- A Standalone Novel
- Focuses on the Carcharadons
- Published by Black Library in 2021
- A Gimdark Space Opera
- 338 pages
In the darkness of the Void, the Carcharodons hunt their prey. But while they are famed for their victories against xenos and chaos alike, the most elusive prey may be an artefact from their own history. For one intrepid band, pursuit of this relic might cost them their lives . . .
Once again, my curiosity has suckered me into reading a book about Space Marines. once again, I steel myself for a story of blood and guts and loud gunfire. Once again, I feel safe in the knowledge I’m in for a good read, but not a great one. Reader, I was wrong. With his debut Black Library novel, Edoardo Albert has done the impossible. Because this unassuming slice of Space Marine life has catapulted itself into competition for my favourite Warhammer 40,000 book of the year.
Right from the opening chapters, I knew I was holding something different. Something a bit special. A lot of the Space Marine-oriented books lend themselves to direct storytelling. They’re action heavy, with every blow described and a love of battle on display. Albert’s writing is on the far side of the prose spectrum. It’s as dark and as deep as the oceans he portrays, and the morality of the piece is just as murky. I don’t often call out books for the strength of their prose, especially Warhammer 40,000 ones, but for Silent Hunters I will make the exception. This book is gorgeously written, and deserves all the praise it can get on that front. When we turn our gaze from imperium to the Drukhari, it gets even better. Rich with Shakespearean influence, the poet-warlords of the Drukhari are the best I’ve ever seen them. Granted, I haven’t read all that many stories of the Drukhari or their Dark Eldar forebears, but Albert’s gothic and weird portrayal has me hungry for more.
Something that Silent Hunters does very well, is get to the moral greyness at the heart of the Imperium. Here, it’s a very dark grey. When we first meet our protagonist Tangata Manu (the Polynesian influence behind the names really does set these Marines apart from many of their contemporaries), he is ruminating on a thousand years of personal failure. Within a few chapters, he’s contemplating the murder of a child purely because of tradition. It’s a stark reminder that the Adeptus Astartes are not the flawless heroes Imperial propaganda paints them to be. And even when Manu’s hand is stayed, it comes with a sword of Damocles hanging over his own head. The entire novel takes place with the expectation that no one will survive. Loyalty unto death, indeed.
This is a novel unlike any other Space Marine story I’ve read (and I’ve read quite a few now). The battlefields are few and far between as Manu and his band of brothers chase their prey through space, and through other dimensions too. Most of the conflict is internal, with characters grappling over the quandary of which loyalty is highest. Should they serve their family, their masters, or is self-preservation they only real goal? There is no clear answer, and every decision reached has the feel of a possibly fatal compromise. The Carcharodons swim in murky waters, after all, and there is no light to be found in the Void.
Silent Hunters is a brilliantly bleak piece of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and a singular justification for me continuing to read books that don’t immediately appeal. Because if there’s one thing life in the Void teaches, it’s that there is always a surprise around the corner.
If you enjoyed this book, you might also like:
Sabbat War, by Dan Abnett
Huron Blackheart: Master of the Maelstrom, by Mike Brooks
Legacy of Caliban, by Gav Thorpe