Sacrosanct & Other Stories – C L Werner

Title: Sacrosanct & Other Stories
Author: Various
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 29th Oct. 2020
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 528
Format: Paperback
Source: NetGalley

Content

The Dance of the Skulls by David Annandale
Great Red by David Guymer
The Sands of Grief & The Volturung Road by Guy Haley
Callis & Toll: The Old Ways by Nick Horth
A Dirge of Dust and Steel, Auction of Blood & The Prisoner of the Black Sun by Josh Reynolds
Wrathspring by Andy Clark
Sacrosanct, Shiprats & The Witch Takers by C L Werner

Buy the Book – Amazon

Blurb/Synopsis

A restless menace threatens the town of Wyrmditt. Stirred from his grave by fell magic, Sabrodt, the Shrouded King, seeks dominion over the kingdom he failed to claim in life. So great is the terror inflicted upon the lands by Sabrodt and his nighthaunts that Sigmar, God-King, sends a retinue of his warriors most skilled in the art of Azyrite magic to liberate the town. The Stormcast Eternals of the Sacrosanct Chamber are warrior-wizards, imbued with arcane knowledge and the power to wield the energies of the storm in battle. Leading the retinue is Knight-Incantor Arnhault, a formidable mage who has studied the histories of Sabrodt’s kingdom. But the fight against the Shrouded King will challenge Arnhault’s mettle like none other – especially when he discovers that the Undead knows more about his past than he does.

Also within this book is a host of awesome short stories giving you a flavour of the many warring armies that exist with the worlds of Warhammer Age of Sigmar.

Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

As Sacrosanct is a short story anthology, I shall be reviewing the stories on their own individual merits, much like my review of Tales of Heresy. Sacrosanct is an introductory collection of short stories, designed to give an introduction to the world and races of Age of Sigmar.

Sacrosanct – C L Werner

A larger novella than the rest of the short stories and the story that gives the book its title. Featuring the herald race of Age of Sigmar, the Stormcast Eternal.

Sacrosanct is an entertaining read that eases the reader into the world of Age of Sigmar. Detailing how the Stormcast come to be reforged through the eyes of Knight-Incantor Arnhault. The plot is a basic good vs evil, but serves as a good introduction to the dynamics involved in the world of Age of Sigmar.

I found Sacrosanct an enjoyable first dip into the setting, but – as with many of the Stormcast stories – felt myself feeling a little bit lost in the who’se who and what’s what. All the different unit types share a common theme in their names and they blended together leaving me a little confused. As an introduction to the world and armies, I am uncertain how successful this novella was.

However, I did enjoy what I read. Stormcast Eternal Arnhault and his revelations was a grand example of his army and while I can certainly see some similarities between Stormcast Eternals and the 40k Space Marines, they also have a unique flavour of their own; which is brought out well in Sacrosanct.

The plot was all fine and pretty decent for an easy romp in the Age of Sigmar setting, if a little on the predictable side in terms of content and resolution

A Dirge of Dust and Steel – Josh Reynolds

I’m going to be honest, the placement of this short story in the order of Sacrosanct was doing it a dis-service. It’s another front-line battle story involving the Stormcast Eternals. Following Sacrosanct directly rendered it unmemorable and for me it merged with the titular story. I had to leaf through the pages of the book to see if I was reviewing the right book or if I’d blended them together

It’s a shame as this story was actually pretty good in regards to plot. It is an action-packed thrill ride of a story. The main character, Sathphren, was well written, confident and easy to root for. It’s a clever story that I took great pleasure in reading.

Callis and Toll: The Old Ways – Nick Horth

Sacrosacnt is worth picking up and reading for this short story alone. I’ve always wondered how Witch Hunters fit in the new Age of Sigmar world compared to the Old World. Callis and Toll explain the transition perfectly!

Callis and Toll: The Old Ways see’s the two characters solving a political dispute between two rival families. It goes on to involve an investigation into the death of a family member, what caused it and if there’s any substance in the claims of foul play.

What I enjoyed the most about this story was the main characters, their dynamic and complicated relationship was entertaining. More-so Toll, the lead Witch Hunter, and his dry, no messing, cynicism. He is a character I was instantly drawn too and thoroughly enjoyed reading about. To the extent that I’d like to pick up their feature novel (Callis and Toll: The Silver Shard) at some point.

The Dance of Skulls – David Annandale

After reading a couple of fast-paced action-packed adventures, The Dance of Skulls was a wonderful change of pace. It involve political intrigue within the Vampire Courts and focuses on the angle of Neferata; one of the highest ranking Vampires of the Courts and how she thwarts her rivals. It is very much driven by her character which is delightfully detailed within the short story. Instantly giving a taste for her ruthless means.

Shiprats – C L Werner

A highly entertaining story featuring Duardin and their troubles with rats. Shiprats felt like a refreshing palette cleanser compared to the content of the vast majority of the short stories within Sacroscant. Although it had its fair share of fights, it didn’t have them as its primary focus and there was a darker, humorous element to the story also.

Well written and some good, strong characterisation of the Duardin folk. I was most pleased to discover a non-faction element to the setting also, it’s always good to see vast worlds such as Age of Sigmar being developed in smaller ways. A story away from the front line battles. It was right up my street.

