Book Review: Space Marine Battles - Wrath of Iron / Author: Chris Wraight / Publisher: The Black Library / Release Date: July 5th
One of the nice things about the Black Library’s Space Marine Battles series is that you know what you’re getting when you pick up each book - big, power armoured meta-humans beating up monsters in a space fantasy version of the dark ages. Chris Wraight’s Wrath of Iron is more of the same, though with added grittiness and pessimism. The various books in this series tend to concentrate on a specific faction of genetically enhanced space knights, and this time round it’s the turn of the Iron Hands. Their particular shtick is that every one of them are obsessed with becoming stronger and more enduring, and to this end, they replace their organs with mechanical substitutes. That’s right, the Iron Hands are gene enhanced, power armoured cyborgs.
Wrath of Iron has the sort of plot you’d expect from the series; a planet has fallen into the hands of rebels, and a dark and terrible power is growing within the capital. The Iron Hands are the ones tasked with dealing with it, and do so in a characteristically blunt sort of way. Wraight also explores the themes of duty and honour, and the relationship between post-human beings and their mortal allies, but this is a side-show compared to the central plot line, which is essentially a massive fight between the forces of hell and Mankind’s elite heroes.
This is a bit of a shame, because the interactions between the various minor characters are much more interesting than the focus of the novel, the Iron Hands chapter. Wraight completely understands the nature of the novel’s heroes; these are perfect killing machines who have shed the last shreds of their humanity for seemingly fleeting gain. Rather than mining this for melodrama and navel-gazing however, the author plunges headlong into the action instead, which is exactly what you want from a Space Marine Battles novel. It isn’t the most in-depth or complex book in the series, but it is filled with a lot of action, so fans of grim and gothic space fantasy looking for action packed mind-candy will enjoy this.