Category Archives: Space Marines

Showcasing Sam: The Dark Millennium

When I first got into the hobby one of my biggest inspirations came from my friend Sam, already something of a veteran and a painter of no mean skill. All these years later and he’s pretty much hung up his brushes (the demands of being a responsible adult – I’m told – comes for the best of us in the end). What he’s left with is a cupboard full of beautifully painted miniatures and, after visiting him recently, I couldn’t resist getting some photos so I could show them off to you. In the end I turned up so much cool stuff I’ve split the blog into two parts – expect to see the fantasy half soon. I should also mention that Sam has a blog and, although it’s been distinctly quiet over there lately, it’s well worth taking a look at. Who knows, if we drop enough hints we might even coax him out of retirement. He also passed me on a few of his unpainted models which I’ll be attempting to do justice to, so keep an eye out for them in the future as well.

As usual if you want to get a better look at any of the pictures, just click on them.

Njal Stormcaller
As I’ve mentioned before I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Space Wolves. Njal Stormcaller however remains very firmly in the “cool” camp through his combination of shamanic trappings, psyber-raven familiar and fierce control over the furious Fenrisian elements. Sam’s really brought out the rich colour of his armour, from the hearth-warmth of his shoulderpads to the frosty wolf-grey of his rune-carved greaves. The wolf pelt is also, in my opinion, about as close to perfect as you can get, and the unnatural glow of its dead eyes is a brilliant touch. All in all, one of my favourite of his models – even against stiff competition.Marneus Calgar
Marneus Calgar – the Chapter Master of the Ultramarines and one of the most powerful men in the galaxy. Not my favourite incarnation of him to be honest, compared to the version accompanied by the honour guard this one is really showing it’s age. The model always looks a little squat (by which I don’t mean to imply that he’s actually a space-dwarf – although that would be twist to the 40k story wouldn’t it?). Nonetheless I rather like how he’s been painted, goes to show that a decent paint job can make a world of difference to any model. The ice effect on the base really adds to the model as well.

Trygon
The world of 40k is not all about the Space Marines though (in spite of what you may have heard!) The Great Devourer is tearing its way into the galaxy and though my opinion of the Tyranid miniatures range is mixed there’s no denying the Trygon is an absolute beast. Sam’s painted this one in the colours of Hive Fleet Kraken. Of the three main Hive Fleets I’ve always felt Kraken’s scheme to be the most organic and believable. I want my Tyranids to look like real animals and there’s definitely something reminiscent of a giant centipede about this model.

I’ll admit that, as hinted above, I have something of an ulterior motive here – to encourage Sam to pick up his brushes again. After all, as his friend, I know what’s best for him far more than he does! If you agree with me pop a comment in the box below – and just wait until I’ve sorted out the photos of his fantasy miniatures!


Ransacking the Archives

It sees my lack of fidelity to a single god is a crime from which I must now atone. Having failed to serve Nurgle faithfully he has struck me down with a particularly virulent sickness of the cold/flu/lie around feeling naff variety. Sadly this has made painting and modelling somewhat nonexistent.

Never mind, the show must go on! Whilst visiting my parents over Christmas I found a few old models tucked away that I don’t think I’ve shown before and I thought might be of interest. Before we take a look at them however let me add a quick caveat. These aren’t the best models I’ve made but maybe there are some ideas in here that could be salvaged for future schemes, or which might inspire one of you at some point? Who knows? Either way perhaps if the ideas are shared something might come of them in the future – and if they aren’t at least it fills in the time until I’m recovered!

First off here’s a Space Marine I put together when playing around with ideas for a new chapter.





Overall I’m still rather pleased with him, especially as he’s quite old now. I don’t find gold an easy colour to work with (so quite why I chose it who can say?) and with a critical eye the antlers look a little bit big. He also lacks a backpack (a cardinal sin!) but I couldn’t work out how to attach it without fouling the cloak (which I reckon is probably the best bit of the model). Mostly though he seems a little small. I’m not a true-scaler (total respect to the guys who do that but I’ve never had that much commitment to Space Marines) but I have at times wondered about resurrecting this guy’s chapter (perhaps without quite so much obvious Blood Angels iconography), writing some background for them, and putting together a few ‘actual size’ Space Marines based off this idea. Of course, if I ever did try anything like this, I’d need to create a few chapter thralls to accompany them – which brings us to this second model.


