Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 9 October 2021)
Series: Twice Dead King – Book One
Length: 11 hours and 22 minutes
My Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars
Intriguing new author Nate Crowley presents one of the most complex and fascinating Warhammer 40,000 novels I had the pleasure of reading, The Twice-Dead King: Ruin, an epic and thrilling novel that explores one of the most intriguing races in the canon, the Necrons.
I have been having a lot of fun listening to a bunch of awesome Warhammer 40,000 (Warhammer 40K) novels over the last year, with some great examples including Deathwatch: Shadowbreaker by Steve Parker, Kal Jerico: Sinner’s Bounty by Joshua Reynolds, Fire Made Flesh by Denny Flowers, and First and Only by Dan Abnett. While I have deeply enjoyed all these novels, I felt that it was time to go outside of the novels that typically focus on this universe’s human characters and instead read something with a more unique subject matter. As such, when I saw that The Twice-Dead King: Ruin had recently been released, I instantly grabbed a copy, and I am really glad that I did.
Ruin is the first novel in The Twice-Dead King series, which looks set to explore the Necrons and their place in the current Warhammer 40K universe. This was the second Warhammer 40K novel from author Nate Crowley, who previously released the intriguing Ork-centric novel, Ghazghkull Thraka: Prophet of the Waaagh!, as well as several short stories/novellas set in the universe. Crowley makes full use of his talent for getting into the mind of fictional aliens to create an excellent and enjoyable read that I had a wonderful time listening to.
In the chaotic and war-striven future of the 41st millennium, many powerful and dangerous races fight for domination and destruction. However, no race is more mysterious or feared than the immortal beings known as the Necrons. The Necrons are an ancient and ruthless race who, thousands of years ago, sacrificed their mortality and humanity to defeat a powerful enemy as well as death itself. Forced into thousands of years of hibernation after their great victory, the Necrons are now slowly awakening to reclaim their empire by destroying all life in the galaxy.
However, despite their intense belief in themselves, the Necrons are a dying race, gradually being whittled down by time, madness, and the unceasing tide of organic life they are forced to constantly fight against. None know this better that Oltyx, a bitter and resentful Necron Lord who has been banished to the wretched border world of Sedh. Once heir to the throne of a mighty and glorious dynasty, he now only has control of a small garrison of degraded warriors who are slowly dwindling under constant attacks from Ork raiders attempting to invade the Necron empire.
As Oltyx dreams about vengeance and reclaiming his birthright, he finds himself facing an immense threat that could spell the doom of his dynasty and the entire Necron race. The invading Orks are only the precursor of a larger and much more powerful enemy, one his small force has no chance of defeating. With no other option, Oltyx is forced to return to his dynasty’s crownworld and beg for reinforcements from the court who cast him out. However, his return uncovers something far more disturbing than he could have ever imagined. A twisted horror now lies within the heart of Oltyx’s dynasty, bringing only madness and bloodshed with it. To ensure his people’s survival, Oltyx must face the curse of the Necrons and the pure horror of a twice-dead king.
Ruin is an exceptional and captivating tie-in novel that perfectly combines an intriguing and addictive narrative with large amounts of Warhammer 40K lore and some great character work. This is a perfectly paced story that does an exceptional job introducing the complex setting and character and placing them into an intense and emotionally rich adventure. While the initial start of the book is a tad slow due to the necessity of throwing in so much Necron lore, it swiftly picks up speed and excitement within the first few chapters. I personally became really attached to this novel a couple of chapters in when the protagonist and point-of-view character, Oltyx, attempts to determine the best way to defend his planet against the Ork invaders, while also simultaneously mulling over the failures of his personal history. There was one amazing extended sequence that saw Oltyx attempting to analyse a vision from his past to come up with a perfect plan, while also watching a massive force of Orks approaching. This scene perfectly blended a fun Warhammer battle with alien history and a complex character moment, all set to a timer that was counting down to the start of combat. From there the story gets even more enjoyable, as after getting up close and personal with the real horrors of the Necrons, the protagonist discovers that there is a bigger danger approaching: humans. From there, Oltxyx is forced to journey back to his home planet to beg for help, but instead finds a secret more terrible and disturbing than he could ever imagine. After some severe lows, combined with a couple of family reunions of variable enjoyment, the story leads up to an impressive and epic conclusion, loaded with war, destruction and sacrifice. This satisfying and moving conclusion wraps up this leg of the story extremely well and treats the reader to some outstanding action sequences and some major emotional moments that will define the protagonist for the entire series. An overall brilliant and deeply memorable narrative, I powered through this cool book and loved every second of it.
