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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 28 November 2013
When I began reading his book I started to like it. This is because there were a number of features that made it somewhat original and different from previous instalments in the lengthening HH series.

One is that this book is very much about Vulkan, Primarch of the Salamanders, and one of the only ones that had not yet taken centre stage in one of the series' volumes. The other one is the Khân, but from what I understand, he and his Legion will be covered in another volume to be published in 2014.

Another original feature is the use of the first person for many of the scenes with Vulkan, and all of the scenes when he is a prisoner. At least part of the interest in having Vulkan tell the story in the first person is that it allows Nick Kyme to present us with the Primarch's inner thoughts, and his personality more generally. It also helps in presenting the essential ambivalence that lies at the heart of even "good Primarchs". While they may be human, and even at times almost compassionate as is the case here for Vulkan (and was the case for Sanguinius in a previous volume in the HH series), they are also generals and can become, at least at times, ruthless killers.

Then there is the opposition that runs across the whole book between the "good" Primarch - Vulkan - and the "bad" one - Konrad Curze, who is full of self-loathing and hate, and has become sadistic and rather insane. The contrasts, but also the similarities, between the two characters are quite fascinating and well done. The opposition between the two, however, dragged on for much too long. By the time it ended, I had become almost bored. A couple of interesting features were the introduction of both Mannus Ferrus and Corax into the dialogues and oppositions between Vulkan and Curze. A less credible one was Vulkan's escape from his prison.

As mentioned by another review on the UK site, this book does very little, if anything at all, to advance the HH story. You also get treated, once again, to the traitorous massacre on Isstvan V (which I have now read about five or six times!), with the story being this time told in length from the perspective of the Salamanders and their Primarch. Although still interesting, I could not help a sense of "déjà vu" which tended to get mildly annoying at times. This piece was clearly anything but original. The same themes that have already been "flogged to death" by other authors in previous volumes are served half-warmed up and yet again: the fight of "brother against brother", the shock of betrayal, the utter rage that follows it, the massacre on a huge scale, etc...

One of the most interesting pieces in my view is the story of the bunch of loyalist legionary survivors, from the three legions mostly destroyed at Isstvan V. Despite have been so much battered, they decide to keep up the fight against the rebels with a mixture of revenge and despair since they are entirely on their own and, in the case of the Salamanders, wonder whether - and very much hope that - their Primarch is alive, without really believing that this could be the case. The "Iron Hands", of course, have no such doubts. They know that their Primarch has died on Isstvan and may even have seen him fall.

As in "Know no Fear", we again get to meet John Grammaticus, as mysterious as ever, and an agent of an even more mysterious employer to conduct a still more mysterious mission which, of course, can only be crucial for the fate of the whole galaxy. Needless to say, I did not "buy in" to this piece which felt contrived, only told part of the story, and largely assumed that you had already read all of the 25 previous instalments and remembered every fleeting allusion to this character and his manipulative employers.

Then there is the end of the story and I did not very much appreciate this bit either. In fact, I had the feeling that the author cut the story short and in a rather abrupt way because he was getting close to his page quota. While I will avoid spoilers, as I have tried to up to now, I was left more than a little confused with what happens to the little band of surviving loyal legionaries but, most of all, with what happens to Vulkan. Does Vulkan live once the story ends, or not? I could not quite make up my mind. Maybe you will be more successful than I was once you reach the end of the book.

To conclude, this is a story that started rather well, and then it fizzled out and got bogged down for a long time before ending in a rather abrupt and confusing way. While not a "bad" read, it was, for me at least, not a fully satisfying one. Three stars.
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on 29 December 2013
I had this book (the early release hardback) sitting on a shelf waiting to be read for months. I just couldn't bring myself to pick it up and read it, as the last seven or eight books in the HH series have all been a bit average at best, and I also have never been a big fan of the Salamanders to boot.

So it was, groaning with turkey fatigue and with time on my hands, I finally plucked up the courage and energy to read it, and am happy to report I enjoyed it. More so than any other HH book since probably Prospero Burns.

I found it to be well written, with a driving, punchy, pace and plot. I tore through it in short order (finishing it in a couple of days - which is fast for me), and was gripped throughout. The story focuses upon the captivity of Vulkan, after Isstvan V, and his torment by his captor and brother Primarch Curze, and a secondary plot revolving around a battered band of loyalist 'errant' marines, survivors of Isstvan taking a guerilla fight against a force of Word Bearers on a world about to be cast into Chaos, during which the errants cross the path of the mysterious 'Perpetual' John Grammaticus. We also get several flashback sections, detailing memories of both a clash between Vulkan and Curze during the Great Crusade, and the Salamander's experience of Isstvan V.