I’m not sure that he holds up as well as the Space Marine does, although there are still elements about him I like. The Bretonnian hooded peasant heads always add an element of rustic grime to Imperial serfs and the banner has held up well. Sadly for him however he was built in the dark ages before the release of the Skitarii when pretty much the only human sized bionics came from ancient (even then) Necron warriors. At the time I also thought I was really pushing the boat out using an Ork axe to make a backpack. Again though I feel there are good ideas here, it’s just that my ability to execute them hadn’t really developed yet. In my defence I was also working with a considerably reduced pallet of bits compared to what’s available now. Certainly were I to attempt this now I think it would be a fairly straightforward model to create, so perhaps there will be a life after death for him after all.

Anyway, hopefully you enjoyed this little look into the archives. All being well, or more specifically me being well, there should be some traitor guard headed this way soon. In the meantime comments are always welcome.


Wake Up Dead

Here we go with Part 3 of this little foray into the archives of my Space Marine collection. Something new next time I promise!
Anyway, (somewhat inspired by all the undead activity going on at the moment thanks to the return of Nagash to Warhammer) this time it’s the turn of the Legion of the Damned. I’m something of a fan of 40K’s most mysterious Space Marines (that’s right, even more than the Dark Angels). Who doesn’t love ghostly warriors returning to fight alongside their brothers once more, then vanishing like smoke when the battle is done? Of course the true nature of the Legion of the Damned is anyone’s guess (my suggestion is the ghosts of warriors from the Great Crusade/Heresy era – after all they’re not called the Chapter of the Damned now are they? Maybe even the spirits of those warriors betrayed to their deaths in the Isstvan system). Wherever they come from it got me thinking about how my Hawkmoths chapter, desperately short of allies, might find their numbers bolstered by the spirits of the battle brothers Kell and his traitors slaughtered, returning in search of vengeance.
Here’s the sergeant in charge of the squad.
space-marine-convert-or-die-14To many it seems that these ghostly warriors share a connection to Librarian Numitor, often manifesting in battles where he is present and lingering around him as they are drawn back into the shadows. Some suggest that the enigmatic librarian has found some way to tap into the psychic need of his chapter to enact revenge, and by this means has allowed his dead brothers to resume their physical form, albeit only temporarily. Yet if this is true then the tainted dead crave vengeance even more so than their living comrades and hunger restlessly in the Immaterium, begging, commanding and cajoling by turns, scratching constantly at the psychic barriers the Librarian has erected between his mind and the Warp.
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space-marine-convert-or-die-10Here’s a ‘rear view’ of the models showing the spinal forms growing through their powerarmour.
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Long term I have a pipe dream of making a whole army of undead Space Marines, complete with some kind of Vampire Lord as a Chaptermaster, ghostly Librarians projecting their spirits from the Warp, and only the Dreadnaughts “alive”, still guiding their chapter from beyond the grave (although this ambition may have to wait until I’m old, decadent and rich). Additionally, although regular readers of the blog will know I rather enjoy painting Plague Marines it was a nice change of pace to try some zombie Space Marines without the influence of Papa Nurgle.
Another idea, linked to the above, came to me when I read the piece in the Legion of the Damned Codex describing the belief held by Inquisitor Quixos that the Legion were the Emperor’s will taking form on the physical plane, in exactly the same way as the daemons of chaos are the manifest will of their patron god. The piece suggested that just as, for example, Khorne’s servants range from bloodletters through to mighty bloodthristers, so there might be larger and more powerful entities in the Emperor’s pantheon of servants waiting to be discovered. I don’t know if I’ll try it but I thought this could be a rather fun project to pursue, perhaps creating a small strike force of Grey Knights to represent these Engels Mortis.

So what do you think? Are they the Emperor’s will made manifest or should I be burned for allowing noble warriors to consort with these dark spirits? Make your feelings known in the comments box below!


