After what feels like a very long time, today I finished reading the Iron Warriors novel, Storm of Iron, and I have to say, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would! That sentiment sounds a bit more harsh than perhaps I’d want it to be, so let me explain.
Last year, I read the first two novels in Graham McNeill’s Ultramarines series, Nightbringer and Warriors of Ultramar. I’d read somewhere that the Iron Warrior Honsou appears in the series as some kind of nemesis, and has his own novel in Storm of Iron, so picked up the Iron Warriors omnibus with the intention of getting the whole story, then discovered the Horus Heresy series and the rest of that is history. I want to get back into the series though, so after looking up a reading order, I made a start on this book.
The Iron Warriors are the fourth Space Marine Legion, who turned traitor during the Heresy and fled into the Eye of Terror once Horus had been defeated. While some of the traitor legions worship a particular Chaos god, the Iron Warriors have devoted themselves to Chaos Undivided, or the idea of Chaos itself rather than one of the four deities. The Iron Warriors are siege warfare experts, but were almost constantly overlooked in favour of their brother marines of the Imperial Fists. They fell to Chaos when their primarch, Perturabo, was seduced by Horus’ promise of greater glories than those offered by their father the Emperor.
Storm of Iron tells the story of the Iron Warriors’ siege of the citadel of Tor Christo on the planet Hydra Cordatus. Led by the sinister Warsmith, the Chaos Space Marines are intent on something within the citadel, but precisely what remains unclear for most of the novel. Leading the ground assaults are three of the Warsmith’s captains: Forrix, Kroeger and Honsou. Forrix is the hoary veteran of countless battles, while Kroeger is a berserker of Khorne and Honsou is almost universally reviled as a half-breed, his blood tainted with that of the Imperial Fists.
The novel is basically the story of this siege, with the back-and-forth of the Iron Warriors attacking the citadel, being pushed back, attacking again, being pushed back again, then making a final all-out assault. It’s not really the sort of story that I enjoy – I usually go for much more varied and, dare I say, interesting stories with a lot of plot to them, and so I was a bit dubious once I’d gotten partway into this book. However, the story is peppered with all manner of small-scale stories as we learn more of the defenders on the bastion and the Iron Warriors themselves, making the tale really very compelling!
I’d expected Honsou to be something of a self-indulgent type, because of his tainted provenance, but he’s actually an interesting chap because he just wants to get the job done. Forrix and, particularly, Kroeger, are much more irritating for being “pure” Iron Warriors. There’s an interesting side story with Kroeger that I don’t want to spoil here, but I definitely found to be intriguing, especially as it went on!
We don’t get to learn a great deal about the Warsmith, he’s mainly an overlord type of big baddie who happens to be intent on daemonhood. This desire to ascend to become a daemon prince drives the story along, as he wants to conclude the siege quickly. The most remarkable thing about this novel, for me, requires me to spoil the ending, so I apologise in advance for that: the Iron Warriors win. The novel is about them, and they’re evil, but we spend so much time with the guardsmen on the bastion that I began to think they would somehow carry the day – but no, the Iron Warriors obtain their objective, and leave the planet in smouldering ruins. I was surprised by this because it was kind of unexpected! But there you have it. It’s a story where the bad guys get what they came for, and so the Warsmith ascends to become a daemon prince, and names Honsou as his successor.
Despite the idea of a book that is a pretty grueling siege, I really enjoyed it, having had my interest in the legion piqued after having read so much about them during the Beast Arises series. I think the ending really paid off, even if it is an unorthodox evil-triumphs type of ending, and I was really impressed overall!
I also read the short story The Enemy of My Enemy, which is also included in the omnibus, and deals with some of the fall-out of the novel, as we see what happens to the guardsmen who were taken as slaves by the Iron Warriors at the end of the siege. The Iron Warriors’ homeworld in the Eye of Terror is the daemon planet of Medrengard, where the slaves toil in the daemon forges to create new weapons for the legion. Some of the slaves attempt to escape, but this goes awry and they are almost killed when some renegade Space Marines led by Ardaric Vaanes, who I believe is important to the next Ultramarines novel, Dead Sky, Black Sun, which I will likely get to sometime in the new year, now…
All in all, I really enjoyed these two stories. I find it kinda fascinating to see the weird alchemy of Chaos at work, the way the use daemons bound to machinery and stuff. Doesn’t seem to be something other traitor legions use, or at least not in the same way, anyway!