In Steven B. Fischer’s brilliant Witchbringer we get the kind of Imperial Guard story I love to read–one where you end up just as invested in the regiment as you do in the protagonists. I haven’t enjoyed a Guard book from Black Library this much since the last Dan Abnett Gaunt’s Ghosts book I read.
In Witchfinder, Glavia Aerand is at the end of her psyker training (for those new to Warhammer 40k, these are essentially space wizards)–a place most don’t survive to ever serve the eternal Emperor on his endless battlefields. A premonition leads her to a half flooded world of Visage and her old regiment the Cadian 900th, as they struggle against the mists, the traitor guard, and something far more terrifying.
Aerand is there replacing her old mentor, who has disappeared from his position in the 900th, assumed lost to Visage’s endless mists. His words, a part of her premonition, echo in their efforts to keep her away from Visage. When she returns to find her old arrogant subordinate in command of the 900th, and nobody can remember her mentor, she knows something is off.
Fischer really hits the mark with what I read Warhammer 40,000 for. Witchbringer is grim as hell, moreish AF, and gets you invested in the regiment and the characters within. It’s Band of Brothers millennia in the future, and I just get a huge kick out of when these 40k books are done well. I am also generally not a big fan of warp scenes and getting in deep with psyker characters (in much the same way as I prefer low magic to highly detailed magic systems in fantasy) but I really loved the way engagement with the warp and it’s horrifying powers, as well as with the light of the God-Emperor, was presented. Again, a massive high five to the author.
I also really enjoyed the very short one page insights into the mind of the traitor guard colonel. These are really well done, really engaging, and in no way distracting from the story, or superfluous bits of self indulgence from the author. These scenes add depth to the story to help Witchbringer avoid falling into the trap of the enemies being the big evil just for the sake of it.
Not since reading Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series have I enjoyed reading about the Imperial Guard this much, nor looked so forward to the next book. I am thoroughly invested in Aerand and the Cadian 900th, and cannot wait for book two.