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.

Gaming catch up, and more!

Hey everybody!
I tend to talk about Warhammer a lot on this blog, which I suppose is fine because it is my blog and all, but every so often I like to branch out a bit and take a look at the wider world, and see what’s going on that I might have missed! Well, I thought today would be one such branch, as I take some time to catch up with what I’ve been up to and whatnot!

I read this article on New Year’s Day, and I feel weirdly sad to see Christian Petersen leave FFG. I suppose it’s just a bit of fear of the new, and while I haven’t really been all that into FFG games of late (there was a time when they were the only publisher I bought from), I still feel a sort of attachment to the company, and of course, its CEO. I used to enjoy the In-Flight Reports during GenCon, and always thought he sounded like a cool guy. Hopefully we’ll continue to see amazing quality games coming from the company, anyway, and I hope we don’t get too much of a shake-up when he is replaced. Although I remain quite firmly convinced that Lord of the Rings LCG is going to be saying farewell soon enough!

There was another preview for the Arkham Horror LCG on the same day, showing Tarot cards as a new type of player card for the game, which sound like an interesting idea. Over the festive period, I started the ball rolling with building a couple of new investigator decks for the game, as I’m intending to finally get around to the Dunwich Legacy! It’s been a few years now, of course, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the game has in store for me as I venture beyond the core set! Stay tuned for updates on that one – Arkham Horror LCG is definitely a fun game, and if you’re a fan of the lore, it certainly has a lot to offer!

In 2018, I played a grand total of 47 games. I used to play that many in a month, so this is a definite down-turn, but in December I started making a conscious effort to try and play more. That was certainly helped by playing the Harry Potter deck-building game with Jemma over Christmas (I’ll have to get round to featuring that on the blog sometime soon!) Excitingly, she has said that playing that game has made her better-predisposed to trying stuff like Lord of the Rings again, so hopefully we can trudge off into Mordor together soon!

Though I’m not sure we’ll be playing much Magic anytime soon…

The new set, Ravnica Allegiance, is coming out at the end of the month, and is quite exciting for me as it features two of my very favourite guilds, Rakdos and Orzhov. While I did buy some bits for the last set, Guilds of Ravnica, as it only had Dimir as a guild I usually play I wasn’t entirely fussed with it. I did actually build a Boros deck, as I ended up with a lot of those cards in the packs I picked up, and I do like playing Boros on occasion, but I am particularly looking forward to the Rakdos and Orzhov cards this time around, as well as another perennial favourite, Simic!

I feel quite excited about this set, even if I don’t get to play anything of it. We’re getting some exciting new cards for some of my favourite guilds:

The new mechanic for Rakdos is Spectacle, which offers an alternative casting cost if an opponent lost life this turn – in keeping with the classic Rakdos, Lord of Riots guild leader, naturally. They’re discounts on some cards, and increases on others to yield enhanced effects. Speaking of the cult leader himself, he’s getting a new card – Rakdos, the Showstopper – as are many guild leaders of old, such as Lavinia and Zegana. Each guild also gets a new Legendary Creature, which will be fun for Commander, and there are a couple of new Planeswalkers, including Kaya for the Orzhov (last seen in Conspiracy 2, so that’s fun the ghost assassin is now in a regular set).

Orzhov is getting an interesting new mechanic, Afterlife, which creates a 1/1 Spirit token when the creature with Afterlife dies. It wouldn’t be Orzhov without seeing Teysa again, and of course she’s back with new token shenanigans, which I’m sure will make her a powerhouse when she comes into the wild. Granting tokens vigilance and lifelink is lovely, and causing a trigger to occur twice just makes Afterlife so much more powerful on its own. She’s going to be a hit, I’m sure – I’m just a little sad I probably won’t be able to get her outside of a lucky pack opening!

