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 continues in this second eBook episode of an all-new novel by Chris Wraight.
While this is something we have seen done before in other books, it’s balanced far more effectively within the prose. There’s no long sections purely exploring the legions or devoted completely to one subject, they instead appear in small mentions at a time and are gradually built upon. While this feels more natural, there is the flaw that it feels like it is gravitating a little too much towards making the White Scars space samurai. With lots of poetic labels and traits which seem more at home with Japan’s feudal times than a force with Mongolian influences.
Besides the introduction of new characters and additional details being used to flesh out the legion, the driving points which will lead to conflict are rapidly being built up. On a world where the White Scars are hunting down the last stragglers of an ork Waaagh! Shiban uncovers astartes killed in a very mysterious manner, showing far more skill and control than orks would ever display. Torghun meanwhile is shown to be involved with a small lodge consisting largely of dissatisfied Terran astartes, with some unknown work ahead of them. Both are being pushed into more background roles but they continue to directly contrast with one another and maintain the fact there is an ever present tension within their military force.
Despite this advancement of the plot, the majority of the pages are not focused upon the White Scars and are instead emphasising upon the Space Wolves. Having left Prospero and focusing upon repairing their mauled fleet, the chapters show their reactions to the knowledge of the Heresy and the burning of the world. It’s a short scene but overall but it does the job of establishing what has happened to the reader and conveying their reactions to this news. The Space Wolves feel that something was different about the culling, something wrong this time, and many of them regard it as being a diversion. That instead of massacring Magnus’ sorcerers, they should have been at Isstvan III and taken Horus’ head. It’s an interesting scene overall, especially with the reintroduction of Bjorn and Russ’ comments about Dorn’s summons but it’s here where the flaws are most evident.
Scars thus far has had a small amount of buildup, introduced its characters and made the direction of its plot clear in a very short space of time. However, it feels like corners are being cut to get directly into the plot as fast as possible. Rather than spending another one or two chapters with the set up, we are already being introduced to the other two legions involved now and it honestly feels too early. This is the one and only chance we will truly get to examine the White Scars as a legion, and already they are about to be thrown into the deep end of the heresy with characters only just established and the Khan himself yet to appear. I can only hope that we get flashbacks to a time before now to fill in the gap, more closely examine those involved, and see more of the legion because what we have so far simply isn’t enough. The last thing the series needs is a repeat of Fear to Tread, with exploration of legion identity being pushed back in favour of action.
The real problem however, is the fact Scars Episode II doesn’t exactly work with the serialised format. It’s too brief and while separated from Episode I, it lacks a distinctive structure to make it feel like its own entity. Instead what we get feels more like fragments of a much bigger story which would be better served if we saw the whole piece. As a chapter it’s adequate, but as an individual part of a story you have to buy independently it feels unsatisfying. Episode I is an installment I would recommend due to its definitive structure and because it worked as much as an individual piece as a part of a story. It would be like if someone took an episode of Game of Thrones, but rather than expertly breaking them up and placing them in through the episode events were just crammed wherever they would fit. Episode II isn’t worth your money at the moment. It’s not bad, far from it, but you’d do much better to just wait for the entire story to be released as a whole.
With the first episode, Chris Wraight delivered a thematically pleasing prologue, and prepared the stage for a novel that gets the reader as close as possible to the White Scars Legion. This chapter, however, is placing all the vital pieces right onto the table, and introduces them neatly.
A new human character appears, who might be the first prominent Munitorum adept in the Heresy series to date. In Ilya Ravallion, a well-structured, respectable Munitorum General with an eidetic memory, Wraight introduced a stark contrast to the wild, untameable spirit of the White Scars. Her side of the story will most likely yield a great deal of Legion development, which I am looking forward to.
Both aspirants from episode one have risen to the rank of Khan in their Legion, and have evolved from their positions in the prologue. Both characters feel immidiately familiar, and their new positions in the story make sense, and are boding well for a dramatic inter-legion conflict.
White Scar Storm-seer Targutai Yesugei returns as well. For those who don't remember him from A Thousand Sons: He spoke up in favor of Magnus the Red and the Librarius. In this chapter, he reflects back on the Council of Nikaea and the great Khan, which was very satisfying to read. I felt it was easy to connect with Yesugei, who still struggles to find his place after the Emperor's edict.
Continuing with the fallout of Nikaea, the Wolves enter the stage. Leman Russ and his Jarls have to come to terms with the scars earned during the events of Prospero Burns, and the revelations of Horus's betrayal. These scenes, I thought, were excellently executed, and showed again that Wraight is indeed the one author who should be writing Space Wolves. I very much enjoyed his earlier works on them (Battle Of The Fang and Kraken), and appreciate him taking up the Wolves at this point. Familiar faces from Prospero Burns also make a return, as it should be.
This part also introduces the main antagonist of Scars, and connects the narrative with a certain novella from The Primarchs. I cannot wait to see this conflict play out in the weeks to come!
Scars: Episode II does a fantastic job both as an early chapter of the story tasked with setting the stage for the book, but also with its characterizations and spins on past events. If Chris Wraight can keep up tying Scars this tightly into the rest of the series, I can only applaud him and suggest that Black Library give him a raise.