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Ave Omnissiah!

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My blog is primarily my own personal fluff in the Warhammer 40,000 universe regarding the Draconis system such as the Knight House Yato in Ryusei, their Household Militia, the Draconian Defenders, and the Forge World of Draconis IV with its Adeptus Mechanicus priesthood, Cybernetica cohorts and Skitarii legions, and the Titan Legion, Legio Draconis, known as the Dark Dragons.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Skitarius and Tech-Priest

As this is an Adeptus Mechanicus blog, I think it is highly appropriate to include reviews of Adeptus Mechanicus novels. The first two novels I would like to share are Skitarius and Tech-Priest by Rob Sanders, two books that were recently released (well, at the time of this review it has been months, so I'm actually very late with this review).

In future I will also be doing psuedo-reviews for Titanicus, Knights of the Imperium and Mechanicum, the first written by Dan Abnett and the latter two written by none other than the legendary Graham McNeill. Well, Dan Abnett is also legendary in the Black Library, and Titanicus was a good and fun read even if it has some flaws (I will elaborate on those on its review). I have also just obtained the Mars trilogy by Graham McNeill, the three books Priests of Mars, Lords of Mars and Gods of Mars. It took me a while to complete the collection because while I could purchase the last two books, the first book was out of print and I had to search the Internet and all my available bookstores before I finally found Priest of Mars on Amazon and ordered it. And even that costed me a bomb, the prices for second-handed books are exorbitant.

Now for the books in question.

The first book, Skitarius, was a good read. It opens with a persepctive from the Skitarii, the protagonist being the Alpha Primus Haldron-44 Stroika, who actually turns out to be a very relatable and likeable character despite the stereotype of Skitarii being machine-like, cold and emotionless.

Stroika is sent to claim a Standard Template Construct (STC) from Perborea, which they do after a fierce battle with Orks. The STC turns out to be the awesome Geller Device or Empyreal Bomb that could potentially undo the reality-warping effects of the Warp and warp storms and turn the tide against the Daemons and other incorporeal beings that threaten the dimensional reality of the Imperium and Mars. So what do the Magos and Tech-priests of the forge world Satzica Secundus decide to do? Well, of course build the bomb and test it out on an area besetted with warp storms! In other words, the Great Gyre, the warp storm that claimed Satzica Secundus's sister forge world Velchanos Magna.

Well, obviously the reasons for reclaiming Velchanos Magna is to get back all the technology and stuff they lost when the warp storm stole it from the Adeptus Mechanicus. Anyway, the Adeptus Mechanicus proceed to build and test the device, and the Skitarii are sent down to reclaim the corrupted forge world despite having half the fleet AND the Titan legions lost somewhere in the warp when they translated into reality outside Velchanos Magna. Stupid idea, but hey, they were led by an idiotic Fabricator Locum, Magos Engra Myrmidex, who cared for nothing but his own greed and ambition.

And therein lies the strength of this novel. One would expect a novel about the Skitarii and Tech-priests to be cold, devoid of emotion and human personality. Far from being the case, the Skitarii and Tech-priests turn out to be very human despite their monstrous and mechanical appearance. The Magos or Magi in Satzica Secundus squabble amongst themselves as they indulge in petty politics, something the Explorator Magos Omnid Torquora wants nothing to do with. They scheme, plot and backstab each other in order to rise through the ranks of the Martian priesthood, much like humans do today.

Furthermore, the mechanical solders of Mars, the Skitarii, are more relatable than faceless robots. This could be because the Alphas, as according to the lore and Skitarii codex, are usually made from more intelligent men taken from knightly worlds, and thus they are granted some sort of independence, initiative and other more creative thoughts. Stroika definitely falls under this, being the rank of Alpha Primus, and he tends to question some stuff even as he struggles to maintain his faith in the Omnissiah.

