Hot on the heels of The Talon of Horus comes the second of Black Library’s exclusive First Editions, in the form of Rebirth by Nick Kyme. Following on from his Tome of Fire trilogy (plus accompanying anthology), this shifts the action over to Captain Ur’zan Drakgaard and his 6th Company of Salamanders as they face the Black Legion on the Imperial world of Heletine. While a few familiar faces return from the events of the original series, for the most part this is a distinct story which doesn’t require the reader to be familiar with the previous novels. That being said, it certainly makes sense to read these in order, so readers who pick this up first would be advised to go back and start with Salamander.
In its First Edition guise, Rebirth comes bookended by four previously released short stories and an exclusive short that apparently won’t be printed elsewhere. There’s nothing essential in any of these, so there’s no need to worry for readers who don’t pick up the First Edition, but they are all worth reading for completists and tie the book nicely together. As with The Talon of Horus, the overall presentation of this limited edition is of an incredibly high standard, and with its dark green drake-hide cover and gold-leaf page edges this is if anything the more beautiful of the two books.
For fans of Nick Kyme, and his previous Salamanders books especially, this is very much business as usual. Multiple threads run through the novel, spreading the action out and keeping up a fast pace throughout as the story switches between the action on Heletine and a number of other arenas. The cast of characters is extensive, with Salamanders from three different companies as well as Sisters of Battle and a range of antagonistic renegades. In a standalone novel that might cause problems, but this is very much the opening section of a new series and as such Kyme can set events in motion without needing to draw everything back to completion in the space of a single novel.
Kyme’s writing style isn’t always to everyone’s taste, with its emphasis on the psychological aspects of Space Marines at war, but here there’s a good balance of explosive action with the more thoughtful side of things, and if anything the Salamanders are the best-suited Space Marines for this style. If he does occasionally fall prey to using unnecessarily long and complicated words when short and simple ones would do just fine, for the most part the story flows really well keeps the reader engaged with the characters. The Salamanders do have a tendency towards the dour, so the inclusion of the Adepta Sororitas as well as a few other interesting characters gives the story a nice balance, the scenes with a Japanese-influenced naval armsman being particularly interesting.
As the beginning of a new series this is a good start, setting up arcs which are clearly going to continue throughout and nicely introducing a new cast of characters. Kyme is clearly a huge fan of the Salamanders and their history, and anyone with an interest in the Salamanders or indeed in Space Marines overall should find plenty to enjoy here.