Day eighteen marks the three quarter mark of Black Library’s 2016 Advent Calendar, with Carcharadons: The Reaping Time by Robbie MacNiven. A prequel to the upcoming novel Red Tithe, it follows Carcharadons Librarian (sort of) Te Kahurangi as he accompanies Company Master Akia to the mining world of Zartak, whose rebellious rulers fear the Space Marines are coming to sanction them. In reality, Third Company are on Zartak for other reasons; though the Zartakians’ rebellion stems from the issue of tithes, it’s a very different tithe indeed that brings the Carcharadons Astra to Zartak.
Only the second ever Carcharadons story (after The Judges, In Their Hunger by David Annandale), this has its work cut out to properly introduce us to this unusual chapter. MacNiven does a decent job overall, focusing more on showing their ferocity and cold, predatory nature than delving too deep into individual characters. The emphasis is on all-out action with chainaxes to the fore, although there are hints at the chapter’s customs and outlook that bode well for the full novel. It’s brutal, grim stuff telling us straight away that this isn’t your ordinary chapter, and should serve as a useful introduction to some key characters from the novel.