Tag: Imperium

How to Build Adeptus Arbites

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on a fun little project – I’ve been building a small Adeptus Arbites force. The Arbites don’t exist as an army in 40K right now, but when has that ever stopped a determined hobbyist?

Anyway, I posted my initial work on social media, and got a lot of encouraging feedback and many questions about how I went about making my conversions. Below is a quick guide on how to make your own Arbites. I’m afraid I don’t have as many photos as I would like, as I’d used most of my parts by the time I got round to writing up the process.

Parts

To make these Arbite models, you will need (affiliate links below):

  • Reikland Reavers Blood Bowl Team (2016 version). 1 box can make 10 Arbites, if you build the squad exactly like I have.
  • Space Marine Scouts with Shotguns. You only need the shotgun arms, so if you have no need for the rest of the parts, hit up eBay (if you do get a box, you’ll have enough parts leftover to build a squad with bolt pistol + CC weapon)
  • Militarum Tempestus Scions. You need the legs, some armour plates, and many other parts are useful – the greatcoat, special weapons, pouches, etc.
  • Skitarii Vanguard. You only need the helmeted heads, so if you have no other need of the remaining parts, get these from eBay. (If do you buy a box you’ll still be able to build the Rangers/use the hooded heads)

Guide

  • clip out your Reavers. The Blockers/Blitzers make up your troops, the Thrower is your sergeant. You don’t need the heads.
  • Remove the arms. It should be fairly obvious where to cut/clip these, so you get a clean, vertical surface. I test fit with the chest piece, to make sure it all lines up.
  • if you’re adding the coat to the sergeant, trim off half of the Thrower’s shoulder pad (your left, when looking at the model’s front). Otherwise, I find a larger, alternative pad with an eagle scultped onto it. Note: If you are adding the coat, remember that it only fits with certain leg options.
  • once you’re happy with where the arms used to be, glue the two parts of the body together.
  • once the glue is dry, and using a razor saw for an easier time, cut through the body, following the line of the belt. Try to keep the cut as straight as possible. You might lose some of the belt – that’s fine. If you lose all of it, you’ll just have to use a bit more greenstuff. Trim off any excess material as required.
  • You should now have a bunch of dismembered Reaver torsos. They’ll look something like these (which still need cleaned up)

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  • get your Scion legs and assemble as necessary. With the saw, cut the “dome” part of the waist off (just above the armour plates), as straight and level as you can.
  • glue to the legs to the torsos. If you’ve cut things right you should find they line-up pretty well, size-wise. You’ll have gaps though. Fill those with greenstuff or whatever your favourite filler is. You should have something like this:

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  • Trim the hip armour plates off the bottom of the Scion chestpiece. Glue them in a similar place on your Arbite. Superglue is usually better, if you’ve had to fill anything in that area.

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  • Once the filler/glue is dry, I glue various pouches/grenades/accessories around the waist, just to clean things up. The Scion kit comes with 3 little books (they look a bit like big pouches) – I like to use these as often as I can.

The main body should be ready now. For the arms… it’s mostly trial and error, followed by greenstuff to fill joins/replace any parts of the arm you’ve trimmed off too much of. There’s no real science to it, or easy way to describe it, I’m afraid. I generally use Scion arms/weapons for the special weapons (except the flamer, which doesn’t really fit the look, IMO), Scout arms for the rest.

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If you look closely you’ll be able to make out the huuuge gaps on the shotgun arms

Basically, trim down the shoulder pads, cut to the angle you want, glue in place, and hope for the best…

The coat for the sergeant should more or less fit exactly. I put a little filler over the join, just to smooth it over (and just in case someone looks in that area), but you might not need it.

Once you’ve got the arms attached, and greenstuffed to look approximately right, I hide anything I’m not happy with, with purity seals/more pouches/any decorative doodads I think look good.

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The last step is attaching the head. It should fit in place just fine; sometimes I trim a tiny bit from the collar, to get it sitting “just right”, but this is to taste.

Results

Below are a selection of photographs showing off the 3 squads I’ve built – and their transports (Taurox, with “Longhorn” wheel kits from Blood & Skull Industries).