I do agree with JPS that the Isstvan sequences are somewhat done to death now, and would hope these are the last we have to read - but having said that, they are suitably teeth clenching, brutal and unpleasant.

There is a new revelation about Vulkan himself in this book, which I do think is important to the wider HH story. But I don't want to spoil so will say no more about that here. Vulkan himself is perhaps depicted as a little too saintly, his big war crime being the killing of a rather out of place seeming Eldar child at an intense moment, other than which he only acts impeccably. Bearing in mind all the Primarchs have been leading wars of annihilation against countless alien worlds and entire species, one Eldar child is probably extremely small beer, yet Vulkan seems rather implausibly emotional about that one questionable deed. There is an argument he is rather too close to being a Gary Stu here. He is likeable though, and all in all fairly well drawn.

I do think the one big failing of the book, like Know No Fear before it, is that the Legion in question, the Salamanders here, do not get any new 'paint'. The Sallys have always been one of the 'boring' Legions, too vanilla, too goody-two-shoes, to be that interesting, and this book completely ignores and misses it's chance to change that. We get no new flavour or knowledge about the Salamanders here, and they thus remain staunchly vanilla; indeed if you were to change all the errant Salamanders in this book to being Ultramarines, I challenge anyone to claim they would spot a single line or action that would seem out of place for an Ultramarine. That's a pity.

Nevertheless, as I say, this is an enjoyable story, I liked both main plots, I am interested in the Perpetuals so the reappearance of Grammaticus is fine with me, and I do think that finally we had a sense of this being a fairly important part of the greater HH story - this one feels like it was a necessary story to be told.

I waver between thinking this is a three star book, but I did enjoy it, so will err on the side of generosity and give it four out of five.
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on 1 June 2014
Yes its okay but, as with recent books in the series, it doesn't move the heresy along. I felt that it was more a case of "here's a legion we haven't used before so let's give them a book" rather than " let's move the story on a bit". In a way its just a money making exercise as the story gets extended more and more by average books.
The early books were much more enjoyable and better paced but now its all a bit bogged down.
That said, Kyme is a decent writer and he moves the story along at a decent pace. Not great not awful just average overall.
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on 21 November 2013
I haven't had the pleasure of author Nick Kyme's work before, but I'm impressed.

That is not intended as a casual boot-licking comment. Not at all. This book concerns a tale that handled poorly, could have ended up a real dog's breakfast. And as it's quite important to the entire Heresy story arc, that would have made a bobbins of quite a key part of the jigsaw. (For those interested, what is begun in this novel is continued with great aplomb in Dan Abnett's HH continuation novel, Unremembered Empire).

As it is, Kyme kicks off a compelling yarn - the strange tale of Vulkan; primarch of the Salamanders who, as it turns out, is possessed of a unique characteristic and whose very existence could change the course of the great war.

Of other deserved mention is the superb cover art by Neil Roberts, whose keen eye for good composition throughout the series has lifted the whole saga (in my humble opinion anyway).

So, to the story, Vulkan was left behind in the chaotic retreat, amid the dust and blood of Istvaan V.
However, having disappeared on the battlefield he's turned up in the not-so-gentle embrace of his dear brother, the lunatic grin-bearing Konrad Curze, primarch of the Night Haunters traitor legion. He, who takes great glee, and many pages, imposing the cruelest methods of psychological torture he can inflict on his dearest brother Vulkan.

Curze is to HH, what Heath Ledger's Joker was to the Batman trilogy, and his gleeful highs and tombstone lows are a joy to read. Kyme handles nutcase Curze well, charting the manic roller-coaster of his thoughts as he torments his captive brother to the brink of madness. Vulkan's descent into his very own variety of howling bedlam is also written compellingly.

