Cover Image: The Gate of Bones

The Gate of Bones

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Sorry wasn't given any time to download the book as soon as I saw the email I went on netgalley to download and it had already been archieved
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The Dawn of Fire series is probably my favourite so far in the new w40k novels. It's well writing, full of lore and has a lot of great characters. A must read.
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Whoever writes those, the Warhammer books are always a huge win for me. This universe is insane!! This book did it good justice. Solid story and protagonists, and this world, again... my God!! You should explore this universe, really, so why not start with this book!
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If there's one thing I love about Warhammers Indomitus Crusade, it's that the Adeptus Custodes are getting some character time. I've been hoping for more action from them for a while, and watching them tear through Chaos Marines is something I'm definitely here for.

The Gate of Bones is the second book in the Dawn of Fire series at the beginning of the Indomitus Crusade. The returned primarch, Roboute Guilliman, leads a huge force towards the shrine world of Gathalamor, whose stable warp routes will allow the flotilla to spread across the beleaguered southern half of the Imperium. They play a key role in the first half of the book setting things up, not just for this book but for further parts of the Indomitus Crusade itself. A tense meeting with an ancient race that Guilliman has organised really sets the tone of how bad things could potentially be whilst also showing how revered Guilliman is by the human leaders in the meeting.

Now, the Custodes. What I've been waiting for. Guilliman sends forth a team on a vital mission to Gathalamor, with Shield-Captain Achallor of the Adeptus Custodes at its head. Achallor discovers a world falling to Chaos, a beaten Imperial force and agents of Chaos working for Abaddon the Despoiler who have unearthed an ancient evil, a weapon that when harnessed not only threatens the primarch but would also wreak havoc on the holy Throne of Terra itself.

You get to see just how powerful the Custodes are, as they tear through Chaos Marines with ease and only struggling with the ones that become huge abominations that have psychic powers to push them back. What I enjoyed though was little comments, like "if there's one thing that the Custodes do better than anything else, it is slay Space Marines", how they constantly refer to the Iron Warriors as "traitor Astartes" and one paragraph about how they don't fight as Astartes do so the traitors back off in surprise before being completely destroyed. It's also clear that they view themselves as the best, the Emperors own chosen. This is later reinforced when the bad guys are talking and realise that the Custodes have left Terra and are part of the attack, as they start talking about needing to make more prayers and ask for more blessings - they know that their task has gotten harder just from a handful of Custodes landing on the planet to battle them.

Mixed with the Custodes are a few humans, most notably General Dvorgin who is a troubled man from a moment of lapsed faith before the crusade. All of his parts are beautifully written as a troubled General who just wants what's best for his men. He even stands up to Shield-Captain Achallor, despite all the sweating and nervousness that comes from it - it's some serious balls.

A few chapters are dedicated to the Iron Warriors and Word Bearers as you get a sense of friendship between Kar-Gatharr and Lokk - a Word Bearer Dark Apostle and Iron Warrior tank commander, respectively. Friends might be too strong a term since they are Heretic/Traitor Astartes, but there's certainly a bond there that goes beyond mere battle brothers. Andy Clark does a good job of showing their weariness in their exchanges and their bond, whilst still maintaining that there's still a lack of trust or respect between various factions within the Traitor ranks, as you'd expect.

It's a brilliant book that shows many sides to the war that surely has to go down as a must-read for fans of Warhammer books. Every character has their own identity that lets you know exactly what they're like, even if it's just through one sentence. I have many, many Black Library books and been thinking for a while that I need to start working my way through them. This book has sparked my love for Warhammer once again.
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The Gate of Bones by Andy Clark.

The Gate of Bones is the second book of Black Libraries newest major series “A Dawn of Fire”, this is being toted as the Indomitus Crusades version of the Horus Heresy series and I’m super excited to see what we get from a brand-new storyline that doesn’t contain as much pre-existing Lore. The first book, Avenging Son, was a fantastic entrance to the series, introducing us properly to Roberte Gulliman, which was a massive bonus for those that haven’t paid a massive amount of attention to Games Workshop newest story arc (such as myself), introducing the new Primaris Marines in all their glory, and setting the grandeur and scale for the task that was being taken by the Imperium. I would recommend reading up a little on the events that happened just before this however it isn’t fully necessary –