A Minor Diversion… Corvus Blackstars

I had intended to switch back to some Grey Knight units – specifically some Dreadknights – after finishing the Deathwatch, but I ran out of some of the paints I used during the first GK’s I painted and had to rethink my plans.

One reason I was building up both armies was to combine them into a 2000 point army for a small, one day tournament to be held in April. Or at least, that’s what I thought, based on last year. When I did get the information about the tourney, it was 1500 points and happening in March. Oh. That meant my plans had to be drastically altered! While I could field a combined army, it would have meant some big compromises, none of which seemed particularly good, so I decided to focus on expanding just one army to fill the points.

Deathwatch required fewer additions to reach 1500 points, so that’s where I focussed my attention. Listing out everything I had already brought me to around 1200 with upgrades factored in. I wasn’t going to have enough points for another squad or Kill Team, so adding one or more vehicles made sense.

Skipping ahead to make a long story short, I ended up reorganising things about to make a Black Spear Strike Force, and by changing some of the upgrades around, I had enough points to take 2 Corvus Blackstars.

I bought and built the kits on Saturday (it’s a really nice kit to build!), keeping as many of the metallic parts separate as I could, and magnetising the main weapon options. From there I painted them much the same as the Drop Pods:

  • Prime black: 2-3 layers
  • Layer with Vallejo Game Air Black
  • Red areas (in this case, the stripes) are given 3-4 layers of Game Air Scarlet Red
  • Mask off the red areas
  • Respray black to neaten up
  • Using heavily thinned Game Air Sombre Grey and a bit of card, softly highlight the edges
  • Neaten up with some black if needed, concentrating on the middle of panels
  • Paint all “working” metallics with Metal Color Burnt Iron, shade with Nuln Oil, then lightly go over with a drybrush of Necron Compound
  • Decorative metals are painted with Metal Color Steel or Metal Color Gold

I do still need to paint the lenses or missiles on the model, but I couldn’t decide how I wanted to do those right now, so I’ve left them undone for now. I’ll get them painted before the tournament. Both Blackstars were 95% finished on Sunday, and the remainder done in a couple of hours on Monday

The Deathwatch – Finished for Now

So soon after I finished building them? I’ll be honest, the previous post was supposed to have published 24 days ago. Whoops, my bad. In that time I ended up finishing the Deathwatch. It was one of those projects where I didn’t want to lose momentum, so I didn’t really stop to post WIP details in the evenings. But I did take pictures, so on to those!

I primed the models with grey primer. No, I hadn’t lost my mind (probably) – I wanted to be sure I had a consistent finish throughout this batch, and didn’t trust my eyes to pick out black primer vs black paint by finish alone, with the sometimes questionable lighting in my hobby area.

From there, I airbrushed on the metal arm, and the primary red details (knee, cloths, etc) – in the end I repainted all the reds by brush later on, so I shouldn’t have bothered with those.

Finally, the black armour was basecoated with GW’s new Air-range Chaos Black. I added some drops of Scale 75 Inktense Blue and Inktense Green inks to make it a bit more interesting. This was my first time using a GW Air paint, and it was… interesting. I don’t think there’s as high a pigment:medium ratio in them as there is in Vallejo Game Air paints (for example), so it needed multiple coats. Other than this, it was fine enough. The fact the range is sold in a local store is handy, and obviously colour-matching won’t be an issue, but I think I’ll mainly stick with Vallejo where I can.

Once the armour was basecoated I highlighted it by giving it a zenithal highlight of very thinned Vallejo Sombre Grey. The steel arms received a black/blue wash made from inks.

The Sombre Grey highlight ended up being a little too strong in some areas, and the overall finish wasn’t what I wanted, so once I repainted the red areas with GW Khorne Red, I washed everything but the steel arm with a wash made up from Black and Green inks, mixed 5:1 or so, and heavily thinned. This made the armour really pop, and seemed to give it a very slightly glossy finish.

