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Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

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Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby sam vimes » Sun May 06, 2012 3:28 pm

So the other night I was bored and decided to re-read Rynns World by Steve Parker and as I was reading through, and was coming up to were Cortex has a nutting match with Snagaronds second in command, would have loved to see a proper scene on that but the book worked better as they were against the clock and gave a real sense of do or die for Kantor and his fists:

"You kill him and and you catch up, you understand Captain kill him and catch up thats an order" :cry:

That line did make me well up a bit and here now as I typed it again, Steve in my view has a real sense of giving you a emotional attachment to characters that some authors struggle to, and making his Asartes super-human but still human they feel grief, pain, loss (Huron Girmm having to follow his Captains last order was well done) in ways that you and I do but at the same time are better at dealing with it i.e in Grimnms example he went on a ork killing spree doing, what his Captain would want him to do he followed orders, respected the chain of command.

Well all in all with Rynns World is my favorite SMB novel out of the three that I own Hunt for Voldorius and The Gildar Rift, I enjoyed Voldorius but wont be reading it again any time soon Sarah's Rift was very interesting (wonder how much she hates bolt gun metal now?) the Skulls were a very different chapter to the norm of UM clones stinking up the galaxy hey as much as I love the Smurfs, you gotta love the more mental chapters Templars, Wolves and the sneaky bastards Dark Angels I'm looking your way Dorns lads ever learn what you did your gonna have a lot of VERY angry nutters with chaonswords after your arses.

One of my most liked parts of the Rift was the young Techmarine that has a cocky streak the size of a battle barge, Sarah his dialogue with his Captain was it? (sry only read the Rift once) at the end were he gives one of the most pithy yet not overtly insubordinate status reports to his Captain while he's trying to defuse the bloody bomb had me grinning and chuckling, the ending with what happened to the Apothecary was... unexpected the Corsairs really aren't your typical renegades thier at times in the novel to smart for thier own good, just a shame slobber chops is so bloody mental otherwise I'd actually be concerned for the imperuim, well thiers my thoughts and views on the books what are yours?
"Huron-Fal’s systems were on the verge of shutdown ... ‘This death,’ rasped the voder, ‘this death is ours. We choose it. We deny you your victory.’

"Abandon your fear. Look forward. Move forward and never stop. You'll age if you pull back. You'll die if you hesitate."

"From iron cometh strength. From strength cometh will. From will cometh faith. From faith cometh honour. From honour cometh iron." "And may it ever be so"
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Xisor » Sun May 06, 2012 4:11 pm

Close to the same for the three of them, 'cept I don't rate Rynn's World so highly. Enjoyable, I mean, I raced through it in only an afternoon+evening back at the start of 2010, but not one of my faves. (Which is a shame, as I routinely love Steve's work otherwise.)


The Gildar Rift had a ton to offer and was very enjoyable throughout. My favourite scene would be, I think, around 150 pages in - the Executioner Grand Cruisers appear. The armouring scene prior to it was wonderful, very impressively done. Lots of other strong points to the novel, but that 'sequence' was a stand-out success for me.


The Hunt for Voldorious I enjoyed a lot less. Still enjoyed, but it reminded me with what I feel to be the main trouble in Andy Hoare's writing: he doesn't push the boat out and be inventive/innovative when he can. It has an amazing sequence, early on, when the freedom fighters are trying to sabotage the Teleporter array - wondrously done. But the rest of it, it was all a bit underwhelming. I enjoy his Scars, I enjoy that they're... pretty damn normal. They've got thematic touches, traditions and whatnot, but at their core they're still Space Marines without all the specialities that other chapters foist upon themselves.

(In that regard, I see the Scars as close to the Imperial Fists, Dark Angels, Raven Guard and Blood Angels - their points of distinction should be flavoursome and subtle, not fundamental and overt. That's in contrast to the likes of the Space Wolves, Salamanders and Iron Hands - each of which really push the boat out on being a bit more odd and fundamentally 'different'.)


The Fall of Damnos wasn't awful, but it's probably the SMB book I enjoyed the least. As other folks say, it's effectively one long action scene and the lovely character development, thoughtfulness and curious world-making/invention that marked out Assault on Black Reach and the Salamanders books as being a bit special was sorely missing here. Whilst not especially bad in particular ways, I think it's safe to say that I was not the most suitable audience for the finished product.


