Black Library November 2010
Mass Market Paperback 416 Pages
Book two of The Tome of Fire Trilogy
Nick Kyme continues the story of a group of Salamanders, a unit of Space Marines in the military force of the Emperor’s Imperium of Man, in Firedrake, the middle book of the Tome of Fire Trilogy. Picking up not quite immediately from the events of Salamander, Kyme follows two storylines throughout the novel, one of which continues Da’Kir’s story, whose dreams and past continue to haunt him as he becomes initiated as a Lexicanum in the Librarium, in other words, the lowest rank of a military Librarian responsible for overseeing communications, memoirs, history of the chapter, as well as providing support in psychic battles against enemies of the Imperium of Man. As a Da’Kir undergoes the initiation rituals under Pyriel, Da’Kir’s dreams may have a large meaning, and Da’Kir himself may be the one prophesized in the legendary Tome of Fire, the bible for the Salamanders.
The other primary storyline follows the Salamanders in their crusade against the Dark Eldar, one of their many enemies. During the battle, the chaplain Elysius is captured. Of course the Salamanders set forth on a rescue mission, only to encounter the Dragon Warriors, a rival faction of Chaos Space Marines. I thought Kyme depicted the tension between the Salamanders and Dragon Warriors quite well throughout the novel. The grudging respect and understanding the groups came to felt believable. Warhammer 40,000 – from the few novels I’ve read – isn’t populated by very many female characters. In Firedrake, Kyme gives a powerful, dark, cunning and fairly plausible female Dark Eldar in the form Lilith Hesperax.
As he follows two storylines, Kyme plots them in different fashions. For Da’Kir’s story, it is a very mythic and singular journey. Da’Kir searches within himself, takes part in a symbolic, mental, and metaphysical struggle to become a member of the Librarium. I thought these scenes provided a sense of power, not just for Da’Kir, but for the overall mythology of the Salamanders themselves. This ‘hero’s journey’ also served to show how, even though the Salamanders are part of the overall Imperium of Man, they have a unique almost nationalistic identity that is their own.
Elysius’s storyline was more of a chase and action encounter, and focused on external tensions between multiple characters. Here Kyme brought into focus of the greater universe of the Warhammer 40,000 milieu and where the Salamanders fit into it. The two story-threads provided a nice contrast to each other whilst serving the greater story-thread of the trilogy itself. I also liked the ending, and how Kyme brought something back to hook readers for the final volume Nocturne.
Although there is much to enjoy in the novel, I felt it was uneven. At times I felt as if the plot was treading water as a middle book and I didn’t feel as attached to the characters as I would have liked.
Once again, the folks at Black Library have put together a nice looking product in the book with the iconic, powerful cover by Cheoljoo Lee. In the end, Kyme has put forth a solid effort and, based on the first two entries in The Tome of Fire, a trilogy that would seem a worthy addition to the lore of Warhammer 40,000.
© Rob H. Bedford 2011
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