Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 7 May 2022)
Series: Warhammer 40,000
Length: 6 hours and 23 minutes
My Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
I am really in love with the Warhammer 40,000 universe at the moment as they are producing some incredible books. While many feature huge casts or examine vast conflicts, some of the very best Warhammer 40,000 novels provide greater context and insight into the game’s legendary characters. These major character driven novels often result in some intriguing and powerful reads, and I love the complex stories that they tell. One of the more interesting ones recently was the epic Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom by rising Warhammer 40,000 fiction author Mike Brooks. This was a great and exciting read from last year, which I unfortunately never got the chance to properly review. However, as I have just started listening to one of Brooks’s more recent novels, Warboss, I thought it would be beneficial to do a quick review of Huron Blackheart.
Huron Blackheart is the lord of the Red Corsairs, master of the lawless Maelstrom and its piratical denizens – but oathbreakers and renegades can seldom rely on the loyalty of their followers. With the galaxy thrown into turmoil by the return of Roboute Guilliman, the former Tyrant of Badab faces a renewed Imperium and fresh challengers emerging within his own ranks.
Huron must call on every trick he knows to stay in control – and alive. Yet even a warrior as ferocious and opportunistic as the Blood Reaver must be wary, for although there are many bargains he can strike, all power comes at a price…
Brooks has produced a very awesome and enjoyable read with Huron Blackheart which drags you in with its intense and entertaining story. As the name suggests, the book primarily focuses on one of the more interesting characters from the wider Warhammer 40,000 canon, Huron Blackheart. Huron Blackheart is a particularly cool character with a well-established background as a former loyal space marine who turned traitor and become a notorious pirate lord, haunting vast swathes of the Imperium. Rather than diving into the full history of the character, Brooks instead tells a more contemporary narrative that shows the current actions of Huron Blackheart in the aftermath of the return of Roboute Guilliman.
The story sees Huron planning his next great offensive against the hated Imperium when one of his subordinates suddenly becomes a threat when he arrives with a mighty war prize, a legendary Ultramarines battle cruiser and Roboute Guilliman’s personal flagship, which the canny underling had managed to capture. Now faced with a potential rival, Huron is further blindsided when several of his underlings ensure that a powerful daemonic relic falls out of his hands, further weakening his hold on his minions. Forced into a corner, Huron soon finds himself caught between his murderous minions and the dark powers that surround him, and he’ll need to make a deadly decision that could change his existence and the remnants of his soul forever.
This is a pretty enjoyable and compelling overall narrative, and it is always quite a lot of fun to see events unfold from a villain’s perspective. The author did a good job of balancing out some of the elements of the story, and the reader is treated to a great mix of Chaos politics, intense action, and a focus on the always awesome figure of Huron Blackheart. Brooks makes good use of a multi-character perspective throughout Huron Blackheart, which is mostly effective in telling the fun and enjoyable narrative. The main one of course is from Huron itself, which gives you some very interesting views into his mind, but several other characters are also well featured, including a captured Tech Priest who is forcibly recruited into Huron’s ranks at the start of the novel. She provides a great outsider perspective to the entire story, and, when combined with Huron’s own cynical observances, you get a great view of the book’s events, especially all the backstabbing, politicking and carnage that emerges. Not every character is given this great treatment however, as several of the supporting cast end up being a bit one-dimensional in places, which make their subsequent perspective shots a bit hard to care about. Still, Brooks’s great use of perspective does capture the novel’s slightly darker and more bloody tone that some of the other Warhammer 40,000 novels out there as Brooks attempts to capture the villainous edge to every character. I particularly enjoyed several of the scenes that showed the entire elaborate nature of Huron’s corsair organisation, and it was a lot of fun to see all the different factions, as well as several different groups of Chaos Space Marines, working together for piratical purposes. I did think that the story itself was a little basic in places, especially when it came to its direction, and several of the twists or reveals were well telegraphed. Still, I was pretty entertained the entire way through Huron Blackheart, and readers are guaranteed a pretty good time with the story.
Naturally for a book titled Huron Blackheart, a lot of the story is built around the exploration of who Huron is and what role he fills in the galaxy. I must admit that this was one of those established Warhammer characters that I wasn’t particularly familiar with, so I was quite keen to see how the author would feature them. Unsurprisingly, Brooks does a good job of setting Huron up as a particularly intense and ghastly central character for the novel, and you soon get a good idea of his motivations and the rage burning within him. While Brooks was a little light on Huron’s full character history, readers fully understand his hatred, as well as other intriguing aspects of his character, such as his pragmatism, his deep-seated rage, and an actual understanding of the powers he has bound himself to. I loved seeing the world through Huron’s eyes in parts of the book, especially as you see all his canny and cynical insights into the motivations of his minions and the key players of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. Watching Huron attempt to manipulate every situation to his advantage is a ton of fun, and he cuts quite a distinctive figure in this book, even when on the losing end of a potential scheme. Despite some of the setbacks he suffers in this novel, Huron comes away as a particularly strong and intelligent character, and it was fun to follow a Chaos leader that can control so many naturally treacherous beings. Brooks also does a good job of tying Huron’s story into the wider current canon of the Warhammer 40,000 universe and it was fascinating to see what role Huron envisions his raiders having in the current wars of the galaxy. There are some great references to other recent books and events, particularly when it comes the events around the captured Ultramarines ships, and I felt that this entire novel slid in nicely into this wider canon.
I ended up listening to Huron Blackheart on audiobook, which is always my preferred medium for Warhammer stories. The Huron Blackheart audiobook ended up being a pretty awesome listen, especially with the impressive narration of Andrew Wincott. Wincott captured every dark and bloody setting perfectly with his narration, and you got a real sense of the scale and menace of every scene, especially those focused on Huron himself. Wincott made sure to also feature some great voices which really showed the full range of crazed figures that made up the supporting cast. However, the best voice work was saved for Huron Blackheart himself, as Wincott wanted to inject some intensity into him. Wincott gives him a deep, loud, and croaky voice, that perfectly captures his inhuman nature and helps readers to envision his mutilated flesh. As such, the Huron Blackheart audiobook is an outstanding way to the enjoy the story, and with a run time of just under six and a half hours, it is one that you can power through pretty quickly.
Overall, Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom was a great Warhammer 40,000 book and I am glad that I got the chance to listen to it last year. Mike Brooks had a lot of fun bringing the intriguing central protagonist to life in this new book, and his subsequent story of treachery and survival was interesting and easy to get through. This was a particularly solid entry in the Warhammer canon, and all established fans of the franchise will have an excellent time with Huron Blackheart, especially in its audiobook format.
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