Simic has Adapt, which allows you to put +1/+1 counters on a creature if there aren’t any by paying the Adapt cost. Given the number of counter-synergies within Simic guild cards alone, I can imagine Commander players are going to get a whole lot of fun out of using these mechanics with older iterations from the guild. I can certainly see myself adding in a few to my Prime Speaker Zegana deck, for sure! New Zegana still gives some card draw, but acts a bit like a Lord for all cards with a +1/+1 counter on them, giving them trample. Very handy. In case you aren’t interested in beating your opponent down the traditional way, Simic also has an alternative win condition with Simic Ascendancy, which allows you to put growth counters on it whenever you add a +1/+1 counter to a card – if Simic Ascendancy has 20 or more growth counters on it, you win! Cards like Hydroid Krasis, which enters the battlefield with X +1/+1 counters, or Combine Guildmage, who gives you an additional +1/+1 counter on any cards entering the battlefield for a turn, or Biogenic Upgrade, which allows you to distribute three +1/+1 counters across creatures you control, then to double the counters on that creature, will definitely help you get Simic Ascendancy close to 20 growth counters! Of course, that’s the dream, but even so!

I think it’s safe to say that I’m a lot more excited for Ravnica Allegiance, at any rate!!

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Seeing the new year in with this #nowReading

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Finally, I thought I’d have a brief ramble about a book I finished reading at New Year, United States of Japan. Taking as its starting point that the Axis won World War II, we see a very different take on the West Coast of America, as Japan is in charge of most of the area. There are pockets of American resistance, fighting out of the Rockies, but Japan holds California in an iron grip. The majority of the book takes place in the late 1980s, but it’s a lot more technologically advanced, with everybody using porticals (basically, smartphones) to play games almost constantly. This activity is strictly monitored by the authorities, so when a game called Unites States of America is suddenly made available, showing an alternate take on the end of the war, these rebels are shut down with maximum prejudice. The whole thing ends in a rather shocking denouement in San Diego, with the future fairly unsure for our protagonists.

I went into this novel with a bit of trepidation, as I wasn’t sure it was going to be all that good. I’m not entirely up on my Japanese culture, and there were a number of references to it peppered throughout, but I found the book really easy to read, and positively raced through it. I do enjoy alt-histories like this, and I love a good post-apocalyptic storyline, so the fact that both elements were combined here was really quite fun.

One of my main frustrations with the book, though, was that I found myself wanting to know more about the wider world than we were getting from the story. WW2 was said to end in 1948, then the novel leaps forward 40 years, with only a few fleeting references to what Germany was up to in Europe and on the East Coast of America. I know Peter Tieryas has written a second book within the same universe, which seems to deal more with a specific aspect of the universe than seeing things from a wider perspective, but I find myself wanting to know more of what this world could look like! Hopefully there will be a third book that might see that.

At any rate, it was a real discovery for me in the final days of 2018, and I would say it’s definitely worth a read if you’re into alternative takes on stuff like this!

Black Library catch-up

Hey everybody!
It’s day four of my posting-every-day in celebration of 800 posts here on my blog, and today I thought I’d talk about some books along the Warhammer theme – got to keep it all neat and current, after all!

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First of all, I can’t believe I didn’t write up a blog for this one! After the second book in the series, I wasn’t sure if I would still enjoy Gaunt’s Ghosts, as I thought it was a little less than wonderful, but thankfully I was proven wrong with Necropolis!

Set on the planet Verghast, the story involves the clash of two huge hive cities on the world, Vervunhive (still loyal to the Emperor) and Ferrozoica (since fallen to the Dark Gods). Gaunt and the Tanith First and Only arrive to bolster the local militia of Vervunhive, amidst a gruelling siege from the forces of Chaos.

The book is actually really good, with some tremendous set-piece battles taking place. While planetary politics aren’t always the most exciting, it was an interesting change of pace for me to see a battle taking place amid the industrial politics of Vervunhive, and the city leaders jostling for power and money amid the war going on around them. Dan Abnett is obviously a firm favourite for many, myself included, and it felt very much like this book was a lot more firmly on track than the collection of short stories that comprised the second book.

The book, like pretty much all of Abnett’s writing that I’ve encountered thus far, features much that is both grim and dark, and that helps to give Warhammer 40k its distinctive gothic feel. Notable for me is the hive leader, Salvador Sondar, who is perpetually encased in a neurocasket and conducts his dealings with others through servitor-puppets that are decomposing on their wires.

In some ways, the plot reminded me a little of Warriors of Ultramar, although the storylines do diverge quite dramatically. There is something of the feel of impending doom as we wait for the besieging enemy to attack, and it helps somewhat that the story is never told from the point of view from the Ferrozoicans – much like with Graham McNeill and his Tyranids. Even the turning point of both stories involves infiltrating a massive control structure of the enemy…

Anyway! It’s a wonderful book, quite creepy in parts, but incredibly visceral as Abnett usually is with his war stories. Definitely one to seek out and enjoy if you can!

