Dark Imperium: Plague War

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It’s taken me almost a month to finish reading this book, but I feel like I need to point out that I haven’t been dragging my feet because the book is bad – far from it, it’s a really great 40k story in what I’m coming to think of as the “iconic” mode, as opposed to all of the throwaway stories that I’ve read in the past. But, as I’ve said already, I’ve been moving house, so time has been at a premium!

Plague War follows on from where Dark Imperium finished off, with the stage set for a Guilliman vs Mortarion showdown. In many ways, Plague War is a much better book, as it doesn’t really come with all of the baggage of the new edition that its predecessor had. Rather than reading the book to find out what would be in store for the new Primaris range, we can instead enjoy it on its own merits, and while I think I’ll most likely re-read them both when the inevitable third part comes along, I do think that the second act is definitely stronger.

The first couple of hundred pages feel like they are very deliberately setting the scene for the showdown on the planet Parmenio, presenting us with a number of small vignettes focused on several major characters to the story. We meet Frater Mathieu, who has settled much more into the role of Militant-Apostolic to Guilliman, and is continuing his schemes to make the Primarch a true believer in the divinity of the Emperor. We follow the Guard, as always, alongside some Sisters of Battle as they investigate the presence of a potential Imperial Saint in the city of Tyros, who first appears at the turning point in the battle against the forces of Nurgle. We meet several of Nurgle’s daemons, we catch up a little with Mortarion, and we also get to catch up with the Primaris marine Justinian Parris, who is seconded to the Novamarines following the events of the earlier novel. It’s all a little bit of a jumble – Guilliman himself doesn’t even appear until well over 100 pages, to take delivery of a curious strongbox.

While Mortarion is cooking up something particularly disgusting on Iax, which we got some clues about in book one, his feint on Parmenio is intended to bring Guilliman to his knees, and so the main portion of the book deals with the battle there. There’s only so much disease, filth and ichor that I can really take, but nevertheless, I felt it was somewhat toned down compared with previous Nurgle-centric novels. The Novamarines manage to destroy one of Mortarion’s clocks on the planet, which means that when the daemonic incursion takes place, the Neverborn are at a distinct disadvantage, due to the lack of any Warp power on Parmenio. They still put up a good show, of course, and Guilliman is almost destroyed by Mortarion’s scythe Silence, but at the crucial moment, the Battle Sisters bring the Saint onto the field of battle (defying Guilliman’s express orders) and her mere presence manages to send most of the daemon’s back to the Warp. Mortarion escapes to fight another day, calling out to his estranged brother to follow him to Iax and pretty much setting up the third novel, and the Imperium forces are left to gather their thoughts and their dead.

The fairly ambiguous end sees Roboute Guilliman open the strongbox, and begin to read possibly the only remaining copy of Lorgar’s Lectitio Divinitatus.


I said before, this is a much more enjoyable novel than Dark Imperium, and I suppose part of that has to do with how I approached reading the earlier novel. There is still an element of seeing these sorts of novels as miniatures catalogues, although there aren’t any new miniatures hinted at that I recall. The Astraeus super-heavy tank gets a mention, though, which I suppose was new at the time this book came out!

The novel did feel a lot like a short series of disjointed events for probably the first half, which didn’t really help me get into it too much. It became easy to pick up and put down after a single chapter, rather than wanting to read through for a good period of time. Nevertheless, once the story got underway, it was very enjoyable – though my personal disinterest in Titan warfare meant a particularly long chapter about 3/4 of the way into the book was just tedious to get through.

I thought it was really interesting how the Imperial Saint, Kaylia, was handled, though. She seems to have been just a regular girl who happened to have, to all intents, the Emperor act through her, bringing the cleansing light of His majesty to the disease-ridden battlefields of Parmenio. One of the daemons actually refers to her as “the anathema”, their word for the Emperor, though once this power has proven to be too much for a mere mortal to contain, and she expires as a result, Guilliman writes her off as an unsanctioned Psyker and berates Mathieu for planting the seed that enabled the Battle Sisters to take possession of her. The war between the Primarch and the Ministorum is clearly not over yet!

