Well, this was weird.
And awesome. A page-turner.
And boring. A snooze-fest.
What is going on? You might ask. I think this book is known in the Warhammer universe as the Half-heard. Because I was genuinely surprised with the second part but bored to tears with the first part. This is weird because being written this way can make you lose readers. But I guess, I was also guilty of reading reviews before, reviews which praised the quality of the story in the second half.
The story in the Flight of the Eisenstein continues the story from the main trilogy by focusing on the escape of Nathaniel Garro in his attempt to deliver news of Horus’s betrayal to Terra. I like how the first three books set so many potential new storylines that you care about (even a little). So it feels natural to continue reading about a new character doing new stuff, but still connected in some way to the events in the galaxy. It’s different than the normal Warhammer 40K novels where you don’t really know the timeline even if you’ve read them all. (Don’t cheat and use some sort of internet Wiki)
Let’s talk about him. For all that matters, he’s Garviel Loken with more character development than in the last two books of this series. What I mean by that is that Loken had a nice start in Horus Rising, with potential twists that never come in his character development. Garro continues Loken’s personality and in this book, we can peek at how the conflict between Horus and the Emperor, between religious faith and secular belief shapes him as a man (or should I say Astartes?).
So your last read was Galaxy in Flames and you’re excited to read about what happened after Garro received Saul’s warning and fled the Istvaan system. And you picked up this book. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but this book starts way before the Death Guard arriving at Istvaan III. We will first witness a fight against some psyker aliens and then we will reread the battle on Istvaan Extremis, where the Astartes met their first Warsinger. And guess what? Nothing new happens, we don’t get new information. Emperor’s Children deliver the killing blow, Garro is hurt, some Space Marines die. You’ve read all this before. So the first part of the book is made of battles we’ve already witnessed. And there are not many ways to make a battle scene exciting. The same things happen, explosions, gun shooting, sword slashings. I’m sorry to say it but the battle scenes are the most boring element of the Warhammer 40K universe, for me. Every time I’m reading one, it feels I’m reading the same one.
Finally, Garro withdraws from the fleet and tries to reach Terra while everyone is gunning for him. This is where the real story starts and where the real action takes place, where new battles and new dialogue, and new internal conflicts abound. Because this is the only reason you will read this book, I’m not going to say anything about it.
But I’m going to say one thing about the author and his writing of climax battle scenes. I’ve read the Blood Angels series before and while the first book was brimming with potential, it fell short in the end. I’ve noticed the same thing in those novels too, something that others Warhammer authors don’t do. James Swallow writes protagonists like anime characters. And not any anime characters. More specifically, like anime character on the verge of being beating and suddenly discovering some hidden power inside them, which they will unleash it in a show of colorful lights and epic music. There was that in the Blood Angels books. There’s that in this book, too. And I expect it will be in future books written by the same authors.
Honestly, I don’t mind it too much but it makes me chuckle, as I know most Warhammer 40k authors make battles a dreary endeavor, where victory comes by tactical planning, and sometimes by sheer luck, but never because a certain character discover some hidden repressed strength. So, the final battle is a bit silly, but it feels more epic than it should. So that’s a plus, I guess.
Read it because:
It features the following Astartes legions: Death Guard, Emperor’s Children
These Primarchs make an appearance: Mortarion, Rogal Dorn
Major Events: Corruption is spreading outside of the warp.