That's my actual first impression when I got this in my hands. The quality of the book is fantastic.
You should know that this is the first 40k book I have brought in about 5 years. I fell out of love with 40k and switched to 30k, but I'm also a real fluff monkey and this book promised to re-tell the story of the 13th Black Crusade in great detail, so I was drawn to it.
The story focuses on a number of characters, not least the new Trimuvate. There are actually two or three parallel stories going on.
The first is that of Creed leading the imperial guard and Space Marines, alongside Inquisitor Greyfax in the penultimate defence of Cadia. They are already loosing the battle against the Black Legion, who currently have a fyull fleet, including a Black Stone Fortress, hammering the hell out of Cadia. Greyfax is horrified to have awoken to find the Imperium now embraces mutants such as the Wulfen, aliens such as Trazyn the Infinite (who kept her locked in stasis for millennia) and heretics such as the false saint Celestine.
In a last ditch attempt, the sole remaining imperial vessel loads up with half a Space Wolves chapter and 150 assorted other Space Marines and attempts to board the Black Stone Fortress, driving it off and stalling the siege.
Things look bleak for Creed and his forces and he is about to evacuate the planet...
Meanwhile the Phallanx is quietly guarding Terra when an Iron Warriors company create a warp portal in the heart of the Imperial Fists fortress ship and board it. There ensues a long battle but the Fists finally win the day. They are about to lick their wounds when they receive a distress call from Cadia. Knowing the importance of the Cadian Gate they immediately depart from the system...
Also meanwhile the magos Craw is investigating a planet in the Cadian system, guided by an Eldar where he discovers other structures similar to the Cadian Pylons. He realises that these structures have been holding the warp, and the Eye of Terror, in check and that Abaddon's previous crusades have not actually been failures, he's been slowly taking out all the planets with thee pylons, Cadia being the last in the set.
Craw quickly determines that he must get to Cadia and stop Abaddon from destroying the last of the pylons...
Just as Abaddon is gearing up for his final assault and Creed is about to leave, Craw turns up and tells him Creed about the pylons. Creed determines that actually abandoning the planet isn't such a good idea ("just kidding guys, everyone out of the saviour pods...") and steels his determination for a final stand.
But then the Phallanx appears in system. During it's journey through the warp it managed to pic up both a company of Legion of the Damned and a ship full of Sisters of Battle that got lost in the warp 1400 years previously... that must have made for an interesting journey. "So flamey ghostly guy, what sort of vacations do you like?".... "And what do you sisters get up to at the weekends?..."
Anyway, the Phallanx fights off the Black Legion force for a short while before Abaddon renews his attack and Creed decides that actually there's nothing for it, they will have to evacuate the planet. 90% of the forces evacuate whilst Creed and the Cadian 8th stay to fight to the end.
Ultimately Cadia is now a Daemon World and the Eye of Terror is expanding. The fleeing imperial forces get separated, with most of the Space Marines and Imperial Guard jumping into the warp whilst Craw and his Mechanicus ships (contaiing Greyfax, Trayzn and Celestine) have to ditch on to the nearest planet, where they are met by a combined force of Eldar, Dark Eldar and other Eldar and led through a Webway portal to safety...
Where the fluff and rules combine is a bit like the Shattered Legions rules in 30k. This is a huge battle involving multiple factions who meld together to form impromptu units to take the fight to the enemy. There are a number of stories of lone survivors of Space Marine companies coming together in last ditch attempts to take enemy ships and objectives. I imagine this is the final prompt from Games Workshop for us to buy and paint what we like, because guess what, your Space Marines don't have to wear the same Chapter markings. In fact, they don't need to even be Space Marines now, they can be Eldar or Necrons or Knights or Mechanicus if you like!
Not that I'll ever play any of these missions or formations (I don't play that often these days), but there are rules in the back for 4 new missions to play out the Fall of Cadia, plus a couple of campaigns and of course, the rules for the new miniatures.
Overall this is a fantastic book with a fantastic story and some fantastic miniatures. If I wasn't already committed to 30k I'd be getting involved with this (and still may do), and I guess that is the intention from Games Workshop. Well done guys, please keep this up!
So what happens next? Looks like Games Workshop is already teasing us if you head over to the Community site.
Let me know if there's any more information you would like about the book.
theerrantwolf.blogspot.co.uk - a blog dedicated to The Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40k