The last two parts more or less covered everything which did need to be said about the Iyanden Codex Supplement. It was more of what was expected, bad from beginning to end save for a sliver of a halfway decent idea here and there. Despite this, there is one last thing which needs to be talked about in the form of the characters, and what has been done to them. Yriel everyone knows and while I could spend time talking about some of the minor changes to his character and later actions, the one who suffered the most is Iyanna.
Iyanna Arienal, as mentioned last time, was an old character brought back for a new book. Alongside the likes of Nuadhu was someone introduced back in third edition but had fallen by the wayside and only cropped up in the occasional mention. While never the deepest of characters, suffering from a common problem of being written to surround events or the actions of others, she had a place in the craftworld's history.
Along with a long standing opposition to Yriel, she was an especially gifted Spiritseer capable of guiding and communicating with the dead far more effectively than many of her kind. Her background strongly suggested a big reason Yriel had anything left to rescue was her ability to quickly utilise the souls of the recently fallen and send them into battle. While lacking in comparison to the better written details of today, it was enough for the time and had neither any major flaws or problems. It was simple enough to not be contradicted by other writers, had a few small elements which could be interpreted in different ways and contained nothing overtly stupid.
You can guess where this is going.
For starters, the new book makes huge efforts to have the two even more opposed to one another than before. Rather than having served alongside one another and built up any kind of relationship which can be worked with, Iyanna only became a Spiritseer following Yriel's disgrace and the death of her family. Who cased her family's death? Yriel of course, when he left Iyanden open to an exterminatus attack. No, that doesn't make any more sense reading it now than it did then.
Following Yriel's exile Iyanna left the Path of the Witch and wholeheartedly devoted herself to her duties as a Spiritseer. Rather than being driven mad with grief or sorrow, she focused her efforts upon her role and her service to the craftworld. Her section specifically notes "her mind was ever afield in the infinity circuit, communing with the kin she had lost."
Crude and more than a little heavy handed but serviceable as a background, save for that last bit. What's wrong with it? Well, in Ward's desperation to ramp everything up to eleven (exterminatus strike rather than just an attack, Iyanna's connection to the dead stemming from the loss of her family and countless other examples) he decided that having thousands of eldar killed wasn't enough. Apparently instead the strike was so powerful that it destroyed the spirit stones of all those hit by the cyclonic missile.
So yes, Iyanna is now communicating with family members in the infinity circuit that have been written elsewhere to have been consumed by Slaanesh. Either they were somehow saved despite a lack of spirit stones, or she's hearing voices in her head. This is either a continuity error, or something intentional which will result in a potentially very disturbing characterisation.
We already covered what had been done to Ynnead last time, and Eldrad's warning, but here's what that specific part of the text stated in full:
"When Eldrad Ulthran brought warning to Iyanden, he spoke of more than the Great Devourer. He spoke too of Kysaduras the Anchorite, of his predictions that the Eldar's only chance of atonement lay with Ynnead, the God of the Dead. Just as the Council of Iyanden ignored Eldrad's warnings of the Tyranids, so too did they dismiss his talk of Ynnead as a morbid fantasy. To her, the prophecy of Kysaduras sang out as the most dazzling of truths. The future Eldrad described was inevitable, Iyanden doomed, and she swore she would be prepared for its arrival. In a moment of enlightenment, Iyanna perceived a glorious apotheosis, where the spirits of the living Eldar would become as one with the dead. The resulting psychic backlash would stir Ynnead from its slumber, she believed; Slaanesh would at last know defeat, and the Eldar would endure within the infinity circuit's embrace."
Okay, you got all that? You might notice one very specific thing here: The text never confirms if she's right or not, or even substantiates her personal beliefs. Nearly all of what she thinks Ynnead will do is just coming from inside her head and is never truly confirmed by others. We know Eldrad's mentions of the prophecy causing her to believe this, but it never really cites research, thought or even consideration on her part as to whether this could be true or not. She just sees a vision which comes completely out of nowhere and believes it.
While there might be some substance to this, Warlocks and Seers have never been depicted to truly have far-reaching gifts of foresight. When operating in groups yes, or performing rituals with multiple people but rarely if ever as individuals. That's what Farseers are for and Eldrad himself was one of the few who was noted to see something as galaxy shaking as Horus Heresy would surely occur. The only recent example of a lone Seer catching a far reaching glimpse of the future we've had was Thirianna in Path of the Seer. She saw the impending threat to Alaitoc which would prove to be an Imperial invasion force, largely due to the deaths it would cause. This is from a book which, again, was made non-canon with this recent codex, and even taking it into account it's nothing so grand as seeing the fate of the entire eldar race.
I'm not saying that food for theories, ideas or vague hints is a bad thing in Warhammer, if anything it's something many armybooks need more of, but here there's nothing to support her. Absolutely nothing is done here to help make the reader believe she could be right and it makes her look more deluded than it suggests her to be a prophet or savior.
Things only get worse in the aftermath of the Battle for Iyanden. To try and set up further infighting and conflict between the survivors, Ward ultimately divided the remaining eldar into two camps. Those who had rallied behind Iyanna and those who ultimately had accepted the return of/still followed Yriel. Now, in fairness this was actually an initially good idea. One thing people have brought up is how well several thousand battle hungry corsairs would adjust to being a part of a restrictive craftworld again and the potential divides between the people. There are good ideas behind this and opportunities for clashes of ideology, but this is crushed beneath Ward's other plans.
