15 November 2010

[40k Review] Hunt for Voldorius - Andy Hoare

The Space Marine Battles novels of the Black Library are an important an necessary series within the canon of the Warhammer 40k universe. Thusfar, both Steve Parker's Rynn's World and Aaron Dembski-Bowden's Helsreach have served important roles within the grimdark future of 40k; they have fleshed out with great breadth and clarity two of the epic battles that shaped two nominal Astartes chapters as well as the heroic marines that serve them. With that in mind, Andy Hoare's Hunt for Voldorius is the first in the series that falls a bit short.

Battle for Voldorius centers around the White Scars chapter and the hunts in which they embark to slay the worst enemies of the chapter. In this instance, the hunt is for the demon prince Voldorius, an enemy responsible for the death of billions across the Imperium. Led by Kor'sarro Khan, Master of the Hunt and character introduced in the most recent Space Marines codex, the White Scars 3rd company embarks on a quest to slay the aforementioned foe.

While Hoare's prose is strong and his action sequences sufficiently exciting, the narrative falls short. While i really like the idea of the hunts--it fits quite well with the Mongol-inspired heritage of the White Scars-- this particular story feels remarkably less-than-epic and the quest to find Voldorius more of a foregone conclusion than a hunt. Voldorius is found quickly, effectively eliminating any excitement that should have been found in a proper hunt.

While the narrative came up short, Hoare does a really nice job fleshing out his heroes. Kor'sarro Khan is an interesting character and really fits the heroic ideal of a Space Marine captain. Hoare provides a nice contrast between Khan and Kayvaan Shrike, the Raven Guard captain that also appears in the story. Where Khan is brash, Shrike is reserved. Where Shrike is humble, Khan is a bit arrogant. The characters, as well as their respective chapters' combat doctrines, are good foils for one another, and provide a strong point of conflict within the story, but aren't explored nearly enough.

The use of both the White Scars and the Raven Guard as is one of the major issues I had with Hunt for Voldorius. While I was initially excited to read a story involving Shrike and Khan, putting them together in one book left me wanting. While the character of each captain is established well, their personal histories and individual stories are woefully underdeveloped. A previous chapter conflict is hinted at, but is never explained. As a result, the mistrust between the two chapters isn't entirely believable beyond the reader being told that the two have trust issues. It's frustrating because the hints are really intriguing and you want to know more, only those questions are never answered. I think both characters would have been better served with their own books rather than a combined story.

Through all its faults, Hunt for Voldorius isn't a 'bad' novel. Hoare is a good writer (see my reviews of his Rogue Star and Star of Damocles) and his competent prose helps to save an underwhelming narrative. I really appreciate the Black Library's exploration of characters from the 40k codices, but wish in this instance that Kor'sarro Khan and Kayvaan Shrike were allowed the room to develop that both Grimaldus and Pedro Kantor were In their respective books. Hunt for Voldorius is a worthwhile read, but not a must-read. Hoare spins an acceptable addition to the Space Marine Battles series, but, much like an episode of Lost, it is one that ultimately leaves you with more questions than answers.

5.5/10 Mediocre

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