Abnett is very good at writing action. That is no secret and BotS is no exception. Readers get to experience every blast, gunshot and chainsword roar as the brothers of the Iron Snake decimate enemies of the Imperium.
The unfortunate thing about writing about Space Marines is that they tend to be one dimensional, nearly invincible figures. Successful authors, like Abnett, managed to insert small glimmers of fallibility into characters like Brother Priad while maintaining the image required by Warhammer cannon. In addition, Abnett adds layers to the Iron Snake Chapter as a whole by recalling Earth’s own legend and histories. Using classic imagery borrowed from Arthurian legend, the Roman legion, the Greek phalanx and the Spartan…well…Spartans, he is able to grant a much deeper connection to what could otherwise be a stock Space Marines novel.
In lieu of the traditional novel format, BotS is more of a collection of short stories describing separate engagements of the Iron Snakes Chapter. This offers two advantages over other Space Marines books. First, it allows the reader to gradually learn about the Iron Snakes and their place among the Reef Stars. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, the format makes it an easier read for anyone who is still taking baby steps along the guiding light of the Emperor.
The issues with this novel seem to be universal throughout Warhammer 40k fiction, and genre fiction at large. A need to placate a dedicated fan base combined with strict guidelines within the particular IP prevents authors from taking any real chances. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but BotS is not one of those. However, it speaks to Abnett’s talent and craftsmanship that he continues to produce such quality work within those tight boundaries.
4 out of 5 stars