A long time ago, I received one of those Space Marine posters that displayed the colors and badges of a hundred different chapters. At the time, I was looking for an “official” but lesser-known chapter to use in my gaming, and I wanted to be able to write some fluff to go along with it. I was an ork player, through and through, but I was looking forward to doing some painting that didn’t make everything look like it was straight from the junkyard.

(I also had a pretty big Nurgle Traitor marine army, so I was going through a lot of green paint.)

The chapter I chose was the Emperor’s Spears. The blue was nice, and for some reason I appreciated that the Spears’ chapter icon was a trident, and not a spear. The fluff I wrote imagined the Spears came from an ocean world, and I had fun naming all their past heroes and capital ships after water myths. I posted it all on a blog, and for a little while, when you googled “Emperor’s Spears,” my little blog was among the top results.

The very fine book Emperor‘s Spears by Aaron Dembski-Bowden doesn’t use any of my perfectly good fluff. Instead, Dembski-Bowden writes a book unlike any other Space Marine book I’ve read. While it has the fights you expect from a Black Library book, it also has many quieter moments that add depth to his characters. He’s shown his willingness and ability to write 40K like this before in his books that feature the Word Bearers, but Emperor’s Spears takes the introspection to a higher level.

I’ve been away from the game and the fiction for a bit, so I wasn’t up on Primaris marines, the Great Rift, and some of the other timeline advances GW has made in the last few years, but that didn’t distract me from the novel’s action or politics. This is a very enjoyable read in an as-yet-unexplored sector of Warhammer 40,000 space.

I’ve always enjoyed the Black library books that shed light on the chapters that have been named here and there but never explored. I suspect the writers like poking through old codices and posters, too, looking for that color scheme or name that calls to them in just the right way. That’s how I’ve always felt as a hobbyist, and to see it at work in the “real world” of Black Library publishing is very satisfying.

Gives an unknown guy typing out words a little hope that, if you put the work in, maybe you can dust off that old ocean world fluff.

But for a different chapter.

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