Released to tie in with the cool new Imperial Knight miniatures from Games Workshop, Knights of the Imperium is a brand new novella by Graham McNeill, who given his track record with Heresy-era knights (Mechanicum) and the Mechanicus (the …of Mars series) was surely the only author ever in the frame to write this book.
Knights were in the 40k background right from the early days of Adeptus Titanicus, but despite being achingly cool have been largely ignored until recently. As part of their deserved renaissance this book explores their organisation into knightly houses and their unique relationship with both the Imperium and the Mechanicus (the hint’s in the title), and in doing so pits them up against the might of a tyranid hive fleet. If you’re a fan of 40-feet tall war machines going toe to toe with all manners of alien beasties (and who isn’t?!) then you’ll love this book, but it’s much more than just battle scenes. Far from being just miniature titans, we see them in much the same vein as medieval knights, with McNeill exploring themes of honour and loyalty as well as looking at the power dynamic between the men piloting the knight armour and their consorts pulling strings in the background. It’s a welcome break from the male-dominated tales of Space Marines and a reminder that even in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium there’s plenty of room for strong, interesting female characters.
In typical McNeill fashion it’s a strongly plotted, well structured tale, and while it’s a shame that it couldn’t have been a full length novel to allow a bit more depth for the characters, they’re largely well drawn and believable. The knights themselves get a mixture of courtly intrigue and full-on, tyranid-squashing, battle cannon and chainsword fuelled carnage, while the shadowy Adept Nemonix of the Mechanicus data proctors is especially enjoyable, and shows a side of the Mechanicus that we haven’t seen much of previously.
As with a lot of the novella-length stories that Black Library release, this is a great taster for both the Imperial Knights faction and the wider 40k universe. It doesn’t have the same depth and detail that the best of the novels do, but that’s the nature of the shorter format for you. If this finds favour with you, get yourself a copy of Mechanicum or Vengeful Spirit (both Heresy tales by Graham McNeill) for more knight-based fun, and hopefully we’ll see the big guys showing up in more Black Library books from now on.