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Literature / Forges of Mars

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You are Ark Mechanicus. You are Speranza. You are the bringer of hope in this hopeless age.

Forges of Mars is the 2017 omnibus collection of a trilogy of Warhammer 40,000 novels written by Graham McNeill featuring Archmagos Lexell Kotov's explorator fleet and its voyage across the wild astronomic sector known as the Halo Scar. The novels are notable for describing how the Adeptus Mechanicus explorator fleets work as well as insight into the Mechanicus itself, presenting us a whole array of characters from the different elements of the fleet, from the command staff to the menial workers. They also feature, in good 40K tradition, epic battles both on the ground and in space. The first book, Priests of Mars, was released in 2012, Lords of Mars was released in 2013 and Gods of Mars was released in 2014. Forges of Mars also includes a related side story.


The series provides examples of:

  • A God Am I: The second novel opens with Telok proclaiming himself to be this.
  • Adult Fear: Lords puts Vitali Tychon through the wringer with regards to his daughter’s safety. First she nearly fries her brain. Then she gets badly burned in an accident and needs to be hospitalized. Finally, after being called away from her bedside to fulfill his duties, he returns to discover a serial killer standing over her freshly-murdered corpse.
  • Alien Geometries: The physical form of the Breath of the Gods is a mass of metal blades whirling around a core of glowing energy. The blades are not connected to or supported by anything, and they occasionally pass through each other as if they were intangible. The sight of it does funny things to the human mind.
  • An Arm and a Leg:
    • In Priests, Abrehem fires an ancient plasma pistol at an Eldar exarch, only for the gun to vent superheated steam onto his right arm. He passes out from shock, and awakens to discover that his right arm has been amputated and replaced with a prosthetic. The same book has one of the Space Marines lose an arm to an ork servitor with power shears.
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    • In Lords, Linya loses both legs as a result of the horrific burns she suffered when Amarok fell into a magma chamber.
    • In Gods, Coyne’s hand gets shot off by a crystalith, and Tanna’s right hand is bitten off by Vodanus.
  • Animal Motifs: The Princepses of the Titans accompanying the Speranza appear to have all come from a hostile frozen environment similar to Fenris, and they associate with each other as if they were wolves or feral dogs, considering their group to be a "pack", battling for leadership of the group or "alpha", and giving their Titans animal-like features.
  • Animal Theme Naming: In keeping with the above Animal Motif, the Titans of the Legio Sirius are named after mythological wolves like the Amarok or the Capitoline Wolf.
  • Anti-Regeneration: The Tindalosi can repair whatever damage they take in seconds. The Eldar and Imperials overcome this through a combination of Pavelka infecting them with a disassembler code that disrupts their ability to repair themselves, and Bielanna mystically guiding her allies’ strikes into vital components while the Tindalosi are vulnerable.
  • Apocalypse How: Class Z. Bielanna foresees that the damage Telok’s usage of the Breath of the Gods has done to the space-time continuum, if left unchecked, will lead to the unraveling of time itself. The entire galaxy will cease to exist, and will never have existed in the first place.
  • Assimilation Backfire: In Lords, Galatea steals Linya’s brain and adds her to its neuromatrix. This proves a costly mistake, as once Linya has gotten over her initial horror, she realizes that Galatea cannot parse modern hexamathic code and starts exploiting this vulnerability to sabotage it from within.
  • Ave Machina: The novels brings some nice insight about the views and works of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The protagonists have stopped Telok and prevented the destruction of time itself, but these victories came at a cost. Abrehem, Linya, Adara, Colonel Anders and all but one of the Black Templars are dead, and apart from the Speranza, the entire expeditionary fleet has been destroyed. Worse, it’s heavily implied that Telok has cheated death and will continue to menace the Imperium in the future. Worse still, it's confirmed that Vodanus, one of Telok's Tindalosi, managed to survive the battle, and is now waiting for Speranza to reach Mars so that it can hunt all of those on the planet.
  • Bizarre Human Biology: Discussed with regards to the Space Marines in the first book. During a dinner hosted by the Cadians, Roboute notices that the Black Templars barely touched their food before they left. When he wonders why, Linya points out that food intended for ordinary humans is nutritionally worthless to a Space Marine on account of their vastly different biology, and that the kind of stuff a Space Marine normally eats would make an ordinary human puke after one mouthful.
