The Word Bearers Omnibus by Anthony Reynolds – Advanced Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the Word Bearers Omnibus, written by Anthony Reynolds, published by Black Library and containing the novels: Dark Apostle, Dark Disciple, Dark Creed plus the all-new short story Tormented. The Omnibus edition is released in January 2012, available for Pre-Order from Black Library’s Website now.
“Prepare for a brutal onslaught of endless war. Action packed, fast-paced, the Word Bearers are not to be underestimated, and neither, is this collection of novels to be missed. A Page-Turner.” ~The Founding Fields
Note: Because this is a review of a trilogy, there will be some spoilers involved, however, I’ve tried to keep them to a minimum.
As it happens, I’ve been awaiting for an omnibus of Word Bearers novels ever since I heard about them. You see, when I first started to become a fan of Black Library novels (I believe my first was Henry Zou’s Emperor’s Mercy), I was enthralled by the tales of battles in the far future, and I wanted more. Not long after that, I started getting the Horus Heresy series, and expanding to include stuff like Nick Kyme’s Tome of Fire Trilogy. I’d had my taste of loyalist forces back then. The Salamanders, loyalist Luna Wolves, loyalist Emperor’s Children – and I wanted to read something from the traitor perspective, so I stumbled across Dark Creed, the latest book in the Word Bearers Trilogy, and upon finding out that it was part of a trilogy, I wanted to find the previous two books, Dark Apostle and Dark Disciple. However, I couldn’t find them no matter what store I went into, and no matter what I typed into Amazon. (For the only copies of Dark Disciple on there were used books and had a starting price of 18-odd pounds.)
So I waited patiently, and was relieved when they finally announced The Word Bearers Omnibus, and even more excited when it arrived on my doorstep as an advanced review copy from the kind folks at Black Library. So I delved right into it as soon as I had finished off a few other books that I had been currently reading, and as soon as I started Dark Apostle, I knew that I had stumbled across a winner.
The Word Bearers Omnibus follows the tales of the 34th Host, part of the Word Bearers Legion, a band of renegade Space Marines who threw in their lot with Horus during the Heresy. In fact, the Word Bearers are perhaps one of the most interesting Chaos legions of the lot, but that’s another story. Indeed, if you want to find out their backstory, then I’d recommend giving The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden a look out. However, chances are, if you’re a Black Library fan, you’ll have read that already, so let’s get back to this particular Omnibus, and let me tell you what I thought of Dark Apostle, the first book in the trilogy.
Dark Apostle is basically a slaughter-fest, as the Word Bearers are on the world of Tanakreg, currently ruled by the Imperium, and lay waste to the planet easily destroying the PDF forces entrenched there. However, the Word Bearers Dark Apostle Jarulek has more than just slaughter in mind, and sets the enslaved citizens of Tanakreg to work building a tower that stands several kilometres high off the ground. However, time is running out for the sons of Lorgar. Can the Word Bearers accomplish their tasks before the Imperial forces arrive to reclaim the planet?
The first novel in the Omnibus is going to have to be good in order to make the reader continue to read further, and in this matter, Reynolds excels, captivating the reader from the get go with bloodthirsty violence told from both sides of the conflict, from the viewpoint of the Imperium but mainly the Word Bearers, who are effectively the ones we’re meant to be rooting for in this novel, but I couldn’t help but rooting for the Imperium instead, which is strange, seeing as A) I knew they were going to lose, and B) I found myself rooting for the Night Lords portrayed in Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Night Lords Series.
The pace is brutal, and Dark Apostle is essentially two hundred and fifty (give or take) of all out, nonstop war. This is where Reynolds excels, and I couldn’t help but want more when the novel came to a conclusion, and couldn’t have hoped for a better start for a series that I’ve been waiting to read for a while. My high expectations didn’t let me down, and I’m quite pleased by that. Next to read though, was Dark Disciple, the next book in the Omnibus.
