Betrayer by Aaron Dembski-Bowden: A review

Betrayer is awesome! I thought that I’d better start this review as I mean to go on. There are certain things that I have grown to expect from any book by Dembski-Bowden: a good plot, strong, incredibly compelling characters and a rollercoaster of emotions. Betrayer delivers all three.

While you don’t have to read Angel Exterminatus to read this book it makes sense that they were released so close together as they share some themes. The audio book Butcher’s Nails is a direct prologue to Betrayer and I’d recommend listening to it first.

Betrayer follows the World Eaters, largely through the point of view of Khârn (not yet The Betrayer) as they, along with the Word Bearers, prosecute the Shadow Crusade. It takes the closest look yet at the World Eaters and Angron, particularly at the debilitating effect of the Butcher’s Nails implants that the World Eaters use. By using a comparison with the Space Wolves and Leman Russ, and a historical, Great Crusade era scrap between the two legions, Dembski-Bowden highlights the uncontrollable berserker nature of the World Eaters and Angron’s blindness to the dangers of this behaviour. Further contrast is given by using the perspective of a World Eater dreadnought who has been in suspended animation since before the discovery of Angron. The book highlights just how far the legion has fallen and how it will eventually end up.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden is very strong at characterisation, he manages to make you feel sympathy for the most dark and twisted characters. This really comes to fore in his Night Lords Trilogy, but it also works very well in Betrayer. It comes to something when you find yourself feeling sorry for a daemon! Erebus however, is still a complete and utter bastard. The range and depth of characters in the book really makes it something special.

So, if you haven’t read Betrayer yet, I really recommend that you do, as not only is it an excellent book and a portion of the money you pay goes to charity, it’s probably the only time that you’ll ever read about a dreadnought playing cards!


List building, Painting and Waiting for Orders

I don’t seem to have much luck with ordering products that are in stock from the Games Workshop website and my bad luck struck again when I ordered Death from the Skies for my boyfriend on Saturday. I was very surprised and gratified to receive a “sorry” voucher from GW though, normally things just turn up a week late! It was really good customer service. There’s been a lot of negative stuff about them dotting about on the internet recently (that I am NOT getting into here) so I feel that something positive like this really deserves mentioning.

I’ve been doing a bit of painting recently, trying to finish my next test Night Lord so that I can paint more Space Wolves. It’s still not finished but I should finish it this weekend.

The other thing that I’ve done this week is play a game. I lost badly and I’ve realised that I really need to a) learn the rules better and b) rebuild my list.

The game was at 1250 points and the list I took was:

 HQ: Wolf Lord in Terminator Armour with one Wolf Claw and two Fenrisian Wolves

This was an “extra” HQ thanks to the Leader of the Pack rule although he ended up as Warlord. He’s fairly flexible and quite useful, unfortunately I stuck him on the wrong side of the board!

HQ: Wolf Priest on bike

I stuck him in with my star unit, the Swiftclaws, and I was really happy with how he worked. I was facing Space Marines so he didn’t have to worry about Flamers this time!

HQ: Rune Priest with Chooser of the Slain.

I gave him Living Lightning and Tempest’s Wrath. I really like Living Lightning but I didn’t use Tempest’s Wrath at all. I’d never actually got him into assault before and because he’s a kitbash I couldn’t figure out what his staff counted as. I ended up calling it an axe.

 Elites: 3x Wolf Guard Terminators.

I either need to drop these guys or add to the unit. It’s too small to be effective at the moment.

Elites: 5x Wolf Scouts: 4x sniper rifles, 1x missile launcher.

Unfortunately, this squad is for the chop as they’re currently fairly useless.

 Troops: 10x Grey Hunters (1 power axe, 1 Melta Gun), 6x Grey Hunters (plasma gun), 5x Grey Hunters (power fist) .

I need to run larger Grey Hunter packs and remember that they have special weapons. The smaller packs were fairly easy to wipe out.

 Fast Attack: Swiftclaws

I love these guys, I just need more of them. Even Bloodclaws can operate twin-linked bolters and toughness 5 is not to be sniffed at.

Heavy Support: 5x Long Fangs: 2x Heavy Bolters, 1x Missile Launcher, 1x Lascannon.

These guys worked well, although the lascannon was a bit superfluous. I might swap it out for a missile launcher

The other thing that would really improve my army would be to get it out of the box more often! The game at the weekend was only my third game since sixth edition dropped. I need practice, not only to design a good list, but to get into the habit of gaming. I keep forgetting rules and, possibly even worse, I keep forgetting wargear. I made some really stupid mistakes on Saturday. Despite rolling Vanguard Strike, which gives such a small deployment zone on a 4×4 board, I managed to place my Wolf Lord on the wrong side of the board, I forgot that there was a meltagun in my list and I kept forgetting all the little rules that might have helped me. I really need more practice.

I’m going to start working on models for my new improved list this weekend by painting up my latest bunch of Grey Hunters. As for practice, I guess that I’ll just have to clear off a table at home and look hopeful!


What do you mean, sensible?

WISIWYG Grey Hunters unpainted

So, as I was unable to paint last night I did some work on a new Grey Hunter pack. I’m trying to make these guys as WYSIWYG* as possible but I couldn’t resist building the guy in the middle. There are a couple of others but as they have bolters they haven’t had their arms attached yet.

