The Iron Warriors Omnibus – Advanced Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews Graham McNeill’s The Iron Warriors Omnibus, published by Black Library, drawing from the characters and events that took place in the Ultramarines series by the same author, who is a New York Times Bestseller. The Omnibus contains the stories Storm of Iron (novel), The Enemy of My Enemy, The Heraclitus Effect, The Skull Harvest, Iron Warrior (novella), The Iron Without, and The Beast of Calth. This is published by Black Library.
“Ruthless, fast-paced, action packed, this epic collection of short stories, novels and a novella, is one that you won’t want to miss.” ~The Founding Fields
(First Looks with Commissar Ploss)
Having only started reading Black Library novels about three years ago, I’m still quite a newcomer to the worlds of Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy. Which is why, I found myself missing the original release of Graham McNeill’s Storm of Iron, the first novel to introduce one of my favourite Warhammer 40,000 characters, Honsou the Iron Warrior, and one of the first novels about Chaos Space Marines.
So, when the Omnibus came out, naturally, I was really excited to see its release, especially when an advanced review copy turned up on my doorstep, and dove into it enthusiastically and quickly devoured not only Storm of Iron but also the short stories and novella contained within its pages in a very short time, for an Omnibus at least.
And, I can say that what a fantastic Omnibus it was. Although by no means a work of literacy brilliance, this wasn’t what McNeill set out to create in the first place. Storm of Iron, the first (and only) novel in the Omnibus, contains possibly one of the best siege battles that I’ve read yet. It was unputdownable, and a real edge-of-your seat page-turner that kept me hooked right the way through.
I think it’s probably best to point out that you don’t want to get yourself attached to any of the loyalist characters in Storm of Iron. Although there are some excellent ones out there, such as Guardsman Julius Hawke, one of the key characters in the novel, you’ll find that should you get attached to them, you might find yourself disappointed as McNeill isn’t afraid to kill of key characters in the novel. However, don’t let that stop you from reading it – after all, why should you?
The pace throughout the entire omnibus, not just Storm of Iron, is brutal, ruthless, action-packed and extremely fast, which is probably why I finished the seven-hundred odd page collection quicker than I normally would a standalone novel this size. Although it may be one of the small Omnibuses that Black Library have on the market, it is probably one of their best that I’ve read to date (including all of the Gaunt’s Ghosts Omnibuses, and the Eisenhorn one), and I can’t recommend it enough to anybody who hasn’t read any of these stories before.
Most of them are indeed, reprints, with the only two new additions being The Iron Without and The Beast of Calth, both set during and after the Ultramarines novel The Chapter’s Due. Whilst I disliked The Chapter’s Due, I loved the two short stories in this Omnibus, and they have almost made me want to go back and revisit the latest addition to the Ultramarines series, no matter how much I disliked it the first time around.
I should point out here, that after Storm of Iron, it’s pretty much essential that you read the Ultramarines novels before you read the rest of the books in the series, otherwise – you’ll be completely lost as to what is happening in each short story/novella, as you’ll find time, place and setting jumps confusing.
Unlike most Graham McNeill works, this Omnibus doesn’t contain any typos or grammar errors that frequented both The Chapter’s Due and The Outcast Dead, which is a welcoming change for me, and I didn’t find myself being disrupted from the flow of reading.
Back to Storm of Iron, the novel. This is the first time we see Honsou of the Iron Warriors, who later becomes a major character in the Ultramarines series, and this novel basically follows a fantastic description of a siege, the Iron Warriors against the Imperium of Man. It breeds pure awesomeness, and in my opinion, this was the strongest addition to the Omnibus, containing several key characters, introducing them for the first time. We see Titans clash and views from both sides of the conflict, as McNeill makes us want to root for the losing side despite the fact that we know, ultimately, who will emerge on top.
Following on from Storm of Iron, we have a trio of short stories. Kicking off with The Enemy of My Enemy, this explores the fate of some Imperial Guardsmen who survived the siege, and introduces the renegade Vaanes, a former Raven Guard. Like Storm of Iron, this short story was fast-paced, fantastic and a joy to read. I don’t believe this is available elsewhere. This short story takes place before Dead Sky, Black Sun in the Ultramarines series.
Following on from The Enemy of My Enemy, we have The Heraclitus Effect, which takes place after Dead Sky, Black Sun – and we learn that Honsou is out for Ventris’ blood. Failing that, hurting him by any means possible. And, he’s found the next best thing to getting his blood.
Keeping up the consistent pace in the Omnibus, The Heraclitus Effect is an awesome short story and again shows McNeill at his best. In fact, I believe that this whole Omnibus is one of his best works. I would say his best, but I believe that A Thousand Sons still holds that title. This short story is probably my second favourite, with the first being The Beast of Calth, for reasons that you will discover if you read it. This short story, I believe is available as an eBook, and can be found in the Planetkill anthology.
Next on the list is Skull Harvest, also available as an eBook, and can be found in the Heroes of the Space Marines anthology, and is the only short story that I’ve read something of this Omnibus from before. It shows how Honsou built up his forces for the invasion of Ultramar in The Chapter’s Due, and shows the Iron Warrior, along with his assistants, Vaanes and Grendel, plus the Newborn, who was first introduced in Dead Sky, Black Sun, and is shown to be first learning what it means to be a Chaos Marine in Skull Harvest.
Following on from Skull Harvest, is Iron Warrior, once available as a limited edition novella, which was brutal, fast paced – enjoyable and a proper action-packed page-turner, showing a battle between the Ultramarines and Honsou’s Iron Warriors in all its glory.
Iron Warrior is an awesome addition to the Omnibus and I believe, if I had been a fan of the Iron Warriors at the time when the novella Limited Edition originally came out, I would have no doubt brought it, rather than waiting for the Omnibus release. Now however, it’s available as an eBook, if you prefer the digital publishing industry and have already read most of the stories in the Iron Warrior Omnibus.
There are only two new additions to the Iron Warrior Omnibus, also being made available as eBooks, and they are the final two short stories, The Iron Without, and the Beast of Calth. Both take place on Calth during (and after) the Iron Warriors invasion in The Chapter’s Due, and prove that McNeill is more consistent with good things with Iron Warriors over Ultramarines, and I feel that the series would have benefited a lot more if it had been the Iron Warriors who received the bulk of the attention, and the Ultramarines reduced to a novel and a few short stories, and shared points of view in the Iron Warriors novels.
Storm of Iron Verdict: 4.5/5
The Enemy of My Enemy Verdict: 4/5
The Heraclitus Effect Verdict: 4/5
Skull Harvest Verdict: 4.5/5
The Iron Without: 4/5
The Beast of Calth: 4.75/5
Overall Omnibus Verdict: 4.5/5
Recommended Reading Order of the Iron Warriors / Ultramarines series: Chains of Command (Short Story) Nightbringer, Warriors of Ultramar, Storm of Iron, The Enemy of My Enemy (Short Story), Consequences (Short Story), Dead Sky, Black Sun, The Killing Ground, The Heraclitus Effect (Short Story), Courage and Honour, The Chapter’s Due, The Iron Without (Short Story), The Eye of Vengeance (Audiobook, Coming Soon), The Beast of Calth (Short Story)
The Ultramarines series: Chains of Command (Short Story), Nightbringer, Warriors of Ultramar, Consequences (Short Story), Dead Sky Black Sun, The Killing Ground, Courage and Honour, The Chapter’s Due, The Eye of Vengeance (Audiobook, Coming Soon)