If you've been following my Books in Brief series of posts for a while now, you'll be aware that I've been both hot and cold in my opinion of James Swallows writing. Lauding The Flight of the Eisenstein and bemoaning his Blood Angels novels. As a result I'd put off reading this his second Heresy novel for quite some time but was tempted back after his short story The Voice, in the Tales of Heresy anthology.
Nemesis is another side story to the main events of the Heresy and like the excellent Mechanicum it takes a refreshment break from the slugging match between Superhuman siblings; this time focusing on the shadow world of the Officio Assassinorum.
This novel is an uneven read, in places it shines, expanding on the different Assassin Clades, delivering some great action and death dealing scenes, utilising all the Assassins various skills and arsenals.
But Swallow has set himself a hard task with both his subject matter and plotline. To produce an engaging story with characters you are willing to invest in, he has to humanise what should be to all intents and purpose, remorseless fanatical killing machines and whilst he ably achieves this, it just doesn't feel quite right.
The choice of plotline (with my usual caution towards spoilers) rendered the journey fairly pointless for anyone with a passing knowledge of the Heresy. There are a few plot holes, some clunky devices and an interesting parallel story that sadly runs out of steam before being dumped into the main tale.
On the whole this is an ok read that would probably have fared much better if it had been reworked as a standalone 40k novel rather than struggling against much stronger works in the Heresy series.
As a final observation, am I the only one who detects a hint of a Firefly/Serenity nods in James Swallows writing style? Couldn't shake the impression that Iota the Culexus bore all the hallmarks of another young lady who could 'kill you with her brain'.