Monday, May 3, 2010

Book Review: Helsreach

I am back after a couple weeks of forced hiatus from blogging. This latest break was due primarily to work escalating and interfering with my general hobby time. On a slightly positive side, I did get a chance on a recent trip to read through Helsreach and can now provide a review.

This will be the third book I have read from author Aaron Dembski-Bowden, joining Soul Hunter and Cadian Blood on my bookshelf. Overall I enjoyed Helsreach, but I feel it is a solid second place to Soul Hunter out of the three books. I do recommend this to anyone who is a fan of both 40K and general Science Fiction reading.

The Premise
We have the city of Helsreach, an industrial hive city on the surface of Armageddon. We arrive on scene just before the start of the 3rd war for Armageddon. Ork's are swarming in, the fleets in orbit cannot hold them off, and Chaplain Grimaldus is tasked with leading 100 Black Templar knights in the suicidal defense of the city.

The Good
  • Andrej, Steel Legion storm trooper - this is (in my humble opinion) the best character in the book. Clearly a supporting character who ends up stealing the spotlight from the lead characters of the book.
  • The action in this book is fantastic. We have the black Templars kicking ass as only marines can do. 
  • Titans, Gargants, and a city burning and falling.... excellent scenes involving Titan Princeps and Grimaldus. Fantastic Gargant/Titan fights.
  • Accessibility for non-GW-gamers. This is a great book for 40K fans to introduce the world/universe to their non-GW-familiar friends. This does not have any of the strangeness that adds to the rich 40K universe, but still is firmly rooted in the universe as a whole. Provides a great look at 40K couched in a somewhat familiar war-within-a-city setting.
  • Marines.... Black Templars to be specific. For those who like 40K books, Marines are a favorite and this delivers with how bad-ass the Templars are. The book also provides an excellent look at some of the cracks that form between different chapters of the Emperors Finest.
  • ADB - Aaron has become my favorite author and while this is not as good as Soul Hunter, his writing is fantastic!
The Not-So-Good
  • Andrej does not show up until after the mid-point of the book. This is the best character in the book and he does not show up until late. To be fair, if he had shown up earlier he would have stolen the bulk of the book from the Space Marines... but come on now!
  • The last few chapters - Ok, so let me explain. The whole book is great. The first 75% of the book is fantastic. Then comes the end of the book where everyone has been kicked in the teeth. You can certainly tell that ADB struggled to complete this book and it shows in the story. Not the writing, the story. The book builds strongly then pretty much dies out quietly at the end. I just did not feel that the "glorious last stand" was that glorious.


  1. For the record: FUCK, I hate that format. The larger format means 1) they charge 50% more for it for no real added value and 2) it's more difficult to fit into my laptop bag.

    Seriously, the format is enough to keep me from reading the Space Marines Battles books.

  2. The book size for the series is strange. It fit in my laptop bag, but it is certainly a larger sized book than a mass-market paperback. While I wish it was in a "normal size", I certainly was not disappointed and still recommend the book.