Publisher: Black Library (Audiobook – 29 January 2022)
Series: Warhammer 40,000
Length: 9 hours and 33 minutes
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Death, dishonour and duty all collide as impressive author Steve Lyons returns to the epic Warhammer 40,000 universe with Krieg, which dives into the origins of one the most iconic regiments of Imperial Guard out there, the Death Korps of Krieg.
Damn this has been a good year for Warhammer fiction so far. We may only be in March, but 2022 has already produced a great collection of awesome Warhammer novels, including Steel Tread, The Twice-Dead King: Reign and Day of Ascension. I have deeply enjoyed all these cool books, and when another awesome sounding tie-in novel was released on audiobook, I just had to grab it.
This latest book is Krieg by veteran science fiction author Steve Lyons. Lyons is a new author to me, but he comes with an impressive pedigree in tie-in fiction, having written several Warhammer novels and short stories, a ton of Doctor Who novels and audio dramas, and several other intriguing novels. I knew that I was probably going to love Krieg and I turned out to be right, as this fantastic and dark Warhammer 40,000 novel contains an intense and captivating tale of a legendary regiment.
In the grim future of the universe, there is only bloodshed and death, especially near the system-spanning Octarius War, where two brutal alien races battle for supremacy, and Imperial forces fight to stop their conflict spilling out into the greater Imperium. However, the latest round of fighting sees a massive orc ship break through Imperial lines and crash into the massive city of Hive Arathron. As the desperate Imperial forces fail to contain the invading orcs, all hope looks lost until a new set of deadly reinforcements arrive: the Death Korps of Krieg.
The Death Korps of Krieg are a legendary unit of peerless soldiers who are utterly fearless in battle, fanatically loyal to the Emperor, and who seem to harbour an unnatural desire to die in battle. But who are the men of Krieg under their gasmasks and coats, and why do they fight so hard to regain their lost honour? The answer lies thousands of years ago when Krieg attempted to cede from the Imperium, thrusting the planet into a brutal civil war. In the end, one man stepped forward to end the fighting, and his decision doomed Krieg to become a blasted wasteland where only soldiers are grown.
As the fighting around Hive Arathron continues, many of their fellow soldiers and inquisitorial observers begin to doubt the loyalty and sanity of the Death Korps, especially when their unusual habits and creeds keep them apart from the other members of the Astra Militarium. However, a deadly discovery deep inside the Hive will show the Imperium just how invaluable the men of Krieg are, especially when history seeks to repeat itself. Can the Death Korps succeed against the xenos, or will Hive Arathron and its planet soon share a similar fate to Krieg?
The Warhammer 40,000 hits just keep on coming as Krieg turned out to be a truly awesome read. Steve Lyons has produced an epic and intense novel here, and I loved the brilliant story that not only showcased a dangerous alien threat but which also examined the past of an iconic and captivating faction.
I thought that Lyons came up with an exceptional and captivating narrative for Krieg, which takes the reader on several parallel journeys throughout the history of the Warhammer 40,000 universe. I have said multiple times before that I think some of the best Warhammer stories out there focus on the common troops, and I was proved right again as Lyons does a brilliant dive into the mind of the average solider when they experience the very worst of circumstances. The primary storyline is set in the modern era of the canon and shows a regiment of Krieg Imperial Guard dropped into the battle for Hive Arathron to fight the orcs. This section, which is told entirely from the perspective of supporting non-Krieg characters, shows the Death Korps in battle, with a specific highlight on their unusual appearance and practices. At the same time, another storyline dives back into the past and shows the civil war that occurred on Krieg and the events that led up to the destruction of the planet and the formation of the modern Death Korps. Both these storylines take up about half the book and they present the reader with two unique and interesting tales which work to complement the story from the other timeline while also depicting their own brutal military actions. The stories start to come together towards the end when the protagonists of the contemporary storyline discover nuclear weapons in Hive Arathron, which they need to recover. This leads to an interesting conclusion that results in some clever parallels between the historical events and the current storyline. All this leads to a satisfying, if grim, conclusion that reveals the various fates of the supporting characters and wraps up the remaining story elements.
I was really impressed with how Krieg was written, and I think that Lyon did a really good job here. The story ended up perfectly toeing the line between examining the lore and history of the universe and providing the reader with all the necessary excitement and adventure. I think the decision to split the book between the two separate timelines was pretty clever, and I had a brilliant time reading the unique storylines it produced. Both timelines were really good, and I loved the grim and powerful plot points they contained, especially as the protagonists within both suffered defeats, setbacks and brutal character realisations. If I had to choose a favourite it would probably be the historical storyline set on Krieg, mainly because it shows the more desperate situation and substantially more character development and tragedy. The twin storylines also did a wonderful job complementing each other, ensuring that the reader gets two separate sides of the titular regiment. It also results in a series of different battle sequences, and I loved the interesting comparisons between a protracted civil war and a short and brutal fight against orcs. Krieg ended up being a good standalone read, with a concise, well-paced and beautifully set-up narrative that is pretty easy to get addicted to, especially once both storylines descend into the hell of battle. This also proved to be an extremely accessible tie-in to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, with Lyons ensuring that newer readers can easily follow what is happening with a minimal of explanation about the universe. As such I would strongly recommend this book to a wide range of readers, and both experienced Warhammer fans and general science fiction readers will really appreciate the powerful and action-packed story contained within.
