Rynn’s World by Steve Parker – Book Review [Shadowhawk]
Shadowhawk reviews the first Space Marine Battles novel as Steve Parker tackles the Orks once again, pitting them against the proud Crimson Fists.
“Steve Parker delivers an interesting look into the Crimson Fists that makes you hunger for more.” ~ The Founding Fields
There are few forces in the Warhammer 40,000 universe that can really humble an entire chapter of Space Marines. Hive Fleet Behemoth against the Ultramarines is one case. The Necrons against the Emperor’s Swords is another. There are quite a few others. But I have to say that among the most tragic I have ever read has been the case of the Crimson Fists against the Orks of Waaagh! Snagrod.
Steve’s portrayal of the Crimson Fists really strikes a chord with me. Essentially, he has fused the best of the Salamanders, the Blood Angels and of course, the Imperial Fists. The Crimson Fists are humane, they are noble and they are stubborn. But they are just as eager for war as any of their brothers or their cousins. And of course, that is where their pride fails them.
That portrayal of the Crimson Fists is at the heart of the novel and Steve does a good job of showing us how an entire chapter can be humbled by one of the most inane things, a fluke accident at that, and what startling revelations it is forced to confront. Pride has always been a weakness of all Space Marine chapters, no matter how glorious their history, and it is this weakness that once again manifests here. Steve constantly reinforces home this theme in the novel. To (very roughly) paraphrase Chapter Master Dante of the Blood Angels, resting on one’s laurels is the greatest sin in the eyes of the Emperor.
The opening chapters of the novel provide a rather unique insight into the chapter psyche as the Crimson Fists prepare to celebrate their centennial Day of Founding and we have some rather stirring scenes of Pedro Kantor giving an inspirational speech to his brothers. The scenes are quite atmospheric and they really draw you in. We also meet Captain Alessio Cortez, one of the most celebrated Captains of the chapter and one of Kantor’s closest friends. The novel is primarily about the trials faced by these two once everything around them goes to hell and their battle of wills against each other as they both have different views on how to deal with the invaders.
And that’s where the issue of pride comes in really, all the more important for the Crimson Fists since they have had a long and glorious history of service to the Imperium and they are Second Founding. Reading the verbal battles between Cortez and Kantor is definitely one of the highlights in the novel.
Another aspect of the novel that combined to make it a great one is the relationship between the Crimson Fists and the people of Badlanding, who revere them as demi-gods. Steve has managed the balance quite well and I think it works very well in order to show how the more humane, as in less reticent, chapters deal with the people of their homeworld. This balance is played out in the interactions between the Crimson Fists and their people as well as between the chapter’s officers as well throughout the novel. Small things like this really add to the greater whole, making it more than the just the sum of its parts.
One major criticism I would level against the novel is that the Space Marines are too powerful. Their power level just does not compare to that of the Orks. I am unable to find a justification of why this should be the case. The fluke accident destroys nearly 70% of the chapter’s forces and while you do get some sense of how the Crimson Fists are ultimately humbled by Warlord Snagrod, the impact of that event just is not there.
Steve introduces the concept of the Ceres Protocol, wherein no Crimson Fist is allowed to risk his life in defense of the mortal forces and civilians, only in the defense of a battle-brother. There was quite a bit of potential for this concept to develop and really add to the novel, but it just fell flat since the Crimson Fists just proved to be indestructible in their revenge. Perhaps that is understandable to a degree but given that in the wider lore, the chapter came close to dissolution following the attack on Badlanding, you never actually get a sense of that being the case by the end of the novel. Not to mention that there was almost a willful disregard of said protocol a few times in the novel so with the purpose of this concept was quite lost on me. The novel would have worked out just as well if this had never been mentioned in the first place.
Other than that, the action scenes are rather well done and the campaign itself plays out rather nicely. Steve even managed to work in the Battle of the Farm, an original Rogue Trader-era scenario, into the novel which was a great addition. I just wish that we had gotten an actual titanic battle between the heroes of both sides for the action almost always involved orks being butchered or on the rank and file Crimson Fists themselves. That said, my favourite scene in the entire novel, after the early scene in the reclusiam, is through the eyes of a scout sergeant as he sees disaster unfold around him. Reading that particular chapter really hit home why a lot of chapters value obedience, protocol and the chain of command above all else. Job well done, Herr Parker.
The at-odds characterization of Pedro Kantor as the Chapter Master and Alessio Cortez as the often-errant Captain was another highlight of the novel. The scene I mention above plays a part in the interactions between these two and together these two portray all the attributes of the chapter I listed early on in the review. I was quite reminded of Chapter Master Tu’shan of the Salamanders when reading Kantor’s scenes while Cortez reminded of a rather headstrong Wolf Lord Berek Thunderfist of the Space Wolf novels. The parallels across chapters are always there of course and there is always characterization that is similar too but I think this was a case of where this worked really well. Kudos.
With all that said, would I recommend the novel? Yes indeed, for as the first novel in the Space Marine Battles series, as well as the first Crimson Fists novel, Rynn’s World works really well. The criticisms I have against it are not related to the portrayal of the chapter itself and are issues that permeate the work of some other authors as well but that’s not important here. As a whole the novel works rather well and as long as the kinks are worked out in Steve’s approach, then all good. The best thing about the novel is that Steve really helps you get into the mindset of the chapter and makes you connect with it.
And therefore, I rate the novel a solid 7.5/10. I would definitely like to see more of Steve’s work now.