Ruin was also a pretty impressive entry in the overall Warhammer 40K canon, especially as it contains an outstanding look at one of the franchises more unique races, the Necrons, who are extremely underrepresented in the extended fiction. Crowley has done a brilliant job here with Ruin, and I loved the distinctive and compelling Warhammer 40K story it contained. The author has made sure to load up this book with a ton of detail, information and settings unique to this massive franchise, and fans will no doubt love immersing themselves in this cool lore. Ruin also contains several massive and well-written battle sequences that will easily remind readers of the table-top games that this franchise is built around and which really increase the epic nature of this novel. The immense amount of somewhat more obscure lore may turn off readers new to Warhammer 40K fiction. However, I think that most new readers can probably follow along pretty well here, especially as Crowley has a very descriptive and accessible writing style, and Ruin proves to be an excellent and compelling introduction to the Necrons.
I was deeply impressed by how Crowley featured the Necrons in Ruin, especially as he provides a deep explanation of their history and personalities, while also making this somewhat aloof race extremely sympathetic. The Necrons are a very interesting race within the Warhammer 40K canon, with a look that can be best summed up as Ancient Egyptian Terminators. They also have a backstory that is somewhat similar to the Cybermen from Doctor Who, in that they are formally organic beings who were transplanted into metal bodies, with only a few members (mostly the former nobility) maintaining their personalities, memories and emotions. This makes them a very hard species to get a handle on, and most of their appearances in the expanded fiction feature them as cold antagonists. However, Crowley really went out of his way to showcase the deep and rich culture, history and personalities contained within this race, and the reader ends up getting an impressive and comprehensive look at them throughout Ruin.
This book contains so many intriguing and compelling details about the Necrons, and the reader gets a real crash-course, including why they gave up their humanity to become metallic monsters. Crowley attempts to cover every single detail about the Necron way of life in this book, and Ruin is filled with cool discussions about current Necron biology, how their components work, how they communicate, and what the mindset of these immortals truly are. The readers are left with a vision into the complex and hierarchical minds of this unique race, and you get some compelling insights into who they are and why they do what they do. In addition, Crowley really attempts to highlight just how tragic the Necrons really are as a race, with a deep and compelling look at what they truly gave up when they become the metal beings we all know. Crowley paints the Necrons as a dying race, despite the apparent immortality bestowed upon them, as the finite members are slowly being worn down by combat, disrepair, and madness. There is a particularly fascinating look at how the transition from flesh to metal has deeply impacted the psyche of many of its members, as some have been driven into a deep depression while others are turned into crazed cannibals. This fascinating and comprehensive examination helps to turn the Necrons into quite a sympathetic race throughout Ruin, and you end up rooting for them as the book progresses, even when they are fighting humans. While the Necrons have never been my favourite race/faction in the Warhammer 40K canon, I deeply appreciated seeing a novel from their point of view, and Crowley’s excellent writing has helped to alter my opinion about them. I must admit that it was extremely fun to see their perspective on the events of the Warhammer 40K universe, as well as their opinions about the other races inhabiting it (the protagonist makes a very intriguing comparison between Necrons and Space Marines that really sticks in the mind). This was a perfect Necron novel, and readers will come away with a whole new appreciate for their backstory and plight.
