Right, let’s start off like all good reviews should – by pointing out that the author is probably significantly biased towards enjoying this book. Way back when I was just a teenager and first discovered Warhammer it was the Catachan Jungle Fighters that drew me into the game. While we do our best to ignore the fact that their minis might still be the same ones I painted terribly as a teenager (and have been featured on our very own list of the worst looking minis) the lore of these textbook badasses continues to be a fan favourite and, as rose tinted as my glasses may be, Catachan Devil is a very good book.
The novel sees the Catachan 57th arrive on the backwater world of Gondwa VI, tasked with dealing with an aggressive incursion from the Greenskins. The Catachans, led by the appropriately Rambo-esque named Colonel Haskell ‘Hellfist’ Aldalon, appraise the situation and quickly do what they do best – go on the offensive. Melding into the jungle and ready to take the fight to the Orks the Catachans have an unexpected hurdle to deal with – the secondment of Trooper Torvin, a lone survivor from the Skadi Second infantry. Can Torvin prove himself to the Catachans, and himself, before he’s overcome by the Xenos or the Catachan doubts about his courage?
Woolley has stepped up admirably to bring the overly large characters of the Catachans to life in this novel. There’s no arguing about the jungle fighters being a cheesy faction, they’re pretty much all the eighties war-movie action heroes rolled into one package and thrown into the furnace of 40k’s already over the top grimdark fantasy (I mean just check out the cover art below). But, whilst Woolley nails that aspect, he also brings some humanity and even relatability to the Catachans, whilst off-setting them with the threatening Ghost Orks. There’s a well woven narrative throughout, with characters dealing with interpersonal relationships, ambitions, homesickness, self-doubt and political intrigue. This is far more than just a good old fashioned shootout, and you quickly get drawn into rooting for the characters, gain a regard for the callousness and cruelty of the Imperium (illustrated by insightful sections lifted from the the Imperial Infantryman’s Uplifting Primer) and, kind of surprisingly, find yourself kind of cheering for a blood thirsty Ork Kommando. Ultimately, you’ll keep on relentlessly turning pages to find out what happens next.
It has to be said that the development of Torvin is a bit of a hard concept to get around. The whole concept of the Catachans is that they develop their incredible jungle fighting skills on the crucible of ‘survival of the fittest’ that is their deathworld home. We’re expected to believe that a trooper pulled from a civilian conscription round can keep pace and, admittedly only partially, gain the skills of these elite soldiers over the course of a single operation – and while you do want him to do it, you have to overlook that significant hurdle to stay engaged.
Pick it up if you’re an Astra Militarum fan looking to get a fix of humanities hardest fighters, the hard realities of fighter for the Imperium’s defence, brutal (and kunnin’) Xenos foes and you want an well written book that will leave you wanting more.
We rate Catachan Devil:
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