Received on 20 June from Amazon.co.uk - Revue first posted on Amazon.co.uk on 23 June
Angel of Fire by William King is good and I liked it. The story takes place during the Macharian Crusade, a huge effort lead by the very talented, successful and charismatic Lord Commander Macharius to reclaim hundreds of systems lost to the Empire, and which takes place during the 41st century. It is mostly told in the first person because it is presented as what you could see as the recorded memoirs of a sergeant of the Imperial Guard which are found on him decades after the events, once he finally gets himself killed on some otherworld, probably halfway across the galaxy. This is, in itself, an interesting variation from and improvment on Abnett's Know No Fear, which was essentially written in the form of official reports, because it gives the author more room to tell the story. This is the first strongpoint of this book.
Another quality is the way the feeling of frantic and desperate activity is rendered: it's almost too fast. Something seems to be constantly happening and the characters (and the readers!) seem to have little or no time to catch their breath before being thrown into yet another desperate fire fight. Although rather typical of Warhammer 40K novels, it happens to work rather well here because this is precisely what the book is about: the invasion of a system that has become heretical and the storming of Irongrad, a huge hive-city with tens of millions of inhabitants and which also happens to be a major industrial centre and therefore a strategic asset.
Then there are, of course, some of the battle scenes. I found that the first assault of the city and the counter-attack of the heretics were particularly good. It was also the first time, at least as a reader, that I saw whole units of Baneblade tanks in action (up to now, I had only read about them as being used as command posts for generals). Then there are the various bits of urban guerrilla warfare with, once again, the Space Marines making the difference. I was however a little bit disappointed with the last mad rush to the cathedral, which I found rather overdone: the emphasis on gore and monsters was layered on a bit too thickly.
A piece of particular interest to me was the way that William King drew and presented to us the personality of Macharius, who is portrayed by Black Library as being heavily inspired by the character of Alexander the Great. I will not say more here, to avoid spoiling the story, but, again, it is very interesting to compare William King's take and that of Dan Abnett's in his Gaunt's series. It is also interesting to see the contrast between the ordinary soldiers' perceptions and those of a colonel.
So, I certainly enjoyed this book and have read it in less than two days. I do not know if, in the near future, this means some competition, or perhaps even better, some cross-fertilization, between Abnett and King, with each author improving on the ideas of the other, but if this is what this book heralds, then readers can only win from it. Definitly recommended