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The whole store really had me hooked from the start to finish. Adding the humanist aspect to the Astartes was something I had wanted them to do for a long time. This is probably my most favorite W40k book to date to be honest, next being Outcast Dead.
This is the story of Dante, the long serving Chapter Master of the Blood Angels, and it is a rather remarkable book. One interesting feature is the book’s structure which alternates past and present, from the humble young desert urchin called Luis Dante who struggles to survive on his desolate planet and achieve his dream of serving as a Blood Angels, to the ageing, tired, powerful and duty driven Chapter Master who feels the Empire’s decay and that the end is near.
The contrast allows for some remarkable descriptions of the ravaged planets of Baal Primus and Secundus, of the Blood Angels recruiting and of their home monastery-fortress. The planets are irradiated and contaminated following a terrible war that took place twelve thousand years ago and during which the two moons destroyed each other and all of their cities. Most of the few survivors have become nomads that are chronically under nourished and diseased and which barely manage to scrape a living. Their life expectancy hardly exceeds the age of thirty and most can expect to die of various types of purulent cancers. This is the harsh, bleak and cruel environment from which Luis Dante originates from and it is from this and as a result of his trek and successes in the various tests that he will join the Blood Angels, become one of them and arise through the ranks to become Dante, the Blood Angels’ Chapter Master for a thousand years.
Chapter Master Dante is old – about 1500 years old – and has spent his whole adult life fighting for and defending the Imperium, waging endless war against all of its enemies and keeping at bay through endless efforts the curse of the Blood Angels inherited by their Primarch and which still threatens to – and will one day - engulf him. Now comes, at the very end of the 40th millennium (in 41998, to be precise), the worst of all the struggles and enemies that he has had to fight. The Tyranid Leviathan comes from the galactic East and threatens to utterly destroy Baal and the Blood Angels’ home world while Abbadon, his Black Legion and his fleet burst out of the Eye of Terror and attack once again Cadia.
While the book gives the impression of being somewhat unfinished, with the reader not knowing if and whether these two death threatening menaces will be vanquished, yet alone contained, the author manages to distillate an atmosphere of growing despair and tiredness. He shows the profound ambivalence of the super-human Blood Angel Chapter Master – at times compassionate and at times monstrous when his weakness and genetic flaw gets the better of him. Also interesting are the various and mysterious apparitions of the Sanguinor, of which I will say no more to avoid any major spoilers.
This one is worth four very strong stars and I hope that this somewhat unfinished story will be continued shortly, preferably by the same author.
**** Acquired: Black Library Series: Blood Angels Har: 304 Pages Publisher: Games Workshop (March 21, 2017) Language: English Subject: Fiction
The Story: The untold origin story of Chapter Master Dante of the Blood Angels, one of the Imperium's greatest heroes.
Dante is Chapter Master of one of the noblest but most troubled Chapters of Space Marines in the Imperium: the Blood Angels. From the time of his birth in the rad-scarred wastes of Baal Secundus, he was destined for glory and strife. From his apotheosis to Scout, to the hive cities of Armageddon and the alien menace of the Cryptas system, Dante has waged war against all the enemies of the Imperium. He has witnessed the divine, and struggled against the darkness within all sons of Sanguinius. Longer lived than any other Chapter Master, this is his chronicle, his great and storied legend.
The Review: For starters, the Lore Geek has to put something to rest: This book pretty much settles a small debate that has been drifting through the Warhammer 40k fandom for sometime. That being, Lord Commander Dante first name, if he even has one. It was thought to be ‘Cervan’ but that name appears nowhere in this book. It appears his name was actually Luis. So that’s done.
The structure of this book is actually a fairly common archetype in Warhammer 40K Fiction. It depicts the story of one particular Space Marine and his journey from normal, human child to a hero of the Adeptus Astartes. This is familiar ground to any disciple of the Black Library. Thankfully, the story of Luis is actually one of the best parts of the book. The world building in this book is top notch and readers of post-apocalyptic fiction would be wise to add this book to their collections. The reason for this is that Baal and its moons really are post-apocalyptic settings, with the worlds previous civilizations been destroyed in a nuclear war many millennia ago. In previous stories, Baal was usually on described as a desert and not much else. Over the course of Luis’ journey, we are treated to a living, breathing, and outright dangerous world. We feel every step of the journey and the author does this by describing his pain, his doubts, and his struggles against the hostile landscape of his homeworld. When Luis becomes Dante, the reader feels as relieved as he does.
To be a Blood Angel is to be a contradiction. They care deeply for the defense of Imperial Citizens but want to drink their blood and feast on their flesh. They value beauty in both body and surroundings but they are constantly on verge of going to into a bezerker rage that will turn them into monsters. Lord Commander Dante is the epitome of this and he knows this. He knows that the Blood Angels and countless souls up and down the Imperium of Man
He feels the weight of his long years upon him and the author paints wonderful word pictures conveying this to us. One passage in particular, tells the reader that he desires to become a museum piece. He wants be obsolete, have no more reason to fight.
He will never give up, never surrender. He will fight for the Imperium. Still, he wonders if it will mean anything in the end. Dante is on the verge of losing his hope, he feels that the end is near. For every one planet he manages to save, two more burn. Dante is supposed to be the great and glorious leader of the Blood Angels and High Hero of the Imperium and he constantly feel the Red Thirst and the Black Rage grinning at him from the corner of his mind, just waiting for the chance to utterly consume him, like all Blood Angels in the end.
The struggles that trouble Dante are unlike anything anyone ever experienced and yet they are what makes the character so human. His despair is something that we have all gone through in one way or another, where the obstacles and seemingly endless grind makes us wonder if the journey is even worth it. In spite of all his inner doubts and struggles, Dante still retains his humanity are there are several instances that perfectly exemplify this fact. No spoilers but there is a scene near the ending with Dante and his human servant, whom we have seen multiple interactions with. It is a rather small moment, yet it rekindles hope within Dante. Up until that point there has been a overarching theme that Dante has been visited multiple times by the Sanquinor, an ancient spirit said to contain the spirit of the Blood Angels Primarch Sanquinius. This plot threat is very interesting, make no mistake, but it is not an ancient spirit who makes Dante hope again, it is an old man who brings him tea. That is what make’s Warhammer 40k such an enchanting setting. It is a galaxy filled with war machines the size of skyscrapers, wars that engulf worlds, and malevolent beings with the power of gods and yet even the most lowly person has role to play. One man can still make a difference.
Such was the story of the man who served Dante.
Such is the story of Dante
Final Verdict: When Bookworm finished this book, he thought his brain was going to melt. There is just so much here! This is an ultimately melancholy book. Dante’s path has been one of sacrifice and pain with little time for friends and yet Dante stands triumphant above all. He is a hero of the Imperium and nothing will stand in his way.