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Bane of Kings writes an advanced review of Angel of Fire, the first novel in the Macharian Crusade Trilogy, written by William King, set in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe and published by Black Library.
“William King is back with an awesome novel that proves that he can still write in the grimdark far future. A great ride.” ~The Founding Fields
William King’s Angel of Fire is the Warhammer 40,000 trilogy that he’s working on alongside the Warhammer Fantasy trilogy. Whilst that trilogy tackled the legendary Tyrion and Teclis, Angel of Fire tackles a character who is just as legendary, if not even more so, than th elven twins, and that character is none other than the famous Lord Solar Macharius, one of the biggest Imperial Guard commanders, and one of the most famous Imperial figures since Horus Lupercal himself. So this was always going to have to be an epic book, after all – How does one tackle the Lord Solar Macharius, who is one of those characters that is so big he doesn’t have a model/rules (Or at least, not in the current edition) in the Warhammer 40k tabletop game?
The answer, quite simply, is don’t show the book from his point of view, but from the ranks of a lowly Imperial Guardsman. Macharius gets no POV chapters whatsoever, making out the Imperial Guard characters looking up to Macharius in a kind of way that is very similar to John Watson and Sherlock Holmes. Now, there may be complaints about so-called ‘false advertising’ when it comes down to the fans who were expecting a full novel from Macharius’ POV, However, I for one, disagree. A novel from Macharius’ POV just wouldn’t work. It would be like reading a Sherlock Holmes novel from Sherlock’s POV, rather than John Watson’s. It just wouldn’t fit. We wouldn’t have a character to relate to. We’d need an ordinary person to tell us that character, so we can understand just how awesome that character is.
At the dawn of the forty-first millennium, Lord Commander Macharius and his forces embark upon the re-conquest of over a thousand worlds. A man of steel and fire, Macharius is the only one with the will to lead the massed armies of the Imperium to victory. As the crusade rolls onwards, it reaches the world of Karsk. In the city of Irongrad, the Imperial forces face the crusade’s end, unless Macharius and his army can defeat the dreaded Angel of Fire.
So a short blurb, however – it tells you pretty much everything you need to know about King’s first Black Library novel in what seems like ages. It’s as straightforward plot, and pitches the numberless army of the Imperial Guard against the forces of the mysterious Angel of Fire, which is the book’s namesake. If you thought that Macharius was going to be the Angel of Fire, then think again – because he’s not. That’s the bad guy.
The pace of Angel of Fire is fast, action-packed and similar to King’s older works in the Warhammer 40k universe. If you’re looking for the next Charles Dickens, then this won’t be the book for you, but it’s nonetheless an entertaining read that if you find yourself enjoying it, the first novel in the Macharian Crusade is a page-turner that you should whizz through in one sitting. Looking for Macharius in action? You have it. Looking for armoured assaults, and the POV of the crew of the fearsome Baneblade tanks? You have it. Angel of Fire proves that King has not lost his touch when it comes to writing Warhammer 40k, and he can still write a good book, and Angel of Fire is more than a good book. It’s an amazing read, and I loved it, and I’m holding to the belief that it’s my new favourite non-Gaunt’s Ghosts Imperial Guard novel, just edging over Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s debut novel, Cadian Blood.
The protagonists of this story, outside of Macharius, are as mentioned earlier, the crew of a Baneblade tank. Their names are Leo, Anton and Ivan and they make up some very interesting aspects of the novel, and they gain most of the light-hearted moments in Angel of Fire, with my favourite moment being between these trio, where one of them only joined up with the Imperial Guard because he thought that was the first step onto becoming a Space Marine. Leo is the driving force of the novel, the Watson to Macharius’ Holmes, and he’s a likable character that will keep you rooting for the Imperium over the Chaos opposition.
Angel of Fire is the superb start to a trilogy which I will certainly be reading more of, and it stands firmly on its own with no cliffhanger which would leave the reader waiting until the second book, which is what I like to see in the opening novel of a trilogy. I prefer reading trilogies that don’t have cliffhangers, or have a cliffhanger at the end of the second book, and I wonder if King has anything in store for us in the future.
The Macharian Crusade Trilogy: Angel of Fire, Fist of Demetrius (2013), Fall of Macharius (2014)
Note: This novel is currently avaliable as an ebook direct from Black Library, but is not released for the general public until later this month.