Dark Vengeance – CZ Dunn (Black Library)
So, it is upon us, Games Workshop’s new boxed starter set introduction to the Warhammer 40K universe, and, as has been the case with all the latest boxed sets, there is also an accompanying novella to introduce the characters, the settings and to help flesh things out.
I often think these books must be a bit of a poisoned chalice, a great opportunity to introduce the reader to the these new heroes and villains, but a limited amount of time and space to allow the reader to bond with them.
This is the first CZ Dunn novel, or more accurately, novella, I’ve read, and as result of reading this, it won’t be the last. This is a clever book. In fact, for me at least, maybe too clever. I should point out though, that this is a good thing. More than any other “tie-in” story, this book captures not only an fantastic tale of the Dark Angels, as they avenge the previous company master against the traitors legions of the eight pointed star, but, and this is the clever bit, it mirrors actually playing the game itself!
Sounds confusing? Well, I’ll be honest and say I had to read this twice, about halfway through the first read I realised what the author had done and after that I knew I was going to have to read it again to fully experience how interwoven the “gameplay” was.
How does this work? Well, the novella has a story to tell starting at point A and finishing at point B as usual, but every step or chapter along that journey is told by the different characters or, if you will, players.
So the first chapter, or turn, belongs to the newly appointed Company Master Balthasar, as the story then progresses, the other characters have their own chapters or turns. Clever eh?
This “turn” method is further amplified by the fact that each chapter is written in the first person style. So YOU are the various characters taking part in this epic “game”.
The only real downside to this, again, for me, is that you are left wanting more from each of the characters. With only a limited amount of pages to convey the story, and so many “turns” to get in, the story rattles along at an impressive pace and unfortunately means we don’t spend long enough with each of the cast. I for one wanted to know these characters more, especially that of the Librarian, Turmiel.
The story itself involves a race against time as the Dark Angels, once again on the path of vengeance; chase the Crimson Slaughter across the world of Banes Landing. As is the case with most 40K novels, this is a tragic tale with vicious battles, noble sacrifices and unusually a very touching moment when the librarian…, no, I’m not going to tell you, you need to read it. Suffice to say, not everything that’s chaotic is actually evil. Again, no spoilers from me about the plot, you’ll have to discover that for yourself.
All in all this is a fantastic read, the structure may throw you off guard at first, but stick with it. As introductions to the Warhammer 40K Universe and specifically the game go, this is damn near perfect.
For the Lion and the Emperor! Gareth Mugridge