The Purging of Kadillus. I really don't like the prologue and epilogue (Gav & the ideas are much better dealt with in The Primarchs, massively), I think the rest of the book's pretty damn enjoyable. The format works, the individual stories are neat and interesting. Perhaps not 'excellent' by any means, but there's a few bits that were really thoughtful and, across the entire book, it's an interesting study in how the Dark Angels actually function when the Fallen aren't even a question. The latter stories in the novel were, contrastingly, especially good. It's nice to see an author apply themselves to doing, effectively, their own one-author anthology.


Helsreach. It's a wobbly novel, you can see a few of the decisions that Aaron's since became a bit more savvy at making, but across the board it's bloody interesting and, in many regions, extremely good too. Grimauldus' end is particularly inspiring and memorable, whilst the take on Armageddon, the setup and the set-pieces used in the novel (plus cameo/incidental characters) were really very well done. I'm not sure if I enjoy the novel more than I rate it, or if I rate it technically better than I enjoyed it. Depends when and what I'm thinking about, I suppose! A fine one, though, definitely 'top tier'.


The Battle of the Fang. My first experience of Chris Wraight beyond his short Runes. Deary me, blew me away. This is the first 'breakthrough' SMB novel that made me think "These won't only be 'decent Space Marine novels', but they can actually just be outright, top-quality novels which happen to have Marine Battles as a focus". This, broadly, deals much more intensely with 'big background themes', motivations and items which really tie to the fundamentals of the setting. (Though in contrast, I think Helsreach was very smallscale in it's fundamental theme: being a Black Templars Space Marine Chaplain. It was handled very well, but TBotF really raised the game, in my esteem.)

It's extremely well written, covers a lot of entertaining characters, pours a lot of insight onto things and really, ultimately, works brilliantly as a third novel in the Prospero Duology alongside Prospero Burns and A Thousand Sons. It gets into the pathos and all that jazz, really probing at a lot of... issues, and providing very interesting resolutions. Also, lore nuggets, oh my!


The Architect of Fate. I really should do all of them individually, but I've mentioned elsewhere that I often get stuck in a loop, appropriately, when I do. Each of the novellas is very good, in my eyes. All very different, but tie together in strange ways. Each has more'n a few things which are really very enjoyable about them, each does it well and each tells a fine story.

It's difficult not to enjoy the format and, for me, to get some wholesome enjoyment from authors I haven't read so much of. (Well, okay, I've read a ton from Ben, but what has he done for me lately? :lol: ) Perhaps not quite so full-on-everything as BotF, it sits just below that 'top plateau' of 40k stories, enjoying a place beside Helsreach.


Legion of the Damned. It should be no surprise to anyone that this is my favourite. Beautiful set-pieces, excellent prose, lashings of lovely descriptions. A magnificent protagonist whose head you really get inside. Some magnificent and chilling vignettes, improbable amounts of highly memorable, highly vivid scenes. Like Battle of the Fang, it has pretty much a bit of everything you could possibly want. But I think it offers a bit more too, a bit more insight, a few more lore-nuggets... simply put, I think LotD speaks on a lot more levels to a much larger audience. It has not just something for everyone, but lots of something for everyone!


Kraken. Short story, sure, but Chris Wraight's a delight. Simple setup, very well written and, for me, surprisingly emotional. Like The Emperor's Gift, it painted a very nice view on the Imperium as massively ignorant, even of it's own things. (Specifically in the local's reaction to the Space Wolf and their musing on all Space Marines.) A properly enjoyable wee story - I'd strongly recommend it to any/all of you.


Flesh. Precursor to what, I hope, will be Chris Wraight's 'return fire'/riposte to Rob Sanders' Legion of the Damned in Wrath of Iron later this year (of which I believe Mr J. Reynolds, amongst others, has already started praising highly). It, like Krake is a great wee story. Follows the same conceit of 'small number of Marines show up to solve local problem', but that's a good format and it's really not an issue in short stories, mainly as it offers a rich opportunity for variety of responses, types and exploration of the Chapters/worlds and so forth. Anyway, simple setup, wonderful execution. More than that, again like The Emperor's Gift (and something piqued in The Gildar Rift), it offers an insight into the Techmarines/Mars 'untold story', of which I'm keen to see a lot more. Flesh is possibly one of my favourite 40k short stories.


Action & Consequence + Cause & Effect. Two H&B shorts from Sarah tying into the Silver Skulls; simply put - very enjoyable. They take reasonable conceits of 'extremely small cast doing stuff' and work a very thoughtful pair of stories around them. Very enjoyable, especially if you like the exploration given in The Gildar Rift (which I did). Cause & Effect is especially interesting in a slightly dry way, a dialogue


The Bitter End. Simply a damn good story, again from everyone's beloved tyrant, Miss Cawkwell. This time focussing on two Chaos Space Marines (one of whom is a particularly well known Tyrant of Badab). A great insight into the shenanigans afoot there, with the benefit of broadly being a damn fine story. Not much to say other than: well enjoyed.


