Title: Cult of the Warmason
Author: C L Werner
Publisher: The Black Library
Date of Publication: April, 2017
Approximate Pages: 336
Review by: HeritorA
Black Library nowadays produce a lot of stuff – audio, books, recycled anthologies etc. Sometimes it’s a hit and miss, sometimes it’s a road trip to readers paradise and sometimes it is a road to hell paved with the good intentions.
Today I want to review a very intelligent, ambiguous and at the same time cumbersome novel. Cult of the Warmason written by the talented Herr C.L. Werner provide us a glimpse of the other side of hell with all the circles to it. One of the reason we love and adorn W40K setting. But – Cult of the Warmason is a very (and I mean it) – very strange book.
Let’s get to the dissection.
As the synopsis tells us: In a galaxy teeming with alien aggressors, nothing unites the Imperium more than the worship of the immortal God-Emperor. Without the shining light of his divinity, travel through the stars would not be possible, and humanity would be swallowed by darkness. The shrineworld of Vadok attracts billions of pilgrims who visit to reaffirm their faith, and catch a glimpse of the sacred relic held in its great cathedral. But the reach of man’s enemies is long, and when civil unrest breaks out, and rumours of four-armed monsters abound, the Adepta Sororitas tasked with defending the world must face the fight of their lives. For they are few, but their enemies are numberless
And actually that’s one of the rare BL synopsis that covers the story the right way.
The story created by Herr C.L. Werner covers one of the themes that made a central line of GW and BL storytelling not that long ago – Genestealers Cults and their place in the W40K universe. In case of this novel, we have the shrine world of Lubentina, one of the holiest planets of the Imperium, dedicated to a hero from the Age of Heresy – covered with civil unrest and rumours of sinister, four-armed monsters spur the Sisters of Battle into action against numberless foes. That’s right – another example of the Genestealers cult on the lose.
To be more precise it is better to dissect the plot into several separate stories.
1) First of all we had a full enclosed Genestealers Cult uprising flowing via every cornerstone of the Lubentina society.
2) Next we have a world ruling council that struggle with itself and it’s own decisions.
3) Further on we have a war driven story of an cataclysmic conflict between the Sisters of Battle, militia/PDF and the Genestealers Cult.
4) And of course we have the thoughts and dreams of the other side – in our case GC Magos.
And it would have been probably even to tell the story on itself. But author decided to add additional parameter to the formula. And thus the Chaos Space Marines take the main stage. That was one of the most unexpected authors decisions and at the same time the one that ‘almost’ ruin the story. But, miracuously it made it better at the same time. Cause if you have 50 consistent pages of shooty-shooty between SoB and GC hybrids it became boring very quickly. But if you add additional unexpected parameter it goes the other way around.
Also Herr C.L. Werner made a splendid work with the environments for which he is famous for since the old time of Witch Hunter and Black Plague trilogies. Every battle-scene (even through being a bolter-porn), every tunnel/warren/spire or transport route are depicted with vivid imagination and love.
And here we have a splendid circus of cartoonish villains and unknown heroes.
First several dozen pages make our friendship with heroes and villains, poor people and dreamers.
We had a splendid hero (written from the grown up Newt from the Aliens) Sister of Battle, head of Covent – Trishala. She is an inspiring, heroic figure which will went on a road from a ‘knight in the shining armor’ to the hard-boiled and unforgiving person.
Next we have prelate Yadav – whose road will be a little bit different while he will travel a road of redemption (which on itself is truly a rare thing for a high senior consul member of the Eclessiarhy in W40K setting).
Colonel Hasif and Sister Kashiba – the ones who are naive and faithful. The ones who always think about others but eventually being crashed in spirit under the avalanche of sacrificial lambs.
Poor Cardinal Murdin and minister Kargil – truly cartoonish villains in only the name which failed to delivery the promised of the ‘destruction from inside’. That kind of stuff C.L. Werner has written amazingly in his Black Plague trilogy with his characterizations of Boris Goldgather and Adolph Kreyssig. Here he failed a bit – but not by a big margin.
