Friday, February 20, 2015

Booknote: Ultramarines: The Second Omnibus

Graham McNeill, Ultramarines: The Second Omnibus. Nottingham, UK: Black Library, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-84970-174-7.

This volume collects the second set of three novels in the Ultramarines series in Warhammer 40,000. The novels are The Killing Ground, Courage and Honor, and The Chapter's Due.

For The Killing Ground, the novel started a bit slow in terms of pace, and characters like Governor Barbaten and Colonel Kain were right down odious. However, once the novel picked up the pace, I did end up liking it. In the novel, Uriel and Pasanius manage to make it back from the Eye of Terror (see previous novels to learn how they got there). They arrive, barely alive, on a strange world. They have to prove who they are to the local imperial forces, who are very skeptical. However, that may be the least of the two space marines' problems as the planetary governor and his forces are hiding a dark secret, a terrible crime that comes back to haunt them all. A reckoning is coming, and Uriel and Pasanius are caught right in the middle of it. The novel blends action with some intrigue and supernatural elements. Uriel and Pasanius need to uncover the truth, all in the hopes of making it back home. Overall, a good tale.

Next we get Courage and Honor and The Chapter's Due. Of the two, I enjoyed Courage and Honor better, which is my favorite in the set. In Courage and Honor, Uriel is back in command of the Fourth Company with the Ultramarines, and he has to repel a Tau invasion on a world his Ultramarines saved before. Eyes are still on him to see if his experience in the Eye of Terror tainted him (this in spite of him already having passed the trials the Ultramarines imposed on him previously). He returns to Pavonis, where the Tau are launching an invasion. It is a subtle invasion for they come as negotiators and traders. Are they really? A good element of this novel is that we also get the Tau point of view, and suddenly they do not seem as bad as the Imperium makes them to be. Good intrigue and tension, a solid cast of characters, including some unlikeable ones. Plenty of action and gallant deaths for fans of the series.

In The Chapter's Due, Uriel gets to confront his past as Warlord Honsou comes to attack the worlds of Ultramar. Honsou somehow seems to be a step ahead of the Ultramarines. The novel does give some nice insights into Uriel's past. However, the pace is not always consistent when compared to the other two novels in the collection. Yet The Chapter's Due does offer enough action and suspense to keep us reading.

The volume also includes the novella "Eye of Vengeance" and the short comic "Black Bone Road." The comic features a young sergeant named Uriel Ventris who is still learning his path as a space marine. These two items make a nice bonus.

In the end, this was a volume that I really liked. It had some ups and downs, but I enjoyed it overall. Fans of this series will enjoy it. If you have not read the series before, you should start with the first novel in the series, which is collected with two others in a previous omnibus (I linked to my review of that above). Fans of military science fiction may want to give this one a spin.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

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