Space Marine Battles: Damnos by Nick Kyme – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Milo, aka “Bane of Kings” reviews Damnos, the hardback reprint of the Space Marine Battles novel Fall of Damnos by Nick Kyme, collecting the novella Spear of Macragge, and detailing the story of the Ultramarines defence of the doomed Damnos from the Necron foe. Set in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, Damnos is published exclusively by Black Library.
“An excellent Space Marine Battles novel, in my view – Damnos, both the original novel and the exclusive novella, are among the best of the series as Nick Kyme brings a great look into the Ultramarines.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
++ASTROPATHIC CHOIR INTERCEPT XC114, VALIN’S REVENGE 965973.M41++
++MESSAGE FRAGMENT RECOVERED BY CHOIRMASTER++
++…ALL IS LOST, CASUALTIES PRESUMED NEAR TOTAL. ONLY KELLENPORT REMAINS. AS LORD-GOVERNOR, RECOGNISED BY THE HIGH LORDS OF TERRA, I BESEECH ALL IMPERIAL SERVANTS RECEIVING THIS MESSAGE TO COME TO OUR AID WITH ALL HASTE. MAY THE EMPEROR SHIELD US. SCANT INFORMATION EXISTS ON THE INVADING FORCE SAVE FOR A BINARIC DATA-BURST. TRANSLITERATION FOLLOWS: ‘WE ARE THE NECRONTYR. WE ARE LEGION. WE CLAIM DOMINION OF THIS WORLD… SURRENDER AND DIE.’++
++DATA-SEAL OF LORD-GOVERNOR ARXIS VERIFIED IN ASTROPATHIC ROUTING MEME…++
++MESSAGE ORIGIN CONFIRMED AS DAMNOS, MINING WORLD, ULTIMA SEGMENTUM++
++TRANSCRIPT FORWARDED TO THE BRIDGE FOR ATTENTION OF CAPTAIN SICARIUS++
++MARK MOST URGENT+
Well, it’s not every day you get a review copy of a book that you’ve already read and reviewed before. My original Advance Review of Fall of Damnos can be found later in the review, but it appears that this time, rather than just simply reprint the now out-of-print novel as either a singular book or as part of a larger omnibus, Black Library have started to take a similar approach to that of the New York Times Bestselling Horus Heresy series with their somewhat less successful Space Marine Battles books. Whilst I’m not up to date on this series, the most recent book I’ve read being C.L. Werner’s strong The Siege of Castellax, the first (and to date only) Space Marine Battles novel that I’ve read that has focused on the Chaos Space Marines. However, it’s not really a series that you have to read in order, as veteran Warhammer 40,00 readers will know that rather than telling an ordered series of events, the Space Marine Battles books focus on specific events that have already been covered in various Space Marine Codexes or the main Warhammer 40,000 rulebook. This allows for a great development of these events, assuming – as was the case with novels like Rynn’s World by Steve Parker and Andy Hoare’s Hunt for Voldorious, two early entries in the series – that the author can stray clear of the typical bolter-porn, guns blazing format that pretty much ensures that the entire book is nothing but action with minimal character development.
You can find my original review of Fall of Damnos here. However, be warned, my writing is pretty pathetic then and I like to think that I have improved since. But if you don’t want to read through eye-scalding text (or are reading this on Goodreads rather than the actual site as Goodreads doesn’t have a link to this review), then you’ll probably just want the pull quote. I wrote that “With just two books, Nick Kyme is already challenging Graham McNeill’s reputation as king of the Ultramarines.” And that couldn’t be more true. Fall of Damnos really is that good, and although it has received a rather diverse reaction in the Warhammer 40k fanbase (as has it seems, any novel not written by either Aaron Dembski-Bowden or Dan Abnett (and to a slightly lesser extent, Graham McNeill) – and it’s probably going to be a book that you’ll either love, like I did – or hate. I know fellow Founding Fields reviewer Bellarius has strong feelings against this book.
However, back to the review. I’m not going to talk about the original novel, Fall of Damnos, in any real depth here because the short answer is that I’ve already covered it before on TFF, and I’m not really a big fan of reviewing the same thing twice. I’m going to focus instead on Spear of Macragge, the novella that comes attached to Damnos in the same way that Blood and Fire was part of Armaggedon, the recent hardback re-release of Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s popular Helsreach novel in the similar series. It’s new, you haven’t seen it before – and it fleshes out the original novel in more depth. It seems the ‘fleshing out’ of Fall of Damnos is coming out in two halves, not just the novella – but there’s also the audio-drama Veil of Darkness that I am reviewing at some point today in a different post, adding some further exploration of the aftermath of the Damnos conflict and what ramifications it had on the Ultramarines as a legion.
Spear of Macragge however is a novella that is set during the events of Fall of Damnos (and also follows on, serving as a second act in a ‘trilogy’ of sorts if you count Veil of Darkness as the final act) – and features several of the key scenes, such as the Siege of Kellenport, that many owners of the 5th edition of the Space Marine Codex will be aware of – that were left out of the original novel. The attention is on Tank Commander Chronous, another familiar face here, and feels a more interesting, captivating and engaging than Sicarius before him. As this book however chooses to recount events that most people who have read the lore will be already aware of, several elements are rendered unpredictable, thus robbing the book’s tension. I mean, the Necrons have the potential to be one of the scariest races in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe if done right, but the considerable lack of tension here despite the relatively high stakes really didn’t help matters much. Then again, this isn’t really Nick Kyme’s fault, as he’s choosing to expand on an already written tale featuring characters that are models on the tabletop, so obviously – you know from the get go that these big names won’t die over the course of the book.
However, that doesn’t stop the novella from being any less awesome when it comes to its finale. We get to see the characters that we’ve met before pressed to the limit, as the true horror of the Necron threat is revealed. Whilst Spear of Macragge is largely action – it’s action done right, and Kyme has crafted a page-turning read that serves as a fitting addition to the main events in Fall of Damnos, and is well worth the additional price for this hardback novel as opposed to just buying the individual book. Like Veil of Darkness, Spear of Macragge provides the reader with a very strong read.
The battle sequences are really awesome as well, with a variety of fun sequences inside. There are clashes with a battalion of armoured tanks (as one would expect when the main character of Spear of Macragge is a Tank Commander) and the aerial conflict that this book brings to the table is just as fun as its ground counterparts. Kyme certainly knows how to write some gripping action sequences, and Spear of Macragge, much like Fall of Damnos – is full of them.
The only thing that I didn’t really like about Spear of Macragge was the fact that it felt a bit rushed in places. Other than that, I feel that Nick Kyme got this extra addition to Fall of Damnos spot on, and really handles it well. If you enjoyed the first novel then Spear of Macragge is one that you should find awesome as well. As a whole then, Damnos is a lot of fun, and is a novel that’s certainly worth checking out. Recommended over the standalone novel if you’ve enjoyed Nick Kyme’s previous works and want more. Speaking of more, can we have an ongoing Ultramarines series from Kyme, please? That would be awesome.