  • Black Box: The Speranza is built from ancient archeotech that even the tech-priests do not fully understand. More strangely, it was found underground, largely finished but unactivated on one of Kotov's Forge Worlds.
  • Brain Theft: Galatea steals peoples' brains in order to add them to its Wetware CPU network. It does this on a regular basis, typically to replace brains that have gone crazy after decades of being trapped in a glass jar while a psychotic robot plunders their mind for information. Linya becomes Galatea's latest victim during the second book.
  • Brown Note: The Breath of the Gods looks bizarre and otherworldly. The sight of it makes trained Cadian soldiers vomit, puts the Black Templars on high alert, and leaves Kotov speechless as he struggles to comprehend what he’s looking at.
  • The Bus Came Back: Julius Hawke, who was last seen being extracted from Hydra Cordatus by the Imperial Fists a full decade ago, returns as a major character. He is shown to be every bit the "requisitions" man and cad that he was since his days in the guard; he even has some sets of stills set up from scavenged parts. While he is a bit of a Jerkass, he does embody the aging veteran and looks out for his new buddies, though himself first.
  • Can't Argue with Elves: The Eldar take up the mission to stop the Kotov fleet with the official objective of keeping the Breath of the Gods out of human hands. Beside being one of humanity's political and military rivals, the Eldar view the humans as being too childish and brutish to be allowed to be the custodians of archeotech like that. The personal goal of the Farseer heading the Eldar warhost comes up when she surmises that Kotov succeeding would eventually prevent her future children from being born. After successfully killing the Black Templars' Reclusiarch Kul Gilad, she finds that the destiny she's pursuing is actually less likely, and it gets more complicated when the Speranza one-shots her own ship and forces the few survivors to take refuge in the Speranza's lower decks. Her farseeing capacity, while more an art as a science, actually failed her and the warhost. This was a tragic, but satisfying subversion.
  • Character Filibuster: Each book opens with a three-part monologue from one of the main characters. The first is by Archmagos Kotov on the purpose of the Adeptus Mechanicus and the Speranza. The second is by Archmagos Telok on the short-sightedness of the Mechanicus and boasting of his own achievements. The third is by the Speranza itself, on the ignorance of the Mechanicus, the nature of knowledge, and the nature of itself.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Abrehem’s technopathic abilities first manifest after people start believing that he is "machine-touched", and appear to grow stronger as word of his exploits spreads throughout the ship. He goes from making an empty plasma pistol fire a single shot in the first book to reactivating a roomful of disused machinery with a touch in the third book, and once he’s given access to the datascape he quickly starts purging it of Galatea’s corruption.
  • Clarke's Third Law:
    • Even for the setting the secret capabilities of the Speranza are so advanced not even the high-level priests of the Mechanicus can understand some of the functions of the ship.
    • A usage of the Breath of the Gods similarly defy understanding: bringing a dying star back to life and causing planets to rapidly regress in age. Gods of Mars implies that if Telok were to reach Mars and tap into the power of the dormant Void Dragon, he'd be capable of restructuring the whole galaxy. However, it does this by taking energy from the past and the future, causing numerous time anomalies with the potential to destroy reality with this continued improper use.
  • Continuity Nod: The trilogy contains several references to Graham McNeill’s previous 40K novels.
    • In the backstory Kotov lost one of his forge worlds to Votheer Tark, a Dark Mechanicum adept who served as a minor antagonist in The Chapter’s Due.
    • Roboute once spent some time on Alaitoc and met the bonesinger Yrlandriar, a minor character from Gav Thorpe’s The Path of the Eldar trilogy.
  • Cool Starship:
    • The Speranza, an Ark Mechanicus class exploration ship built during the Dark Age of Technology, so huge it can dock other ships inside its bulk. Its combat training chambers can have entire small cities erected in them, and are large enough to allow Titans to train alongside infantry and tanks. The Speranza is also host to mind-bogglingly advanced technology an order of magnitude above what the Imperium currently possesses, with weaponry capable of crippling an Eldar warship with one shot in the middle of a temporal and gravitational storm—after first bending time so that its initial miss becomes a direct hit.
    • The eldar antagonists have the Starblade, a ship so fast it can evade light-speed attacks.
      • Though it should be noted that dodging light at planetary scales is fairly achievable. Even if you're "only" as far away from the source of light as the Earth is from the Moon, you'd still have about 2.8 seconds to dodge it, and Battlefleet Gothic established that ships are usually much farther apart than that when engaging one another. It's still an Eldar ship, though, so it definitely qualifies as cool.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: In Priests, Kul Gilad duels the Avatar of Khaine. While he’s no match for the god, he does get a few good hits in before the Avatar slices him in half.
