Publisher: Black Library (Paperback – 1 February 2017)
Series: Imperial Knights – Book One
Length: 365 pages
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Welcome back to my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read. In my latest Throwback Thursday post I look at an exciting novel about mecha fights in the Warhammer 40,000 universe with Kingsblade by Andy Clark.
I have been having so much fun with the Warhammer 40,000 books recently, especially in my Throwback Thursday columns, as I recently published reviews for Ghostmaker, Xenos, Malleus and Hereticus by Dan Abnett, and Deus Encarmine by James Swallow. However, the fun is not over yet as I recently read the cool 2017 novel, Kingsblade by Andy Clark, who previously impressed me with his 2022 book, Steel Tread. Kingsblade, a lucky find I managed to pick up in a secondhand bookshop, was an outstanding read which frankly has one of the best Warhammer covers out there, as well as a great story to match it.
War is a certainty in the far future, and the Imperium of Man is constantly under threat, especially from the fell influence of Chaos. When a planet falls, the Imperium have many forces that can be deployed to fight the invasion, but few armies are as feared or revered as the legendary Imperial Knights, giant, ancient suits of mechanised armour that support brave pilots of regal, knightly backgrounds.
When the Imperial world of Donatos falls to heresy thanks to the disruptive influence of the Word Bearers Chaos Space Marines, the Knights of the nearby planet of Adrastapol heed the call. Leading five noble houses of Imperial Knights, as well as substantial forces from the Astra Militarum, High King Tolwyn Draconis hopes to swiftly end the insurrection and save Donatos’s soul. However, when a great betrayal rips the very heart out of the king’s host and the flower of Adrastapol’s Knights falls, all hope looks lost.
As the battered remnants of the Imperial Knights attempt to recover, it soon becomes clear that the fate of both Donatos and Adrastapol will lie with two unblooded Knights Errant, Danial Tan Draconis and Luk Tan Chimaeros, both of whom are reeling from the actions of their parents. On the run, outnumbered and unsure who to trust, Danial, Luk and their comrades need to find a way to strike back against the enemy especially as the World Bearers begin a massive unholy ritual, one that threatens everything. But can these two young Knights defeat the enemy and redeem their world, or do the betrayals of their family and former comrades run too deep?
Kingsblade was an epic and incredible Warhammer 40,000 read by Clark that I had a ton of fun with. Featuring a mecha-laden novel that contained awesome action sequence after awesome action sequence, this was a great addition to the wider Warhammer 40,000 canon and a must read for all fans of the franchise.
I had an amazing time getting through Kingsblade’s great story, especially as Clark clearly has a lot of fun fitting in as much action and mayhem as possible. Starting with the classic Warhammer 40,000 war story, with the brave Imperial defenders arriving to save the world of Donatos, the narrative primarily focuses on several of the Imperial Knights who arrive, especially the young bloods Danial and Luk, who are thrust into the fires of war. The first half of the book features the typical early battles and set-up you would expect, and Clark lays down some clever hints of what is to come. Things of course take a turn for the worse after a massive betrayal, and the protagonists soon find themselves on the run, unsure of who to trust. The major battle that follows this betrayal is pretty damn epic, especially as there is a real sense of desperation and confusion surrounding the characters, and the chaotic fallout of this pushes the protagonists in some intriguing new directions. The second half of the novel sees the traumatised characters attempting to fight back whilst on the run, while also dealing with the many personal issues that have arisen. Clark does a good job of blending the enjoyable action sequences with some intense character moments during this second half, and the powerful tale of camaraderie and honour that follows is one any Warhammer fan can get behind. Everything leads up to the big, brutal and extended final battle sequence, as the characters find themselves wrapped up in a multi-sided fight to the death. The action flies thick and fast during this last major confrontation, and the reader finds themselves on the edge of their seat the entire time, especially as there are some lethal fights and major risks to everyone involved. The entire story comes together in a fantastic and enjoyable way, which also remains open for the sequel, and I absolutely powered through Kingsblade, especially in that epic second half.