Catechism of Hate. It's an odd one. Throughout, it's a surprisingly 'mundane' story. Simple setup, unremarkable dialogue, but it carries itself well, carries itself... proudly. It takes a lot of the ideas presented in Purging of Kadillus about being a Space Marine and gives a very neat view of it. I also found Gav's take on the Ultramarines to be broadly very enjoyable. It goes further, however, with making Cassius seem like a bit of a rogueish fiend. Well, not rogueish, but slightly... mad. There was an air of Jorge from The Name of the Rose about him, fiercely fanatical, but impressively intelligent. His seeming fanaticism and obsession driving him to make outrageous decisions, and yet his fanaticism, obsession and faith in his battle-brothers works.

It's a very different, much more wholesome/realistic/plausible/satisfactory outlook on the Ultramarines, for me, than Graham McNeill's stories ('cept Warriors of Ultramar & that Agemann heavy short). It has a lot to offer, much in the same vein as The Assault on Black Reach, but goes off the deep-end in a particularly awesome way towards the end which really made the investment extremely rewarding, for me. (I'll give you a clue: roughly Page 88. I'll do a dramatic reading for you all, one day. ;) .) It's very dry, I think, compared to Aurelian and The Bloody Handed, and much less outrageously-bringing-in-everything than Legion of the Damned/Battle of the Fang, but it has a wholesome, steady quality that crescendos very well.
"When my housemate puts his bike in the middle of the living room floor, I find that inordinately jarring, annoying and rude, but for me to refer to it as "genocide" would be incorrect." -Ath
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby sam vimes » Sun May 06, 2012 4:37 pm

The Fall of Damnos oh bugger I forgot I own that enjoyed it but and I'm sorry Nick Kyme, the novel just wasn't that enjoyable mainly because of Sicarus and his MASSIVE attitude would really like to see the cocky SOB taken down a peg or twenty, in my view Damnos should not have happened instead it does and a planet it's population and near half a company of marines are pushing up daises, Varro I liked a great deal I just wish the Dreadnaught didn't have to die liked his character and the depiction of the first company commander.
"Huron-Fal’s systems were on the verge of shutdown ... ‘This death,’ rasped the voder, ‘this death is ours. We choose it. We deny you your victory.’

"Abandon your fear. Look forward. Move forward and never stop. You'll age if you pull back. You'll die if you hesitate."

"From iron cometh strength. From strength cometh will. From will cometh faith. From faith cometh honour. From honour cometh iron." "And may it ever be so"
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Sun May 06, 2012 5:54 pm

If I had to rate on a list all the ones I've read so far, it'd be something like this:

Legion of the Damned
Battle of the Fang/The Gildar Rift/Architect of Fate
Purging of Kadillus
Rynn's World
The Hunt for Voldorius


Have yet to get back to Fall of Damnos and haven't read Helsreach though I bought it last year.

I can't say enough how darn awesome LotD is because it is an absolute masterpiece into Astartes psychology and their relationships with mortals and their "stubborness" where honour, loyalty and duty are concerned. In comparison, Aaron's Night Lords novels don't compare as favourably although they are still good examples of the same.

BotF/TGR/AoF are also great because they each do something really different with the source material and because they give us some really nice insights into the chapters they are written about. They are not quite on the same level as LotD, although BotF comes close and TGR is just behind it while AoF is a little limited by the format itself. Have to say though, BotF was the first BL novel to really blow my mind, while TGR was the first SMB novel to wow me since I had only THfV and FoD to compare it to. AoF, in its entirety is a great experiment and I really hope they continue with it.

Kadillus is a great novel because it shows us that Dark Angels narratives without the presence or influence of the Fallen can be just as intriguing reads. It is a little bland though but it has some really awesome moments with Belial and Naaman and Boreas. Not to mention all the tantalising little hints of things here and there, especially with regards to the secrets of the Fallen and with Angels of Darkness.

Rynn's World was interesting but didn't really do anything new with either the setting or the plot. I also had issues with the chapter's "prime directive" once the fortress-monastery blows up. It seemed needless because it really didn't affect the narrative at all as it was constantly flouted and ignored. Plus, too many cool moments happened off-screen or they were over before they began.

