For the first time, Bane of Kings reviews a short story collection, called Victories of the Space Marines, edited by Christian Dunn and published by Black Library, containing stories from Chris Wraight, Gav Thorpe, CL Werner, Rob Sanders, James Swallow, Steve Parker, Sarah Cawkwell and Ben Counter.
“…It delivers a whole heap of fascinating, new short stories…” ~The Founding Fields
Firstly, this is a collection of short stories focusing mainly on the loyalist space marines, although there a tale about the traitors in there. But, I’ll talk more about that later. Now, to get the ball rolling, here’s Runes, by Chris Wraight.
Runes by Chris Wraight
Now, the last thing I read written by Chris Wraight was Sword of Vengeance, a Warhammer Heroes novel, which I enjoyed greatly, despite not reading the predecessor, Sword of Justice, first. Anyway, this short story is, I think, Chris Wraight’s first ever Warhammer 40,000 piece, and, which I’m pleased to tell you, focuses on one of my favourite chapters, The Space Wolves themselves.
The plot of this short story is relatively simple, but still enjoyable and with a few twists and turns, and follows a diverted Strike Cruiser containing Space Wolves following a rune priest’s visions, which leads them to a planet where they have to not only find what they were looking for, but deal with Eldar, and more, as well.
Overall, Runes is an action-packed, thrilling short story that gives us a taster before the highly anticipated Battle for the Fang, a Space Wolves novel coming soon written by the same author. And, I liked what I saw.
There’s plenty of action in this short, which was very enjoyable, and there’s also a few points of view from the Eldar, giving us occasional, short breaks from the hounds of Russ.
The Rewards of Tolerance by Gav Thorpe
The Rewards of Tolerance by Gav Thorpe, author of Purging of Kadillus and Path of the Warrior, is the second instalment in this latest collection of anthologies and sees the return of the Avenging Sons 3rd Company, who recently cast aside their oaths to the chapter in Renegades, a short story in Heroes of the Space Marines.
I must say, that I enjoyed this short story, like I enjoyed Renegades. There are some great scenes in there, and some nice conversations between the Avenging Sons and the Eldar.
The main plot of The Rewards of Tolerance picks up where Renegades left off, and sees the Avenging Sons trying to steal supplies off an Imperial ship before entering the Eye of Terror, as the Imperials believe they are still loyal to the Emperor.
Everything goes like clockwork, until they encounter the Eldar. Then they are forced to make a choice. Want to know what that choice is? Well, you’ll have to buy the book (or the eBook).
Overall, The Rewards of Tolerance stands alone as the sole traitor story in this anthology, and I reckon it is a pretty decent one, and am hoping that Gav Thorpe continues to expand on the Avenging Sons, and perhaps make a full-blown novel of them?
Black Dawn by C.L. Werner
Right then, the third short story sees C.L. Werner take control of the Warbringers Chapter. Once I decided that they must have been traitor with a name like that, I started to read. However, I soon realised I was mistaken, and it turns out the Warbringers are actually loyalists.
Now, the overall plot of Black Dawn, I found to be very well done, and I must say that this was one of my favourite stories in the Anthology. Basically, it revolves around a finding of a supposedly holy relic, a weapon used by Roboute Guilliman during the great crusade, but everything is not as it seems.
C.L. Werner’s past works are mainly for Warhammer Fantasy, and is the author of the popular Thanquol and Boneripper Series, and is even doing something for the next Time of Legend series, which should be pretty good as well.
Although the battle scenes in this short story aren’t wide scale, when they are done, they are done pretty well. I will be defiantly picking up more of C.L. Werner’s work.
Moving on, there’s a major twist in the last few pages of Black Dawn, that you defiantly won’t see coming. I didn’t.
The Long Games at Carcharias by Rob Sanders
As many of you will know, Rob Sanders is the author of Redemption Corps, which was an Imperial Guard novel that I picked up recently and enjoyed. Now, despite the Crimson Consuls being a minor chapter, much like most featured in this story, I enjoyed it a lot. If you want to pick this up individually, you can do so by either picking up one of the Hammer and Bolter e-magazines (I think this was in Number 5 or 6), or downloading it individually on the Black Library website.
Now, the plot of this story was pretty awesome, and sees the Alpha Legion doing what they do best, and that is infiltrating, waiting and destroying loyalist chapters here, the orchestrator of the attack claiming to be Alpherious himself. But then again, for those of us who have read Legion, we will all know what the Alpha Legion are like, and how they act.
The action wasn’t bad either, and this was another one of my favourite shorts in this anthology, and the characters are pretty well thought out as well. As with the Warbringers, again though, I found the Chapter’s name not very intriguing. But then, we don’t judge a book by its cover, do we? Or rather, the appropriate term in this case would be to judge a space marine chapter by its name.
Heart of Rage by James Swallow
Heart of Rage is the paper adaption of the audio drama by the same name, and is the second time this short has been put on paper (the first being The Book of Blood). This is done by James Swallow, who is responsible for Nemesis, a story in the popular Horus Heresy series, and the Blood Angel Series.
Now, being a fan of the Blood Angels, and having missed the audio, I eagerly jumped into this one, having enjoyed the Blood Angel Omnibus beforehand, and being a fan of James Swallow’s work, wasted no time in reading this.
