prior, resulting in a jarring initial start. Even in a non-serialised novel this would be a very awkward beginning.
More than anything else Scars: Episode I is set-up, introducing the initial characters and the situation. While these aspects are handled extremely well, it would have only benefitted had the episode consisted of a good few more pages and slightly wider scope. As part one of twelve, it’s a little hard to decide whether to recommend this on the strength of its tale, but even if you don’t want to get the entire story it is still worth a look. Primarily as a source of ideas or concepts if you are interested in the timeline or writing about it yourself.
To me, the first episode of the serialized Scars utterly succeeded in setting the tone for things to come, and the White Scars Legion.
It shows the Legion's culture, the contrast to Terran recruitment practices, the philosophy of the Chogorians and so much more in just one episode, that, to me, anything but a 5 star review would be unsuitable.
This episode's plot follows two aspirants, destined to become Battle-Brothers, yet oh so different. One raised on Chogoris, the other a Terran. One handpicked, the other tested time and again. One being taught to "withdraw, then return", the other never to falter, "no backward step".
It is a setup that I can wholly appreciate. This goes beyond superficial cultural stereotypes, and shows the character of the Legion, both from an inside and outside perspective. Considering the White Scars' scarce presence in the Heresy series so far, I am very pleased by how well Chris Wraight seems to handle them. Just reading this one part, I feel that I have a much better understanding of what the Scars represent, or represented during the Great Crusade.
I am already looking forward to placing the trade paperback copy of Scars onto my shelf, come May 2014. Yes, this episode was that good.
I don't see a collected entry for all of the Scars segments yet, but this review is for all 12 parts. Chris Wraight really blew me away with this one. An almost unmentioned Legion suddenly has a rich backstory, ethos, and charismatic characters. It's kind of the ultimate 40k compliment I can give that I now care about the White Scars. Well done, sir, looking forward to more!