Review: Throneworld by Guy Haley

Posted by DarkChaplain at 5/08/2016
A new threat arises on Holy Terra – the eldar, attacking the Imperial Palace from beneath. And in the depths of space, an unlikely alliance discovers a secret that might save the Imperium from the marauding orks. But can they survive long enough to tell anyone?

The Imperium’s situation has never been more grim – an ork attack moon hangs over Terra, and ork armadas ravage human space. To make matters even worse, eldar strike at the heart of the Imperial Palace, forcing humanity’s defenders to fight on two fronts at once. Though it seems nothing can stop the orks – neither brute force, science, nor faith – an unlikely alliance in the furthest reaches of space uncovers the first clue how to defeat the greenskins. The Adeptus Astartes now face an almost impossible task - taking news of this discovery back to Terra through a galaxy teeming with orks.
Throneworld ties with The Last Wall for my season favorite to date. This is down to its high focus on Terra, as the title suggests, and with it all the politcs and scheming that make this series shine. It also picked up a few plot points from earlier installments that I thought had fallen by the wayside, or been resolved off-screen.

The Story:
"A new threat arises on Holy Terra – the eldar, attacking the Imperial Palace from beneath. And in the depths of space, an unlikely alliance discovers a secret that might save the Imperium from the marauding orks. But can they survive long enough to tell anyone?

The Imperium’s situation has never been more grim – an ork attack moon hangs over Terra, and ork armadas ravage human space. To make matters even worse, eldar strike at the heart of the Imperial Palace, forcing humanity’s defenders to fight on two fronts at once. Though it seems nothing can stop the orks – neither brute force, science, nor faith – an unlikely alliance in the furthest reaches of space uncovers the first clue how to defeat the greenskins. The Adeptus Astartes now face an almost impossible task - taking news of this discovery back to Terra through a galaxy teeming with orks."

The Review
First off, I have to say that the cover art is somewhat misleading. The Ulthwé Farseer depicted may or may not appear (depending on the artist's intent; it does not fully match previous art of the character that did appear in the book), and the Eldar's involvement in Throneworld is relatively slim, if impactful, full of flavor and answering some questions I know many readers had so far. Where are the Adeptus Custodes? What are they doing? Is nobody concerned about the Emperor's well-being (or whatever you'd call it, considering he is entombed atop his Golden Throne)? We get glimpses of all of these points, and I was satisfied with them, and the Eldar's appearance.

A point of contention on fan forums has been the way the Custodes have been hit by the Worf Effect. I see where they are coming from, but didn't feel like it was undeserved. Faced by a Harlequin Shadowseer and a Death Jester, and surprised at that, they didn't fare too badly, and the whole scene just worked for me. It highlighted the sheer arrogance and superiority complex of the Eldar magnificently, and showcased how different these Custodes are from their Heresy counterparts. They are isolated, away from the courts of Terra, only concerned with the Emperor. They also felt diminished from the proud lions of war we saw in the Horus Heresy series.

It added to the decadent feel of the Imperium at large, and Terra in particular. Mankind might have been at peace for long centuries, but their golden age is over. Things have changed significantly, yet not so much as in the 41st Millennium. They still pretend and delude themselves here.

Besides these early scenes, we get to see the Last Wall in action, soon after the failure of the Proletarian Crusade. They make to assault the Attack Moon above Terra, which results in some glorious action scenes and even the big boss himself gets his first outing since volume one.
Throughout it all, we see Koorland's relationship with his fellow Chapter Masters grow, even in unexpected ways. It was a joy to read, especially for the unexpected little bits strewn throughout.

The Last Wall's arrival at Terra throws the Senatorum into an uproar, even scares the High Lords. But all of it is played off in such a wonderful way, including celebrations of the heroic Chapters and underhanded insults by the Lord Guilliman, that my hatred for the High Lords has only risen further.
Following Chapter Masters Koorland and Thane around the celebrations and politicking, watching their growing frustration with the High Lords and the whole situation, was impressive, and I had various scenes play inside my head for a while.

These scenes on Terra are the strongest parts of the High Lords plotlines so far. They set the tone for escalations to come, and confront the sons of Dorn with the harsh reality of not only having to confront the Orks, but also Terra itself.

Meanwhile, the situation on Mars escalates at last, with the Red Haven cell of assassins deplayed multiple books ago coming into action. I loved the infiltration scenes, and the techno-cruelty of the Adeptus Mechanicus. This plotline will be exploding soon, and I thought the author did a great job spreading oil all over the red sands of Mars.

The other big plotline focuses on Warsmith Kalkator of the Iron Warriors, who was introduced in The Last Wall, and will seemingly feature in future books as well. Last time he was facing the Orks while being hounded by the Black Templars. These Templars finally enter the stage personally, led by Dreadnought-Marshal Magneric. Magneric has a history with Kalkator, and indeed, his whole Crusade comes down to having been friends with the Warsmith until the outbreak of the Heresy.

As the marketing blurb already spoiled, the two factions, Iron Warriors and Black Templars, are forced to ally temporarily to fend off the Orks and avoid destruction. I saw a lot of outcry about this one, even before the book was released, solely on the basis of how the marketing department over at Black Library tried to shock people into picking the book up.

Things aren't as straightforward as one might think here. It is an alliance of circumstance and necessity, uneasy to the very core, and only held together by the Iron Warriors' survival instincts and the honor of the Templars. The relationship between the two leaders also plays a big part, and we get to see them trading verbal blows all throughout.

In fact, these debates are the highlight of this string of events. They argue about the nature of the Emperor, man or god, the Black Templars' adoption of the Imperial Creed while throwing away the Imperial Truth. Kalkator even draws parallels to Lorgar's chastisement by the Emperor (see: The First Heretic), while Magneric quickly becomes invested in trying to save Kalkator from the abyss of treachery - or at least his soul - by repenting and converting to the Templars' faith.
It presents the iron-hard pragmatism of the Iron Warriors, embodied by Kalkator, facing off against the powerful faith of the crusading sons of Sigismund. On top of that, we even get to see how their fanaticism and faith can impact the flow of battle.

One of my favorite quotes from the book is the following:
‘I am not going to convert to your pathetic creed, Magneric. For if I cannot trust a man who lies, I trust a god who does so even less.’

It does a fantastic job highlighting the Emperor's paradox, and the hypocrisy of the Imperial Creed, which is once again mirrored by Ecclesiarch Mesring back on Terra. His role in future novels will be interesting to follow indeed!

But at the end of it all, Haley's passion for the Black Templars is showing. After reading his Space Marine Battles stories about them, soon to be collected in Crusaders of Dorn, I was expecting no less from him. There are subtle differences between both eras' Black Templars, but they both share the fanaticism and faith that they are known for. It was also cool to see Haley giving the spotlight to a Dreadnought once again, after the glorious audio drama The Glorious Tomb, which is easily one of my favorite audios produced by Black Library to date. What I'm saying is: He's got the subject matter down really well by now, and was the logical choice for this plotline.

The Beast Arises is at a very high point as of this installment. Events are in full motion, and allegiances are shifting. There are many clues as to the future, but for the time being, I am happy with the present depicted in Throneworld. It is another stellar entry in the series, and prepares the series for the next big boom.

Throneworld on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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