I must confess with some shame, that this is the first time I have read Brotherhood of the Snake. Although I have read most of his other Black Library novels (actually, maybe all of them) and some of his assorted Iron Snakes short stories, I have been remiss in getting round to this one. This is made all the more ironic by the fact that I have discussed Ithakas Asartes with the man himself and even suggested he team up with Graham McNeil to write a joint Astartes book! Nonetheless the reason for not getting round to this sooner is pure ‘ i just haven’t got round to it’ and there are no ulterior motives behind my hesitation.
So having finally picked the book up it was very comforting to instantly be absorbed by Abnetts descriptive style. This is Abnett at his prime, wonderfully depicting the minuatae of imperial life. As the denizens of Pythos (no one ever said Abnett was the most original at names) come under attack from the Dark Eldar. There is a fantastic sense of niavetey to the planets inhabitants. They are completely unprepared for these outside invaders and the arrival of the Astartes really drives home just how isoloated and backward the Pythosians are.
Few do Space Marines quite as well as Abnett, somewhat ironic seeing as they are by no means his forte. At once noble yet powerful, commanding yet human Dan really knows how to portray the Astartes. He bestows upon them personalities without them becoming charactitures (something many of his peers would do well to learn from) and makes them unique without diffusing their sense of being apart a breed apart from humans. (Something else I have discussed with Dan). Always a master of character writing, Priad is well rounded and feels like a real person.
The action is also well portrayed, with ScFi.com plaudit ‘he makes war so real that you want to duck’ well justified. Abnetts style is both action packed and descriptive and effortless to read. As with many of the BL books produced at the time the book is partly short stories setting the scene before a novella length final entry. This book does that better than most however and although there are an number of large engagements the main focus of the book is upon Priad and his rise to become sergeant of Squad Damocles and beyond. Abnett brings so many great ideas to the book as he always does and although his Iron Snakes may take some artistic liberites they are totally compelling and I really would like him to revisit the Marines of Ithaka at some point. He also manages to tie all the included narratives into one cohesive whole much more than most of these style of books have accomplished. This is a truly great read and it’s a shame that Black Library's releases these days aren’t more like it.