Wow, has it been that long? Not good Rob, not good. I’ve been pretty good with the blog over the last six months or so, ensuring that posts grace the internet with a satisfying regularity. Going to get back to that. Just been sooooo busy of late. Totally buried. Guess that serves me right for trying to hold down two of the most time-consuming jobs in the universe at the same time as being a husband and father (two more time-consuming callings!) Anyway, apologies to a bunch of people that I haven’t got back to about various things. One thing that I have been meaning to do is post a fantastic review for Legion of the Damned by the equally fantastic Phillip Sobel of BookSpot Central. BookSpot Central reviews a wide range of fiction and graphic novels but has a soft spot for well-written fantasy and science fiction. I was thrilled to see that Phillip had been kind enough to read and review Legion of the Damned. Thanks Phillip! I enjoyed your review immensely. BookSpot Central can be found here and down on the sidebar under the title ‘The Scene’. I encourage you to check it out. I have reproduced Phillip’s review of Legion of the Damned below for your reading pleasure.
"Legion of the Damned is the latest addition to the ever popular and ever growing Space Marine Battles series. Author Rob Sanders has proven himself to be a descriptive writer without equal whose words stretch the boundaries of prose and occasionally tap-dance into the realm of poetry. That he has also demonstrated a sure-fire talent for action-packed 40K yarns completes the circle of awesomeness I demand from my Warhammer/40K writers.
The cover is a teensy bit misleading: a story told entirely or even partly from the point of view of the Legion of the Damned, a legendary chapter of ghostly Astartes who appear from the shadows to turn the tide in desperate battles, would be somewhat lacking in the dialogue department. Instead the story focuses on a Chapter of Space Marines who come into ‘contact’ with them. The Chapter in question is the Excoriators, an Imperial Fist successor Chapter, who pride themselves on their ability to remain standing in the face of overwhelming punishment. Anyone who has read any of Rob Sanders’ previous works will know that the limits of endurance is a favourite theme that features prominently regardless of whether his characters are human or otherwise. At last, in the shape of the Excoriators, he has found the ideal fodder to explore this theme to his heart’s content without straining the boundaries of suspension of disbelief; a chapter that values endurance in the face of overwhelming odds, lovingly marking the date and location of any battle damage to their War Plate.
The Excoriators suffer from a genetic flaw known as the Darkness, where the afflicted is paralysed by visions of the battle of the Imperial Palace during the Horus Heresy from the perspective of their Primarch and his grief at the fall of the Emperor. Suffering from this very affliction is Sanders’ protagonist, Corpus Captain Zachariah Kersh. Formerly the Scourge, the Chapter Master’s champion and bodyguard, he is now in disgrace for falling to the Darkness and in the process losing the sacred Stigmartyr, the Chapter standard, and leaving the Chapter Master open to an assassin’s blade.
When ancient pacts of protection are called in by the Ecclesiarchy, the recovered Kersh is sent, as the new Captain of the battle-scarred 5th Company, to the cemetery world of Certus Minor to protect the planet from the approaching Keeler Comet and the Khornate ‘Cholerchaust’ that follows in its wake. Facing overwhelming odds, Kersh and his Astartes prepare themselves for a battle they cannot possibly survive. But what of the black armoured, ghostly revenant that haunts Kersh’s waking life, a sign of his damnation or a last desperate hope?
I’ve mentioned Sanders’ prose before, so I won’t keep banging on about it. Suffice to say that it is amongst the richest I have ever read, and his ability to paint a visceral, heart-pounding picture with words is second to none. His battles scenes, the obvious target of the series as a whole, are fast-flowing and convey the flow of events brilliantly, as well as ably communicating the sheer brutality of the fighting. The dialogue is, without exception, emotive and powerful, particularly in the context of Kersh’s leadership of a company that hates him and feels he has damned them to die pointlessly in the defence of a minor world.
Certus Minor is a world that, for me, really embodied the whole 40K ethos. An entire planet set aside for the burial of the dead. It really conveyed the overpopulated nature of so many Imperial worlds. There isn’t room for the laying out of the dead, and some of the noble born or other worthies of the Imperium are above the pragmatic cremation that is the path of the masses. And so their mortal remains are transported to Certus Minor for burial. Sanders builds up a great picture of the unique culture of such a world and populates it with a raft of fascinating little character studies that adds to the rich atmosphere that is the hallmark of his writing.
Sanders also switches between a third person perspective, an outside observer describing the scenes, and the first person perspective of Kersh (italicised). I loved this as a literary device–it really allowed me to see the inner struggle of Kersh, and more than anything else brought me down into his armour to experience the battles as he saw them.
I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that the intervention of the Legion is as last minute as it’s possible to get. I will confess to finding this a little frustrating though, admittedly, entirely in keeping with their legend. But, when they finally made their presence felt, it was all I had hoped for.
As I’ve been writing this review a metric ton of all the author’s plot twists and amazing characters and scenes are clamouring for mention, but I will not try to regurgitate the book in its entirety. I will say that the story, the characters and the context of their struggle was compelling, and Sanders’ writing was almost indulgent in his obvious delight in the use of language. I was drawn into his story from the very beginning all the way to the heart-stopping finale.
Very highly recommended."