Calgar’s Fury is Paul Kearney’s third novel for Black Library, after the ill-fated Dark Hunters: Umbra Sumus and 2016’s Calgar’s Siege, and sees him return to the character of Marneus Calgar that he tackled so well previously. When a vast space hulk appears within the bounds of Ultramar, inexperienced Captain Galenus of Fifth Company is called to investigate, but the threat is enough for Calgar to step in himself, alongside the Inquisition and Adeptus Mechanicus. Leading two full companies onto the hulk to try and divine its secrets, he soon finds himself caught between two enemies, even while his allies pursue their own agendas.
Unlike Calgar’s Siege, this isn’t a Space Marine Battles novel. It’s set well before the events of the Gathering Storm, so don’t expect Guilliman to make an appearance, although thematically it ties in with the thrust of ‘new’ 40k, in that it’s all about the classic matchup of Imperium and Chaos, plus of course the expected themes of loyalty, honour, and dedication. There’s still a hint of Space Marine Battles in the narrative, as almost the entire book is taken up by Calgar and the Ultramarines pushing ever further into the depths of the hulk, battling for every step. The nature of their foes though (to give much detail would spoil the reveal), and Calgar’s introspective self-recrimination, help it to avoid feeling too straightforward.
This absolutely isn’t a book about the glory of the Ultramarines, or the Space Marines in general. It’s about the fragility of the Imperium, despite the Space Marines, and the scope for failure in its defenders. It opens with a haunting first person prologue that sees Calgar reflecting on the nature of defeat, betrayal and anger, which sets the tone for the story that follows and its sense of grim inevitability. At times it’s a slog, for both the participants and the reader, but Kearney is too experienced to let that dominate and provides enough twists, and sufficiently detailed characters, to keep things moving forward and remaining interesting throughout.
Kearney is still a relatively new name to Black Library, but if anyone doubted his skill and suitability for writing this sort of story, this should settle it. While the pace occasionally drags a little, overall it’s a well thought out and constructed story that, any time it looks to be veering into cliched territory, offers up something clever and unexpected. It feels wonderfully 40k with its dark and brooding tone, not to mention the classic space hulk setting, and the well-chosen antagonists allow for a great contrast with the proud and noble Ultramarines. As a companion piece to Calgar’s Siege it’s nicely done, taking a different approach but once again highlighting an interesting character who’s more than just a generic Space Marine hero. It will be very interesting to see Kearney get stuck into something less familiar, and let his imagination really run wild!