Bane of Kings reviews Hammer of the Emperor, the second Imperial Guard Omnibus with stories from Lucian Soulban, Steve Parker and Steve Lyons, and published by Black Library.
“It’s a magnanimous collection, filled with expertly crafted stories that you’ll want to read over and over again.” ~The Founding Fields
Mercy Run by Steve Parker
Now, as many of you will know, Steve Parker was the author who brought us the first Space Marine Battles book, Rynn’s World, which in my view, still stands as the worst in the series, at least in my view. I’d also like to add that this is the same short story from the Planetkill anthology which is now out of stock on the Black Library website, just to let you know. I know, I made a mistake thinking this was a new addition on a thread on Heresy Online, but I hope those who saw the error will forgive me.
However, I enjoyed it greatly. Now, although it isn’t enough to wrestle the Gaunt’s Ghosts off the top spot of Imperial Guard Novels, this short story is pretty good, especially as it is the run-up to Gunheads, and focuses on the events that befell Last Rites I, The main character, Sergeant Wulfe’s Leman Russ. They’re on a mission to save a leading Guardsman, before the Ork Roks of The Prophet of the Waaagh! Come crashing down on the planet and obliterate all life from it.
So, it basically is a race against time, and speaking of time, I think I might as well start actually reviewing the short story before you all get bored. Well, the description is pretty neat if I do say so myself, and there are a few nice twists towards the end to keep you interested.
Character development is also not too shabby, and the pacing doesn’t seem to be that rushed.
Gunheads by Steve Parker
Now, Gunheads is the sequel to Mercy Run, and sees Wulfe and co. Back in action in Last Rites II, their new Leman Russ assigned as a replacement to Last Rites I, and are tasked with, along with their regiment of Gunheads, to lead what seemingly is a suicide mission in finding the legendary Commissar Yarrick’s Tank from the world of Golgatha, overrun by Greenskins.
As expected more characters are introduced in Gunheads than in Mercy Run, and the action increased with epic battles, plenty of nick-of-time rescues that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Although the storyline is predictable, this is an enjoyable read nonetheless.
Steve Parker builds up the atmosphere in the novel by having conflicts not just the orks versus the guardsmen, but the guardsmen versus themselves, allowing many rivalries to take shape within the force sent to reclaim The Fortress of Arrogance, Yarrick’s Baneblade.
During this novel, as well as delivering action-packed battles that will leave you on the edge of your seat (Yes, I did say that the overall storyline was predictable, but I didn’t mention that the battles in-between weren’t), the author manages to give us a glimpse into daily life in the Imperial Guard, or at least the Cadian day-to-day life.
Overall, I personally found this to be good, although I found Mercy Run better.
Ice Guard by Steve Lyons
Halfway through the Omnibus now, and it’s Ice Guard by popular Imperial Guard author, Steve Lyons, who makes an appearance twice more in this omnibus with different works, and is also responsible for the recently released Dead Men Walking, focusing on the Death Korps of Kreig against the Necrons.
But enough about the author, you’ll probably be wanting to know about the book. Again, similar to Mercy Run, the Valhallans who are the regiment in this novel (hence the title, Ice Guard), are on a race against time, trying to save an important confessor from the twisted hands of chaos before the corrupted planet is virus bombed by the Imperium.
The novel overall I found to be mostly fast paced, and incredibly action packed. There are some great twists in there, which you won’t see coming, and some good characterization, especially seeing as there is only a small group of characters to look at, rather than a whole regiment as in Gunheads.
Steve Lyons does a good job of building up tension in this novel, especially by putting the time left until the destruction of the planet Cressida at the beginning of each chapter, just to make you aware that not long is left.
However, despite all this, I didn’t enjoy the novel, as the overall ending is somewhat predictable, like Gunheads, and it had a simple plot like Mercy Run, only dragged out more in a longer story.
A Blind Eye by Steve Lyons
A Blind Eye is the short story follow up to Ice Guard, and is the second piece by author Steve Lyons to appear in this Imperial Guard Omnibus, and revolves around the Valhallans, going on a mission with a few members of the Mechanicus to investigate an underwater facility, in which everything isn’t as it seems.
A Blind Eye focuses on Steele and similar characters seen before in Ice Guard, but pits them in a different situation, and with no “end of the world in a few hours” threat, it’s a remarkable change from Ice Guard.
So, does that make it better? In a way, I’d say yes. In my opinion, the storyline was less predictable, better description and better action than Ice Guard. Also, the pacing isn’t too rushed, and the story a well written one.
Desert Raiders by Lucien Soulban
Desert Raiders by Lucien Soulban is the author’s second Black Library Novel, the first being an old Necromunda one called Fleshworks.
Although a little slow at the start, the action really increases towards the end, and with a lot of the book dedicated to the background of the Tallern Raiders, you will understand why.
As with most regiments of the Imperial Guard, there is inter-regimental conflict, but perhaps none more so than in the newly formed 892nd Tallern Regiment, in which two halves of the regiment are basically at war with each other, kept only in check by their loyalty to the God-Emperor, and the watchful eyes of the lone Commissar attached to the 892nd.
Now, for those who were around when Desert Raiders was first released, you may remember there being Tyranids on the cover, and in this novel, they are the main opposition.
All of the other novels in Hammer of the Emperor so far have had, in my view at least, a simple plot. In Desert Raiders, it’s no different, with an enigmatic call for aid on a desert world sees the 892nd sent to investigate.
My main criticism on this book was the ending, which didn’t really make the reader satisfied. Even though there are some heroic last stands, which you can always expect with the Tyranids as the opposition, it doesn’t really make up for it. I’m not going to post the ending because I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but it was disappointing for me.
In my view, Desert Raiders is the worst addition to this Omnibus. But that doesn’t mean you’ll not enjoy it, though.
Waiting Death by Steve Lyons
Now, Waiting Death is the final instalment in the Omnibus, as well as Steve Lyons’ third, and is the paper version of the audio drama that was released in April 2010.
And if I do say so myself, this was the one in this Omnibus that I was looking forward to the most, because I missed picking up the audio release, which I was pretty gutted about, because this focused on one of my favourite Imperial Guard Regiments, the Catachan Jungle Fighters.
And, not just any regiment of the Catachan Jungle Fighters, oh no. In my book, this Regiment is the most famous out of all of them, (The Catachans), and one main reason is that it includes Colonel ‘Iron Hand’ Straken.
Although the major flaw in Waiting Death is that the plot isn’t that well flushed out, which I can understand as it was originally meant for an audio release.
However, don’t let that stop you from giving this first person short story a go; for there’s great action and a fantastic twist towards the end, and after the disappointment of Desert Raiders, this’ll leave the reader ending the Omnibus on a good, positive note.
Finally, because no doubt you’re all getting bored of reading this by now, I’d like to point out that the enemy Straken’s facing is not just the Chaos Cutilists, oh no. It’s himself that he’s facing.
Overall Omnibus Verdict: 3/5