War is My Shepherd

Following the Librarian in the last post here’s another Space Marine ‘from the archives’; Chaplain Germanus. This project came at roughly the peak of my sculpting endeavours. After this, perhaps emboldened by these successes, I tried increasingly adventurous projects, over-reached myself, and retreated. For a while I instead chose the somewhat cowardly get-out that I was good at kitbashing but couldn’t sculpt. Obviously this is grossly unfair – my first efforts at painting were sloppy and my early kitbashes were regularly awkward and odd looking so it was hardly surprising that my initial attempts at working with greenstuff often turned out a little rough around the edges. Anyway, I’m trying to get back into using greenstuff a little more now so this seemed like a good moment to show this model, especially as it remains one that I’m rather proud of.
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Rather than re-invent the wheel I’ll not try to explain how I made the skull helm, instead I’ll point you at the tutorial I followed over at the much missed From the Warp. For those of you not familiar with From the Warp (where have you been?!) it was an extremely useful and inspiring blog, full to bursting with helpful tutorials. Personally I most enjoyed the way in which complicated tutorials like the skull helm were presented as straightforward and achievable so that even a beginner like myself could look at them and think “I could do that”. Sadly From the Warp hasn’t been updated in some time but it’s still well worth a trawl through the archives.
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I made the long oath scrolls from paper (thick paper or card works best for this, nothing too glossy or thin). Add a dab of superglue and let the paper wick it up, once it dries the paper will become stiff. Then just glue it in place and add a blob of greenstuff to make the wax seal.
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space-marine-chaplain-convert-or-die-3Here’s a couple of work-in-progress images showing how the model developed. I don’t often show these, not because I don’t like them – I think they’re great and often really useful – but because I tend to get wired straight into painting and then realise part way through (usually before the highlights and details start to go on when the model looks unsavably awful) that I forgot to take any pictures.
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Finally here’s a few other things I’ve worked on recently for the Hawkmoths. The Watcher in the Dark may be a real Dark Angel’s staple (and given their background it’s hard to say why one would be associated with the Hawkmoths) but they’re just too cool not to paint one. Perhaps it’s something to do with Cypher
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Facing What Consumes You

I have a little bit of a backlog of miniatures I finished prior to starting this blog that I want to show off, so whilst I’m busy painting, converting and – believe it or not – handling the other matters of daily life that don’t relate directly to tiny plastic warriors, I’ll keep the ball rolling with a few from the archive. First off we have this Librarian; Numitor of the Hawkmoths.
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space-marine-librarian-convert-or-die-2Back when I built him we didn’t have the Sternguard kit, which has since proved to be a fantastic resource for creating grandiose marines. The Dark Angels veterans kit however provided a solid base model, the flowing robes and hooded head being perfect for a Librarian. The Space Wolf backpack offered a built-in servo-familiar. I imagine that the book contains records of the Chapter proving their history of loyalty and strength in the face of the Warp, a potent psychological weapon against the Beasts of Ruin who despise their own past as faithful servants of humanity. It’s also my way of including a visual suggestion that, although the Hawkmoths have lost much of what once made them such potent heroes of the Imperium, Librarian Numitor still serves as a custodian of their honour and – through his caring for their archives – provides a physical link to their valorous history. Of course, as both a psyker and a scholar Numitor probably understands Kell better than any other loyal member of the Hawkmoths and whatever ancient secret drove him to make his pact with Chaos Numitor will discover it soon enough.
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space-marine-librarian-convert-or-die-3Some of you may be throwing your hands up in horror to see a Librarian without blue armour. In my mind this is quite in keeping with the background of my chapter – although the Codex Astartes is quite strict on the matter the Hawkmoths never held rigidly to the edicts of the Codex anyway. Indeed in many ways their doctrines diverged wildly from Guilliman’s teachings, and this has only increased since the treachery of their brothers shattered their chapter.
Of course this is really just an excuse – as in my personal view a blue armoured librarian looks out of place in an army the main colour of which falls on a radically different part of the colour spectrum – such as the red of the Hawkmoths for instance. He looks like a representative of a different army, specifically a token Ultramarine. Likewise a techmarine in red armour looks jarring amongst their all blue ranks. Not so a black armoured chaplain whose muted armour blends in no matter the colours worn by his brothers. Turns out a preacher in black with a skull for a face looks bad-ass wherever he goes, which as it happens, will be the subject of my next post…


Last of the Free

Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion… Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace
Calgacus “the Swordsman”, describing the Roman Empire, as quoted by Tacitus in the Agricola.

