In the wake of the Dropsite Massacre at Isstvan V, the survivors of the Salamanders Legion searched long and hard for their fallen primarch, but to no avail. Little did they know that while Vulkan might have wished himself dead, he lives still… languishing in a hidden cell for the entertainment of a cruel gaoler, his brother Konrad Curze. Enduring a series of hellish tortures designed to break his body and spirit, Vulkan witnesses the depths of the Night Haunter’s depravity, but also discovers something else – a revelation that could change the course of the entire war.
Note: I attempt to avoid all spoilers in the review.
I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Vulkan Lives by Nick Kyme and it is finally here! In my experience Mr. Kyme is a hit or miss writer. He has written some truly brilliant works, and some that I just have a difficult time staying interested in.
Vulkan Lives falls somewhat in the middle of that grouping. In essence you have two different stories being told simultaneously, combined with flashbacks from multiple points in time. The story structure actually works really well for me. The challenge comes when I find one part of the book much more interesting than the other which admittedly, may be a result of pacing.
One storyline has Vulkan, the Primarch of the Salamanders Legion, who has gone missing after the events of the Istvaan V betrayal, and is now in the clutches of one of Konrad Curze, Primarch of The Night Lords. While the other portion of the book is dedicated to a rag-tag group of loyalist Space Marine survivors attempting to meet out justice against The Word Bearers and one of their Dark Apostles. Intermixed into the second story are points of view from several of The Word Bearers as well as a return of John Grammaticus, the “Perpetual” who we are starting to see more and more of as the Heresy unfolds.
We get to learn quite a bit about Vulkan and what makes him unique in this story. However, his narrative, which is told from a first person perspective, didn’t work very well for me. This requires you to step into the mind of a being that is, for all intents and purposes, a demi-god. This is not an easy thing to write, and for the most part I feel like there isn’t justice done to just how smart and god-like of a being Vulkan is supposed to be. His thoughts and feelings do not feel like those of a “higher being”. I think the choice to write this portion of the story from this perspective was probably not the way to go here. Though I see why it was done. There is a lot of time spent in isolation for Vulkan and it would be a difficult book to write from any perspective.
All of that said, I was definitely able to understand many of the motivations of Curze as well as Vulkan. The games Curze is playing with Vulkan throughout the novel are twisted and sometimes perhaps even a little silly, but I felt that by the end of this book, you would have a really good understanding of why some of the primarchs fall and others withstand that temptation.
The second interwoven story was for me, much more interesting and I found myself looking forward to these chapters. The characters here felt better fleshed out, or perhaps Mr. Kymes practice at writing space marines, just made these chapters feel more polished. There were some very interesting characters on both sides of the lines here, but in particular the Word Bearer Huntsman Narek, who has very different motivations than some of his brothers is one to watch.
John Grammaticus also plays a large role in the story and I am genuinely curious to see where they (Black Library) are going with him as a character.
Looking at the wider picture however, I felt like we have seen many of these characters before. The good guys are pretty good. The bad guys are pretty bad. The Dark Apostle is typical of the moustache twisting villain we have seen all too often. He falls into the standard “I will betray my master when I have the power!” camp of bad guys. There was nothing new there. There are several pretty large reveals, and as is typical of a good Horus Heresy novel, for each answer given, doors were opened to more questions.
While I wouldn’t rate this novel at the top of my list of Horus Heresy books, it certainly isn’t at the bottom either. It sits squarely in the middle for me. The interesting thing here is that it is an important novel in the series as well. We get to find out the answers to some long untold mysteries here, and that in itself is worth the read!
3 out of 5 Stars.