Title: The Devastation of Baal
Author: Guy Haley
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 30 Nov. 2017
Genre: Science Fiction/War
“Baal is besieged! The alien horror of Hive Fleet Leviathan has reached the Blood Angels home world, and their entire existence is under threat. As the sons of Sanguinius gather, the battle for the fate of their bloodline begins…”
I was given a copy of The Devastation of Baal by NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I admit, when I put this book onto my Kobo to read I was a bit cautious, I have only encountered one book by Guy Haley before and it was in my ‘Did not Finish’ pile; I don’t have a review for the book (Dark Imperium) on the Eternal Bookcase as I got the book before I started doing reviews. I didn’t realise that The Devastation of Baal was written by Guy Haley until after I had requested it on NetGalley as the recommendation for the book came from Heretic Deb so the moment I saw it available on NetGalley, I requested. I shall go onto my reservations about Guy Haley later on in the review.
The premise of The Devastation of Baal is that the Tyranid force Hive Fleet Leviathan is on it’s way to the Blood Angels home world in order to have it’s revenge for various atrocities that the Blood Angels have caused it and to consume the region entirely. Commander Dante, Chapter Master of the Blood Angels chapter has called to all the Blood Angels successor chapters to help in the defence of Baal. Throw in some other complications along the way and the book has a really good plot-line. It’s clearly well thought out and has enough twists and turns to keep the reader on their toes. A lot of the action is fast paced and fitting for the war-time setting of the Warhammer 40k Universe, with enough humourous tension between some characters thrown in to keep things enjoyable.
Where Guy Haley shines is in his ability to write enjoyable dialogue. I found the pages that focused on characters interactions with one another fly by. I had moments where I smiled, eye-rolled and cursed characters for what they said and did to one another. It was a real treat for me as a reader to get such a wonderful feeling of personality from so many different Space Marines; I especially found myself enjoying world-weary Dante and strangely enough the very arrogant Erwin of the Angels Excelsis sucessor chapter. The ending of the book also feels very satisfying – I won’t spoil it for any that have not yet read the book – it’s very worthwhile reading The Devastation of Baal until it’s conclusion.
Sadly, it’s not all high praise for The Devastation of Baal and at times the only reason I pushed myself to keep going was because my last Black Library read from Black Library ended in DNF (Did not Finish) and I didn’t want to feel like a trend was starting! As mentioned above, I couldn’t finish Dark Imperium and I came close to giving up on The Devastation of Baal for the same reason. Guy Haley touches upon language that I find difficult to cope with. The first example that I can come up with off the top of my head is using the word ‘athwart’ while not a complicated word, it’s not one that I am used to coming across with in modern fiction. Alone, it wouldn’t necessarily be a problem but this ‘complex’ language is rampant throughout the descriptive sections of The Devastation of Baal and I found some of the descriptions so jarring that I started to skim-read sections of the book; something I rarely do but if I hadn’t, I’d never have gotten to the satisfying conclusion. Guy Haley loves similes and metaphors – these don’t always add to what he is trying to tell the reader and I found in a lot of cases they just seemed to add unnecessary bloat paragraphs.
Not only was this an issue for me, I also found the placement of a lot of the descriptions pace-killing. Imagine, you’re in the middle of a wonderful dialogue between remarkably well written characters and then a two page description of something that is mentioned in conversation is given, then the conversation picks up again from where it left off. I found this so out-of-place when it happened that I had to go back a few pages to remember that was being talked about.
I don’t want to be all doom and gloom about The Devastation of Baal, because I did ultimately enjoy it and am keen to look into other books about the Blood Angels to see if I can have some of these blanks filled in. I’m eager to explore some of the characters who take centre stage further in other offerings by Black Library because of this book. Yet I also feel like there was something very ‘off’ about The Devastation of Baal. The undertaking of such a massive book as this is no doubt daunting; there are so many characters and Space Marine chapters that a lot of them just blur and meld into one. With the exception of the Flesh Tearers chapter, who shined so fantastically bright. They were a real pleasure to read about and like the Blood Angels themselves, I am eager to learn more about them and their trials.
I found that elements were over described and yet there were fundamentally important parts of the Blood Angels chapter that made me scratch my head and left me wondering what they meant. I am reasonably well versed in 40k and would say that my knowledge of the setting is pretty decent. I am however, less familiar with the Blood Angels other than knowing of a few key-phrases ‘Red Thirst’ and ‘Black Rage’ are common words but I don’t really understand what they are and even after reading The Devastation of Baal and these two things being mentioned a lot I am still none-the-wiser. For a writer that likes to describe things, I’d have thought these fundamental aspects would have been made clear? I don’t think this is helped due to other aspects already touched upon in the review adding confusion to the novel as a whole.
The events of The Devastation of Baal are monumental. The scale of what has been tackled within is phenomenal and I can only applaud Guy Haley for his attempts. Do I feel they were successful? Not entirely. I felt the pacing was somewhat disjointed and didn’t quite get the time scale of things until it being stated towards the end of the novel. I didn’t quite feel the desperate emotion that I think such a dire situation would have induced and I feel for a Tyranid vs Space Marine book Warriors of Ultramar did a more successful job; both these books are part way through a ‘series’ featuring the characters of which neither I’d read the previous instalments for.
I think readers of The Devastation of Baal might get more out of it if they’re a bit more clued-into the workings of the Blood Angels chapter and if they’ve read other books featuring the main characters. Especially Mephiston and Dante, who I believe have more books written about them.
Seeing as I have mentioned Mephiston I do believe he was one of the weaker elements to The Devastation of Baal, partially because as an entry point being this book he just comes off as utterly bizarre compared to all the other Space Marines and I couldn’t make too much sense out of his story-arc. Again, I’d like to believe because of my lack of knowledge on previous events surrounding the Blood Angels. I understood the fundamentals of this side-story, but didn’t derive any deeper meaning from it which is unfortunate because the main plot and characterisations (I assume Mephiston is meant to be bizarre!) were really good.
Maybe The Devastation of Baal isn’t a good entry point into the Blood Angels story and understanding of the Chapter and I don’t think that this is helped due to the distinctive writing style that Guy Haley has and my thoughts towards it. But, if you’re more ‘up there’ in your knowledge with the Blood Angels then I’d recommend the book. As a reader new to the Chapter, I didn’t get as much out of it as I could have.