A review of Assault on Black Reach from Big_Cheddars
I bought the Island of Blood and Assault on Black Reach together in paperback form (my first actual physical copies of BL books and not ebooks) and I have to say BL love being cheapskates. The paper they were printed on was pretty crap, but oh well. One of my newer adages when it comes to reading is that it doesn't matter what you're reading them on, what really matters is the words themselves. I digress, however, and onto this book, this marvellous book.
This novella is a gem, simply put. After reading TIoB I went into this expecting substandard prose and flat characters, and I got neither. The Ultramarines Second Company is attempting to retake the planet of Black Reach from the ork invaders, and leading them is the infamous glory-hunter Cato Sicarius. Sicarius is valorous, for sure, but as the sort-of main character Scipio Vorolanus says, he is occasionally very reckless. This novella is filled with awesome characters. From the grim Scout-Sergeant Telion (Yes, he's here, and he's awesome!), to the taciturn Iulus Fennion that is one of Sicarius's early detractors. And then of course there is Scipio. Scipio is a sergeant, and a relative rookie to the officer ranks. There are many parallels to be drawn between Sarah Cawkwell's Gileas Ur'ten and Scipio, as they are both rookie sergeants that are proud warriors and have the makings of something great. I honestly loved the variety of the characters in this novella, and even though the antagonists didn't have much character (being faceless orks) the Ultramarines made up for it by being awesome.
You get the feeling that Nick Kyme wasn't trying to write a novella about the 'Assault on Black Reach', as it were, but he was trying to write a novella about how the Ultramarines see each other and how they conduct war from a more strategic point of view. The actual action is thrilling and satisfying, especially when Telion is involved, but most of the novel is about the Ultramarines planning their attacks and their internal politicking. Although, the opening was pure class, and the description of the drop pod flying through the air and landing was truly magnificent and evocative.
The novella is excellently paced, and surprisingly didn't ever feel rushed. Nick Kyme has managed to cram a lot more story into exactly the same page count as Darius Hinks had with TIoB. The brief entry of normal humans into the novella, with the beleaguered defenders of a hive city, shows how caring Kyme can make the Space Marines, as a small interaction between Iulus and a human shows. It is nice to see a little humanity in a novella which is mainly dominated by Space Marines, who are questionably human when it comes to interacting with actual humans.
After this novella, I honestly cannot wait to read Fall of Damnos, which has some of the same characters in, because I know it will be awesome.
Back to the current novella though, and a summary: In the end, AoBL is a real gem of a novel that you would be foolish to under-estimate. It has brilliant characters, a decent plot, and some excellent storytelling contained within its pages. Nick Kyme is a firm BL favourite for me after this, and I honestly cannot wait to read his other books. I would give AoBl a 9/10 for being awesome, and as it's only £3 I advise you nip down to a GW store and buy it (as I think they have copies in every store).
Hey, I write a lot, I read a lot, and everything from BL that I read I'll review.