The sixth book of Hachette/Black Library’s Warhammer 40,000 Legends Collection is Matthew Farrer’s Crossfire, his first novel for Black Library and the opening book in the Shira Calpurnia trilogy. Similarly to Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn series, this book and the others in its trilogy take a look at life in the Imperium away from the big battlefields, this time exploring what it’s like being a member of the Adeptus Arbites. The 40k universe is a big place, with plenty of conflict on the street level, as Shira finds shortly after landing on a new world right at the beginning of this book.
I’ve recently reviewed Crossfire, so I won’t say too much more about the book itself as you can take a look at the review for that. In fact that review is the reason why this particular post has come so long after my last look at this collection, as it had been such a long time since I last read Crossfire I needed to find the time to read it again (third time, I think!) before I could do this justice. All I’ll say is that this book has its flaws, but if you want a non-battlefield 40k novel then you could do A LOT worse than checking this out…
So specifics aside, how does this fit in with the 40k Legends collection overall? Pretty well, I’d say. While Farrer’s isn’t often a name that gets thrown around straight away when people start talking about Black Library authors, he’s clearly got a fantastic grasp of the 40k universe. This is one of those books that fans of the setting who prefer their stories to not be purely action-focused often mention, and for good reason. It’s definitely 40k – everything’s in its right place, from the overall tone to the nitty gritty of weapons, technology, and the creepy cultishness of organisations such as the Ecclesiarchy and the Adeptus Mechanicus.
This collection seems to be doing two things – focusing on ‘classic’ books, and exploring individual factions. I’d say Crossfire fits both of those objectives, as (while not perfect) it’s comfortably in the oldie-but-goodie category, and is also one of the rare books to delve into the detail of the Adeptus Arbites. Despite its age it still sits perfectly well alongside more modern titles, and its themes especially – loyalty, duty, responsibility – wouldn’t be out of place in a story about Space Marines, so certainly fit in with the 40k setting.
In terms of the production values of this book, there’s not a lot to say that I haven’t already covered in previous articles. One thing of note is the cover, in that if we’re being nitpicky the artwork used (behind the greyscale and the blood splatters) is actually originally from Enforcer – the omnibus collecting together all three of the Shira Calpurnia novels. To be fair, it’s far superior to the original cover artwork for Crossfire, which while a perfectly good piece of art is just so much less dynamic and interesting…so in my opinion at least, Hachette and Black Library made an excellent decision in choosing this particular cover!
If you’re counting, as well – this one has number 78 on the spine.
In summary then, this is another good choice for the series…and one that once again demonstrates a desire to not just front-load this collection with the most obvious titles. Is it going to have the sort of mass appeal that some of the more Space Marine-heavy books might have? Probably not. Is it a good introduction to a different side of 40k? Absolutely – it might not be a book that everyone has read, but that’s a good thing. If nothing else, I hope that its inclusion here will bring it to the attention of a few existing fans who haven’t yet read it, as well as encourage a new generation of fans to look forward to the sort of story that shows how good 40k can be when it looks away from the big battlefields.