Legion of the Damned Paperback – Mar 27 2012
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About the Author
Head of English at a local secondary school, Rob Sanders is a freelance writer whose first fiction was published in Inferno! magazine. He lives off the beaten track in the small city of Lincoln, England.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
What's going on here? Is this the future, the past, another planet in the present? No indication I see. Maybe I'm slow and missed something, but at this point I had no freaking idea what was going on. They kept talking about the scourge, but it took many pages for me to figure out that it was some sort of title of this fallen hero. I was so lost, that I almost quit reading the book about 100 pages in. It's not the book was particularly poorly written, it's that it involved a chapter which had nothing to do with the title of the novel. I couldn't figure out what was even going on until about 200 pages in when the main character gets sent to the planet talked about in the beginning. So I mean you already know how the novel is going to end after about five pages, if that bugs you then don't buy this book, but that style doesn't bother me as long as I know that's what's happening.
So anyway, you go through the whole rest of the story trying to figure out what is actually going to happen and why the hero is seeing visions. Then you get to the very end and quite unsatisfactory appearance from the Legion. I mean what the heck? If you're going to name this book The Excoriators Get Their Rears Handed To Them, well then great, but this feels like they just used the Legion as a cheap ploy to sell more books. As it is, it's more disappointing than how The Purging of Kadillus squandered a rare use of Necrons, though it's still arguably a better written book than that one.
If you're picking only a few Space Marines battles books I'd highly suggest Rynn's World or Battle of the Fang as far superior specimens.
But when you buy Legion of the Damned, to read about The Legion of the Damned, the lost Fire Hawks chapter, only get Excoriators instead, that's not good.
Instead this book is 95% Excoriator and 5% Legion of the Damned. The only time the Damned start to get any action is about 375 pages in and even then its only with brief moments within paragraphs of quick and unsatisfying kills and brief moments of chattering teeth. And then the book is over. The end.
It's not really fair to call this book Legion of the Damned and say it features the damned chapter if it's barely mentioned or involved. If this was featuring the Excoriators then this review will be a lot different. I know I'm not alone in the disappointment and it's really the author or BL's fault for still saying this is about the Legion of the Damned when we have no idea how they are organised, what is their story, or how they fight from this book. Instead it's all about the Excoriators, which would be fine, but I was expecting to read more Legion of the Damned than anything. A little more than half way in I kept thinking "when am I going to see the Legion of the Damned at work?"
It was very lacking to say the least. The Excoriators should have been introduced in its own book and in its place a more familiar chapter so it wouldn't take so long to introduce the astartes or perhaps not feature any other astartes but the legion of the damned. Instead just have the planetary defense force and possibly the adeptus arbits ready themselves to face the enemy of extreme numbers and terrible evil. With the imperial mortals bracing themselves and readying to die, instead, like ghost, the Legion of the Damned appear and we see how they are organised, how they actually fight, and what they do, what they think, etc.
I think that's how it should have gone. The book was clearly ment for Excoriator insight but not Legion of the Damned.
The book appears in the series "battles of the space marines," and other titles in the series are focused on the strategy and tactics associated with major, famous battles for the Warhammer 40K (WH 40K) fans. The examples are legion, pun intentional, but Battle of the Fang, the Fall of Damnos, and the Battle for Armageddon all come to mind.
In those books, there is a little back-story to set the stage, the strategic options are described, and the majority of the book describes the tactical level chainsword thrusts and gouts of Astartes and Chaos-beast blood.
This is not one of those books.
Likewise, you might reasonably expect that this book, Legion of the Damned, would deal with the Legion of the Damned, a mysterious group of spectre warriors loyal to the Emperor who show up to fight on the side of light and goodness at the darkest hours.
While the Legion of the Damned does make an appearance, it is not until the last twenty pages of the book. More on this later ...
What the Legion of the Damned book does focuses on is one particular member of the Excoriators, the Scourge, who was once the Champion of the entire Excoriators chapter.
Read on, but beware major spoilers follow ...
The Excoriators are a chapter from the scions of Rogal Dorn. I was not familiar with the Excoriators prior to reading this book. One of the interesting things about the WH40K universe is that the superhuman leaders of the Spacemarine Legions, the Primarchs, all reflected some aspect of the Emperor of Mankind. Magnus the Red inherited his father's psionic abilities. Fulgrim inherited his father's appreciation for the arts and desire for perfection. Angron his father's passion and temper. Likewise, the Spacemarine chapters flowing from those Legions reflect aspects of their Primarchs. The Excoriators reflect Dorn's time when he was lost and massively depressed during his trials with the Iron Hands.
