This anthology features an Ultramarines series tie–in by Graham McNeill featuring the Iron Warrior Honsou, a prequel story to the forthcoming Salamander series by Nick Kyme, a tie–in to the new Imperial Fists series by Chris Roberson and all–new Deathwatch and Night Lords stories, setting the stars ablaze with the fury of the Space Marines.
The Skull Harvest, Graham McNeill – 9/10
A great start to the collection with the Skull Harvest, an event that pits warriors against each other, the winner claiming the legions of warriors left over from their fallen commanders. Any story that starts off with punch that knocks a head off is one that I know I’m going to enjoy. Not only that, but it sets the bar for the rest of the stories.
Gauntlet Run, Chris Roberson – 9/10
This one is just as good, but different enough to make it enjoyable. With a squad on their bikes searching the land for the orc army that has landed on the planet, they find trouble in a squad of equally lethal orcs that want nothing more than to destroy them, or back them into a corner to finish off at their whim. Great descriptiveness in this story and for such a fast paced narrative it really works well. Plus the twist put a smile on my face.
Renegades, Gav Thorpe – 8/10
A squad that find themselves in an unwinnable situation are faced with some choices on how to proceed. With it being their punishment for a previous mistake they are limited in their options, but when you have your back against the wall. Some good stuff here that focuses on the characters and choices made rather than balls-to-the-wall action.
Honour Among Fiends, Dylan Owen – 6/10
A good story, focusing more on the hunt for one man by the Black Legion, but with a twist int he tail. Overall not bad, but a little more difficult to follow for a W4oK newbie.
Fires of War, Nick Kyme – 6/10
A simple task of freeing a city from rebellion by the mysterious cult that has risen turns difficult. This is the longest story in the collection and is a prequel to an upcoming series, but it just didn’t hit the spot fully for me. I guess this was another that suffered because of newbieitiss, but some stunning scenes nonetheless!
The Labyrinth, Richard Ford – 7/10
I liked this story of volunteers to brave the Labyrinth, only the bravest and fiercest of warriors prevailing at the end. Some of the motives were pretty good and this played out nicely (if not a little obviously) by the end of the story. There were also some other little bits that could have been put across better, but all in all it was a good, quick and fun read – exactly the sort that I was expecting from this collection.
Headhunted, Steve Parker – 9/10
An excellent short story about a covert operation on an Orc ship. The action come shard and fast and the squad work together to complete their mission. Easily one of the best in the collection with vivid descriptions and characters I’d like to read about.
And They Shall Know No Fear, Darren Cox – 9/10
When Reinhart and his squad land on a planet where their ancient fortress is located they find themselves in the middle of a battle. With their mission a priority, the surviving groups they team up with are kept in the dark about the its true nature. This was an excellent story, the characters were great and the pacing and atmosphere near perfect. Definitely a highlight!
Nightfall, Peter Fehervari – 7/10
The night were only the strongest of the ghoul-like youths will survive to be taken to their destiny has arrived. Zeth is one of these and has a plan, but the night is darker than even he imagines. A nice story and a different change of pace for the collection. The concept worked well enough but it missed the extra something.
One Hate, Aaron Dembski–Bowden – 8/10
Argo and his chapter, the Crimson Fists, arrive on Syral as what appears to be back-up for the army of Lord General Ulviran. But everything is not as it seems as the true mission of the Crimson Fists is revealed. Another interesting look into the world of W40k and a nice way to round off the collection.
As far as collection by multiple authors go, regardless of the subject matter involved, this one is good. There wasn’t any that fell by the wayside in terms of style or readability. In fact I’d go as far to say the opposite – the whole collection read very much in a similar style, which is both a good and bad thing. If you enjoy it then you’ve got a treat in store, but if not you’ll be ultimately let down.
As for me, I enjoyed it very much and this collection is a very enjoyable one with some excellent stories, and some good ones. If you’ve not read Warhammer 40k before then I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a nice jump on spot without getting too deep into all the history. There are a couple of stories that could do with some prior knowledge, but on the whole a solid read.
A chain-sword wielding beast of a book!