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Phoenix Lords

Asurmen: Hand of Asuryan

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The Phoenix Lords are demigods of battle, warriors whose legends span the stars. They are embodiments of the warrior nature of the eldar, and each walks his own path. The first, and greatest, is Asurmen, the Hand of Asuryan. Since he led his people from destruction at the time of the Fall, he has guided his children, the Dire Avengers, in defending the remnants of the eldar as they plan their rise back to galactic dominance. A superlative warrior and peerless leader, Asurmen is one of the greatest hopes of the eldar race.

For the first time, get a glimpse at the horrors of the Fall of the Eldar and find out what drove Asurmen to create the Dire Avengers and start a whole new way of waging war. You also get to see him ten thousand years later, still defending his people from the darkness, and look at what drives him to keep doing so.


First published June 1, 2015

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About the author

Gav Thorpe

353 books480 followers
Gav spent 14 years as a developer for Games Workshop, and started writing novels and short stories in the worlds of Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 when the Black Library imprint was launched in 1997.

He continues to write for Black Library, and his first 'homegrown' novel series The Crown of the Blood has been released via Angry Robot.

Currently living in Nottingham, Gav shares his home with his loving and very understanding partner - Kez, and their beautiful little boy - Sammy.

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5 stars
36 (24%)
4 stars
67 (44%)
3 stars
36 (24%)
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8 (5%)
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Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews
Profile Image for Daniel.
609 reviews8 followers
January 29, 2018
This book is about Asurmen, the Hand of Khaine. He leads the Dire Avengers, one of the sects of Eldar Aspect Warriors who war for and protect the Craftworlds of the Eldar. He is immortal and cannot be killed, only reduced to nothingness and then as a Phoenix Lord, comes back to inhabit a new host and take over where he left off.
This book includes insights into the war between two Craftworlds, which has happened in the 40K universe, but never really written about. It is a subtle war, of power leading to open aggression, but it is there. Asurmen has no interest in these things, but only lends his weapons and thousands of years of experience to destroying Chaos in any form it appears in. The forces of the Dark Lady, a Daemon Princess are loosed towards the Eldar and Asurmen arrives and responds in kind with death and blood.
What I find the most interest in within these pages is the story of Neridiath, a powerful and psychically active pilot who Asurmen needs to fly a battleship for the Eldar. She is a mother, with a young daughter, Manyia. She is also a non-combatant, having never harmed another living soul. She is forced into escaping the clutches of Chaos forces and saving her daughter, getting onboard the Stormlance, a psychic kill cruiser that seems to have a mind of its own and is a manifestation of Asurmen's "faithful steed". Some of the interactions the ship has, even playing games with Neridiath's daughter, is just well written storytelling.
Asurmen in the end has to convince Neridiath that she must embrace her violent nature and do battle, when she is fighting against it with every thing she has. When Asurmen delves into her memories of the past and sees why she has forsaken killing he has to appeal to her as a mother and a potential Aspect Warrior herself, which succeeds. This is a relatively small few pages in the book but the impact is enormous.
I enjoyed this greatly, and to be sure, Gav Thorpe is the Eldar guy as far as 40K books go about this Xenos race. he writes well and informative fiction and has some great abilities to pull the reader in on a race in 40K that has nowhere near as much coverage as much else in the universe. This is a great opener into the Phoenix Lords novels and I can't wait to see where he goes next. Jain Zar, I assume is on deck to come out next. She was mentioned in this book several times.

Profile Image for Alexander Draganov.
Author 28 books132 followers
September 13, 2015
Excellent beginning to the Phoenix Lords series. I know that Gav Thorpe has repeatedly stated that he loves dwarves above all fantasy races, but I think that his work with the Elves is comfortably ahead of everything I have read from other authors about them, including fantasy heavyweights like Tolkien and Terry Brooks. Here he tales the story of probably the greatest Eldar warrior, mixing a battle with Chaos from the grim dark future and his past, prior to the Fall. The result is a fantastic novel of non-linear storytelling and highly memorable hero. To be honest, I think that Gav has achieved even more with "Malekith", the first novel of his Sundering series and "Path of the Warrior", which is absolutely amazing and a true masterpiece, but Asurmen is still a very, very good book, one of the best I have read this year. Hence, a solid five star rating.
Profile Image for Jacob.
12 reviews
January 19, 2023
This was a hard book to start. I found the Eldar a little dull, anxious and a little stupid.
That was my fault, it was not how I am used to Elves being, irrespective of setting.

As the book continued and the main characters became more evident, their struggles became more compelling and the title character actually lived up to the awe the setting has for him.

