Spear of the Emperor – Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Title: Spear of the Emperor
Author: Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Published byBlack Library
Publication date:   26 Dec. 2019
Genre: Science Fiction/War
Pages:  386
Format: e-Book
Source: Net Galley

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“The Emperor’s Spears are a Chapter on the edge of destruction, last watchmen over the Elara’s Veil nebula. Now, the decisions of one man, Amadeus Kaias Incarius of the Mentor Legion, will determine the Chapter’s fate… “

This is the first book I’ve been approved by a publisher to read via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Spear of the Emperor is a chronicle about the Emperors Spears Space Marine chapter written in the view of Anuradha, a chapter slave in service to Lieutenant Commander Amadeus Kaias Incarius of the Mentor Legion who has been sent to the ‘wrong’ side of Imperial Space to touch base with the Emperors Spears to see how they’re getting on fighting the enemies of the Imperium; as they’ve not been heard from in roughly a century. Spear of the Emperor is at the forefront in the Warhammer 40k lore timeline and while some basic background knowledge of Warhammer 40k would help aid the reader through some of the language it’s not required. Also, this book works as a great stand-alone novel that only dips its toe into the wider universe of 40k.

I’ve never read a Warhammer 40k novel remotely like this one and it is hands-down the best publication from Black Library I have ever read, to the point that I feel like I am going to be sorely disappointed with any further Warhammer book I read!

What makes me praise this book so highly is that the characters – all of them – are above what you would usually expect from a Warhammer novel. They have so much to them, from the outset, that it’s utterly fantastic that they get to develop throughout the novel and Anuradha’s narration is both beautiful and tragic – as it is through her that the story is being chronicled.

The crafting of the Emperors Spears chapter; who this book is primarily about make for an interesting read in themselves. How they differ from Anuradhas experiences of Space Marine chapters (the Mentor Legion et al) makes for intriguing reading in itself, so often Warhammer 40k books are written about the Ultramarines it’s fascinating to read about successor chapters that differ vastly from the Space Marine ‘norm.’ The detail in which Aaron Dembski-Bowden delves into with the Emperors Spears is nothing short of inspiring and it is this attention to detail that goes brings Spear of the Emperor to those lofty heights in which I praise it.

I love a book that brings out emotion in me as a reader and Spear of the Emperor made me laugh and cry in equal measure – there are scenes in this book that will stay with me, and haunt me, forever. Naturally, I don’t want to delve into these scenes to deeply for fear of spoiler territory, but I will hint that Tyberia and her fate – the meaning behind it – will remain in my heart for the longest time. I am surprised that a book that actually made me cry also made me laugh and I will ever hold a fondness for the emotionless Lieutenant Commander Amadeus; a Space Marine that makes Nathaniel Garro (Galaxy in Flames, Flight of the Eisenstein) appear a charismatic charmer.

Amadeus is the perfect contrast to the personable Space Marines of the Emperors Spears and he helps to carry the story in his own right; the story is as much his as it is the Spears and Anuradhas and it is through his development that the plot progresses, I get the feeling that he is the Marmite of the story though for the reader, you’ll either love or hate him.

The plot of the story starts with Anuradha accompanying Amadeus to the homeworld of the Emperors Spears, Nemeton along with two of her fellow slaves; which is where we’re treated to rich descriptions of the Space Marines homeworld and culture, it also sets the tone for the rest of the novel. Along the way the plot develops into a much richer story-arc which leaves the reader guessing as to what the expert use of foreshadowing is all about. This novel doesn’t miss a beat and the once the pace it set it doesn’t let up, you’re in for a fast ride; without the book becoming all-out war, which was another stroke of brilliance for Aaron Dembski-Bowden; too many Warhammer books turn out to be ‘just another war story’ which fits the bill for the setting, but it’s wonderfully refreshing to read something a bit different to the usual 40k offerings.

What I truly love about this book is Anuradha as a protagonist, her insight to the Space Marines and ability to show how transhuman they really are. Without her very human thoughts, a different point of view, this book would become the standard, run of the mill, ‘bolter porn’ novel that Warhammer 40k is rampant with.

Another point to add, and this is where I was fascinated, is that Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s knowledge of Warhammer 40k lore is second to none. Being able to read elements of the lore that have only been written about in rule-books as a story is mindblowing and an absolute must for any Space Marine fan – Primaris or First Generation.

Needles to say, I highly recommend reading Spear of the Emperor. Especially if you’re a long-time fan of the Warhammer 40k Universe. I can’t say how much enjoyment a non-warhammer fan would get out of this book, as I am already invested in the universe, but if you’re open-minded, enjoy world-building and character development (with a healthy dose of forlorn tragedy) then I urge you to give this book a chance. If you’re a Warhammer 40k fan already, then please don’t miss the chance to pick this book up.

3 responses to “Spear of the Emperor – Aaron Dembski-Bowden”

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