Even the loyal Legions that still serve the Emperor have potential fatal flaws. The Wolves of Russ can devolve into the abhuman, bestial wulfen. The Sons of Sanguinius can fall to the red haze and become wanton killers, and the Excoriators can fall to the Darkness and essentially become comatose, lost in super-human depression.
The Scourge was the champion of the Excoriators. He protected the Master of the Chapter and the battle-standard of the Excoriators. Then, the fiendish Alpha Legion infiltrated the Excoriators, poisoned the Chapter Master, stole the battle-standard, and left the Scourge alive. (For the first five years, the Scourge sat on a coach, ate bon-bons, and watched bad dramas on the BBC, but, then he fell into "the Darkness." OK, I made up the bit about the bon-bons, but it would not be far off from the story presented.)
The story picks up during the great championship struggle where all of the chapters of the Legion of Dorn fight to have their champion declared to be the best fighter. The contests take place in a chamber that is designed to reflect the area that Rogal Dorn had to fight his way out of that was constructed by the Iron Warriors, i.e., it is a totally mutable death-trap. The first third of the book explores the struggles of the Excoriators in trying to win the contest.
When their last champion is defeated, they are forced to use brain surgery to awaken the Scourge. He does awaken, but he is still suffering from bouts of depression and sees some type of apparition, who the readers may believe is a manifestation of the depression and delusions that the Scourge still suffers.
Of course, the Scourge wins, and he is given the last known sword used by Rogal Dorn himself.
Immediately after winning the contest, the sword of Dorn is stripped from the Scourge and sent on to the Chapter homeworld. The Scourge is made the Captain of an Excoriators company and sent to fulfill an ancient obligation of the Chapter to the Ministorium. This ends up taking the Scourge's company to a cemetery world just before the Keeler comet and the Cholercaust, an unstoppable horde of Khorne followers and daemons in the comet's wake appears above the planet.
There are some very clever bits in the book during the next two thirds. Rob Sanders, the author, knows his stuff about WH40K canon, and he is a very good, descriptive author.
The Scourge recognizes that he and the company are doomed. So, he has all of the Astartes making glands removed from the spacemarines and sent out of system to carry on their legacy. That was very, very clever.
The Scourge notes that the graves all have bells attached to the coffins (a fact taken from real-world, medieval graves) to prevent folks from being buried alive. The Scourge has thousands of graves dug up and hides the citizens of the world in the graves knowing that the followers of Khorne are bent on carnage and will not dig up the graves.
The battle with the Cholercaust is indeed carnage, and, while there are a few interesting scenes, most of the gouts of blood are from the Scourge's men.
Then, ... it is not deus ex machina, it is Imperator ex machina. The Legion of the Damned appears with an ancient dreadnought the size of Saturn, shoots a missile the size of the Moon into the Keeler comet. The comet disintegrates destroying the Cholercaust fleet and raining death on the horde on the planet surface. In the mean time, the ghosts of the Legion of Doom kill all of Angron's sons on the world.
The story picks up again when the Inquisition, the Church, and some Astartes arrive at the world after the Cholercaust is defeated.
The only survivor on the surface is the Scourge. He rings one of the bells, and thousands of bells chime in response.
The world is saved, and we find out that one of the messages from the world asking for help went to the big man, the Emperor himself.
So, ... the parts about Dorn's sons was interesting and unknown to me prior to this book.
The idea of the Cholercaust was a clever notion and well executed.
The concept of the Legion of the Damned, ghostly, unstoppable warriors felt like a structurally weak ending.
There is a large question that hangs over the WH40K universe ... what is the real role of the Emperor since being entombed on the Golden Throne.
Other books have revealed that the Golden Throne either is falling or perhaps failed a long time ago, and the Emperor might already be long departed, and other books have pointed out that the Emperor stopped lighting the Astronomicon a long time ago. Now a bank of ten thousand psionics has that duty.
It is an open question whether the Emperor is even still alive or has any function. It is said that the Lords of Terra communicate with the big guy via his Tarot, and that was alluded to in this book. This book also implies that the Emperor also deploys the Legion of the Damned directly through his will.
There you have it.
If you want to see clever battles or learn a great deal more about the Legion of the Damned then this book is not the best choice.
On the other hand, if you want to read a clever look at some of the sons of Dorn and think about some non-standard courses of action that the WH40K universe allows, but have not been explored to date then this is a good read.