Monday, July 25, 2011

Battle of the Fang - Book Review

Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight
It is M32, a thousand years after the Horus Heresy. The Scouring is over and the Imperium at the height of its post-Crusade power. When Magnus the Red is tracked down to Gangava Prime, the Space Wolves hasten to engage the daemon primarch. Even as Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm closes on his ancient enemy, the Fang on the Space Wolves home world is besieged by a massive force of Thousand Sons. A desperate battle ensues as the skeleton forces of Wolf Lord Vaer Greylock attempt to hold back the attacking hosts before the last of his meagre defences gives in. Though a single Scout ship survives to summon Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm back to Fenris, none of the defenders truly realise the full scale the horror that awaits them, nor what the Battle for the Fang will cost them all.

The latest offering in the Space Marine Battles book deals with the assault of the Fang, the home of the space wolves, by the Thousand Sons. For anyone wanting completion I would recommend that before reading Battle of the Fang you pick up and read Prospero Burns from the Heresy series first. Ok, so the stories aren’t linked but the Heresy book introduces the concept of the almost 'rebooted' Space Wolves which Battle of the Fang continues rather than linking in with any of the two existing Space Wolves omnibus. Although there are some nice nods to characters that might appear in both but I wouldn’t like to say.

Personally I think Chris Wraight does a good job continuing the new more serious and less stereotypical version of the Space Wolves which are far more credible than the previous version, as I'd enjoyed Prospero Burns I've been looking forward to Battle of the Fang for a while and it's been worth the wait.

The general structure of the book is quite similar to Storm of Iron giving a mix of viewpoints from the Space Wolves, their 'mortal' warriors and the attacking enemy which is certainly not at all bad. As you'd expect from the title and the series as a book it is unashamedly is devoted to battles and combat. Thankfully, as with many of the Black Library writers, the author manages to keep the book going at a good pace without it getting stale as I find happens in some of the other prolonged battles in other novels, definitely something the Black Library have cultivated well in their writers. Unfortunately a bit like the Heresy novels you can tell from the start which characters are going to survive and which probably aren't based on whether they're known characters or not but it doesn't spoil the book too much.

As given away by the cover, Bjorn the Fell-handed is part of the book and given the awe and respect his character deserves and in fact I'd say the dreadnoughts were one of the highlights of the book. Too often dreadnoughts are misunderstood as just walking tanks or given roles which don't fit in well with them being the finest warriors to have served in the chapter left in hibernation for many years only to be woken when the chapter is in great peril. The author combines the sheer power of the dreadnought chassis combined with the misery for the sole occupant trapped inside.

In this novel I think that Terminator marines are suitably well depicted as the huge powerful warriors bigger even than the usual 'Sky Warriors' (end thankfully equally as robust not the simple can opener vulnerability most Terminators seem to have in Black Library fluff), throughout the book there's a mix of 'mortal' warriors alongside the Marines to give a view of the Astartes from our point of view although the book never dwells too long on that aspect and is the better for it.

In short, I'd highly recommend Battle of the Fang as part of the ongoing wolves vs. Sons saga that plays out in the realms of the 41st millennium. Not only that but its depiction of the forces of the future just makes it worth a read. A solid four and a half stars from me.

Available from:
Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight
Softback, 416 pages • ISBN 9781849700467

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