The Emperor Protects
At least it was unequivocally a Heresy novel. Pythos could be 40k for all it matters.
This is interesting, because I feel that the Hands have been underserved, and basically ignored since Manus was killed. What stories have you seen their post-Isstvan plight dealt with? Other than Riven - which had very little to do with the legion itself and was a micro-level look at one rogue warband - there has been next to nothing on how the Iron Hands have coped.What does this novel even contribute to the overall series? It sounds like a post-Dropsite Massacre Horus Rising without the reems of goodies that made Horus Rising great. And, frankly, Horus-Rising-like novels have no place in the series in 2014.
Even trying to explain away the lack of linear plotting - with the good ol' sandpit analogy - doesn't fully cover it. Never mind the quality of the prose, the novel itself feels like a complete non-entity. As you say Vaz, a SMB novel with 30k window dressing.
The only positive caveat I can think of is showing the Iron Hands post-Dropsite Massacre and dealing with the death of their primarch. Well, there has been a glut of that since Fulgrim, and frankly a single, moving and well-written short story would sufficed. To be frank the Dropsite Massacre has lost a good deal of its impact for me with all this Iron Hands, Salamanders and Raven Guard material lately.
My point isn't that the Iron Hands are merely mentioned in a novel, but that we get to see and experience the loss that come with a primarch being killed. That just hasn't been presented in any of the post-Fulgrim novels save Pythos.Honestly, it feels like pretty much every book has Iron Hands in them. They were the most numerous loyallist Legion involved post-drop site, admittedly, but any book involved the Shattered Legions has Iron Hands involved, who near enough single handedly manage to fuck things up, and simulataneously be the most uninteresting characters written.
I'm not going to lie, I might be slightly biased in that I was never interested in Iron Hands prior to the Heresy information - they were just a legion which preferred bionics to tap into that Terminator-style vibe (with a part-metal, part-plastic tactical squad being produced for them around the time of when Matrix 2 and 3 were at their biggest hype, IIRC back in late 3rd/early 4th edition, IIRC), similar to how Tau tapped into Gundam interest etc.
Damnation of Pythos
All of these have major focus on the Iron Hands following the legions - Angel Exterminatus was notable for the Iron Warriors first major appearance, and how Fulgrim interacted with that, while Damnation of Pythos was meant to be "the return" of the Iron Hands to the screen. In addition to that, there are a ton of other references and inclusions of Iron Hands dotted about, where, they didn't need to be.