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Book Review- “The Hunt for Vulkan” by David Annandale

September 30, 2018 Leave a comment

Hunt for VulkanIt’s been a while since I reached the halfway point of Games Workshop/Black Library’s epic 12 part “The Beast Arises” storyline. Not because I’m not a fan. It’s just life and and an ever expanding reading pile happened. So I was excited to finally get a chance to get back into the ork fighting action with “The Hunt for Vulkan” by David Annandale. It’s book 7 in the storyline. I worried though that my months away from the saga make it harder to get back into. Turns out all my worries were for nothing because “In the Hunt for Vulkan” Annandale welcomed me back into the “War of the Beast” with open arms. It was a fun tale bursting with action that made me eager to dig into the back half of the 12 part tale.

The Hunt for Vulkan” features a huge cast of characters, but it mainly follows a core cast of intriguing ones. At the center of the tale is Koorland, the last member of the Imperial Fists Space Marine chapter who we met back in the opening installment of this series. Part of the highlight of “The Beast Arises” has been Koorland’s journey as a character from survivor to Lord Commander of the Imperium. In “The Hunt for Vulkan” we get a chance to see him reflect on that journey and deal with some of the ghosts that still haunt him after the tragic loss he experienced in book one. We also get to see his growth as a political and military leader.

Annandale opens the book with a crisis on Mars that threatens to turn the Imperium and the Adeptus Mechanicus against each other. That’s where we get to see Koorland’s mettle as a political leader tested. I was riveted watching him face off against the Mechanicus’ Fabricator General in a game of chicken. In the latter half of the book you get to see Koorland back on the battlefield as he leads a vast Imperium strike force in the titular “Hunt for Vulkan.”

The other major character of “The Hunt for Vulkan” is Thane, the Chapter Master ofdavid_annandale the Space Marine Legion known as the Fists Exemplar. We primarily get to see Thane on the battlefield in this book, but he’s a fun character to watch in a fight, and this novel also continues his growth from the previous ones. Some other character moments I enjoyed included the ones we spent with the crew of an Imperial Navy ship as it tried to survive a void battle against an ork armada and an ork Attack Moon, and checking back in with a Loyalist Space Marine Legion that’s been forced into an alliance with the Traitorous Iron Warriors Legion.

The best character moments for me though were the few ones we got to spend with my favorite Primarch, Vulkan. Annandale does let us get inside in Vulkan’s head in several powerful and inspiring moments. and he nails the character’s voice. Vulkan’s thoughts and deeds in the novel illustrate why he and the Salamanders are my favorite Loyalist Space Marine Legion and Primarch.

The other thing I loved about “The Hunt for Vulkan” was of course the wall-to-wall action of the book. The novel opens with an intense and desperate battle between the forces of the Imperium and then the latter 2/3 are an epic war on a crumbling planet. Annandale is fantastic at these scenes too. The book’s battles were full of powerful, bone crunching descriptions, and twists and turns that chilled me and made me cheer.

So, with “The Hunt For Vulkan” I was plunged back into the excitement of “The Beast Arises.” It was also another fantastic 40K book from Annandale. I’ve read three Black Library books by him now and I’ve loved everyone.

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Book Review- “Prospero Burns” by Dan Abnett

September 7, 2018 Leave a comment

Burning of ProsperoI love the world of Warhammer 40,000. It’s a rich and fascinating universe. I currently have two armies to play in the 8th edition of the game (I play Salamanders and Thousand Sons) I even bought Games Workshop’s newest skirmish version of 40K, “Kill Team” (Which is a great and fairly cheap way to get your feet wet in the world of 40K) The reason I’m such a huge fan though is the fabulous work done by the authors of the fiction arm of Games Workshop, the Black Library.

The work of one specific Black Library author though, Dan Abnett, brought me into the World of 40K. I was a huge fan of his comic work and I’ve been lucky enough to interview him as a journalist on several different occasions. He’s a super nice guy. So one day I picked up my library’s copy of “The Eisenhorn Omnibus” and I was hooked. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything 40K I’ve read by Abnett and I think his novel, “Legion,” is one of the best entries in the 40K prequel series, “The Horus Heresy,” that I’ve read so far. So I was especially excited to read his novel “Prospero Burns,” which is the 15th entry in the series.

