Legion of the Damned by Rob Sanders – Review [Lord of the Night]

For the Emperor beyond the point of death!

Lord of the Night reviews the latest in the spectacular Space Marines Battles series, the darkly brilliant Legion of the Damned by Rob Sanders.

“Deus Ex Damnation! Rob Sanders has created an amazing story and brought the Legion of the Damned to life, and shows that even in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there are still miracles.”The Founding Fields

Now at first Legion of the Damned seemed like a misnomer to me. The Legion did not dominate the novel as I thought they would, rather the Excoriators chapter did and their battle against the Cholercaust Crusade. But once I got into the final hundred pages the novel exploded into one of the best-written siege battles i’ve read, and the Legion of the Damned made, though brief, a fantastic appearance that was more than enough to satisfy me.

Certus Minor, a backwater cemetery world with no strategic value and little importance in the galaxy beyond the saint that lies in rest in its soil. But that is about to change. The Keeler Comet, a ten thousand year old asteroid now warped by the fell powers of the Rage King, has appeared in its sky. And whenever a world sees the Keeler Comet, it becomes a slaughterhouse. The Cholercaust, the largest gathering of the Blood God’s followers since the Dominion of Fire, follows the comet’s path which if not stopped will take them to Holy Terra and to the Emperor’s Walls once more. Only the 5th company Excoriators stand in there way, but something else is moving in the shadows, and the Cholercaust is not the only army coming to Certus Minor, nor are they the darkest.

Sanders has created an interesting cast for the novel. The marines of the Excoriators, of Dorn’s blood, are a chapter facing dark times. The protagonist, Zachariah Kersh, is despised by his brothers for his past sins and the affliction that plagues him. Supportng Kersh as he prosecutes the duty of the chapter and honours their promises are the Chaplain Shadrath, eager to avenge their chapter’s honour, Epistolary Melmoch, ever smiling and pious amongst the non-believers, Chief Whip Skase, chief amongst the detractors of Kersh, and Apothecary Ezrachi who provides a voice of support and reason to his brothers.

For the Emperor beyond the point of death!

The action of the novel is visceral and engrossing. The berserkers of Khorne, his Daemonkin and the hordes of cultists that make up his armies make every battle a slaughterfest, chainaxes tearing through armour and flesh, Daemons prowling the streets hunting for a beating heart, and cultists swarming over anything that moves or bears the aquila. And the Excoriators match the Cholercaust’s rage with skill and dedication towards attrition. The Space Marines holding the walls against the hordes of Chaos is an iconic image of 40k and Rob Sanders has done a very fine job of creating an epic siege and spirited defence. But the true stars of the novel are the Legion who immediately show why only one-hundred marines are capable of ending entire armies.

The pacing of the novel was a bit mixed for me. At first it seemed slow, mainly due to the sections devoted to Kersh’s recovery and the Ecclesiarchy, and the prelude on Certus Minor dragged a little in my opinion. But past the halfway point the novel picks up the pace and swiftly turns into a bloodbath. The battle that dominates the latter half of the novel from its early stages to its finale was fantastic and really got me interested in the novel again, when at first I had been starting to wonder if I would enjoy the whole thing. I am glad that I was wrong.

The ending of the novel is solemn and well-written. The Legion are a very mysterious force and the real truth behind what they have become will never be known, but they are a dark miracle for the Imperium and are perhaps its most stalwart defenders, for they will always be there when matters are the most dire for the Imperium, when only a miracle will bring victory. The Legion will come.

For a grand score I give Legion of the Damned an 8.6/10 for a great story, a memorable cast of characters, an interesting new Space Marine Chapter, and for bringing the Legion of the Damned to life for the first time in a novel. It was a good read despite some early worries on my part which the book stripped me of.

Should you buy this novel? If you like Space Marines and who doesn’t, then yes you should. Same goes if you like the Blood God and his berserkers as they are the primary foe in the novel and are very well-written. If you’re not a Space Marine or Chaos Marine fan then I don’t think you’d enjoy this novel, but then the majority of BL are the Astartes so then you probably won’t like most of BL’s range.

That’s it for this review. Next is Knight of the Blazing Sun by Josh Reynolds, my first taste of this new author and one I am anticipating nicely. Until next time.

AVE DOMINUS NOX!

Lord of the Night

Lord of the Night is one of TFF’s original reviewers. He’s done quite a few for TFF and that number keeps expanding. You’ll enjoy his diverse mix of book reviews. Always a treat.

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  • J. Merrick

    Are the Cholercaust memorable like say the Blood Pact? I know Sanders is no Abnett but I read Atlas Infernal and he seams to have a knack for characterization.

    I have a thing for cultists in 40K literature.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christian-Friis-Jensen/586053558 Christian Friis Jensen

      I definitely think Sanders has a real knack for characterising the followers of the Blood God, both due to this book and a very memorable passage in “Atlas Infernal” involving a Khornate cult-ship making a brief appearance. Granted, the Blood Pact is much more nuanced than mr. Sanders’ berserker legions, since they fight intelligently. Despite the fact that Sanders’ Khornites are relatively one-dimensional in terms of ambition, motivation and such, but he really brings the feel of utter madness, frenzy and lust for violence across. They are genuinely scary, and genuinely threatening because he really does pull out all the stops to hammer the point home that these people (and things) only live for killing and destroying, making them dehumanized and “un-relatable” in a way that really works.

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