I’ve been enjoying the W40K books and stories I’ve read this year and although I’m always wanting to pick up more and more, I’m still daunted by the sheer number of novels out there. So, I picked up Emperor’s Mercy because it sounded like a good stand alone novel in the Warhammer 40K universe and luckily it was exactly the sort of book I needed to read as it gives a relative newcomer the chance to take in the little details without being overwhelmed. That isn’t to say that it lacks the full flavoured history the Warhammer enjoys, it just does it in a positive and accessible way.
The first thing I’ll say about Emperor’s Mercy is that Henry Zou knows how to write a story of war. The battle scenes are immense and so well described I had clear visions of what was going on at the time, who was doing what and just how the battle was unfolding. I’d definitely say that although there is a story going on within these pages, the strongest point is this descriptiveness and the battles, fights and skirmishes present throughout.
I can’t ignore that story behind this layer of war, a search for the ancient Old Kings of Medina, a myth in themselves, that have untold destructive power to those that possess them. We also have the political side behind the war – the quest of Inquisitor Roth to find out if the Chaos forces know of the Old Kings and if it is their mission to find them and his difficulty with the commander of the fleet. This step back from the warfare on the ground is a pleasant and refreshing change that adds so much more depth to the novel. What could quite easily have been a solid war story is raised up a level by having a well constructed and interesting story behind it.
Emperor’s Mercy has its good points and its bad points: the battles. While what I said earlier stands true, it also means that a majority of the book is taken up by them. If you like this then there is no problem at all, but I did find myself wanting more time away from the fighting to enjoy the characters more. Although this is a personal preference I can’t recommend it without this reservation. However, in the end I did enjoy Emperor’s Mercy and I look forward to seeing what else Henry Zou gives us in the future.