Part of the reason I was excited is because the last Horus Heresy novel I read was Graham McNeill’s “Thousand Sons.” That book made me love the Thousand Sons and its a large part of the reason why I have a Thousand Sons army to play 40K. One of the most tragic and heartbreaking elements of that story was the burning of Prospero, the Thousand Sons’ homeworld, by the Space Marine legion known as The Space Wolves.

So, I was curious to see what that historical moment looked like from The Space Wolves perspective and in “Prospero Burns” Abnett gives us that, but he also gives us so much more. The result is a powerful, fun, exciting, and poignant read even if you’re a Thousand Sons fan and player (like me)

I feel the best 40K and Horus Heresy novels are the ones that take deep dives intoDan-cool the cultures that their protagonists hail from. And in “Prospero Burns” Abnett does that. You’re given a sense of the true, savage purpose of the Space Wolves. You’re allowed to appreciate their sense of loyalty to that purpose and their Emperor. You’re also allowed to feel sorry for what that loyalty does to them and angry at the tragic mistakes it causes them to make.

Best of all though is you’re allowed to see these superhuman warriors in a more human light. That’s because you learn the types of stories that entertain and enthrall the Space Wolves in quieter moments when they’re sitting around a campfire or when they’re trying to provide some final moments of comfort to a mortally injured comrade.

This exploration of Space Wolf culture is done primarily through the eyes of a scholar named Kasper Hawser. He’s a fascinating almost Indiana Jones style character and like the Remembrancer (scholarly types) characters in other “Horus Heresy” novels he’s a great character and his perspective on the actions and culture of the Space Wolves is fascinating.

Abnett also uses Kasper to provide some very cool insights into what Earth was like before and several years after The Emperor of Mankind unified it. Because throughout the book were given glimpses of Hawser’s past. Those flashback sequences are also tied into the larger plot in a way that I won’t spoil because it’s a cool reveal.

Prospero Burns” is also a fun adventure that brushes up against new and classic elements of 40K lore. Some of my favorite new characters and concepts include Longfang, the Space Wolves Rune Priest that Hawser spends some time with, and the Quietude; an interstellar empire that very much felt like a 40K version of the classic Star Trek villains, the Borg.

At first there might not seem like a lot for fans looking into insight at larger and classic 40K characters and lore. Patient readers will be rewarded though. Quite a few familiar faces, including Space Wolf Primarch Leman Russ, appear in the second half of the book. Plus Abnett adds some excitement and intrigue to big events like the Council of Nikaea and the titular Burning of Prospero.

So “Prospero Burns” is a fantastic book that is many things. It’s primarily a sci-fi adventure story and cultural study. As the book unfolds though Abnett organically adds layers to the narrative that make it even more enjoyable. So it’s also a spy/conspiracy story, a tale of supernatural horror, and tragedy in almost the classical sense of the word. All of those elements combine to make “Prospero Burns” a hell of a read.

Book Review-Forges of Mars Omnibus by Graham McNeill

Forges of MarsOne of the great things about the world of Warhammer 40,000 is all its fascinating factions. Its easy to think one is not for you, but like comics all it takes is the right writer to illustrate a group’s potential. For me that faction was the the Tech-Priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus, but then I read Graham McNeill’s Horus Heresy novel, Mechanicum. In it McNeill showed me the Admech are a fascinating group of characters and there’s a bunch of interesting stories to be told with them. So I thought I’d see what he could do with a whole trilogy of Adeptus Mechanicus novels and picked up the Forges of Mars omnibus, which contains the novels Priests of Mars, Lords of Mars, and Gods of Mars, as well as the short story Zero Day Exploit.

I got what I wanted and then some. Because Forges of Mars is full of a whole host of fascinating characters not just members of the Admech. Plus each book in the series ups the scope and scale . So Gods of Mars is a story full of grand, epic action, and character payouts.