WYSIWYG Grey Hunter backpack bolter

The next job is to undercoat them and then, whenever I can get new brushes, paint them!


*What You See Is What You Get

Planning Projects

I’m being easily distracted at the moment. I’m working on a project which in some ways is going fairly well, yet in others is being incredibly frustrating. The problem is all down to supplies and logistics. My apartment is not set up for woodworking and so I need to look for ready or at least partly made solutions to any big building projects (by big I mean anything that may require saws and bits of wood). That’s the logistical problem. The supplies problem is that I can’t find what I need to build the base for the project. I wanted an oval photo frame for a base. It’s fairly simple to convert a frame into a stand. It largely involves removing the glass and gluing the back in place. However, it has turned out to be rather impossible to find an oval frame in my city, which has meant that my happy project building weekend has been completely wasted.

My other project problem is, if anything, infinitely more frustrating as it means that I can’t paint until I fix it (and I have two figures sitting on my desk waiting for me at the moment). Both my newish 4-0 and my venerable 5-0 brushes have decided to shed their bristles. For a long time I got through brushes at an incredible rate, but recently I have managed to manage my brushes better, which is why the loss of my fine and extra fine brushes at the same time is so frustrating. The other frustrating thing is that the shop that I buy them from has stopped stocking them as far as I can tell. It’s not good hobbying territory round here. It’s fairly hard to find things and there aren’t many easily accessible model shops. This means that I’ll probably have to order my brushes online and hope that they turn up fairly quickly. For now though I can’t do much and I really want to do some hobbying.

On the other hand though, I do have one test model done and I know what I’ll do differently on the next one. Here’s a little teaser shot.

Night Lords test model 1

Hopefully in the next week I’ll be able to fix at least some of my modelling supply problems and I can show some shots of the project in progress. For now though I think that I am going to build some Grey Hunters.


Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeil: A review

So I caved and bought the hardback of Angel Exterminatus. I was in two minds whether I wanted to or not, but I’m glad that I did (my back was not after I’d lugged it, Betrayer and my copy of the 6th Ed. Rulebook back from my local GW and round the supermarket). Perturabo turned out to be far more interesting than I expected, and he has a unique reason for rebelling, both of which make him a compelling and strangely sympathetic protagonist.

Perturabo is definitely far more interesting as a protagonist than an antagonist. In The Crimson Fist he was The Bad Guy and only the negative side of his personality was revealed. In Angel Exterminatus he is one of the “heroes” and we have more reason to feel sympathetic to him, even when he’s throwing a tantrum.

What was nice, and surprising, is that McNeil has written Perturabo as a creative rather than a warlike (tactical or plain psychotic) Primarch. There is a broad streak of Leonardo da Vinci in the character and there is the impression that, like Lorgar and Magnus and even Corax (see Deliverance Lost), he would much rather be studying and building than laying waste to the galaxy. I’m beginning to think that the Primarch Project and the Great Crusade would have been very different if the Primarchs hadn’t been scattered. Magnus’s final role has been revealed, but the behaviour of Perturabo suggests to me that he was meant to be an Empire builder in a literal as well as a figurative way. It makes me wonder what the roles of Angron and Curze would have been had they had a kinder upbringing.

Anyway, back to the book. The Iron Warriors themselves are a mixed bunch, and you can see the scheming that will ultimately split the Chaos Legions into Warbands. I like the unique take on the lodges. The Iron Warriors are renegades rather than Chaos followers and it shows in their behaviour and their attitudes, something that is shown into sharp relief by the actions of the book’s antagonists, The Emperor’s Children, who have fallen almost as far as it is possible to go. The third party in the story are a group of survivors from Isstvaan V, mostly Iron Hands. Two of them, Wayland of the Iron Hands (where else) and Sharrowkyn of the Raven Guard turned up in the short story Kryptos (which you should read if you haven’t yet!), but Angel Exteriminatus introduces more of the group including  Frater Thamatica, a mad Iron Father (think Tesla in power armour), Captain Branthan, the dying captain held in stasis, Tarsa, the Salamander’s apothecary caring for him and Branthan’s Equerry, Cadmus Tyro, who is actually running things. The Iron Hands in this book are more human than in other books, but they work really well. I really, really hope that we see a lot more of these guys in future.

I was a bit grumpy about the idea of moving to hardback but the book itself is not too clunky (and will therefore still sit on my Horus Heresy shelf) and Neil Robert’s cover artwork is great as always. My only niggle is that Karl Richardson’s internal artwork feels a bit out of place. The way the illustrations are scattered through the book feels a bit Young Adult and doesn’t really do the illustrations themselves justice. I wonder if they would have been better as a section on glossy paper like the maps in the Space Marine Battles series.

I’m not sure that I’ll go back and buy the hardback re-releases of the new books, even the possibility of pictures of Loken, Tarvitz, Garro etc. isn’t enough to negate the fact that we have perfectly good paperback copies at home already. I’ll certainly buy Mark of Calth in hardback when it’s released though, for sure.

Anyway, sorry for the delay in posting. If you haven’t read Angel Exterminatus yet, you should, and if you like e books you should really also read Kryptos too. Neither are placeholder stories and both are excellent reads.