Reading about the fall was SO compelling and Asuremen’s tale of becoming the demigod I know him as was awesome. He is a teacher, in every sense. He watched his race fall and who he had to become does not disappoint.
December 29, 2016
Gav Thorpe is fast becoming the go to Eldar author in the warhammer 40K universe and justly so. His Path of the Eldar series was a triumph. The trend continues with Asurmen in his wonderfully immersive style but there were a few flaws in this one. The start of the book took a while to fully engross me in the characters and the locations never really felt like they were given the proper attention they needed for a backdrop to the story. Also the book felt rather short and the chapters more so. This would work for Asurmen's origin chapters by but not for the rest of the story as it sucks you back out of the action too soon. In all though I did enjoy it and the very interesting look into my favourite Eldar character. I really look forward to the prospect of a full Phoenix Lord series with the other legendary warriors.
Profile Image for Przemek0980.
6 reviews
August 5, 2020
I am conflicted.

On the one hand, I really wanted to like this book. Phoenix Lords have a really badass lore, but they are not really allowed to be presented as great warriors since they are most often the antagonists or background characters. So their greatest achievements are reduced to a few lines in a Codex. But here they are, the heroes of their own books when they are allowed to be awesome. And the book really shows some great aspects of Asurmen - his world-view, his ship and his story.

On the other hand, it really isn't using the full potential. I think there are two major problems with the Asurmen: Hand of Asuryan.

I feel like Gav Thrope is really holding back. I don't know if it is by his own decision or he is forced to act like this, but many of his Aeldari stories suffer from that "hold-back syndrome". Characters constantly talk that challanging Phoenix Lord is insanity, that he is the greatest amongs the Aeldari, almost like Eldanesh himself, the strongest and smartest of all Eldar...but he really isn't.

And he isn't even close. He, the founder of all Aspects, the Hand of Asuryan, is AT BEAST at Chapter Master's level. We are told that he is what he is because he follows the "last dream of the dying God" which again, sounds awesome, but Gav Thrope never does anything with it. He has all those wonderful, badass concept and just decides not to use them.

Again, I don't know if those are his decisions or is he forced to make Aeldari not as badass as they should be but it still counts as a big flaw.

There are actually two stories in this book. One is almost flawless, another is really weak.

The story of "original" Asurmen, the Fall etc. is great. Wonderful drama, great sibling rivary and the destruction of Aeldari Empire is shown really, really well. It is a magical post-apocalyptic tale that shows a great insight into one of the greatest empires in setting's history.

The story that takes place in the present...it just isn't that good. The characters are nice (the pilot and her daughter are especially well written) and we are told that everything will go to hell if Asurmen fails. But in the end, it is just a story about Asurmen fighting (and really struggling) to destroy a small Chaos Cult.

The book is okay and I believe it already has many fans. But it could've been so much better.
Profile Image for Callum Shephard.
324 reviews31 followers
September 6, 2015
Whether or not you’ll like Asurman: Hand of Asuryan comes down to an incredibly simple question – Did you enjoy the last work Gav Thrope produced for the eldar. If you did, you’ll love this. If you didn’t, you’ll find a few interesting qualities here and a few improvements, but not enough to really justify the purchase. Really, there’s nothing else to say about this, and really it has the same strengths and failings we can cite as last time.

The story follows the first of the Phoenix Lords, Asurmen as he silently traverses the Webway. Waging his isolated war to ensure his race’s survival, his travels eventually bring him into contact with a small band of exiles. Requiring the assistance of a maverick Farseer, all but exiled from his craftworld, and the skills of a pilot fated to helm a powerful warship, they must fight to ensure Chaos is defeated on an unexpected battlefield. However, what drives the ancient warrior, and what horrors lurk in the depths of his mind? What’s more, after the ten thousand years of war, after so many serving as a host for his essence, is there anything truly eldar left beneath his helm?

Now, if there’s something to clearly praise here, it’s that the book is more than willing to tread into territory ignored by other authors. In much the way that the Night Lords saga was a relatively straight forwards tale used as a vehicle to examine the legion, we see the same here in terms of the eldar race. Many points previously touched upon at the most are gone into some detail here, ranging from the eldar state of childhood to the way they wage war. The latter, while a subdued point, proves to be an specially interesting concept, which while brief details how rival states clash in proxy wars, manipulating other species within their sphere of influence. Atop of even this however, it then branches off into new levels of detail surrounding exactly why certain eldar have their preferred strategies, and their ways of war fit into their precognitive nature. Then even atop of that we have insight into why so many of their kind find contact with humanity to be a distasteful subject at best.

