The Rite of Holos by Guy Haley. A Blood Drinkers short story, originally appearing in Hammer & Bolter Issue 24, September 2012. Approx. 35 pages.
As has been previously mentioned, this has been a busy freshman year for new Black Library author Guy Haley. I've already reviewed three of his shorts here, and all have been very good. So I was surprised at myself that I had initially overlooked this short, tucked away in Issue 24 of the late, great Hammer & Bolter e-zine. So while I wait until I have enough disposable income to pick up Death of Integrity, I figured that Rite of Holos would be a good introduction to Haley's treatment of Space Marines. Not only that, but Holos features none other than the Blood Drinkers, those successors of the Blood Angels that are prone to the "Black Rage", and who slake their blood thirst with, well, blood. So how does Holos fare? Hmmmm, honestly, it's kind of a mixed bag. It goes from good to average. Not bad, but average. Which isn't bad, but then again, it also isn't very good.
Horror has come to the planet of Saint Catria. One of the most foul races of xenos to plague the Imperium, the genestealers, have corrupted the world and wreaked havoc among the Imperial Guard unit stationed there, the nearly all-female Catrian Praetors. As the story opens, Colonel Indrana, leader of the ragtag remains of the Guard forces, is welcoming a force of Blood Drinkers, which has come in response to her distress call. They undertake the dissecting of a genestealer specimen, and make plans to assail the heart of the xenos-based rebellion, which is centered in a large reliquary. So far, so good.
The opening scenes of Holos are excellent. Haley writes exceptionally well in the short story format. He is capable of being very descriptive with a very small word count. He captures very well the duality of the appearance of the Blood Drinkers; from their statuesque comeliness to their absolute ferocity. His account of some of the more 'warped' genestealers is effectively evocative as well.
Where the story unfortunately teeters off into tepid normalcy is after the titular Rite is performed. The assault on the Reliquary focuses on Chapter Master Caedis and his honor guard, interesting characters all. However, the actual fight scenes are telegraphed in a standard manner; swords slash up, down, parry, riposte. There is very little tension, and I don't think that the intensity of the Black Rage was written in lightning, as it should have been.
Colonel Indrana, despite a nice introduction, does not partake in the bloody festivities. This is a shame, since it is always nice to see all-female guard regiments.
Also a bit of a letdown, I don't know if the idea was to have a 'twist' or 'shock' ending, but it doesn't pan out that way. After reading a few WH40K works, you come to expect that while the arrival of the Astartes might mean the end of a problem, it also means the end of some innocent people as well. All for the greater good. The Emperor Protects. If anything, it feels like some of the bite was taken out of the ending.
All in all, Rite of Holos is a decent story, with a good, if not spectacular take on this Chapter. I would not suggest paying the $2.99 to buy it on its own, but luckily there are a few purchasing options:
By itself for $2.99 (don't buy! don't buy!).
Get the entire Issue 24 of Hammer & Bolter for only a buck more!
In the Best of Hammer & Bolter Vol. 2 compilation.
Here's what it is:
The Blood Drinkers attempt to quell a genestealer infestation on a compromised planet. Really, that's it.
Okay, I am cheating a little bit here. I used the ebook cover for this story, since I think it's really nice. I actually read this from the Hammer and Bolter Vol. 2 compilation, which has a nice cover as well:
But honestly, I couldn't resist this great take on the Blood Drinkers insignia. Very simple, very effective.
Cover Final Score: