Genre: science fiction
Subgenre: military sf, Warhammer 40,000, Imperial Guard, commissars
Format: trade paperback
Source: I own this one. There is an omnibus of the series, which I may consider getting if I like the series after reading one or two more.
The book starts the story right away. The buildup is good, and soon we are caught in various political intrigues. A commissar is a political officer, in this case for an Imperial Guard regiment, but when Yarrick goes to Mistral, he is in for a very steep learning curve. Mistralians basically elevate political games and corruption to high art, and it will take Yarrick's wits, knowledge, and senses to cut through as the local barons are uprising against the Ecclesiarchy. On the surface, that seems terrible and the mission simple enough: put down the rebellion. Soon Yarrick and his mentor, Lord Commissar Rasp, find out nothing is as it seems. The local Ecclesiarchy bishop is a corrupt tyrant. To complicate things, the Adepta Sororitas, Sisters of Battle (the military arm of the Ecclesiarchy) and though assigned to the bishop, well, they may not be too pleased with that assignment. In addition, an inquisitor is nosing around, and other plots unravel. Yarrick has a lot to balance.
I like how Annandale reveals the plots gradually. Tensions and intrigue rise as we move along in the narrative. Sure, Yarrick is still learning, but he is a fast learner and willing to do what needs to be done. The pace of the novel may start a bit slow, but it soon picks up and gets to a high octane end. I also enjoyed this was a novel of a new commissar growing into his job. Novels featuring commissars often just start with them already established into their careers. For example, in the Ciaphas Cain series, a series I enjoy, it is mostly framed as his memoirs and records from an archive; he is already a legend. So is Yarrick, but here we see where exactly Yarrick started. And this is also a good, entertaining novel that has a good blend of intrigue and action, a bit heavier on the intrigue.
I will note also that the book's narrative handles various points of view. In each chapter, Yarrick is the main character, and we always get a section with his point of view of events, but Annandale also moves from his point of view to the point of view of other characters. Choice of other points of view vary by chapter. This does add some more depth to the novel.
In addition, as I noted, we do see how Yarrick learns and grows. One example is his first meeting with Cardinal Wangenheim (our corrupt bishop). I enjoyed seeing the lesson Yarrick learned, cynical and practical. This is one of various passages I enjoyed in the novel. Here, it is Yarrick speaking to the readers:
"I was young, but I was not entirely stupid. I could see what kind of man stood before me. He was the most powerful authority on Mistral, appointed so by the Adeptus Terra. We had come to this planet to uphold the order that he represented. He was not worthy of his position. A child could have told that at a glance. As a thought experiment, I told myself that perhaps my first impression was wrong, and that this was an able administrator and holy man. I dismissed the idea before it made me laugh. But I knew my duty, and I was bound to honour and protect the office that Wangenheim held. So I swallowed my distaste. I played the part of the lowly officer in the presence of a great man.
I don't do that any more" (65-66).
The book is a fairly easy read. For fans of Yarrick, this adds to his legend. For more casual Warhammer 40,000 readers like me, this novel is a good entry point in the series; the story is his first mission, but the book itself is not first in the series. Given that WH40K has so many series going, deciding what to pick up next may not be easy. Sticking with a series is not easy either in WH40K. For example again, Ciaphas Cain is up to ten books (novels) as of this post. Yarrick is up to four at least so far. On the other hand, I recently picked up the first volume of the Imperial Guard omnibus, and I ended up dropping it and not finishing it because it just did not work for me (I though the start was seriously slow and with no indication of picking up the pace among other issues). Point is quality in series can vary, and given they publish so many different series, you get choices but it can be hit or miss. Personally, I liked Imperial Creed enough I am willing to take a chance on the next story. It is not too heavy. It has as noted a good blend of intrigue and action, and it keeps you reading. It is 350 pages in trade paperback, but it keeps you reading and draws you in. In the end, I really liked it.
4 out of 5 stars.