The Ultramarines are, a by-word for courage and honour. They are humanity s fiercest and most devout warriors. Honour and courage are valued above all else, except the God-Emperor himself. They are the stalwart protectors of mankind and the most dedicated of all the Space Marine Chapters.
When asked to honour an ancient debt, Captain Uriel Ventris and the Warriors of Ultramar find themselves standing shoulder to shoulder with brother Marines and local Guard units defending a vital industrial system. The threat they face is as terrifying as it is alien. The tyranids take no prisoners and show no mercy — they consume all in an attempt to stave their unending hunger for bio-matter. Failure is not an option, but success requires the ultimate sacrifice.
In this second book of the Ultramarines series, Captain Uriel Ventris is ordered to defend Tarsis Ultra from the imminent threat of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Leviathan. Along with two Imperial Guard regiments, the local Planetary Defence Forces, a company from the Morticators and the Deathwatch, the defensive force wage a bloody war against the invaders.
It’s been a while since I read the first book, Nightbringer and I found Warriors of Ultramar a lot more accessible than the previous book. The plot here is straightforward. You have the good guys defending their world from the bad guys. The Tyranids make an awesome foe here because they don’t think like we do and they don’t have emotions so you don’t have to analyse why they do the things they do. All you need to know is that they are the Great Devourer and will consume everything in their path.
The first part of the story took a while for me to sink my teeth into as I’m not a fan of Void battles but things started getting exciting when the battle moved to planetside. Once on the planet, the Tyranids began to transform the environment of Tarsis Ultra to make it suitable for their species. They then advanced against the defenders by throwing everything they had while the Guards have to use their wits to conserve the number of troops against this insurmountable foe. Despite heavy losses, the valiant Astartes and Guards manage to hold off the invasion in the end. A classic tale of triumph of good over evil.
In this story, we see Uriel Ventris grows as a character and finally coming to his own as he learns not to blindly follow the Codex Astartes to the letter. He chose to go with the Deathwatch on a suicide mission to inject a bio-toxin into the Hive Queen rather than sticking to his company as dicatated by Roboute Guilliman’s teachings. As Uriel’s devotion to the Codex Astartes wavers, we are treated to his comtemplations about what it means to be an Ultramarine and a warrior of the Emperor and his observations on how different the Morticators have become over the centuries despite sharing the same bloodline as the Ultramarines. Uriel Ventris is definitely growing on me and he is slowly becoming one of my favourite loyalist Astartes.
Another character that stood out in the book is the Fabricator Marshal Sebastien Montante. At first he seemed like the typical fool character that you would laugh at because he doesn’t understand the severity of the Tyranid threat and you hope he will die in the most embarrassing way. However as the story unfolds, you realise that even though Montante is not be a warrior like the Astartes or the Guards, his heart is still set in the right place. He uses his logistical skills to ensure the defensive force has the provision it needs in the forthcoming battles. Even with no martial training Montante took up arms to help with the defence of Tarsis Ultra. He was a character that I didn’t expect I would like but end up enjoying very much.
This book packs a ton of action and plenty of heroic moments to boot. McNeill strikes a fine balance between despair and hope as the remaining defenders fight back with everything they have. The moments of downtime in between battles offer readers time to reflect on the sacrifices and costs towards freedom. Warriors of Ultramar can be read on its own so you don’t need to have read Nightbringer to enjoy this book. I would also say this is a good starting point if you have never read any Warhammer 40k books.