Angel of Fire by William King – Advance Review [Lord of the Night]
Lord of the Night reviews the venerable William King’s return to 40k with the start of the Macharian Crusade trilogy, Angel of Fire.
“A stunning return by Bill King to the 40k universe, and an ambitious one at that to have made his return with the legendary Macharius Crusade. Ambition that definitely succeeds!” – The Founding Fields
Its been years since I last read Bill King’s 4ok work, and after reading Angel of Fire I can confirm he has lost none of his affinity for the 41st millennium in his absence. The Macharian Crusade is definitely not a small subject and that he chose it as his return piece shows how confident he was about it, and that confidence definitely paid off in the book.
The Imperial Guard is gearing up for the largest crusade in living memory and leading it is the Lord Solar Macharius, a demi-god among men, who intends to restore the Emperor’s Light to a thousand lost and benighted worlds. As the Crusade reaches the volcanic world of Karsk IV a motley Baneblade crew will bear witness to the secrets behind the Crusade and its troubles, to the Angel of Fire that the locals worship so fervently and to Macharius himself as they are swept up in an adventure that will take them to the edge of the galaxy and back again.
The story is a very interesting format. Macharius is a character for whom a POV would spoil much of the legend and myth around him, rather the tale is retold by a Guardsman who served alongside Macharius personally and who is retelling the story in the middle of a battle. Through another’s eyes the story on Karsk IV is relayed, and though we never learn what Macharius himself was thinking we learn what those who looked upon him were thinking, and how a single man was able to inspire the Imperium to reclaim more than a thousand worlds. The story of Karsk IV is just as interesting, the mystery of the Angel of Fire and the very beginnings of the Crusade are both highly engaging which combined with a great cast of character and damn impressive action scenes make for one hell of a book.
The characters are a motley sort, the three protagonists being Guardsmen Leo, Anton and Ivan once of the industrial world Belial and now the crew of the old Number 10 Baneblade Indomitable. Leo is the POV character and the most mature of the three, Anton the patriotic and good-natured fool and Ivan the world-wise tough guy. Macharius is the other main presence in the novel and dominates much of it, his presence is beyond any other character which is fitting as this is his story, and through Leo’s eyes and thoughts we learn far more about Macharius than has been revealed so far. Other characters include the shadowy Inquisitor Drake, the kindly nurse Anna, the untested Guardsman New Boy and the Understudy who is a fascinating character and study subject, battle damage takes many forms.
The action of the novel is brilliant. The Sons of the Flame are a diabolical enemy, and King really creates something special with their leaders as they battle against Macharius’s regiments and the crew of the Indomitable. The first half of the novel is filled with tank clashes, and with a Baneblade as the focus you can really feel the power as the Indomitable battles against enemy infantry, deadly psykers and even superheavy tank formations. And there’s plenty of assaults, sneak attacks, feints, aerial assaults and all the fare you’d desire from an Imperial Guard novel.
The pacing of the story is very nice. The book does not feature numbered chapters, and each chapter is of a different length. Some are interspersed with reports from Inquisitor Drake and casualty reports from the field. The story itself moves along at a good speed which is easily readable, and keeps the reader entertained with either the mystery of the Angel of Fire, good light-hearted humour that is a speciality of King’s, the heavy action that comes from hundreds of thousands of men clashing against each other with heavy armour support, or the thrill of the mission as the novel proceeds into its second half.
And of course my favourite quote. There’s plenty of them, but I find this one to be one of the best and funniest.
“I’ve never really cared for people who shoot at me.”
The ending is inspiring to say the very least. Its hard not to want to join in with the chant and proclaim your allegience, but this is only the beginning of the Macharius Crusade and of the series, yet the ending makes you feel like it will never end and that no force can stand in the way of Macharius and the Imperial Guard. Definitely one of the more upbeat endings for a 40k novel, which was very nice after Wrath of Iron.
For a damn fine start to one of the most anticipated trilogies of the forseeable future, an engaging and funny cast of characters and exquiste battle scenes I give Angel of Fire a score of 9.0/10. Bill King has lost none of his skill for 40k writing and its damn great to see him back, Tyrion and Teclis and now Macharius. He’s not started small by picking three incredible characters and their well-known stories to any fan of 40k or WHF, but he is definitely the man to put them to paper and story.
Should you buy this book? If you love the Imperial Guard then Yes. This novel and trilogy are all about them, the average soldiers of the 41st millennium and their greatest triumph. Fans of William King will also definitely want to get their hands on this once its released. Those who want lots of Space Marines and Xenos, look elsewhere. But I think that this is a Guard novel that can get even those who don’t care much for them, like me, to change their minds and really get behind the Hammer of the Emperor.
That’s it for this review. Next i’ll be diving into the gorestained Northern Wastes with Valkia the Bloody by Sarah Cawkwell, until next time.
AVE DOMINUS NOX!