So, at last – after rattling on about it for ages now – Kallamoon Kell is finished. Needless to say I’m rather excited. Not only is Kell the warlord of my chaos army but the completion of the model brings to a close a project I started long ago, and which has seen plenty of ups and downs to get this far. I’ll start by talking a bit about his rival, Chapter Master Calgacus of the Hawkmoths, and hopefully upload a post on Kell later in the week.
As I’ve mentioned before one of the key narrative elements that fuels my interest in my Space Marine and Chaos Space Marine collections is the idea of a brotherhood torn apart. It’s the cornerstone of some of the finest storytelling to emerge from the Warhammer 40k background – particularly the Horus Heresy and the Badab War. More than simply the metaphorical or spiritual brotherhood that unites all Space Marines in the Emperor’s service I went for a far more personal conflict, a single chapter divided into bitter enmity. I especially wanted to capture this in the leaders of the two factions, creating two individuals who would be the focus of this background – a pair of characters once united by common cause but now sworn to the destruction of the other. On the one hand we would have Kallamoon Kell, a rising lord of chaos who led his brother space marines into rebellion and torn his chapter apart, and on the other we have Calgacus, the Chapter Master of the surviving loyalists, dedicated to hunting him down and seeing vengeance enacted.
Starting this project approximately three years ago I built and painted the first incarnations of my two central characters. Here’s Chapter Master Calgacus (version 1).
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space-marine-convert-or-die-6And here’s the first incarnation of Kell.
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chaos-lord-convert-or-die-6Of course it’s easy, retrospectively, to pick holes in both of these models. Calgacus V.1 especially was a project which I struggled with, losing faith in it part way through. To my eye it shows in the finished miniature. Attaching the shield was a real nightmare and the tarnished gold of the armour proved to be a series of headaches that left me relieved rather than proud when I finally stuck him on the shelf.
There are some elements I’m rather proud of, for one the skeletal servitor mounted on the top of his armour which always strikes me as the epitome of decaying Imperial arrogance (and is something I’d like to replicate elsewhere – possible as a gun servitor on a tank).
Kell V.1 meanwhile is workmanlike, fit for purpose in my eyes but hardly the tyrant of nightmares I had envisioned. Also, there’s something distinctly Khornate about him (just look at his helmet) which didn’t fit with the vibe I was looking for; a lord grudgingly respected by all four gods. Thus Kell V.1 was demoted, becoming Avar the Twisted, champion of my Terminator squad The Blessed Slaughter. Meanwhile Calgacus V.1 was retired to the shelf and I started work on new versions of both.

In both cases I now had a much clearer image in mind of what I was looking for, a model in keeping with the background I imagined. In the case of Calgacus I wanted a real “working man’s” Chapter Master, not the enthroned master of worlds but a space marine first and foremost, someone unafraid to get stuck in at the speartip of the most gruelling and brutal assaults. I also decided that the Hawkmoth’s Chapter Master had been killed during Kell’s betrayal, thus leaving the field open for a new man to lead a transformed chapter. From being relatively static guardians of territory the Hawkmoths have reinvented themselves as a fast moving, fleet-based strike force, with tactics reminiscent of the Minotaurs, Carcharodons or even pre-Heresy Night Lords. The first step in that rebuilding process must have been the selection of a new Chapter Master. The field however would have been limited, with most of the prime candidates either turned traitor or slain. Thus they would have been forced to select a candidate who, although in keeping with the ruthless, vengeance hungry mood of the time might in another era have been considered less than stable. Enter the pugnacious Calgacus, a fearsome yet loyal wardog of the Imperium.
space-marine-chapter-master-convert-or-die-2To reinforce the idea that this is a man who’s fought at the forefront of numerous battles (and has the scars and cybernetic reconstruction to prove it) I gave him what must be my favourite Space Marine head of all time. With half his skull (and doubtless some of his brain) replaced by a bionic substitute he’s hardly likely to be the most calm and easy-going individual but I’d say it’s a safe bet that he’s handy in a fight. Suffice to say I’m much happier with this version.
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space-marine-chapter-master-convert-or-die-4In my efforts to imagine his background he has come to be representative of his chapter as a whole. His ruthless brutality in battle and black, blood-thirsty rages at other times have led many to believe he is unhinged, and as dangerous to the Imperium he is sworn to protect as Kell himself. As a result his is a fairly dark reputation, though whether the butchery he is responsible for is a result of calculated brutality or berserk rage remains a contested issue. Nevertheless his merciless wrath may be just what the Hawkmoth’s chapter requires for many have slipped into bleak fury since their betrayal and each time Calgacus has dispatched his Death’s Heads to hunt them down and bring back their bones. For those few amongst the Holy Ordos who have tracked the near renegade Hawkmoths into the deep void his methods may be distasteful but, with the Imperium crumbling, they accept that – for now – this baleful and secretive chapter and its rapacious master may be an ally they cannot do without.


