Warhammer 40k Forum and Wargaming Forums banner

1 - 6 of 6 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,628 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Helsreach - Aaron-Dembski-Bowden



Synopsis/Review

The synopsis of Helsreach is one of brutal simplicity: Merely the gruff, unyielding demeanour of the Black Templars pitted against the millions of Orkish-Xenos assaulting the Hive of Helsreach, within Armageddon Secundris, until the end. Perhaps it is this comment that sets about Grimaldus and the Second Founding Chapter as unbreakable, pious knights, who will stand upon mountains of rotting corpses in their duty, that sends momentary shivers down our spines, and sets us drooling for the sheer untamed carnage about to engulf this infamous, Industry-blanketed world.

We plummet straight into the zealous traditions of the Black Templars, as Grimaldus -- after the death of his liege, his mentor and his Chaplain: Mordred -- receives the honour of attaining this prestigious honour. Here, within the gilded halls of heroes, beneath the fiery gaze of Chapter Master Helbrecht and flanked by trophies of past-legends and tools of ancient reverence, are we somewhat forced into our compassion for Grimaldus. Certainly the mediocre attempt at a first-person narrative hooks us into such emotion for the disdainful Chaplain, and though counterbalanced by the traditional and clichéd accompanying battle-brothers: Priamus chief among these as the arrogant swordsmen, we are given a mere taster of the Chapter within these first few pages. Nothing as depthful as I would expect from the author as to compare to Soul Hunter, though far superior to what I thought this Space Marine Battle novel would produce.

To the sulphur-clogged planet itself, preparations of a truly epic size are underway: Thousands of Anti-Aircraft turrets (Hydra quad-auto cannons I do believe) set up by Steel Legionnaires, emphasizing the unholy scale of slaughter about to blight Armageddon. I find it is here, that Mr. Bowden unleashes his true skill as an author. As I noticed from Soul Hunter, the authors strengths lie not with what we would expect to be the Night Lord`s or Astartes, but his Guardsmen. Several highly distinct and passionate characters from the Steel Legion, Imperial Navy fighter-squadrons and various Storm trooper sub-groups really bring some much-needed (and forgive the pun) Humanity to this novel, offering a multitude of varying perspectives and bringing a myriad of tools against the enemy, other than the Bolter and the Chainsword.

A final addition to this character-soup is the Titans of Legio Invigilata (And Legio Metalica - Loved that) led by the unbreakable and immortal (Or is it?) Imperator-Class Titan Stormherald. The Crone of such a God-Machine Zarha offers us a interesting, if not complex (and beautifully reminiscent of Titanicus) insight towards the adepts and heralds of the Machine-God`s cult. The inclusion of Titan`s provides more than allegorically showing the strong theme that is the magnitude of the Third War of Armageddon, and allowing the author safe-passage to detailing explosive Titan-duel`s -- Which seriously lacked in comparison to those of Titanicus in both number and detail -- between the Machines of Invigilata and the scrap-Titans of the Orks. Such a Mechanicus-wrought book provided an interesting plot of the hidden Ordinatus: Oberon and its sealing since the First War of Armageddon. Here, Master of the Forge: Jurisian, a well crafted character similar to Argos from Salamander, if not more detailed and interesting, begins his own battle to break the ever-evolving code containing the Titan-killing Artillery.

Whilst Jurisian clashes his part-Astartes, part-Martian whit against the defenses of Oberon, Grimaldus and the Elite Vulture Regiment of the Steel Legion make their stand against the Orks within the opening battle upon the walls of Helsreach. Arguably the most captivating conflict of the entire novel, the bestial charge of millions of Orks against the ramparts of Helsreach, topped by untold thousands of defense-turrets is magnificent to behold, the blood-shed utterly quenching whatever carnage you were expecting.

From here I find Helsreach -- in equilibrium with the city itself -- decreases. The promise of such Orkish-barbarity and grim, Templar mandate is ever shallower and less-commonplace, with only menial conflicts peppering the next few hundred pages or so. Legio Invigilata continues its voracious hunt for enemy scrap-Titans, although even these are short in number and not detailed to their explosive potential. Such putrefaction of the novel is torn asunder at the colossal docks of Helsreach however, where tens of thousands of Militia, Stormtroopers and Astartes of both the Black Templars and Salamanders Chapters make their valiant stand to protect the economic boon of the Hive from a seaborne, Orkish foe.

