This is one of the better Space Marine Battles. Although perhaps not quite as good as "the Battle of the Fang", which remains my favourite in the series, it is a rather close contender with almost all of the ingredients that make a good, exciting read. It tells the story of the purge of a space hulk infested with aliens that has the capacity of breaking in and out of real space and represents a large threat to all of the surrounding worlds.
Within this basic narrative, several other stories, dimensions and ingredients are weaved together.
One is the constant struggles of two Successor Chapters of Space Marines to continue to serve, despite being overstretched. One of these is an Ultramarine Successor chapter - the Novamarines. The other is that of the Blood Drinkers, one of the Successor Chapters of Sanguinius' Blood Angels. Both have their challenges, particularly the latter.
A second dimension is that of the two leaders of the two represented Chapters. Chapter Master Caedis, Lord of the Blood Drinkers, is determined to purge the xenos plague that the huge cemetery of lost ships harbours, although his days are numbered. First Captain Mantilio Galt of the Novamarines, is bereft with doubts about his duties, and these tend to affect his judgement.
A third dimension is the irruption of a Mechanicum squadron, just as the two Space Marine ones are about to destroy their target from afar. This irruption leads to a major reconsideration of the initial battle plan, with the devious and untrustworthy magi striving to recover as much lost technology while using their allies rather unscrupulously and keeping their own secrets, and in particular the one that lays at the centre of the hulk.
Well-told and fast-paced, even if not entirely original - Mechanicum expeditions to recover lost artefacts seem to be rather fashionable these days among Game Workshop authors - the book is both gripping and easy to read. It also contains a number of interesting twists where past, present and future collide and interact, with an undertone of gloom and doom, as the beleaguered Empire of Man and the human race declines and struggles to face multiple challenges.
I did, however, have at least one significant grip. The book never explains how the main prize that the Mechanicum priests are after ever got to be part of the Death of Integrity, especially since, given its age, it must have been one of the main components. Apart from this, and a few other minor quibbles which are not really worth mentioning at the risk of providing spoilers, this was a superb read. Four stars.
- Paperback: 414 pages
- Publisher: Games Workshop Ltd (3 September 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1849702985
- ISBN-13: 978-1849702980
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 299 g
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 335,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)