Separately, Kyme also gives us a nice change of pace with the novel's parallel story arc regarding the possession of a super weapon, being fought over by traitor legionaries, surviving loyalists and agent provocateur John Grammaticus. This gives the reader a little hot-metal bolter action to lighten the mood, with the combat scenes and pursuit well written, nipping along at pace. The urban, special forces/commando feel of this side story give some nice echoes of the Eisenhorn series. (This arc is also tied up in Unremembered Empire)

I'll also say that with fewer pages given to the subplot, an average author might have been hard pressed fleshing those fairly numerous Astartes characters who do appear during the telling of the super weapon tale. But Kyme does this with skill (so much so, you won't notice) and he deserves a nod for that. I've read HH short stories of 60-80 pages with just a couple of characters appearing, but about whom I've known nothing at all by the turn of the last leaf. It's a skill not all authors apparently possess.

Worth a buy, and worth your time. Kyme's done good. Enjoy!
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on 4 September 2014
I found it an okay read, but I was left feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

Sadly, the book's primary POV character, Vulcan, spends much of the book in 'same scene, different location' syndrome. A prisoner of Konrad Curze, he moves between several different locations which all repeat the same pattern: Vulcan's inner monologue, trying not to lose his mind, and Curze being nihilistic to the point of being two dimensional. Things get intriguing between the two characters in their final scene, but by that point the book is in the final chapter.

I found myself comparing the novel to "Fulgrim", in which the character arc felt much more satisfying. Vulcan's story feels comparatively static. The novel felt like: "Vulcan lives. He's over here. He's not really doing much."

*character description spoilerish thing here* I was initially elated on the discovery that one of the characters was revealed to be John Grammaticus, previously in the "Legion" novel. But was then disappointed at how underutilized he was in the story. Within Legion, we're treated frequently to his inner-thoughts and occasional bravado, looking to "live a little before I die". But within this novel he's generally just shepherded from place to place by the Space Marines, without becoming integrated into the story. With a confusing sub-plot about something his witnessed once as a boy. I feel this was an excellent character, mishandled. Had he stayed apart from Astartes, following his own agenda, it could have been better.

But lastly, a gem of a character turned up in the form of 'The Huntsman', Barthusa Narek. A Word Bearer marine with a disdain for the zealotry of his legion, and a suggested reverence for The Emperor's divinity that borderlines being a Loyalist on the wrong side. But his conclusion isn't so much a cliffhanger as, "oh he's wandered over here to do a thing". It's an interesting thing, sure, but his character arc felt like it stopped two thirds in. But I'm hoping to see this character in the future.
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on 2 February 2015
I have beem an avid fan of the Horus Heresy series since the first book, but was beginning to become jaded as it seemed the writers were not trying and the last few books were a chore to get through. Nick Kyme has written a story that I could not put down and rejuvenated my love of this series.

The story of Vulkan is gripping, his contest with Cruze had me hooked. The other story (which I will not go into so as not to ruin the story) was an excellent back story to the Salamanders and the description of the drop site massacre is something I have been waiting for since I got into Warhammer 40k as a teenager.

Superbly written and I will be ordering Kyme's other books I was so impressed with this one.
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on 6 December 2013
I only bought this novel as it was related to the Horus heresy series.
What a surprise it was to read, Nick Kyme has really matured as an author after the second chapter I was hooked, and will now include him on my list of favourite authors.
I will not ruin the plot for other readers but any ardent Warhammer 40k fan who wishes to understand The Salamander Space Marines and their fight for existence in the universe would be well-advised to read this novel
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on 2 August 2015
Been waiting to get chance to read this one for a while now, after finally getting round to it I can say I'm not disappointed. Loved the portrayal of Vulkan and Cruze. Loved reading about the salamanders legion and enjoyed the furthering of john Gramaticus story from the legion book. Look forward to reading the continued story of Vulkan
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on 26 August 2014
One star is the minimum you can give plus one star because Nick is a pretty good author, and thats it, this novel was bitty, lacked flow and was overly long for the actual story. In fact it was 2 stories plus flashbacks for each, giving 4 threads that we constantly switched between. I didnt get a chance to really get into one before it jumped to another, and while there might have been one interesting and new concept about vulcan the story went no where. You could have had the revelation about vulcan in one chapter in another book and you would have missed this book not one iota.

So two stars for wasting my money.
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on 11 February 2014
I'm getting a bit fed up with recent horus heresy novels, they don't seem to be moving the story along with the same pace as the starting novels, and the last few have just been 3-500 pages to find out one thing, not actually moving the story on as a whole. having said that it has a lot of primarch dialog between Vulkan and Konrad, who along with sevatar (who isn't in this book but if you haven't read the short story prince of crows I recommend it) remain my favourite characters.
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