Monday, June 06, 2016

Booknote: The Blood Angels Omnibus

James Swallow, The Blood Angels Omnibus. Nottingham, UK: Black Library, 2008. ISBN: 978-1-84416-559-9.

Genre: science fiction
Subgenre: Warhammer 40,000, military scifi
Format: paperback
Source: I bought this one, at Half Price Books if I recall correctly.

I finally finished reading this one. This omnibus edition contains two novels that started out with a lot of potential, and then they just dragged on, and on, and on to the end. I am willing to admit that by the second novel, I skimmed parts of it to get to the end. The two novels featured are Deus Encarmine and Deus Sanguinius. In addition, the volume features a short story, "Blood Debt," and the Appendix Angelus. The author describes the appendix as follows:

"This section of the omnibus features annotations based on my original notes for the Blood Angels novels, a 'minipedia' of characters, locations and other information" (601). 

The appendix is a nice bonus for this volume, and to be honest, the librarian in me often found it more interesting than then novels.

The novels and short story tell the story of Space Marine Rafen and his blood brother Space Marine Arkio. When Arkio comes into contact with the Spear of Telestro, an ancient Blood Angels' relic recently recovered, Arkio experiences new powers and visions. He then claims to be the reincarnation of Sanguinius, the Blood Angels' Primarch. Many of the Blood Angels rally to Arkio but not all. Rafen is one of those with doubts, and the novels lead to their inevitable confrontation as the Blood Angels are plunged into an internal conflict. Rafen is guided by the words and advice of his old mentor, Sergeant Koris, who at one point tells Rafen that,

"To believe, one must first be the greatest sceptic" (41). 

By the way, that is a great line, but one of too few great lines in these novels that fail to live up to the expectations. Rafen will indeed become the greatest sceptic as he comes to question Arkio and his plans. But initially, Rafen is alone. Arkio even has the chapter chaplain and Stele the inquisitor, an ally of the chapter, on his side. Little do they know of Stele's machinations, for unknown to the Space Marines, Stele is an agent of Chaos.

The first novel is fast paced, and it sets up the plot full of intrigue nicely with a good pace and some suspense. Unfortunately, after the cliff hanger at the end of the first novel, the author apparently could not keep up the pace. The second novel is seriously slower in terms of pacing. We all know what is going to happen: Rafen and Arkio will have their reckoning. The author has been indicating it from the start. So when the plot dramatically slows down in the second novel, as a reader, it is hard to care. You just want to get on with it instead of the dragged out story we get. The action does pick up towards the end, but then I just wanted the book to be done and over.

I really wanted to like this book more. The first novel was great, and the short story was pretty good, a nice addition to the overall story. However, I could barely get through the second novel, which felt like walking through a bog. I stuck with it, or most of it (as I said, I skimmed a bit), but in the end, it let me down. Compared to other works by this author such as his Horus Heresy novel Flight of the Eisenstein (link to my short review of that), this omnibus just falls short. Hardcore fans of the Blood Angels may enjoy it better. However, other Warhammer 40,000 readers may see this as optional reading. There are better Space Marines novels in the Warhammer 40K universe. There is a second omnibus of the Blood Angels, but at this point, I am not certain I will pick it up. I will choose to read other things in the Warhammer 40K universe for now. I am not ready to give up on this author, but it may be a while before I pick up another of his works, especially if it deals with the Blood Angels.

In the end, the first novel was good. The second was so-so to put it best. So I am splitting the difference. It was mostly OK.

2.5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

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