[Book Review] Mark of Calth – Short Story Anthology edited by Laurie Goulding

Title: Mark of Calth
Author: Short story Anthology
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 26th March 2014
Genre: Sci-Fi
Pages: 401
Format: Paperback
Source: Private Collection
Series: Horus Heresy

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Anthology of short stories revealing the untold tales of the Underworld War.

The Heresy came to Calth without warning. In just a few hours of betrayal and bloodshed, the proud warriors of the XIIIth Legion – Guilliman’s own Ultramarines – were laid low by the treachery of their erstwhile brothers of the XVIIth. Now, as the planet is scoured by solar flares from the wounded Veridian star, the survivors must take the fight to the remaining Word Bearers and their foul allies, or face damnation in the gloomy arcology shelters beneath the planet’s surface. A collection of stories by authors including Dan Abnett, Aaron Demsbki-Bowden and Rob Sanders. The battle for Calth is far from over…


Rating: 3 out of 5.

I read this as a part of my Horus Heresy buddy read with Dave, and… Dave beat me to the end!

I struggled with this book. Dave and I started reading this in October. It took me until yesterday to finish it. It’s not that it was a bad book per se, partially I struggled because I wasn’t really feeling in a Warhammer mood; then I hit a reading/reviewing slump and, honestly, it’s an average book that I was feeling ‘meh’ about. Then, with the changing of the year, I hit my stride and powered through it! We aimed to get to book 30 in the HH in 2022, unfortunately, we didn’t make it and I am placing all of that blame on Mark of Calth! We have a pretty solid run now until we hit another short story anthology, so if we can make it to book 31 this year I’ll be happy! Beyond that, and I’ll be thrilled! Anyway, let’s see what I can remember about these stories!

The shards of Erebus – Guy Haley

Any book that starts off with Guy Haley isn’t off to a great start – there’s something about his writing style that doesn’t click with me. I am trying my best to overcome it because I know he is a well-respected Black Library author and I have a lot of his books coming my way.

Erebus takes the sacrificial blade that turned Warmaster Horus to Chaos and reforges it into eight athame daggers. Gifting these to the Sergeants that are off to fight across the Ultramar sector as well as keeping one for himself and giving one to Kor Phaeron. Herein lies the problem I have with the Horus Heresy series as a whole; it’s disjointed and some of the books have significant events that happen so long ago, I can’t remember them. Then you get books of unmemorable bloat. Like constant filler episodes; I am sure there’s a nugget of detail in them that’s important but its surrounded by insignificance. Still, I remember this one being an okayish introduction to the anthology, but nothing remarkable.

Calth that was – Graham McNeill

I skipped this one. I read two pages of it and felt like it would never end. Maybe read Dave’s review and see what he thought of it instead? To me, it was one of those stories that held me back and stopped me from reading.

Dark Heart – Anthony Reynolds

This short story illustrates that the Word Bearers are petty and ambitious individuals that’ll stop at nothing to reach their own goals. Prior to this anthology, I was starting to enjoy the Word Bearers Legion; Lorgar is a fascinating Primarch that I enjoy greatly; his zealotry resonates with me as a reader. However, it seems that we’re doomed to endure moustache-twiddling villains for eternity due to his legion. Soon, there won’t be any of them left due to their inane back-stabbing. A decent story of a Word Bearer facing trial for their actions. The broken narrative was a good choice as it showed events as they happened, as well as current events of the Word Bearer on Trial.

The Traveler – David Annandale

Underneath the surface of Calth, there are survivors. Living in the underground networks trying to scrape out a meagre living in the hopes they will one day be rescued. One of these survivors apparently survived particularly well and is viewed as some sort of saint. So when he starts hearing voices, he starts accusing his fellow survivors of heresy and everyone believes him. Slaughters start but the voices don’t stop! David Annandale is very good at weaving a creepy tale and this one gave me strong Deacon of Wounds, vibes. I was expecting one of the voices to start chanting Deeeee at one point… needless to say things don’t end well.

A Deeper Darkness – Rob Sanders

Hylas Pelion, Ultramarines Sergeant, has an obsessive need to track down and hunt Word Bearer Ungol Shax. Leading him into the deepest depths of Calth’s caverns. And basically learns that there are things in the darkness that even Space Marines should be scared of.