  • Cyborg: The tech-priests, servitors and skitarii are all cyborgs, naturally. A few other characters have cybernetic augmentations as well: Abrehem Locke has optic implants that let him perceive the noosphere, while Roboute Surcouf has a Brain–Computer Interface in his spine.
  • Dark Secret: Roboute is an illegitimate Rogue Trader with a fake Letter of Marque.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Magos Dahan believes that he can defeat any opponent thanks to a database which analyzes their fighting style to predict how they’ll act. Then he encounters a shapeshifter which never stays in one form long enough to be analyzed. Realizing that his database can’t keep up, Dahan switches it off and improvises.
  • Dramatic Irony: One of the major grievances the Abrahem, Hawke, and Coyne have against Saiixek is that he vented part of their deck, killing all the ratings there, for whatever reason. Readers will know that Kotov was the one who did so because, unknown to the trio, Lupus Capitalina was having a flashback to when they fought a tyranid bio-titan (which had been caused by Aeldari psyker powers) and just fired off its plasma cannon, and venting the decks were the only way to stop the blow from breaching the main plasma chamber. For added irony, Saiixek actually tries to dissuade Kotov from doing this, because losing the ratings would set the expedition behind.
  • Equivalent Exchange: Used as Telok did, the Breath of the Gods would have absorbed the energy of the stars of the past and future in order to create a smaller number of stars in the present, with the sudden lack of energy causing innumerable space-time anomalies like the Halo Scar all across the galaxy. This is because Telok is not thinking of the consequences of causing those stars to dying early/never be born, as well as because the proper usage of the Breath of the Gods could utilise the unused energy of the present.
  • Failure Gambit: Blaylock wants the expedition to fail, as it would mark the end of Kotov’s ailing career. Blaylock stands to reap the benefits if that happens, so he spends a fair amount of time looking for an excuse to discredit the mission and call it off.
  • Filler: The subplot involving the Legio Sirius and their princeps has little to no bearing on the main plot and can easily be excised from the story.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: The three main plots of the story consist of Kotov and the fleet's upper brass trying to find the Breath of the Gods, the Aeldari under Bielanna trying to stop them, and Abrehem and his fellow bondsmen trying to survive. By the third book, all three plots have merged together due to Telok trying to capture Speranza, which could cause an Apocalypse How in the Class Z range.
  • Fusion Dance: In the final battle, Abrehem and Linya merge their spirits with Kotov and Telok respectively. The former is done to empower Kotov, while the latter is done to weaken Telok by poisoning his mind with kill-code.
  • Geas: Telok controls the Tindalosi with a technological geas that will destroy them if they feed on anything other than their designated targets. One of them violates the geas by eating the code of a random servitor, and promptly disintegrates.
  • Genius Loci: The Speranza has a machine spirit that dwarfs those of forge worlds in depth and complexity. Most of it is still dormant, however.
  • Genuine Human Hide: In Priests, the expedition encounters orks that have had their skin removed and replaced with stitched-on human skin aboard the Valette Manifold station.
  • Grand Theft Me: At the end of Gods, Tarkis Blaylock is overwritten by Telok.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be: In Priests, Kul Gilad is cut in half at the waist by the Avatar of Khaine. Being a Space Marine, he survives long enough to deliver some defiant last words to his Eldar killers.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: During the Final Battle on Exnihlio, Bielanna stays behind to stop the Breath of the Gods from destroying the galaxy. The remaining Black Templars, barring the Emperor's Champion, guard her to ensure that she does not fall.
  • Heroic Suicide: At Linya’s urging, the other brains which make up Galatea’s neuromatrix kill themselves in order to cripple the murderous android. She then takes their spirits into herself and merges with Telok, poisoning him at the cost of her own life.
  • Hot Scientist: Linya Tychon is a brilliant Magos who looks like a normal, flesh-and-blood woman due to her preference for subtle augmentations. Roboute finds her quite attractive and tries to flirt with her, though she turns him down.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen:
    • In the beginning of the first book there is a poem written by Archmagos Kotov where he reflects on how far mankind has fallen since the Dark Age of Technology.
      The Great Machines of Old Earth were wondrous engines of creation whose power dwarfed that of any myth or legend. They shaped entire worlds, they drank the hearts of stars and brought light into the dark places of the universe. The techno-sorcerers who crafted them and wielded their power bestrode the world as gods. How far we have fallen.
