Baneblade by Guy Haley – Book Review [Bane of Kings]
Milo, aka “Bane of Kings”, shares his thoughts on Guy Haley’s Baneblade, published by Black Library as part of their tie-in Warhammer 40,000 Universe. This book puts the mighty super-heavy tank known as the Baneblade in the spotlight, and is Guy Hayley’s first Black Library novel. The author has previously written the Richards and Klein science fiction series for Angry Robot.
“Excellent stuff, Guy Haley makes his debut in the Warhammer 40,000 Universe a triumphant one. This is an incredible read, exciting and action packed. You won’t want to put it down.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
By the blessing of the Omnissiah was the Mars Triumphant born – from the forges of the Adeptus Mechanicus, the mighty Baneblade super-heavy battle tank comes to bring death and destruction to the foes of the Imperium. As part of the Paragonian 7th Company, Honoured Lieutenant Marken Cortein Lo Bannick commands the venerable war machine in a bitter war against the orks in the Kalidar system. As the campaign grinds on it begins to take its toll upon his crew, and old clan prejudices from the regiment’s home world arise once more. In a war which cannot be won by force of arms alone, such division may prove to be their undoing.
I may have fallen out of the Black Library universe and haven’t read as much as I would have liked – up until near the end of 2013, I was reading pretty much every release that they put on the shelves. Now though, I’ve stopped reading a large amount of their output, and it’s something that I regret more and more when I get stuck into awesome books like these – especially when Guy Haley has put out such brilliant work for Angry Robot Books and Solaris in the past. Both his Richards and Klein series and Crash have been amazing and I was really expecting more of the same in his Black Library work, and thankfully – he didn’t disappoint, creating a wonderfully fun read.
Meet the next Imperial Guard protagonist. We’ve had Gaunt, Cain, and now, meet Lo Brannick. No longer a member of the planet’s ruling elite, he enlisted in the muster call of the Imperial Guard in order to avoid authorities. So he doesn’t quite come from the same background as either Gaunt, who was one of the few survivors of the doomed world of Tanith, or Cain – who served as a Commisioner following the deaths of his parents, who died whilst serving in the Imperial Guard. So Brannick is far from a carbon copy of succesful Black Library characters – with enough distinguishing features to make him a rootable and strong lead character. Brannick finds himself joining the Imperial Guard to fight armies of Orks on Kalidar IV, and to make things more difficult, not only must he deal with the xenos, but also the harsh desert sandstorms of the planet, and dissent in his own ranks.
Whilst not quite a Titan, a Baneblade is the next best thing in terms of heavy mechanized vehicles for the Imperial Guard. The book itself really does deserve to be called Baneblade – it doesn’t feature sparingly and you could arguably call it a character in the book, much like you could make a case for Serenity being a character in Firefly. Brannnick joins the Baneblade crew – entitled Mars Triumphant – following the loss of his Leman Russ – and it’s a machine that has seen nearly a thousand years of active service within the Imperium, with its commander being Honoured Captain Cortein. Unlike Brannick though, Cortein is bland, and as a result one of the main flaws of the book. He doesn’t feel as well developed or intriguing as Brannick and company, and he lacks the personality to really become a memorable character.
Unfortunately, Cortein is not the only problem. The book drags out a bit in the middle with a couple of chapters that aren’t quite as interesting as the rest- and the ending also suffers from a case of being drawn out. However, that shouldn’t really put you off from reading this book – because for the most part, it’s a success. Not many Imperial Guard novels focus on tank crews – if I recall correctly Steve Parker’s Gunheads featured a Caidan tank crew, and it’s a refreshing break to read some non Space Marine action as well as it seems that now the vast majority of Warhammer 40,000 fiction is either split between the Horus Heresy series and the Space Marine Battles novels.
The story splits between the past and present in terms of narration, sticking to third person like most of Black Library’s novels. We get to learn a lot about Brannick’s past and Hayley manages to handle both threads so that they never feel dull, and you never want to miss out one thread or the other. This helps give further depth to Brannick’s character and I would more than welcome future novels featuring him, especially given the ending in question. On top of that, the action is well written as well – with several awesome battle sequences throughout the book which is great because they never feel like merely “bolter porn”, with the end result being entertaining and it never gets dull.
So, for a first Black Library novel, Baneblade is a pretty damn good read by Haley despite a few problems. It serves as a good standalone novel and could make for the start of a very interesting series. It’s not perfect, but still – the positive elements found here outweigh the negatives.