Tales of Heresy – Part One

Around the same time that I created this blog I decided, after years of scepticism, to try reading the Black Library’s Horus Heresy series. I’d tried dipping in to the Black Library’s cannon before but had been put off by a few crudely written pieces, all of which ran along the lines of “the heroic Space Marine ducked low and spun right, scything down another thousand enemies with a single sweep of his manly chin”. Anyway, I decided to put my bias behind me and read The First Heretic, mainly because the cover looked awesome. To my pleasant surprise the contents were even better. Thus hooked I started to work my way through the rest. I’ll try to review them here without including spoilers but, as everyone’s definition of what that entails varies, you may wish to skip to the end where I’ve included a brief summary.
Horus RisingThere’s already been a great deal said singing the praises of the opening trilogy (quite rightly) so I won’t spend too much time rehashing it here. I’ve also harped on quite a lot about the qualities of Wolf of Ash and Fire (the novella prequel to the series) – again, if you’ve not reading it’s not for the want of me telling you to.
In spite of the perceived importance of the Heresy as 40ks ‘genesis story’, setting up the universe in which the game is set and the historical events that shaped it, the series remains founded in character driven – rather than world driven – storytelling. The divisions within the Mournival (the council of four Captains that forms the ‘conscience’ of Horus’s legion) providing a superb setting for revealing the wider divisions within the legion. Just as in reality this split is never as clear cut as idealists would like us to believe and so we are shown a full spectrum of loyalties, between Loken (utterly loyal to the Emperor and the original ideals of the Great Crusade) and Abaddon (equally loyal to his primarch). The key, of course, is that each is devoted, beyond all else, to his legion – yet each holds a very different idea of what the legion stands for.
Critics have also accused Horus of transforming from an all-round nice guy into a murderous maniac in the blink of an eye – and all because Erebus says “You can’t trust your dad. Looks, some notoriously untrustworthy daemons agree with me”. Leaving aside the fact that this “overnight transformation” actually takes the best part of three books, the accusation remains unfair. Throughout the books so far Horus is shown to be a passionate and mercurial character, both before and after his rebellion. When he decides he likes someone (for example when Loken joins the Mournival) he quickly takes them into his confidence. When he decided he does not like them their expulsion, isolation or death is similarly rapid. The peace talks with the interex and their subsequent collapse, demonstrate this perfectly – once Horus has decided that an individual or group are his enemies he does not hesitate to turn on them, regardless of their previous relationship. Thus Horus does not “suddenly become a villain”, rather he suddenly comes to see Loken and his comrades as his enemies and – having done so – is as ruthless in his campaign against them as he is against any other enemy.
Following on from this opening set is Flight of the Eisenstein, a book which to me suffers a little from being “the forth in the trilogy”. Overall though it’s a solid and enjoyable read (and could certainly teach Battle for the Abyss a trick or two, but I’ll come to that). My only real complaint is that of the four Isstvan III legions it’s the Death Guard we see the least of, and as a result know the least about. Flight of the Eisenstein should have been the book to set that right but in the end we get glimpses into the nature of the legion (the ritual consumption of poison for example) but never feel fully immersed. Using Garro as the leading character should have been perfect for this, in many ways he’s an outsider in his own legion, a Terran in an army now drawn from the strange, toxic world of Barbarus, a dinosaur who has lived to see the Dusk Raiders transformed and renamed by the arrival of the Death Lord Mortarion. Instead the book concentrates on setting up the future chapters of the Garro story (and the story of the Death Guard – the foreshadowing of Nurgle’s influence is excellent). In spite of this gripe I’m interested in exploring the further chapters of Garro’s story and discovering his eventual fate (many people seem to think he’ll become one of the first Grey Knights although I believe James Swallow has already said this won’t be the case. Frankly I’m inclined to think he’ll be reunited with his decomposing comrades in Papa Nurgle’s service, as suggested in The Lost and the Damned, but maybe that’s just the devilish cynic in me).
FulgrimFulgrim is a solid enough read, charting the tragic fall from grace of one of the Emperor’s most favoured sons. The deus ex machina element of Fulgrim’s decent into madness is arguably a little unnecessary as his own relentless drive to perfection in all things would have sent him and his legion into a downward spiral without any daemonic influence, although the hideous talking portrait of the primarch certainly makes for disturbing and well executed scenes. My main criticism is that there were rather a lot of characters from the Emperor’s Children, each going spectacularly batty in their own ways, and I struggled to keep track of which was which. Fewer characters, developed in greater depth, would have added to the impact of the inevitable tragedy. I would have liked to see more of Ferrus Manus, and the pre- Isstvan V Iron Hands as well, this being essentially our last chance to get to grips with one of the largest and most powerful legions of the Great Crusade.
Speaking of tragedies the Dropsite Massacre is portrayed as powerfully as ever and as a reader you find yourself begging characters from both sides of the conflict not to step into this bloody arena. Even more so than the betrayal at Isstvan III this is the abiding, heartbreaking calamity of the series, perhaps the crux moment of the 40k universe overall, and we are spared none of its impact.poster-descent-of-angelsDescent of Angels is another cracker, seamlessly blending fantasy and sci-fi elements into a cohesive, fully-realised whole. Telling the story of the knights of Caliban prior to the arrival of the Emperor it serves as a valuable first chapter in the story of the Dark Angel’s legion. Of course, this being the Dark Angels, it leaves the reader with more questions than answers, but manages to do so in a way that keeps you gripped and guessing, rather than seeming smugly self-satisfied. If medieval knights in rudimentary power-armour fighting ecologically impossible beasts in a vast, improbably dark and dangerous forest doesn’t sound too contrived to you then I’d highly recommend this one.

