Space Marine Battles: The Siege of Castellax by CL Werner – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
With the first Chaos Space Marine novel in the Space Marine Battles series avaliable to buy, Bane of Kings shares his thoughts on CL Werner’s first Warhammmer 40k novel, The Siege of Castellax, focusing on the Iron Warriors and their battles against Orks, published by Black Library.
“Black Library have picked the right choice to start off with for Chaos Space Marine Battles Novels, The Siege of Castellax is Werner on top form – why hasn’t he written any 40k novels before? This was an awesome read.” ~The Founding Fields
As I’ve already mentioned, The Siege of Castellax is the first Space Marine Battles novel to focus on Chaos Space Marines. Black Library pulled a big gamble with this and getting CL Werner to write his first full Warhammer 40k novel, as although he’s an experienced Warhammer Fantasy writer, The Siege of Castellax is his first venture into the grimdark backdrop of the far future. And he’s chosen to focus in on the Iron Warriors as a legion, who as it stands, Graham McNeill is basically the Iron Warriors author, even if only with his one full novel on them – Storm of Iron.
But after reading The Siege of Castellax, I can firmly say that they picked the right man for the job. Even though I had a couple of minor issues with The Siege of Castellax, that’s all they were – minor. I enjoyed the heck out of the latest Space Marine Battles novel and for me it’s one of the better installments in the series that has been largely hit or miss.
The Chaos Space Marines of the Iron Warriors Legion have long been renowned as the masters of siege warfare, able to inflict devastating firepower and unimaginable cruelty upon their foes. On the world of Castellax, twisted Warsmith Andraaz builds his own empire even as a system-crushing ork Waaagh! approaches, and drives his own slaves ever harder to meet their production quotas and supply materiel for the Legion’s many warbands. Their walls are strong and their weapons ready, but how long can the planet hold out against the deadly greenskin invasion when whisperings of rebellion begin to pass between the Iron Warriors’ downtrodden vassals?
The first thing that’s important to note about Siege of Castellax is that it’s a Chaos Space Marine novel. We aren’t focusing on loyalists here, which adds to the potential for some even more action and a refreshing break from what is usually loyalists defending from invading xenos armies, Rynn’s World by Steve Parker, Fall of Damnos by Nick Kyme, The Purging of Kadillius by Gav Thorpe and Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden all fall into this category. Even though there have been a few exceptions, that’s what the bulk of the Space Marine Battles novels have been about. And to an extent, this one is as well, it’s Orks invading a planet controlled by Space Marines. Only, this time it’s different. It’s Chaos Space Marines, and there are no heroes here.
So that means that whilst there’s no clear ‘good guy’ to root for, you’re left with the Iron Warriors. Perturabo’s sons. And CL Werner captures the fallen Astartes really well in this book, so much so that you can tell that they’re not one unified force like the Space Marines are. Threats come from all sides, as you get all sorts of elements of the Iron Warriors fighting not just to repel the Orks but also to make a grab for power. It’s a very interesting game that is playing behind the scenes of this action-packed novel, and I think that, combined with Werner’s awesome prose (if he does admittedly use exclamation marks in normal, non speech sentences, something which bugs me a bit), this is what for me, elevates Siege of Castellax above the average Space Marine Battles novel. It’s up there in my top three out of the series, along with Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden and Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight (which is also another novel about Space Marines being attacked, come to think of it), and I sincerely hope that Werner writes his own 40k series sometime soon, The Siege of Castellax was just superb, and I’d love to see him return to this universe no matter what subject he’s touching on.
Werner gets the grim-darkness here just right. Unlike certain predictable Space Marine Battles novels, you can never tell who is going to make it out alive and you can never really predict the end result. The action is well written and we get several POVs from different sides of the conflict, we don’t just follow a lone Iron Warrior. Werner gets this spot on and manages to weave the large dramatis personae together and whilst some characters are in the spotlight more than others, it doesn’t make them any less interesting. I’d love to go into detail about a particular Iron Warrior, but that would be spoiling it for you – I’ll just let you read and find it out for yourself.
And you should read this by the way. 40k fans will get more investment in this than newcomers, but I’d advise against giving someone this title as their first 40k experience. However, if you’re somewhat familiar with the lore and how things roll in the far future, then The Siege of Castellax is a book for you. Go buy, read and enjoy. Don’t be put off by the fact that it is a Space Marine Battles novel, for this is a very enjoyable book.
Space Marine Battles: Rynn’s World by Steve Parker, Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, The Hunt for Voldorious by Andy Hoare, The Purging of Kadillius by Gav Thorpe, Fall of Damnos by Nick Kyme, Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight, The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell, Legion of the Damned by Rob Sanders, Architect of Fate by Various Authors, Wrath of Iron by Chris Wraight, The Siege of Castellax by CL Werner, The Death of Antagonis by David Annadale (Jan 2013)
Novellas and Short Stories: Catechism of Hate by Gav Thorpe, Kraken by Chris Wraight, Flesh of Cretacia by Andy Smillie
Audio Dramas: Bloodspire by CZ Dunn, Deathwolf by Andy Smillie, The Acension of Balthasar by CZ Dunn, The Stormark Massacre by CZ Dunn and Andy Smilie, Mortarion’s Heart by Laurie Golding (August 2013)