THfV was quite bland. I was fairly excited about seeing the White Scars chapter culture and doctrines and all but apart from the initial scenes with their Thunderhawk deployment, nothing really screamed White Scars for me. The Raven Guard had far cooler scenes, although the interaction between the two chapters was quite informative and with a certain exciting edge to it that makes me want to know more. It could have been built up more for sure.
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Lord of the Night » Sun May 06, 2012 6:15 pm

My rankings are, from my favourite to my least liked. (Haven't read The Purging of Kadillus yet.)

Legion of the Damned
Helsreach
The Battle of the Fang
Rynn's World
Architect of Fate
Fall of Damnos
The Hunt for Voldorius



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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Liliedhe » Sun May 06, 2012 6:32 pm

All right, this is going to be long ;). I've read them all, after all. ^^

I'll refrain from ranking, because that would take too long. Instead, I'll go by order of publishing (or whatever it is they are ordered in on the BL page). I'm giving my take on each book and whether they managed to keep my interest beyond reading them once.

Rynn's World: is awesome. Certainly among my top 5 BL novels. That doesn't mean that I would rank it among the objectively best, it has a couple of technical flaws, like leaving stuff out or ending too quickly. But it is one of the best where my personal enjoyment is concerned. It is one of those novels I always, always dig out again, like coming back to an old friend. The portrayal of the Crimson Fists is very, very interesting, maybe not as ambitious as Aaron's attempts, but very good. Especially the relationship between Kantor and Cortez shines there, because you can see how much of their maturity is just... tacked on. They function as adults, but something in them is still a child, and they all find different ways for this child to live and survive. Oh, and I wanted to give Kantor a hug. Very badly. :mrgreen:

Helsreach: Is one of those novels who objectively are certainly very ambitious and technically well done, but never managed to rivet me to the page. I read it, I enjoyed it, it is good. My head was entertained. My ... I don't know how to put that in English, the intuitive part of me that doesn't care about exquisitely crafted sentences or flawless logical structure or whatever, remained cold. No rereads so far.

Hunt for Voldorius: Now this is the letdown in the series. I got this, only because the very, very good White Scars story in Legends of the Space Marines referenced it. I thought "hey, this guy wrote a great shortstory, I'm sure he also wrote a good novel". Except, shame on my research skills, it's NOT the same guy :P . This book was OTT in the bad sense, and the characters were massively unengaging. No reread.

Purging of Kadillus: This had two redeeming graces for me: a) Boreas speaking from beyond the grave - the shiver down my spine for opening the book and reading the words "The Tale of Boreas" alone nets this at least 3 stars on a review^^. And b) it is NOT about the Fallen. Finally. The Fallen are interesting, sure. But they have become this giant millstone around the neck of the Dark Angels that you get the feeling that there weren't 200 or whatever of them, but 2 Million and they are hiding under every rock in this galaxy. So it was a real breath of fresh air. This book does exactly what it says, it tells the story of a battle. No flourishes, no experiments, a straight battle against a clever foe and their own incompetence. Good book. Reread once or twice. And how dare that apothecary be nice when I have decided to hate him? :lol:

Fall of Damnos: Nick is evil. ;) If Tsu'gan is the chew toy of the universe, then Scipio is its chewing gum. I liked this character a lot in Assault on Black Reach, and what he goes through here thats... evil. Unfortunately, all the nice character arcs can't tide me over the major problem with this book: It ends in the middle. It comes to no conclusions, not even on the character arcs, and thus I never touched it again after the initial read.

Battle of the Fang: Now, this one is all shades of awesome. And manages the incredible feat of making you root for both sides of the conflict. It also makes the Wolvies interesting for me, when they normally bore me. This is the first time the new and improved puppies appear. Blackwing made me LOL. 'disagreeable amounts of sarcasm' indeed. A great book, well written, great characters, and despite being just one big battle, it stays interesting all the time. Reread several times. Magnus makes a credible attempt at the moral event horizon, too. Unfortunately, he doesn't manage to cross. I don't know why, but YMMV.

The Gildar Rift: Good. The Silver Skulls are interesting, but didn't manage to make me infatuated with them. Some plot points were a bit too obvious, too. But it was a good read, I tore through this in a relatively short while, and I was yelling at the Captain to stop being stupid, too :P Only read it a relatively short time ago, so no rereads yet, but there will be.

Legion of the Damned: Takes awesome and runs away with it. It is simply perfect. The Excoriators get well introduced and fleshed out, and Kersh is a protagonist who is insanely badass WITHOUT being OTT OR a Sue. Which is an incredible feat. I have a soft spot for poor Rogal and all his poor boys, who always get worfed so badly - but at least they get redeemed here. I reread this about a million times. And bought it twice (ebook and paper).

