Sunday, April 18, 2010

Flesh and Iron by Henry Zou

NOTE: Flesh and Iron was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by the Black Library

After the excitement that was built with Emperor’s Mercy last year, which earned him a Top 15 of 2009 spot, and the cliffhanger ending for one of the main characters, I couldn’t wait to dive into the sequel and see what was in store. Thus, I was a little disappointed to find out that the second novel in Zou’s Bastion Wars series was not a sequel, but a prequel novel. However, still excited, I dove into Flesh and Iron.

On Solo-Bastón, a local insurgency led by a group known as the Dos Pares is attacking the Imperial cities, and the Imperial Guard is called in to deal with the situation. However, Solo-Bastón has very little Imperial presence, and the insurgency is able to dig in and set up the best circumstances for their war. It is up to Colonel Baeder and the 31st Riverine to take a key gun emplacement and let the rest of the Imperial Army get into the mainland and root out the rest of the forces. However, as darker undersides to the fight begin to rise, the question of which side is right becomes murky.

The first novel in Zou’s series was very much in the vein of Inquisition novels, so it was a bit of a jump in the second to have what basically amounts to an Imperial Guard novel. However, Zou shows that he is just as adept at this segment of the Warhammer 40,000 milieu as with the Inquisition. He creates characters that feel very much alive, and he doesn’t just give one side. We see human characters fighting for both causes, and especially towards the end he drums up some substantial questioning of who is in the right, and the effects of corruption on those in power.

I couldn’t help feeling that this one was a little less engaging than Emperor’s Mercy in some way, but I couldn’t point to a cause of this. The action was hard and fast, and it didn’t let up. The only major issue I had was that the main storyline ended 100 pages before the novel did. The book kept on from there, in effect using the last 100 pages to tie this novel into the previous one and throwing twists at the characters. While that isn’t bad, the person who picks this up without reading the first book may not get much out of the end.

Pick up Flesh and Iron and it will be a fun ride. I wouldn’t suggest it quite as readily if you haven’t read Emperor’s Mercy, but I still think it would be enjoyable. One of the top Imperial Guard novels.


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