The Chaos Space Marines of the Iron Warriors Legion have long been renowned as the masters of siege warfare, able to inflict devastating firepower and unimaginable cruelty upon their foes. On the world of Castellax, twisted Warsmith Andraaz builds his own empire even as a system-crushing ork Waaagh! approaches, and drives his own slaves ever harder to meet their production quotas and supply materiel for the Legion’s many warbands. Their walls are strong and their weapons ready, but how long can the planet hold out against the deadly greenskin invasion when whisperings of rebellion begin to pass between the Iron Warriors’ downtrodden vassals?
Having just read The Siege of Castellax, I am not really sure how to review it. The plot doesn't particularly center around any one character, but instead bounces between four or so characters that are each not particularly compelling as centers of attention for the story.
While The Siege of Castellax isn't a bad story, it isn't a necessarily great story as well. As mentioned in the preamble from Black Library, the book focuses around a massive Ork invasion of a planet held by The Iron Warriors. There are a few very interesting things brought forward with this tale of these Champions of Chaos. For example; the way in which The Iron Warriors refer to their slaves as "Flesh", was quite interesting. Use of this word really drove home the point of just how little value the chaos space marines placed upon their property.
In another, early chapter, the horrific torture and brutality which one of The Iron Warriors visits upon a new slave really demonstrates the brutality of the guys you are supposed to be rooting for. There are small references to things such as this, throughout the book which do indeed lend interesting detail to The Iron Warriors as a Chapter.
However, the overall plot of the story is nearly non-existent, until you are told what has transpired near the end. I found myself having to push through Chapters of this book in some cases. It was definitely not one of those "can't put it down" type of novels. By the end of the book, I had finally figured out who I was supposed to be rooting for, but I couldn't bring myself to care at that point.
C.L. Werner does draw some interesting visuals and is good at describing action sequences. There are some great battles described here. It felt like the way the story was written though was that ideas for locales of battles or action sequences were thought up, and then the story was written to draw characters into those scenes. While this makes for some interesting battles, it does not really help a solid and compelling tale.
It is hard to write for villains. I get that. But we have seen in other works of 40k fiction how it is possible to write compelling villains that you can be empathetic with and root for. Unfortunately, this just isn't one of those cases. I really do like The Iron Warriors as a Legion and I was looking forward to being inspired by this book.
One of my measures of 40k fiction, and in particular the Space Marines Battles Books, is this; Do I feel inspired to create this army on the table top after having read the story? In this case, sort of...
Rating: 3 out of 5