The book’s greatest success really is building up the entire race by giving greater detail focusing upon their existence. This leads into the story delving into points such as the symbiotic relationship between eldar (living and dead) with their technology, and even how their race behaves during childhood, prior to stepping upon the Path. While it never goes into vast levels of detail a-la Dune or The Grudgebearer Trilogy, it provides enough satisfactory examples to make you retain better insight behind such themes. Covering so many widespread subjects, it’s praiseworthy that these could be juggled without ever getting in the way of the core story and backing it up with some excellent action. Those of you who felt Alaitoc was being jobbed in Thorpe’s past books will be glad to know the race is on full form here, being treated more on a level with the astartes than Imperial Guard.

Typical of his prose, the battles are big, dynamic but fast paced and delivered in sweeping details. While it does ultimately focus in upon a few characters at a time, there’s an ever present push to present a clear sense of scale and sheer ferocity in the wars. While certainly a little clunky in places, it carries a lot of the charm of the Third Edition and the sort of writing which really got the Black Library going. What’s more is that, even in these moments, Thorpe still manages to balance information and characterisation with the conflict, a point which becomes especially evident when it goes into details surrounding a Wraithknight crew in combat.

Now, the unfortunate thing really is that, while it retains fantastic depictions and great ideas, much of Asurman: Hand of Asuryan doesn’t really work as a novel sadly. As with the past examples, all too often the characters involved feel as if they are simply archetypes for a certain role within the race or suffer from flat characterisation. This was a particular problem which plagued Path of the Warrior, and it sadly strikes home again here. Few characters truly stand out at all, and it hits Asurman especially hard. While he’s certainly presented as being extremely disciplined and experienced in war, it never feels as if it’s more than any other Exarch. There’s little here to personally distinguish him as being a Phoenix Lord, and looking into his mind really proves to be surprisingly uninteresting. Lacking the sheer presence of the primarchs or near mythological sense of awe they should inspire, he sadly proves to be oddly underwhelming. Matters are only made worse when the book delves into the Fall itself, which proves to be easily the weakest part of the tale, and lacks the impact you’d expect Slaanesh’s birth to convey. It was one point readers were the most tempted to discover new details about, and it honestly proves to be sadly underwhelming and downright dull at times.

All too often the plot seems to bounce back and forth between characters, but lacks the space needed to really better established or define them. For all the time spent following the aforementioned Wraithknight crew, they never felt fully rounded out or properly developed, and all too often the narrative’s structure made you feel as if you were missing out on points. This might have been fine in some regards were the story itself at least stronger, but even then many of the bigger plot points were underdeveloped, with too many taking time away from others. The very warship itself which takes up a core part of the story could have been far better realised given the weighty implications which surround it, as do many of the aforementioned concepts cited above. They’re good in many respects, but many seem to always fall short of delivering some of the critical information you’d like.

Having read four novels by Thorpe on this xenos race now, it’s evident that he’s a man who clearly loves the eldar and is knowledgeable of them. However, it’s hard to tell if these sorts of novels are really the best way for him to explore this race. Every strength cited here would have been better delivered in a book free of story constraints, more along the lines of the Tactica books or at least with a more distant approach like the Imperial Armour series. Despite what many cited surrounding a certain Codex: Chaos Space Marines, he was always at his strongest producing lore for these sorts of books, and events such as the Age of Apostasy stand as proof of that. As a result, it’s hard to truly dislike this novel, but you’ll probably finish with an ever present niggling fleeing this could have been presented in a vastly better way.
Profile Image for Lenny.
38 reviews1 follower
April 18, 2020
In a vision granted by Asuryan's Heart, foresees an escalation in the rivalries between the craftworlds of Ulthwé and Anuiven. This prophecy from the father of the gods shown to Asurmen, the first and oldest of the Phoenix Lords, reveals that this will spell disaster for the Eldari at large. The path to elude this future leads to a downed ship in the ruins of the old empire. But when farseers play as gods there is no telling what the future holds.

Gav Thorpe really is at his best when writing Eldar and this book is a perfect example why. As always the vibe of the esoteric locations that is the habitat of the eldar is on point. Complimented with some awesome pre-fall and during-fall descriptions of Asurmen's life, a very interesting selection of characters and a great usage of the eldars ability to communicate using the Infinity Circuit. In Conclusion this is an awesome novel that in my opinion and a perfect fix if you can't get enough of the Eldar novels Ghost Warrior and Wild Rider.
Profile Image for Oliver Eike.
321 reviews15 followers
May 18, 2018
Having just finished the Lorgar book, i was admittedly skeptical to pick up another Gav Thorpe book right away. But, my fears were unwarranted by quite a bit.

