Ghosts Speak Not & Patience by James Swallow. Two Warhammer 40,000 Horus Heresy stories, originally published by The Black Library, January 2016. Approx. 45 pages (Ghosts Speak Not) and 5 pages (Patience).
I was perusing the mountainous TBR pile and came across this pair of stories from earlier this year (note: both are included in the new The Silent War anthology). So, let me begin with the usual spiel: I am not caught up on the Horus Heresy, I never got past Galaxy in Flames, whenever I read these shorts most of the content is new to me, etc., etc. I just want to get that out there, since I realize that Amendera Kendel featured in Flight of the Eisenstein, as well as Nathaniel Garro (haven't read any of the subsequent works featuring him).
First things first.
Ghosts Speak Not:
Billed as a novella, but more akin to a puffed up short story, Ghosts features former Sister of Silence Kendel as she embarks on a mission from Malcador himself. She returns to her old cadre base to recruit some members of the notorious Seventy; a group of surviving members of the Death Guard who remained loyal to the Emperor when the rest of their Chapter turned to the Warmaster Horus.
With her retinue in tow, she heads off on her mission: to capture a rogue astropath in the Proxima Centauri system. This renegade psyker has been transmitting messages to the Warmaster; and the proximity of the system to Terra could allow for Horus to stage a mass attack.
Along the way, they are met with some resistance by the pompous ruling class of the capital world of Proxima Majoris. The rest of the story focuses on their detective work. Anything else brings us into spoiler territory.
All the elements in this short story work very well. I am a big fan of Swallow's world building; he vividly paints a plausible background that evokes the universe he is writing for. For a planet that appears in a short story; he puts all the right details into the distinguishing characteristics of that system; including industry, governmental structure, etc.
The characters are well realized, too. Kendel, in what is her first speaking role, is a capable, formidable agent. Swallow also introduces Helig Gallor, one of the remaining Loyalist Death Guard Marines. He injects a good amount of soul into the tale; showing us the doctrines that have identified his Chapter, while shouldering the burden of their turn to Heresy. It must be beyond emotionally devastating, even for a transhuman, to be engineered for a cause, and formed within one specific group, only to have them turn against all that you stood for. To suddenly find yourself without an identity, when your identity was what you were originally made for.
The action is nicely done too. Swallow does not play around when someone gets shot in his 40K books. There is no Hollywood-esque twirling deaths, or Wilhelm Screams. If somebody gets shot with, say, a bolter, suddenly they are "meat". Or "chunks". Or "paste". Or any combination of those. It's beautiful.
In fact, about the only thing that detracts from the story is that the premise: a detective/spy thriller where the heroes are in pursuit of a rogue psyker, is a little too close to that of Swallow's first Sisters of Battle book, Faith & Fire.
All in all, a solid, quick read, that really captures the feel of the Heresy era.
Final Score: 8.5/10
Patience is one of those ~1,000 word micro-shorts that most readers either love or loathe. In it, we meet Gallor again, as he is sent to retrieve fellow Knight Errant Garro from an artillery-blasted city. Gallor finds him standing over a slain warp abomination, and receives a vital lesson in patience from him.
This story is all about setting the mood. See the great cover for this duology? This story is the one tied to that. And Swallow brings it to life on the pages. It is just great detailing throughout, with a knockout ending.
Final Score: 10/10
Cover Score: Love it. 9/10