More recently, I read the fourth story in the Space Marine Conquests series, Of Honour and Iron. As with all novels in this series, it deals with the arrival and integration of the Primaris Marines into the regular infantry of the various (currently First-Founding) Chapters of Space Marines. I’d have thought the Ultramarines would have been more receptive to them, given that they were created on Guilliman’s order, but even here, there is mistrust from the regular Marines.

We get Genesis Chapter in this story as well, the first of the Ultramarines’ successor Chapters, and the guys that I had decided to paint up my own Primaris Marines as following the release of Dark Imperium last year!

The story involves Ultramarines and Genesis Chapter fending off an attack by an Iron Warriors warband – at the time, I’d just finished Dead Sky, Black Sun, so felt like I was continuing to read the same story! Clearly there is a lot of bad blood between the sons of Perturabo and those of Guilliman… The Iron Warriors are searching for something among the hive cities of Quradim, a world garrisoned by the Genesis Chapter, and the same world where the Ultramarines, led by Chaplain Helios, arrive on a special mission for Guilliman. Turns out, years ago there was a cache of virus bombs deposited there, and Guilliman wants to use them to kill off worlds to deny them to the Ruinous Powers in a bit to drive back the Cicatrix Maledictum. Or something like that. The Iron Warriors obviously want them to cause havoc, and something of a race across the planet takes place.

I felt like this was very much a story-by-numbers, for the most part, with the Iron Warriors coming across more like stock-villains than anything else. It was cool to see the Genesis Chapter having such a large role, for sure, and I do like seeing the larger 40k storyline advancing, though I similarly feel that it was a little bit pointless, and these books exist more to show the Primaris integrating into the regular Marines Chapters than anything else. (It doesn’t hurt GW to be able to point to these and say, “look! The Ultramarines/Dark Angels/Space Wolves/Blood Angels have now accepted the Primaris Marines into their ranks! Now buy these battle force boxes!”)


So what’s next from Black Library?

Coming up in February is the story of a female Commissar, Honourbound, which looks like it might be quite good. Notably, it’s a female Commissar who doesn’t feel the need to strut about topless or less. At the minute, I’m enjoying anything that involves a Chaos Cult, so it definitely ticks some boxes for me!

Uncompromising and fierce, Commissar Severina Raine has always served the Imperium with the utmost distinction. Attached to the Eleventh Antari Rifles, she instills order and courage in the face of utter horror. The Chaos cult, the Sighted, have swept throughout the Bale Stars and a shadow has fallen across its benighted worlds. A great campaign led by the vaunted hero Lord-General Militant Alar Serek is underway to free the system from tyranny and enslavement but the price of victory must be paid in blood. But what secrets do the Sighted harbour, secrets that might cast a light onto Raine’s own troubled past? Only by embracing her duty and staying true to her belief in the Imperium and the commissar’s creed can she hope to survive this crucible, but even then will that be enough?

Definitely one to keep an eye on, anyway!

Also coming in February is the final novel in the Horus Heresy series, The Buried Dagger, which will draw the series to a close with both sides poised on the brink of Terra. At least, I think that’s where they’re poised. We’ll get to see Mortarion damn his Legion to perpetual infestation, while an insurrection on Terra erupts in advance of Horus’ forces. It sounds like it’s going to be quite explosive, I have to say, and definitely one of those novels that should stick in the mind.

I’d been expecting to see more in the way of Space Marines Conquests books on the horizon, but there’s nothing on the Upcoming page just yet. We do have the Corax novel in the Primarchs series coming out – that’s a series that I haven’t found myself being quite so invested with for the time being, as none of the stories have sounded like they’d really wow me, so I’ve only picked up three of the volumes for the time being – Perturabo, Lorgar and Jaghatai Khan, as they’re all Primarchs that I’m interested in. If they ever do a Horus novel, I’ll likely pick that one up, and I’ll also likely be interested in an Alpharius book, but I suppose we’ll see!

As it is, I still have rather a lot of Black Library novels waiting for me on the shelf, not just Horus Heresy entries but a lot of the books that were released sort of to advance the storyline. I think I’d like to get to some of those, and also continue along with Gaunt’s Ghosts while I’m on this Chaos Cults kick!

