One of Black Library’s newest offerings, is Watchers of The Throne: The Emporer’s Legion. Written by Chris Wraight, the same author who brought us Leman Russ: The Great Wolf, The Battle of The Fang and The Carrion Throne, the story starts just before the Fall of Cadia.
Black Library is surprisingly mum about the details of what the novel is actually about though, the blurb on the website just simply states:
“The Custodian Guard have stood watch over the Emperor's Palace on Terra since the foundation of the Imperium. Charged with protecting the Master of Mankind from all threats, within and without, their fearsome resolve is renowned throughout the galaxy, and their golden armour is the last thing that a would-be assassin or saboteur will ever see. Alongside the Null-maidens of the Sisters of Silence, who are anathema to psykers and sorcerers alike, there is no threat to the Golden Throne that they alone cannot vanquish... until now.”
Well then…that just about sums everything we already knew about the famed Talons of the Emperor, I think I’ve read more descriptive paragraphs in the subject lines of emails!
The story focuses around three main characters. With each chapter, the narrator role rotates between the three characters, offering different perspectives of the same events. Our characters are Alexi Lev Tieron, the Chancellor of the Imperial Court and Tannau Aleya, a null maiden of the Sisters of Silence, and some Custodes Shield-Captain guy named Valerian, who has nothing interesting of note, besides the fact he’s a Custode.
Each character has their own story arc and reasons to fight for the Imperium.
Alexi is fighting to unite the Council of Terra to overturn the laws set down by Roboute Guilliman and allow for the Custodes to be released to turn the tide against the forces of Chaos.
Tannau Aleya is fighting because she hates Chaos. And to avenge her Sisterhood which was destroyed by Chaos. And because she hates the Imperium for forgetting about the Sisters of Silence. And because she hates the Custodes.
And Valerian the Custode guy? Well he’s fighting because he’s a Custode.
The first half of the book is a little slow, and mostly focuses around Alexi’s efforts to unite the Council of Terra together. It’s interesting to see how politics in the 41st millennium works, but let’s face it, we’re just waiting for the grimdark to come screaming in and wreck the joint.
Halfway through the book, just as we’re about to find out if the Council is united on overturning Guilliman’s laws, a cry goes up, “Cadia has fallen!”. It’s at this point that the galaxy goes to hell in a handbasket…literally. If you’ve read the 40k rulebook, “Fall of Cadia”, then you’ll know it goes. The 13th Black Crusade blows Cadia to pieces, the Eye of Terror grows and splits the Imperium in half, and most importantly, the Astronomican goes dark. For thirty-odd days, the Imperium ceases to exist.
During this month of darkness, the Custodes place a long distance call to Titan and ask the Grey Knights what was going on, and to ask if they have any spare lightbulbs to plug into the Astronomican. The Grey Knights are ever so helpful, and tell them to go to a particular point on Luna. It’s around this time, that you’ll remember the events of Rise of the Primarch. Guilliman arrives with several armies worth of Space Marines, Imperial Guard, a living Saint, a bunch of xenos and are being chased by the Thousand Sons.
You can almost hear the Benny Hill theme song playing in the background.
We jump forward a few days, to the time where Guilliman has locked himself in the Throne room and the High Lords are bickering like small kids, worried that all their power is going to be taken away from them by the last surviving son of the Emperor. The bickering is rudely interrupted by our Custode friend who is taking a walk with some Grey Knights and kicking the butts of one of the many new Chaos cults that have appeared on Terra. It’s here that things get a little Khorne-y and the second Battle of the Lion’s Gate begins.
The battle plays out like any other standard 40k battle, the defenders are grossly overpowered by the forces of Khorne and struggle to hold back the crimson tide. There’s a fairly epic paragraph of the gates of the Imperial Palace opening and releasing a golden tide of Custodes and crashing into the forces of evil. The battle ends with the Lion’s Gate being destroyed, Guilliman being hailed a hero, and over 2,000 Custodes dead. Yes, you read that right, 2,000 Custodes die in this rather short battle. It’s a bit crazy when you remember that only 3 Custodes died during the Battle of Ullanor, let’s hope there’s enough room on the Emperor’s armour to inscribe the names of these 2,000 Custodes.
Jumping forward a little further, our generic Custodes hero realises that the forces of Chaos are actually working on a secret plan to cut all the major warp routes that the Imperium use to travel to and from Terra. Seven out of the eight routes have already been cut by the time our brave Custode and bad-ass Sister raise an army (of 40) and break all the rules and skip school for the day to go play hero and defend a planet by themselves.
They arrive in time to stop a Black Legion ship from launching one of the left over pillars from Cadia into the planet cutting the last stable route from Terra. The 40 Custodes and Sisters sells their lives dearly and manage to hold out long enough for the rest of the forces of Terra to play catch up.
The book closes with the Imperium declaring the saved planet as the new gateway (Cadia Mark II anyone?) and the launch of the Indomitus Crusade.
So our final thoughts on the book.
We were told that this book would offer our first insight into how the Custodes and Sisters of Silence will work in the 42nd Millennia. They function the same as they did in the 31st Millennia, albeit with more fury.
If you’re a fan of the Talons of the Emperor, we’d definitely recommend this book to you and give it a solid