As mentioned last time they act more like C.S. Goto's
Despite being the head of group preaching about survival above all, Iyanna is written as being hellbent upon fulfilling the Phoenix Arisen Prophecy and bringing about Ynnead's birth. To this end she is determined to find the artifacts known as Morai-Heg's tears and recover them as they might assist her. Despite her characterisation as caring for the dead and rebuilding the craftworld, she seems to suddenly want these items above all things. Her efforts to reclaim them result in what can only be described as an intergalactic rampage. Coming into conflict with humans, orks and various alien species and leaving almost a dozen worlds in complete ruin just to gain one of these mythic items.
Let this be made clear: Despite her goal of long term preservation, she is more than willing to bring the weakened Iyanden into conflict with just about everyone in her way and enter multiple wars to fulfill her personal beliefs.
Rather than people questioning if she's right in the head, this results in her only garnering further support among the craftworld's populace. Iyanna herself serving as a figurehead to the belief in Ynnead and their ultimate goal of salvation through the god's awakening.
Here's what we have so far in terms of her characterisation:
- Iyanna has suffered a traumatic event in her past which has likely resulted in emotional or mental scarring.
- This resulted in her having a fascination, a borderline obsession, with the dead of her kind.
- She receives mental images of an unknown source and lack any factual backing displaying a grand vision of the future only she can realise, along with possible voices. This causes Iyanna to put her faith in something widely ignored or dismissed by her people.
- Following a great cataclysm she gains support and becomes a spiritual leader. Obsessed with a single prophecy she begins following it above all things, despite only a single mental suggestion indicating this is the right thing to do.
- She claims to support the craftworld's future but puts it at risk to fulfill her own ambitions and behaves just as badly as the group she seems to oppose.
At the moment the "Angel of Iyanden" reads less like a hero of her people and more like the figurehead of a cult. Again, nothing has been done in this codex to truly substantiate her personal beliefs or indicate she's in the right. As a result we have no reason to think any of what she's doing is beneficial to the eldar to think she has any rationale for going on her merry crusade. All Ward would need to do is keep the old fluff about Ynnead to make her actions seem justified, but no, that's now gone. Hell, if you actually look at the book as a whole various examples are brought up which are against the vision she had and suggest it's a falsehood. The biggest of these being something shown to Yriel by the Harlequins, with the Eldar Gods reborn and a true war against Chaos in full swing.
Still, this book needs that one slight more push to turn her into a true monster; a completely irredeemable religious zealot who even in 40K's twisted morality scale would be disturbingly immoral. Naturally, Ward gives us this:
"the Spiritseer Iyanna Arienal begins the preparations that she believes will cast the souls of Iyanden into the infinity circuit, and hasten Ynnead's awakening."
You can find that on page thirty-five of the book. As usual this means one of two things, mostly because this could be an intentional statement or a result of the author doing no bloody research. Why? Because it simply states the souls of Iyanden. It's not referring to the departed souls or those who have succumbed to old age or battle.
- Option A: Ward has forgotten how the Infinity Circuit works yet again while writing this book. He has failed to realise that the heart of the craftworld stores the souls of dead eldar despite, as quoted above, Iyanna communing with those same souls. It's unlikely, but just about possible.
- Option B: Iyanna is planning to kill and harvest the souls of those still living on Iyanden in her final gambit. Turning on them once she has what she needs from them and ultimately using their essences for her own ends. Forcing them into the infinity circuit and trapping them to supposedly awaken Ynnead.
... I can only imagine somewhere in the distance Asdrubael Vect is watching this with a shocked expression, announcing "WOW! That's pretty brutal even by my standards!"
You can claim this is justified, you can bring up other examples of where similar things have taken place, but just remember one thing: Ward specifically rewrote Ynnead's existence so no one was sure if it was real. He never gave any solid indication that any of what is being done was going to work nor that Iyanna was doing the right thing. Her crusade killing millions, her apparent preparations to sacrifice the craftworld's entire populace; all could be for absolutely nothing.
When the Black Ships harvest billions of psykers from across the galaxy and feed them to the Emperor, they at least know it's working. They know that it will sustain his spirit and can see their work is needed due to the astronomicon's existence.
When the Word Bearers use the blood of innocents to call forth the Brazen Host to murder millions and feed the souls of countless worlds to their gods, they at least know it's in the name of an actual deity that exists.
Iyanna? She has no true backing, no indications she is doing what is right and is in-fact betraying the long standing efforts of their race for continued survival. Here she is not just a cult figurehead, but the master planner behind a ritualistic suicide cult in service of the god she is somehow the prophet of. Nothing in the book indicates anyone beyond her is aware of this or her long term plans to achieve Ynnead's awakening via the sacrifices of others.
To say this has destroyed all prior characterisation of her goes without saying. As do any points citing how this makes no sense and contradicts half the things written about this race both in the actual codex and all prior books. Instead I'll just leave with this:
When Ward first got his hands on the Sisters of Battle he diminished them from a powerful military force, to a minor faction of limited influence of only a few hundred thousand. He then proceeded over his next several books to sever all connections with the Inquisition, any role they would truly have with the Ordo Hereticus, suffer repeated humiliating defeats and had Grey Knights slaughter them in a daemonic ritual.
This (the first time he has really gotten his hands on a female major character without editors or other writers involved) has him turn a savior of a craftworld determined to keep her people alive into a deluded religious fanatic. One whose long term objective is to sacrifice everyone in the name of a possibly non-existent god.
Just food for thought.
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