Apr 19, 2017

[Books] Battletech: Blood of Heroes

When you get into the story worlds of Battletech, you'll inevitably encounter the Gray Death Legion. They're one of the most famous mercenary companies in the Inner Sphere and were one of the early points of focus in the Battletech novels as they began to emerge and flesh out the universe more.

Blood of Heroes is quirky as it is a novel in the Saga of the Gray Death Legion that is credited as having being written by Andrew Keith, the brother of William H. Keith Jr. who wrote most of the books. It doesn't feel like a different writer though as things remain pretty consistent.

When I first started reading the Battletech books, I started a little later and ended up catching the tailend of this particular saga. Having finally read this book, I have now made up for all the Gray Death Legion books that had come before I started reading about their adventures in the Inner Sphere. And I have to admit, I have a much better appreciation now for what makes the Legion so unique versus other mercenary groups. And my geek heart is all the better for it.

Synopsis: Battletech: Blood of Heroes is the fourth novel in the Saga of the Gray Death Legion books. I was credited as having been written by Andrew Keith however William H. Keith, Jr. has said that both brothers wrote the book together, which may explain the consistency of tone with the other books.

It is 3056 and it has been 28 years since the treacherous events on Helm. The Legion has settled on the world of Glengarry. Under the employ  of House Steiner, they had initially settled on Sudeten but the Clan invasion forced them off the world. Now they serve under the Federated Commonwealth Colonel Grayson Carlyle has been summoned to Tharkad for an audience with Prince Victor Steiner-Davion. This marks the first time that Colonel Carlyle has been unable to attend the Day of Heroes, a holiday for when the Legion remembers those who have given their lives for the mercenary group and those they serve. But it was a worthy enough exercise as Prince Victor names Grayson Carlyle as Baron of Glengarry, making him the effective ruler of their world.

However this same time is used by the Free Skye separatists to declare their open support for Ryan Steiner as the true successor to House Steiner and stage a daring strike on Glengarry while its leadership and most of its strength is off-world. The planet is only loosely defended by a skeletal force under the command of Major de Villar and Glengarry is a world without a hyperpulse generator, thus is solely reliant on JumpShips to maintain communications with other worlds. The story largely focuses on Alexander Carlyle, who is still in a cadet in training and becomes a key figure for the Legion to rally around despite his inexperience.

What I Liked: Blood of Heroes has a pretty big story that involves what could have been a lengthier campaign stretched across several books. The book goes into a significant amount of detail in terms of how the Skye campaign unfolds on Glengarry and how the Legion forces prepare for the inevitable landing. The way the book talks about the entry of the Skye forces in-system with a Legion JumpShip ready to leave and DropShip assets loose in the system is amazing. Then tie in the people on the ground getting delayed updates due to the distance all makes for a complex dance.

Once you get to the ground battle, you have a pretty great campaign of a smaller force doing its best to defend against a much larger one.  I assumed that this would immediately go into a guerrilla type battle with the Legion forces on the run and holding out as long as they could. Instead we had them effectively defending their territory through bold offensive strategies true to the Legion's reputation.

What Could Have Been Better: The bit about the Legion following Alexander Carlyle despite being a cadet was a bit of a stretch at first but they did try to stress the value of symbols and such. But to give him credit, at least he contribute a few interesting ideas for the defense of the planet despite everything else. I do wish there were less characters in focus though as we're juggling members of the Legion both old and new as this was meant as a sort of transition novel.

Then the ending felt like an odd place to stop things. There was a heck of a lot more action to explore as the defense of Glengarry was finally underway but instead it ended  up being a way point before another big jump forward come the next book. So I do feel a little frustrated that we sort of missed out on that action, especially given how much detail had been covered in the first act with the space aspect of the invasion. I also wish we found out more about what the Legion JumpShip's story was since they disappear for most of the book after the first act.

TL;DR: Blood of Heroes is a pretty great book though and a fun exploration of the next generation of heroes for the Gray Death Legion. It starts out big then gets a little bogged down later on but it's still a great adventure. Thus the book gets 4 quick offensive pushes the Legion tries to push past the Syke invaders out of a possible 5.

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