Dark Disciple picks up where Dark Apostle left off, and follows the footsteps of new Dark Apostle Marduk. The Word Bearers this time find themselves driven to a world of the Imperium that is about to become overrun by Tyranids. Thrust right into the action again, Reynolds includes a third, dark and mysterious faction that Warhammer 40,000 fans should be able to recognise from the words, “sadistic as it is mysterious.” I had my suspicions of course from the get go, and was unsurprised when they were proved to be correct, and whilst Dark Disciple is a tad predictable, it’s a journey that you’ll enjoy undertaking. Like Dark Apostle, you get POV told from not only the Word Bearers but also the Imperium. The pace doesn’t let up, and Dark Disciple was just as good as the previous novel, if not made better by the inclusion of an additional faction. Although both novels use a ‘race against time’ plot, Dark Disciple is the one that pulls it off a lot better than Reynold’s first Word Bearers novel.
Once again, there are a variety of action scenes in this novel as the Word Bearers are thrust from one fight to the next. We learn more about what makes the Word Bearers tick, and there’s even a guest appearance by Erebus himself. Dark Disciple also moves the trilogy forward, and as this is the second book, that is only expected.
Despite that though, I felt that there were some issues with Dark Disciple. There was a couple of characters that could have either been improved or left out of the novel altogether. That said, Dark Disciple was still a page-turning read and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Even though you’ll know the overall outcome of the novel, Dark Disciple manages to keep you hooked as you want to find out what happens in-between its pages.
Thus, I bring you to the final novel, the conclusion to the trilogy, Dark Creed, where the stakes are raised and confrontation in the legion come to the forefront, and you learn about a secret organization in the Word Bearers legion themselves, an organization with mysterious purposes that could tear the legion in two.
This time, in Dark Creed, the Word Bearers find themselves journeying to the Imperial Subsector, Boron’s Gate, protected by the White Consuls Chapter in order to aid Warmaster Abaddon’s Black Crusade. Marduk has control of the Nexus Arrangement, a Necron device that can help the Word Bearers defeat the Imperial forces guarding Boron’s Gate. However, just as victory is for the taking, the Chaos Space Marines run into a powerful, ancient enemy that might be too strong even for the Word Bearers to defeat.
The conclusion to the Word Bearers Trilogy, although not the strongest book in the Omnibus is certainly a good novel, one that kept me turning pages one after the other in order to see what the outcome would be. All the old characters return and we are introduced to a couple of new ones that become central to the plot.
If I had one problem with the series as a whole, it’s the Space Marines themselves. They’re so powerful and innumerable that you almost know what the outcome is going to be right from the get go, and which robs the Omnibus of some suspense. However, when the Adeptus Astartes start to stab everyone in the back, suspense starts building and you don’t know who’s going to emerge victorious.
Several interesting characters appear in the series, Burias being a particular favourite of mine.
If you’re after nonstop science-fiction warfare in all its forms told from the point of view of the bad guys, you can’t really go wrong with the Word Bearers Omnibus, which also includes an all-new short story Torment, which reveals the fate of one character who displeases Dark Apostle Marduk.
Throughout the omnibus, the pace remains roughly the same, and there is little change between the novels. There is no noticeable change from one novel to the next, which helps, in my opinion at least. Also, there is loads of action going on, and I applaud Reynolds for making it easy to follow and help the reader to understand what is going on.
Although the ending is a bit anti-climatic, you won’t really care about that too much as you’ll have enjoyed the journey that you’ve undertaken whilst reading this omnibus.
There’s one thing that irks me, though. Even though the first novel, Dark Apostle has an original publishing date of 2007, that’s right, four years ago, throughout the entire Omnibus bar Torment, you still see the odd grammar mistake and typo. However, that’s just me nitpicking; hopefully it shouldn’t put you off reading The Word Bearers Omnibus completely. The characters (most of them) are fantastic, and although most of the time you’ll find yourself rooting for the Imperium, there are a few Chaos Space Marines who you will become attached to.
Verdict for Dark Apostle: 4/5
Verdict for Dark Disciple: 3.5/5
Verdict for Dark Creed: 3.5/5
Verdict for Torment: 4/5
Verdict for The Word Bearers Omnibus: 3.5/5
More Word Bearers: Dark Apostle by Anthony Reynolds, Dark Disciple by Anthony Reynolds, Dark Creed by Anthony Reynolds, Torment by Anthony Reynolds (Short Story, The Word Bearers Omnibus), The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Scions of the Storm by Anthony Reynolds (Short Story, Tales of Heresy)
More Anthony Reynolds: Knight Errant, Knight of Realm, Questing Knight (Novella), Grail Knight (Novella)