While tanks are obviously a hugely important (and entertaining) part of the Imperial Guard, a book solely about a tank is perhaps not the most exciting prospect. Thankfully then, Guy Haley’s Baneblade – despite the title – is very much a human story. Yes, in true 40k style we get to see a bit of the tank’s personality in terms of its machine spirit, but this is really a story about two men’s different viewpoints on and relationships with the tank.
Considering the book’s title (and purpose; presumably the author’s brief was something along the lines of ‘make the tank look awesome’) this is a damn good story that achieves a spot-on balance of action and character development. It’s pacey and well-plotted, weaving together a number of threads to good effect that nicely tie together and develop as the book progresses. There are maybe a couple of plot threads that aren’t fully explained or justified, but overall it’s lean and streamlined, and rattles along at a great pace.
As expected with any Imperial Guard book the casualty rate is fairly high, but the characters are well-drawn and believable; as with the best Guard books the characters are just that bit more relatable than Space Marines, considering their inherent frailty. While these guys spend most of their time behind several inches of armoured tank, there’s sufficient threat facing them to make things look genuinely dangerous – it’s not just orks they’re fighting but the very planet they’re on.
Guy Haley has a good track record with writing greenskins (maybe it’s his northern roots) and this book is no exception. We don’t see much from the viewpoint of the orks this time round, but nevertheless there’s just an extra level of authenticity to Haley’s depiction of them, not to mention the sheer threat and danger with which he imbues them. In his hands they’re very much a threat to even the might of a Baneblade.
In truth there’s nothing ground breaking about this book, but to be fair to the author that’s not the point of a book like this. It does exactly what it should, which is keep the reader entertained and turning the pages. Fans of the Imperial Guard will love it, especially the treadheads amongst them, and it stands up really well against the best of the existing Guard canon.