Unsurprisingly for a novel named Krieg, there is an extensive and fascinating examination of the Death Korps of Krieg in this book. Lyons does a brilliant job of diving into this distinctive Warhammer faction, and this novel ended up being a very detailed and impressive love letter towards the infamous regiment. Every aspect of the modern regiment is shown in exquisite detail, and you get an extremely powerful look at their design, uniform (which is based on the uniforms of World War I German trench fighters), fighting style, equipment, unique regiments, and more, including the iconic Death Riders (I was so very happy they were included, especially as you get several great fight scenes with them, including against orc bikers). However, the real focus is on their unusual behaviour, including their determination to die in combat, their complete resolve and the fact that they never remove their masks. Lyons really hammers home the unusualness of this regiment by only showing the modern Krieg soldiers through the eyes of regular soldiers or member of the Inquisition, all of whom are at a loss about what the Krieg are or why they fight so hard.
However, while these outsider characters are left wondering about many of these events, the readers get multiple insights thanks to the chapters that explore the historical civil war on Krieg. Lyons does an incredible job of portraying this conflict, and it is fascinating to see the events that led up to it and the lengthy and costly war that followed. Watching the opposing mentalities on Krieg during this time is really fascinating, and you soon get caught up in the dramatic battle that follows, especially as the situation continues to deteriorate over time. I loved how the origins of the Krieg’s many idiosyncrasies are featured here, and you soon see what necessitated the use of certain equipment or behaviours. The real highlight is the eventual destruction of Krieg and the subsequent formation of the modern version of the Death Korps. The scenes that cover this destruction are pretty damn brutal, and watching the slow transition from typical soldiers to the eventual shrouded figures is extremely compelling and awesome. I really appreciated the way in which Lyons showed off the various stages of the Krieg regiments, and the use of both the historical version of the regiment and its current formation really helped to highlight just how distinctive and cool they are. While there are still a few secrets left hidden (what’s under the mask??), the reader leaves this book with an impressive appreciation for this awesome regiment, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it convinces several Warhammer 40,000 players to start using the Death Korps in their games.
A quick shoutout also needs to go to the fantastic characters featured throughout Krieg. Lyons makes use of a large cast to tell this interesting story, and I liked the excellent mixture that this novel contained. The characters featured in the contemporary line are primarily made up of non-Krieg fighters who serve as an interesting counterpoint to the nameless, faceless Death Korp soldiers. This includes Inquisitor Ven Bruin, an older witch hunter who leads the search for the hidden weapons in Hive Arathron. Ven Bruin is a lot gentler and less cynical that a typical Imperial Inquisitor, and he has some intriguing viewpoints on the situation, with his decisions tempered by experience and weariness. Ven Bruin ends up holding multiple secrets throughout Krieg, and it is emotional to see him impacted by his multiple hard decisions and the lives they cost. You also get the compelling viewpoint of Sergeant Renick, a Cadian soldier who fights alongside the Krieg. Renick, who is a surprisingly good female character for a Warhammer novel, gives the common soldier’s viewpoint of events, and I loved seeing her slow opinion change of the Death Korps after seeing them in action against the orcs.
While there are some great characters in the Hive Arathron storyline, Lyons saves his best character work for the historical storyline on Krieg, which highlights the key people in the deadly civil war that destroyed the planet. While there are several intriguing figures here, most of the focus is given to Colonel Jurten, the Imperial Guard commander who fights to keep Krieg in the Imperium. Jurten is a weary veteran character who borders on the fanatical, especially when it comes to saving his home from himself. Throughout the course of the book, you see Jurten fight a desperate war for his believes that culminates in him making a terrible decision that will impact his people for generations. Watching Jurten’s substantial resolve slowly chip away throughout the book is very intense, and Lyon really shows the weight his beliefs and determination bear on him, especially after he makes the very worst of choices. The other characters in this past storyline serve as an excellent support cast, and it was great to see their concerns and opinions about the battles being fought, especially compared to the resilient Jurten. My favourite is probably the mysterious Adeptus Mechanicus tech-priest, Greel, who acts as the devil on Jurten’s shoulder, convincing him to make the tough decision about the future of Krieg. I am still a little uncertain whether Greel was a hero or a villain (probably both; it is Warhammer), and I would be curious to find out more about him and his motivations in the future. An excellent group of characters, I would be interested to see more of some of them in the future.
Unsurprisingly, I made sure to grab the audiobook version of Krieg, which ended up being another excellent and enjoyable experience. I deeply enjoy Warhammer audiobooks, especially as they tend to enhance the grim and brutal stories, while also highlighting all the cool details about the Warhammer universe. I had amazing time with the Krieg audiobook, and with a runtime of only 9 hours and 33 minutes, this was a pretty easy audiobook to get through. The audiobook did an excellent job capturing the grim battles and blasted warzones featured throughout this awesome novel, and I could easily envisage every fight and every brutal decision. I was also really impressed with the voice work of narrator Timothy Watson, who brought a ton of gravitas and intensity to this book. Watson’s voice fit perfectly into this grim universe, and he did an outstanding job of capturing the various larger-than-life characters featured within, while also providing great Germanic accents to all the characters who originated from Krieg. You really get a brilliant range of voices throughout Krieg, and I loved Watson’s ability to showcase the devotion, despair and weariness of all these great figures. Another brilliant and wonderful Warhammer audiobook, this is easily the best way to enjoy this amazing tie-in book.
Overall, Krieg by Steven Lyons was another awesome Warhammer 40,000 novel that did a wonderful job of examining one of the game’s more unique and enjoyable faction. Containing an action-packed narrative that highlighted the fantastic Death Korps of Krieg and showcased the events that made the soldiers they are today; Krieg was an addictive and clever read. I loved the excellent use of a split timeline narrative, especially when it dove back into the civil war on Krieg, and the result was a grim and haunting tale of regret, duty and honour. Highly recommended to all fans of Warhammer 40,000, you will love this beautiful and moving love letter to the iconic Death Korps and their tragic origins.