The book follows Asurmen, Hand of Asuryan as he steps forth to correct a failing of old. It also shows bits of his origins which to me was the one disappointment of this book. As i had expected something more interesting on that end.

A craftworld is in trouble and Asurmen arrives to aide it, or at least one of its members. The combat scenes are decently written, but where the book excels is where it shows Asurmen a warrior of spectacular skill and legend, struggles with himself. Wanting to rather be a teacher than a warrior. And how he regrets the need to fight, but does not shirk away from it when there is no choice.

I hope that the Eldar get more books and that Asurmen returns in other books. For to me he was a interesting character. Far more personality than most other super-powered characters of the 40K universe. Like say Lorgar.
Profile Image for David Donachie.
Author 22 books18 followers
April 26, 2018
I am a sucker for anything related to the Eldar, and so I loved Asurmen for the masses of Eldar culture, language, and history that it contains. Gav Thorpe is the master when it comes to these. The flashbacks to the fall of the Eldar were especially fascinating, it is a period that has never really been touched in Games Workshop fiction before.

I was a little less grabbed by the actual plot of the book — Asurmen intervenes in a local struggle, helping an Eldar pilot release her inner fears and enter the Path of the Aspect Warrior. While the encounter was well written, it was intrinsically less interesting than the deep history the book also presents, and it read more like a setup for the other books in the series, than a satisfying story in its own right.

Won't stop me reading the next one though.
Profile Image for David Scott.
6 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2017
Pretty good insight into the fall of the eldar and there customs pre fall. It can be a little dry sometimes but the action and drama make up for it!
Profile Image for Dana.
34 reviews
May 26, 2021
Being brand new to Warhammer lore and this being my first step into Warhammer, I obviously didn't understand some things that were said and things that were going on. But I did thoroughly enjoy the book and have been reading it at every available opportunity.
The story follows along a few different storylines and characters which I did prefer some of the perspectives more than others. At first I was confused by everything but settled in quite fast. The names are challenging to pronounce and I had many difficulties saying them in my head whilst reading so I ended up learning which character was which more so by their actions and personalities than by name. This is made easier by them all having very distinct qualities.

Overall I loved the book just didn't understand some aspects, that's why it's 4 rather than 5 stars
Profile Image for Michael Dodd.
953 reviews62 followers
April 2, 2016
Potentially the first novel in a wider series, Asurmen : Hand of Asuryan sees Gav Thorpe delve into the mythology of the eldar to tell the tale of the titular Asurmen, first and greatest of the fabled Phoenix Lords. Set in the midst of a conflict against the chaos forces of the Flesh Thieves, instigated by a Farseer of Anuiven craftworld in order to reclaim an artefact of great power, it sees Asurmen co-opting a peaceful eldar pilot to help him as he steps in to try and avert a disaster unforeseen by the reckless Farseer. Realising his warrior spirit is troubling the pilot, Neridiath, he talks to her of his path and the events which saw him take his first steps along it.

Read the rest of the review at https://trackofwords.wordpress.com/20...
Profile Image for Hakan.
178 reviews27 followers
August 31, 2015
An excellent tale about the greatest of Eldar warriors, with insights about his life before and during the Fall.

The other part of the story, a run-of-the-mill fight between Chaos and Eldar, was interesting on its own, but would have merited a four-star "liked it", but for me, the main selling point was how the first two Phoenix Lords came to recognize their fates in life.

Hoping that the other stories will be as interesting as this one, I really really look forward to further installments in the "Phoenix Lords" series.
Profile Image for Jack Volante.
Author 2 books4 followers
November 13, 2015
A very enjoyable read. Gav did a great job of fleshing out the day-to-day life of the Eldar. I was pleasantly surprised to read Asurmen's flashback memories of The Fall of the Eldar. Never read anything on that before, so it was great to read about this immense tragedy and pivotal point in the WH40K universe.

My only grumble is that Asurmen disappears for a huge chunk of the second act. Only the alternating flashback chapters keep him in the story.
6 reviews
September 30, 2015
Stupid characters doing stupid stuffs. Not even bolter-porn guilty pleasure. Eldar are described no different from Space Marines, just going out there and fighting like a bunch of idiots.

Warhammer 40k fiction used to be great. And now even inexperience authors who write children books can come up with something more compelling than this.

Gav Thorpe, go back to writing Space Marines.
Profile Image for Timothy.
41 reviews6 followers
November 20, 2018
I always enjoy reading Warhammer paperbacks, particularly when they’re about Space Elves. The book makes for good entertainment.
Displaying 1 - 17 of 17 reviews

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