Publisher: Black Library
Series: Last Chancers (#4)
Genre: Military SF
Publication Date: 2020
Lieutenant Kage of the 13th Legion is dead, having thrown himself into the flames in pursuit of the enemy. But from the ashes rises the Burned Man, who may be a saint, is possibly a madman, and most likely somewhere in between . . .
Full disclosure time: I haven’t read any of the previous Last Chancers novels. There is every chance I would have enjoyed this book more if I had done so, but I can only work with what I’ve got. The reason for this apparent oversight is a simple one. Books have a limited run, particularly IP tie-ins. Black Library’s print runs (with a few exceptions like Guant’s Ghosts or the Horus Heresy) are fairly small when compared to larger publishers, and the inevitable outcome of this is that books fall out of print very easily. In the case of the Last Chancers, the original trilogy is long out of print. There was a hardback re-release of 13th Legion last year, but this too was limited, and I missed out on a copy. Hopefully there’s an omnibus edition around the corner at some point, as I would very much like to see the earlier adventures of Kage and company.
Thankfully, Armageddon Saint largely stands alone. There are a lot of references to previous missions, and the characters have clearly been developed outside of this slender tome, but the plot itself makes sense without any prior knowledge. A lot of this is due to how simple the story is. It’s pretty much a case of ‘run from enemy, regroup, take the fight to the enemy.’ Hardly an original plot for a Warhammer 40,000 novel, but it’s well told. I haven’t actually read any of Gav Thorpe’s 40k work before (though I do have an omnibus of his on my TBR) as his attention has largely been on factions or stories that I am not all that interested in. Those who are more enthused by the Horus Heresy or the Eldar will likely be more familiar with him than I. That said, his work in Warhammer Fantasy was excellent, with The Sundering trilogy still standing proud as my favourite part of that universe. His original fantasy work is strong too, so I was happy to pick up this book without being a series regular, knowing that I’d get a decent read even if I wasn’t blown away.
And that’s exactly what I got. Here, the action is strong, the characters are interesting, and the plot rattles along nicely. We get to see a nice variety of 40k factions, from Imperial Guard, to Sisters of Battle, to Space Marines, but the book is well enough paced not to feel crowded. One particular standout character for me is Nazrek the Ork. It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of 40k’s Orks, but Nazrek is one of their better depictions. Thorpe nails the genderless mushroom aspect of Orkishness, while also making some kind of sense of their pseudo-magical abilities.
If you’re already a Last Chancers fan, then you probably know about this book by now. If not, there are worse introductions to the grim, dark future.