Remorseless by Josh Reynolds – Book Review [Bellarius]


Continuing with the Legion short stories, Bellarius sees what Josh Reynolds has in store for us with Remorseless.

“A tale of singular urban action with an excellently grim closure.” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields.

Thus far these short stories have been fairly hit and miss, with some succeeding while others fail to truly utilise the assets they have on hand. Thankfully Remorseless is another hit with a number of engaging elements to keep the reader entertained.

Set during a pitched Iron Warriors siege against a hold-out on an otherwise conquered world, Remorseless follows the tale of traits on the cusp of complete victory. With their daemon engines driving back the defenders at every turn, and the Imperial forces holding the line almost exclusively thanks to the Imperial Fists, it will not be long before the end. However, as the Iron Warriors make the final push they release a very specific soldier to face their foes: A hunter of Angels…

As a tale, Remorseless is another relatively straight forwards one in terms of its narrative. It emphasises upon a relatively direct conflict, shows it during its final phases, has the Legion become involved with significant impact, and concludes on a dark note. This isn’t a criticism by any means, and if anything it’s something more stories need to embrace. When authors are stuck with something of this length and need to outright depict conflict on as large a scale as this, they need to stick to a winning formulae than try to open up with a full story. Or at least show the tale has had significant impact in some way as this certainly does.

The real selling point here is the fact we’re viewing events exclusively through the eyes of a very specific foe, a gene-enhanced warrior used to hunt down astartes and extract their gene-seed. Working with other groups, usually using them as chaff or distractions, they are trained to exclusively hunt for weaknesses and kill astartes’ through careful assaults. It’s definitely a concept fitting of the Iron Warriors and a concept well-handled enough to  give real investment to show the figure at work. Skaranx’s, the hunter’s, methods and thoughts work well within the short confines of this tale.

It’s made clear that in an open, outfight fight he would most likely lose. Furthermore that there is careful planning and precision strikes at work. Skaranx makes sure to isolate a single Fist, has a sizable number of troops backing him, and cannot work with melta or explosives due to the risks of damaging the gene-seed. As such the fight is more a battle of careful hit and fade attacks, never fighting the Fist openly and striking at his weak points when he is distracted. It’s well planned and written enough to sell the idea of an enhanced human brining down a space marine. Something especially helped by the level of detail involved with each attack, and despite losing the Fist is still treated with respect and as a capable foe.

There are also a few thoughts from Skaranx which help build up his character. His hound-like loyalty to a single Warsmith, envy of those he hunts and desires to have them fear him. All these give a slight edge to his personality, and while not especially deep or complex it’s these touches which help give the tale additional memorability. It’s also the shift of when the Legion appears which makes their presence all the more significant, as the hunter realises that he is hopelessly, hideously, outclassed by a foe that he should know exactly how to defeat. It brings about the Legion’s power on a level on par with The Dark Hollows of Memory, but manages it without the same level of destruction and on a more personal scale.

Sadly there are two points which do drag down the score. The first is the scale of the conflict. We see little of the overall battle in question and many descriptions of the siege feel as if they are out of place. Some far off event which just doesn’t seem to matter given the tale’s focus upon a single character and an isolated battle up to that point, not some sign of Chaos being overthrown. While a few elements are present, such as Skarnax’s thoughts denying his Warsmith would abandon him, it just doen’t work well with what takes place. Even the introduction doesn’t do that great a job of establishing the scale of the siege or the truly titanic battle which should have taken place. Had it been removed and this been set on a much more individual scale, it would have only improved the story.

It doesn’t help that the writing style involved often states facts rather than telling them. While the actual fight itself and the descriptions involved work well there, scenes of Skarnax gearing up and events prior to the engagement feel oddly dry in their delivery. The same goes for the end, with the Legion breaking the siege.

The other issue is the fact the Legion is present long before they actually act. They do nothing to save the Imperial Fist as he dies or act sooner to prevent the siege from claiming more lives. While this was admittedly a flaw within Legion of the Damned, it was much better hidden and woven into the plot. Whereas here all we get are a few brief sightings prior to the Fist’s death, which really could have been removed without much being lost. It could be seen to add to the mystery here, but many other stories seem to present them as beings who intervene to save the lives of astartes’ on the verge of total defeat.

Still, these are minor qualms for an otherwise solid short tale which proves to be very effective in its delivery. There are certainly noticeable flaws, but it’s definitely well told as a whole. It’s the other side of the coin to The Dark Hollows of Memory, showing the power and impact of the Legion on an individual level with little effort rather than the massive display of that book. Solidly told with an interesting villain and excellent impact, consider getting this one if you’re after for a good story.

Verdict: 6.5/10


Long time reader of novels, occasional writer of science fiction and critic of many things; Bellarius has seen some of the best and worst the genre has to offer.
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