From there it was mostly blocking in/picking out the details. Red areas were highlighted with Evil Suns Scarlet. Any bone or white areas were based with Rakarth Flesh, shaded with either Seraphim Sepia or Agrax Earthshade, then highlighted up through to Pallid Wych Flesh. Pouches were painted with Rhinox Hide. Golds were Vallejo Metal Color Gold, shaded with Agrax Earthshade. Cables were painted with Incubi Darkness, then highlighted.

Chapter badges were picked out near the end. Every Marine has a unique icon, and I still have many spares from the sprues.

Power weapons were given a fade effect similar to the Force Weapons of the Grey Knights, but this time in blue. The Librarian’s sword were given the purple effect.

Bases and whatnot were painted to match my Grey Knights, and the various sub-assemblies were glued together. 2 weeks after starting and the bulk of the Deathwatch were finished.

Near the start of the project, I had a mishap with one of the Librarians and had to get a replacement. It didn’t arrive until the day after I finished the rest of the project, so I gave myself a speed painting challenge. Some parts (particularly the cloth) are rougher than I’d like, but as a 3 hour paint job it’s fine enough.

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Bonus Round!

Because I was finished this project a lot quicker than I expected, I decided to go all-out and build/paint the drop pod “expansion” I had planned for the army:

I built the pods initially in 3 sections: base + doors, engine, and fins. The lower section and engine received a gloss black primer, before being airbrushed with Metal Color Burnt Iron. The interior sections were then dusted with Metal Color Gunmetal Grey.

From there, I finished assembling the pods, then primed the outside with 2-3 coats of regular black primer. The red areas were painted with several coats of Scarlet Red, then masked off so the black could be neatened up. Finally, I gave the black a highlight using Sombre Grey, using a piece of card to get sharper edges. Once done, I sprayed black in the centre of some panels to re-establish it.

To finish, I neatened up any of the Gunmetal areas that needed it, painted the dome of the central column with FW Clear Green, and finished off by painting the icons with Silver.

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With these done, it was a total of 3 weeks (almost to the day) to get the entire Deathwatch project – a ~1250 point army painted up. As a reward, I bought another addition to the army, that’ll let me field it as a complete Black Spear detachment. More on that later!

Next up on the table are 2 Dreadknights, which should round out the Grey Knight force. After those, it’s on to… well, I don’t know what yet! I’m ~6 weeks into the year and already through what I expected to take me until the end of April to paint.

Grey Knights – Finished for Now

On Saturday night I finished up with the Grey Knights, getting them to a stage I would be happy putting them on the table (this is the first time I’ve sat at the PC in days, for me to catch up on blogging). I intend to go back to them at some point, to bring them a bit further up the quality scale, but that can be done at any point in the future. By getting them to “tabletop” I at least have them available for games.

This ties into some things I’m trying to teach myself this year: it doesn’t have to be perfect, and finishing (to a point) quickly is better than going back-and-forth for weeks on models before abandoning them in frustration.

You may notice I’ve kept a few things very simple: not all the sculpted detail is a different colour to the armour; the heraldry is unique to the squad, rather than the individual; and the bases are done very plain. These are all intentional at this stage – I looked at some Grey Knights artwork, and much of the details were depicted as the same material as the armour, I didn’t want to spend days tweaking heraldry for 10 individuals at this point, and the bases match those of my Sisters of Silence, while still having the metallic Grey Knights stand out from the (mostly) metallic base details. I might add some dark brass/bronze to the some base details, but I’m not yet decided.

So that’s the first 505 points of 2017 in the bag. It may only be 11 models, but to get them done in around 2 weeks is a significant step up in speed for me. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going! The Deathwatch are up next…

Grey Knights Work in Progress, pt 2

From the base coat of Burnt Iron [which I keep wanting to call “Dark Iron,” because I’m used to that from World of Warcraft :)] I airbrushed Steel, leaving the Iron in the recesses and shadows. The beauty of the Metal Color range, I find, is that a colour might not be all that lighter than the one before it, but because of how it interacts with light, it can appear brighter. In this case, Steel isn’t that much lighter a paint than Burnt Iron, when poured out of the bottle, but it reflects more light, giving it a noticeably brighter finish.

