- A collection of novels, novellas and short stories
- Features work by Dan Abnett, David Annandale, Guy Haley, Rachel Harrison, Andy Smillie, James Swallow, Gav Thorpe, and Chris Wraight
- Focuses on the Blood ANgels
- Published by Black Library in 2022
- Grimdark SF
- 924 pages
The Blood Angels are among the Imperium’s staunchest defenders, but these superhumans are far from perfect. Within each is the capacity for great violence, a curse that runs in the blood, waiting to be unleashed . . .
The works of individual authors aside (those talented souls who can turn any topic into a work of art) there are two Space Marine chapters hold some degree of interest for me. Even if the stories themselves are as mixed a bag as you’d expect from a shared universe, I find that both Blood Angels and Space Wolves have a fair bit going for them. Space Wolves offer up the opportunity for heroic sagas, as best evidenced in audio form. As for the Blood Angels, they’ve got the whole cursed bloodline thing going for them. Leaving aside the fact that grimdark space vampires are objectively cool, the idea that these stalwart defenders of humanity could snap and go murderous at the drop of a hat makes for some great thematic storytelling.
Like so much of the forty-first millennium, the Blood Angels have grown and adapted over time. The stories in this anthology cover almost twenty years of publications, and stem from the pens of eight authors. While each author brings their own flavour to the text, you can visibly track the generation of ideas through the ages. The older stories are often more bombastic, with broader characterisation and a focus on external violence rather than inner turmoil. But as you turn to the more modern stories, such as David Annandale’s ‘Mephiston: lord of Death’ and ‘Lemartes’ that the lens turns inwards. Annandale excels at the visceral horror of the Blood Angels’ existence, putting the darkness in grim darkness.
This book gathers together a lot of stories, which runs into a frequent stumbling point of omnibuses. Consumed by their bloodline, there’s a clear narrative to every Blood Angel. With so many stories and so many protagonists succumbing to the curse, this anthology grows quite repetitive. Things are kept lively by a roulette wheel of opponents (hooray for tyranids!), but the thematic beats are the same across many of the stories. It really is an unavoidable problem for collections such as this. In any given Blood Angel story, there are certain tropes and features that readers expect to find. Taken on their own terms, the majority of these stories are successful. Taken one after another, and they end up as less than the sum of their parts.
Interestingly, the short fiction that makes up the back half of the anthology put the emphasis on ‘short.’ At only a couple of pages in length, each one is more a vignette than a full narrative. A scene from a larger tale, if you will. These could be ripped straight from the flavour text of a game rulebook, and offer clues as to the origin of the franchise. A fascinating curiosity, and impressively one or two left me wanting more even after such a long book of similar stories.
This isn’t the best Blood Angel book out there, but Sons of Sanguinius is a meaty tome that will keep diehard fans chewing for a long while, and still holds a few treasures for the more casual reader.
Deeper Dive: Scattered Pieces
As mentioned earlier in the review, this anthology gathers stories from two decades of storytelling. There are novels and novellas that saw print previously, as well as short stories that were included in magazines, or were digital exclusives. There’s even the prose version of a previously released audio drama tucked away in here.
To buy each of these stories individually would take a dedicated collector a lot of time trawling through used bookstores, online sources, and libraries. Most are simply unavailable outside of this collection. Even those that can be sourced are expensive, and that’s without thinking of the cost it would take to have purchased each upon initial release.
Sons of Sanguinius is priced at less than a regular hardback, but has a substantial page count, and is an invaluable source of Blood Angels fiction. Omnibuses such as this are, simply put, a logical purchase for any collector.
Leave a Reply