The Grey Knights are a fierce, demon-hunting group of Space Marines that operate mostly in the shadows, many members of the Imperium having no clue of their existence. They are some of the most skilled warriors in the galaxy, and yet even they will be challenged like never before by an ancient deamon lord, Ghagatuloth, now coming out of his banishment out of a thousand years and stronger than ever.
I confess that this is the first Warhammer 40k book I’ve ever read. Sure, I’ve known of the series for a long time, but it’s one of those things where you know you should read or watch something because you’d probably like it, but maybe the universe surrounding it is so ginormously huge it seems impossible to even know where to begin to start… So your lazy streak comes out, you vow to read/watch whatever it is next year for sure, and you go to watch some short anime with like 13 episodes. Oh, procrastination. How I love thee.
Truth be told I probably still would not have read any Warhammer 40k book by now if it wasn’t for me getting the first installment of the Grey Knights trilogy, the book I’m reviewing now, this last Christmas. What can I say? Getting it for free helped. And DAMN, was that an awesome Christmas present. Better than the snuggie I got from my aunt, that’s for sure.
What I didn’t realize before going into Grey Knights was just how horror based it would be. The entire first chapter, as well as a good portion of the climax of the book, could absolutely be considered straight up horror, with some of the imagery and descriptions being downright creepy. This is an amazing surprise considering I thought a lot of it would be action fluff, but no – instead what I got was some of the darkest writing I’ve laid my eyes on for awhile.
However, that doesn’t mean the book was completely lacking in action – far from it. In fact, the majority of these horror parts I just mentioned combined with badass fighting, with gruesome descriptions of the heavy amounts of gore and blood we were treated to. I had a crystal clear description of every battle that transpired, and that’s something you can’t find every day with a fantasy novel.
The magnificent writing didn’t extend to just the horror and fighting, either – this was a consistent thing for every part, every segment, of Grey Knights. Environments felt so real I never had any difficulty making a mental image of them in my head, even if many of these locations are somewhat similar and can be summed up in a few general words: Lifeless, dirty and sad. This isn’t to say that the books lacks in creativity, per se, but just that if you finish that chapter thinking that now that you’ve moved on from that world, you’re going to get some vibrant, rich, luscious world next, you’re pretty damn far off.
Characters were pretty good, though far from Grey Knights‘s strongest point. Alaric was a decent enough character with some depth, but was also overall fairly generic as the stereotypical young character who doesn’t think he’s as capable as his elders but still wants to prove himself regardless. Ligeia is by far the most interesting character we’re treated to throughout the course of the whole book, but it probably won’t seem that way until a very surprising twist right at the end that really makes you a whole lot more sympathetic to her character – until then, she just sort of seems like a pretentious, bitchy know-it-all (of course, the twist having to do with her character doesn’t exactly contradict that belief, it just makes me a bit more all right with it).
As far as whether or not Grey Knights is a good first Warhammer 40k book, I would say so, even if there were still SO many references crammed into this thing that it left me reeling at times, wondering the details of some awesome-sounding other story, but, well, I have to read Warhammer 40k book #22 to get the full scoop on that tale. For how much lore is involved in this universe, however, I think they did a pretty good job of covering everything that was important at least as far as the Grey Knights were concerned; I can’t imagine how much they didn’t cover about certain other factions like the Space Marines, but that’s to be expected – they couldn’t turn it into a 40k encyclopedia, after all.
Would I recommend this? Absolutely. It’s dark enough to hold your interest if you’re looking for something a bit more intense, but with how much action is in it it’ll also satisfy your desire for an action-filled adventure. You shouldn’t read it if you want a book brimming with character development, however, because this isn’t your average “character novel with action thrown in” – it’s more of an “action novel with some characters thrown in”, but that’s actually a refreshing change from what I usually read. Add all that to the fact that it’s Warhammer 40k newbie friendly and, well, I know what you should look for during your next stop to the bookstore, folks.