Despite some initial misgivings about this book, I really got into it quit quickly.
Maybe I’ve just not been paying enough attention to the series up to now, but this book really seems more character driven than earlier ones in the series. The character’s arcs that started coming together in previous books are really starting to heat up now and some of the characters are interacting well. I especially enjoyed the dynamic between First Captain Zeberyn and Warsmith Kalkator, who despite my best efforts to hate, I found to be remarkably (and disturbingly) likeable. Their stories really come together in this book and I found myself looking forward to their chapters to see what would happen next, they are for me the stand out characters of this book.
The action (of which there is much) is really well written and keeps the frenetic pace of the previous books, whilst managing to be easily to follow. You really get a sense for the first time in this series that the Imperium has a chance of surviving this, the series up to now has beaten into the reader a sense of hopelessness and despair, a feeling that all is lost. However, from this book the major characters of the series really start to hit their stride and start to realise that drastic measures need to be taken to save the day as it were. All of this is reflected in what I personally feel was some powerful dialogue between the characters.
This is reflected in some very difficult decisions being made by different characters, it very much gives a sense that whilst there is hope, there is also the potential for further despair. You get the feeling that possibly a couple of the characters could be only a few short steps from damnation, should the logic behind their decision making prove flawed.
I have seen other reviews state the lack of politicking in this book and how they would have liked to have seen more of this. Whilst this is a fair point as there is indeed less of that, I feel this kind of misses the point. The purpose of this novel is giving the reader the feeling that the time for politics is done, that now is the time for action and the Imperium’s fightback is on. In that, I think this book largely succeeds.
Why only four stars then? Well put simply, the Adeptus Mechanicus sections are incredibly dull. I get there’s not really a great deal of room for in depth character development with characters that have largely detached themselves from emotion, but still; I found them a little dull. Even the one character they did have that the writer could explore an emotional side with (Urquidex), I found to be someone dull and two dimensional, he really didn’t pull me in and make me care what happened to him.
To sum up: Great action and a well-paced book that manages to keep you guessing from start to finish. Some really well written characters that you really start rooting for despite your best intentions. Also, a well thought out plot that keeps you guessing right to the end of the book. The downside is the Adeptus Mechanicus chapters, a small gripe I know, but nevertheless it is enough to cost the book a star.
Rating: Four out of five stars.