Top positive review
The Emperor Protects
Reviewed in the United States on February 28, 2015
When I first read a Warhammer 40,000 story, it was "Cadian Blood" by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, the first story in the Honour Imperialis anthology. The bad guys in it were the XIV Legion, the Death Guard, plague-stricken Space Marines. I'm not much into rot and decay and grotesque things, but I thought the Death Guard were cool bad guys, and after reading the Warhammer 40,000 wikia's overview of the Horus Heresy, I decided I absolutely had to see the XIV as heroes before their fall to the service of the Chaos God Nurgle, Lord of Decay.
This novel starts some time before the Horus Heresy kicks off, despite being fourth in that saga. Death Guard Battle-Captain Nathanial Garro, an Earth-born Space Marine of honor and courage, fights the Emperor's Great Crusade, killing aliens and securing space for the Imperium of Man. While doing so, he is given a chilling warning, a prophecy that all he holds dear will be destroyed. Dismissing it, he continues to follow orders until Horus and several Primarchs (super-warrior generals who command the various Legions) betray the Imperium and slaughter many loyalist Marines.
Horrified, Garro and his frigate manage to barely escape from the battle, but in doing so they encounter a glimpse of their ultimate enemy, Chaos itself. Desperate to deliver news of Horus's betrayal to the Emperor, the captain and his allies take chance after chance, but the risks grow greater as the stakes rise, and their own fellow warriors may not be ready for the stunning truth Garro carries.
If you are unfamiliar with Warhammer/40,000, the novels are lengthy but often well-written. They do not skirt violence, though, and you will often find yourself reading brutal fight scenes, wherein combatants are cut open, torn limb from limb, set ablaze, infested with plague and insects, and more. These are war stories, because as the saying goes, "In the 41st millennium, there is only war." While this novel takes place in the 31st, it is still fairly graphic, though you will find that the scenes depicting such are not outnumbering the more ordinary violence of gunfights or character introspection.
The characters are very well done, and you can connect with both the factual and secular Garro, who does not have time for gods or superstition and his servant Kaleb, who believes that the Emperor is a living god and that worshiping him is the right thing to do. By the book's end, you see that there are false gods and real ones, and the consequences of losing faith in the genuine article and the rewards of holding true to your spirit.
If you want a novel about space-faring super-soldiers who find out their leaders aren't all they thought they were and that true horror awaits them if they fail to fight the good fight, but who also find themselves stronger in the face of adversity, then this novel is for you.