REVIEW SUMMARY: Though a bit rough around the edges and clumsy at times, this is an imaginative, engaging, and highly entertaining military thriller.
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Inquisitor Obadiah Roth takes on the hordes of Chaos in the Medina Corridor.
PROS: Imaginative and interesting military thriller with plenty of action; kept me entertained and up way too late reading it; left me looking forward to the next book in the series.
CONS: Lacked a certain depth of character development and dialog; could have used a good editor to help polish off this book a bit.
BOTTOM LINE: It has its flaws, but the story was immensely enjoyable and I expect even better things in the next installment from Henry Zou.
As I read this book, I found myself noting numerous “quirks” that should have been changed or scrubbed by an editor: typos and misspellings, minor grammatical errors, and simple elements of style gone awry. I leave these in the lap of the editors at Games Workshop and hope they do a better job next time around.
In contrast to top tier Black Library authors (e.g. Dan Abnett, William King, etc.), Zou tended to be a bit light on character development and conversation. By the end of the book, you really didn’t really have a deeper view or understanding of Obadiah Roth or his supporting cast. Furthermore, dialog between characters was often clumsy and at times hard to understand. Henry Zou has some room to grow here.
Overall, it seems that Zou understands his limitations and his strengths. For the most part, he stuck with what he does best. That is, he focused on the development of the situation, the plot, and the blistering military action. The action ran thicker and faster as the book progressed. He was also terrific in his painting of the enemy horde, usually with the blood of many innocents on his brush. Zou showed no qualms about introducing a likable character on one page and eviscerating him on the next. With his vivid and detailed descriptions of their crimes, Zou often allowed the various legions of Chaos to upstage our Imperial heroes and kept the pages turning late into the night.
As a veteran campaigner of numerous Warhammer 40K novels, I am always on the lookout for my next hot author from the Black Library. Based on this initial effort by Henry Zou, I may have found it.
Special mention should be made for the book cover art by Raymond Swanland, which rates 5 stars for exceptional quality. It is perhaps the most vivid, intense, and professional of all the Warhammer 40K cover art and really helps sell the book.
I, too, would give this book 3-and-a-half stars out of 5. The biggest issue being that of character development. They were all flat, with no deeper insight into the reasons for their various actions. I’d also say that Emperor’s Mercy was tad bit too ‘military SF’ for my taste. I felt the story being told, which is very good, didn’t lend itself well to the sort of ‘fetishisms’ inherent in MilSF, being more of a character oriented piece.
Over all though, I think Zou is definitely a writer to watch. He already has the ripping story part down pat. A little polish on the characters and the Black Library folks will have yet another great author on their hands.