Auction of Blood – Josh Reynolds

Palem Bok is a bookseller and a spy, working in the Greywater Fastness and is tasked with winning an Auction for a high-ticket item. Filled with wonderful characters on a short, but entertaining adventure. Auction of Blood is a bit different to the rest of the stories within Sacrosanct with its focus on a human individual and how they fit into a much bigger picture. The Auction the title refers to involves a high-price chaos artefact and seeing such things taking on a life of their own brought back fond memories of picking out ‘Magic Items’ to play in the table-top version. It was nice to read about them and give them a bit of extended lore.

Auction of Blood also has some nice ties with one of the other novels in the collection

The Sands of Grief – Guy Haley

I am not normally a fan of Guy Haleys books, but this short story could have easily turned around my thinking. I went into The Sands of Grief with preconceptions that I’d dislike it. However, it was an entertaining, tragedy-filled tale of woe about Maesa and his journey into Nagashs domain to reclaim the grains of his lover. Accompanied by the mischievous spite Shuttercap as he makes the crossing into the Sands of Grief. Shuttercap is something of a delight in himself.

The descriptions in the short story are rich and vivid without being too indulgent own over-written.

The Sands of Grief is another stand-out short story in the collection for me. Again, it doesn’t focus on front line battles, but on an individual living in the world of Age of Sigmar.

The Witch Takers – C L Werner

I think I was still reeling from Callis and Toll when I got to this short story and considering my adoration for that short story, I didn’t find this one went down as well. The characters didn’t have the same depth in both personality and relationship – although their relationship with one another was touching.

The Prisoner of the Black Sun – Josh Renolds

The Prisoner of the Black Sun returns to the Stormcast Eternals fighting against chaos – which is a bit of a reoccurring theme in Sacrosanct. This time with an old-‘favourite’ character thrown in the middle; Mannfred Von Carstein who seems to have fallen foul of his former grandeur.

Mannfred von Carstein adds a different element to the dynamic of the short story. As with many of the other short stories, it’s a fast-paced action-fest that is entertaining to read. Lord Celestant, Tarsus is a stoic leader of the Stormcast Eternal and has come right out of the Stormcast printing-press. As a character he has a few interesting quicks, but honestly, at this point I don’t think I’ll be picking up any more books about Stormcast Eternals, unless someone out there can persuade me. Along-side him is Ramus, Lord-Relictor and other units of Stormcast Eternals.

I must be honest, at this point I was burning out on the book and a lot of the stories seem to be summed up as ‘And we fought some Chaos.’

Great Red – David Guymer

Great Red is a follow on story to The Prisoner of the Black Sun. Focusing on the Stormcast Eternal Ramus, who was introduced in the previous short story. Something has happened to Tarsus and Ramus is out for vengeance against Mannfred von Carstein. I am assuming that there is a longer story that is meant to be between these two novels, but I am not certain. It felt a bit jarring for everything to be fine and dandy at the end of The Prisoner of the Black Son and in the very next page, things to be pear-shaped.

As a stand-alone story it was decent enough and well written. Ramus takes on a life of his own and is a much better written character in Great Red than in the previous novel.

I appreciated the Stormcast Eternals facing something other than Chaos in the form of Orruks. The descriptions involving the Orruk clans was delightful and engaging. Detailing just how far removed they are from other types of fantasy Orcs.

Wrathspring – Andy Clark

I was initially looking forward to reading this short story as I find the Sylvaneth faction intriguing. I first read about them in The Court of the Blind King and was hoping that it would be good to read about them from their own perspective. Sadly, Wrathspring was a bit of a let down. I found the narrative trudged along ponderously. Everything was over-described and there was an over use of the term ‘last-vestige.’

Despite having a supremely interesting character in Alarielle the Everqueen and her wardroth beetle mount, the story didn’t quite hit the mark. Maybe it’s because the plot was yet another ‘Let’s fight against some chaos,’ and felt a bit souless.

The Volturung Road – Guy Haley

At this point I felt well and truly done with the short story collection and the moment I saw Slaanesh mentioned I figured it was time to call it a day. There’s only so much I can take in terms of repetitive plot-lines. Maybe I should have given The Volturung Road a chance, but considering it’s a Guy Haley short story and I am non-to-fond of him, I figured now was time to call it a day.

Summary

There are some absolutely sublime short stories in Sacrosanct that are well worth reading. It’s a shame that there are a good handful that carry the same basic plot. I was excited to read and digest another short story collection from Black Library after reading the short story collection Tales of Heresy, but sadly this one didn’t quite hit the same fantastic heights.

Sacrosanct is touted as a book to help introduce newcomers to the Age of Sigmar setting – I’m not exactly a new-comer to the setting but I did find myself scratching my head a bit to some of the ins and outs of unit types as a lot of the names are in a similar theme – especially so for the Stormcast Eternals

There are a lot of ‘big names’ from Black Library Publications in Sacrosanct and it’s a good introduction to them and their individual writing styles. It’s also a good place to start to find out about the recommended reads after each short story, should the reader wish to find out more about the armies they have just been introduced to – there are a couple that I’d certainly like to pick up and read.