The third installment of the Space Marines Battles series Hunt for Voldorius by Andy Hoare is my latest review and while its a good read I felt that it was somewhat lacking in some elements while doing very well in others.
The book opens with the Master of the Hunt Kor'sarro Khan and his Hunters dropping onto Cernis IV, for a decade they have hunted the vile Daemon Prince Kernax Voldorius of the Alpha Legion across the galaxy and finally they have managed to run him to ground, or so they think. After chasing down the Daemon and confronting him and his Alpha Legion pawns at a promethium refinery the battle is revealed to be a trap orchestrated by Voldorius's champion, the Alpha Legionnaire Nullus, who slays the Company Champion Brother Jhogai in a duel and flees, leaving the White Scars at the mercy of a mighty kraken released in the trap.
The White Scars are able to escape the trap however and believed to be dead by Nullus and soon after Voldorius, they re-double their efforts and track the Daemon to the planet Quintus V, where the corrupt planetary officials have welcomed Voldorius and his ilk in exchange for power. Meanwhile a lone woman, Malya L'nor is chosen by Voldorius to be his new equerry and despite her revulsion at such a task, her faith in the Emperor allows her to withstand the evils of the Daemon Prince and plot behind his back to aid the Space Marines against him.
The White Scars arrive on Quintus and are greeted by the Raven Guard 3rd Company, under Shadow-Captain Kayvaan Shrike who has been operating secretly on the planet for several weeks, and despite bad blood between their Chapters both captains agree to work with each other against the Alpha Legion. However Voldorius plots to re-create his greatest work, to reawaken the mythic Bloodtide, and once this legacy of the Dark Age of Technology is unleashed, the world of Quintus and all its people will bleed.
The battles in the book are well-written and both chapter's styles of combat are reflected, the Bike-mounted charges of the White Scars in tandem with the aerial assaults of the Raven Guard are both great to read and since its rare to see Space Marine bike squads it was a nice treat to see the White Scars doing what they do best instead of the author using them in situations that are unfamiliar to them.
One very interesting thing introduced is the White Scars battle-cant. Rather then broadcast what they are doing the White Scars use assortments of their own words in place of orders, while meaning the direct orders. 'The silvered moon enshrouds the hunted,' or 'We hunt as the dawn-bat soars over the mountain,' and 'As the moon swoops,' are examples of the intricate battle-cant that Andy Hoare has created for the White Scars. Knowledge of Chogoris and its steppes, it ways of life and its people are essential to the battle-cant and it can vary greatly from user to user. A very innoventive device for the White Scars and something to set them apart from other Space Marines but that should have been done in a different novel, that unfortunately does not exist.
The Bloodtide is also a very ingenious creation, rather then go down a more obvious route like a dangerous Daemon or Warp-crafted artefact, Andy Hoare has taken the creative high-ground and created a unique archeo-tech weapon from the Dark Age of Technology that stands apart from the technology of the 41st millennium and makes other devices look primitive. A nano-machine based weapon the Bloodtide is designed to infest people and upon vocal command can exsanguinate them. Use of this ancient device to bleed over a trillion innocents earned Voldorius his Daemonhood, and it is a shame that we wont see this mighty device again, but hopefully more Dark Age relics are not far off.
High Point: The high point was the final duel between Kor'sarro Khan and Kernax Voldorius. Although Voldorius quickly gains the advantage Kor'sarro is able to bring down a statue of the Emperor upon Voldorius, and saves Malya L'nor from being crushed by the falling rubble. As soon as Voldorius rises he is impaled by Shadow-Captain Shrike's Lightning Claws and forced into the remnants of the Emperor's statue, the Master of Mankind's blade pinning Voldorius in place, allowing Kor'sarro to behead the Daemon and end the decade long hunt.
Low Point: Shrike was quite good but I felt the White Scars were wanting. Truthfully I think releasing an actual White Scars novel, totally new, and delving into their chapter in that, would have been a better first move. It would have allowed the author to establish the White Scars and redefine their lore, backstory and beliefs. Then Hunt for Voldorius could have come and been a lot better because the author would have had more to work with.
I give Hunt for Voldorius a 7/10 for an good story, some interesting characters and ingenious additions to 40k lore and to the White Scars chapter as a whole. I look forward to Andy Hoare's next work Savage Scars. And as the ending notes that one day Nullus and Kernax Voldorius would return to haunt the nightmares of man, I hope we have not seen the last of them.