For the time being, I’m reading the short story Skitarius, which is inspiring me to continue with painting my Adeptus Mechanicus miniatures – make sure to come back tomorrow for a painting progress update blog!

Dead Sky, Black Sun

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The third volume in the Ultramarines series by Graham McNeill, this one forms a direct sequel to both the previous installment, Warriors of Ultramar, as well as McNeill’s earlier novel, Storm of Iron.

While Uriel Ventris may have played a successful part in repelling the tyranids on the world of Tarsis Ultra, his unorthodox methods were not approved of by the larger Ultramarines Chapter, and so he and his sergeant Pasanius are exiled from the Chapter on a Blood Oath to destroy some daemonic engines that Chief Librarian Tigurius has seen in a vision. All of this is dealt with by the short story Consequences that precedes the main story proper, anyway.

Dead Sky, Black Sun sees Ventris and Pasanius on their way to discover just what this vision could have meant, when their ship is attacked in the Warp by the Omphalos Daemonium, a daemon engine we saw briefly in The Enemy of My Enemy, the short story I’d read following Storm of Iron. The daemon takes the Ultramarines to Medrengard, the homeworld of the Iron Warriors deep within the Eye of Terror, and tells them that the daemon engines they seek are to be found within the stronghold of Khalan-Ghol, but its purpose is hardly altruistic, as it tasks Ventris with retrieving the Heart of Blood from within the fortress – “you will know it when you see it”.

While Ventris of course has no intention of keeping a bargain with the daemon, he nevertheless uses all opportunities presented to him to help fulfill his Blood Oath. And so he and Pasanius begin their journey. Along the way, they meet up with Ardaric Vaanes and his Renegades, and attempt to infiltrate the fortress only to be caught by its lord, none other than the half-breed Honsou!

The Space Marines are given over to the Savage Morticians deep within the bowels of Honsou’s fortress, creatures I’d have expected to be more at home in Commorragh than here, but whatever. Ventris himself, for defying Honsou, is stitched inside the Daemonculaba, a horrific Warp-spawned engine/womb hybrid where the Iron Warriors seek to make more of their kind. Somehow, Ventris manages to escape his grisly fate, and along with significantly less renegades, escapes the Savage Morticians only to find themselves in the land of the Unfleshed – the failures of the Daemonculaba process. These horrific brutes at first fight the Space Marines, though their leader smells the Daemonculaba on Ventris and takes them in as kindred. Eurgh.

Together with the Unfleshed, the Marines storm the citadel once more, and all hell breaks loose when they release the daemon bound to its centre, the Heart of Blood. At this point, the Omphalos Daemonium shows up and there ensues a titanic battle between the two, with the Heart of Blood victorious. However, the Omphalos Daemonium’s daemonic engine is left behind, and Ventris, Pasanius and the remaining Unfleshed use it to flee from Khalan-Ghol. Honsou, barely surviving the attack on his fortress, teams up with Vaanes and a grisly by-product of Ventris’ time within the Daemonculaba – what appears to be a Chaos clone of the Ultramarine…


This is one hell of a grisly book!

I know it’s set within the Eye of Terror, so anything goes, but still! There is a lot of swimming through blood and body parts, and various mutant hybrids, and it’s all just really quite grim!

Maybe because of that, I found myself enduring this one rather than enjoying it, as I did with the previous two. I suppose the pared-down nature of the story, with just the two Marines rather than the whole company, didn’t really help there, though. I enjoyed the earlier Ultramarines novels because they showed how the Space Marines fit into the Imperium, and whatnot. There was a really quite nice sense of world-building in that regard there. Here, however, the story felt a little more small-scale, and while I suppose it offers a fascinating look into the worlds of Chaos and what the Iron Warriors get up to on their home turf, I just wasn’t feeling as into it as I had previously.

The way that the novel brings together the Iron Warriors and Ultramarines novel-universes, though, was really very good, and I’m glad I took the time to read Storm of Iron before getting back into this series.

Having briefly looked over the remaining three novels in this series, I find myself a bit dismayed to discover that the next two seem to be dealing with Ventris’ attempts to rejoin the Chapter, as I’d hoped for more general Ultramarines action. It’s not to say Ventris isn’t an interesting character, or that his arc is not worth reading – I think I just prefer to see Space Marines fighting on the larger scale.

