Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Crucible by John French. A Warhammer 40,000 Grey Knights short story. Originally part of The Black Library Weekender Anthology (Saturday), now available in general release as part of Digital Monday. Approx. 21 pages.

Today's review will be on another Black Library Digital Monday short (that was also previously an exclusive). This one is Crucible, a Grey Knights tale by John French. I was excited to read this one, since I was looking for a chance to read something from French ever since all the applause I've seen for his "The Last Remembrancer". Also, I am enjoy Grey Knights reads ever since my appetite was whet by the excellent "Witness" last month, so, here we go.

Crucible follows the tale of one Istafel, a lone knight sent by a triumvirate of his order to battle a greater daemon on a warp-afflicted ship named the Crucible. For some reason, Istafel is a kind of counterweight for this daemon, and so it must be he that goes alone to fight it.

That is a brief summation, yes, but it sums up the gist of the tale. Crucible is told in both the first person POV of Istafel, as well as the mental 'communion' of the three who dispatch him. Much of the word count is dedicated to scene-building and description, which is fine, since French more than excels at that. Writing for Chaos gives authors the free range of a hyper kid with a fistful of acrylic paints and a room full of canvases. All of the unbalanced, uncomfortable, nonsensical mayhem that is vomited forth from the Warp needs this.

French utilizes this to show a battle that is fought on three fronts; the physical, the mental, and the spiritual. There are the clever ways that Istafel focuses and creates a tangible image out of a warp-twisted ship. There are the brutal descriptions of the Grey Knight's fierce weapons brought to bear. And there is also the sickening display of a daemon born, a slithering, squishing live miscarriage.

As for what works against Crucible, there are a few minor points. First, I don't believe that this is a story for the WH40K uninitiated. Even though most of the books that I have read in the past few years were 40K books, I was still lost as to who this bird-daemon was. Is it a hint to some character or event from another work? Is it one of the higher agents of one of the Chaos gods? I can't place it, nor could I find anything on a WH40K wiki. It still is a great story of a Grey Knight fighting a daemon though, if just taken like that.

Secondly, while the scene-building was excellent, and the physical and spiritual duels were superb, that battle of words between Istafel and the daemon was a tad subpar. It's just a bit of text, and it's not bad, it just could have been a bit more chilling and soul-piercing.

With only a few things hampering it, Crucible is a great Grey Knights tale, finally made available to the general public. This is one of the times where the 20 page count is actually worth the $2.99 price tag.

Here's what it is:
A tale of a holy knight that must battle the daemon inside himself, and in fact, inside us all. A great story that reminds us how high the price of victory often is.

Final Score:


Cover Score:

Crucible re-uses a Clint Langley classic; the cover from the Grey Knights omnibus. While I can understand that they didn't want to use the exact image and background color scheme, I can't help but point out that the new white background not only takes away from the figure, but does not match the tone of the story. Also, couldn't they have re-sized it a bit to make sure that the full blade of the halberd was included? Another case of a great pic suffering from poor cropping.

Cover Final Score:


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