Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review - The Gildar Rift


Reviewed by Dave Millest

The Gildar Rift by Sarah Cawkwell

When the ancient warship Wolf of Fenris emerges from the warp, Imperial forces find that it has been overrun by the dreaded Red Corsairs. However, this is no mere raiding party – Huron Blackheart and his entire renegade fleet soon follow, intent on conquering the Gildar Rift and tightening their grip on the sector. Lance batteries and torpedo salvos burn fiery contrails through the void, and only Captain Arrun of the Silver Skulls Space Marine Chapter can halt the renegades’ advance. The fate of the Rift will not be decided in the heavens but on the surface of Gildar Secundus below.


The Gildar Rift is one of the latest novel in the Space Marines Battles series. This novel is written by Sarah Cawkwell and prior to this novel I had not read any other BL works by her, or at least not knowingly, and I as such I went in with an open mind and was far from disappointed by what I found. In the Gildar Rift The Silver Skulls Space Marines have taken it upon themselves to patrol the Gildar Rift to repel the ever present xenos threat. The Silver Skulls differ from the other chapters by being very superstitious. They also have a number of Powerful psykers, Prognosticators, who are consulted before important decisions to try and divine the outcome before the course of action is followed. I liked this as in some cases it seemed that some officers would even ask for their blessing before even reloading their bolter!!

Captain Daerys Arrun is in charge of the fleet assigned to protecting the Gildar Drift, and has moved from his flagship to the Dread Argent to oversee a bold and controversial experiment. The Dread Argent might not be a flagship, but it is still a formidable engine of destruction, which is why when they receive a distress call from The Wolf of Fenris Daerys Arrun feels confident they can assist the Space Wolves. A small team is assembled to board the friendly spaceship to determine what is going on, but it's assumed the situation is hostile. Nothing can prepare them for what they find on board. The arch-enemy have launched an attack on the system with the Wolf of Fenris being the bait which springs the trap. The Silver Skulls find themselves in dire straits both in space and down on the planet. Every move they make has been foreseen by the insane, but brilliant traitor, Huron Blackheart. Fury grips Daerys Arrun as he watches his brothers fall to the traitorous Red Corsairs. The Silver Skulls ranks are thin enough already and they cannot afford to lose more, but more importantly they cannot let the system fall to the arch enemy.

Like with everything before things can get better they have to become worse. In this case Sarah Cawkwell certainly delivers on disasters, and things get so very bad it almost hurts to read. OK so it does feel forced in one or two places, but that’s the nature of compacting major events in to small novels, but when accompanied by explanations of why the space marines are helpless to act it does feel a bit odd, but not out of place.

Sarah Cawkwell does a very good job in raising the stakes and building up suspense and her work with the characters emotions mean that you begin to share captain Daerys Arrun's pain every time one of his men die. The Gildar Rift is, from start to finish, an intense read with a lot of fighting. I also liked the ship to ship battles as their immobility makes those battles a great juxtaposition to the fluid ground fighting. The whole novel and battle pretty much boils down to how much punishment your ship and your men can take! It might sound boring but it's actually pretty exciting, and you can feel the ship tremble from the impact of the enemy's missiles. Down on the planet the fighting is more brutal and personal with The Silver Skulls are facing a horde of cultists and Red Corsairs and I feel that Sarah Cawkwell does a good job describing the mayhem and it feels convincing with a quick pace.

The Gildar Rift was a solid delivery from Sarah Cawkwell and is packed full of the right ingredients to please even me! The underlying plot device (don't want to spoil the whole point of the book) made things interesting and felt like a fresh idea. The only issue I have with it is that when you read the plot device the marine's constantly worry it’s the wrong thing to do and is heresy but for me it just makes me think that actually its already that something that happens in other Adeptus branches within the imperium so it isn’t that wrong - cryptic I know but once you’ve read it you’ll understand - or email me if you don’t know what I mean. If, like me, you expect a grim read, non-stop action, and religious zealots you have found the right book. I think it's fair to say The Gildar Rift was an excellent first outing for the Silver Skulls and Sarah Cawkwell but it is most definitely setting the stage for a second novel. Without about The Silver Skulls suffer from a bloodied nose, and I would like to see them take the war to the Red Corsairs, giving them the initiative and the first strike. The plot and characters as well as the potential for more novels gets a solid 5 stars from me for this newest of 40k writers.

Dave Millest reviews lots of sci fi books and you can find his blog here.

1 comments:

Itchy said...

Have you read any of the other Space Marine battles books? I'd like to get your take on any that you have read.

I've read Helsreach and Rynn's World. Helsreach was excellent. Rynn's World was alright. The difference for me? I felt like I had more insight into the Black Templars when I finished Helsreach. Much less so with the Crimson Fists after Rynn's World. Don't misunderstand; I like the bolters, chainswords, and plasma cannons just as much as the next guy. More importantly however, I like to learn a bit more about the Chapter featured in the book.

I guess all that is my long winded way of asking whether or not you feel like you know the Silver Skulls (or Red Corsairs for that matter) better than you did before?

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