The Forges of Mars omnibus starts out as a tale of exploration. So essentially McNeill is taking a Star Trek style story and giving it a 40K spin.His story is about an Adeptus Mechanicus expedition for a missing ship that traveled outside the known galaxy thousands of years ago. The flagship of this new expedition is a massive and ancient vessel known as the Speranza. It’s almost like a planet and much of the action in the trilogy unfolds in its labyrinthine layout. It’s a pretty fascinating locale that’s almost a character unto itself.

Walking the halls of the Speranza are a diverse group of Adeptus Mechanicus tech-priests. First and foremost is of course the expedition leader, Lexell Kotov. He’s surrounded himself with a number cold and career focused tech-priests like Tarkis Blaylock. What’s great about those characters though is how nuanced they are. Over the course of the trilogy you get moments that show them at their worst, but they also get genuine moments of heroism and altruism. Plus there are some very noble, grounded, and easy to like tech-priests like the father and daughter team of Vitali and Linya Tychon. Their noble nature and genuine affection for each other made them some of my favorite characters in the trilogy.

The nature of the Kotov expedition allows McNeill to expand the cast of Forges of Graham McNeillMars beyond tech-priests and include diverse characters from all over the Imperium of Man. Accompanying the expedition are a band of Black Templar Space Marines, a detachment of valiant soldiers from Cadia, a Legion of Titan war machines and their pilots, a Rogue Trader and his crew, and several normal humans press ganged into being bondsmen aboard the Speranza. But that’s not all! There’s also a crew of Eldar pursuing the Speranza.

As the Forges of Mars trilogy unfolds were allowed to spend time with all of these characters and see things from their perspective. So I really came to care about almost all of them. It heightened all the action scenes and made the climax of the trilogy incredibly enjoyable. There was so much payoff. The character arcs I probably enjoyed the most were the ones of Linya Tychon; Rogue Trade Roboute Surcouf who hails from the Ultramar system which means he’s kind of like James T Kirk mixed with the nobility of Steve Rogers; and Black Templar sergeant Tanna, who really goes on a journey of growth over the course of the trilogy.

I also have to mention that McNeill may have opened my eyes to the appeal of the Eldar. They are another faction that have popped up throughout the  40K novels I’ve read that I really haven’t found all that appealing. In Forges of Mars, McNeill points out how the Eldar are a damned race thanks to their creation of the Chaos God Slaanesh, but they’ve decided to sort of go down swinging and fighting against their fate. That made me see them in an entirely new light. So I may have to seek out some Eldar novels.

I don’t want to say too much about the action of the Forges of Mars trilogy because a lot of of it is shrouded in mystery with some great reveals. What I will say is the story takes readers to pretty fantastic locales like alien planets, a seemingly deserted space station, and a mysterious Forge World. McNeill also has a lot of fun with the tone of the trilogy as well. You get moments of grand adventure, character drama, cosmic horror, and over the top action. The climax of the book is an epic struggle to save the entire universe and features a number of wildly imaginative and gloriously trippy sequences.

All of that makes Forges of Mars an incredible and epic read. For me, its one of those grand trilogies that reflects all the reasons why I love the 40K universe. It’s right up there with Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn trilogy and Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Night Lords trilogy. It’s that good! I was already a fan of McNeill before reading this Omnibus, but now he’s one of my favorite Black Library authors.

Book Review- “Echoes of the Long War” by David Guymer

November 23, 2017 Leave a comment

Echoes Long War MP3For me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of Black Library/Game Workshop’s year long event story from last year, The Beast Arises, is that it’s consistently given me things I’ve never seen or don’t regularly see in Warhmamer 40,000 novels. Those things all feel organic too; so they come off as fun, mindblowing twists. So far, we’ve engaged in political intrigues with the High Lords of Terra, seen Space Marines think and act politically, and have even had Xenos species set foot on Terra . . . twice! And that was just in the first five chapters!

Having now read the sixth installment, David Guymer’s “Echoes of the Long War,” I’m happy to report that the trend of fun, different, and interesting things continues as we reach the halfway point of the series. Plus the book sets the stage for an explosive and exciting second half of the series.

