Title: Warlord: Fury of the God-Machine
Author: David Annandale
Publisher: The Black Library
Date of Publication: April 2017
Approximate Pages: 272
Review by: HeritorA
That’s what we can call the latest novel from David Annandale Warlord: Fury of the God-Machine. March 2017 was, in some general sense, a month of Titans action in Horus Heresy or W40K – with a lot of titan-centric shorts. So David finished the month (actual release on April 1st) with a full fledged, non stop novel about the fury of the God-machine. Titans, glory hungry princeps, planets to save – what do you need more to emerge reader into the setting. So – let’s check the results. Separately I want to mention an epic audio version narrated by John Banks with a run time of 9 hours.
Plot and characters
It’s what you’ve (maybe) been waiting for: a new novel focusing on the mightiest war machines of the 41st millennium! David Annandale turns his eye for characters to the crew of Battle Titans and tells a truly epic tale of large-scale action. Or so the BL site synopsis tells us. Does it delivered? The answer is – more yes than no, with some points to mention.
David Annandale is a long listed BL author now. He has done a lot of character building, used famous figures, depicted famous events and glories void warfare. Even has done his own Horus Heresy novel The Damnation of Pythos. And now he got his full attention to the Battle Titans of the Adeptus Titanicus in the W40K setting. Previously he did a short story Gates of the Devourer for the Advent Calendar about the same towering war engines, striding to war as holy effigies of the Omnissiah for the world of Khania. To save it from the tyranids menace. It was a short but lovely piece of mechanicus greatness, true Deus Ex machina. And a direct prequel for the Warlord: Fury of the God-Machine. So probably it would be a good suggestion to go and read it.
The story of the novel took pace almost right after the short’s ending. Our almost main character – princeps Ferantha Krezoc of a Warlord Titan “Gloria Vastator” from Pallidus Morr demi-legio bring righteous death to the scuttling xenos swarms and bio-titan organisms. But eventually with the losses and in spite of the bitter rivalry and stupidity of princeps Adrel Syagrius of a Warlord “Augustus Secutor” from Imperial Hunters – Adeptus Titanicus has won near the capital city of Khania – Gelon.
But as a story progress (or as it runs parallel to it – cause David Annandale showed us already that he can do it brilliantly), still reeling from a near disastrous battle against tyranids, the Pallidus Morr demi-legio is assigned to a new warzone, a nearby forge world Katara, which has fallen under the sway of Chaos. Here their battered war-machines must fight alongside the Imperial Hunters again. And worse of all – under their command. As city after city falls before the relentless tread of Chaos war machines, treachery and chaos, the Imperium’s only chance of victory lies in the two legios putting aside their differences and fighting as one. Will that happen? Well, you need to read for yourself – no major spoilers here 🙂
Anyway, plot-wise novel goes with a prominent start. Especially with that ‘Does he really believe this is almost over?’ And then the suffering of battered and bloodied Pallidus Morr demi-legio of the Adeptus Titanicus has began. Especially if the Imperial Hunters always tries to undermine their campaign/strategy and Legion honor.That’s why they find their battle made more difficult by the allies they must fight alongside… Which is much worse than even the enemy Titans.
As for the characters David Annandale always was consistent and brilliant in creating a truly believable human characters. Main protagonists and antagonists of the novel are truly feels like a real breathing persons.
Main of all are a truly brilliant depiction of princeps Ferantha Krezoc and Eras Balzhan which truly epitomize the soul, spirit and strategy of the Pallidus Morr.
Same goes for the princeps Adrel Syagrius in Warlord “Augustus Secutor” from the Imperial hunters, through he is truly created as one unlikeable person. Whose glory hounding and royal behavior truly shows that most of the times Imperium with it’s multi-cultured armed forces is it’s biggest enemy.
Secondary characters are also well written and you want to ‘worry’ for them and their well-being. This goes for the brave captain Deyers from the Leman Russ ‘Bastion of Faith’ of the 66th Kataran Spears regiment; magos of the demi-legio; protective secutarii like Hoplite Alpha Venterras etc.
But the truest brilliant character and hero of the novel is not some Titan’s princeps – but Confessor Lehrn Ornastas, who totally epitomize the belief of Imperium of man and it’s Immortal God-Emperor. His road during the novel are what actually makes Annandale a good author. His struggle, his internal doubt, self-sacrifice and belief in his faith is what makes him truly human and one of the best characters ever written by David Annandale. And the point with his stuff cemented his legacy reminding me of some Innsmouth dark horror.
