Lord of the Night reviews the fifth installment of the popular Space Marines Battles series, Fall of Damnos by Nick Kyme.
Ultramarines vs. Necrons in an unwinable battle on a doomed planet. Damnos will fall, but who will fall with it?
~The Founding Fields
(Note: This is an advanced review of Fall of Damnos. It is scheduled for release in April 2011.)
Nick Kyme truly is great with the Space Marines, to him Space Marines are what the Inquisition is to Dan Abnett. But what he has done with the Necrons is nothing short of amazing, at first I didn’t even recognize them but now that I have finished the novel I think back to Dawn of War and all the other times the Necrons rose from their tombs, and I feel boredom as I compare them to the Necrons of Damnos. And in regards to the Ultramarines, I agree with Bane of Kings’s assertion that with only two books Kyme is challenging Graham for control of Guilliman’s own.
When miners on the world of Damnos unearth an artifact they unwittingly begin the destruction of their world. Freed from the Long Sleep the Necrontyr rise again to purge their world of the insects that dare invade their kingdom and defile their lands. The Ultramarines 2nd Company led by Cato Sicarius, the Master of the Watch and High Suzerain, eager for glory and to be the first Ultramarine to battle the undying Necrons. But Damnos may already be doomed, the Ultramarines must face the possibility that there is no victory waiting for them at the edge of the abyss.
For me the highest point of this novel is the Necrons, I enjoy innovation and bright new ideas quite a lot and the Necrons featured this heavily. It used to be that only a Necron Lord could hope to even have a voice, but now the Necrons have their own caste system, culture, their fears and hopes and even ambitions. I can only think that GW is hiding a new Necron codex, or at least a prototype version of one, and Nick Kyme wrote from it when he designed these new incarnations of the eldest of all xenos.
The characters are separated into two sides. Imperial and Necron. The Imperial characters range from the Ultramarines and the natives of Damnos. Sergeants Scipio Vorolanus, Iulus Fennion and Praxor Manorian return from Black Reach and their growth through the novel is interesting. But the biggest growth must be Scipio shaken from an event in-between Black Reach and Damnos, which was very surprising for me. Human characters like Falka Kolpeck, Zeph Rancourt and Adanar Sonne show the darker side of the war, the displaced and the grieving, and the fatalism that comes from fighting a foe that may very well be immortal.
With all kinds of Necron royals leading the way from The Undying One at the head of the phalanx, the cunning cryptek Ankh the Herald of Dismay, the ambitious Tahek the Voidbringer and the ghoulish Sahtah the Enfleshed, the Necrons have gained a wide range of characters that are not only cool but actually sympathetic in some cases, Sahtah mainly. Eternity has not been kind to the Necrons, and their cruel existence is shown very well in the book.
The action portrayed is visceral and brutal, the Ultramarines strength is great but the Necrons are a foe like no other, death means nothing to them. When facing enemies that can repair from mortal wounds and who simply disappear upon defeat, even the absence of corpses can unnerve a man. But the Ultramarines fight on heroically, earning glory and honor with every kill. The Necrons own fighting style has been very well depicted, disintegrations and flayed corpses are everywhere as it should be.
The novel’s pacing is well-written. Running multiple plots alongside each other with different characters in different parts of Damnos can’t be easy but Kyme does it and weaves them together to affect one-another to create the first battle between Guilliman’s chosen and one of the oldest of all alien races. Be it Scipio’s story, Fennion’s, Praxor’s or even Cato Sicarius’s each story melds together very well to create an overall tale that is definitely worth the time.
The book ends on a cliffhanger, halfway through the battle. The situation is grim but there is hope yet for the defenders of Damnos. I eagerly await the sequel to the novel that Ser Kyme will hopefully start writing very soon, the Damnos duology is shaping up to be a great tale, one that may reshape the image we hold of an entire xenos race.
I give Fall of Damnos a 9/10, on its own the novel is definitely a clear second amongst the Space Marines Battles series but it cannot match Ser Dembski-Bowden’s epic Helsreach. But perhaps the sequel, once the whole story is together a new champion amongst the series shall rise.
Now I move onto the dark world of Warhammer Fantasy, into the land of chivalrous knights and hunchbacked peasants. Knights of Bretonnia
is next, the tale of a knight and his quest for glory.