I do wish that more had been explored of that, but I suppose it’s possible that we’ll see more of it in the next book, which I hope will follow up on a lot of this stuff. Will Roboute Guilliman become a believer? I don’t know what to make of it – and I really don’t know what to make of him. Throughout this and the last book, we are led to believe that Guilliman, once he had come out of stasis thanks to the help of the Ynnari, had a chat with the Emperor on Terra. During the confrontation with Mortarion, however, it is implied that Guilliman did not, which makes me wonder what’s going on there. Is he trying to create some kind of cult of personality around himself, and maybe eventually declare the Emperor to be dead at last? I think he is now aware of the reasons for the Primarch project, and their eventual redundancy, so maybe his loyalty has shifted a little. I’m not trying to say that he is about to fall to Chaos, of course! I’m just wondering if we might be setting up for a further schism on the side of “good”, with the Ministorum heading up a pro-Emperor faction, and Guilliman at the head of his own? Like an Imperium Secundus, but for the modern age? Who knows!

I was a bit disappointed by the actual Guilliman/Mortarion confrontation however, and while inevitable, the fact that pretty much all of the Nurgle commanders escaped to fight another day was disappointing. I suppose it’s difficult to have such a confrontation where, presumably, the author isn’t allowed to kill off such a hugely important character (with a £90 miniature that was only released a year and a half ago…) In addition, the battle involving Typhus was almost entirely a bit of a sideshow, and I can just imagine the Herald of Nurgle twirling his moustache with a snicker and a “until we meet again!”

“You haven’t seen the last of me, muchachos!”

Overall, it’s definitely worth the read, although as the second part of a trilogy it both benefits and suffers, by having a decent story to build out from, albeit with no real sense of closure quite yet.

The Devastation of Baal

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Well folks, it took me long enough, but I’ve finally made it to the end of this book! That’s not to say that I wasn’t enjoying my time on the Blood Angels’ homeworld during a Tyranid attack – the book is actually really good, with some tremendous action scenes, as well as being quite thought-provoking.

I think the main reason I found this heavy-going at times was just how arduous those action scenes can be. We get about 200 pages of space marines fighting Tyranids, and it did become a bit much after a while. There is enough peppered throughout to keep interest, don’t get me wrong, but I just found it difficult to want to return to that melee day after day.

Another reason why I found this to be quite heavy-going is the simple fact that I’m not that big of a Blood Angels fan. For sure, I enjoy the sons of Sanguinius as much as any other casual space marine fan, but I’m not overly interested in them to the exclusion of all else. And I think this is a major point for this book – if you’re a Blood Angels fan, you’ll absolutely love it. There’s nothing but wall-to-wall red armour where everything is named something to do with blood. We get a lot of Commander Dante, and learn what it’s like to be the oldest-living space marine of the Imperium.

So, the story is basically the attack on Baal from Hive Fleet Leviathan, in what often feels like a follow-up to the Shield of Baal series from 2014. Oddly, though, while it does feel like a follow-up, a lot of what is referenced comes from the campaign books, and not another novel, which just feels a little disjointed to me! Anyway, after a long preamble where the various successor chapters of the Blood Angels gather to accept Dante’s leadership, the Shadow in the Warp descends and the Tyranids begin their attack. After a gruelling battle, where Baal and its moons is basically devastated (well, it’s in the title…) the xenos are beaten back and Guilliman shows up with loads of new Primaris Space Marines.

A lot of people have already been talking about how Guilliman saves the day yet again, and have voiced their complaints that the novel falls down because of the over-use of this device. However, I have to say that I don’t really share this view. True, the Tyranid attack stops and the Indomitus Crusade shows up, but it doesn’t truly feel like Guilliman actually defeats them. Dante and his combined Blood Angels forces do the vast majority of the fighting, and Guilliman himself actually ascribes the victory to Dante. Instead, Guilliman really only shows up for the clean-up. The main turning point comes when Cadia falls, light-years from Baal, and the Cicatrix Maledictum basically destroys the Hive Mind’s synapse long enough for the Tyranids to actually be beaten back.

Leaving entire chapters-worth of Primaris marines behind does feel a bit like a forced ending, of course, as we essentially have the Blood Angels updated for 8th Edition. Now you too can field countless droves of Primaris marines in your Blood Angels army, because Guy Haley told you it’s what happens! Seriously, it’s not the worst way of bringing this development into canon. There is an interesting scene near the end between Dante and Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers, where Seth calls the Primaris replacements for the marines, and their lack of the genetic flaws of the Blood Angels means that, while they may wear the colours, they will never be true sons of Sanguinius. Which is an interesting way of looking at things, to be sure.

Dante’s reaction is similarly thought-provoking, as he seems to have a bit of an epiphany whereby his attempts to preserve the Chapter almost cause Baal to be lost to the xenos. It makes the reader question whether space marines are too caught-up in their own past glories, and whether they really are willing to lay down their lives in service of preserving the Imperium. It’s a subtle point, but I really found it intriguing.

