Black Tide Review|Spoilers
The latest and thankfully not the last of the Blood Angels series by James Swallow is my latest finished novel and it was quite a good book. Continuing the great stories of Rafen and his Blood Angels James Swallow has outdone himself with the latest entry, which has the Sons of Sanguinius chasing down the Arch-Traitor Fabius Bile to recover a stolen vial of Sanguinius’s own vitae, and to kill the heretic who despoiled Baal with his presence.
The story begins on a Tau Colony where Fabius Bile has taken up residence, and committed yet more atrocities in the name of his twisted plans. Rafen and his squad, the penitent Turcio, the devastator Puluo, the young and eager Kayne, the cynical Ajir and the newest addition the psyker Ceris, arrive at the colony and with the aid of a captured Tau make their way to Bile’s lair only to discover he has escaped yet again, and left a mocking note with only the words ‘You have failed.’
Returning to the Tycho, the orbiting Strike Cruiser, they are soon joined by the Flesh Tearers led by Sergeant Noxx who has been sent by Seth to join them in their quest. With Noxx’s aid the Sons of Sanguinius intercept a Mechanicus Lord named Zellik who has knowledge, albeit unaware, of Bile’s location. Both Strike Cruisers Gabriel and Tycho lay waste to Zellik’s ship The Archeohort and his archeo-tech, and xenos-tech, storage. From the traitor’s mind they learn that Bile is on the planet Dynikas V, a world be-set by Tyrandis.
Taking the Archeohort to Dynikas V the Sons of Sanguinius take to the planet in an ancient submersible called Neimos, while a single Flesh Tearer Techmarine remains behind to sacrifice the Archeohort. The Mechanicus vessel is shredded by the gun-skull defences but Rafen and his squads are able to make it into the infested oceans, where they are quickly set upon by Tyranid Lictors who have evolved into a shark like genus. After a lengthy trek through the oceans and a brief mutiny with Zellik’s servitors and an encounter with a literal Tyranid Kraken where Rafen is lost into the water the Sons of Sanguinius carry on with Noxx in command.
However Rafen is discovered by Splices, beastmen mutations created by Bile, and taken to his fortress. He is thrown into a cell and meets several other captives, all Space Marines, from the Doom Eagle Tarikus to the Space Wolf Vetcha who has been broken and now serves Bile. Eventually Rafen is able to escape but is quickly captured by Bile’s New Men lieutenant Cheyne, who incapacitates Rafen and brings him before Bile who explains his grand plan to Rafen. Using the stolen blood of Sanguinius, and many other genetic markers he has taken over the millennia, Bile will attempt to clone The Emperor himself and corrupt him with the taint of Chaos. At this revelation Rafen loses his mind and attacks Bile, tearing out his throat with his bare teeth. However later when brought to a game for the amusement of the guards Rafen witnesses Bile watching from a throne dais. During the race Rafen is able to convince Tarikus, his opponent, to rebel with him and are able to get out a message to all the other captured Space Marines, and in a brief struggle with Cheyne the New Man is killed by Vetcha who joins with Rafen.
Meanwhile Noxx and the Sons of Sanguinius are able to beach themselves while being chased by a Tyranid Kraken shoal and begin their assault while simultaneously Rafen and his ragtag band of Space Marines begin causing as much carnage as they can. Eventually Rafen and several other marines come across a captured Tyranid Zoanthrope which Bile has enslaved to keep the evolved Tyranids away from his base, and when Rafen kills the pitiful beast the entire Tyranid populace diverts to the island in search of fresh prey. Soon after Rafen is confronted by Bile yet again and in a brief skirmish in which Vetcha is killed saving Rafen’s life Rafen is able to kill Bile yet again. However soon after they discover a laboratory where clone replicae of Bile are being grown. Confronted by two more Bile’s, one of which flees to preserve their gene-data, Rafen is able to kill the second Bile by throwing him into a vat of liquid nitrogen.
Confronting the final Bile on the rooftop of the fortress, while below the Tyranids lay waste to the defenders and eat everything in their path, Rafen is forced to consume the blood of Sanguinius from the captured vial and is able to slay the final Fabius Bile, casting him over the roof to be devoured. Noxx and the other Sons of Sanguinius, and the surviving captive Space Marines, are able to teleport back to the Gabriel as the fortress crumbles around them.
The epilogue shows that Rafen is en-route back to Baal where he will need to explain his actions before Dante, and his actions involving the sacred vitae will come under heavy scrutiny. Meanwhile in a Crone World the true and real Fabius Bile receives a message that his proxy on Dynikas V has been killed, revealing that the true Bile was not directly involved with any of the events in Red Fury and Black Tide. He is offered revenge by someone who desires the same but rebuffs it, as pointless vengeance isn’t his way. But he is reminded that the Warp prince Malfallax, Lord of Change, shares his hate.
The pace of the novel was very well set and I enjoyed the underwater combat which was a first for me and I thought that James Swallow did it very well. And the evolved Tyranids were quite interesting, showing that Tyranids can adapt beyond battle and how radically different they can become. I can’t help but wonder just what those Tyranid Krakens were before they changed.
Fabius Bile was also quite a treat. Characters like Bile are rarely used, and they need to be used more often. Famous characters who’s fame or infamy are known to all BL readers almost never appear in the novels, when they deserve much more. I hope that in the future we will see more of these famous characters like Khârn the Betrayer, Eldrad Ulthran and Fabius Bile.
High Point: For me I think the high point of the novel was Rafen and the captive Space Marines fighting their way through the fortress while Noxx and the Sons of Sanguinius do the same outside. Rafen’s duel with the Bile replicaes was very good and I thought it was awesome when Rafen threw Bile into a liquid nitrogen tank, then as he climbed out Rafen slammed the Rod of Torment into Bile’s chest, killing him with his own weapon.
The ending was also very ominous. The Lord of Change Malfallax whom’s scheme to make the Blood Angels fall from grace with the Arkio Insurrection has returned and like all Daemons we know, wants a blood revenge. Whatever schemes he has now to make Rafen and all Blood Angels his slaves or dead cannot be imagined right now, but he is a Lord of Change. So their gonna be good plans.
Low Point: The only real low point for me was Ajir. In Red Fury the penitent sergeant Corvus sacrificed himself to save Ajir and I had hoped this would force Ajir to rethink his behaviour to Turcio, and at the end of the novel it appeared he might.. and in Black Tide his arrogant attitude has not changed a bit. If I were Corvus, I wouldn’t have even bothered trying to save him.
So with Black Tide finished I am finally caught up with my favourite loyalists, the noble Blood Angels. I look forward to James Swallow’s next novel with them, and I give Black Tide a 7.5/10.