p/b, the Black Library, â‚¬12.50, blacklibrary.com
Reviewed by David Rudden
One of the things I look forward to when reading the Space Marine Battle series is how the writer is going to put a new and interesting slant on the Marines in question. Each of the eighteen legions is supposed to have their own personality, after all. Aaron Dembski-Bowden did a great job in making the Night Lords sarcastic, bitter and hollow. I had always thought the Space Wolves silly until Dan Abnettâ€™s â€˜Prospero Burnsâ€™ characterised them as surprisingly complex tribesmen with a mandate for extreme brutality and Chris Wraightâ€™s idea of the Thousand Sons are self-despising philosophers on the path to monsterhood was excellently done.
Unfortunately thatâ€™s what C. L. Wernerâ€™s â€˜The Siege of Castellaxâ€™ is desperately lacking.
The plot itself is generic fare; the forge planet Castellax is under siege by the innumerable ork horde and the bickering forces of the Iron Warriors legion must band together to face the threat while pursuing their own machinations and so on and so forth. I could forgive the basicness of the plot if the prose sparkled; Aaron Dembski-Bowdenâ€™s â€˜Helsreachâ€™ is almost the exact same set-up and it was excellent, but aside from one noticeable exception the Iron Warriors here lack personality and the kind of imaginative cruelty you want to see from millennia-old crusaders of evil.
The book is also lacking a strong enough antagonist. There are two, but one is barely mentioned and the other is completely wasted. These books live and die by their villains and I wanted something a lot meatier here. I think thereâ€™s a lot that could have been expanded on here but itâ€™s an opportunity missed.
Itâ€™s not actively bad at anything it tries to do, and the subplots involving the Iron Warriorsâ€™ beaten-down slaves are actually pretty good (thereâ€™s one chase through a tunnel which is particularly atmospheric) but unfortunately like too many of the Space Marine Battle Series, this doesnâ€™t have a lot to recommend it past mild curiosity.