Vulkan Lives by Nick Kyme: A review

I haven’t done many reviews recently but I felt that Vulkan Lives, the newest of the Horus Heresy novels, deserved one as I really enjoyed reading it. It won’t be a long review, it’s not a book that leads to easy reviewing (at least for me) as I have to be extra careful not to give away any spoilers as it’s a book where everything means something and so much is going on!

For all that’s going on, it’s all very clear, or at least as clear as the author wants it to be (and there’s a reason for that). There are at least four different plots from four different perspectives but Nick Kyme manages to keep everything clear and distinct. The separation of the two main plots into first and third person helps a lot here. What’s interesting is that the first person sections are from Vulkan’s perspective. He is the most human of the Primarchs and the book explores just what this means.

Of course, your average Necron looks human compared to Konrad Curze and in this book we see just how broken Curze is. You really can’t help but feel sorry for him, he’s so lost.

I like the Salamanders trilogy and I really enjoyed Promethean Sun but Kyme has really upped his game for Vulkan Lives, all the intertwining plots and strong characterisation used in the Salamanders trilogy has been pulled together in a dark and intriguing tale that asks more questions than it answers and still manages to move the Heresy along. I’m really interested to see where the story goes next and I’m wishing that I’d ordered Scorched Earth. Oh well, I’m sure that there will be plenty of Horus Heresy to fill my time until it’s finally released for those of us who forgot to order it but it’s a pity that it was up to order last week rather than this, as I doubt that I’d have dithered for a moment over ordering it if I’d have known just how good Kyme’s Salamanders were going to get!

Anyway, enough about books that I can’t read. I suppose that I should summarise this post by saying that Vulkan Lives is as epic as its cover and really, really worth a read.

L.o.F.

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New Project: Exodite Eldar

This is the test model for a New Project. I picked up the Eldar codex when it came out and I thought that I might like to build a force as a side project. Of course, being me, I didn’t just go for a nice safe Craftworld army, I decided that I’d like to build Exodites… on dinosaurs!

No dinosaurs in this post, I only picked up the relevant kits on the weekend, but I decided that, as I’m building an Exodite force, that Rangers would probably be the best troops unit to start with and the best models for testing out my colour scheme. I’m using an autumnal theme based round reds and greens and browns. For the green on the coat I started with Caliban Green, before washing it with a blend of Biel-tan Green and Nuln Oil. I then highlighted it with a 50:50 blend of Caliban Green and Warpstone Glow, Warpstone Glow, and finally Scorpion Green (Moot Green). For the red areas I started with Wazdakka Red, washed it with Baal Red (Carroburg Crimson) before highlighting with a 50:50 blend of Wazdakka Red and Blood Red (Evil Sunz Scarlet), Blood Red, a 50:50 Blend of Blood Red and Trollslayer Orange and then Trollslayer Orange. For the cloth areas and the gems I used two further highlights: 50:50 Trollslayer Orange and Yriel Yellow and finally Yriel Yellow.

Ranger front

For the wraithbone I used Bleached Bone (Ushbati Bone), washed it with Gryphonne Sepia (Seraphim Sepia), then highlighted it with Bleached Bone and a spot of Skull White (White Scar). The wood effect on the rifle was created by starting with a layer of Scorched Brown (Rinox Hide), washing the area with Nuln oil then highlighting it with a 50:50 blend of Scorched Brown and Snakebite Leather (Balor Brown) followed by Snakebite Leather and a touch of Tausept Ochre (GW says Balor Brown is its replacement but I think it’s more likely to be something like XV-88 or Tau Light Ochre but I’m not sure). I used a similar method for the backpack.

Ranger back

Maybe purple hair is a bit loud for an Exodite but I like it! I started with Xereus Purple which I washed with Nuln Oil before highlighting with more Xereus Purple, a 50:50 blend of Xereus Purple and Emperor’s Children, Emperor’s Children, a 50:50 blend of Emperor’s Children and Skull White and finally a touch of Skull White.

I need to paint the other four of these, but I think that I am pretty happy with the results and I want to go with this colour scheme.

My next job is to finish painting Captain Tycho for my boyfriend and a few Space Wolves for myself. Then I can get back to painting and modelling Eldar. I’m not building Eldar as an army to play, at least not initially, that’s what my Space Wolves are for, but I want another painting challenge and I think that the Exodites will fulfil this.

On a related note, I’ve just finished Promethean Sun, which I bought partly for the very relevant cover! I really enjoyed it. Nick Kyme is very good at writing Salamanders and he’s even better at writing about Vulkan himself. The story belongs with Feat of Iron which was published in The Primarchs anthology. It’s very short but it’s crammed full of information about Vulkan and Exodite Eldar (much more than the Eldar codex in the last case). It’s nice to see the limited edition books starting to be released at last and it looks like Promethean Sun has been released just in time for Vulkan to get his own book in the Horus Heresy series. I’m really looking forward to the release of Vulkan Lives, whenever that will be. If it’s at all like Promethean Sun, it will be very, very good.

L.o.F.

Tome of Fire trilogy by Nick Kyme: A review

Today I’m going to talk about the Tome of Fire Series, not the book of the same name that’s going to be released some time later this year. The trilogy consists of three books: Salamander, Firedrake and Nocturne, and, surprise, surprise, stars the Salamanders Space Marine Chapter.

