The cruelty of the Imperium & Master of Mankind

Aaron Dembski-Bowden is my favourite Warhammer author. I probably don’t need to say that he’s been something of an influence on certain projects of mine, I think everyone who’s wanted to build and paint Night Lords in the past decade owes at least a little bit of that to him. I do want to say that his novels, from the tone and mood of his stories to thematic elements and especially the varied cast of characters, are some of my absolute favourite parts of this expansive setting.

While I don’t read nearly as much as I used to, his novels are something that I continue to look forward to every time one is announced. The Night Lords Trilogy rekindled my love for Chaos Space Marines as a faction and solidified Nostramo’s bastard children as my favourite of the Legions (World Eaters are a close second), and his Horus Heresy novels, ‘The First Heretic’ and ‘Betrayer’, are both highlights of the series, and its characters are of some of my favourite in the setting.

With the announcement of Echos of Eternity, I wanted to finally read through Master of Mankind before beginning the Siege of Terra series, and while I was knew I’d enjoy it, I wasn’t expecting to find so much to love. The characters are all fantastic and compelling, Aaron Dembski-Bowden continues to write gripping action scenes, and some of the locations visited were awe-inspiring. My favourite aspect of the novel is the tone/mood. There’s this fantastic growing sense of dread as the story progresses that I couldn’t get enough of. We see the cost of the most desperate measures being enacted, and the horror of realizing that the cruelty of the Imperium was built into its very foundation. It’s something that is present in all his novels, a background radiation of lost greatness and decay, of always being just one step from annihilation. It gives me the same sense of hopelessness, mystery and melancholy that works like Pathologic 2, Dark Souls and Berserk can inspire, and I love it.

The star of this novel, for me, is Dominion Zephon of the Blood Angels Legion. In a varied cast of Custodes, Sisters of Silence and the Emperor himself, I wasn’t expecting the lone Space Marine to be my favourite. I plan to go more into detail about him in another post, but suffice to say he brings a lot of heart to the story, and can’t wait to see him again during the Siege of Terra, standing with his Primarch.

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