Top positive review
5.0 out of 5 starsSharks vs. Skulls: A Delight for 40k fans!
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 25, 2017
This. Was. AWESOME!!!!
On the hellish prison planet of Zartak in the war-torn universe of Warhammer 40,000, an inmate by the name of Skell begins to exhibit psychic powers. Given how rare such powers are, he quickly attracts the attention of two terrible forces who want to recruit him into their armies. The first are the Night Lords, evil servants of Chaos who want to twist Skell into the service of demonic powers. The second are the Carcharodons, genetically-modified superhuman warriors and loyal servants of the Emperor of Mankind called Space Marines who want to induct Skell into their ranks so his psychic powers can be trained and channeled to humanity’s defense. But the defense of humanity requires a bloody hand and a hard heart, and the brutal Carcharodons are almost as savage as the demonic Night Lords! When the two forces collide on Zartak, there’s only one guaranteed outcome: A whole lot of guts, gore, and white-knuckle action!
I gave a similar description of Robbie’s “Dawn of War III” novel, and it applies here too. First, the bad: Much like the DoWIII novelization, there’s not much characterization to be found here. The Night Lord leaders are well-drawn enough to be distinct (which is important, since their internal conflict is a significant plot point), and the Carcharodon space marines are well portrayed as neither evil nor noble, but entirely emotionless in their determination to do what they need to do, regardless of the cost to the mere humans around them. Young Skell himself is a pretty unremarkable “frightened kid,” and there are a couple of other characters, like a female warden named Rannik, who don’t stand out much aside from being just distinguished enough we don’t forget their names.
Still, for a novel like this, characterization’s not the most important thing–that’s action, and Robbie delivers AGAIN! The Carcharodons fight their chaos-mad traitor brethren with a magnificent symphony of chainsaw swords, heavy artillery, and gunfire that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat for just about every single page. But I think it’s on those pages without big battles that Robbie really shines. While Dawn of War III was fun, there was nothing particularly compelling about the various participants (Blood Angels space marines, Eldar [Space Elves] and Space Orks), if you’d read a lot of 40k literature before. However, with the Carcharodons, Robbie has apparently made an extremely distinctive culture for them all his own.
A quick review: The Space Marines are divided up into 1000 armies of 1000 Marines each, called “Chapters.” Each Chapter is often vaguely based off of some Earth culture–the White Scars chapters are like Space Mongolians, the Space Wolves are like Space Vikings, and so on, and so forth. With the Carcharodons, Robbie has created what are essentially Space Hawaiians, and this is REALLY cool! While physically they’re very different (they all have black eyes and scaly, sharklike skin, because Carcharodons is a word for shark), in terms of culture and aesthetics, they implement a lot of Pacific Island imagery. Like, one guy has shark teeth as the blades of his chainsword, another guy uses an old-school type of Hawaiian spear, advanced with sci-fi tech of course, and there’s also a wonderful, wonderful scene with a whole coral cathedral built into the giant spaceship the Carcharodons used. It’s all pretty subtle and Robbie doesn’t overdo it, but it’s very cool and really lends itself to some memorable scenes. So yeah, I can heartily recommend this novel: Check it out!!!
P.S: Also, Robbie’s opening dedication…that oughta bring a tear to the eye of any fanfiction author who hopes to hit it big someday. :D