Thursday, July 16, 2009

Courage and Honour by Graham McNeill

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.



  1. I will say that if you are a Space Marine lover (and there's nothing wrong with that!), if you have never read any of the previous novels and are looking for action, or if you have read the rest of the series and want to continue following Uriel and Pasanius, this is a fine novel for you.

    However, if you are a Tau player looking for more background information, drop this book right now. It's not worth the money to buy it if you are looking for Tau background. The author describes the shortfallings of a pointless attack from a Cadre that isn't strong enough to hold a planet if even they were to capture it. And it goes downhill from there. Essentially, the Tau are there to provide exotic background and serve as a punching bag while the Ultramarines completely butcher them. For all the tactical mistakes the Tau make, it might as well be orks disguised as Fire Warriors fighting on Pavonis

    Again, if you like Space Marines, you will like this novel. If you like Tau, you will hate the novel. Simple as that.

  2. I guess I didn't expect huge amounts of detail on the Tau with this one. Going in, since I knew it was an Ultramarines book, I knew that the Space Marines would be the focus, so I got all the detail I thought I needed for the story to work excellently. If I was looking for a book on the Tau, I would look for a Tau book (like Fire Warrior by Simon Spurrier) rather than a Space Marines novel.

  3. I know it's not a book focussed on Tau, but since there's all of like 3 Tau books, I'll grab whatever story I can find. Space Marines have dozens of books, however, so it's easier for you guys :p

    And while there was an excellent amount of detail, it was the way the author made the Tau behave that's so infuriating. Almost all the Tau action goes against everything else that's ever been said by other Tau novels. It's like saying Space Marines decided to charge an Ork mob, even though the survival chances were extremely low and it gave little tactical advantage, but they do it just for the off chance of gaining glory and honour.