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This book is a mix of ‘current’ events – continuing on from the end of Fear to Tread – alongside action from just after Isstvan, and a series of pre-heresy flashbacks.
The result is a disappointing read, where the relevant threads of the story get drowned out by the noise of flashbacks we don’t need.
The action in the novel is dragged down by the author’s insistence on naming so many characters – including those whose only appearance is getting killed. The sheer number of extra names – half a dozen of which need to be remembered and followed, along with the structure of the book, make the story extremely difficult to see, never mind follow.
Following his failures at Calth and Signus Prime, Erebus needs to regain his former stature among the rebel faction. On an otherwise remarkable world, a group of Word Bearers chase a semi-mythical spear. This spear has already been found by a certain John Grammaticus, who needs it for reasons of his own. The Word Bearers are being tracked by a group of shattered legions Astartes, mainly Salamanders.
The spear moves between these three factions like a pea under a cup at a street attraction and is about as easy to track.
Interspersed between this action we discover the post-Isstvan fate of Vulkan, Primarch of the Salamanders. He has survived the battle, buried underground, only to emerge to a battlefield of dead Salamanders. He then finds himself being tortured aboard a Night Lords space craft.
The Night Lords Primarch enjoys torturing Vulkan, due to a personal enmity we find out about in the pre-heresy flashbacks, which occupy far more of the novel than they deserve.
Vulkan Lives moves us forward, a little, but many readers view this as an unnecessary novel in the series, and I can understand why.
rating: 2.5 golden thrones