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I then gave the armour a very light airbrush of Silver, from almost directly above. The swords were given a fade effect, from Steel/Iron at the base, to Silver at the tip. I’m planning to put a Forge World Clear paint over the top, but I’m not sure which colour yet.

The iPhone camera is really struggling with the shininess of the finish, so the pictures aren’t the best.

The last bit of progress I made up to this point is to paint in the various text areas with Metal Color Gold, then block in some of the red areas with Khorne Red (to match my other “Imperial Agents”).

The Gold probably needs a wash over it, to “pun

ch up the colour” and define the text better, but I kinda like the more muted colour as it is, and would just want to increase the contrast/definition. I’d prefer to use Seraphim Sepia, but doesn’t come in a gloss variant, so I’ll need to go with Agrax Earthshade (most likely thinned a bit). The rest of the armour will most likely get a recess wash with Nuln Oil Gloss for a similar reason.

Grey Knights Work in Progress, pt 1

I’m battling with bronchitis, so I had a bit more of a chance to make progress on the Grey Knights than I expected. (In between sleeping and coughing up large quantities of neon gunk)

Let me just say straight out of the gate just how amazing the Metal Color range from Vallejo is. These are without a doubt the best metallic paints I’ve ever used. They apply so smooth, and don’t look like glorified glitter paint like some ranges. In the hands of someone more skilled than me, I believe they could look like the model was actually made of metal.

The pictures above are the base coat of Burnt Iron, over the gloss black primer. I applied the paint mostly from the bottom-up, so I could be sure of hitting the recesses. The gloss primer really helps the metallic paint shine, so the finish was a little brighter than I was expecting, when held under the painting lamp.

Building the Grey Knights, pt. 1

Once I had my plan set out, it was time to build. At first I was struggling with motivation to build the Terminators, but once I kitbashed the Librarian leading them, I got into the swing of things:

The Librarian is the Deathwatch Librarian, with a head, shoulder pad and weapon swap, plus the Blood Angel symbols filed off.

I wanted the Terminators to look a bit more sleek than the default build, so I didn’t add much in the way of “extras” (pouches, relics, etc) and I left off the small shields that attach to their shoulder. The Justicar is built to look like he’s manifesting a psychic power – I’ll paint an OSL effect on his hand.

The remaining 5 Terminators will be built tomorrow, and I’ll hopefully get the whole lot primed as well.

Review: “Angel Exterminatus” (Graham McNeill)

Last weekend I read the latest Horus Heresy novel from Graham McNeill and Black Library: Angel Exterminatus. What follows is a quick review. I’m trying to avoid spoilers, so don’t go into much depth about the plot.

Angel Exterminatus focusses on the the Iron Warriors legion and their Primarch, Perturabo. Although they are the main protagonists, the plot is setup and driven by another Primarch, Fulgrim, and the Emperor’s Children legion. Also making an appearance are 2 Eldar, and a few battered “loyalist” Space Marines.

Fans of Warhammer 40,000 – and the Horus Heresy in particular – will be lured into Angel Exterminatus by the promise of finding out more about Perturabo and the Iron Warriors. Up to now they have been typecast as rather mundane, if somewhat psychotic bullies. They’re the go-to guys when you have to besiege some fortress in a crawl-through-the-mud, ground-pounding war of attrition – as opposed to the other legions who grab all the glory for daring strikes into the heart of enemy territory. Beyond this stereotype their background hasn’t really been filled in much, leaving us thinking they’re pretty boring, bitter, and only concerned with blowing things up with the biggest gun possible.

What we learn from Angel Exterminatus is a very different picture. The Iron Warriors and Perturabo become interesting, multi-faceted characters. Perturabo is an master craftsman and artisan who can (and does) design and build devices and architecture of dazzling skill and intricacy. He has an unparalleled grasp of physics, mathematics, and strategy. He also has a volatile, murderous personality, but we come to understand where it comes from, and that he is very much more than he appears. The Iron Warriors largely reflect their Primarch. They are straight-forward warriors who excel at far more than they get credit for. They are logisticians, strategists… even geologists and engineers. They just happen to apply those skills to warfare and in a manner which is blunt and brutal, but extremely effective – applying the maximum force with the least amount of effort.

