‘Loyalty before the threat of death.’– Old Antari saying
Welcome once again to my small corner of this world. I’m glad for the company as today I discuss a favourite character of mine. I’ve spoken on many occasions – as long time readers will know! – of Warhammer (be it Horus Heresy, Age Of Sigmar or 40K) and all its numerous settings. However I’ve only rarely discussed the Imperial Guard otherwise known as the Astra Millitarum(the closest thing the Imperium has to a conscript army of common humans) and the rank of Imperial Commissar.
As those who are familiar with history may be aware, Commissars aren’t exactly popular with the average soldier. NO. STEPS. BACK. And Severina Raine is no exception! But before I go into detail on Raine and her Antari I should discuss the plot: The 11th Antari Rifles are a part of the Bale Stars Crusade. An effort by the current Lord-General Militant Alar Serek, a highly respected great hero of the Imperium,to purge the Bale Stars of one of its greatest threats – The Sighted: A truly powerful Chaos cult with many Psykers and true madmen among their number – which allows Commissar Severina Raine a true leader of soldiers and the men and women under her command to serve with distinction. However in the process of fulfilling their duties and standing firm in the face of true abominations, the 11th Antari Rifles discover a great secret in the possession of The Sighted. How will they reveal this information to High Command? And just who knows how far this rot at the centre of the Bale Stars will be allowed to grow? Will Raine discover some personal truths in the process of cleansing the Bale Stars of Chaos?
The character work by the author Rachel Harrison in Honourbound is some of my favourite characterisations in all of Warhammer. Severina Raine herself is a truly loyal Commissar who will give her life for the Imperium. Uncompromising and at points genuinely terrifying when she needs to be. She certainly isn’t a joker like Commissar Ciaphas Cain was! And yet despite her intense loyalty to the structure of the Imperium Raine trusts the Antari. She will…they will find the truth. The personal journey which Raine goes on throughout the novel is a continuation of her arc from the several short stories she and the 11th have been the focus of prior to Honourbound’s release and it is a captivating listen. I have been hoping for an audio version since the initial release so I can discuss this regiment! There is a lot more to Raine…and a certain important keepsake than I can say here but she isn’t the only main character of note.
To be completely honest every high ranking member of the Rifles has their moment or moments to shine as well as – in some cases – some beautiful and yet grim writing. The Sighted and everything tied to them is shown as utterly horrific and tainted beyond belief during the regiments’ many battles.
Other important figures I feel I must discuss include Andren Fel, the commander of the ‘Duskhounds’ (The Antari equivalents of the ‘Black Dog’) squad. He is a man close to Raine. One who knows all the ancient stories of the home planet of Antar and just why the Antari are quite as feral and traditional as they are. Something about them definitely makes me think of certain old Celtic traditions. Fel is also a man who despite his great skill in battle, feels he stands for the Duskhounds and must make certain choices when the time comes. But will he like them?
One final character I will discuss at length is Primaris Psyker Lydia Zane. Psykers are – as the name implies – individuals with great psychic ability ranging from the reading of mental states if not minds to the breaking of arms to turning people into soup from the inside out among other things! They are understandably kept on a leash by the Imperium. These powers make Zane something of an outsider among the Antari. However despite this we spend a lot of time in Honourbound finding out just what makes her tick. How does she feel about her treatment by others? About Raine?Why does she serve the Imperium and not attempt to flee? The answers make her and the other Antari fascinating.
The character writing in Honourbound is not Harrison’s only strong point. The battles are wonderfully dark with many moments worthy of a crusade. The sieges and attempts to counter the Sighted are also especially noteworthy with Harrison managing to pull you fully into the battle be it in the eyes of Fel, Raine or a low ranking soldier. The deaths feel worthy of a war as do those who make last stands. Personally? I could hardly put the book down and I cannot praise the book enough! I certainly would be happy to hear more news regarding the Bale Stars Crusade.
However I still have to discuss the audiobook. The audio edition of Honourbound is narrated by Nicolette Chin who in my opinion performs excellently. She IS Raine. Be it in battles, quiet moments of rest or command meetings she exudes this presence worthy of a leader who trusts her soldiers and yet despite that will do the duty of a Commissar as needed. Be it among her own men or others. Chin is also rather good at giving each character a distinct voice and making The Sighted just as unnerving, unnatural and disturbing as they should be. Other favourite performances of mine include the voice used for the Lord-General Militant which definitely suits a figure of such authority who has a well-deserved reputation and the somewhat unsavoury and very cutting and rough voice she gives to Wyck – the leader of the Wyldfolk– who is definitely the most aggressively feral of all the 11th Antari Rifles. I definitely look forward to hearing Chin again!
In conclusion not only is Honourbound one of the best novels I’ve read in recent memory but the audio version is gripping entirely on its own merit. Engaging as a war story and the kind of tale that burrows its way into your mind. There’s a reason Severina and the 11th Antari Rifles are the group I’d replicate if I ever joined a 40K tabletop battle and Raine is one of a very select group of characters from the Black Library history to be immortalised as a special edition unit in the game itself! I certainly hope that I can persuade some of my readers to join me alongside the Duskhounds and their fellows as we defend the Bale Stars from the bane of corruption.
P.S For the curious the chronology of the stories staring the Antari and Raine goes as follows:
- A Company Of Shadows
- Fire And Thunder
- The Darkling Hours
FIRE AND THUNDER!