“Knock. Knock. Knock. His staff struck the ground with sharp raps. It bounced off the high, smoke-darkened walls. The echoes ran far ahead of his advance. Ornastas turned a corner, and this alley was completely empty. The walls were blank expanses of rockcrete. Heaps of refuse as high as a man lined both sides of the pavement. The passageway should have been pitch-dark, but Ornastas could see his way forwards, very faintly. A crimson haze, like the promise of a fire to come, hung in the air. It grew stronger as he walked further into the alley. The light was no brighter, but the haze began to hum with tension”
At the least, he is much more believable as a character than one big ape-like canoness.
Which also leads us to the next point author is famous for – depiction of Chaos in all it’s corruption and ‘glory’. Which is done again – through the eyes of a pious and religious person:
“Confessor Lehrn Ornastas shook his head, trying to push the images away. He was starting to feel as if the walls themselves were thirsty for blood. He shivered, his skin running cold. The danger was much worse than he had thought. Something was eating into the soul of Creontiades, and now he feared he had come to the realisation too late. There was power here, something he dared not try to understand fully. It was lethal, and it was contagious. The psychic pressure of the runes squeezed harder. The haze pulsed with gathering violence”
All that moments of the city corruption feels real. It’s like a starting point of Dead space – with a Khornate mob instead of xenomorphs:
“It was worse than he thought. In the industrial districts of Creontiades and beyond, the shadows were boiling with heresy. Figures lurked in the recesses of doorways, «their features shrouded, their heads turning to watch his passage with hidden, hostile eyes. In narrow alleys, silhouettes contorted. They left Ornastas with the impression of self-mutilation, of people tearing their own faces, transforming themselves into bloody grotesques, the distorted apostles of a monstrous creed. The heresy was even reaching into the light. Brawls were breaking out on the main avenues. The first ones Ornastas saw were fights between individuals. If he had not known better, he might have dismissed them as nothing unusual. Soon, though, he was seeing clusters of combatants, and the fights were savage, gouging affairs. Blood spread on the rockcrete pavement. These were battles to the death. Citizens passed the fights without reacting, and that was a cause for concern in and of itself. Others stopped to watch. Still others joined in. At one intersection, at least a score of citizens were locked in brutal frenzy. It was the beginning of a riot…”
But most of all, what the novel do amazingly – it shows that is needed to achieve victory, a road that’s lead to hell and destruction through ideals of honor and self-sacrifice, which is a lodestone of the W40K but at the same time one of it’s biggest problems.
Addition mention deserve a battle for the bridge, which was really good, same as the bridge ‘reconstruction’ process.
And here we are to talk about what was ‘bad’ about that novel.
And the main point is – the novel is definitely not the strongest book of Annandale, sadly. It’s more straightforward and simplistic comparing to Abnett ‘Titanicus’. But at some points it’s TOO simplistic. It’s like author tried to ‘explain’ the obvious things to a kid.
Also all the action scenes at some points seems very uninteresting. Not once I was rooting for ‘good guys’. Cause even a main ‘she’ character wasn’t given a proper shine. It is brilliantly written – but leave a feeling Most of the Titans actions are too ‘bolter-pornish’ to my liking.
The most ‘good’ parts of the book – is then the author tries to discuss/write about fate/belief and chaos.
And that was the only one major point. But there are a lot of minor ones too.
Again at some points, like with Rob Sanders ‘Tech-Priest’ duology, it feels like an advertisement for the cool ‘new’ units, instead of making a solid narrative entrance.
Also, what is sad through – that the enemy ‘Iron Skulls’ Titan Legion does not have a POV to represent them. Which makes the menace a little bit underwhelming. Strangely the war with the tyranids is more vivid than with the Chaos Titans, which seems lacking something. Tyranid hierophants seems more alive than poorly depicted Banelords or Ravagers.
Another problem is with the Titan classes of the enemy – don’t know why, but author has chosen to use only Khornate titans. If the Iron Skulls went that far that all became feral Ravagers or Banelords – how the heck they survived thus far into W40K?
Also there are several editorial mistakes. For example at «CHAPTER 3 THE FEASTS» – Krezoc think about losses in the battle against tyranids. «…twelve remained. Ferrum Salvator, two Reavers and five Warlords had fallen to the hierophants. Killed by pride, Krezoc thought.» But it was five Warhounds titans, only Ferrum Salvator was a ‘Warlord’ Titan…
For a fun Titanicus actions, great non-titanicus/mechanicus characters, interesting setup and a story that could have been much better but have the real roots of grandeur I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
Anyway, thank you for the read David and hope to read ‘Ruinstorm’ soon.