After my mixed review of the previous book in Graham McNeill's Ultramarines series, I was both hesitant and eager to see how his next journey into the saga would be. Would it be more of the action that dominated the last two-thirds of the book, or more of the slow, drawn out beginning? I am more than happy to report that it worked out wonderfully in this volume, mixing action with the plot better than The Killing Ground did.
After leaving the Eye of Terror, Uriel and Pasanius traveled to Salinas, where they fought the planets dark, twisted past. After a run-in with some higher powers in the Empire of Man, they returned, and finally headed back to the homeworld of the Ultramarines, heading for what they hoped would be a warm welcome.
That is where Courage and Honour picks up, with Uriel and Pasanius arriving home. After arriving there, the two space marines discover that they aren't as safe as they thought, with their chapter requiring them to undergo numerous tests to prove that they are without taint (even though this was also seemingly done last book as well). After these tests, Pasanius requires to do penance, and sits out the rest of the novel. Uriel leads the 4th Company back to a planet that had already conquered, in a desperate bid to protect the planet from invading Tau.
While I was disappointed about Pasanius' removal from the book, as I felt his interaction with Uriel was truly one of the best parts of the former novel, another sergeant, Learchus, does an okay job replacing him as a sidekick, flagging only in that the close history isn't there. The action in the novel never flags, and in this novel McNeill does a magnificent job of starting things off with lots of action, while using flashbacks to build the backstory, all done in clumps that are short and intriguing. The novel contains many secondary characters, including other space marines, imperial guard soldiers, as well as members of the Planetary Defence Force, that all feel very well fleshed out, that act believably, and can create emotional attachments.
I must say that, far from how I was after The Killing Ground, I absolutely cannot wait for the next Ultramarines novel. His books are getting better and better.