Of course, fans have been endlessly discussing the scene between Dante and Seth, and whether there will be a civil war between the old marines and the new. While we’ve been seeing fractures already like this, I don’t think GW is going to go down this route too much, as I can see it causing further problems with the integration of the product line. People already hate them, it seems, so why encourage that divide? Doubtless, it would be interesting, but I don’t foresee anything too much just now.

Anyway, overall this was a good book, and fans of the Blood Angels will of course love it more than anyone!

Dark Imperium

So last week, I read Dark Imperium, the tie-in novel for the new 8th Edition goodness for Warhammer 40k. If I’m honest, I was expecting something completely different to what the book ended up being, but the story is so good anyway, and I’m still a little caught up in the new 40k that I enjoyed it all the same!

The book opens sometime in the 31st Millennium, and shows the battle between Fulgrim and Guilliman that resulted in the primarch of the Ultramarines being put in stasis for the next 10,000 years. We then fast-forward to a century after the events of the Gathering Storm, but we’re still somehow in the 41st Millennium, and we see Guilliman leading the destruction of a Chaos temple at the Battle of Raukos. Success over the Chaos forces leads to a Triumph similar to that at Ullanor all those millennia ago, where Guilliman decrees the Indomitus Crusade over. The Primaris Marines that had been created for the purpose are filtered into some pre-existing chapters of Space Marines, as well as formed into several new ones, and the primarch then marches back to Ultramar to do battle with his daemonic brother Mortarion. Arriving back at Macragge, Guilliman re-forms the worlds of Greater Ultramar back into the empire as he knew it, establishing a tetrarchy to govern them, and then leads the Spear of Espandor assault, believing Mortarion’s power base to be on that world. Unfortunately, Guilliman was mistaken, although manages to destroy a warp-crafted daemonic engine to cripple Mortarion’s hold over the segmentum.


As I said at the start, I really liked this book, despite the fact it wasn’t what I had been hoping for. Rather than showing the return of Guilliman and the arrival of the Primaris Marines in the galaxy, instead we learn quite early on that the novel takes place a century after the events of Rise of the Primarch, and deals mainly with the continued adjustments of Guilliman to the world he now finds himself in. On reflection, I think it was probably better to do it this way, as we don’t really need the endless “this is different, and this is different, and so is this” and so on. Guilliman still finds things like the ecclesiarchy difficult to grasp, and a good chunk of the novel deals with his struggle to accept the worship of the Emperor as a god. But he otherwise functions not so much as a man out of time, which could have gotten old quickly, but rather as a man with different ideas.

I’ve never been one to go along with the accepted denigration of the Ultramarines – indeed, I actually like their Roman aesthetic and have long wanted to build an army of them. I’ve not yet made it to the Horus Heresy novels that deal with Guilliman in any significant way, however, so it was nice to finally get to read about the man. In his way, he’s just as interesting as any of the other primarchs – I like the fact he’s described as capable of devouring so much technical information with barely a glance, it makes him so much better than merely “good with a gun” or something, and really forms that link with the Ultramarines as being good statesmen and not just warriors. However, I did think he came across as a bit too much of a tyrant during the Council of Hera, issuing his demands like an autocrat and just slapping down any objections. Though I suppose the Imperium needs someone to cut through the incredible bureaucracy and make things happen…

I think the tone of this novel felt very much like it was meant more to give us the feel for how the universe now is in 8th Edition. The setting hasn’t changed in the manner of Age of Sigmar but, much like the Gates of Azyr, this book feels like its main point is to give us a taste for the new landscape that we can expect to see games developed within. For starters, we see Guilliman trying to make sense of the Imperial dating system, and we learn that there have been a number of calendars in operation, and nobody can say with real authority what the year actually is – in this way, then, we can be a century after the events of the Fall of Cadia, and yet remain within the 41st Millennium. A nice, subtle bit of retcon there, that doesn’t feel outside the bounds of possibility for this universe.

A lot of the battles feel almost vignette-style, which I do enjoy as it means we don’t get a lumbering mess but rather get a story that sweeps along quite well. For instance, the Battle of Raukos is quite self-contained, and there are a couple of actions described within the realm of Ultramar that tell just enough of what we need to know for the story to keep going. I think this is especially important with Warhammer novels that deal with Nurgle, though Khorne can be a similar issue, where the plot gets bogged down in all the gruesome details and so on. There are only so many descriptions of marines wading through effluvia that I can read, you know? The Fall of Altdorf did this really well, as it happens, but there have been times where I do feel myself growing quite ill reading the endless descriptions of filth-encrusted folks.