Architect of Fate: No fan of this. The different novellas - except for Accursed Eternity and Fateweaver - have next to no connections (or I'm too stupid to find it), and despite the series title, they are not about Space Marines battling something, they are about Space Marines getting mindscrewed (pardon my Klatchian). And killed. all the time. Time shenanigans annoy me, too. So, that one will not get reread in a hurry, and I will not buy the dead tree version, either. Some of the novellas were ok, Accursed Eternity was the best of the bunch, but in general I felt let down.

Kraken: Xisor put that in the list, I'm not sure it belongs here. But whatever... It was awesome, as well. New and improved puppies ftw. Kvara was a great protagonist, his interaction with the normal people was funny and sad at the same time, the flashbacks were well used and impressive and he actually didn't die. I was incredibly surprised. Many rereads, too.

Hm, did I miss something? :P
"You were a warleader, a fighter, when did you gain such illuminating insight into the minds of others?"
"I learned such things as you and your brothers applied brand to my flesh and parted skin with rasp and knife," snarled Astelan. "When your witches tried to prise open my mind they opened me for an instant and I stared back."
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Xisor » Sun May 06, 2012 6:35 pm

Liliedhe wrote:Kraken: Xisor put that in the list, I'm not sure it belongs here. But whatever... It was awesome, as well. New and improved puppies ftw. Kvara was a great protagonist, his interaction with the normal people was funny and sad at the same time, the flashbacks were well used and impressive and he actually didn't die. I was incredibly surprised. Many rereads, too.

Hm, did I miss something? :P


Yes: Pyro's Shorts & Flesh surely count as SMB shorts!

(Though, having said that, I guess the next anthology drawing'em together'll have to be Battles of the Space Marines :roll: :lol: )
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Liliedhe » Sun May 06, 2012 7:03 pm

I actually did miss Catechism of Hate, btw. ;)
"You were a warleader, a fighter, when did you gain such illuminating insight into the minds of others?"
"I learned such things as you and your brothers applied brand to my flesh and parted skin with rasp and knife," snarled Astelan. "When your witches tried to prise open my mind they opened me for an instant and I stared back."
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Xisor » Sun May 06, 2012 7:04 pm

Liliedhe wrote:I actually did miss Catechism of Hate, btw. ;)


Ah, but do you have "Catechism of Hate"? :P I really do want to get my act together and sort out that reading/recording from it. It's a wondrous wee passage, damn shame to think <<2000 people on the planet have read it!
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Liliedhe » Sun May 06, 2012 7:11 pm

Yes, I do. I have also read it. It was not so very memorable.
"You were a warleader, a fighter, when did you gain such illuminating insight into the minds of others?"
"I learned such things as you and your brothers applied brand to my flesh and parted skin with rasp and knife," snarled Astelan. "When your witches tried to prise open my mind they opened me for an instant and I stared back."
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Lord_Crull » Sun May 06, 2012 8:18 pm

I have read many Space Marine Battle novels, but my interest really lies on only Catechism of Hate and Fall of Damnos. Catechism of Hate being my favorite Ultramarine story produced because for once with Ultramarines books the Codex Astartes is not bashed in any way and there is no rogue maverick to save the day. Ultramarines (For the most part) actually acting like Ultramarines. The only complain I have about Catechism of Hate is the beginning part, which the entire reason to head to said planet is rather poorly contrived.
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby revelation » Sun May 06, 2012 10:51 pm

Helsreach, Battle of The Fang, and Legion of the Damned are the obvious stand outs. All three were beautifully written and each had a firm grasp on the 40k universe and in some instances expanded on the aesthetic and lore.

I have to give Gildar Rift a honorable mention though. It was a pretty good read overall. I really enjoyed some of the characters, especially the displaced navigator, can't recall his name, and of course Volker Straub is compelling by virtue of the sacrifice he makes for his Chapter. I also thought the Silver Skulls were really well crafted and imagined. They turned out to be a very unique and thus interesting SM Chapter.
I also have to echo what Xisor said, the stand out moment was when the Silver Skulls first make their appearance to the trader ship. That was a really strong entrance and I thought the writing quality was highest early on in the novel. I see some potential in Sarah Cawkwell to become a stand out Bl author.

The rest of the series is unfortunately a bit forgettable. :cry:
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Lord of the Night » Mon May 07, 2012 11:07 am

I'll go into some detail on my thoughts since that's the point of the thread.

