BOOK REVIEW: Volpone Glory, by Nick Kyme

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  • A Standalone Novel
  • Set in the Sabbat Worlds
  • Focuses on the Astra Militarum
  • Published by Black Library in 2021
  • Military SF
  • 410 pages
  • ⭐⭐⭐⭐

As war rages across the Sabbat Worlds, the forces of the Astra Militarum strike against the entrenched Archenemy. Among these heroic legions of the Volpone Bluebloods, the proudest of the God-Emperor’s warriors. But does pride go before the fall . . ?

There is very little glory in war. That’s something human history has proven time and time again. But fiction has a way of glamourising even the worst traits of humanity. How often do we see might warriors striding across the battlefield, mowing down enemies by the dozen while themselves remaining miraculously unscathed? Warhammer 40,000 has always walked a fine line in this regard. Some of the Space Marine content is happy to show them as unstoppable killing machines in shiny armour. But the Astra Militarum have never been afraid to get their hands a little dirty. From the Tanith First and Only to the Eleventh Antari Rifles, the life of an Imperial Guardsman is one of brutality, bloodshed, and misery. Regardless of regiment, everyone suffers the same.

Which brings us to the Volpone. Like every regiment to have a book of their own, there’s something special about them. The Volpone are called the Bluebloods for a very simple reason. They’re all born of noble blood. And taking the battlefield does not mean they have left their life of privilege behind. They look splendid even as the mortars are firing, and are attended by masses of military servants. Servants who will face execution if they try and fight as equals. The Volpone are well aware of the dangers they face, and are good at facing it, but they also treat war as a sport. They don’t just want victory for strategic reasons, they want to claim victory to increase their own reputations. Glory-hunting in its purest form. What this book makes abundantly clear is that this is no way to conduct a protracted war. The servant underclass is just as competent as their social superiors, and were they to be properly equipped, the battles could likely be won in half the time, and perhaps even with fewer losses. But the Volpone’s conceited arrogance won’t allow them to embrace this wisdom. With the Volpone taking the lead, is it any wonder the Imperium suffers so?

The first half of Volpone Glory is up there with the best of Black Library. It’s a very slow-moving book for a story set right on the frontline of combat, but this works to its advantage. As well as the usual excellent action scenes, we get to see what life is like just a few miles back. In the encampments we see not only the Volpone, but the other regiments they fight alongside. The camaraderie (and occasional lack thereof) of the soldiers is an angle delved into deeper here than in a lot of other Warhammer books. There are feasts, gambling, and boxing matches. It shows us that there’s more to war than just killing and dying. When all the galaxy is at war, you still have to find time to enjoy life. Not simply to survive, but to live.

The second half kicks things up a notch with a mystery afoot, and dark forces at work. In all honesty, the conclusion to the mystery does fizzle out a little, but the journey getting there is well worth a read in its own right. I won’t go into full spoilers, but there are times when it felt like there was an unneeded additional layer of conflict. I mean, you’re already in the heart of war, do you really need to add the threat of an enemy within?

This is really a minor quibble in what is otherwise a great book. With Volpone Glory, it really does feel like the Sabbat Worlds story is branching out beyond just the Ghosts and their battles. Kyme provides a fine addition to what Abnett started, and I wouldn’t mind spending time with the Volpone. Those left standing, at any rate.

Did you enjoy this book? If so, you might also like:
The Founding, by Dan Abnett
Honourbound, by Rachel Harrison
Cadian Honour, by Justin D Hill

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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