Book Review: Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

There are a lot of epic sieges depicted in fiction.

A few that spring to mind are:

The Siege of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954)

The Siege of Dros Delnoch in Legend, by David Gemmell (1984)

The Siege of Athens in The Last of the Amazons, by Steven Pressfield (2002)

And that’s just drawing from the popular fiction scifi/fantasy/hist-fic category; there are many more that, obviously, haven’t sprung to mind quick enough to sneak their way into this post. Those three in particular I like, though.

I can now add a fourth book to the list though, thanks to (finally getting around to reading) Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden.

Helsreach is published by Black Library, a division of Games Workshop, the British tabletop-gaming company. It’s one of an ever-increasing catalogue of books that adds backstory (sometimes referred to as “fluff” by tabletop gamers) to their games – in this case, namely, Warhammer 40000.

But you don’t have to be a fan of models, paints and complex rule-sets to enjoy the books. In fact, they stand-alone just as well, and if you’re a fan of military science-fiction, this one is definitely for you!

It concerns itself with the Third War of Armageddon, a devastating campaign against a world of the Imperium of Man (one of the principle viewpoint factions in 40K, as it’s called) by the Ork (space orc) tribes of Warlord Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka – a badass amongst badasses, basically.

More specifically, it’s about the defence of one city – Helsreach – by the Black Templars Space Marine Chapter.

Cue dramatic music and scenes of unparalleled combat and slaughter, all of it presented with characteristic Dembski-Bowden intelligence and pathos.

Warhammer 40K is essentially about warfare on an unimaginable scale, and that’s what Helsreach is like too – even though it depicts only a small theatre of a much larger conflict.

The characters come from all walks of Imperial life, from the (often petulant) Reclusiarch of the Black Templars, Grimaldus, to the (relatively) lowly Dockmaster Tomaz Maghernus. They’re all given significant time on the page as they try to deal with ever-increasingly desperate circumstances and the ever-diminishing prospect of survival.

Scenes of both action and dialogue are handled with equal ease, and the ending – though a little too neatly wrapped for my liking – is both satisfying and well-timed.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and as always (as a fan of Black Library) I’m looking forward to getting around to reading more of their stuff – there’s plenty to choose from, check it out:

Verdict: 4 stars (out of 5)


About ethanreilly

Ethan Reilly is an author and blogger who lives in Brisbane, Australia. Did he mention he blogs?
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One Response to Book Review: Helsreach by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Death of Integrity by Guy Haley | Ethan Reilly

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