The overall plot can be summarised as: Fulgrim, with the aid of a mysterious Eldar “historian” convinces Perturabo to take his legion on an expedition to the heart of the Eye of Terror, to an ancient, dead Eldar world which is home to a mythical super-weapon which could end the war quickly in favour of Horus. Some Loyalist survivors of the opening battle of the Heresy discover the plan, and are led by another Eldar in a bid to thwart this possibility. Along the way we get to find out just how far the Emperor’s Children and Fulgrim have descended into excess and the worship of Slaanesh, and also how much it sucks to be a loyalist Space Marine right now. Mid-way through the book there’s even a Iron Warriors version of a game of Warhammer 40,000.

Overall, the plot flows nicely, and works well. There a very few, minor snooze moments, but nothing which totally detracts from the rest of the story. The payoff at the end gives us several things which old-timer fans might have been wondering when they would appear in the series, leaping some plot threads considerably.

In summary I’d say Angel Exterminatus is a great addition to the Horus Heresy series. If you’re a fan then you definitely want to pick it up. Newcomers might find it a bit difficult as it refers to a lot of threads in previous books, but it’s not so bad as I would say you should avoid it. It’s still a great read… One that once I started I didn’t put down until I’d devoured the whole book.

Review: “Fear To Tread” (James Swallow)

Foreword

If it wasn’t plainly apparent, I’m a big fan of the Warhammer 40,000 game and the surrounding universe. Warhammer 40K has some of the best “fluff” in science fiction. It is vast, covering everything from inter-personal conflict within the massive cities of the future, to vast inter-planetary war never-ending. To me, it’s not “just another” dystopian future, it’s the dystopian future. Mankind stands on the brink of an abyss; the only thing stopping it from plunging head-first into oblivion are the vast armies of the Imperium of Man, where death-in-service isn’t so much an occupational hazard, as expected. You will die for the Imperium, and you’ll bloody well be happy about it.

Life wasn’t always this bad for humanity though. 10,000 years earlier, the human race was at its peak, conquering vast numbers of worlds, rediscovering forgotten technologies, and generally unifying the galaxy under the banner of the Emperor. Religion is stamped-out, cast out by secular belief in science and reason (and large amounts of military force, if required). There are no Gods. Technology is a tool largely viewed with distrust and suspicion. Leading the charge of expansion throughout the galaxy are the genetically engineered legions of the Space Marines, led by their demigod-like Primarchs – the “sons” of the Emperor, created using arcane science to lead humanity into a better future.

Chief among the Primarchs is Horus, and the Horus Heresy series of novels from Black Library tell the story of what happened when he fell to corruption and turned against the Imperium1.

WARNING Mild spoilers from now on.

Fear to Tread.

It’s against this background we have Fear to Tread.

Fear to Tread, by James Swallow, is the 18th(!) novel in the series, and the first to exclusively focus on the Space Marines of the Blood Angels legion. Other legions show up, but mostly just as plot devices. I’ll talk a bit more about that later. James Swallow has written most of Black Library’s other Blood Angels books, which try as I might, I just could not get in to. This left me a little unsettled coming in to Fear to Tread. The Blood Angels are one of – if not my most – favourite Space Marine “Chapters”2. How much? This is my forearm. So yeah… big fan. If I couldn’t finish any of the other Blood Angels novels by the same author, was I be disappointed by Fear to Tread? Find out at the end of this review.

Plot Summary

The basic plot of Fear to Tread is: Sanguinius, the angelic Primarch (no, seriously; he has wings, and he glows) of the Blood Angels, undertakes a mission given to him by his most-trusted and beloved brother Horus – not knowing that Horus has turned traitor. The mission is – of course – a trap to destroy the Blood Angels. Remember I said there were no Gods? Unfortunately that was a lie, and a secret the Emperor has kept from everybody. There are four malevolent Gods who are behind Horus’ corruption, and they’re pissed at humanity. When the Blood Angels reach the planets they’ve been sent to they don’t meet the aliens they were expecting, but the previously unknown, supernatural horror of daemons. Along the way we discover the dark secret about the Blood Angels which Sanguinius has hidden from his legion and everybody else. This secret threatens to destroy the Blood Angels and turn them into a parody of all they stand for.

