Well, the day could have gone better. Had a night of failure to sleep so spend most of the day grumpy about that. Which kind of killed my plans to be cheerful and productive on my birthday. On the other hand I figure I get a pass on being productive on my birthday so it kind of balances out.
Anyway, today is a extra-special edition! I mean, kinda, sorta? I finished the 5th book in the Iron Hearts ponyfic series. 1,012,247 words of My Little Pony / Warhammer 40k crossover. First one is the biggest, and the fifth review will mostly be my reaction to the series overall.
Overall summary? Best warhammer 40k crossover with pony I’ve run across, and I enjoyed it a lot all the way through.
- Iron Hearts: Book 1 – Planetfall by SFaccountant
- Iron Hearts: Book 2 – Ferrous Dominus by SFaccountant
- Iron Hearts: Book 3 – The Sept Lamman by SFaccountant
- Iron Hearts: Book 4 – Emerald Dawn by SFaccountant
- Iron Hearts: Book 5 – Suffer Not the Alien to Live by SFaccountant
I was not expecting it, but this was one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while. Slap ponies and Warhammer 40k together, strip out the grimdarkness, stir vigorously and apparently you get comedy! For a certain measure of dark comedy I mean. There is still plenty of gore and violence, though none of it extremely graphic. Just sort of ‘he stabbed the other guy over and over until his lightning claws were covered with blood’ sort of gore. I don’t normally use quotations in my reviews for two reasons. One, I feel that a reaction to a book should not rely to much on the book itself to make a point, and two I don’t want to confuse anyone that I do actual critical and analysis type reviews. Yet sometimes I just can’t help it, so here are two passages from the story.
“You want to try me? I’ll show you what a pony can do!” the pegasus said, crossing her front legs over her chest as she grinned and hovered above the Chaos Marine’s head.
“You don’t need to show me that you can bleed profusely; I’d guessed that already,” Tellis grumbled, waving her off, “weak offerings such as you will not please Lord Khorne, and you begin to bore me. Begone, blue thing.”
Rainbow Dash was practically livid after hearing that, but before she could begin an angry tirade at the winged giant, something he had said seized her attention.
Tellis began to walk away. “Lord Khorne, the Blood God, the dark god of slaughter and warfare. I’m sure your ‘Celestia’ – who sounds like a total wimp, by the way – has heard of him. He’s probably the god that beat up your god after god gym class.”
To his surprise, Rainbow Dash started laughing.
“Lord CORN? You worship a vegetable? Ha ha haaa!”
Tellis froze mid-stride. His hand twitched, and his lightning claws extended with a crackle of electricity as their destructive energy fields engaged.
Rainbow seemed distantly aware of the weapons as she brought her snickering under control, looking at the Raptor Lord with amusement as she slowly floated backward on the breeze. “No wonder you like Applejack so much! You’re both real devoted to farming, huh?”
Well. That was that then. Blue pegasus dies.
One turning launch through the air to make contact. One swipe to seize the pony by the back of her neck. One good shake, and the snap of bones announced the end of the trivial chore, the xeno’s neck splintered. It was dead.
Well, that had been the plan, anyway.
Tellis thought it had been a good plan.
The pegasus hovering out of arms’ reach probably disagreed, as she had been able to flit away from his grasping metal hands with room to spare.
“Wow, you seemed a lot faster when you were fighting the grayskins,” Rainbow noted with a smirk, “but hey, I understand. You’re probably tired and all ready to pray to Lord Corn, aren’t you? Do you need anything? Like some butter, maybe?”
Spolier: Rainbow Dash survives and the two of them become best buddies. RD is the more cautious, reasonable, and level-headed of the two.
“Whoa! Hold on one bucking minute!” Rainbow Dash shouted, looking absolutely furious. “What do you mean we have to get rid of the humans?! What did they do?!”
Twilight sighed. “All right, look, girls: I know we’ve been tip-hoofing around this issue so far, but let’s get it right out in the open: the Iron Warriors, if not the entire 38th Company, are evil.”
Rarity and Applejack winced, as if the revelation were a physical blow. Pinkie planted her hooves over her ears, not wanting to hear such things. Fluttershy, having been introduced to one of the most violent and brutal soldiers of the Company before building any attachment to him, just looked confused, wondering why the others were hesitant about the subject.
Rainbow Dash was having none of it, however. “Oh, please. They are not.”
“Wasn’t Tellis trying to kill you at first?” Twilight deadpanned.
