Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Killing Ground by Graham McNeill

Things got really busy both at work and at home around the Fourth of July holiday, thus the delay (sorry!) but I am back, with a brand new novel of the Ultramarines from the Warhammer 40,000 universe!

As I stated in my previous review of a Warhammer 40,000 novel, I had read some of the books that really focus on the space marines in the Warhammer 40,000 universe. However, I had never gotten around to Graham McNeill's Ultramarines series before. It was one of many established series that I was going to one day start by picking up an omnibus, but just wasn't on my radar screen yet. However, when I received my copy of The Killing Ground, I gave it a try, even though it was the middle of the series, and overall I am quite pleased.

After the events depicted in McNeill's The Ultramarines Omnibus, Uriel Ventris and his companion Pasanius are on their way back home to their chapter, having completed their Death Oath and fulfilling their task required to return from exile. Flying without aim, they crash on Salinas, along with a group of the Unfleshed, nightmare creatures transformed by the forces of Chaos, but innocent at heart. However, Salinas itself is a world of turmoil, and the arrival of two space marines only adds fuel to the fire.

After a very intriguing prologue, this novel hits a wall, and slows down incredibly. The pace seems to move down more than just a few notches, with lots of imagery, and some backstory for those of us new to the series. While the backstory inserted in this novel was helpful, and made this novel a great jump on point for those interested in joining the series without reading the back catalogue, it just felt like there had to be a better way to address it, instead of slowing the story to a crawl.

That said, once the story picks up, it really does, and the novel becomes stellar. All of the great storytelling I had come to expect from the other McNeill work I read (review) appeared. The action is fast, the plot is tight, and things fly along. All of the many threads of story are deftly woven together, and I came to really have to struggle to put this novel down. Uriel and Pasanius are characters that are really easy to care about, and their struggles are perfectly written.

I struggled on what to rate this, and decided on the higher 8 and not the lower 7, because, after this book picks up pace, it is excellent, and it really leaves me excited for the next book, Courage and Honour, which will be reviewed here in the not too distant future. Get through the beginning, and the rest will leave you begging for the sequel.


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