The Underworld War – Aaron Dembski-Bowden

It’s no secret that I think Aaron Dembski-Bowden is one of Black Library’s best writers. I went into this short story with high expectations and every one of them was met. Seeing Argel Tal again was a real treat; because he’s a fantastic character. This story shows how the Gal Vorbak is made; what the daemons do to their hosts and if their joining is a success or not. Its a great way to show what happens, rather than it just happening. Great story for many reasons, not least becaue ADB can write and weave characters with expertise. Seeing Lorgar again and his conversation with Argel Tal was enlightening.

Athame – John French

The story of one particular athame blades travels. Ties in nicely with The Shards of Erebus. But the writing style was strange. I am none-to-fond of books that are written with the ‘You’ perspective, so it didn’t appeal. But, it was enlightening at the same time. I imagine a good alternative to this would be reading Lord of the Rings from the ring’s perspective?

Unmarked – Dan Abnett

I enjoyed this story. We are reunited with Oll Perrson from Know no Fear and accompany him on his journey through time and space in his quest to get to Terra. Via the use of an Anthme blade and Warp Shenanigans. The explorations see’s them being tracked by the daemon M’kar, who is on limited time to find them; seeing as the Warp is meant to mess with time and how we’re constantly told that time is different, I didn’t really understand why M’kar couldn’t just do his own warp shenanigans to make more time available? We get a bit of insight into perpetuals as well through Oll Perrson – whose name exemplifies why I adore the dry wit and irony of Warhammer 40k. An immortal called Old Person. Heh!

Mark of Calth took me far, far too long to pick up and read. It was a bit of a drudge. The War on Calth is a pretty pivotal moment in the Horus Heresy and solidifies the overall rivalry between Ultramarines and Word Bearers; all this additional stuff, it’s important but I am loath to pick up these short story anthologies as they just seem to get in the way when it comes to the meat and potatoes of the Heresy. They’re like nice little snippets of lore that are great if you’re a completionist. But for the rest of us, they’re just a bit bloated.

Thankfully, we’re granted a break from them for a few books. Hopefully, the next book; Vulkan Lives, will start pushing the Horus Heresy back on track with the main story.

12 responses to “[Book Review] Mark of Calth – Short Story Anthology edited by Laurie Goulding”

  1. I’m the opposite Jenn. I like the anthologies because if one story drags, the next might not. I’ve been in one book for over two years now because I can’t get onto the story and read a few pages, then put it down. Each chapter in an anthology is a “book” and I can make myself read even then ones that don’t interest me.

    That said, it’s been years since I read Mark of Calth, so I don’t remember many details.

    You will like Vulkan Lives. His whole story, to me, was super interesting and very cool.


  2. I’m in agreement with you about the anthologies, I think I’ve been desperate for the series to actually get somewhere for so long now, but I’m currently on book 35 and it’s still a slog. It’s gone too wide, in my view, and the anthologies are the principal culprit here. Mark of Calth is slightly different as it was decided to tell the arcology war in this way from the off, but when there are collections of throwaway stories that were written just because, it really feels like the overarching story is going nowhere fast. Will the traitors ever get to Terra? Who knows! But let’s read about Random Space Marine #547 and his tale of woe, or whatever…

    That was a bit of a rant, mainly because book 35 is also an anthology 🤣 You’ve got Vengeful Spirit to look forward to though, and that one actually does feel like it’s moving the story forward, so there are good times coming!! 😃

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great review Jenn, I almost DNF’d Calth that was as it just put me too sleep everytime. I am with you on that Athame story, was weird and I have no idea what it was going on about. The Argal Tal story and Unmarked was probably my favorites in this anthology.

      Liked by 1 person

      • 😲 Now there’s the real heresy!! I’ve started to skip the odd story within an anthology if I get bored with it, and especially if it’s by Nick Kyme, but I’m still going through them all for the moment! Trouble is, they add so little to the overall story that it just annoys me!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I hear you. Nick did a lot of the Salamanders stuff that ive only touched. Not read a lot by him yet. I normally struggle with Abnett, but that is just because he writes so next level and my English sometimes cannot fathom what he is on about…

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a really interesting point! I’m a big fan of Abnett because I find his writing so incredibly atmospheric and stuff, but I’ve never really thought how non-native speakers would manage it. I do forget sometimes that English isn’t your first language, sir, as you write so well that it comes across like you are a native speaker!

        Liked by 1 person

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