Review: Fire Caste / Author: Peter Fehervari / Publisher: Black Library / Release Date: Out Now
The Warhammer 40,000 franchise is often at its best when you can clearly see the sources of inspiration it draws from. In the case of Fire Caste, this is the novel Heart of Darkness and the movie Apocalypse Now.
The book follows the misfortunes of a team of fresh recruits for the Imperial Guard; a band of soldiers representing the forces of humanity. They are plunged into a complex war on the water world of Phaedra. They are fighting the Tau Empire, an organisation of alien races lead by a single race known as the Tau. This particular race in unique amongst the Warhammer 40,000 series for being fairly upbeat and forward looking, as they are a young race who have yet to become ground down by millennia of conflict. In Fire Caste we see one potential future version of the Tau in which they are more cynical and cunning.
This is a deep and multi-layered read; if you’re looking for the usual light reading Black Library provides you may want to save this for when you’re in the mood for meatier fare. Fehervari isn’t afraid to go into deep detail as to the motivations and challenges the various characters face, and the writing is so atmospheric that you really do feel like you’ve become trapped on some water-logged hell world at points. The novel is also jammed full of all sorts of clever ideas in regards to both forces, and this is very refreshing; all too often these novels fall into the trap of sticking to an existing list of ideas for unit types and strange creatures. Fire Caste instead adds to the richness of the setting without detracting from any of the works that have gone before. Fehervari also gleefully pulls ideas and races from the broader setting, and this really does add to the book.
Those who like their character development as well as their settings nicely dark and grim will find Fire Caste a strong yet gripping and action-packed read, especially if you enjoy tales of future war set in far off distant places filled with swamps and horrible heat.