The book is quite Ultramarines-centric, and I think anyone who appreciates the 13th Legion and its descendants will be happy to see what’s going on. I particularly enjoyed a number of scenes that show such luminaries as Captain Sicarius, Captain Ventris, and Marneus Calgar himself all show their attitude to the return of Guilliman. When the Triumvirate of the Primarch box was first shown, many folks were wondering how Calgar would feel as his place was essentially usurped, though we see that Guilliman is in fact forced to deal with much more than just his own Ultramarines as the Imperial Regent. I wonder if/how that position will change as we get more loyalist primarchs released in plastic. Being a fan of Graham McNeill’s Ultramarines novels, I did enjoy seeing Uriel Ventris return here!

We also get a sense of time moving on within the Imperium, although admittedly this might pass some people by. For example, the Chapter Master of the Novamarines is said to be Bardan Dovaro, whereas we’ve previously been told it’s a chap called Gaius Hadraichus. Admittedly, I only know this because I’m building an army of them. In the main, of course, this sense of time passing is given through seeing the attitudes to the new Primaris Marines, which overall seem to have been accepted by the regular marines of old. A subtle hint that we as players and collectors should also just accept them? I did get the impression at many times that this is almost a catalogue for the new marines, much like Gates of Azyr and some of the early Age of Sigmar stuff seemed to be advertising the new Stormcast Eternals. We get to see the Intercessors in action by and large, which seem to be more akin to the Tactical squads of old. The goofy Inceptor marines are given a really amazing introduction during the Battle of Raukos, though however badass they come across in the lore, the models still look vaguely silly. And we get to see Hellblasters too, which seem to be a specific name for plasma-wielding marines, and makes me think we’ll get similar squads carrying massive melta versions and las versions of those plasma incinerators. Further versions of marines are mentioned, including the Reivers that seem to be a stealth squad that has no previous version, and the Aggressors, which sound like the Primaris versions of Terminators. The repulsor tank and the redemptor dreadnought are also featured. Inevitably, reading about these new chaps made me struggle to get a sense of them in my mind, and the similarities to AoS kept me thinking more about them as models on the tabletop than characters in the story. That’s probably more down to me than anything else, however!

Overall, it’s a very interesting book, and definitely worth picking up for anyone with an interest in the 40k universe to see where we’re headed!

The Beheading

Well folks, I made it! It’s been a little over five months since I started reading The Beast Arises series from Black Library, and I’ve finally made it through to the end of the twelve book series at the weekend. I want to take a look first at the final installment, before putting down some rambling thoughts on the series as a whole for you all to enjoy, so sit back and see what I’ve made of it all!

I said in my blog on the previous novel, Shadow of Ullanor, that the series felt done right there, and I was a bit curious as to why we needed a twelfth book when the saga of the War of the Beast had pretty much been wrapped up, but The Beheading deals with the political fallout of the war, and in that respect, it is very much required reading.

We start with the return of Maximus Thane to Terra, where he takes up the position of Lord Commander at the political manoeuvring of Vangorich, however the space marine has no intention of remaining on Terra, and appoints the Grand Master of the Assassinorum as his regent. Vangorich, despite his protestations of wishing to remain behind the scenes, promptly goes about removing all of the High Lords and replacing them with his own puppets, which forms the main portion of this book – and, indeed, the ‘beheading’ of the title. With little check on his power, Vangorich goes insane and, after a century of despotism, Thane returns to put an end to the assassin’s rule.

Of course, coming at the end of a twelve-book series, there is rather a lot going on in the middle of all this, and we get closure on pretty much all of the plot threads, so far as I could see. Firstly, the Fists Exemplar/Iron Warriors storyline is resolved in fairly explosive fashion, with Zerberyn joining forces fully with Kalkator, and leading to the removal of the Fists Exemplar Chapter from the records of the Imperium. I was not actually expecting the story to turn out that way, and was actually in open-mouthed horror when I read it, which I suppose is the mark of a well-written plot!

Another plot twist concerns the death of Inquisitor Veritus, and the reveal of his real identity. I don’t want to spoil it here (despite spoiling pretty much everything else!) but it was nicely done, and I suppose not entirely far-fetched. I did like the fact that we get to see the Grey Knights at last, but I thought it was a bit weird how the final chapter forms a quite abrupt jump in the narrative, as we move from Titan to a century later. Discussing it at my local store, a lot of folks think it leaves the door open for more story later on, which I suppose makes sense, though Black Library did market this as a self-contained series that would be told in twelve books and that would be all. Hm.

