Echoes of the Long War by David Guymer (Book Review)

First and foremost, the Warhammer 40,000 novels have always been about visceral action first and foremost. It really wasn’t until the Eisenhorn and Ravenor novels by Dan Abnett that we began to see something much wider, in my experience. I know that books like Inquisition War existed before, but those have long been declared non-canon if I’m not mistaken, so they don’t count. And of course, the Horus Heresy novels have been about Imperial politics on a galactic scale as much as they’ve been about the battle scenes. But it hasn’t been until the Beast Arises trilogy that we’ve really gotten to see Imperial politics up-close and personal on Terra itself among the Imperium’s highest elite.

David Guymer’s Echoes of the Long War is the sixth novel in the series and one which is perhaps the most focused of them all so far. Following on from Throneworld, this novel had a lot of baggage coming in and some really high expectations, not all of which it was able to meet unfortunately. It was, in effect, far too focused on one particular event to the detriment of the other narratives, and that definitely hurt the series overall. However, it was still a decent novel and did keep the story progressing somewhat so there’s that.

Note: Some major spoilers from the previous novels and this novel are mentioned here.

Being the fulcrum point of the series essentially, the role that Echoes of the Long War is given is a vital one. All the forward momentum built-up in the last two novels needs to be carried through and the conflict needs to be increased in scope as well, as weird as that might sound. And that’s where I think that David Guymer missed the mark most of all. He tells an intriguing tale of two opposing Astartes factions colliding and uniting, but it never really had much of an emotional resonance. And then, we got so little of the politicking on Terra amongst the High Lords, few details on the actions of the Last Wall, almost no information on what the other Chapters are doing, and very little to do with Mars as well. It was all very unsatisfying.

In this novel we focus on First Captain Zerberyn of the Fists Exemplar, who is an opponent of the Last Wall protocol, believing that it is a betrayal of the word and spirit of the breaking down of the Legions post-Heresy by Primarch Guilliman. This, despite the fact that Rogal Dorn, the primogenitor of the Imperial Fists, himself was opposed as well, initially. As such, it gives David a nice “in” to explore the character’s complexity, especially when he is faced with the tough (or not so tough) choice of either allying with Kalkator’s forces for mutual benefit or holding true to his oaths and fighting him off till the end.

There’s lots to unpack in such a relationship and David certainly gives us some great moments. But in the end, I wasn’t convinced that this needed to be the focus of an entire novel. It felt like a side-show more than a key narrative, especially since there’s no hope of it being resolved until the very end, given the needs of the larger narrative. Additionally, I’m not sure what to make of Kalkator either. He seems to be cut from a different cloth of Iron Warriors than we’ve seen in M41 via Graham McNeill’s fantastic Ultramarines novels, holding true to a very different sort of Legion identity as a holdover from the Heresy. But the thing is that whatever he does in this novel and the previous one, he doesn’t really come across as a villain. He’s almost a straight-shooter in that regard and therefore I failed to identify with him at all in this novel. His kind of pragmatism is something that feels wholly unneeded.

This brings me to the rest of the narratives here. Up until this point, I have very much enjoyed whatever has been happening on Terra among the High Twelve. And that was as much a product of the writing as well as the overall presentation and fulfillment of scope than anything else. In Echoes of the Long War there is a distinct lack of that. I wanted to see more of Vangorich’s indecision and scheming. I wanted to see more of how the High Lords fight back against Koorland and his Last Wall. And we get precious little. After all, the narrative of Koorland being the last Imperial Fist is pretty central to the series, and the previous authors have done well by that so far. He nature and current status is all too important to ignore with regards to the Imperial politics, and I wanted to see more of that.

And that’s really the thing about the novel. It teases out so much but it ends up giving you very little. The writing in itself is fine, certainly degrees better than what David has done in Warhammer Fantasy with his Gotrek & Felix stories, but there is still a lot reminiscent of some of the negatives of those. One example would be the imperfect scene transitions and explanations where sometimes events happen in a particular order but the perspectives are kind of wrong and you are forced to reread the passages to check whether what you have read makes sense or not. It was something I really didn’t like about his Warhammer Fantasy work and some of it has carried over.

Echoes of the Long War is not a bad book per se, but it could have been a lot better I feel. David does well to expand the scope of the conflict, give the Orks a stronger identity as antagonists, provide some real challenges for his characters, but he doesn’t go the distance with many of them, so it all comes across as unfinished, of sorts.

Rating: 6/10

More David Guymer and The Beast Arises:

  • The Beast Arises#1: I Am Slaughter by Dan Abnett (Review)
  • The Beast Arises #2: Predator, Prey by Rob Sanders (Review)
  • The Beast Arises #3: The Emperor Expects by Gav Thorpe (Review)
  • The Beast Arises #4: The Last Wall by David Annandale (Review)
  • The Beast Arises #5: Throneworld by Guy Haley (Review)
  • Gotrek & Felix: City of The Damned (Review)
  • Gotrek & Felix: Kinslayer (Review)
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Posted on May 23, 2017, in Book Reviews, Review Central and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

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