Context within the Series

One of the first things to strike me about Fear to Tread was how much it references other books in the series, and even a limited edition novella which released a couple of years ago. I found this a mixed blessing.

On the one hand, it was great to see how the events in the other books are having an effect in the wider story arc. On the other, it makes Fear to Tread harder for a new-comer to just dive right in. The best example of this is the important character of Apothecary Meros. If you haven’t read The Book of Blood novella you’ll have no idea what it means to when the story mentions his time in a sarcophagus, the visions he had, or the warnings he received about Horus and the future. It’s glossed over very quickly, and is quite confusing out of context. At least with the Space Wolves we get an explanation for their presence which makes sense even if you haven’t read A Thousand Sons or Prospero Burns. Overall though, I’d say this is a relatively minor nitpick.

The Players, and Characterisation

Horus Heresy books have a lot of characters in them, including several recurring characters. If you thought the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin was character heavy, you haven’t seen anything yet. Partly this is due to vast scope of the universe WH40K, and partly because of the scale of the armies and worlds involved. Fear to Tread is probably one of the “lighter” books in this regard, with only a handful main characters to keep track of.

By and large, these characters work very well, each fulfilling a purpose, and each depicting a facet of the Blood Angels “persona” fans have come to know over the years. If anything, the Blood Angels of Fear to Tread are a little more “fun” than those we see in later stories (later in the 40K timeline, that is). These Blood Angels aren’t so much the “emo vampires in space” stereotype I’ve seen other reviewers mention when introducing Fear to Tread. They’re a brotherhood who will bend the rules sometimes for each other, when they feel it is the right thing to do; they’re noble and heroic, willing to risk their lives for just a handful of trapped survivors; on the flip-side, they are absolutely Angels of Wrath, capable of such extreme violence it even makes the “barbarian” Space Wolves take pause3.

Sanguinius would be a hard, complicated character for any writer to handle well (and still made likeable), yet James Swallow manages to make him relatable; flawed, but not overly so, and I found myself sympathising with the choices forced upon him during the course of the story. Not easy when the character is a 12-foot tall angel-winged super-human!

While I feel the “Good Guys” are well-rounded and relatable characters, I wasn’t so much of a fan of the villains of the story, apart from the daemon Ka’Bandha. For being a being of pure hate and violence, Ka’Bandha is actually pretty well laid out, and not the one-dimensional caricature he could have been. His scenes with Sanguinius are key moments of the book. The remaining villains are generally a bit uninteresting unfortunately.

Horus’ depiction  (in the few times we see him – I don’t count him in the villains group because he’s only seen a few times) in Fear to Tread was somewhat new. Up to now, Horus has retained a bit of “tortured nobility” in his character, like he regrets the path he has started down. Here we get to see just how much of an inferiority complex he has comparing himself to Sanguinius, and more and more of the cruel, evil, twisted creature he will become. In contrast to this, the flashback scenes to times before the Heresy are quite poignant, particularly the scene after Horus is given control over all the crusading expedition fleets.

What I Liked

The building sense of dread as the Blood Angels fleet moves further into the planetary system, and encountering more and more things which just do not make any sense to them works well. You really get the feeling this is nothing they have ever faced before, and for the first time they are unsure how to meet their foe. They are uncomfortable and out of their element. Nerves begin to fray, and distrust starts to seep in. The tension does genuinely mount as you wonder just what horror will they come across next?

Swallow seems to have a knack for scene building. Every place and character within gets described in just enough detail as to allow us to picture it vividly, but not so much the story drags, weighed down by too much information.

Character interactions feel natural, and their personalities play off each other in a way I could believe in. No part of the dialog felt forced, or overwrought – not something I could say about some of the other books in the series.