The Dark King is a good read, especially for those like myself who’re fans of the Night Lords. However it’s The Lightning Tower that really shines here, an exceptional piece of character driven storytelling based around some remarkably simple props.

There’s not a lot I can tell you about Legion apart from “read it”. Read it, then burn it, then eat the ashes and await further instructions. I’m Alpharius.

On a side note, not about the book but about the Alpha Legion themselves, does anyone know why they brand the hydra mark onto their agents? For a legion which places such importance on secrecy and deception this seems rather counterproductive. If anyone knows the answer, or has a good idea, pop it in the comments box below.
poster-battle-for-the-abyssUnfortunately Legion (one of the best of this opening set) is followed immediately by Battle for the Abyss (easily the worst by a considerable margin). This is especially unfortunate as the premise is excellent, the desperate pursuit of the vast traitor vessel through the troubled warp by a much smaller loyalist ship, whilst the disparate crew turn upon one another and daemonic entities sneak aboard and wreak havoc in the darkness (think Hunt for Red October meets Alien and you’ll have a good idea of what this book could so easily have been – that is to say; magnificent). There are plenty of moments where the tension could have been ratcheted up to breaking point (as storms threaten to swallow the plucky ship Wrathful and dead crewmen come crawling back to murderous life). All too often however these are skipped over in the space of a few sentences, or turn rapidly into fast-paced, low tension, shooting matches.
Fans of the English language should also avoid this book as the torrent of superfluous description and crudely assembled sentences kills any drama before it gets the chance to take root.
The cast of characters however is perhaps the most disappointing missed opportunity of all. Here was an opportunity to see the Heresy in microcosm, with legions from both sides of the divide crammed together to battle a common enemy in the cramped corridors of a single ship. This was a chance for the disparate characters of those legions to be explored to the full, with characters from the Ultramarines, Space Wolves, World Eaters and Thousand Sons uniting in the hunt for the Word Bearer vessel. None, however, are given the opportunity to fully develop. Take Skraal the World Eater for example. He’s a ruthless killer, a driven and unrelenting warrior with little time for doubts about the necessity of his actions. How does he feel then about threatening the success of his mission by getting distracted and slaughtering civilians in a blind rage? Surely even if he cares nothing at all for the loss of life a “living weapon” such as himself must suffer some self doubt about putting the mission in jeopardy? What about his erstwhile allies? How do they feel about having a representative of a shunned and feared legion in their midst? By this stage in the crusade rumours were already circulating widely that Angron’s entire legion were mad. Surely living in close proximity to Skraal can’t have done anything to alleviate such suspicions amongst the others. Having this savage psychopath on the side of the heroes should have opened up all kinds of moral complexities and quandaries, especially when compared to the “villains” – the bookish, scholarly Word Bearers (more on them in a moment). Instead we’re shown a character who gets angry a lot. And that’s it.
