For talking openly about the spoilers from Black Library fiction.


Postby Xisor » Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:46 am

Salamanders, hammerdrakes of the fireforge, stoic and alone.

Raced through this book. Enjoyed it, with obvious/perennial issues with Nick's decisions of focus, imagery and contrived conflict.


What I usually (and did, this time) enjoy most about Nick's work is that his characters are interesting and go through fairly interesting, human issues.

Iagon, moustache twirling as he was, was also a fine example of people we all know - people who seem to go out of their way to deliberately ruin things.

Tsu'gan, similarly, a great example of a pompous, confident arsehole. Not overconfident, and not de-facto a baddie, hell... he's a high achieving do-gooder, where Space Marines are concerned. But socially: a prime git. Not incompetent, but... blasé about being nice.


In this novel, we get a round treat of characters - Exor the young techmarine, Xarko the young librarian, Agatone the now accomplished (if young) Captain, Drakgaard a veteran Captain bungling how to step into the limelight, Elysius a chaplain given a new lease of life, Zantho a bit of a faceless (but strangely memorable) tank sergeant, Va'lin a fledgling Assault Marine.

We get a couple of quality wee cameos too - a Nocturne civilian off on a wander around the galaxy, a Cadian colonel (would have worked as a non-Cadian adjutant, but as a Cadian battle commander... nah), Angerer a Canoness & Stephina - young but also veteran Seraphim?

And, of course, Zarthas the ex-Black Dragon.

It all ticked over well enough, but a lot of it felt... inappropriate. Not that the story being told was wrong or anything daft, but slightly off. Or majorly off, towards the end.

I enjoyed a huge amount, but a lot of it left me too often feeling a bit distanced from it all.

Key, I think, in that lack of emersion was simple: they're idiots. Mostly or all, it all hinges on blatantly daft decisions.

If the Librarian didn't disobey instructions three times in a row, no problem - situation could be resolved quite easily and without incident. If the Librarian didn't issue bizarre 'do not disturb' orders even whilst doing this: same result.

Drakgaard's motivation for being lured into the trap is rubbish too - he's famously eschewing the limelight. But he actually wants it. Great. He wants it so much, so out of control, that he ignores his advisors, acts on zero evidence, ignores his own self-avowed identity, ignores prudence, ignores tactical sense... all to throw the whole kit and kaboodle (mainly forces that aren't his own) at an enemy he knows almost nothing about, across terrain that is known to be unreliable.

In short: it didn't read even vaguely like someone playing at being a military commander. It read like a rubbish parable dreamt up by a Sunday School teacher to show why pride and desire is bad.

Which is mighty annoying, because Drakgaard was cool and interesting otherwise. Worse, the catalyst for it (the Centurion Bar'dak's chapter) was excellently done. Not exactly plausible. But really cool.

Except... HE DID IT AS WELL! A blatant, laughably Sunday school trap as the fulcrum on which a reallu interesting character piece turned. Grr. (The psyker-bomb was cool though.)


Drakgaard and the Librarian in particular. The one line description of what their doing is entirely plausible (seduced by a desire for glory; seduced by contemplation of the warp) and a fine topic for stories.

But, in the way it's all set up and then kicked down... contrived doesn't begin to capture it.

As said: blooming annoying as the characters (and the point of what they're doing) are crying out to be enjoyed. Vexing indeed
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