The Space Wolves are a proud Space Marine Chapter. They almost appear savage to outsiders, with their long manes, sheer strength and prowess on display. It is no surprise that these proud Astartes treasure not only their own honour, but that of their whole pack, as their squads are called. Sometimes the bonds in between packmates are strong enough for the last survivor of the group to swear an oath of vengeance to restore the honour of his brethren by hunting alone, becoming a Lone Wolf. Lone Wolves set out on many quests in search for a foe mighty enough to be worth slaying or in the attempt. Etching the names of his fallen brothers onto his armor, or even skin, the Wolf longs for the day he might return to Fenris, the head of his quarry in hands, proving that the honour of his pack has been restored.
Kraken tells the story of such a Space Wolf on his quest to hunt down a Tyranid leviathan in the hope of redeeming his brothers' honour. Following Aj Kvara on his quest has been quite a ride - a short one, I admit, but the story makes up for that with action and satisfaction. Not only does it present the wolf's battle against his Tyranid quarry, but also shows the reader key-moments in Kvara's life, from his first hunt on the seas of Fenris to the loss of his pack and the taking of his oath, granting us a complex picture of the Lone Wolf called Aj Kvara. What must Kvara sacrifice in order to restore his honour and rest in peace again?
I can't pretend to know much about the Wolves of Fenris, especially not as much as I'd like to, but the subject of these Lone Wolves has always interested me. They are an integral part of the Wolves' traditions and sagas, but are too often overlooked, so I gladly picked this one up. The story has a really strong buildup to it; I quite honestly did not expect such depth from a short story of around 17,000 words. I should have known better, I admit, since the opening chapters of Chris Wraight's Battle of the Fang were giving a strong impression of Fenris and the Space Wolves already, but reading Kraken really felt like a story fitting of a Lone Wolf and the losses he'd be looking back on. As much as Kraken depicts the might of a Space Marine, showing off just how much even a single one of the defenders of the Imperium is capable of, I thought the core of the story was playing a much more tragic tune of regret, sacrifice and brotherhood. People say wolves are incredibly loyal and their howls feel like mourning, and I felt like this story mirrored that very nicely.
Interestingly, the people of Lyses, the world he delivers from the Tyranid menace, present a nice way of balancing the action-driven story. As little 'screen-time' as they had, the way they perceived the Space Wolf and compared him to the only other Marines they've seen before, the Ultramarines, made me chuckle. It made clear just how unique the sons of Russ truly are in their ways. The presence of underwater action is another unique feature in the story which I haven't mentioned yet. I don't know of even a single story in the Black Library range that dealt with Space Marines combating their foes below the surface, especially not in the depths of an ocean. I'm impressed by how smoothly the story dealt with this type of action; it gave the story a cinematic atmosphere.
All things considered, I am pleased with this story. If you're a fan of the Wolves of Fenris, I clearly recommend reading Kraken. It has been an unexpectedly touching story that sucked me in and made me feel like I, as the reader, actually had a connection to the lost members of Kvara's pack. This one really was something else, a welcome distraction from the glorious defenders of humanity. Even if you're not a die-hard Space Wolves fan, you'll most likely appreciate this one. The only thing I regret about this story would be its length, or lack thereof. I wouldn't mind it to be longer, since the final part in particular felt a bit rushed. Just a few more paragraphs and I'd have been even happier with Kraken. Nonetheless, this was the fourth time Chris Wraight has managed to capture my interest with a story, and if it wasn't for Dead Winter lying next to me, I'd pick up Battle of the Fang right away. For the time being, however, I will just relish the thought that another Space Wolves story is waiting on my shelf. It won't rest there for long now......more
Getting through this one was a breeze. It never bogged me down, no scene overstayed its welcome and before I knew it, I was getting mad at the InterneGetting through this one was a breeze. It never bogged me down, no scene overstayed its welcome and before I knew it, I was getting mad at the Internet and my Computer for throwing games and videos at me again. This was one of the few books that made me wish restarting the machine or booting up a game would take longer than it did, so I could read just another few pages...
But I digress.
The book provides a really fantastic view on the Black Dragons Chapter, from their non-Codex organization to the way they fight and the mutations they bear, but also shows the risks inherent in deviation from the Imperial norms. My knowledge about the Chapter was minimalistic at best, but the way the Dragons were presented really clicked with me.
The antagonists were fairly unique as well, not least due to their origin, and there was plenty of tension at all times. The main villain of the story is told to have a longer history with the Black Dragons, and the connection gets deepened throughout the book in various ways. Once the Dragons realized who their enemy was, he became more than just a villain covered in mystery, but an everpresent threat.
But the titlegiving Death of Antagonis marks more than just the first of many genocides the reader gets to read about; it also opens the curtain for a schism within the Black Dragons themselves. Especially in that regard did David Annandale score highly, in my opinion. He developed a very intriguing conflict between very contrasting characters, and made it the leading theme of the novel.
The book also gets you around a lot; from Antagonis itself to tiny moons and massive Hive Worlds. I might go as far as to call it the most diverse SMB novel yet, in terms of interesting locations. All locations were described tangible ways, no matter how exotic they were, without ever losing their charme.
The Death of Antagonis tells us a story about many Phyrric victories and how they wear a company of Space Marines down not only in strength of numbers but also erodes their confidence, convictions and unity of purpose. It is not just a Space Marine Battles novel, but one about sacrifice, doubts and finding one's place and role in the service of the Emperor.