    • Perhaps a sentiment Kotov himself relates to. Being an Archmagos, he was one of the most powerful individuals within one of the most powerful organizations within the Imperium. He had three forge worlds (which were lost to Tyranids, Orks, and the last was destroyed when the electronic birth cries of the Speranza overloaded the entire world's electronic systems, even those keeping the nuclear power cores in check). Having lost those, the finding of the Speranza was the only thing keeping him from losing his position and the last of his holdings. He's now trying to earn back a measure of good graces by finding one of the greatest pieces of Archeotech left, with everything, even the Speranza on the line.
  • Humiliation Conga: Despite not deserving of it, the contingent of Black Templars who join Kotov on his expedition undergo a series of crushing losses including losing their Reclusiarch and their strike cruiser on their first combat enagement against the Eldar in Priests along with two of their members to be permanently injured on the Valette Manifold, only in Lords to crash their Thunderhawk and lose their Apothecary, the one person they cannot afford to lose as he is the only one able of preserving the gene-seeds of the others to make new Space Marines.
  • It Has Been an Honor: In Gods, the normally-xenophobic Black Templars salute Uldanaish Ghostwalker and urge him to die well when he declares that he will hold the Tindalosi at bay for as long as he can.
  • Language Barrier: When Kotov meets Telok, they struggle to communicate at first because Kotov’s augmetics are not reverse-compatible with the obsolete form of binary that Telok speaks. Similarly, Linya finds it difficult to communicate with Galatea’s other victims because they aren’t equipped to receive the hexamathic code she speaks.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Telok’s crystalline body freezes up like a statue upon his death, and shatters once Yael knocks it down.
  • Living Battery: It's eventually revealed that the temporal anomalies caused by the Breath of the Gods are due to a colony of trapped Hrud, a xenos race with an innate ability to manipulate time in a localized area around them, used to make the machine function, as Telok did not have a C'tan shard to power it normally and had to use the Hrud as a substitue due to their entropic abilities.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: There are about 39 named characters by the third book, and nearly all of them are important somehow.
  • Lost Technology:
    • Half of Kotov's efforts is to recover a device known as the Breath of the Gods.
    • The Speranza itself, an Ark Mechanicus is one of the best ships ever created by Humanity with the knowledge needed to recreate it being lost. Close to the end of the Priests, the Speranza itself is much better than that, and represents some of the most advanced technologies ever created by mankind such as Faster-Than-Light Travel fueled by dark matter drawn from the galactic gravitational background, weapons capable of cracking planets open, create hyper-accurate blackholes, and a weapon that causes a target to collided with a previous version of itself from a nanosecond prior.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: More like Lower Deck Plot - Coyne, Abrehem and Hawke are just ratings aboard the Speranza, but their daily activites and occasional adventures make up a good third of the plot.
  • Made a Slave: Coyne, Hawke, and Abrehem are forcibly recruited as ratings for the Speranza before it begins its voyage. Their chapters show exactly how badly ratings suffer under thee Priests of Mars.
  • Magic from Technology: The Breath of the Gods is thought to be an advanced terraforming technology, though no one knows how it would work or what it looks like when the fleet sets out. As it turns out, the Breath of the Gods can simulate the Big Bang on a local scale, revitalizing stars and worlds and effectively turning back the clock by billions of years throughout huge swathes of space.
  • Mecha-Mooks: The crystalith constructs are poor shots, slow to react, and not very durable. Individually they aren’t much of a threat, but they’re quite dangerous in large numbers.
  • Mechanical Abomination: Galatea is a millennia-old AI that regularly lures people to its space station lair so it can remove their brains and add them to its Wetware CPU network. When the tech-priests bring it aboard the Speranza, it quickly infiltrates the ship’s network and seizes control of vital systems, allowing Galatea to murder the whole crew if anyone defies it. If that wasn’t bad enough, its physical form is a tank-sized scorpion-centaur. The tech-priests understandably fear and loathe Galatea.
  • Mechanical Monster: The Tindalosi are robotic hellhounds designed to be unstoppable killing machines. They’re strong, fast, intelligent, heavily-armed, and can quickly repair any damage they take. When Telok unleashes them to hunt down Kotov, they tear through a squad of Howling Banshees and give the Black Templars some serious trouble.