The rest of the cast come across equally poorly. The Ultramarines are wooden and generally indistinguishable (and their vaunted tactical genius comes down to “follow that ship!”). Brynngar the Space Wolf comes across as an idiot, a drunken bumbling fool who doesn’t give a damn about the deaths of his many faceless Bloodclaws (and if I read the word “feral” one more time I may end up as mad as Skraal). What a shame that the role of the Wolves as the Emperor’s headsmen is so utterly overlooked. The thought of fighting other space marines may be uncomfortable to most of the loyalist cast, but to Brynngar it might well be all too familiar. And what would have happened had Mhotep of the Thousand Sons received a message from his brothers, telling him what the Wolves had done on Propero in his absence?
Similarly it would have been interesting to see the shared history of the Word Bearers and Ultramarines incorporated further. It hardly seems radical to have made Cestus – the lead Ultramarine character – one of the warriors sent to destroy Monarchia when the Word Bearers were first shamed. Would he feel guilt now about having set them on their current path or would he feel validated by their betrayal?
And so it goes on, as the unique opportunity provided by this book to get under the skin of each of the represented legions fails to materialise. A special mention needs to be reserved for Kor Phaeron who comes across as the most determinedly clichéd villain imaginable. By the end I was honestly expecting him to announce his arrival at Calth by saying something like “No Mr Guilliman, I expect you to die” whilst gunning down henchmen for their perceived failures. Where is the bitter half-astartes who knows he has wasted his life in the service of a lie, the old man rebuilt to become the thing he most desired to be, yet never truly could – a space marine? Where is the iron willed warrior whose influence curbed Lorgar’s more mercurial elements?
I admit I only skim read the final few chapters as the only pleasure I was deriving from the book was trying to guess what clichéd thing the characters would say or do next (unfortunately, I was usually right – when a daemon addresses someone as “Puny human” before going on to exclaim that they cannot be defeated it’s never a good sign).

Anyway, next up its Mechanicum which, given that it features my favourite Imperial faction (the clue is in the title) and is written by Graham McNeill (who knows his way around a sentence like a fiend) should be a step back in the right direction.

As promised, here’s the summery:
Read ‘em now! – Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames, Descent of Angels, The Dark King/The Lightning Tower, Legion
Decent entertainment – Flight of the Eisenstein, Fulgrim,
Don’t bother. Really. Look up the synopsis online, then get on with better things – Battle for the Abyss.

So what did you think? Was the plot of Fulgrim as thin as his talking portrait? Did Battle for the Abyss keep you gripped until the very last page? Should Horus have told Erebus “I could read you like book” (yeah, that was a joke about his tattoos – suck it up!). If you have an opinion the comments box below is the place for you. Otherwise, consider this, the time you spent reading this you could have spent reading Wolf of Ash and Fire. So thanks, your decision to choose me over Graham McNeill means a lot.

All images copyright Games Workshop.