The Adeptus Astartes are the greatest of humanity’s heroes, but even they are not immune to the temptations of Chaos. And when these mighty warriors fall to the Ruinous Powers, the results are devastating . . .
If there’s one thing reading a lot of Warhammer 40,000 has taught me, it’s that I really need to space out these omnibus editions more than I have been. Often, these massive tomes are the only way to get a hold of older stories, or even newer stories where I missed the initial print run. I’m hoping for a Vaults of Terra omnibus in the coming years, as tracking down the whole set individually is all but impossible. Nevertheless, these books are a sizeable commitment. Reading an entire trilogy in one sitting is not always advisable. In a way, it’s like eating a whole day’s worth of food in a single meal. Sure, you can do it. But your jaw will be tired, and by the end you probably won’t be enjoying the taste any more.
Renegades of the Long War is a little bit different. Though it contains three novels, it is not a trilogy. The books within are bound by common theme and setting rather than any overarching narrative. What’s more, each of the individual books is quite short in length. Even with the reduced font size of an omnibus, I doubt these stories will be troubling any lists of Black Library’s longest works. Each of the stories follows a different group of Chaos Space Marines, pledged to a different master, and each of them brings something unique to the table.
Ian St. Martin’s Lucius: The Faultless Blade takes us into the world of Slaanesh. Slaanesh is a god that doesn’t get much of a look-in, largely because the prince of decadence is often misinterpreted as simply the evil god of sexy times. St. Martin’s depiction of warriors driven to excess in their search for perfection is a whole lot more interesting, and the accompanying short story adds a little extra to the tale.
Rob Sanders’ Sons of the Hydra is the most thematically interesting. Following the Alpha Legion, it strays from the well-worn path of Chaos fighting the Imperium, and instead tangles the Legion with a Necron, among others. It’s interesting to see the conflict between humanity and xenos from a new perspective, and the ending is among the more elaborate in the set, as befitting the Alpha Legion.
Sandwiched between them is Anthony Reynolds’ Kharn: Eater of Worlds. It’s the strongest and shortest story in the collection, diving into the World Eaters and their endless thirst for battle. While it doesn’t add a whole lot to the mythos of Chaos, it executes its tropes well, and carries the action with great combat scenes, palpable violence, and an air of danger around every character.
Even if you’re not a Chaos fan, it’s worth picking these stories up for the alternative outlook they offer on the other factions of the grim dark future. And if you are a Chaos fan, they’ve got all the blood and guts you’d expect.
Deeper Dive: The Diversity of Chaos
When it comes to Chaos, Khorne dominates. The Blood God and his Skull Throne are hard to beat when it comes to iconography. And in a violent universe, the great bully of the galaxy is a force to be reckoned with. More recent novels have seen Nurgle (the only God not represented in this book) more page time, especially in regard to the Death Guard. Yet Slaanesh and Tzeentch have often been overlooked. This book goes some way to addressing that disparity, but it’s clear that there are more stories to be told. Chaos is, after all, infinite in its variations. It would be a shame if Skulls and Blood were all it was remembered for.
- A collection of three novels and one short story
- Features work by Ian St. Martin, Anthony Reynolds, and Rob Sanders
- Focuses on the Chaos Space Marines
- Published by Black Library in 2023
- Grimdark SF
- 587 pages
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