Home > Book Review > Book Review- “Grey Knights Omnibus” by Ben Counter

Book Review- “Grey Knights Omnibus” by Ben Counter

Grey Knights Omnibus 2014

When most people think of Warhammer 40,000 they imagine it’s trademark power armor clad, genetically engineered, super human, bad-asses the Space Marines. I was introduced to Black Library’s thrilling series of 40K novels via another fascinating character type though, the agents of the Imperial Inquisition. If the Space Marines are the Supermen of 40K characters than the Inquisition are sort of the Batmen– well a mixture between Batman, James Bond, and the hunters of “Supernatural” if they existed in a high tech setting. So they’re morally gray, very human bad-asses that can embark upon a variety of stories. I loved that about them. That human quality was what kept me from reading Space Marine stories for awhile.

That was my loss. Having recently read the first five entries in the Horus Heresy series and the stories that make up Nick Kyme’s “Salamander” omnibus I now see that the genetically enhanced soldiers of the Adeptus Astartes can be fascinating characters in their own right. So I was very intrigued by Ben Counter’s “Grey Knights Omnibus” which combines Space Marines with the Inquisition since the titular characters serve as the Chamber Militant, or private army of the Ordo Malleus, the branch of the Inquisition charged with hunting demons. Adding to my excitement was the fact that Counter penned probably my favorite entry in the Horus Heresy books I’ve read so far “Galaxy in Flames,” the series third book. Having now finished the three books that make up the “Grey Knights Omnibus”: “Grey Knights,” “Dark Adeptus,” and “Hammer of Demons” I’m happy to say the book was even better than I expected it to be. I loved all three books, especially “Hammer of Demons!’

Like any great Warhammer 40K novel the books that make up the “Grey Knights”omnibus feature a lot of action and Counter is great at staging a variety of different action scenes. We get hostage stand offs in massive high tech office buildings that have been taken over by demon worshipping cults, a massive melee battle between power armor clad Grey Knights and the medieval warriors of a feudal planet, cat and mouse pursuit involving techno-demons and sinister bio-mechanical warriors, a finale to the second novel that has to be read to believed (I’m not spoiling it here!), and a whole series of really cool hand-to-hand and insane large scale battles in the third novel. Counter expertly stages these scenes. The pace of them is fun and exciting and you feel their impact.

As a bonus you also get some really cool scenes of space ship combat. You don’t often get outer space combat in 40K novels Ben Counterwhere much of the action takes place on the ground, but the “Grey Knights Omnibus” featured some exciting space battles that came about organically and added some tension and excitement to the larger narratives.

There was so much diverse action in the Omnibus because in each book Counter told three very different types of stories. The first book in the series “Grey Knights” was the type of story you initially think about when you’d imagine a group of demon hunting Space Marines affiliated with the Inquisition. In it Justicar Alaric and the fellow members of his Grey Knights squad are tasked with aiding an Inquisitor investigating a prophecy about a powerful demon prince escaping his prison in the otherworldly dimension known as the Warp. “Dark Adeptus” is sort of a “behind enemy lines” style story where the world of the Grey Knights collides with the world of Warhammer 40K’s mysterious tech priests, the Adeptus Mechanicus. It follows Alaric, the other Grey Knights from his squad that survived the first book, some members of the Inquisition, and an expedition of tech priests as they explore a mysterious Forge World, the technological centers of the Imperium of Man, that has suddenly reappeared after vanishing over a century ago. Then the final book “Hammer of Demons” finds Alaric trapped on a hellish demon world; an entire planet dedicated to the worship of the murderous Chaos God, Khorne.

I loved that Counter gave us three distinct stories. It gave the book a nice variety and it also added towards what’s become one of my favorite aspects of Warhammer 40K novels; the travelogue feel to them. It feels like authors of Black Library’s 40K books really strive to give the planets where their stories take place unique feels. In “Grey Knights” Counter took readers to several very different and distinct worlds. In the latter two novels the author took the chance to explore in depth two strange and inhospitable planets. So setting was very much a big part of these novels for me and really added to the larger stories Counter was telling.

Action and setting are fun elements of course, but they don’t necessarily make for good stories. Good characters are key for good stories and in his “Grety Knights Omnibus” Counter presents us with a fantastic lead character in the form of Justicar Alaric. Over the course of the three tales you really get to see Alaric grow and change. It was fun and exciting to watch and it was not unlike what Dan Abnett did with his protagonist in his amazing “Eisenhorn” trilogy of novels, which were my introduction to Black Library’s “Warhammer 40,000” fiction line. Part of what made Alaric’s journey so fun was watching him deal with the complications and difficult choices that come with fighting demons and seeing how that affected his faith in the God Emperor of Mankind (An almost deity like figure that the humans and many Space Marines of 40K revere and in some cases outright worship) and his duty to humanity.

You really get to see that in “Hammer of Demons” which in some ways was a difficult book to read because I was really invested in Alaric as a character by that time. Ultimately though “Hammer of Demons” was the best of the three books in the Omnibus though and one of the best 40K books I’ve ever read. Again, I don’t want to spoil much, but the book’s setting of a world conquered by demons means Alaric undergoes an epic journey that challenges his faith and devotion to duty and forces him to grow as a person. It’s thrilling and powerful stuff and featured some real moving quotes about hope and humanity.

Alaric wasn’t the only interesting character in “The Grey Knights Omnibus” either. Over the course of the three novels you meet some complex heroes and vile villains. My favorites were Inquisitor Ligea, Alaric’s battle brother Dvorn, Interrogator Hawkespur, and the demonic Duke Venalitor who I really hated.

So if you’re a fan of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, or are looking for a good place to get acquainted with it for the first time, pick up the “Grey Knights Omnibus.” It’s a hell of a read that’s fun, exciting, poignant and powerful. It left me wanting more from both Ben Counter and the titular demon hunters of the Ordo Malleus.

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