The Beast Arises series is about all the institutions of the Imperium, but so far when it focuses on the Adeptus Astartes the spotlight has firmly been on the Imperial Fists and all their successor chapters. In “Echoes of the Long War” David Guymer takes us on a deep dive inside the culture of the Second Founding Space Marine chapter known as the Fists Exemplar. What’s especially interesting about these guys is they sort of come off as a combination of Rogal Dorn’s Imperial Fists and Roboute Gulliman’s Ultramarines. They have the tenacity and stubbornness of the Fists, but they have the scholarly way of thinking and devotion to code of conduct of the Ultramarines.


Seeing that way of thinking collide with the tsunami of an interstellar invasion of David Guymersuper orks and their attack moons (I will never grow tired of typing that phrase! So fun! So METAL! And so 40K!) Was a lot of fun. And Guymer gives us a great point of view character to follow for most of the action in the form of a by the books Exemplar captain named Zeberyn.

What really makes “Echoes of the Long War” fun though is the characters Zeberyn and the Fists Exemplars run up against in their fight with the orks, the arch enemies of the Imperial Fists, the Traitor Space Marine Legion known as the Iron Warriors. Best of all, it was the Iron Warriors warband that we’ve been following for a few books now, the company lead by Warsmith Kalkator. I’ve grown to like Kalkator over the last few novels in The Beasts Arises, but Guymer made me love him.

That’s because in the book Kalkator and Zeberyn’s forces have a common foe. So the question then becomes can they work together to defeat the orks? I’m not going to comment on that except to say the dialogue and dynamic between Kalkator and the Fists Exemplar is a lot of fun.

The other thing that Guymer does in “Echoes of the Long War” is provide a scenario that turns the Orks into truly frightening foes. For me that’s been sort of the weak link of the series. It’s hard for me to get excited about the Orks as ultimate bad guys because there’s a lot about them that comes off as comical or sort of force of nature like. In this book though there’s an especially savage revelation about the orks that borders on horrific and gives the novel some really great stakes. It also leads to some fantastic action scenes and an incredibly powerful climax that I did not see coming.

On top of that, Guymer also introduces readers to a fascinating group of Tempestus Scions (Think Imperial Guard Spec Ops), while also continuing the stories of the Imperium’s master of assasins Drakan Vangorich, Koorland, the last Imperial Fist, and Magos Biologos Eldon Urquidex. Plus we get a chilling, final scene that digs back into established 40K lore, sets the stage for the back half of The Beast Arises, and makes me eager to read the next book in the series “The Hunt for Vulkan.” So “Echoes of the Long War” was a heck of a lot of fun.

Book Review- Ahriman: The Omnibus by John French

November 3, 2017 Leave a comment

Ahriman OmnibusEverybody loves a “bad guy.” Even people like myself who generally read more about the more heroic defenders of Games Workshop/Black Library’s Warhammer 40,000 universe. In fact I’m a big fan of the Imperium of Mankind and the Loyalist Space Marine legions that protect it, but some of Black Library’s best novels have been about the traitorous Space Marine Legions. Horus Heresy books like Legion by Dan Abnett, A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill, and 40K books like Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Night Lords Omnibus have been some of the most exciting, powerful, and even poignant 40K fiction I’ve ever read. And now having become fascinated by the Thousand Son’s thanks to McNeill’s Horus Heresy novel I can add another set of stories to that list; the ones featured in John French’s Ahriman: The Omnibus, which I just finished and was absolutely blown away by.

You don’t have to have read A Thousand Sons to appreciate or understand the stories in Ahriman: The Omnibus, but I’m glad I did. I feel like they heightened my appreciation of the book because I already knew the tragic story of the Thousand Sons Space Marine Legion and loved many of their members, especially Ahriman, their chief sorcerer. McNeill introduced me to Ahriman back when he was still a loyal servant of the Imperium. I got to know him and became fascinated by him there, but French made me love him.

In Ahriman: The Omnibus, which contains three novels and several short stories, John FrenchFrench picks up with Ahriman several hundreds of years later when his title character is firmly entrenched in the forces of chaos and wracked with guilt over the spell he cast to try and solve the mutation problems that plagued his Legion, but only made it worst by transforming many of his Space Marine brothers into zombie like Ruricae. Essentially they’re semi sentient dust trapped in power armor that can be commanded by other sorcerer/psychic members of the Thousand Sons. In the Omnibus, we go on a journey with Ahriman as he seeks to rectify that mistake.