Rynn's World: I quite enjoyed the dynamic of the story. The idea of a Chapter's last survivors fighting against extinction, to protect their world and its people and trying to keep their Chapter from becoming a memory. Kantor and Cortez were an interesting duo, I did not expect Cortez to be a soft-heart or Kantor to have the hard view, which was necessary. Still Kantor's scene with the Rynnite woman was fantastic. The Orks were nicely portrayed but did not really stand out, though Warlord Snagrod was damn impressive. The idea of an Ork that's too tough to wear armour is a cool one.

Helsreach: The standout. I loved the theme of Grimaldus deciding just what he is, a hero or a warrior. His scene with the little girl is brilliant, as is his final speech to the people of Helsreach. I also enjoyed that the novel did not just focus on the Templars but the people of Helsreach like the priest, Andrej the stormtrooper and Major Ryken and Adept Tyro. Grimaldus's interactions with his men is interesting, they are loyal to him but his apothecary calling him out over his doubt and degrading of his men's deaths was a really good scene.

The Hunt for Voldorius: One of the weaker SMB novels, still good in ways but not enough. The White Scars and Raven Guard did not feel like individuals, though the Battle-Cant was a really good idea that should be carried on. Voldorius was the best character imo, and I really enjoyed his scenes with the human woman (Malya I think) and the other collaborators. That and Nullus as the Kagayaga was a great addition, the idea that the Khan fought him 10,000 years ago is a really great reminder of just how old Daemons really are.

Fall of Damnos: I enjoyed the scenes with Fennion and the Immortals, may they never lose that name, and Scipio's journey into the mountains was thrilling. I hate Sicarius though, the arrogant prick. The Necrons were fantastic, I really enjoyed the new incarnation of them making a real appearance. The two-parter though bugs me, because the novel ends on a hell of a cliffhanger and I don't know if it will ever be resolved. The Shieldbearer sergeant was annoying though, he doesn't get that Sicarius is a jerk.

Battle of the Fang: I have to admit this is one of the three best thus far. Imo its the 3rd of the three. The Space Wolves are a great mix of the Rout from Harek Ironhelm and Vaer Greyloc, and of the drunken barbarians we remember from Blackwing, Helfist and Redpelt. Each individual Space Wolf's story was gripping and I really enjoyed it, and the Thousand Sons weren't neglected with Aphael and the other one. Magnus was the real star though, he and Blackwing were the best.

The Gildar Rift: The Silver Skulls are an interesting group. Captain Arrun was an idiot but I enjoyed Blackheart and Garreon to no end. Porteus and Rycarus's stories were great and have yet to conclude, though I shudder to think of what Rycarus's end will be. The Resurgent Project was interesting, but what I really enjoyed was that its ending was not known so the project could either fail or succeed, which added tension to the story. Though I don't see why Blackheart acted like a Strike Cruiser would be more of a prize than a Battle-Barge.

Legion of the Damned: The best in the series. Sanders crafted one of the best sieges in 40k, half a company of marines holding out against a crusade of berserkers, daemons and cultists. The Legion were handled greatly, their portrayal sets them worlds apart from other marines and not just as Space Marines with a nasty warp sickness, but as something beyond mortal comprehension. A dark miracle. Kersh's story as the Scourge and his shame were very interesting, to a chapter as fervent as the Excoriators his shame was crippling. And of course Punisher, EPIC!

Architect of Fate: An enjoyable read though it doesn't hold up to the greatness of a full story like the others. That said its better than some of them but I don't think it's one of the top five. Each story was enjoyable in its own way, and the links between them all were nice, but the anthology format doesn't beat a full novel in my opinion.


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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby Midgard » Mon May 07, 2012 11:08 pm

In general, I think the SMB series is quite wide-ranging in terms of quality of output. The best novels in the series are easily a match for anything Black Library has ever released, while on average, the novels are pretty solid, with few weak spots. There were some that I have found to be less enjoyable, but overall, my experience with the series is generally positive.

At one point early in the series' run, I was ready to give up on them, as I thought that some of the offerings were bit on the bland side. Luckily, the series' quality had picked up, and there had not been a weaker novel in the bunch for some time. At this time, I am eagerly looking forward to Wrath of Iron and The Siege of Castellax, and hope that after the early growing pains, the SMB series continue to establish themselves as a consistently enjoyable product line.

