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Warhammer 40,000: Iron Resolve

This piece will contain spoilers for Iron Resolve. 

++No remorse, no mercy, no forgiveness. Not a single step back, not a single moment of hesitation. You will not succumb to fear or doubt, and you will relent only after you have given your last moment for the Emperor. Nothing less than this will be tolerated.++

The Mordian Iron Guard and Steve Lyons is a potent pairing of two things I love in both the Warhammer 40,000 setting and the Black Library’s ever expanding trove of fiction. Lyons is responsible for two of my favorite Imperial Guard-focused stories, Down Amongst the Dead Men, which is a story set in the hellishly radioactive Death World of Krieg, and Dead Men Walking, which pits the Death Korps of Krieg against the undying forces of the Necrons. Both are excellent and well worth your time, but I’m not entirely sure I can say the same for Iron Resolve.

Iron Resolve mostly circles around three characters, the fresh-faced 16-year-old Mordian Iron Guard infantryman, Myre, the no-nonsense and straight-backed Sergeant, Katryne Ven Coers, and the by-the-books field medicae, Lieutenant Veimer.

The story opens with Myre arriving at the command HQ, which is overseeing the scouring of Dirkir Forest on the planet of Kallash following an Ork ship crash. The crashing ship ultimately leads to the planets forests being infested with Feral Orks. Being terrified by his first encounter with an Ork, a dead one that is, Myre finds that he doesn’t quite have the temperament for battle after witnessing the Guardsman he was closest to die at the hands of the green behemoths later that same day. In a post-battle burial, Myre comes across an Ork knife that he would later use to stab himself in the hopes of using the wound to escape active duty.

And thus, we’re introduced to Lieutenant Veimer who swiftly deduces that the wound is self inflicted, telling Myre that he will need to appeal his case to the Commissariat or face summary execution. What follows is introspection on the part of both characters while elsewhere in Dirkir, Sergeant Katryne Ven Coers is responding to requests for assistance from other forest sweeping squads. Her squad and multiple others run afoul of an unknown Ork contraption and are scattered throughout the forest with Ven Coers left cursing the absence of Myre whose rifle may have helped swing the battle. News flash, it wouldn’t have. But it’s at this point that the story sort of falls into a not entirely thrilling experience.

Ven Coers finds herself in the unfortunate position of having contracted some form of local lurgy, presumably something borne of the feral Ork hordes. From here on, she continues to take combat stimulants, which you don’t want to be ingesting at the best of times, in an attempt to hold off the spread of infection within her body, enabling her to keep serving and fighting dutifully.

As things go on, she becomes more and more overtly hostile, to the extent at which she simply comes across as being cartoonishly villainous in a manner that just doesn’t land. Trooper Myre, despite his failings, has been actively working as best as he’s able to help prepare defenses, treat the wounded, and aid in the general readiness of the command HQ, yet despite his readily observable efforts, Ven Coers says, “Don’t think for a second this gets you off the hook. When the fighting starts, you’ll be front and center with the rest of us. I’ll see to that myself. I’ll prop you up against a sandbag, wrap your hands around a gun and tell you where to point it. I’ll nail your damn feet to the ground if i have to.”

Really? That’s what you’re going to tell a would-be defender of the compound? I understand this is because of the continued doses of combat stims in her system, but amid countless other jibes and moments of being quick to anger, she just comes apart as entirely unlikeable and a chore to read. Eventually, she finds a glorious death in removing a serious threat from the Ork hordes and, while I enjoyed the sequence of events, I would have been much happier had another character been the one to sacrifice themselves, someone I cared about, like Myres or Veimer.

Ven Coers’ less than shining personality aside, I’m afraid the story simply doesn’t amount to much and comes to a close with what feels like a halfhearted, “This person can make a difference” message, which should be blatantly obvious already given the myriad interventions made by other characters who never receive so much as a name. One moment in particular revolving around the sacrifice of a brave Chimera driver comes to mind.

Ultimately, what starts out as an intriguing story of a mysterious Orkish development and a fundamental failing in the alleged unyielding discipline of the Mordian Iron Guard, turns into a long and drawn out “hold the line!” battle sequence with one great moment and a death that could have been better served were it given to someone else. It’s not bad, but neither is it brilliant; it’s good. If you’re looking for a story to pass some time, then this is the story for you. If you’re looking for something that will plumb the depths of what it means to be Mordian Iron Guard, check out Iron Guard by Mark Clapham.