But I guess we’ll just have to see!

Star Wars: Phasma (a review)

Hey everybody,
Yesterday, I finished reading the latest new canon novel in the Star Wars universe, Phasma. One of the new “Journey to The Last Jedi” books, the novel is very much in line with previous books that we’ve had in the run-up to The Force Awakens back in 2015, providing no real meat for the rumour-hungry, but just teasing tidbits for the new film.

The book takes place somewhere around the same time period as last year’s Bloodline, with most of the book forming a frame story around Phasma’s past on the post-apocalyptic world of Parnassos. We meet Captain Cardinal, a stormtrooper tasked with training the children taken into the First Order’s ranks, as he interrogates the Resistance spy Vi Moradi. Moradi has been researching several high-ranking First Order personnel, which makes her the exact tool Cardinal needs to take down his hated rival, Captain Phasma.

Moradi’s tale is basically Phasma’s life, and is told through several extended sequences that are lightly dusted with a return to the interrogation. We see Phasma encounter General Brendol Hux after his ship crash-lands on Parnassos, and their trek across the desert to find it and thus salvation from the harsh world.

Once Cardinal thinks he has enough information that he can discredit Phasma as the poster-child for the First Order, he confronts first Armitage Hux, and then Phasma herself, with dire consequences.

I have to say, I was not really a fan of this book. For the most part, it felt like Mad Max, not Star Wars, and once I was done with it, having had some time to reflect, I really don’t think this is the sort of backstory that I wanted for Phasma. Sure, I’m not really sure what I did want, but I don’t think it would have been this.

This is really turning into a theme for me with these new canon novels of late. I think it boils down to the fact that we’ve had a number of years of new canon material now, and yet the universe still doesn’t exactly feel like a cohesive place, really. Part of this has to do with the fact that we’re still waiting for the new trilogy to resolve, of course, but I’ve read a good number of these things now, and I don’t feel at home within the universe as I used to. I don’t feel that I know anybody, or anywhere, or, really, anything.

I’m trying not to be negative about these novels, because I’m sure that a lot of work is going in, behind the scenes, to keep the narrative more focused than it ever was under Bantam, but at the same time, my expectations for new Star Wars novels have been reduced so much, I’m quite shocked that I’m even still buying them. (And don’t get me started on the comics!)

Now, don’t get me wrong, the story is a fine tale, and the concept of the framing device is quite interesting within Star Wars literature generally. My biggest gripe, I suppose, is that there’s still that air of expectation around the novel as there was with Aftermath; for sure, Phasma seems to be a major player in the next movie, so a book about her origins is bound to be a big-ticket item. There are some interesting slants on the First Order that we get later in the book, as well, but in the main this is the tale of how Phasma met Brendol Hux, and how she escaped her origins on a backwater world. Mad Max fans will possibly enjoy the feel, but even then, any story that involves a foot-slog across a desert is bound to get tedious after a while.

If they stay true to form, we’ll get a novel next spring/summer like Bloodline, which will vindicate the publishing programme and fill us in on several of the details that couldn’t be discussed before the new movie hits.

Which leaves me thinking – why not just publish different stories in the run-up to the new movies, if they’re not going to give us anything really meaningful?

Ghostmaker

Hey everybody!
Earlier this week, I finally finished reading my way through Ghostmaker, the second novel in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series. I won’t deny, it was a tough slog to get through this one in the end, not as good as the first, but get through it I did… let’s take a look…

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The novel is set on the world of Monthax, as the Ghosts are preparing to fight another onslaught of Chaos Cultists. However, the actual story of this action doesn’t really begin until about 100 pages from the end. The majority of the novel is taken up with reminiscences from several key members of the regiment, tied together with a couple of pages of Gaunt walking the trenches and reassuring his men on the eve of battle.

We get to see Gaunt arrive on Tanith for the founding ceremony, and the Chaos invasion that ultimately destroyed the world. We see extended flashbacks from Major Rawne, Mkoll, Larkin, Corbec, and others, which somehow manage to interweave among each other as well as helping to inform the final story section, where the Ghosts storm a ruined building on Monthax and find a small group of Eldar from Craftworld Dolthe, who are trying to seal a webway portal to which the Chaos cultists are so desperate to gain access.

