After finishing Dante I was left at an all time Space Marine high. I was excited to see what happened next to my new favourite Chapter Master and what was going to happen with the Tyranid invasion. And I wasn’t let down. Devastation of Baal is an excellent continuation of Dante’s story, the Blood Angels and the defence of their home system. It continues to prove that while 40k novels aren’t going to win the Booker Prize, they still have a lot of interesting character moments and provide awesome sci-fi romps.
As I’ve already said, Devastation of Baal picks up from the end of Dante as the Blood Angels rally all their successor chapters to their home to defend against an enormous Tyranid invasion. We spend a lot of time with Dante but he isn’t the all-consuming focus like in his book. The book is split into preparing for the Tyranids and battling them. The build-up to the confrontation gives the reader (or listener) the time to become invested and care about the characters on the front lines. It means that when they are in danger or fall, then their struggle and death mean something.
And there is a lot of death. The scale of these battles are huge as Dante amasses a force the likes of which haven’t been seen since The Horus Heresy. This isn’t a blow for blow battle but a sweeping conflict with different fronts, tactics and everything driving home the desperation and struggle to stop the overwhelming numbers of Tyranids pouring onto Baal. After the initial build-up and gather of force, the book shifts gear and the pace ramps up its intensity. Devastation of Baal is one of the most intense, exciting reads where you are never sure which side is going to win with plenty of twists and turns that keep you turning pages (or listening to pages turn) throughout.
Strangely seeing the impact of the Black Rage and Red Thirst on the successor chapters makes them feel more relatable than other Space Marines. Taking the time to show that they are not perfect and have flaws and how some of the chapters define themselves by these flaws while others constantly battle them gives each a depth and character that ‘flawless’ Space Marines struggle to have. This means that when they put it all on the line to defend their home, it means so much more.
The Tyranids are one of the stranger foes in the galaxy. They aren’t exactly strong villains for the Space Marines to pit their wits against but at the same time, they are extremely clever and dangerous. By their nature, they are a horde and rely on their numbers to get the job done. This means that there isn’t a strong antagonist fighting against the Blood Angels. Or is there? For me, the perfect antagonist to the Blood Angels is themselves. I mentioned the Black Rage and Red Thirst above and they are treated as the villains of this story and it works brilliantly. You hate the flaws by the end and seeing Dante and the others overcome or fall victim to them feels just as good as mowing down ten thousand Tyranids.
All of this combines into a book that continues to prove that Space Marines can have interesting stories. It proves that they can be relatable, that as the reader you can care about their struggles and invest in the outcome. In terms of how it sits in the wider narrative, the Cadian Gate falls during this story and it is positioned perfectly to see the Primaris step into the Chapters organically. If you want a Space Marine book with heart and action, then Devastation of Baal gets my full recommendation.
Thanks for reading. If you are thinking of kicking off 9th Edition with the Indomitus novel, then read my review first as it might make your reconsider that purchase. For a more positive review, why not read about the Talon of Horus which is a great story of Chaos Space Marines.
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