There have been many cinematic moments throughout the series, such as the pursuit of the Harlequins through the palace at the start of Guy Haley’s previous entry Throneworld, to the co-ordinated assaults of the Deathwatch in The Last Son of Dorn, and to those can be added the central episode of this novel, the assassinations of the High Lords. I also think the confrontation between Zerberyn, Bohemond and Kalkator, and that scene’s terrible conclusion, is one of the highest points of drama I’ve read in a 40k novel so far. It unfolds over only a handful of pages, but that tension becomes almost unbearable – I only hope we get something comparable when the Horus Heresy series concludes.

At any rate, the book was a decent end to the series.

The series as a whole, then, was pretty uneven. To start with, I think there were some bad editing choices – I’ve mentioned it before, but it seems like there’s some kind of rule that these books absolutely could not be more than 250 pages in length, which led to some instances (such as the aforementioned leap of a century) that felt oddly disjointed. Even those books that weren’t nearing the limit felt like they could have had some more material to help them along a bit. Watchers in Death in particular felt a bit weird towards the end there.

However, I also feel that the series as a whole was oddly padded sometimes. I’ve made no secret of the fact I really disliked the second book, but throughout the series there have been instances where it felt a little like the story was being dragged out. I think it’s entirely possible that the original plot line for this could have been ten novels at most, and someone then decided to drag it out over twelve to do the one-a-month release thing. I’ve read that the Black Library have had the series in their vaults for years, which I do entirely believe – I mean, how else could they get these books released on time like that? But it does kinda sadden me when little inconsistencies, and extended sequences of padding slip into the narrative.

Anyway!

All of that said, I thought the overall story was pretty decent, more for what we learnt along the way than anything else. It annoyed me that we never really get an explanation for why the Orks are so technologically advanced here, whereas everywhere else they’re described with something akin to madness in their engineering. They can launch co-ordinated assaults across the galaxy, using teleportation technology that the Mechanicus cannot quite get the hang of? What caused this development? How did the Orks manage to get such huge numbers when the Imperium thought they had been crushed at (pre-Heresy) Ullanor? There were a lot of unanswered questions about the Beast, for me, and it really irked me as the series went on that we never get the Orks’ perspective. Sure, I should have expected it, but there was just too much missing for me to adequately maintain my interest over the series. The closest we ever came was Beast Krule’s infiltration of Gorkogrod, but one moment of insight across a twelve novel series does not really make up for it, in my view!

What I found interesting here, though, was the way that several important elements of the 40k lore were bound together into the narrative, which really seemed to lead to the sense of this series being an Event. For years now, fans have known that the Imperial Fists were almost decimated to a man and had to be rebuilt from successor chapters; we’ve known about the shadowy beginnings of the Deathwatch and the Grey Knights, and all the rest of it. Something I hadn’t actually realised was that we’ve even known Vangorich would eliminate the High Lords of Terra in an event known as The Beheading! Shows how much I’ve read those timelines of events in the rulebook!! All of these strands are brought together into one narrative and, despite all of the criticisms that I’ve just leveled at the series, I’ve actually really enjoyed seeing them all come together in one place!

Along the way, we get some really compelling characters. I was always surprised by the choice of Koorland as something of the central character, as he was never someone I had pegged as all that interesting. But then, I suppose that’s part of the problem with space marines – while the Horus Heresy has done great things to show us some very interesting sides to the superhuman warriors, they are a bit boring. Put them among the political shenanigans of the Council of Terra, and they come off even worse. But even so, I was surprised at how much I warmed to him as the figurehead of the series, and was shocked to see him go. Thane, who takes over the mantle, always seemed even less interesting than Koorland, but I do like how strident he could be.

While Zerberyn and Kalkator are hardly going to feature very prominently in any top ten space marine characters list, I was nevertheless totally sucked into that storyline, and found myself missing it when neither appeared. Worried about how it would be concluded, I was pleased to see it take a suitably dramatic turn at the end. There are so many shades of grey in the Imperium, I thought it was really interesting to explore this post-Heresy brother against brother kind of tale.