  • Mile-Long Ship:
    • Roboute’s ship, the Renard, is three kilometres long. This being 40K, it is the smallest ship in the expeditionary fleet by a wide margin.
    • The three geoformer engines that the Speranza deploys in Lords of Mars are described as "ten-kilometre-square slab[s] of barely understood machinery".
  • Mind Hive: The artificially intelligent construct Galatea claims to be this, but the brains it totes around seem to be there for it to leech knowledge from more than anything else.
  • Mind Rape: In Gods, Galatea tortures Linya by feeding lifelike simulations of being killed in various horrible ways directly into her brain.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: It turns out that the Breath of the Gods' ability to rewind time and reshape reality is a misapplication of it. The Breath of the Gods was actually used to feed the C'tan the energy from the past and future, as well as background cosmic energy.
  • More Hero Than Thou: In Gods, the Tindalosi are bearing down upon the Eldar and the Imperials. The surviving Black Templars are ready to hold the line against them, but Uldanaish Ghostwalker, who is already doomed due to a crack in his soulstone, declares that he will fight the beasts off instead.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: Magos Dahan has an extra pair of arms and a third leg. All seven of his limbs have built-in weapons systems to make him a more lethal combatant.
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: Kotov’s sensors pick up on Roboute’s attraction to Linya. Kotov is bemused, but refrains from commenting on it as there are more important matters at hand.
  • Nanomachines: In Lords, Telok’s abandoned flagship sits in the middle of a crystalline plateau which is full of nanites. These nanites guard the ship from intruders by reshaping the crystal into an army of constructs which mimic the forms of their opponents and possess deadly energy weapons. While the constructs are frail and somewhat stupid, they nearly overwhelm the expedition’s ground forces through sheer weight of numbers.
  • Negative Space Wedgie:
    • The Halo Scar. A large gravity anomaly at the galactic edge (presumably within the mysterious Halo Zone) where spacetime is alternately stretched and compressed or otherwise stressed nearly to the breaking point. The Eldar describe it as being the aftermath of a superweapon (though it gets bonus points for a Wedgie in 40K that doesn't invoke the Warp for once). It's known for aging nearby stars by eons virtually overnight, and being untraversable as ships break apart in the gravity anomalies shortly after entering. The Kotov fleet has to find a way to navigate through it before they can find the Breath of the Gods. (It should be noted that there's no reason given why they don't go around it, so presumably they can't.)
      • It's revealed that the Halo Scar was created by the Breath of the Gods and is a byproduct of using said technology.
    • Inverted in the region of space where the Breath of the Gods was finally activated, which turned space in that region into what space looked like in the moments after the Big Bang. When space returned to normal a few hours later, entire systems had the clock turned back by billions of years. Strangely, on one of these newly primordial worlds, the ruins of an ancient Imperial Hive was found on a world where the Mechanicum had no record of humans colonizing.
  • Never Meet Your Heroes:
    • In Gods of Mars, Kotov is very disheartened to learn how Telok, his idol, has become a megalomaniac while within the Halo Scar.
    • Surcouf comforts him on this, as he knows the feeling: he once met Cato Sicarius of the Ultramarines, following a planetary evacuation. Sicarius was apparently very angry at them for evacuating, feeling as if they failed him. This soured some of Surcouf's views on the Astartes.
  • No-Sell: In Gods, Blaylock tries to paralyze Telok with a shouted binary command. Telok just laughs the attempt off before giving Blaylock a taste of his own medicine.
  • Opposite-Sex Clone: Linya Tychon is a younger, female clone of her father Vitali Tychon.
  • Planet Spaceship: The Speranza. Exact figures are never given for its size, but it can store the three-kilometre-long Renard inside one of its cargo bays with room to spare, and at one point it deploys a trio of geoformer engines—each of which is ten kilometres square—from its underside, suggesting that it measures at least thirty kilometres along one axis. It even exerts its own gravitational pull, and the crew uses what is essentially a bullet train network to get around the ship in a timely fashion.
  • Red Baron: The Titan Princeps all have fancy titles which they use amongst themselves. Arlo Luth is "the Wintersun", Eryks Skálmöld is "the Moonsorrow", Gunnar Vintras is "the Skinwalker", and Elias Härkin is "the Ironwoad".