My thoughts on individual novels are listed below. I am only commenting on the novels I own, and as such will not list the short stories, or Catechism of Hate. The ratings are in the context of the Space Marine Battles series and Black Library's literary output - as such, they are intended to indicate where, in my opinion, a particular novel falls inside BL's range.

Rynn's World - A very solid novel to start the series. I thought the Crimson Fists were given respectable treatment, and the human characters of the novel added to rather than detracted from the overall experience. Steve Parker's writing fit the concept well, and by the end of the novel I have found myself attached to the characters, cheering on them. Presenting the Orks as a barbaric, alien enemy with no POV and truly savage characteristics had reemphasized that they are a potent threat rather than comic relief baddies, while the Crimson Fists were well defined as a Chapter and as individual characters. While not a deep examination of the Chapter or of individual characters, the novel works for what it tries to be, and was a consistently enjoyable experience. It sets the tone and the expectations for the series, and delivers exactly what it promises, no more, no less. Overall rating: 7.5/10.

Helsreach - I have discovered Aaron Dembski-Bowden's writing through excellent Soul Hunter, which was sufficient recommendation to get Helsreach as soon as I could find it in my local bookstore. Not surprisingly, the novel remains one of my favorites in the SMB range, and for a good reason. The in-depth character exploration of Grimaldus made it more enjoyable than a straight-up action narrative, and the supporting cast of human characters was very well realized (in particular, Andrej remains one of ADB's best supporting characters to date). The novel delivers on many levels, from the gritty, hopeless urban warfare that made me think of real-world Battle of Stalingrad, to examining what it means to be a Space Marine, and even what it means to be a hero. Grimaldus is a compelling character precisely because he is not entirely human, and spends most of the novel trying to define himself against the humans he is supposed to protect. Helsreach set the bar very high for the series, and while it is hampered a bit by somewhat abrupt ending, the novel is an early high point for SMB books. Overall rating: 9/10.

The Hunt for Voldorius - My primary miniature army is the Raven Guard, and as such I was looking forward to the escapades of Shrike's Third Company and his pals the White Scars (who are, in all fairness, the focus of the novel). When The Hunt for Voldorius was released, I was hoping for an enjoyable tale highlighting the differences between the Chapters involved, and relating an interesting adventure. Several years later, I am still waiting for that story, as the novel proved to be a disappointment. The characters feel bland and utterly interchangeable, and outside of the battle cant, the White Scars feel like any generic Space Marine Chapter. The Raven Guard seem to have no personality, and the rivalry between the two Chapters alluded to in the Codex: Space Marines feels very tacked-on. The action scenes are serviceable, but not sufficient to elevate the rest of the novel. It is not by any means horrible, but the lack of memorable (and two-dimensional) characters, the streamlined nature of the plot, and the lack of atmosphere make it the weakest entry in the SMB series to date. Overall rating: 6/10.

Purging of Kadillus - Gav Thorpe has been one of Black Library's more prolific writers, and his second Dark Angels novel serves as a partial prequel to Angels of Darkness. While prior knowledge of that novel is not necessary, it definitely helps to give some context to Purging of Kadillus, which serves as a prequel of sorts to the tale of Boreas and Astelan. Unfortunately, in my opinion Purging of Kadillus does not stand very well on its own, as it relies on episodic narrative and constant action to drive its storyline, at the expense of character depth and focus. The characters lack personality and charisma, and at the end of the novel I really did not care about them very much. The sole exception was Namaan, but episodic structure of the narrative did not let him shine or become a major focus of the novel. Throughout the novel there were flashes of brilliance in the writing, with some scenes being particularly powerful (the teleporter assault of Deathwing Terminators being a particularly emotional, well-written sequence), but most of the novel felt bland and nondescript. Overall rating: 7/10.

Fall of Damnos - After the lackluster Purging of Kadillus I made myself a deal. If I did not enjoy the next novel in the SMB series, I would stop buying the SMB novels for the time being. Luckily, as the existence of entries below this one indicates, Fall of Damnos proved to be a turning point for the series, which did not have any weak novels since. I have enjoyed Nick Kyme's take on the Ultramarines, and thought it was exactly what the series needed - a relatively straightforward battle narrative with likeable characters, interesting antagonists, and just the right balance between military action and character interaction. Yes, the novel did end about half-way through the actual battle, and the ending was a bit too abrupt, but it delivered what its two predecessors did not - an enjoyable page-turner. Overall rating: 7.5/10.