The characters in the book are characterized by very human traits. The Fabricator Locum, Magos Engra Myrmidex, as I mentioned earlier, is defined by ambition, from his very first appearance as he sought to monopolize the Geller Device from Magos Torquora who found it to his reckless charge into Velchanos Magna to reclaim it for his personal quest to become Fabricator General. Magos Omnid Torquora, as befitting an Explorator, is defined by indepedence, wanting nothing to do with the politics plaguing Satzica Secundus and wanting only to further his quest for knowledge and discover more STCs as well as build them to see what they can do.

Even the soldiers have personalities. Haldron-44 Stroika, as I said earlier, isn't a cold, unfeeling protagonist. He is characterized thoroughly by his faith in the Machine God, his determination blazing as he fights one impossible battle after another, leading his Skitarii maniples against overwhelming odds. Even as he manages to somehow overcome the Dark Mechanicum, he is then thrown into another battle against a full-strength Chaos Space Marines chapter, the Iron Warriors, who show up near the end. There are also a lot of twists and turns, particularly at the end where revelations shake the foundations of Stroika's beliefs as well as bringing into questions the modus operandi of the ruthless and uncaring priesthood of the Adeptus Mechanicus.

Tech-priest, the sequel to Skitarius, was even more awesome, and sort of impossible to talk about withpout revealing spoilers for Skitarius. However, I enjoyed Tech-priest tremendously, even more than its predecessor. The scale of war in Tech-priest has been elevated, and the Titan legions are finally seen in action with Warhound Titans smashing the battlefield in their quest to reconquer Velchanos Magna. The other half of the Explorator fleet has finally arrived and they set upon Velchanos Magna, the Iron Warriors and their Dark Mechanicum "allies" with a vengeance. However, six months into the fighting, Magos Omnid Torquora is still unable to conquer the corrupted forge world, no thanks to the tenacity and tactics of the Iron Warriors, led by the warsmith Idriss Krendl.

There are also many twists and turns, particularly with regards to the fate of Satzica Secundus, the Mechanicum fleet that pops up from the warp and the battles themselves. As I said, the war is now on an epic scale, having ramped up the ante set up by Skitarius, because the Titan legions come into play here. Furthermore, the forces of Cult Mechanicus are revealed here, from the renowned Kastelan robots to the Kataphron destroyers - powerful robot servitors armed with devastating weaponry but treated as expendable by their Tech-priest masters. Not that they mind, having been lobotomized into absolute loyalty. Even the Electro-priests make an appearance, but they were unnecessary and completely redundant. I would have preferred to see them in battle against the Chaos Space Marines and Dark Mechanicum, not squabbling in space aboard Magos Torquora's cruiser. Sigh.

Stroika returns in this book, which makes me happy, and the climax and ending battles made for an extremely fun read, and while I won't spoil the outcome, I will say that I was very satisfied with the ending and the way things concluded. It brought a huge smile to my face, particularly as I savored the final few pages. Who won, I won't say, but readers who love the Mechanicum will probably enjoy the novel and its ending as much as I do. There are also questions to the morality and the thought processes of the Adeptus Mechanicus as Magos Torquora develops as a character and eventually turns out to be a pretty cool guy who challenges the rigidly set beliefs of the Martian priesthood and develops his own answers and conclusions to an otherwise backward Mechanicus society. I really like all those questions and conclusions, they sparked quite the inspiration in me.

Needless to say, this inspired me to write War Convocation, a pretty dumb fanfiction so far, but I also relied on the Skitarii and Cult Mechanicus codices to write it. They had some pretty awesome accounts there.

I'll do a review on the other books next. The Mars trilogy will be last as I haven't read them, having just gotten Priest of Mars shipped to me yesterday. I am in the midst of reading other books such as a Japanese light novel and a Starfist novel by David Sherman and Dan Cragg (though the series have been sadly discontinued because of the publisher), so it will take a while. In the meantime, please look forward to reviews on Titanicus, Mechanicum and Knights of the Imperium.

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