Another thing that I deeply enjoyed about Ruin was the complicated protagonist, Oltyx, a disgraced Necron noble who has been banished to a desolate and worthless frontier planet for his transgressions. At the start of Ruin, Oltyx is an angry and arrogant creature, weighed down by his bitterness and resentment, and is not a particularly fun character. However, as the story progresses, Crowley adds layer upon layer of complexity to him, using a mixture of flashbacks, personal insights, revelations, and alternate perspectives of his memories. This slowly turns him into a sympathetic and compelling figure, showing him as one of the few nobles to truly care about the future of his people, whole also exploring his concerns about the madness and apathy that could one day claim him. As the story progresses, and he reencounters the members of his family and has more visions of his past, Oltyx continues to evolve into a much more likable character, especially as he deals with great adversity and tragedy. This adversity gives him some great appreciation for his race, even the lower tiers, and he soon comes away a well-rounded figure with an interesting future ahead of him. This was an overall exceptional introduction to this character and Crowley has set up this figure up perfectly for the future entries in this series.
Aside from Oltyx proper, there were a couple of other fun figures I must highlight in this book. Five of these characters are actually part of Oltyx himself, as the protagonist has installed five subminds into his head in order to help him achieve his mission. These five subminds each provide different insights to a range of subjects, including doctrine, aliens, combat, strategy, and analytical analysis. The various subminds each have their own personalities, based on their design, and it is fun to see them interact with Oltyx in his head and with each other. While some of the subminds are focused on more than others, they prove to be an intriguing inclusion in the story, especially as they also grow and develop alongside Oltyx, especially once he comes to appreciate them more. The subminds also help compensate for the general lack of other side characters in the novel, which are a result of both isolated planets and the general lack of remaining sentience amongst the Necrons.
The other major side character I want to talk about is Djoseras, Oltyx’s brother, who the protagonist blames for his exile. Djoseras is an excellent mentor character who was just as deeply impacted by the transition to a metal body as his brother. Despite Oltyx’s bitter memories about him, nothing about Djoseras is as cut-and-dry and you initially believe. Once you encounter him in person and see some additional memories for Oltyx, you really grow to appreciate Djoseras more, especially once you see him lead an army in battle. Oltyx’s multiple encounters with Djoseras add some outstanding emotional elements to the story, and each of his appearances were complex and compelling. Other side characters are introduced in this book, although most of them were only featured for a short time. However, they will probably have a bigger role in the future novels in this series, and Ruin serves as a good introduction to them.
I grabbed a copy of Ruin in its audiobook format, which proved to be an outstanding way to enjoy Ruin, especially as it allows listeners to really absorb all the cool and impressive details contained within this compelling read. This novel has a decent runtime of over 11 hours and features some brilliant voice work from narrator Richard Reed. Reed is a talented narrator who has been a major fixture of the Warhammer audiobook scene in the last few years, and I really loved the awesome job he did here with Ruin. Reed has a great voice for this impressive science fiction epic, and he manages to move the story along at a quick and thrilling pace which allowed me to finish off this novel in a few short days. Each of the major characters are gifted their own distinctive voice throughout Ruin, which fits them perfectly and ensures that the reader always knows who is talking. I particularly enjoyed the fun voice work set around the protagonist’s five subminds, especially as they are similar, yet slightly different, to that of the protagonist. I also really appreciated Reed’s voice work during certain big scenes, such as when attempting to emulate a crowd of mad, chanting Necrons, and his great narration really helped to enhance these scenes. An exceptional and deeply entertaining audiobook outing, I would strongly recommend this format to anyone interested in enjoying this fantastic epic.
With Ruin, the first The Twice-Dead King book, brilliant author Nate Crowley, has provided Warhammer 40K fans with an exceptional and powerful introduction to the mysterious Necron faction. Featuring a captivating, action-packed narrative, a complex protagonist, and an excellent examination of the complex Necrons, Ruin is a must read for all fans of the franchise. This is easily one of the best Warhammer 40K tie-in novels I have had the pleasure of reading and I cannot wait to see what Crowley adds to this franchise in the future. This series is set to continue with the second entry, The Twice-Dead King: Reign, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Make sure to also check out my review for the second The Twice-Dead King novel, Reign.