Also we have a POV from the other side – magos Bakasur, the one who lead the Cult in the name of the ‘Great Father’. Whose steps are like that of a kid – who tries to understand the new universe around him at the same time being walled in by the parents.
(Tis a shame we will not see how he was made into the Cult – what was his family and road before the ‘Great Father’)
And of course – spoilers
good old fella – Rhodaan himself. Which made the novel worse from that point for me.
I usually adorn Werner. But when at one point in the past he has a book called The Siege of Castellax – which was a horrible read of an abomination. Just 30 pages in – he had a Chaos Space Marine says ‘Ow’ and repetitive mantra while fighting (which actually a perturbation to the fighting process). His characterization of the Iron Warrior marines was similarly blank for the most part. The idea of 64 marines holding off a millions of orks (who are nearly as hardy as marines in the damage they can take) is ludicrous. The IW commander barely took part in the planning of the defense, instead leaving it up to his inept and bickering captains which cost them the war (they apparently didn’t know the ork mentality despite having been around for a few thousand years). Add to that the fact that we had absolutely childish ideas in their heads (I live for a Long War, Iron Within…) and the point that IW are still the most ‘unexplained’ Legion (and how it ticks) in the setting does not help at all.
But at least the author had a lot of black humor to make the novel better.
C.L. Werner always had high standards of black humor and laugh in his novels. Mainly it was done as a great fan-service (especially to the direct fans of W40K).
Here – just take a sample: These would be real Space Marines, not the Chaos heretics that had added to Lubentina’s agonies. When they arrived, he could expect the Flesh Tearers to be noble and disciplined champions of the Imperium…
It is by all rights – an ambitious book. It tries to achieve a lot adding more and more complexity to the narrative. And because of that – it crumbles under its own weight.
One of the unanswered questions which could have been better covered – is where the first Inheritors came from, how they end up on Lubentina? In case of the previous BL forage into the GC territory we had an explanation in the novel Genestealer Cults and short Cast a Hungry Shadow that explains how, then and why GS has arrived on that particular world. Here we all could only guess.
Also the Cult itself feels a little but too fairy. It’s like they are without numbers and simply feels like a model range instead of a real danger to the Imperium forces. While the most obvious source of comparison, Peter Fehervari’s Genestealer Cults novel, made their cult feel truly organic this one comes across as a bit by the numbers.
Next – dissection of a plot into several additional storylines only make it worse, cause then the IW arrive it really complicates things. You don’t know whom to root for. Is it SoB? Honourable prelates/frateris? Villainous beaurocrats? Misconducted IW? Naive Cult Magos?
And that the additional side is also a known constance for us (the same IW that survived The Siege of Castellax ) only makes things worse again (in my case). I actually disappointed with the nowdays choice of BL authors to add their previous/old characters to the new novels. I hate that with the McNeil choices to add his cast into every book and now I do disappointed C.L. Werner decided to do the same. Add to that the point – I hate The Siege of Castellax. That’s why the addition of Rhodaan and co almost ruined the novel for me right where. If an author tried to make it as a separate story and at the same time a sequel of sorts for the The Siege of Castellax – it truly went bad for the Cult of the Warmason.
Also, the novel suffers from the repetitive of characters internal struggles and emotions being described all over again. Especially in case of Sister Trishala and Magos Bakasur. How they do not know what to do, how they tried to comprehend the results of their previous choices.
Not to mention the facade of the main person of the novel – Warmason himself. Of which we knew almost nothing (except for the info from the ‘The Lightning Tower’) about and will leave only with the knowledge that he built something, stole that (spoiler) and kissed a shroud. And that he was a great engineer. Vadok Singh absolutely forgotten and his ‘character’ and his ‘Cult’ is being lost amongst the other storylines.
Due to the absolutely wild ride with the novel, it’s characters, and a lot of bolter pornish action I wouldn’t have suggested this novel to anyone. Loose 20 pages of repetitive bolter-porn, self-doubt and ‘repetitive’ emotional struggle of several characters and the novel would have been much better.
But due to the funny moments, amazing environments, moments ‘how he ticks’ and a lot of black humor of high calibre I would give Cult of the Warmason 3.5 out of 5 stars.
C.L. Werner you are an awesome writer. You could do better!