“That was totally my fault!” Rainbow protested, rolling her eyes. “Besides, we patched things up! He’s really cool once you get to know him! And he has a GREAT sense of humor!”
Behind Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy silently shook her head back and forth, her mane whipping about wildly.
“Well, maybe they’re not ALL evil,” Applejack allowed, “Daniels don’t seem like a bad apple.”
“The man is a mercenary, darling. That means he fights and kills for money,” Rarity pointed out. As Applejack wilted, the unicorn sighed. “I rather liked these humans too, even if they have absolutely NO taste in clothing, but it would seem Twilight is correct. Princess Celestia has confirmed it.”
Rainbow Dash grit her teeth, and then she rose up in the air. “Oh, like hay she is… TELLIS! HEY, TELLIS!! C’MERE!”
The other ponies recoiled in surprise at the shout.
“Rainbow! Stop! What’re you doing?” Twilight hissed.
“I NEED TO ASK YOU SOMETHING!”
Tellis stopped slapping his armored hand repeatedly against the face of his subordinate’s equally armored helmet, turning his head at the call.
“Sorry, I have to take this,” Tellis apologized as he dropped the Raptor onto the ground in a heap, “just pretend that there’s someone yelling meaningless abuse and unhelpful criticism at you until I get back to finish.”
Tellis turned away from the extremely irritated members of his unit and walked over to the ponies once again. Rainbow Dash had her forelegs crossed over her chest and all the other ponies besides her and the pink one looked terrified, he noticed.
“This is Tellis, the Mad Angel; how can I help you?” the Raptor Lord asked, his otherwise pleasant greeting turned to a hateful shriek by his vox amplifier.
Rainbow Dash took a moment to glance over at her other friends, noting that at some point Fluttershy had moved from hiding behind her to hiding behind Rarity.
“Hey, Tellis, are you evil?”
Twilight smacked her hoof into her face again, and Rarity winced.
“Darling, be careful; you’re going to hurt yourself.”
To the surprise of the ponies, Tellis went silent. He spent several seconds staring at the blue pegasus through his twisted metal mask before he replied.
“Well, that’s a complicated question,” Tellis admitted, the screeching feedback effect gone from his voice as he adopted a more serious tone, “after all, what does it mean to be ‘evil’? The definition changes depending on who you ask.”
His head tilted back, staring at the sky as he waxed philosophical. “We could probably agree that it means something like ‘cruel’ and ‘malicious’, but what we label as evil are usually people and things that we don’t want to observe and think about, not those things that we’ve studied and determined to fit the word. We place upon them the shallow and hollow motivation of causing pain for pain’s own sake because it’s easier; if they had a reason – if there could BE a reason – would we even want to know what it is?”
Rainbow Dash furrowed her brow as she worked her way through that chunk of deep thought, while Twilight reluctantly felt a bit of respect grow for the psychotic Astartes.
Then Tellis looked back at Rainbow Dash again. “Anyway, to answer your question, YES. Of course we’re evil.”
Twilight felt relieved as she promptly discarded the respect she had developed earlier. Rainbow Dash, on the other hand, looked stunned by the admission.
“I’m wearing skulls around my neck and my armor drinks blood. The only way I could be more obvious about it would be a neon sign, but I don’t think it would survive a combat jump,” the Raptor Lord mused.
It certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve got a somewhat twisted sense of humor you’ll probably enjoy this quite a bit. That last line about wearing skulls and armor drinking blood makes me laugh out loud just about every time I think about it. Part of it is context, the whole idea of the fact that the evil guy is just so blatant and Rainbow Dash just hasn’t really noticed. This part comes right at the end of the story when RD has been hanging around the Chaos Champion as he gleefully kills and slaughters his way through the Tau forces. So him saying that isn’t a big revelation or anything, it’s just stating the obvious.
Basically, I like the idea of the ponies making friends with evil chaos worshipers like they are new neighbors. Whereas the chaos warriors have no reason to kill the ponies and actually some reasons not to for the moment, so they just put up with it. Except for Tellis who finds flying horses and horses wearing hats hilarious because he is so insane the other insane fanatics call him crazy. Oh, and Apple Bloom tames a semi-sentient chaos war machine and treats it like a pet. She names it Crabapple and she and the other crusaders paint it red and give it a new cutie mark.
I intend to jump right into the rest of the stories and I hope the hilariousness continues. Might even get a bit more actual serious drama as well, but hopefully without sacrificing the absurdity of the whole thing.
