Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sons of Dorn by Chris Roberson

When this blog was still just beginning and brand new, I reviewed a novel by Chris Roberson, Book of Secrets. It had just come out from brand-new imprint Angry Robot Books, and was one of the first ARC copies of a book I had ever received. I was very excited, dove into it, and loved it up until the very end, where I felt it lost a bit of its luster from an ending that didn’t cut it for me. That said, I loved the journey, and really wanted to give Roberson another try. I had a copy of another of his novels, Dawn of War II, but it was packed up, and I never got around to reading it, but when his latest book came in the mail, I knew it was time to check out this author again.

On a backwater planet, a three-sided war is being fought. Yet, right in the middle of the conflict, Space Marines drop down from the sky, take a couple thousand youths, and depart. The Imperial Fists were on a recruiting mission. Among those picked out are Zatori Zan, Taloc s’Tonan, and Jean-Robur du Queste, three young men from three different sides of the war. Yet, as people are gradually weeded out by the recruitment process, these three continue to remain. When they are called to defend civilians on the planet Vernalis, they answer the call. But can they withstand the combined forces of the Roaring Blades Traitor Guard, the Emporer’s Children Chaos Marines, and a host of daemons?

This book begins with the waging of war on their home planet, then flows into the training of a space marine, before we are given the epic warfare we seek. Roberson does a very good job of laying down the characters and setting up the conflict, before dumping everyone in the training regime, where we see the brutality of what it takes to be a Space Marine. The action scenes are spot on, if a little over-drawn-out at times, but Roberson excels at his characterization. His characters never act or speak in a way that didn’t fit who they were.

Once again, I find the ending left a little to be asked for. How things played out for our three main characters, as well as for the host of minor ones, felt a little too convenient at times, along with two back-to-back instances of people showing up at the exact perfect moment. While this is the first book in a new series, and killing off your main characters wouldn’t be a wise choice, things just seemed to work out a little too well for realism’s sake.

All-in-all, though, this is a book worth reading. I had fun with it. It wasn’t great, but it was good, and there are far worse things than that. I have a feeling that Roberson will present us with a good series to come. I hope that he steps away from the excessive far-too-convenient moments, or at least tame them down a bit, but I also hope that he sticks with his work on characterization. I felt that, with Sons of Dorn, Roberson distanced himself from most of the other authors of Warhammer 40,000 in creating some of the most fully fleshed-out characters I’ve seen out of Warhammer 40,000. This was a welcome change to the seeming over-reliance on occasion to characters that are fun but lack real depth. Roberson has set up a good start to what I think can be a great series.

(Note: While Sons of Dorn receives the same score as Book of Secrets did, two things should be kept in mind. First, I was very lenient in early reviews, and gave much higher grades than I perhaps should have, as I was still getting my feet under me. Second, the recent new rules for the grade scale (seen on the left) give what at first seems a far harsher score, but I think a much more honest one that makes it easier to pick a good book.)


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