Some people may think I am one of those uptight readers that only loves great classics of the fantasy genre. Some other may think that for me there exists only Tolkien and Martin and their great classics. Even those old writers lie Lovecraft adn so on seem to be my only favourites. Now, I must accept that it is quite the contrary. I love exploring “bad” writers, people who write for specific universes or based on certain games, with no hope of ever making a real New York Times bestseller with that novel.
I read most of the Dragonlance novels. Or better said, I ate them up. Now, my new obsession for obscure books has taken me on the road of the Warhamer 40.000 universe. I already knew the game since long and, with it, broad parts of its universe. I just had not read anything around it. I must say that, up to now, I am pleased with the results.
Now, I usually don’t like to talk much about those books, since most of the people don’t even know what WH 40K is. But then again, I found a specially good one. It is part of a series called “The Horus Heresy”, which I have come to like a lot. The book I am reviewing is Fear to Tread by James Swallow. Be fairly warned: most of you will not be interested in its contents. I usually would recommend the book only to those who would understand if I mention the following words: Primarch, Ceramite, Servitors, Augurs and Khorne. If none of those do ring a bell in you and make sense together, then you maybe will hate this book after page 20.
The novel in itself has a great atmosphere in its first half. Even though a veteran player of the tabletop game may already know how the Chaos armies work, the author manages to maintain an ambiance of mystery. Much of the text revolves around the meeting of an unknown enemy with the Blood Angels, the Space Marine chapter with a great rage issue. Even though the warriors are super strong and almost invincible, when facing the forces of the Warp the first time, they really have trouble understanding what they are facing. The whole situation and the way it is told creates the necessary tension, so the reader really believes the total ignorance of the Emperor’s elite.
The last battle though, is very long and follows a standard telling of many engagements. It is interesting, specially when the whole chapter turns beserk and starts killing each living being they can find. Tragic is the fall of the Primarch, Sanguinius, who at the end wakes up to save the day. The enemies were also quite effective. specially the appearance of the unholy fortress at the middle of the novel really makes the reader’s guts wrench… once you discover what it is made of.
Many moments surprise are to be found. The destruction of a planet, a city that turns into a living being and so on made me really want to read on to see how the Space Marines could solve such a tight situation. The ending, though, was not that surprising anymore. I won’t spoil the ending, but the fallen angel won’t be the one the writer expects you to believe. It was more like a typical clichéd ending of sacrifice which made the story end a bit bland, but in a consistent manner.
In a whole, I must say that this is my favourite Warhammer 40.000 novel so far. It has an excellent storyline and a great atmosphere that makes you forget what you already know about the game. A definitive must read for those who play the games!
May they smile upon your way!