So I recently finished reading Lords of Mars by Graham McNeill. What a page turner. I could not put it down. Underway on a ship is can be hard for me to find time to read/finish books sometimes, especially is they are just okay. But this one was done in a matter of days. I really REALLY enjoyed it.
This was the second in the series and it lived up to its predecessor (Priests of Mars) well. Both books have been fantastic and have really expounded on such an important piece of 40k lore: Explorator Fleets. Even though it had been sometime since I had read the first in the series, the story arc was easy to pick back up on and I quickly remembered all the characters and major plot points that I needed to carry over into this book. This is critical and one of the most important aspects of story writing and I think better executed here than in any of his Ultramarines/Iron Warriors books.
What is most impressive is his character development in this series. I thoroughly enjoy every character. For some 40k hardliners there will be some flaws. The Black Templars are a little less Fanatical than typically portrayed and the Ad Mech personnel a little more human as well. But to me this was critical in conveying the story. Certain BL books it is okay, if not encouraged/expected for the Mechanicus to be little more than unrelatable robots, but when they are ALL CENTRAL CHARACTERS you need to be able to connect to your audience, much the same way as James Swallow did for Assassins in the HH novel Nemesis (though he may have gone a step too far with the Eversor, however that is a separate discussion). This humanity though was definitely reeled back in with the "mutiny" subplot onboard the Speranza (an Ark Mechanicus). I don't want to give away too much, but it is key in separating the humans that serve the Mechanicus from the post-humans that run it.
There was definitely some good action, including a Titan sequence which I ALWAYS LOVE. The fights against the battle robots and crystal constructs were good, but overall nothing ground breaking for a 40k novel. I will say some small contributions to the lore were greatly appreciated. The Land Leviathans and the politics/traditions within a Titan Legion were amazing additions. Along with that one of the best action sequences actually occurs within the Manifold, which is cool and highly unique.
Over all the book was fun and I greatly look forward to Gods of Mars, the third and final installment. Not as inspiring, revealing or ground breaking in terms of the Ad Mech as far as say McNeill's earlier HH work in Mechanicum or Abnett's work in Titanicus, and this may be infact a step back from the inhumanity of those books, but if those did not exist, this series would be the bench mark for Ad Mech. The only thing keeping it from a perfect score is that it isn't as strong in that aspect as those books were IMO.
Final Rating: 4 out of 5 Aquillas- definately worth a read if you have the time, and a MUST if you are a true servant of the Omnisiah.