Tempestus by Braden Campbell. A Warhammer 40K Shield of Baal novella, originally published by The Black Library, November 2014. Approx. 89 pages.
Tempestus is a novella recently released by The Black Library to coincide with their "Shield of Baal" campaign (I am not sure on the specifics of SoB, but I know it involves a lot of Tyranids, and that is a good thing). This story was made more alluring by the prospect of Stormtrooper-heavy action, and a truly badass cover. So how did it fare? Well, not too bad. Not great, but definitely a solid little actioner. Let's take a closer look.
Inquisitor Ulrich, of the Ordo Xenos, is en route to Lysios, a planet in the Cryptus System with a rather unique climate. The intense pull of its local moon, Ixoi, causes one half of the planet to be perennially waterlogged, with a vertical ocean, while the rest of the world remains parched. Somewhere in the watery depths, there is rumored to be a great, mysterious creature, one that is intertwined with a local heretical cult (known as the Shelsists). Ulrich's mission is one of self-promotion; to find the beast, capture it, catalog it, and enjoy the resultant fame.
Also in the mix are the Sisters of Battle, who toil day in and day out to eliminate the Shelsist worshipers of the Brine Goddess. Their Canoness acts in the place of a Planetary Governor who has absconded in the midst of all the goings on.
So what works in Tempestus and what doesn't? Well, I have issues with a few things, but bear in mind it is still a fun read.
First, this story did not need to be a novella. For the story it aims to tell, it would've best fit in the fifty to sixty page range, longer than most shorts and too lean for a novella. So I feel it was plumped up a bit. And it gives off that feel. You know from the get go who is honorable, who is odious, who is just doing their jobs, and how it will all essentially pan out.
Second, there was little need to make this a Temepstus Scions story. I get that they would be involved by default, as they are attached to the Inquisitor. But the fact of the matter is, they are not the focal points. The Inquisitor, Ulrich, and the Sister Dialogus, Margene, serve better as emotional compasses. The detachment of Sororitas also get strong page time, which is a good thing, as Campbell writes for them very well.
But what hurts the depiction of the stormtroopers is that there is nothing spectacular about their field tactics. This is a problem that plagued another Tempestus story, The Trophy. We see examples of their superior endurance and toughness, and one display of resourcefulness (the Taurox vs. the flood scene). But the battles all pretty much read the same: stormtroopers square off with enemy, let loose the firepower, the guy with the volley gun unleashes merry hell, the enemies die, and we read who has been hurt/killed. Now don't get me wrong, Campbell makes the scenes a bit more exciting than that, and his descriptions of flying gobbets and gore, and brutal injuries are all very good. But there is never a scene where a strong strategy yielded a great response, prompting the reader to proclaim "See, that's why the Tempestus Scions are a force to be reckoned with". No, what this is amounts to traditional tie-in book rote: a commercial in prose.
So, for each strong aspect, a weak facet. The Inquisition and Sisters of Battle are done well, the titular Stormtroopers, not so much. The concept of the Shelsist cult is strong, the execution of the cultists, no. The tyranids are described with disgusting flair, yet there isn't enough of them. Too much time is spent pussyfooting with human opposition that doesn't stand a chance from the get-go.
Tempestus is a mixed-bag for sure. Get it if you are a completist, or tend to jump on all things Imperial Guard. There are good fight scenes, but no memorable characters to bond with.
Here's what it is:
Decent bolter porn.
This is a great cover by Kai Lim that sells the book better than the content. Does this pic come from one of the supplements? I don't know. But I do know it sums up Stormtrooper vs. 'Nid action.