  • Redshirt Army: The Imperial Navy fleet that accompanies the Speranza seem only there to be destroyed whenever a dangerous situation in orbit or in space occurs.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In Lords of Mars, what happens with Magos Blaylock and Captain Surcouf when Blaylock confronts Surcouf over his counterfeit Letter of Marque. Surcouf, already knowing that one day his mark would be up, is prepared to accept the consequences, no matter how dire. When Kotov is brought in to help resolve the situation, it turns out he already knew since before the expedition started. Kotov was impressed enough with Surcouf's resourcefulness and the sheer balls of it that he had retroactively ratified his Letter of Marque himself. At the resolution of this, a horrified Blaylock protests, but Kotov responds with "I'm an Archmagos ... I can do whatever I want."
  • Rejection Ritual: In Lords of Mars, the Warhound Titan Amarok is grievously damaged when a magma chamber opens under it and it falls in. As a punishment for the Titan's loss its Princeps is "made omega". As a proclamation of his banishment is made by the "pack" leader, his uniform insignia are torn off and his cheeks and throat are slashed just deeply enough to leave permanent scars. The only reason he isn't killed outright is because someone with the willpower to become a Princeps is so rare they're too valuable to risk losing. He is later brought back into the pack when it's clear that his experience is needed to help fight off the antagonist's invasion.
  • Royal "We": Galatea refers to itself using plural pronouns, reflecting its nature as a network of Wetware CPUs. At least until Linya manages to seriously hurt it and it drops the pretense. Telok is the one in charge
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: In Lords, Kotov informs Blaylock and Roboute that he ratified the latter’s phony Letter of Marque before the expedition began, retroactively legitimizing Roboute’s entire career. When Blaylock protests that he can’t do this, Kotov retorts, "I am an archmagos of the Adeptus Mechanicus. I can do whatever I want."
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Tindalosi were robotic assassins that grew beyond their programming and began killing whoever they pleased. Their creators responded by trapping them aboard automated starships and launching them into deep space to be forgotten. Telok found one of these craft and enslaved the Tindalosi within.
  • Sequel Hook: The epilogue reveals that Vodanus has snuck aboard the Speranza and is laying low until the ship reaches Mars. It also implies that Telok has taken control of Blaylock’s body.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the second book, a Land Leviathan named Fortis Maximus is briefly mentioned.
    • At the end of Priests, Surcouf's last line after finally ...leaving the Imperium was "Second star on the right, and straight on till morning..." A twofer, as it was the last line Capt. Kirk gave in his own series, which itself was a reference to Peter Pan.
    • Kotov's fleet includes two salvaged attack ships, found on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
    • In Gods, when Blaylock's brain is being overloaded by Telok, he sees images of "a giant feline creature. Orange and black, its fearful symmetry was burning bright in a forest lit by a leering moon."
    • Also in Gods, Telok unleashes great hunter beasts called "Tindalosi". In addition, the Eldar name for the hrud translates to "the Shadows out of Time" in Gothic.
    • Several references to heavy metal bands abound: Two of the Titan Princeps have nom de guerres referencing Finnish metal bands Moonsorrow and Wintersun. The mission fleet has two ships who share names with Iron Maiden songs ("Moonchild" and "Wrathchild"). Blaylock has a Mechanicus version of an ouija board called a Mars Volta, after the prog rock band. There are probably some more scattered around as well.
    • There’s a passing reference to an AI called Winterblind in the third book.
    • In Gods, Vitali and Chiron Manubia are manning the gun turrets defending Forge Elektrus from the crystaliths. Vitali cheers when he takes one of the crystaliths out, and Manubia warns him not to get cocky.
  • Sinister Minister: Rasselas X-42 was once Lukasz Król, the insane Cardinal of Ophelia VII. He committed atrocities against innocent Imperial citizens under the delusion that his victims were heretics. The Ecclesiarchy punished him by converting him into an arco-flagellant.
  • Sole Survivor:
    • Roboute was the only survivor of the Preceptor, a Gothic-class cruiser that was destroyed by a Chaos ship. He owes his survival to the Eldar, who drove off the Chaos ship and rescued him from the wreckage.
    • Yael is the last living member of the Black Templars squad by the end of the trilogy.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens:
    • The creators of the Breath of the Gods are described as such. Turns out they were Necrons, and the Breath of the Gods itself is powered by a C'tan shard.
    • Whatever now long lost race that created the Tindalosi probably also qualify.
  • Super Prototype: Vodanus was the first Tindalosi ever made, and it is stronger, smarter, and more durable than its pack-mates.
