This book is one of my favourites of the series so far.
From the moment it starts the book is pretty much a non-stop rollercoaster of action and violence that doesn’t let up for the whole of the book. As title suggests this book concerns itself primarily with the hunt for the Primarch of the Salamanders chapter of Space Marines to act as a figure head for the Imperium, which at the outset of this book is teetering on the edge of oblivion. The pace is frenetic, not giving you the time to draw breath as it storms from one action scene to the next, culminating in a tremendous set piece at the end. The fights and battles are gritty and really give you a sense of the brutality of war in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, as it’s essentially Space Marines and Orks pummelling each other for most of the book, that’s pretty brutal indeed.
The characters are as usual well written and believable. Whilst this book covers in small parts the stories of others, the core story arc mainly focuses on Koorland and Maximus Thane, and their battles to keep the Imperium alive. I really like the dynamic between these two, it’s in stark contrast to Zerberyn and Kalkator in the last book. Where that focused on Zerberyn’s struggles in working with a traitor and a heretic, and Kalator’s efforts to do whatever it is he was doing. This book continues to explore the growing friendship between Koorland and Thane, two people thrust into positions they never thought to find themselves. Their respective struggles to lead, whilst constantly battling self-doubt are enthralling and lends a sense of humanity rarely seen in Space Marines.
There are however, as with all the other books in this series all sorts of other stories going on, with people of varying levels of significance. This I think is one of the strengths of this series of books, especially this book, it’s all the individual stories that come together in the end to build a larger narrative. This serves to give an idea of how the events of the book affect different people, without sacrificing the scale of the story, indeed oftentimes it serves to entrench the sense of despair and hopelessness.
To sum up: This book is feast of action and violence delivered at a relentless pace, that leaves you wondering at times how things could actually come together for the Imperium. The main characters are well written and surprisingly relatable, an unusual trait for characters in this universe. At the same time there are a wide array of secondary plotlines moving through the book, all coming together in the end.
Five out five stars.