Review This bit doesn't give the plot of the book away
As a long time Blood Angel player (from Rogue Trader days) I was looking forward to reading this book. In my view the Blood Angels have had a hard time of late due to a very dodgy third edition codex. This was overpowering rules-wise and left many Blood Angels players and their opponents with a negative view of the chapter. The slim mini-codex also had little space devoted to background material, so new players had no real insight into the motivations behind the chapter. With a set of broken rules and no context to place them in the Blood Angels got a very bad reputation on the tabletop battlefields of the 41st millennium. I hoped this book would remedy that.
Sadly it doesn't. Deus Encarmine doesn't really convey the full richness and depth of the Chapter. The Blood Angels have a lot of internal conflicts that could make for a great narrative but they aren't really developed or explored here. For example, the Blood Angels are created from shambling mutants on Baal and become superhuman Space Marines. Because they are so long lived they have the time to hone their artistic skills and have the most ornate armour and banners of any Chapter. At the same time they are susceptible to the Black Rage and can become homicidal maniacs. They are forever torn between the height of civilisation, art, and the depths of barbarism, murder. I got the feeling in reading Deus, that the Blood Angels could have been substituted for any other Chapter without much revision and without substantially changing the plot or characters.
I have another problem in Inquisitor Stele, who commands many Blood Angels. My understanding is that the Blood Angels are loathe to trust outsiders, especially Inquisitors, who may be exposed to their rage and therefore expose their failing geneseed. I just didn't buy his position of authority within the Chapter. He had to be there to make the plot work but I felt it ruined the internal consistency of the novel.
Another section of the book I struggled with was the flashback to Baal. That also felt tacked on and forced. It sketched out the relationships of the main characters in a very schematic way without conveying any real character. In the end I really didn't care much about the predicament of any of the protagonists.
In fact the whole book seemed very thin; on plot, on detail, on character.
There are some positive points, though. The action scenes are written well. They are pacy and very cinematic. In many scenes I could imagine a computer game version of the events running in my head as I read. And at least it is some focus and attention on the Blood Angels.
I should also note that this is the first of a two book series. In that light, this book is simply a prelude to the second in terms of introducing characters, exposing conflicts between them and setting the scene. If the pay-off is good in the next novel, then the first volume has done it's job.
We'll just have to wait and see.
Deus Encarmine is a wasted opportunity to explore the Blood Angels Chapter. The plotting, character and detail are lacking but the action scenes are involving.
All of my reviews end in a score out of ten for the product. The table below explains what that score means.
- 10/10 Perfect, absolutely nothing better
- 9/10 Excellent, highly recommended
- 8/10 Very good, recommended
- 7/10 Good
- 6/10 Above average, some problems
- 5/10 Average, some good points some bad points
- 4/10 Below average, some redeeming features
- 3/10 Poor, major flaws
- 2/10 Very poor, avoid if possible
- 1/10 Absolutely appalling