  • Superweapon Surprise:
    • During the climatic space battle of Priests of Mars, a weapon secreted within the superstructure of the Speranza activates, a chrono-weapon capable of retroactively hitting the Eldar vessel, and destroying it. In the end, this forces some further, albeit minor (so far) complications for the Mechanicus, as the few Eldar survivors somehow board the Speranza to take refuge in the lower decks.
    • In Gods of Mars, the Breath of the Gods turns out to be as capable of obliterating spacecraft as it is of restarting the life cycles of stars and planets.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Black Templars and the Eldar working together to fight off Telok's crystalline army. It's very clear that either side would gladly kill the other under normal circumstances, but they're just able to tamp down their mutual hostility to get the job done, and there's even an odd camaraderie between the Templars and the Wraithlord Uldanesh Ghostwalker.
  • Terraform: Lords of Mars has a small scale example, with the Speranza deploying three geoformer engines to create a landing zone on the inhospitable surface of Katen Venia. They get the job done in a matter of hours.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: In Gods of Mars a minor argument ensues over who will get to kill Telok. The last of the Black Templars claims vengeance for Telok's role in murdering his brothers, Roboute claims it's him because Telok caused the death of one of his crew members, and Kotov says it will be him as Telok is a traitor to the Mechanicus. Rather than continue arguing their points, Roboute says that all three will kill Telok, and is only partly joking.
  • The Power of Love: In Gods, Bielanna harnesses Roboute’s love for his ship and crew to open a portal connecting the surface of Exnihlio to his stateroom aboard the Renard.
  • Time Abyss: Galatea is several thousand years old. Its creator, Telok, is equally old, having kept himself alive by replacing most of his original body with nanites.
  • Trauma Button: Princeps Arlo Luth experiences a vivid flashback to a difficult battle against the tyranids when the Titan Canis Ulfrica salutes his machine during a training exercise. He mistakes the Ulfrica for an enemy bio-titan and opens fire on it with Lupa Capitalina’s plasma cannon, inflicting catastrophic collateral damage to the Speranza in the process.
  • Truly Single Parent: Vitali Tychon created his daughter Linya by cloning himself. He’d intended their relationship to be one of teacher and student, but he came to love her as his own child.
  • Turned Against Their Masters:
    • Galatea's stated goal is to kill Telok for abandoning it aboard the Valette Manifold station. Gods reveals that this is a lie — Galatea is actually a bit of Telok's consciousness separated and made into its own being to help with luring Kotov.
    • The servitors of Speranza do this in Lords Of Mars, unplugging themselves from the ship's systems and refusing to work any further, courtesy of Ismael.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: Ismael gets turned into a servitor during Priests. The same book has a bunch of orks which Galatea turned into loyal combat-servitors.
  • Walking Techfix: Abrehem can make damaged or disused machines work again just by touching them. Several characters take this ability as a sign that he’s Machine-touched, or blessed by the Omnissiah.
  • We Have Reserves: The tech-priests not only work their indentured bondsmen to death on a regular basis, but also kill thousands of them as a by-product of thwarting various dangers to the ship on several occasions. The bondsmen are horrified and outraged by this callous disregard for their lives, and in Lords they go on strike until the tech-priests agree to treat them more humanely.
  • We Will Use Manual Labor in the Future: The Speranza, as with all Imperial ships, requires enormous amounts of manual labor to function. Most of the laborers are "conscripted", being kidnapped from the streets by Imperial authorities and turned over to the Mechanicus as slave labor. A few of those slaves are main characters, and showing off the awful quality of life for Mechanicus-indentured laborers is a major part of their story. In Lords of Mars, this becomes a plot point: said slaves go on strike— every last one, including the normally mindless servitors— until the Mechanicus improves their working conditions.
  • What Other Galaxies?: Averted. The Necrons and the C'Tan planned to use the Breath of the Gods to expand to other galaxies after they conquered our galaxy. It is lightly implied that they would have done this by converting background energy and other primordial materials from the creation of the universe to create more galaxies in-between neighbouring galaxies after they won the War in Heaven, limiting the travel distance of empty space by making "stepping stones" across the universe. Unfortunately, they didn't win.
  • You Shall Not Pass!: In Gods, the dying Uldanaish Ghostwalker holds a bridge against the Tindalosi, giving his allies time to escape. After holding them off for as long as he can, he destroys the bridge’s suspension cables, dropping himself and the Tindalosi into an abyss.

Alternative Title(s): Priests Of Mars


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