As I traveled with Ahriman and the fascinating characters he drew into his orbit I couldn’t help but be reminded of something. I’m a life long fan of comics, particularly Marvel ones. Part of my living comes from writing feature interviews with the creators of their books. One of Marvel’s best villains is the character of Thanos, created by Jim Starlin, and after I finished Ahriman: The Omnibus I couldn’t help, but compare Ahriman to Thanos. He’s that fascinating of a character. I think the comparison is especially apt because both are driven by very human qualities in Thanos’ case a love for the physical embodiment death, and in Ahriman’s a need to atone for what his Rubric spell did to his brothers in the Thousand Sons.

Those needs push the characters forward against seemingly unstoppable odds. So Ahriman is a genetically altered human driven by an indomitable will. It allows him to challenge Empires and even cosmic forces like demons and gods. That makes him a fascinating and even, dare I say, kind of an inspiring protagonist.

Ahriman isn’t the only intriguing character in French’s stories. There’s a whole host of them especially Space Marines like Ahriman’s fellow Thousand Sons; the swordsman Sanakht, the mathematically minded Ignis who’s protected by a faithful robotic bodyguard, and Ctesias a sorcerer who specializes in summoning and trapping demons. French also includes some fascinating human characters as well. My favorite of those is the Inquisitor Iobel, who has dedicated herself to thwarting and destroying the legacy of the Thousand Sons.

I don’t want to say much about the plot of the three novels and short stories that make up Ahriman: The Omnibus because in a way the entire book is one long story, and each novel and short story builds upon what’s come before. So by the time I arrived at the the third and final novel in the trilogy Ahriman Unchanged I was utterly hooked.

The journey to that book and the journey in it was pretty fascinating and fun too. During it French takes readers to some legendary 40K locales and brings his characters face to face to with famous 40K faces, including one entity I had never seen brought to life in a novel before. French did a fantastic job with it too.

The stories are action packed and often have a fun horrific feel to them. Best of all though is there are plenty of organic twists and turns that unfold along the way. So, in a lot of ways, the Ahriman stories felt like great heist and caper tales. That may sound weird, but when you think about it it’s pretty fitting because the Thousand Sons are tied to Chaos God known as Tzeentch, which is the god of change, fate, and conspiracies.

So if you love Chaos or consider yourself a loyalist of the Imperium you really need to check out John French’s Ahriman: The Omnibus. It’s a fun, epic tale featuring one of the most fascinating characters in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

Book Review- “A Thousand Sons” by Graham McNeill

Thousand SonsWhen you read a series of books that you enjoy a sense of complacency can start to set in. You can almost become accustomed to certain things and after you read an entry you’re left with a feeling of like, “Okay. That was fun. On to the next one.” Sometimes though an entry comes along in a series that is so good it’s like a refreshing blast of cold water or even slap in the face. It wakes you up and reminds you of why you fell in love with a particular series in the first place and shows you just how special, exciting, and powerful a book in that series can be. I just finished “A Thousand Sons” by Graham McNeill, which is book 12 in Games Workshop/Black Library’s “Horus Heresy” (a prequel storyline that sets the stage for their Warhammer 40,000 line of novels) series, and I’m happy to report it’s just such a book.

The titular characters of “A Thousand Sons” are a Space Marine Legion and McNeill was given a gift in these characters because they’re one of the most fascinating and unique Space Marine Legions in all of 40k. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that the great thing about Space Marines novels is they allow the author to take a deep dive into the diverse martial cultures of a particular Legion, and what makes the Thousand Sons so compelling is the fact they combine the transhuman bad-assery of your typical Space Marine, with the academic bent and powers of your archetypical sorcerer from fantasy stories, and add just a hint of Marvel Comics X-Men to make things extra tragic and poignant.