I always find it interesting reading these mega series from Black Library because you often get a different author each time, not only taking the resources of previous books,  reintroducing old characters, and  sharing story arcs as they become canon, but you also tend to get in some cases very different writing styles.  Guy Haley and Andy Clark are both in my opinion very good at character development, both books did incredibly well at building the humanity behind the godlike figures that walk among us and delivering the absolute despair and grimdark nature of regular humans, both writing interesting POVs that don’t leave you bored when reading someone other than your favourite, and honestly that’s hard to do, especially when you look at the scope of these stories and the amount of time and space that they tend to cover. The Gate of Bones was my first story containing the Astarte Custodes,  described as the children of the Emperor in the way the Space Marines are children of their Primarch’s, they share the Emperor’s blood line, they are in all ways more Impressive than the regular Astartes and Andy did a really impressive job of showing this. He managed to really show the difference between the Custodes and the Space Marines, up till this point there had been nothing in 40k that really made me see the Space Marines as anything but the almost invincible warriors they are. If the Space Marines are the Angels of Death, what are the Custodes?  On top of these demi-gods Andy had to write characters from the side of Chaos which is always such a stark contrast from the Emperor loving Imperium forces, you get to see their hatred for the so-called Corpse God and what drives them towards their end goals. We also got a full Lance of Knights, the mini-Titans of the 40k universe, the fanatical Sisters of Battle and fantastic characters coming from the classic Imperial Guard that just bring the levelling needed so you remember the grimdark nature of 40k even with beautiful Golden Gods that stride across the fields of battle.

Andy’s writing style made this book a lot more of an interesting read for me over Avenging Son, the first book at times felt full of very unnecessary prose that just felt a little over the top, I understand it’s a hard balance because the world of 40k really does need the grandeur to properly explain it sometimes, Gulliman striding into a room demands the attention to detail that is warranted by a Primarch and Guy Haley did a fantastic job of writing Gulliman and the people surrounding him, but that isn’t maybe needed at every turn. Andy felt a lot more to the point, sparing no detail when needed but instead spending more time focusing on the plot and character development, this led to me feeling no inclination to skim over paragraphs like I did in the first book. He also did a great job of writing a tense and exciting plot, which I imagine is a struggle when your main character has full plot protection and a already summarised ending to the Era Indomitus supplied by Games Workshop codex’s, so to still write in a way that gives the reader concern’s about what might happen to Gulliman and to the crusade as a whole is something I find really impressive, and in general this is always something the Black Library authors have done so well, writing something that feels fresh and exciting when you already know the end game really shows the talents of these writers.

This book really had everything needed to meet the demand of the Black Library standard, tons of incredible action but also plenty of really strong character development that never felt boring or like you were being pulled away from the excitement. I can’t wait for the next story in this saga and will continue to follow the Dawn of Fire series eagerly.

Give Black Library a chance, regardless for your interest in the tabletop game the stories themselves are so good that they deserve the attention, and I can almost promise you will not be disappointed. Also, if it makes it helps, as far as I’m aware there are zero love triangles in any of the 40k books and if that isn’t a reason to read it I don’t know what is.
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Clark picks up the story where Guy Haley’s Avenging Son left off, and chronicles another early, major engagement of the Indomitus Crusade. Gate of Bones is a solid WH40k novel, one that moves the overall story ahead, but could also work as a stand-alone if you happened to stumble across it. Great characters, good writing. I enjoyed this.

As with all of the best WH40k fiction, Gate of Bones offers new insights into the various factions. A new character, introduced by Haley, the historitor Fabien returns in this novel: he’s a very useful narrative device, providing context at the start and end of the novel. Tasked by Roboute Guilliman to document the truth of the Crusade, to provide the Primarch with unvarnished accounts of what the Imperium and its subjects are like, what they think, and believe.

He winked at Fabian. Lucerne baffled him. He was enormously devout, unlike most other Space Marines the historitor had met, and yet he lacked the humourlessness of mortal religious humans. The opposite, in fact; Brother-Sergeant Lucerne had a surfeit of bonhomie. To a man of Fabian’s morose character, it was particularly irritating, and made the sergeant all the more terrifying. Violence lurked behind his smiles. Good humour only prettified this engineered murder machine, it could not obscure his purpose.

