Even though the Imperium of man is a mighty war machine, it is fighting a war of attrition which it cannot win. It might have the resources when it comes to soldiers and the materials it requires to supply its armies with weapons, but so much can no longer be replaced. Every time a ship is lost, or a Titan, or even a space marine, they can not always be replaced. So much knowledge was lost during the age of darkness, and in spite of the best efforts of the Adeptus Mechanicus, they can't do much, but hope to find old relics from the Golden Age.
Magos Kotov knows everything about loss, having lost several of his worlds to various threats, be it Xenos attacks or the Ruiounus Powers. His enemies are moving against him, hoping to usurp his remaining holdings, forcing him to make a desperate gamble. Kotov has an ace up his sleeve, the Speranza, a vast ship from the Golden Age, which was discovered on one of his worlds. The Speranza alone won't be enough to save him so Kotov plans to gather a fleet and travel through the Scar, a rift in space. The Scar has proved impregnable to scanning, and most ships trying to pass through it are simply torn apart. For Kotov, it would all be worth it to find the Breath of the Gods, a long lost artefact.
Much has changed, but one thing remains true in the history of man: the powerful move up by climbing on the backs of the poor. Abrehem Locke is in a bar with some fellow workers when the Collarmen arrives, and they find themselves press ganged into service aboard the Speranza. Having just lost the our flexible working hours, I'm a bit grumpy about my work right now, but at least I don't work inhuman hours in a toxic environment. My employer provides bread and various snacks for breakfast, Abrehem Locke is served a tasteless gruel. Maybe I shouldn't complain.
Anyway, a mighty fleet is assembled, and a fraction of the bulk of the Speranza is filled with soldiers, and even some titans. Nothing is left to chance, the best navigators and cartographers are found, if the Emperor wills it, they will succeed.
Priests of Mars is the start of something epic, and I'm not saying the foundation itself is not great. There are so many interesting characters introduced I barely know where to start. The humble and pragmatic Abrehem Locke with his affinity with machines, and his loyalty to his friends, is probably my favourite. There are also quite a few Adeptus Mechanicus who are a lot of fun. Usually they are more supporting cast, but now they get to be more than just sidekicks. Magos Dahan for instance is a vital member of the crew, he is in charge of of the skitarii, the fighting force of the Adeptus Machanicus, and he has devoted his existence to studying war. He is quite a scary chap, with some pretty awesome enhancements.
Dahan was a killing machine, a mathematician do death.I could go on for a while, but I will stop here, as Graham McNeill does a much better job than me introducing his characters. It's worth mentioning how well written they are, they all feel very much alive and real, with defined, and genuine, personalities. A fine feat to accomplish in a limited amount of time.
Graham McNeill once again ticks all the boxes with Priests of Mars. It's a book which gives you right sense of wonder and amazement, but at the same time you can't help feel a little bit of despair for the fate of mankind, how far we have fallen. Add nail biting suspense and high octane fighting to the mix and we have everything we need for a book you really don't want to put down. I can't wait to see what comes next.
Priests of Mars weighs in at 320 pages, and is published by Black Library. You have to wait until August 2012 to read it.