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Day of Ascension review – When You Like Your Grimdark Grim and Dark

Day of Ascension by Adrian Tchaikovsky coverTLDR: In the bleak future of humanity, there is only eat, and perhaps, being eaten alive in this combat-heavy but well-written Warhammer 40k novel.

Triskellian is a tech priest, a machine-worshiping half-cyborg. He’s also the runt of the litter of tech-priesthood, with everyone from the Grand Fabricator to your junior acolyte looking down on his fascination with bio-engineering. And his only friends are a comic duo of misshapen tech-Igors.

Davien is a spy, the vanguard of a proletariat revolution that never comes. She’s also the last guardian of a sick brother, and a more-or-less fanatic follower of a cult of murderous, bio-engineered aliens. And if that isn’t bleak enough, the pair of them live on an Adeptus Mechanicus forge world, a hollowed out shell of poisoned planet where everything is either a smoking factory, an open pit mine, or a tenement crawling with filthy, starving, diseased humanity.

Welcome to the wonderful world of Warhammer 40k, which puts the “grim” in “grimdark”.

Warhammer 40k, a gaming property of Games Workshop set in the 41st millennium, is the original grimdark. The word itself comes from a tag line for 40k: In the grim dark future, there is only war. If you’ve never played any of the miniature games, you owe it to yourself to get down to your local gaming store and do so.

40k is fun. It’s also the fictional world with more canonical lore than any, with the possible exception of the Marvel and DC expanded universes. There’s a lot of Warhammer tie-in products. If you ever feel the need to read a hundred novels of people getting shot, stabbed, blown up, or eaten, killed, and generally abused, but without too much gore or moral quandaries, Warhammer is the franchise to go.

It doesn’t hurt that they’ve got some of the best writers in modern SFF, either (myself included.)

I love the world of Warhammer, both in its grimdark fantasy and grimdark science fiction aspects. There’s something incredibly charming about the scale of forgotten tech, crumbling edifices, desolate plains, and hordes of spiked, sword-wielding warriors, all wrapped in a blanket of (pig) Latin (just ad -us to everything.)

But it is over-the-top grimdark.

There are no heroes in 40k. There are only people (in the loosest of terms, a lot of them aren’t human) who feature in stories, and corpses. In Warhammer, everyone’s a redshirt.

That doesn’t make it any less fun, if you’re in the right mood. And Day of Ascension is a typical Warhammer story: great writing, lots of action, an absolutely bleak world, and no heroes.

It’s also written by Adrian Tchaikovsky, who’s one of the premiere SFF writers today, and he brings all his skill to a setting that very easily could spill over into melodrama.

There’s an art to writing a good Warhammer story, beyond what it takes to write SFF, and Tchaikovsky has got it.

The depth of description in Days of Ascension puts you right in the middle of a dirty, crumbling, ignorant world full of injustice and violence. It’s so well executed that you can smell the metallic stink of the forges when you read.

There’s also the required amount of military violence and semi-gory death that is a requirement of any 40k story. If you are a fan of the setting, you’ll be getting a solidly written story with some relatable characters and plenty of mayhem and backstabbing.

And if you’re a fan of Tchaikovsky, be aware that this is different from his other works. In the dark future, there are no good guys, there is only war…


Exciting new Warhammer 40,000 novel from Adrian Tchaikovsky.

On the forge world of Morod, the machines never stop and the work never ends. The population toil in the mines and factoria to protect humanity from the monsters in the void, while the Adeptus Mechanicus enjoy lives of palatial comfort.

Genetor Gammat Triskellian seeks to end this stagnant corruption. When he learns of a twisted congregation operating within the shadows, one which believes that the tech-priests are keeping the people from their true salvation – a long-prophesied union with angels – he sees in them an opportunity to bring down Morad’s masters and reclaim the world in the name of progress.

But sometimes, the only hope for real change lies in the coming of monsters.


Dreams of Futures Past Book Cover

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