If there's one thing I love about Warhammers Indomitus Crusade, it's that the Adeptus Custodes are getting some character time. I've been hoping for more action from them for a while, and watching them tear through Chaos Marines is something I'm definitely here for.
The Gate of Bones is the second book in the Dawn of Fire series at the beginning of the Indomitus Crusade. The returned primarch, Roboute Guilliman, leads a huge force towards the shrine world of Gathalamor, whose stable warp routes will allow the flotilla to spread across the beleaguered southern half of the Imperium. They play a key role in the first half of the book setting things up, not just for this book but for further parts of the Indomitus Crusade itself. A tense meeting with an ancient race that Guilliman has organised really sets the tone of how bad things could potentially be whilst also showing how revered Guilliman is by the human leaders in the meeting.
Now, the Custodes. What I've been waiting for. Guilliman sends forth a team on a vital mission to Gathalamor, with Shield-Captain Achallor of the Adeptus Custodes at its head. Achallor discovers a world falling to Chaos, a beaten Imperial force and agents of Chaos working for Abaddon the Despoiler who have unearthed an ancient evil, a weapon that when harnessed not only threatens the primarch but would also wreak havoc on the holy Throne of Terra itself.
You get to see just how powerful the Custodes are, as they tear through Chaos Marines with ease and only struggling with the ones that become huge abominations that have psychic powers to push them back. What I enjoyed though was little comments, like "if there's one thing that the Custodes do better than anything else, it is slay Space Marines", how they constantly refer to the Iron Warriors as "traitor Astartes" and one paragraph about how they don't fight as Astartes do so the traitors back off in surprise before being completely destroyed. It's also clear that they view themselves as the best, the Emperors own chosen. This is later reinforced when the bad guys are talking and realise that the Custodes have left Terra and are part of the attack, as they start talking about needing to make more prayers and ask for more blessings - they know that their task has gotten harder just from a handful of Custodes landing on the planet to battle them.
Mixed with the Custodes are a few humans, most notably General Dvorgin who is a troubled man from a moment of lapsed faith before the crusade. All of his parts are beautifully written as a troubled General who just wants what's best for his men. He even stands up to Shield-Captain Achallor, despite all the sweating and nervousness that comes from it - it's some serious balls.
A few chapters are dedicated to the Iron Warriors and Word Bearers as you get a sense of friendship between Kar-Gatharr and Lokk - a Word Bearer Dark Apostle and Iron Warrior tank commander, respectively. Friends might be too strong a term since they are Heretic/Traitor Astartes, but there's certainly a bond there that goes beyond mere battle brothers. Andy Clark does a good job of showing their weariness in their exchanges and their bond, whilst still maintaining that there's still a lack of trust or respect between various factions within the Traitor ranks, as you'd expect.
It's a brilliant book that shows many sides to the war that surely has to go down as a must-read for fans of Warhammer books. Every character has their own identity that lets you know exactly what they're like, even if it's just through one sentence. I have many, many Black Library books and been thinking for a while that I need to start working my way through them. This book has sparked my love for Warhammer once again.