Over time, I also found myself enjoying the Mechanicus side of the storyline. We never truly know what’s going on with the Lords of Mars, of course, but even so, I enjoyed some of these scenes much more than I’ve previously enjoyed any story featuring them (Mechanicum, for a start), and have even found myself looking into collecting some Skitarii! Inevitably, I found myself most enjoying the scenes that showed the Inquisition and Vangorich. I’m a huge sucker for political skulduggery, so this should’t come as a surprise to anyone, but I vastly preferred to read about the machinations of the High Lords to any extended battle sequences. Wienand really interested me at first, while Veritus annoyed me to hell with his zealotry, but I think, having now read who he really is, it makes a lot more sense.

This, however, brings me back to what I’ve said earlier, the series is just too over-long for my tastes. I think showing three attacks on Ullanor really goes to show this point, but the fact that we have some mysteries that are dragged out, and some that we didn’t even know about until the end, it just feels like this series has outstayed its welcome. I’m glad I made it to the end, and I’m glad I’ve read it for its impact on the lore of the 40k universe, and while I’d recommend it to anyone who likes 40k for that reason alone, I don’t think I’ll ever bother reading it again.

Let’s end with some favourites, though!

Favourite book: The Last Son of Dorn
Favourite character: Vangorich sounds like so much of a cop-out, so Wienand 🙂
Favourite moment: Pursuit of the Harlequins to the Eternity Gate (Throneworld)

How about you? Have you made it to the end? Let me know what you thought of the series in the comments!

Throneworld

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Hot on the heels of the last one, I’ve lurched onto the fifth book in The Beast Arises series, getting through it in a long weekend and, I have to say, it was a really great read!

Throneworld has one of the most dynamic – and dramatic – openings of any Warhammer 40k novel I’ve yet read. As we learnt in the closing paragraphs of The Last Wall, the Eldar have arrived on Terra while the Ork battlemoon hangs menacingly in orbit, and while I’m no fan of space elves, I was really intrigued as to what’s going on with them. Throneworld picks up a tiny bit before the end of The Last Wall, and we see the Eldar Harlequins moving through the webway and into the Imperial palace, on a mission to deliver an important message to the Emperor. The shadowseer Lhaerial Rey moves through the palace and makes it to the doors of the throneroom itself, and is about to be dispatched by the Custodes when Vangorich and Veritus step in. She is taken to the Inquisitorial fortress and interrogated by Veritus and Wienand, and reveals the Eldar have calmed the Warp in order to allow the Space Marines to return to Terra and aid them against the Orks.

We then follow Koorland and his Last Wall of Imperial Fists successors as they storm the Ork moon, liberating prisoners and attempting to destroy the teleportation device within the moon the Orks have been using to provide their infinite supply of troops up to this point. Their efforts are supplemented by the Mechanicum, who have their own agenda for getting inside the moon while they’re working on their “grand experiment” of teleportation – are they really trying to teleport Mars out of the Sol System?

Meanwhile, the Iron Warriors under Kalkator land on Dzelenic IV to take on supplies from a secret store, and find it has been breached by Orks. While they’re fighting their way out, they’re assailed by the Black Templars under their zealous dreadnought-marshal, Magneric. The situation becomes untenable for both armies in the face of the Ork fleets on the world, and both traitor and loyalist marines join forces to slay the greenskins under a flag of truce.

This book was great! As I said at the start, I don’t remember the last time I’ve read such a dynamic opening, and was propelled through the first half of the book as we follow the Eldar sneaking onto Terra. The action was really great, but unfortunately, the rest of the book kinda tapered off for me after that. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of action going on in this book – the assault on the moon, the Iron Warriors stuff – but none of it comes close to that first sequence.

I was a bit dismayed at the fact that we don’t actually know what Lhaerial Rey wants to tell the Emperor, either – something important, but we don’t hear it here, and it makes me a bit sad because the overall effect does cheapen the earlier scenes. But I’m really nit-picking with this.

The stuff with the astartes assaulting the moon above Terra kinda made me think it should have been in the last book. I mean, the last book was called The Last Wall – it should have been about those marines! Instead, we get the bulk of that story here, and it feels a bit weird. But anyway.

The Iron Warriors stuff is deeply interesting to me, I have to say. It was really neat to see the two opposing sides come together to fight the Orks, especially in the face of Magneric’s fanatic hatred of Kalkator. I especially liked the fact it was addressed here that the Black Templars, in their veneration of the Emperor, go against his Imperial Truth of the Great Crusade – and so, the question is posed, who’s the greater heretic? Some interesting debate about the nature of religious hypocrisy was cut short by fighting waves of Orks, but it’s always good to see these sorts of things talked about.

Overall, this was probably the best book in the series, even in the face of those points I mentioned about the niggling details. I’m certainly glad I’ve stuck with this series after the second book, however!!