I picked up Salamander after reading Hell Night. I wrote about my opinion of Hell Night in an earlier post. Having read the series, Hell Night makes much more sense! It still doesn’t excuse the daft names but it makes the story far more understandable.

The series is very much character driven, but that is not to say that the plot is not nice and tight. It’s very lean with nothing happening without a reason. Even quite small things feed straight into the plot. That’s not to say that there aren’t side plots, the character driven nature of the series means that there are plenty of strong secondary characters with their own stories, but in the end, these fit right back into the main story.

The secondary characters, particularly the protagonists, are the stars of the stories. The  primary antagonist, Nihilan, is rather sketchily written in. The other antagonists are seen a little bit more personally, particularly the Dark Eldar and the sinister Salamander Iagon.

The primary protagonists are Hazon Dak’ír and Zek Tsu’gan. Both of the characters are, at the start of the series at least, sergeants in the Salamanders’ Third company, and both hate the other’s guts! It’s quite a nice touch having two main characters who not only start off hating each other, but show no intention of ever doing so right up to the end. Both are flawed, but both have their good points. Tsu’gan is rather stuck up, and a little too fond of masochism, both things that are used to manipulate him. He is haunted by failure, a failure that he shares with Dak’ir, and which only fuels the hate between them. However, his sense of failure also links into his extreme bravery and his longing to do what’s right. In Salamander we see this in his campaign against the new Captain of Third, not, as Dak’ir thinks, purely for personal gain, but because he does not think that N’kel is right for the job. This desire to do what is right really shines in Firedrake and, a little bitter-sweetly, in Nocturne.

Dak’ir is an outsider, the first member of the nomadic Igneans to be accepted as a member of the  Chapter. He is particularly human, even for a member of the unusually compassionate Salamanders Chapter, but he is a bit of an outsider, even among his own people. He also dreams. These dreams are manifestations of what turn out to be rather potent psychic powers. One little niggle I have with Kyme’s otherwise good characterisation, is that nobody seems to realise this until the end of Salamander. Some members seem to have suspicions that something is not right, but nobody seems to go “hang on, shouldn’t we actually test this guy or something?”.

When you start Salamander, it feels as if Dak’ir is going to be the star of the series, in some ways he is, but although we see a lot of him in Salamander, we see less of him in the other two books, and more of the secondary characters. This is not actually a fault. If the books had focused purely on Dak’ir and Nihilan the plot would have been: “Woe is me. Why aren’t I accepted?”, “Revenge!”, “I’m a psyker?”, “Revenge! Mwa ha ha ha!”, “Woe is me. I’m a psyker and a prophesy and no one is ever going to accept me.”, which would not make a particularly good book, let alone a whole series!

It is in the end, the secondary characters that really shine in the series, everyone from the boy Val’in, to Brother, later Sergeant, Ba’ken, the Apothecary Fugis, Chaplain Elysius and the Librarian, Pyriel. Nobody is perfect, nobody is irritating, and you really sympathise with them.

The series has quite an open ending, which looks like it will be leading on to another trilogy, one which I know I will buy.

In conclusion, although this series is not perfect, it’s an enjoyable read, full of likeable characters. While the books are not among the most sparkling of those published by Black Library, they do what they need to and, as a result, are well worth reading!

Legends of the Space Marines: Hell Night by Nick Kyme

I’m having a bit of a lazy Sunday, so I’ve decided to curl up with a book and maybe write a post or two about what I’ve read. I bought Legends of the Space Marines last year for something to read on the plane and I guess that it’s a good time to read it again. The first story in the book is Hell Night by Nick Kyme and I’m honestly not sure what to make of it!

I really want to like Hell Night, it shows so much promise but in the end it falls a little bit flat. The story stars the Salamanders, a Company that I know very little about. It is set on the planet Vaporis where the Imperial Guard are failing to destroy a rebel city and the story starts with a short prologue following the beleaguered Guard as they trudge through the lethal mud. They’re cold, wet, low on supplies and something is out there…

The book has compelling protagonists and antagonists and a classic plot and 90% of the story really is good, it’s just let down by a few things. Firstly, Kyme does not seem particularly good at names and a few are quite recognisable. Most aren’t a problem; in the grim, dark future, there are countless billions, so a few odd names are fine, but unfortunately at one point Kyme breaks the suspense completely when he introduces Captain Mannheim and Lieutenant Bahnhoff. I’ve been through Mannheim Bahnhof, it’s quite a big train station. On their own the names would have been fine, well, maybe not Bahnhoff, but it really does spoil the story.

The other niggle, is that the story feels rushed, there is a lot of telling rather than showing when describing the relationships between the Astartes and the climax is rather, well, anti-climatic, which is a pity.

I think that in a different context, with other stories from the same series, Hell Night would have worked better. Alternatively the story needed to be longer, so that relationships between the characters are shown rather than explained and the suspense can be dragged out.

Kyme has written a series of novels about the Salamanders and I’m torn about whether I want to read them or not. On one hand, Hell Night shows so much potential, but on the other hand, if the niggles with this story exist in the novels, I could become frustrated very easily.