Sunday, 17 March 2013

Book review: Death of Antagonis by David Annandale

This has been a slow week for painting, with very little opportunity to put brush to model, but I have just finished the new Space Marine Battles book "Death of Antagonis" (or just Antagonis for short). I'm an avid reader, and these books often spark modelling projects, so thought I'd do a short review.

Firstly, as a Space Marine Battles book - similarly to most Black Library fiction these days - Antagonis is very action focussed and the plot is very linear. I must add a disclaimer that of late I'm moving away from Black Library as a source of new books and I don't generally hold them in high-regard; many of their stories just seem so fight-oriented so as to lose all characterisation. The major exceptions to this are Dan Abnett (whose work I make an effort to track down - he really the 40k universe come alive, usually through humanising the inhuman), Aaron Dembski-Bowden and Graham MacNeill.

Secondly, Antagonis is actually a really good book. David Annandale might well be an author I'll follow in the future - I write myself, and I know he is quite new. I think he did a good job of characterising the major players of the Black Dragons, and in describing this very unique Chapter.

The story follows the Black Dragons and their response to a distress call from Antagonis. This call has also attracted the attention of an inquisitor and other Imperial agents. They find that a plague of undeath has claimed Antagonis, and are quickly required to evacuate Imperial survivors. The opening sections are gripping and well written, with some interesting descriptions. I don't want to give way too much of the plot, but the Dragons must eventually follow the cause of this plague (which isn't what it seems...) and track a Chaos Space Marine chapter and a rogue cardinal...

The real stars of the show are obviously the Black Dragons Space Marines. Despite having a cult fan following, the Dragons have little cannon source material and so Annandale has an almost clean slate - other than "loyalist Marines with bony protrusions and blades on their arms", he has free reign so far as a backstory goes. I enjoyed the juxtaposing of the mutant, degenerate Black Dragons alongside the pristine, beauteous Swords of Epiphany. Annandale's message is clear and simple: appearances can be deceptive, and outwards appearances of purity do not equate with loyalty.

We also get to see the fighting organisation and methodology of the Black Dragons, and in particular their elite assault units - the Dragon Claws. These were the focus on the original Black Dragons Chapter Approved article back in the day, and Annandale describes them accurately and well. I don't really approve of the Wolverine-style retractable claws approach, but I understand that this had actually been introduced in an earlier description of the Dragons in a Salamander series so I won't hold this against him!

All in all, a really good book and I'd definitely recommend this to fans of 40k. Annandale is an author to watch and I was pleased to have purchased the book.

Of course, having finished Antagonis I started thinking about how I could make a Black Dragons army.  It's a project I've considered before, going so far as to even build and paint a test model.

I built this model with a Chapterhouse Studios shoulderpad, and it doesn't match the Dragons insignia, so I hit a stumbling block. The "official" scheme is as below.

So, this book as certainly encouraged my interest in this intriguing chapter - I would recommend it! I'll be writing a post shortly on my ideas for running the Dragons as an army...

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