The book did have some rare lines that had me scratch my head, but nothing that broke it for me in any way, or took away from my enjoyment of the story.
This novel specifically presented the bleak side of the Imperium, the hopelessness inherent in a galaxy that has never been kind to humanity, in believable ways. There are no shining victories to be found here, and faith is a limited currency. What it delivers, though, is a well-presented series of events that lead up to a satisfying, characterful climax, and a good balance between SMB-action and character interaction.
The story here presents a part of C.L. Werner's novel as a stand-alone experience.I thought Steel Blood was a nice teaser for The Siege of Castellax.
The story here presents a part of C.L. Werner's novel as a stand-alone experience. It focuses on Over-Captain Vallax (written Valax in the short story) and Fabricator Oriax, and adds a few more scenes to one crucial mission of Vallax's raptors as seen in The Siege of Castellax.
This short story was written as part of Werner's preparation for the full novel, as he explained in a blog back when this story was released. It was nice to see the concept of these events having been in his head from very early on, and a lot of them was directly used in the novel, with some minor details changed around (Vallax's name, Rhoodan's rank and so on).
As a stand-alone Iron Warriors short story it worked well, though not as well as it did in context of the full Siege. Being an early concept story, it has some rough edges and lacks the significant depth of the characters, but it was a good read nonetheless.
If you have an interest in The Siege of Castellax, this might win you over. But if you have read the novel, you may want to skip this, as it has little new to provide....more
The Siege of Castellax is undoubtedly a bad boy of a book.
Not because it is bad, but because it features the BEST depiction of Chaos Space Marines I hThe Siege of Castellax is undoubtedly a bad boy of a book.
Not because it is bad, but because it features the BEST depiction of Chaos Space Marines I have seen in years! (view spoiler)[Hold your butts, Night Lords fans... (hide spoiler)]
The Iron Warriors are bad, rotten to the core of their very being. Not a single chapter will make you doubt that these Space Marines are anything but traitorous bad guys, even if they are pitched against an alien species that revels in crude, brutal savagery, with the Orks.
Yet still, even though the book heaps "evil" characters upon the reader from very early on (the command structure of the Third Grand Company of the Iron Warriors on Castellax is quite extensive!), C.L. Werner really kicked it out of the park in terms of scale, action and intrigue.
You cannot help but root for Captain Rhodaan, the Iron Warrior the book focuses on the most. Even then, however, you will still find it in you to cheer for his bitter rival, Over-Captain Vallax, or the rebel uprising in the underground of the world. There are a lot of things going on in this book, and none of them failed to catch my interest.
This book is grim, very grim. If you have a faint heart, I may suggest being careful about picking this one up. Werner managed to one-up even the most cruel stories in Black Library's arsenal.
Some of those cruelties are fairly straightforward, like Skintaker Algol's habit of stitching nice cloaks out of the skin of human slaves. Others will serve as twists and turns throughout the book - and just when you think things may start to look up for the Flesh, the human slave population and military in the IW's service, the author will take the book and smack it around your head with the next big showcase of the sheer inhumanity of the Space Marines.
And even with the way the Iron Warriors cling to their honour and loyalty to the Legion, their internal rivalries will provide you with constant tension throughout the book. A knife in the back would be gentle, considering what happens in this novel!
It is an eventful ride, from start to finish. C.L. Werner, in my mind, almost perfected writing (40k) Iron Warriors here.
The way he spinned the Legion's mantra "Iron Within, Iron Without!" into the story felt very natural, providing character and conflict in equal measure. The story even deals with Obliterators in a more reasonable way than I have read anywhere else before, giving them motivation and character rather than showing them as mindless killing machines.
Even the human janissaries and slaves, as well as techpriests and Orks, felt so believable and relatable (well, maybe not the Orks..), it boggles my mind that this was the author's first full-length Warhammer 40,000 novel.
However, there are some things I did not quite like, or thought didn't get as much attention as they would have deserved. Nitpicks, more than anything.
One of them, a quite obvious thing, I feel, are the Chapters' timeframes. Each chapter begins with a short note ala "I–Day Plus One Hundred and Four", to put the content into relation to the duration of the Siege of Castellax. It drags out, as things tend to do with Orks. However, I often found myself wondering what happened in the weeks, or even months, between those chapter points. At times a chapter would flow neatly into the next, implying weeks have passed throughout the chapter's progress.
A few more notes could have offset this confusion, I feel. As well as the story flows, I did not really pay any attention to the exact dates given after a while, and just checked occassionally. So, the good thing is that they are not necessary to enjoy or understand the story. But resulting from that, they did not add as much as I hoped they would. A bit of wasted potential right there, though it did not let the book down.
Another thing I would like to see expanded upon is the fate of Admiral Nostraz, who was brushed over in the later parts of the book. Considering his and Skylord Morax's rivalry throughout the first half of the book, I felt a bit disappointed that it was handled like this. However, there are certain implications made in the book - it is just that we were never shown what actually happened.
In general, I feel C.L. Werner could get even MORE out of the Third Grand Company as it stands right now. There are certain hooks in the novel that would make a sequel story, maybe a novella, very appealing. Some things could be expanded upon via short stories (which has happened before, with his Steel Blood), thanks to the well-constructed character dynamics throughout the novel.