I think that Clark presented this exciting and powerful story in a great way, and I honestly found myself pretty hooked the entire way through. The faster pace of the story and the constant fun action sequences are very enticing, and I felt that Clark was able to balance this well with some universe building and clever character work to create an exceptional read. The compelling range of different character perspectives is extremely effective, and I liked seeing the variety of insights and motivations that the various characters had, especially as that gives you some very deep and compelling insights into the mindset of the Imperial Knight characters. I also liked the additional perspectives from some of the main antagonists, especially as it allowed Clark to highlight the various plots and subterfuges that the protagonists are about to walk into and attempt to disrupt. However, the true highlight of Kingsblade is the battle sequences, especially when it comes to the Imperial Knights. I already knew that Clark had some great ability when it came to showcasing vehicle on vehicle combat, but Kingsblade dials that up even further by showing the Imperial Knight mecha suits in action. The action is always fast and ferocious, and you really appreciate just how crazy and brutal the fights involving the Knights are, especially as they face a range of deadly opponents. The complex duels between rival Knight suits are particularly impressive, and you get the full sense of their intense fights thanks to Clark’s writing style, and every thrust, blast and explosion is recorded in epic detail. I deeply appreciated how Clark wrote this epic story, and you are guaranteed to have an exciting and fun time as you get through this amazing book.
Kingsblade also proved to be a very fun addition to the wider Warhammer canon, as Clark dove into one of the more intriguing human sub-factions, the Imperial Knights. I have always loved the Imperial Knights in Warhammer fiction, and I read a particularly good book about them last year (Assassinorum: Kingmaker by Robert Rath), that showed one of their feudal planets. As such, I was very excited to see more of them in another book and Kingsblade delivered that in spades. Not only does Clark perfectly showcase the over-the-top power of the Imperial Knights in combat (so much epic mecha combat), but there is an intriguing dive into the history and society surrounding this faction. The blend of advanced technology and historical knightly values is particularly fun, and you really get a sense of what the knights believe and how they fight as the book continues. This intriguing and compelling focus on Imperial Knight lore is expertly featured throughout the plot and I loved seeing the ritual, pomp and knightly codes helping to drive the protagonists forward. I also thought Clark did a good job of introducing some of the general concepts and elements of the wider Warhammer 40,000 universe into this book, and you get a good sense of what is happening and the history surrounding the franchise. Due to this, and the fact that the history of the Imperial Knights is explored strongly throughout the plot, I felt that Kingsblade would make a pretty good introductory novel to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, especially as it showcases just how fun and over-the-top the franchise can be. I look forward to seeing how Clark expands upon this Imperial Knight lore in future books, especially if he balances it with some more awesome mecha-on-mecha combat.
The most moving and compelling parts of Kingsblade were the excellent characters that Clark introduced and featured throughout the narrative. While there are a ton of brilliant figures utilised in the plot, most of the focus was on the younger characters of Danial Tan Draconis and Luk Tan Chimaeros, two rookie knights and best friends in their first war. Clark does a wonderful job of setting both these characters up early in the plot, and the two friends have very different personalities, with Danial being a cautious and seemingly unready knight, while Luk is impatient and headstrong. However, both characters are pushed to their absolute limit after the pivotal early events of Kingsblade’s narrative which result in Danial becoming king, while Luk is considered to be a heretical traitor. This results in some outstanding character-driven plot, as Danial attempts to find his inner courage and sense of duty, while Luk is forced to redeem himself and his name after those he trusted the most turned on him. Clark ensures both character arcs are pretty damn powerful, and they are woven into the large plot extremely well, ensuring that victory is only obtained after these figures finally get their acts together. I really liked the wonderful and moving narrative that was wrapped around Danial and Luk, and it will be interesting to see how that alters further in the series. The rest of the characters in Kingsblade are also really cool, and I particularly enjoyed seeing events through several of the Chaos character’s perspective, especially once separate factions emerge and go to war. An overall epic group of characters that are seamlessly fitted into the wider tale.
Andy Clark continues to impress me with his outstanding Warhammer fiction work as his 2017 release, Kingsblade, proved to be another smash hit. Perfectly blending intense action with cool universe elements and complex characters, Kingsblade was pure fun from start to finish and a real pleasure to read. I had an epic time getting through this book and I cannot recommend it enough for all fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I will have to try and get a copy of the intriguing sequel, Knightsblade, and I cannot wait to see how Clark continues this compelling and powerful narrative.