Not quite as comedic (for whatever value that term has in this context) and more action-y with the first half being mostly a big extended battle. Still, the absurdity of the pony/wh40k mixture remains even if it becomes less over the top and more just kind of the status quo. If you liked the first one I bet you’ll like this one. I’m certainly looking forward to the next and have quite a bit of interest in seeing where things go.
Kind of funny how I only care about two non-pony characters though. I mean, there are some neat/cool/horrifying characters on the chaos side that I enjoy seeing in scenes, but they are all so terrible that seeing them get killed would be a good thing.
I will also say that the pacing for both this one and he first one is excellent. At no point did I feel like it was rushed or dragged on and both of them seemed much shorter than their numerical word count would suggest.
Another fun one. This one dragged a bit, but understandable considering it was twice as long as the others. Mostly action with bits and pieces of the same absurdist dark comedy as previous. Not a whole much more to say. Still interesting to see the ponies teamed up with the evil guys against what are basically good guys.
With this one the story stops being a mix and is pretty much just a non grimdark warhammer40k story that has ponies in it. Which isn’t a terrible thing. I’m involved enough that I want to see how it all ends up and I still enjoy the action bits and many of the characters. Though the focus has drifted away from my favorites. It really does feel like the author is writing it as he goes along and therefore is just using whatever character he wants and the others just kind of trail off and get forgotten. Which is a criticism, but a minor one. Much like a television show it took time to find the primary characters.
Though I am amused that Pinkie Pie has become the most evil of the mane six. I mean, if you consider a few specific events around her getting her dreadnoughts. Then again with a daemon summoning and another direct reminder of the chaos forces are evil, it’s not like that behavior is out of place. Though the fact that she doesn’t tell the truth about it is partly why it’s evil.
Anyway, to go into the fifth book to see how the ork invasion wraps up. Then perhaps go try some of the side short stories. Though I honestly don’t have much interest in most of the character’s back stories.
Looking back from the end, I want to say that this was a great story. Then I have to walk back a bit with some conditionals. It wasn’t a masterpiece of writing or anything. Some good amusing jokes, a few nicely executed emotional bits, the ending deus ex mechanica actually felt proper, but in general it didn’t have amazingly poetic writing or deep creative-provoking worldbuilding/ideas, etc. So from a purely technical level it might rate a solid above-average to good. Yet I enjoyed it immensely and at the very least credit has to be given to a story that stretches over a million words that actually felt shorter than, say, Fallout: Equestria. So pacing-wise I’d have to say the author is in the upper tiers of writing skill. For my personal tastes anyway.
Oh, and Pinkie Pie maintains her title of the most evil of the mane six. I thought I might have been a little harsh calling her that in a earlier review. Then she drives one of the most reliable dreadnoughts insane and then does a Joker reference from the movie The Dark Knight (2008). Sure, he probably doesn’t die, but it’s still a bit disturbing. I do think the author overall did a good job with Pinkie Pie though. A good balance of wacky and impossible, but without going completely zany and over the top.
All the characters in general were nicely handled. Fluttershy probably got the least screentime, but kind of fits given her shyness. Twilight is a nerd. Rarity is a vain businesspony. Rainbow Dash is a thrill-seeker. Applejack is set in her ways and cares more about home than anything else. Pinkie Pie is crazy in a cute (evil) way. Spike is mostly ignored and eventually ends up as someone else’s assistant while Twilight goes off on adventures. The characters on the Warhammer 40k side of the crossover continue to be the blend of horrifying and amusing.
And all the way up to the end, not a single pony dies.
As for flaws? Well, no major ones assuming you roll with the basic premise of warhammer/ponies scifi. Dark comedy of the absurdist contrast vein all the way. Oh, and don’t mind lots of killing and a moderate amount of gore. Those aside… I think the author makes the same mistake as a lot of people do (including the pony show) in prioritizing Unicorn magic as powerful and the other two types of ponies are just kind of ‘everyone else’. Again, the show does it too, but there are ways to make things a bit more balanced that could have been factored into the story.
Some of the end points of the various books could have been tweaked a little. They mostly work as stand-alone stories. Or, more accurately, you can stop at the end of each one and not go to the next without huge cliffhanger moments. As for context I came into this with a decent amount of experience with Warhammer 40k and I feel like it was the only thing that let me understand what things were at times. A reader could just roll and still understand the plot I guess, but would probably spend a good amount of time confused. On the other hand, that’s because the author more or less keeps exposition to a bare minimum. Which I always like to encourage. So your mileage may vary.