That’s because unlike most Space Marine Legions that feature a handful of members with psychic powers many of the Thousand Sons are capable of incredible mental feats. It’s part of the culture they hail from, and their godlike primarch/father, Magnus the Red, is one of the most powerful Psykers in existence. Unfortunately for them though, in the reality of 40K psychic powers are linked to the unstable reality known as the Warp, a tumultuous dimension of demons, psychic monstrosities and malevolent, power-hungry, gods. So. the Sons are feared and distrusted by many of their brother Legions who label them Warlocks.

Over the course of “A Thousand Sons” we meet an eclectic cast of the titularGraham McNeill characters and we get to bond with them and see them live, study, and of course fight. My favorite legionnaire was chief Librarian, Ahzek Ahriman, who I knew was one of the most beloved anti-heroes in 40K, but now I know why. In “A Thousand Sons” Ahriman is a charismatic and compelling character constantly questing for truth and plumbing the warp with his precognitive and astral projection powers to serve his Primarch, Legion, and the Imperium of Man.

Magnus the Red is of course is a fascinating character too, but I like that McNeill didn’t make the Primarch the focus of the story. It makes the scenes with him extra special. When Magnus makes an entrance the only way to describe it is to quote Sargent Nicholas Angel from “Hot Fuzz” and say, “Shit just got real.” That said, Magnus remains a very human character in “A Thousand Sons.” Despite his vast power and good intentions he makes mistakes, big, powerful heartbreaking ones. He’s a tragic figure in the classical sense.

My other favorite group of characters in “A Thousand Sons” were the three Human scholars/remembrancers that are traveling with the Thousand Sons when the book begins. Each of them have a psychic gift and a unique back story that draws them into the larger world of the Thousand Sons. It’s a lot of fun to see these characters bounce of the Space Marines and observe how the behavior of the human and posthuman characters impact each other. Another cool aspect is that one of the Remembrancers, Camille Shivani, is the first LGBTQ character I’ve encountered in the world of 40K. We even get to see her with a significant other at one point in the book.

Over the course of “A Thousand Sons” we travel with the titular Space Marines and human characters to a variety of worlds and watch as they take on a whole host of foes including one of their brother legions, the barbaric Space Wolves. The rivalry between the Wolves and the Sons is a believable and tragic one. I’m actually a pretty big fan of the Wolves so the fact that I was actively rooting against them in “A Thousand Sons” is a testament to the characters McNeill created and the narrative he weaved together.

The narrative is a fascinating one too. We get a handful of big battles, but we also get the equivalent of a court room sequence, which was fascinating and something I’ve never really seen before in a 40K book as McNeill chronicles one of the big events in the pre-history of 40K. The novel then follows a series of shocking revelations and tragic mistakes that climaxes with one of the most epic and poignant battles I’ve read about in a 40K or “Horus Heresy” book. Long time fans will know what I’m talking about, but I don’t want to say too much and spoil things.

Another fun aspect is that McNeill peppers the novel with little Easter Egg nods to other classic tales of fantastic fiction. I’m sure I missed all of them, but two that I caught were fitting and organic nods to the works of Mary Shelly and H.P. Lovecraft.

So, “A Thousand Sons” is one of my favorite entries in “The Horus Heresy” series For me it’s right up there with Dan Abnett’s “Legion” and Ben Counter’s “Galaxy in Flames.” It’s a big novel full of fun, fascinating and powerful stuff. Best of all it’s made me especially fired up to get to some other 40K and “Horus Heresy” novels that are sitting on my “to read” pile like John French’s Ahriman: The Omnibus,” and Dan Abnett’s “Horus Heresy” novel, “The Burning of Prospero,” which I understand is kind of companion novel to “A Thousand Sons.”

Book Review- “Throneworld” by Guy Haley

ThroneworldWhen Games Workshop/Black Library announced last year’s long “Warhammer 40,000” event story line, “The Beast Arises,” I was pretty skeptical. I wasn’t exactly sure how a 12 part novel series about a massive invasion by the Orks (a faction that I find interesting in a force of nature sort of way, but never really as compelling villains) could maintain momentum and my interest. The kick off novel to the series though, “I Am Slaughter,” was by Dan Abnett, one of my favorite 40K and comic writers. So I decided to give “The Beast Arises” series a shot.

