Anyway, overall, I liked it, but I don't think it quite adds up to the sum of its parts.
Having just finished this one myself, Urauloth sums up my overall impressions well here. Some things become more than the sum of their parts, this one oddly feels like less.
The Siege as a whole suffers from dividing its attentions up too much, and Mortis sadly continues that. The Solar War remains the champ because it had the best focus; Lost and the Damned the weakest because it has the least. First Wall is a mix because it feels like three separate stories thrown together, and Saturnine is a struggle to get into early on though it does have some good pay-offs by the end. Mortis, in a way, feels like Lost and the Damned 2.0. Setting aside the interludes with the Emperor in the Warp, the bits of organisation by Dorn and the minor overview bits, we have about six main plotlines here, seven if we count Perturabo's parts. I did a very rough page count of each to see what proportion of the book they constituted:
So even the biggest single plotline only makes up about a third of it, and most of these plotlines have very little to do with one another (beyond their setting during the Siege). And I get that some books can have these huge, epic narratives spread across multiple POV characters that have little interaction with one another, but I feel like it doesn't work in the Siege as well as it should. I think part of this is because some of these characters just haven't been built up sufficiently over the wider Heresy series: Corswain has had his moments, but I can't say he's often stood out to me. Oll and his crew have a lot of potential, but we just haven't seen enough of them up to this point, it feels like there should've been at least a novella focused purely on them. In other cases we're still getting entirely new POV characters introduced even at this stage, and in books that are themselves hugely split up. I don't really care about Mauer or Tetracauron, and the short time we spend with them in this book isn't anywhere near enough to make up for that.
It results in a book that feels more like a themed anthology than a cohesive novel. I've heard talk of it serving a purpose as a nexus novel, and I might be more understanding of that if it didn't feel like every book in the Siege so far has been a nexus novel.
I do feel that there's at least a solid attempt at a unifying theme and the like, but it needs more tightening up to really work for the novel as a whole. We're seeing the war descend into something more truly chaotic, seeing the growing influence of Chaos and the will of the defenders draining away. I feel like
We also could've seen more of Dorn's impressive defensive works crumbling or failing in the face of this new, unpredictable way of war.
Despite all the above negativity, I do think there's a lot of good stuff in the constituent parts of the book.
The individual threads that make up this story are solid, but they just don't feel like they come together in a proper, unified narrative to me. All told, I'd rank this above Lost and the Damned (which had similar issues of cohesion, but the writing felt more solid here), below Solar War and Saturnine, probably somewhere on par with First Wall overall.
Oh, and more an amused observation than a criticism, but the book describes characters smelling or tasting "sugar" (usually "burnt sugar") 12 times. Not quite to the same level as the wet-leopard growls of Prospero Burns, but close
Edited by Tymell, 10 May 2021 - 08:49 PM.