Battle of the Fang - Leave it to Chris Wraight to take a much-beloved Chapter of Space Marines with a distinct personality, and bring it into the present. Wraight's portrayal of the Vlka Fenryka works well not only as a bridge between Dan Abnett's Prospero Burns and Bill King's Ragnar novels, but also as a compelling story on its own. While ADB's Helsreach worked because it was a character study wrapped in the context of a famous battle, Battle of the Fang works because it is a story about the battle that reveals something about the individual personalities of warring sides and characters. It is a very different approach to writing a SMB novel, but Wraight pulls it off admirably. The novel's characters all get their chance to shine, and all have distinct and memorable personalities. The presence of multiple POVs results in a compelling narrative that presents the entire picture of the battle from all sides. The characters are sympathetic, and I was left conflicted on who I sympathized with more, the Space Wolves or the Thousand Sons. Both had strong motives and good reasons to fight, and the twist at the end of the novel gave a new perspective to the outcome of the battle. While my first introduction to Chris Wraight's writing was somewhat underwhelming (short story Runes in one of the Space Marine anthologies was nothing special), Battle of the Fang was an excellent addition to the series, and one of the best in the bunch so far. Based on this novel, my expectations for Wrath of Iron will be really high. Overall rating: 9/10.

The Gildar Rift - My first introduction to Sarah Cawkwell's writing and Silver Skulls Chapter was a short story Primary Instinct, which made me eager to read about the Skulls' further adventures. The Gildar Rift is the Chapter's signature battle, and it serves to illustrate the unique quirks of the Silver Skulls set against the backdrop of a brutal conflict. The novel takes an action-oriented approach without sacrificing the characters' personalities and relationships, and manages to build a very solid narrative throughout. I wish the Red Corsairs were given a bit more screen time, as their motivations remain somewhat vague, but it is a relatively minor complaint. My favorite parts were the Volker/Jeremiah sequences, the introduction of Captain Luca Abramov, and the bike chase scene at the end, which is the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. Overall rating: 8/10.

Legion of the Damned - This is what happens when you take one part Helsreach, one part Battle of the Fang, two parts of Awesome, and put it into a book. To me, Legion of the Damned took the best parts of character-oriented and action-oriented approaches throughout the series, and turned it into the best SMB novel to date. Kersch is a great character, and the use of present-tense, first-person narrative (echoing Grimaldus in Helsreach) had given him additional depth. The book is full of little details that helped to set the Excoriators apart from their brethren while still keeping them a Codex Space Marine Chapter. One could easily wish for an entire series featuring this grim, resolute, masochistic, yet incredibly proud Chapter, and I would love to read more about Kersch and his further exploits. Rob Sanders takes a detour into the Feast of Blades to underline Kersh's particular plight, which provides much needed detail on how the Excoriators ended up on Certus Minor, and why they would stand even against the hopeless odds of the Cholercaust. The characters' interactions were handled in a masterful manner, and Sanders' use of Chapter-specific lingo ensured that the Excoriators stayed with me long after the story was over. The only negative was the somewhat abrupt involvement of the titular Legion at the end; it felt as if the novel could have been another 30 or so pages longer to underline the Legion's arrival, but even then, it is a matter of personal preference. The amount of information on the Legion was just enough - not too revealing, but also providing enough background for the careful reader to discern their likely origins. The bar for the SMB series keeps on getting higher. Overall rating: 9.5/10.

Architect of Fate - As of this writing, I am half-way through this collection of novellas. While I am not yet ready to rate the entire collection, the first two novellas, Sarah Cawkwell's Accursed Eternity and Darius Hinks' Sanctus, are carrying on the quality expected from SMB series very well. Both novellas have elements of horror alongside the typical action-oriented Space Marine fare, but the styles are appropriate for the theme. The use of present tense narrative in Sanctus is interesting but appropriate, and the subtle touches in Accursed Eternity are very well done (the closing paragraph in particular). As I understand, these novellas are supposed to tie in with the other two - as a result, I will withhold the evaluation until I am done with the entire collection. That said, what I am reading so far is very enjoyable, and the collection is another worthy entry in the SMB series.
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby The_unchanged » Tue May 08, 2012 12:52 am

I enjoy them and haven't really read a bad one yet.

However im still disappointed by them, was really hoping for in depth battle discussion such as tactics and ebbing and flowing of the battle with maps and army strengths a bit like a more clinical version of Storm of Iron.

It'd be nice to see the referencing of the codex in use of certain fights, or adaptation of battle tactics.
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Re: Space Marine Battle Novels, your thoughts and views

Postby shadowhawk2008 » Tue May 08, 2012 5:38 am

You can't really count short stories though because they are not so.. focused, if you will.
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