I Am Slaughter” was pretty good, but I was kind of underwhelmed by book two, and book three had some interesting parts. Then something surprising happened with book four, “The Last Wall.” I suddenly found myself won over and invested in the conflicts and characters of “The Beast Arises” event. I’m happy to report that my enthusiasm has only grown after reading book five, “Throneworld,” by Guy Haley.

I was prepared not to like “Throneworld” because it’s cover featured a member of another 40K faction I find pretty underwhelming, The Eldar. 40K’s space elves do play sort of a large role in the opening chapters of “Throneworld,” but they are not a huge part of the novel. Haley handled them well too. It was interesting seeing them running wild on the Imperium of Man’s home turf of Terra, and their interactions with one of the series main character’s Drakan Vangorich, the Grandmaster of the Imperium’s office of assassins, were pretty interesting. Plus those interactions set the stage for some other compelling dynamics that could be explored in the series second half.

One faction that does play a decent sized role in “Throneworld” that Haley does a pretty fantastic job with is the Adpetus Mechanicus, the Machine Cult of Mars. I used to have zero interest in the Mechanicum. I thought they were one of the most boring factions in the world of 40K. Then I read Graham McNeil’s “Horus Heresy” novel, “Mechanicum” and realized how interesting they could be, and in “Throneworld” Haley further illustrated why Mars is one of the most intriguing worlds in 40K. Quite a bit of the action in the novel involves mystery and intrigue on the Mechanicum homeworld as an ambitious and power hungry Fabricator General advances a secret plan that might lead to victory over the Orks and civil war against the Imperium. Standing in his way are several of Vangorich’s agents.

The rest of the action in “Throneworld” involves 40k’s most ubiquitous faction, the Guy HaleyImperium’s Space Marines, which is fine because Haley utilizes them in fun and fascinating ways. Space Marine stories need action and there’s plenty of really cool, intense, and apocalyptic set pieces in “Throneworld,” but like any good stories the best Space Marine tales are ones that feature strong, vibrant, fully realized characters. There are plenty of those types of Space Marines in “Throneworld.”

The most fascinating of course is Koorland AKA Slaughter, the last surviving member of the Imperial Fists. Watching him rise from the tragedy that cost him his Battle Brothers and grow and change from a front line soldier into a cunning galactic hero and leader has been one of the most satisfying parts so far of “The Beast Arises.”

In “Throneworld” you get to see Koorland kick-ass and continue to grow as he leads “The Last Wall,” an army of different Space Marine legions descended from the Imperial Fists, into battle against an Ork Attack Moon (I’ll never get tired of typing the words Attack Moon! So cool and imaginative!) and deals with the treachery and machinations of the people in charge of the very world he’s trying to defend, The Lords of Terra.

My favorite parts of “Throneworld” though had to deal with some Space Marines new to the larger action of “The Beast Arises,” the Imperium aligned warriors of the fanatical Black Templars legion and the Traitor Legion known as the Iron Warriors. Part of the reasons I find Space Marine Legions so fascinating is each Legion has it’s own cultures and customs. I have not read much about the Black Templars and in “Throneworld” Haley shows off their best and worst traits. The Iron Warriors are allowed to be equally nuanced as well. You don’t forget they betrayed humanity and the Emperor, but their main representative in the book is allowed to be both articulate in his reasons and charismatic.

Kalkator, the Iron Warriors, leader is a fun and interesting character. So is Magneric, the relentless Black Templar High Marshall and cybernetic Dreadnought that is leading a force to hunt down and destroy Kalkator and his grand company of Iron Warriors. Their scenes together are fascinating because of their dynamic as both hunter and hunted and former friends. Plus you get to see what happens to that dynamic when it’s confronted by the savage monstrosity of the Orks. I hope to see more of Kalkator, Magneric, and their respective Legions in future installments of “The Beast Arises.”

So with “Throneworld” my investment and excitement over “The Beast Arises” series has grown. I look forward to reading the next entry in the series, and more books by Guy Haley. I believe this is my first book I’ve read of his and I can’t wait to read his return to “The Beast Arises” with “The Beheading” (The final book in the series) and “Dark Imperium,” which moves the timeline of 40K forward in some directions that sound exciting.