Perhaps the best moment of the novel, the rather brilliant Andrej of the Steel Legion`s Stormtropers and a gang of dockworkers slowly fight their way backwards, pilling the docks with alien dead. Andrej, much to the author’s credit is fantastic. Both humorous, but also emotionally deep if not poetic. Here, the Templars continue to do what they do best: Crushing Ork skulls with a crozius, and thus are we treated to the final stand at the religious heart of Armageddon.

Amongst a contingent of Adepta Sororitas, and numerous Steel Legionnaires, Grimaldus and his foe mark their final stand against the Great Enemy. If only ''final stand'' were apt enough. For a final-conflict, the Sisters fire their antique bolters barely once, and the Black Templars entreat us to a handful of glorious moments before their destruction. Simultaneously, Jurisian wielding Oberon destroys the Godbreaker the monstrous Ork Titan in a rather fast-paced and anti-climatical display of rather none-apocalyptic destruction.

Grimaldus watches his brother’s slaughter by crude axes, and is buried beneath the Temple. Alongside Andrej -- who never finds his sweetheart, Domoska, wrenching our gore-dripping hearts towards this soldier -- Grimaldus stands amongst much jubilation, as the war drags to a stand-still.

Overall Review; Positive/Negatives

Overall I found Helsreach to cover a vast spectrum of Imperial Life, persona’s and the various Militaristic forces embattled across its crater-strewn surface. Some were pursued more than others, and although I wished for more upon the Imperial Navy, I was rewarded with a strong insight into the Legio Invigilata. Bowden`s Steel Legionnaires allow us a familiar window into this savage theatre of war, and offer some fantastic moments of humour also.

Although I would class Nick Kyme`s Salamander as the currently-dominant Adeptus Astartes novel, Grimaldus -- partly spurned by the rather interesting execution of a first-person narrative -- is highly likeable, I would envision him superior to Elysius in both depth and characterization. That of course is not Helsreach`s strength. Not at all. The Titanicus-reminiscent (Dare I say inspired?) Titan-duel`s by the Legio Invigilata (and Legio Metalica!) are fantastic microcosm`s for the sheer magnitude of the conflict upon Armageddon Secundris.

Yet, even the God-Machines of the Mechanicus are sorely lacking compared to the fantastic human characters. Andrej just oozes that ''Communist'' feeling, with several other deep, and well executed characters. As said, Bowden`s strength -- to me -- lies entrenched with his Guardsmen.

The colossal scale of war upon Armageddon is truly staggering. I don`t think I have read of such a conflict involving so many Imperial Guardsmen, Astartes and Xenos. Kudos to Bowden for truly putting the sheer magnitude of the 40k Universe into perspective. It puts Rynn`s World into shame, and for a Space Marine Battle Novel, it has certainly exceeded the rather single-dimensional ''Astartes saving the day'' theme I ignorantly categorized this series as. Bravo Mr. Bowden, I believe this praise from myself is truly deserved.

Is it better than Soul Hunter?... Not as depthful, though that in turn lacked certain clarity in aspects, but more enjoyable? Certainly, as much as that statement is pure blasphemy to you fellow Heresy deviants.

Score/Reason

8/10. Enjoyable to the extreme, and for that factor alone a 9 would perfectly suffice, but certain plot-holes and lacking of detail in various parts pull it down to an 8, still a highly respectable score in comparison to the 6/10 I gave to Rynn`s World.
 

·
Dazed and confused.
Joined
·
8,496 Posts
Good review, bobbs. I agree with you about Andrej, a really good character who might deserve a book of his own if ADB ever runs out of new ideas. The image of him standing on the dockside more interested in the contents of his nose than the approaching ork fleet made me laugh out loud.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1 Posts
Just a curiosity of mine, Didn't quite understand.

After reading this novel, I still do not understand something.

Prefix: At the begining of the Novel the Black Templars arrived in full force, ships landing 100s of Marines emptying out in formation.

The Question: Why were only 6 left to help defend.

I understand that the Eternal Crusade and others were fighting the orbital war before the Orcs could touch down. But sure it doesnt take 100 Soldiers to man that ship.

Even so could they not have spared 10 or 20 more Templars to assist in the Crusade?
 

·
Like a Bawss
Joined
·
4,111 Posts
After reading this novel, I still do not understand something.

Prefix: At the begining of the Novel the Black Templars arrived in full force, ships landing 100s of Marines emptying out in formation.

The Question: Why were only 6 left to help defend.

