The Grey Knights Omnibus by Ben Counter – Review
When the worst comes true and you realize that the first book in the trilogy is not worth it, but you already bought the Grey Knights Omnibus (the full trilogy), what do you do? I threw the book away, then picked it up and put it on the shelf. Next thing you know, I was trying to sell it. Somehow the sale didn’t go through and, some months later, I tried reading it again.
And surprise, surprise. It’s a pretty good book. I even got teary at one point. And for a novel in the Warhammer 40K franchise, that is indeed high praise. Though I hate to say it, this is a case when the prologue is so bad it almost deters you from reading a series.
Information of The Grey Knights Omnibus
The Grey Knights Omnibus contains three novels written by Ben Counter, one of the oldest authors of the Black Library. The omnibus was released for the first time in 2009. As the name says, the novels focus on the Grey Knights Chapter of the Space Marines. What makes them special is that they are a secretive Chapter working together with the Inquisition to defeat the Chaos daemons wherever they appear. Also, Chaos never managed to corrupt any of them, and that’s a big deal.
The first novel, entitled simple Grey Knights, follows Justicar Alaric and Inquisitor Ligeia in their journey to stop a demon lord from coming into existence once again. On their way, they will have to make sacrifices and learn new things, about themselves as well as about the daemonic influence.
The second novel in this omnibus deals with the corruption of a planet led by the Adeptus Mechanicus. These guys are the tech guys who seek secrets from the eras long forgotten and who build things such as the mighty Titans, giant robots controlled by a team of people. Or sometimes directly by demons, if we are talking about the corrupt Titans. So Alaric and his team go to one corrupted planet, which suddenly appeared in real space after 100 years of disappearance. Naturally, they try to find out what went wrong.
In the third novel, Hammer of Daemons, Alaric finds himself a slave at the mercy of daemons, forced to fight in arenas as a gladiator. He’s alone and helpless on a Chaos planet devoted to the Blood God. The more he fights in the arenas and the more he sees, the deeper his despair grows. He almost doesn’t feel like a Space Marine. And that’s what makes this novel so interesting.
The good and the bad for
The Grey Knights
The first novel, Grey Knights, was a messy surprise. As I mentioned in the introduction, it has the worst prologue I’ve ever read. It’s a full battle description of over 20 pages, with dozens of named characters dying left and right, and I didn’t care about any of them. In the end, I couldn’t even remember who was the protagonist. I almost gave up. What follows the prologue is something else, focused more on mystery and investigation, though it still reads like an action movie, where you’re always curious about what happens next. In the end, the other battle scenes drag for too long, but at least I’m vaguely familiar with the characters.
I think the battle scenes in this first novel and in the novels that follow say something about that era when authors wrote Warhammer 40K books specifically for fans of the miniature game, who could visualize the battles in their mind as a tabletop game. Needless to say, it’s not good literature.
In the second book, titled Dark Adeptus, there is the same style of exploration and investigation brimmed with battles and revelations. And it ends with the final biggest battle. It’s almost the same as the first book, but with a focus on the faction of Adeptus Mechanicus. What kept me disconnected is that these guys fight information demons and they physically harm them. I’m still not sure how it works, but it just works. How do you kill information with your sword? I just couldn’t suspend my disbelief and my enjoyment suffered because of this. It had everything to be an epic, pulpy read, but I just found it extremely silly. In some parts, it works, in some parts, it just doesn’t.
The Hammer of Daemons
What makes the third novel, Hammer of Daemons, work? The sense of danger and suspense is through the roof compared with the previous entry. And Alaric gets a substantial character development. Part of the ending of the novel mirrors the beginning of the trilogy and consists of a battle among characters we don’t care about, with names we never heard about before that moment, only to die a few paragraphs after being introduced. Despite this, the resolution regarding Alaric’s fate is satisfying, so even if the ending drags a little, it’s still good.
I recommend The Grey Knights Omnibus for…
I’m writing this review novel after novel, and so far I would recommend the first book in the series if you can get past the prologue. It’s an interesting space adventure with daemonic mysteries and lore on the Grey Knights, if you’re interested in that. The second novel is great for fans of the Adeptus Mechanicus and some characters from the first Grey Knights novel make their appearance. In the end, it’s just silly fun, but the silly part is very silly (you’ve been warned). The third novel fittingly concludes the trilogy with a battle that mirrors the beginning of the trilogy (of which I don’t approve), but keeps the suspense high and the stakes even higher.
I would give the whole Omnibus a solid 4 Nemesis halberds out of 5, especially for fans of Grey Knights. If you’re not this type of fan and you find the beginning very slow, read more; the more you read, the better this book will get.