This entry would be the 4th novel of this series that i read coming after the uneven Rynn’s World and it stands as the novel that had me make up my mind to stick with the series through bad and good. Mostly for the fact that it was an excellent read.
Upon the ashen wastes of Shardenus Prime, Clan Raukaan of the Iron Hands chapter must wage a lightning fast war with their allies, to eliminate the chance of a traitor rebellion turning into something far more dangerous and sinister.
All stories benefit from a defined theme or moral, it serves to unify the disparate scenes in the narrative into a cohesive whole, and ultimately give the story a purpose to exist. The greatest aspect of Wrath of Iron, is that out of all of the novels that i have read in the series it has the most definable theme out of all of them. The novel poses the question: “How much of our humanity must be given up in order to fight evil?”
Like all of the great questions of life this one lacks a definitive answer, and the novel itself doesn’t provide anything too concrete about it. The opening monologue of the Iron Hand’s Primarch Ferrus Manus, although regretful of the fact that his chapter now views their flesh and blood as a weakness due to his hands being encased in iron, admits to needing the power they provide until the Great Crusade is over. Throughout the novel there are a number of other examples that illustrate further the implications of the replacement of the flesh with the machine both physically and spiritually.
The most literal example of this would come from the Iron Hands themselves, many of the veteran battle brothers have undergone so much bionic replacement that perhaps the only thing human in their bodies is their brain. Although their augmentation grants them their nigh unshakable strength of will and great physical strength The chief Librarian of the Clan quietly remarks that this has an effect of dulling their aura’s and presence in the warp, in other words affecting and sapping the potency of their very souls.
Now is that worth it? The Librarian possesses prodigious psychic abilities but his potency with them is because he remains more man than machine, on the flip side the Iron Father of the clan is almost completely a machine and his bionics ultimately save his life and allow him to persevere in the face of defeat. The answer is more or less left up to the reader and the implications of each stayed with me for a long time following the last page of the book.
One thing however that the book makes exceedingly clear is the truth of one of those thoughts of the day that the Imperium indoctrinates its citizens to which is: “Cowards die in shame”.
To go into too much detail about this point in the book would be to spoil a bit too much (and i would rather have anyone reading this review read the book for themselves), suffice to say the book shows no mercy to the characters who cast aside their duties to live for a few moments more or try and preserve their own stature.
While all of the characters in Wrath of Iron aren’t bad none of them are as strongly fleshed out as they are in Helsreach. But this is only natural as Wrath of Iron’s thematic content is far broader and as a result the characters are tailored to suit the theme.
Also i found this novel to be a bit of a slow starter; as the pieces of the over all thematic puzzle did not start to fully start to fall into place until the last third or so of the book, but ultimately the slower pace rewarded with a satisfying climax.
Hmmm, its kinda hard to find anything too wrong with this novel as essentially as i stated before the chief problem with any of these books is the fact that i just don’t like it on a personal level as much as i did Helsreach. Not that i didn’t find anything or anyone in the novel uninteresting, quite the contrary. I just didn’t like anybody in this story as much as everyone else in Helsreach. Also all of the same faults of believability and the impenetrable nature of the 40k universe without some serious back story studying rears its head within these pages.
This book interests me personally as it serves as an example of how else a story can win me over. While Helsreach won me over with deeply interesting central and supporting characters that i genuinely cared for, Wrath of Iron wins me over for an extremely well developed central theme that motivates both the people within and the story itself.
Wrath of Iron stands as the second best book i’ve read in the Space Marine Battles series, it is both entertaining and engaging and its score reflects my personal hang ups that i’ve explained previously, and i recommend it to anyone who is interested in reading an excellent book.
**** 1/2 OUT OF FIVE STARS