I understand that the Eternal Crusade and others were fighting the orbital war before the Orcs could touch down. But sure it doesnt take 100 Soldiers to man that ship.

Even so could they not have spared 10 or 20 more Templars to assist in the Crusade?
The hundreds of Marines in orbit were not used to man the ships. Astartes specialize in quick, decisive strikes, especially boarding operations. That was their purpose for staying in their vessels, to be able to raid the ork fleets and try to destroy key members of the hordes' leadership.

Additionally, 100 Templars were a part of the Crusade, not six. The Six primary characters were Grimaldus and his 'command squad,' per se.

Also: As always, an awesome review, Bobss. Your thoroughness and thoughtfulness are remarkable, and if I could +rep you I would. Well done!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,628 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
After reading this novel, I still do not understand something.

Prefix: At the begining of the Novel the Black Templars arrived in full force, ships landing 100s of Marines emptying out in formation.

The Question: Why were only 6 left to help defend.

I understand that the Eternal Crusade and others were fighting the orbital war before the Orcs could touch down. But sure it doesnt take 100 Soldiers to man that ship.

Even so could they not have spared 10 or 20 more Templars to assist in the Crusade?
Yes, Boc sums it up well. Dozens (I believe) of Thunderhawks touched down upon the Hades Hive as more a show of strength to the Imperial Commanders of Armageddon; more for pomp and ceremony. The majority of these then were used within Orbit in the traditional Astartes way of sharp -maximum damage- strikes on board Orkish vessels. Grimaldus and his own Astartes were left upon Helsreach to serve as a.... ''final bulwalk'' against the tides of Ork's should their Brothers in Orbit fail. In all honesty, Grimaldus' presence upon Helsreach was more used for inspiration to the PDF and Guard, in my opinion.

Always a pleasure Boc:victory:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
262 Posts
Just finished it last night, and had a few thoughts on it.

1 - could have done without the Oberon subplot - completely! It really added nothing to the story except an obvious solution to an obvious (contrived) problem (Godslayer). We all knew Justinian would get the platform out just in time to kill the unkillable Gargant.

At first I thought it was a nice tool to develop tension between Grimaldus and the Legio, but that was defused far too easily, and became irrelevant anyways at the end, when the Priseps basically gave Grimaldus permission to blaspheme ("I cannot stand to see such heresy while I live, but since I'm dying, it's s'ok!")

Ugh. Just Cut & NOT_PASTE the whole subplot please.

2 - Andrej caught me by surprise. I totally saw him as just another minor character, and was thrilled to see him elevated in role during the battle at the docks. The Dockmaster whats-his-name was great too, and I felt a bit cheated at how he ended up. As to Andrej finding his 'love', I think it turned out the most realistic way possible. Be honest, if they had walked off into the radiation-apex together, it would have come off cheesy. War sucks, big news lol.

3 - Grimaldus gave me whiplash. In one instant he is an overbearing, self-righteous prick (a typical Black Templar, or so the book implies) while in another instant, he displays some compassion and understanding toward the humans around him. And throughout all of this, both his own conscience and his peers are telling him that 'he isn't acting like himself'. Well, which part? The part of him that spits in the face of Mechanicus' belief system (despite the long standing pact between Mars and Terra) or the part of him that rally's the human troops with insincere rhetoric?

Toward the very end (and we are talking the last few pages) he seems to have 'grown' as a person - received a revelation of sorts. Really? I know that I wanted him to grow - his petulant exchange with the Salamander toward the end was awesome and unpalatable all at the same time. But I would have preferred a more progressive curve to his education; as if to say, his realization of the importance of ordinary humans should have occurred gradually, during the siege, and not because someone dumped a chapel onto his head.

At times I hated this guy, while at other times, I admired him. Maybe I need to reread the book, as perhaps he is just a very complex character.

Still I really enjoyed this book, although I disagree that it 'was better than Rynns World'. I thought Rynns World gave me more of a look at the Ork hordes, while Helsreach looked into the lives of the defenders a lot more.

I liked how the author showed us the differences in Astartes Chapters, beyond simple heraldry and war cries. The compare/contrast job he did with the Templars/Salamanders was very interesting.

So I recommend it as a read, for sure. I still need to pick up Cadian Blood, but I'm 2/2 so far on ADB books :D

And including a Baneblade in the book AND NOT LETTING US SEE IT IN COMBAT, is just not cool.
 
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
Top