"A panoply of short stories featuring the Angels of Death that is not only a great introduction to the 41st Millennium but also a set of brand new stories that will appeal to all fans of the indomitable Space Marines." - Lord of the Night @ Talk Wargaming
Cadre by Josh Reynolds
Josh Reynolds has not written any 40k before this, I think, but his Gotrek and Felix contributions have always been brilliant so I was quite interested in what he would choose to write about in 40k. Choosing the Mentors chapter just confirmed that he has excellent taste.One of the most unique chapters in all 40k Reynolds brings character to the Mentors, giving them an analyical and logical yet caring air. I got the sense that the Mentors really did care about the people they fought with.
The humour that Reynolds does very well is present here as well with the Mentors having to deal with different kinds of people in each of their duties and how they interact with those people is often funny in itself, but also rather nice as the Mentors do think of their mortal allies as battle-brothers and work not just to free them, but to make them better. After reading this story I dearly hope that Josh Reynolds chooses to write more about the Mentors chapter, they deserve it. I give Cadre a score of 4/5.
Final Duty by David Guymer
David Guymer is another WHF author who has branched into 40k for the first time and like Peter Fehevari and the Angels Penitent he has chosen to flesh out a chapter that before this was just a name. The Hospitallers whom Guymer portrays rather interestingly as a caring but ruthless chapter who have a rather distinct method of caring for their patients. Though not a great deal was explained about the chapter I did like how Guymer portrayed the unnamed marine, his soothing and caring voice and his attitude of helpfulness even at the end when he took a very different approach to healing.
The only thing this story suffered from really is that it should have been longer, to flesh out the Hospitallers more as the little we learned about them was interesting. They really did seem like a nice and friendly chapter, albeit one that can turn nasty while remaining polite and kind. And some explanation as to exactly what was happening outside the medical centre would have been good, it was implied but actually hearing it would have been better. I give Final Duty a score of 3/5.
The Judges, In Their Hunger by David Annandale
The Carcharodons are one of my favourite chapters, so them finally getting a short story made me quite happy. David Annandale himself was mixed news, I enjoyed his Mephiston novella but disliked his Space Marines Battles novel The Death of Antagonis. But fortunately his short story here falls into the like category, the portrayal of the Carcharodons through battle rather than words was an interesting choice and a good one as the contrast between them and the Flawless Host really sums up exactly who they are as a chapter.
The actual depiction of them at the end was also quite unnerving. The pallid grey skin, pure black eyes and shark teeth, and what the unnamed Carcharodon said to the former governor. Their menace was well played and I definitely got the feeling that out of the two Space Marine forces present in the story, the people of Sendennis would have been better off under the Flawless Host. I give The Judges, In Their Hunger a score of 3/5.
Mission: Annihilate by Gav Thorpe
Gav Thorpe's second story for the anthology takes on the Deathwatch, but sadly it suffers from the same problem as a previous story did. The idea of a Deathwatch Kill-Team infiltrating a Necron tomb and destroying it with explosives sounds cool, and is very cool. But when you only get to see the final dash for freedom before the bombs go off, it isn't as cool. This story has the same problem as George Mann's, it feels like an extract from a much larger book that we only get to read part of.
The characters were decent enough from what little we got to see of them, the Space Wolf with a sarcastic sense of humour was my favourite of course, but Artemis could have used more fleshing out as a character. Unfortunately the length of the story prohibits that so we have to make do, really this story could have done with being longer and dealing with the entry to the tomb as well as the exit. I give Mission: Annihilate a score of 2/5.
Obsidian by Graham McNeill
The final story of the anthology goes to a rather unexpected source, the youthful Sable Swords Chapter as they move to claim the fortress-monastery of the ancient Astral Knights who have recently met their glorious and heroic end battling against the World Engine. It was interesting seeing how the surviving knights treat the Sable Swords, looking at them with anger over how they are being treated by the Administratum, and how the Sable Swords view themselves as a new and largely untested Space Marine Chapter. But sadly this story just didn't feel memorable, rather it just felt like a quick extra story to close off the anthology, it wasn't written badly but just rather felt unmemorable.
McNeill does explain the Sable Swords error, of the two Chapters bearing the same name, by saying the Sable Swords are not the first Chapter to have their name or heraldry, which was a good thing to do. And he also hints at the glory of the Astral Knights, showing their fortress-monastery which was not what I expected it to be, and giving a hint as to their character in the surviving veterans that remain. Perhaps this is a sign that the long awaited World Engine novel may not be as far off as we think, I hope so. I give Obsidian a score of 2.5/5.
And with that the review is finished. The final scores for the Angels of Death anthology are as follows;
Best Story: The Crown of Thorns by Peter Fehevari
Worst Story: By Artifice, Alone by George Mann
Favourite Story: The Crown of Thorns and Bastions by Rob Sanders (Tie)
Final Score: 3.5/5
And with that this six-part review is over. Thanks very much for reading. Until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!