While the structure of a series of reminiscences like this is quite a tried and tested formula for telling a story, I found that it irritated me the longer it went on in this particular instance. I generally don’t read the synopses on the backs of novels like this, but had somehow caught sight of the fact that the Ghosts were going up against the Eldar, and so was looking forward to seeing that – as a result, every time I read about something else, I felt somehow cheated by it. The book isn’t a bad one, and fans of the series no doubt will appreciate the character portraits that emerge as we get to see more of individual Ghosts, but I felt that the endless flashbacks got in the way of a story that I wanted to read.

And that’s the great shame about Ghostmaker, for me. I know that, ultimately, the novel isn’t really about the Tanith vs Eldar battle, but the final chapter that actually details the fight is actually really interesting, and I wish that there had been some way of peppering these flashbacks into the narrative while throwing the focus instead on the “present” story.

I think I might have another break before making it on to Necropolis, anyway!

First and Only

Hey everybody!
I think I’m slowly getting somewhere with the new house after The Great Move 2017 – still waiting for someone to come fit a new kitchen, but these things can’t be rushed, it seems… Anyway! I have the internet again, which is a joy, as trying to write blogs on my phone is a nightmare, so less of that now!

While waiting for everything to fall into place and whatnot, I’ve been reading a few things I’d been putting off for a while. Sure enough, they’ll no doubt all make their merry way onto this here blog in due course, as I ramble inanely for a while, but today I wanted to talk about the Gaunt’s Ghosts series that I’ve just started to read anew, starting with the opening novel, First and Only.

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This book series, by the venerable Dan Abnett, was originally published all the way back in the mists of time known as the 1990s, and I have memories of picking my way through it sometime after starting work in the early 2000s. Not really being a 40k enthusiast at the time, I didn’t really get a lot out of it, and it’s therefore small wonder that it had been the first and only 40k novel that I read for about a decade.

However, I’m back now, and I’ve been buying up the books in the series ready for my glorious return to it! Ever since Horus Rising, I’ve always had a real soft spot for Dan Abnett, and look forward to starting any of his 40k novels with gusto.

First and Only is the introduction to the Tanith First & Only regiment of the Imperial Guard, led by Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt. The novel is told in pretty much linear fashion across six Parts, each separated by a single chapter entitled “A Memory” that usually then foreshadows something in the subsequent Part. The structure is quite novel, to me, as I don’t really think I’ve read a full-length novel told in the same manner.

The story follows the Tanith regiment, nicknamed Gaunt’s Ghosts, and their rivalry with the Jantine Patricians as they take the forge world of Fortis Binary, which has been tainted with the warped powers of Chaos. After the battle, Commissar Gaunt comes into possession of a memory crystal that provides the catalyst for the main thrust of the story. Gaunt and his Ghosts become pawns in the ambitions of Lord General Dravere’s efforts to become Warmaster of the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, and the Ghosts eventually learn that the crystal holds information that could provide the tipping point for Dravere’s bid for power.

Dravere is helped along the way by the Inquisitor Heldane, who has appeared since in Abnett’s Eisenhorn trilogy (for me to know – he may also be elsewhere, of course, but I was excited to see a familiar face pop up!). I thought the handling of the antagonist group of Heldane and Dravere, and the Jantine Patricians, was actually quite interestingly done – the story pits the Imperium against Chaos, but Heldane and Dravere aren’t truly on the side of Chaos, yet remain viable threats to Gaunt and the “good guys”.

While this is definitely military sci-fi, there’s also the sniff of a spy thriller around the central act, and I particularly enjoyed the almost le Carré-like inclusion of Gaunt’s spy-friend Fereyd. There is definitely a lot going on in the book, and once I’d managed to get into it, I have to say that I really enjoyed it and devoured the story in no time. (It helped that I was stuck on a train for a couple of hours on Friday).

I have to say, though, it did take me quite some time to get into the book. Quite early on, we’re introduced to what feels like the entire regiment, and it felt like a lot to take in. As time wears on, however, it’s relatively straightforward to keep track of who everybody is, but having a cast of 20+ people from the off, and trying to keep them all straight in my mind, did prove a little difficult at first!

But that’s a minor quibble. The book is fantastic, with a really well-told, cinematic story that is totally worth picking up. I know a few people who re-read them every so often, and I can definitely see myself joining those ranks as time goes by!