Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Wrath of Iron by Chris Wraight

After months spent in the service of the Chaos god Slaanesh, the ruling classes of the Contqual sub-sector have finally brought true damnation upon their people - innumerable hordes of foul and lascivious daemons swarm from a tear in the fabric of reality to embrace their mortal pawns and drive them on to ever more depraved acts of worship. It falls to the merciless Space Marines of the Iron Hands Chapter to cleanse these worlds of the warp's unholy taint, and it is upon the surface of Shardenus that the fate of a billion lost souls will be decided.

Having devoured Chris Wraight’s previous offering, Battle of the Fang, in record time and with no little pleasure, it was a no brainer to pop Wrath of Iron into my hand luggage for our recent holiday. 

It lasted a day, reminding me why Kindles are worth twice their weight in gold for holiday breaks.

Wrath opens with a clever gambit- it’s the start of the Iron Hands led invasion, but seen from the defenders’ point of view. Defenders who are convinced that they’re loyal to the Imperium. It’s an early, unexpected twist (and no, this isn’t a spoiler) that lets Wraight demonstrate how devastating it is for normal men to try face up against Space Marines, establishing this early so that the you can understand their effectiveness in the battles to come without him having to put the point across each time.

The target of the Iron Hands wrath is Shardenus Prime, a massive heavy industry based Hive City comprised of a central spire supported by six others, each heavily defended by deadly weapons and soon-to-be-revealed minions of chaos. It’s too big a target for the Iron Hands to tackle by themselves, not with the deadline they’re working to, and as such they are supported by Imperial Guard and a titan legion. 

The respective commanders and a handful of individuals of these support factions play a large role in Wrath, and it’s through their frustration and suffering under the ‘do this or die’ orders of the Iron Hands that we get to experience the reality of the Iron Hands’ sociopathic tendencies and disregard for any considerations beyond the successful execution of their mission. These threads (including that of an Imperial assassin - always cool) come together around the foundation of the Iron Hands' story, expanding the scope of the struggle and providing both a contrast to highlight the scope of the Iron Hands' obsessive nature and a respite from the same. These threads are distinct, but mesh smoothly and, importantly, are each brought to a suitable conclusion. 

By the time Shardenus Prime begins to yield its secrets and the reasons behind the Space Marine commander’s haste becomes apparent, you’re able to see both sides of the story.. but of course by then it’s too late for the poor old Imperial Guard to do anything except try and survive. The final confrontation is a maelstrom of action, both physical and psychic, delivered with a ferocity that must've made his keyboard smoke when he wrote it. 

This was a great, fast read. Despite their cold hearted bastardness, Wraight has made the Iron Hands an interesting, complex Chapter to delve into and I know I’d like to have more of the same. Please. 

You can read an extract here.  

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