It wouldn’t be a Warhammer 40,000 book without big climactic battles, and Fear to Tread does not disappoint. From the prologue to the conclusion, every battle is well written, with a good blend of pace, scale, drama, and grit. Even the smaller fire-fights – perhaps especially the smaller ones – are quite gripping to read. There were times I genuinely didn’t expect some characters to make it out alive. The confrontation between Ka’Bandha and Sanguinius (as depicted in the cover art) is particularly enjoyable, and lived up to expectations.

What I Didn’t Like/Understand

The big thing which did not sit well with me was the end of the book, when the Blood Angels end up in the Ultima Segmentum instead of at Earth, meeting Roboute Guilliman and the Ultramarines legion. I can understand how it happened from a in-world mechanics viewpoint, but I don’t get why it happened, knowing how the wider story plays out. The Blood Angels end up at Earth in time for the last battle with Horus (with Sanguinius playing a very, very, important role in that), but the Ultramarines do not. They get trapped in their far corner of the Imperium, as Warp travel becomes almost impossible. As a result the Ultramarines largely escape the Horus Heresy intact (aside from the events in Know No Fear) and lead the rebuilding after the war. So it made no sense to me to have the Blood Angels end up where they did. I can only surmise there is another book imminent which will directly follow on from the end of Fear to Tread. Unless it has a very good explanation or way to resolve this, then it just doesn’t make sense.

The Word Bearers Space Marines were pretty much unnecessary to the plot. Apart from acting as messengers, they didn’t do anything of note. We get to see one of them pining to “ascend” by joining with a daemon, but otherwise they were replaceable with some sort of “macguffin” which could have fulfilled their messenger role, and cut down the character count. In the end they come off as unnecessary and incompetent evil henchmen with delusions of grandeur.

The Space Wolves are slightly better used than the Word Bearers in that they are able to relay important information of what’s been happening outside the confines of this novel. Beyond that though, again, they don’t do much. Their plot is “hang around Sanguinius ‘suspiciously’, later give him some important information, then get butchered in a horrible fashion unbefitting their character.”

A few too many loose ends are left dangling for my liking. I’m avoiding being too spoilery, so I’m not going to say more, but (along with the above quibble with the ending) it feels like this is a “part one-of-two” story within the series.

Conclusion

It might seem from the above I have more negative things overall to say about Fear to Tread than positive. That’s absolutely not the case. Fear to Tread continues the recent trend of the Horus Heresy series getting back on track after a few fairly lacklustre books. As part of the series it is excellent instalment, and as a fan I thoroughly enjoyed the Blood Angels portrayal. The characterisation is largely top-notch, and the pacing pretty good. The bread-and-butter of Warhammer 40,000 fiction are the battles and conflicts, and Fear to Tread handles these very well, highlighting the unique ways the Blood Angels fight compared to the other Space Marine legions. There are a couple of key battles which had me gripped, frantically reading the pages to see what happened next.

Where I think Fear to Tread falls down, is reliance of other books to fill in the gaps. Compared against Know No Fear – the other recent high-watermark in the series – Fear to Tread is harder to understand out of context. This could be off-putting to the casual reader who has no earlier exposure to the series. I shan’t too hard on Fear to Tread because of this… it’s always a fine line between advancing the overall plot and making it accessible to newcomers, within such a long-running series.

If I must give Fear to Tread a rating, I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5. But more importantly for me it’s good enough it’s given me a determination to finish the other Blood Angel books Swallow has written.

And maybe start a new Blood Angels army. Again.

  1. As a personal side note: before this series, the Heresy was an unexplored but important part of the background of the Warhammer 40,000 setting, so it’s great to we’re finally getting to read about it. 
  2. After the events of the Horus Heresy, the vast Space Marine legions get split into much, much, smaller organisational units, called “Chapters”. So Legion = Pre-Heresy Space Marines, Chapter = Post-Heresy Space Marines. 
  3. The scene where the Space Wolves realise the levels of violence the Blood Angels have in their nature, buried underneath such a calm and noble exterior, is one of may favourite passages in the book.