Good morning citizens of Ultramar. The weather forecast today includes heavy rains of lesser demons with a fifty-percent chance of Chaos Space Marine drop pods.
In Graham McNeill’s The Chapter’s Due the Ultramarines are faced with an invasion of their home system by a host of demons and traitor space marines. The forces of Chaos are led by the bloodthirsty Warmaster Honsou whose sole desire is to exact revenge on his nemesis, Captain Uriel Ventris of the Ultramarines 4th Company. As Honsou and Uriel Ventris both attempt to stop the other, battles rage on dozens of planets and the fate of the entire system hangs in the balance.
The first aspect of this book that stood out to me was the presence of all the Ultramarines characters from the tabletop game. McNeill does a fantastic job of transferring the characters we love to paint and play in to literary personalities. Marneus Calgar is rightly shown to be a master tactician and strategist from centuries of waging wars. Cato Sicarius comes across as arrogant and quick to bear arms. Some of my favorite scenes were the meetings between all the Ultramarines top brass, which were an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes before the drop pods rain down and bolters start singing.
The space battle, or ‘void war’ scenes were also excellent, providing a vivid depiction of fleets of capital ships engaging at ranges of thousands of kilometers. As I am a naval warfare buff I was pleased to see the Ultramarines using centuries old formations and tactics to combat the Chaos ships.
The only thing I felt this book was lacking was character development of the antagonists. It’s easy to write a despicable villain that the readers will hate, and Warmaster Honsou is just that. A story becomes more engrossing when the reader finds themselves struggling not to root for the villain. (A good example is Colonel Hans Landa from Inglourious Basterds.)
Overall I really enjoyed The Chapter’s Due. McNeill stays focused on story arc and character development while still maintaining an amazing setting. The battle scenes were vivid enough to induce space marine dreams when I fell asleep reading. The book also serves to lend personality and flavor to the premiere Space Marine chapter in the Imperium. If you enjoy getting lost in the 40k universe I recommend you read this book, and if you play Ultramarines consider The Chapter’s Due required reading.
Nate’s Rating: 4/5 stars
How does having knowledge of your army’s background and your character’s personalities effect your choices on the tabletop? Also what are some other examples of likable villains from television, movies and literature?