Friday, August 26, 2011

Battle of the Fang by Chris Wraight

It is M32, a thousand years after the Horus Heresy. The Scouring is over and the Imperium at the height of its post-Crusade power. When Magnus the Red is tracked down to Gangava Prime, the Space Wolves hasten to engage the daemon primarch.

Even as Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm closes on his ancient enemy, the Fang on the Space Wolves home world is besieged by a massive force of Thousand Sons. A desperate battle ensues as the skeleton forces of Wolf Lord Vaer Greylock attempt to hold back the attacking hosts before the last of his meagre defences gives in. Though a single Scout ship survives to summon Great Wolf Harek Ironhelm back to Fenris, none of the defenders truly realise the full scale the horror that awaits them, nor what the Battle for the Fang will cost them all.

In simple terms, this is the story of a siege. What ups the ante though is that it's the survivors of the Thousand Sons legion who are laying siege to the Fang, the fortress of the Space Wolves. Their motivation is ostensibly revenge for the destruction of Prospero a thousand years previously (see Prospero Burns), but as ever with the Thousand Sons, there is more to it than meets the eye, for there are secrets hidden in the Fang, secrets that could damn them all.

With the main body of the Wolves haring across the galaxy to lay waste to the planet where Magnus has taken up residence, the Fang is left with a single company of Space Marines to hold off a huge force comprising close to a thousand marines and uncounted legions of their mortal troops, all supported by a powerful fleet of ships and armoured regiments. But the Fang isn't just home to the Wolves and their slumbering heroes, but also the hundreds of native Fenrisians who serve them. And as the mortals are mobilised in the defence of the Fang we get to experience the fury of the battle from their perspective, notably through a father and daughter who serve in two different sectors. It's their experiences and points of view that add depth to the story, providing an insight into a world that only respects martial prowess and highlighting the arrogance of the Wolves alongside the desperate heroism and singleminded determination that makes them who, and what, they are.

Wraight does well to do justice to the Thousand Sons, capturing their bitterness and a sense of a Legion fighting desperately not to lose themselves to the mistakes of their past.

Battle of the Fang is absolutely stuffed with the kind of fast, brutal violence that erupts when mortal enemies collide, particularly when said enemies are 8ft tall genetically engineered killers armed with chainswords. The pace is unrelenting and the tension is maintained as Magnus' plan is revealed and the Wolves are forced back into a last stand. It's the combination of the human perspective, the sympathetic treatment given to the Thousand Sons and his understanding of what makes the Wolves tick makes this much more than a simple action fest and hugely enjoyable. I demolished it in two sittings.

You can read an extract here.

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