And, I enjoyed it. The plot of this short story sees the Imperial frigate Emathia that has come across an almost dead Hive Fleet lying abandoned in space, and the Blood Angels coming into investigate. Despite one boarding party having gone missing, the prize is too great to be abandoned. Will the Blood Angels succeed?
Brother Librarian Nord, and Sergeant Kale, lead a squad of marines in this mission, with an aim to secure the Tyranid ship and rescue the previous boarding party. Therefore, the story is fairly simple, like the majority of these shorts, but was still entertaining
Although this wasn’t the best of the short stories, it was enjoyable nonetheless and provided us with some neat description and the ability for those of us who don’t like audiobooks to pick this up.
But Dust in the Wind by Jonathan Green
Right, we’re coming to the end of this anthology, and we have a third short focusing on the first founding chapters, this time the Imperial Fists, and written by Jonathan Green, whose work includes The Armageddon Omnibus, A Print on Demand collection of Black Templar Novels.
Having not read anything by Jonathan Green in the past apart from a good short story in Legends of the Space Marines, I was pleased to see a new take on the Imperial Fists as I did not, if I am being honest, enjoy Sons of Dorn by Chris Roberson. Now, as Jonathan Green had written about the Black Templars in the past, I was wondering what his take would be on the fists would be.
I must say, that I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it’s good to see that the Necrons are getting more love nowadays, as they are the main enemy that the Imperial Fists have to face.
Now, whereas Black Dawn lacked the epic battles, But Dust in the Wind makes up for it with epic encounters between the Imperial Fists and the Necrons, and comes complete with a tragic conclusion. Despite there being little character development in this short, I felt that I enjoyed it nonetheless, and this has defiantly made me interested in picking up The Armageddon Omnibus.
Exhumed by Steve Parker
Not long to go now, and Exhumed is the second Deathwatch short story that we’ve seen from Steve Parker, responsible for the Deathwatch short called Headhunted, and the first instalment of the Space Marine Battle Series, called Rynn’s World.
I guess, having been a fan of the original Deathwatch story, I liked Exhumed a lot. One criticism about it however, was that you’ll notice that the first three words, “The Thunderhawk Gunship”, are exactly the same as the opening in But Dust in the Wind. Just thought I’d throw that at you, before I get to the plot.
Basically, Exhumed sees the return of Talon Squad, this time overseeing the extraction of an ancient Eldar sarcophagus from an also ancient world. However, what rests within the sarcophagus, is not necessarily dead.
This is one of the short stories in this anthology that actually consisted of character development and character tension, and because all the marines are from different chapters, and therefore will have different views, you will no doubt understand why.
Now then, although this short was enjoyable to read, it did have a few flaws. One is mentioned above, and the second I’ll point out to you here. Steve Parker spends far too much time telling us what chapter each marine is from and I find it that it’s not needed.
Primary Instinct by Sarah Cawkwell
Now then, the penultimate short story is written by newcomer Sarah Cawkwell, author of the upcoming Gildar Rift novel, who was inducted from, I believe, Black Library Bolthole, and, mainly due to the positive feedback I’ve been hearing about this short, I was eagerly anticipating it.
Basically, Primary Instinct follows a Silver Skulls assault squad, “The Reckoners,” assisted by a Prognosticator (Librarian), tasked with investigating an Eldar vessel crash-site, and to see what happened to the crew.
Now, despite having a rough opening, Primary Instinct really perks up towards the end with fast paced combat scenes that still seem to move the story forward, and has a great plotline, pretty nice characters and even, a surprising twist at the end.
Another completely new chapter (bar the name and the occasional mentions in rulebooks and codexes) takes the stage in this short, and is the third new chapter, which allows the author in question to take them in as their own, and give them a whole new back story, and Sarah Cawkwell has done this by adding the Prognosticator to the scene, which, as mentioned above, is the equivalent of a Librarian in the other chapters, but also has some elements of a Chaplain.
All in all, a great read and I will eagerly look forward to Gildar Rift.
Sacrifice by Ben Counter
Right, last but not least, it’s time we looked at Ben Counter’s sacrifice, a Grey Knights story by the author has written a whole omnibus about them, but has also written one of my least favourite novels: Battle for the Abyss.
Without giving away too much detail on the plot, Sacrifice sees the return of Alaric, who was the main character of the Grey Knights Omnibus if I am not mistaken, as he recalls the sacrifices that have made his life the way it is, and prepares to make one, final sacrifice in the name of the Emperor and mankind.
Going out with a triumphant end to the anthology, Ben Counter does pretty well in this short story and has, like numerous other authors, got me interested in reading more about the Grey Knights. The short story delivers some great scenes, and a neat conclusion to what has been a roller-coaster ride.
One of my favourite works by Ben Counter, Sacrifice is again, one of the better instalments in this anthology.
Final Thoughts: Although Victories of the Space Marines lacked short stories by Nick Kyme, Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill, my top five Black Library authors, it delivers a whole heap of new, fantastic short stories to Black Library’s already huge amount, and will leave the reader wanting more from most of these authors. If I had to pick a favourite from this whole Anthology, I’d say Black Dawn by C.L. Werner. Primary Instinct and The Long Games at Carcharias come in tied second.
Anthology Verdict: 4/5
More Space Marine Anthologies: Heroes of the Space Marines, Legends of the Space Marines, Victories of the Space Marines, Treacheries of the Space Marines (Forthcoming)