Review: DANTE by Guy Haley (Black Library)

haleyg-sml-danteThe history of the Blood Angels Chapter Master

Dante is Chapter Master of one of the noblest but most troubled Chapters of Space Marines in the Imperium: the Blood Angels. From the time of his birth in the rad-scarred wastes of Baal Secundus, he was destined for glory and strife. From his apotheosis to Scout, to the hive cities of Armageddon and the alien menace of the Cryptus system, Dante has waged war against all the enemies of the Imperium. He has witnessed the divine, and struggled against the darkness within all sons of Sanguinius. Longer lived than any other Chapter Master, this is his chronicle, his great and storied legend.

This is a really good novel. I hadn’t read any of the other novels in the Space Marine Legends series before this one (I have since, so keep an eye out for those reviews over the next couple of weeks), so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised, though, and Dante offers a glimpse into the life and ascension of the “oldest living Space Marine”, the Chapter Master of the perennial favourites, the Blood Angels.

Before I started reading this, I had been worried that the Space Marine Legends would basically be extended battle reports, with little in the way of character development or off-battlefield story. Haley quickly proved me wrong, however, as Dante is almost all character-focused. (Hurrah!) Alternating between the ‘present’ timeline of the WH40k universe and various stages of Dante’s earlier life, if offers a pretty complete picture of the man who would ultimately lead the sons of Sanguinius.

It has been a long time since I last read any background fluff based on the WH40k game, at least, anything not related to the Horus Heresy or various traitor legions (who I’m still most fond of, in terms of reading material). However, in the time since I have, Black Library has done a wonderful job of shifting perceptions of just how virtuous and pure the loyal legions (and, now, chapters) actual are. Each has its own secrets and struggles. For the Blood Angels, it’s the Red Thirst and Black Rage — echoes of Sanguinius’s brutal death at the Horus’s hands, and a defect in their gene-seed. Dante is the first novel I’ve read that deals with that in any substantial way, and I was pleased to see the Blood Angels as far more complex and nuanced than I have in the past. (I know, there have been plenty of novels about them — for example, the acclaimed trilogy by James Swallow — I just haven’t read any of them.)

It’s not necessary to know much (if anything) about the Blood Angels in order to enjoy this novel — Haley gives us so much information and detail about their practices and rituals, their characters and aspects, that you’ll come away with a pretty complete picture.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. I enjoyed it enough to make me eager to read the rest of the series, which currently includes: Cassius, Azrael, Shrike, Ragnar Blackmane, and Lemartes. Expect reviews of some of these in the next couple of weeks.

Haley’s writing is great throughout, and the novel never got bogged down — despite the relatively low amount of war in the story, the reader is never subjected to info-dumping, nor dull exposition. It makes for a very interesting, engaging whole. Definitely recommended for all fans of WH40k, and a must-read for all fans of the Blood Angels.

*

Guy Haley’s Dante is published by Black Library.

Also on CR: Interview with Guy Haley (2015); Reviews of Pharos, The Emperor’s Railroad

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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