Finished Ahriman: Exile yesterday or so, was up far too long, but I wanted to finish it before sleeping.
Great novel, met my expectations and developed the character of Ahriman in believable and intriguing ways, building veeeery effectively on the foundation laid by other authors.
Ahriman coming to terms with his guilt, but rejecting fate as absolute, was a blast to read, and I cannot wait to read what else is planned for this series, and which Paths of Lies the exile will need to walk before he turns his eyes towards the Black Library of the Eldar.
Worse authors have somehow made Ahriman appear like a mustache-twirling fool with a god complex, but that is not the case at all. Ahriman is arrogant, and his arrogance was his, and his Legion's ruin. That realization put him into a very dangerous spot, and John French managed to depict that very well in Exile. Ahriman tries to run away from his past, from his guilt, hiding his identity, joining warbands out of necessity. Heck, he even closed away his incredible psychic potential out of fear and denial. Only when fate comes round at last is he forced to face his past and discover his former, broken Legion's uncertain future.
The book leaves a few plotlines dangling, which is good, and created a few very interesting characters. The atmosphere also radiates hopelessness, the feeling of having been forsaken by everybody but themselves, which serves very well for the supporting characters, three Astartes of a defunct Chapter, due to Inquisitorial edict, and their own development. They are reluctant to accept their fate as outcasts, as the last survivors of an eradicated thousand, but they believe that while their old oaths are rendered void, they need to hold on to the oaths they gave to each other, and to Ahriman. While these Marines and Ahriman did not start out as friends in any way, their growing brotherhood pivotal point of the novel, and serves to balance out the sense of abandonment.
I like John French. This was his first full-length novel for Black Library, but what short stories, novellas and audio dramas I've experienced so far were very solid. He's got his themes in order, knows what he wants to convey, and thus does a very solid job at structuring his work. His Fateweaver novella in Architect of Fate was probably my favorite of the 4 included stories, and The Crimson Fist was a fantastic contribution to the Horus Heresy, developing the Imperial Fists, Sigismund, Rogal Dorn and the Iron Warriors, despite only being a novella.
Good author, one to look out for.
Aside from that, I am now reading/listening to Fallen Angels, which has its issues (mainly being inconsistent with other material about the Dark Angels and involved characters) but is still strangely compelling. Helsreach is halfway done, but I've taken a break on that, in favor of Fallen Angels and short stories.