Clark includes some interesting discussion of the nature of faith in the Imperium as well as more generally in this setting. This is something that Haley kicked off in Avenging Son, too, but Clark’s characters allow for the topic to be kicked into higher gear. Given what readers will have come across in the Horus Heresy series, and the atheistic nature of the Imperium when the Emperor still walked amongst his sons and Legions, I’ve enjoyed the ways in which authors have explored the shift to the hyper-religious nature of the Imperium in the “present”. The Custodes, the defenders of the throne and arguably the mightiest of mankind’s warriors, know the Emperor to be a man — albeit the most powerful to have ever lived. Until recently, they’ve been restricted to operations on Terra, but with the Crusade and Guilliman’s return, some of them are attached to the Crusade fleets. This brings them into direct contact with a large variety of Imperial forces. In Gate of Bones, Clark shows us what happens when the Custodes are allied with a Sororitas force: an all-female force of ultra-zealous warriors, they believe in the Emperor’s divinity with a ferocity that is, well, terrifying. There’s one moment, in particular, when Custodes Achallor is confronted by the impersonal and calculating nature of the Sororitas’ approach to warfare that is quite chilling.

As is normal, for me, I preferred the “quieter” moments of the novel, when Clark explores the lore, the shifting nature of the Imperium and galaxy, and the various relationships between factions (friend and foe alike). Each of these moments shows that the setting isn’t as black-and-white as it has sometimes been portrayed. I enjoyed reading the conversations between General Dvorgin and Canoness Veritas — the former a human general on Gathalamor, worn down by a life of endless war; the latter a fervent Sororitas attached to Dvorgin’s defence force on the planet. He, doubting his faith in the Emperor and worthiness (he’s basically suffering from Imperial Leadership Imposter Syndrome), and her providing a surprising comfort and support for him, bolstering his confidence and faith (rather than censuring him, which one might expect).

As WH40k has changed with recent meta-events, and the clear influence of the Heresy series, the setting has developed far more nuance and depth. Just as Imperial factions have different opinions on the Emperor’s divinity, so too do readers learn about other examples of tension. For example, the Custodes are suspicious of Guilliman — as the defenders of the Emperor, they are suspicious of any Primarch who accrues what to them appears to be too much power. They are part of the Crusade not only as warriors and defenders of the Primarch, but also sentinels keeping a watchful eye on the Primarch.

In addition to the aforementioned rumination on the nature of faith in the Imperium, I particularly liked the friendship between Kar-Gatharr and Lokk — a Word Bearer Dark Apostle and Iron Warrior tank commander, respectively. While they may not use the word “friends” (they are Heretic Astartes, after all), there is a bond between them that seems to go beyond what a soldier has for a fellow soldier. There’s a weariness to their exchanges, too, when they discuss their part in the Long War. There’s more evidence of a lack of trust or respect between various factions within the Traitor ranks, a fracturing of the “brotherhood” that might have first kept them together. It’s a nicely nuanced portrait of two traitors.

‘… Abaddon, another vainglorious fool,’ said Lokk. ‘He’s the same as Horus, a liar who has deceived himself.’

‘But he will triumph. Victory must be won correctly. It must be done with faith. Abaddon does not honour the gods, not as he should, not yet.’

‘Nor does my primarch,’ said Lokk.

‘Would you have an eternity of rule by the Lord of Iron?’

‘I would have no eternity under anyone,’ said Lokk.

‘Then why do you go on?’ said Kar-Gatharr.

‘I don’t know,’ said Lokk. He stoppered the bottle and put it away, his thirst forgotten.

If you enjoyed Avenging Son, then you should definitely read Gate of Bones. It moves the story of the Indomitus Crusade forward, expanding the story, and setting up events for the next book in the series. There’s plenty of action and conflict, but, if I’m honest, sometimes the larger battle scenes/chapters were just a shade too long for my taste, but they were still well-composed and often intense. Clark does a great job of bringing the setting alive, and all of his characters felt distinct and three-dimensional (even those we don’t spend much time with).

‘Mankind already endures a living hell, Kar-Gatharr,’ said Lokk. ‘Do not pretend any of us are in this for anything but ourselves. If you taught me one thing, it is that Chaos has no mercy. We have been lied to by everyone. All we can do is fight. That is all there is.’

Definitely recommended. I’m really looking forward to the third book in the series, whatever it might be (its details have yet to be announced).
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Great book.  Even better than the first one in the series.  Can't wait to read the next one. Would tell my friends to purchase,  well written and worth the money.
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I was given a copy of this as an ARC (thank you Netgalley) but I had already bought the book on Audible so my review is based on the audiobook which was read by John Banks , let me start by saying that Andy Clark has done a first class job of making the reader empathetic to the characters, to the point where I felt the fatigue and weariness that was evident on both sides, there is lots of battle but it is not overshadowed by the dialogue which I found to be grounded and not just rhetoric as can sometimes be, the book furthers the the saga but not always in ways that the reader wants or would choose, I like that! The audibook being narrated by Mr Banks who is in a class of his own only furthered my enjoyment with one very small exception, the accents used for the Knights.... 😳
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