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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.
  • 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.
  • Ave Machina: The novels brings some nice insight about the views and works of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
    • The true capabilities of the Breath of Life 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 Dragon, he'd be capable of restructuring the whole galaxy.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Grand Theft Me: At the end of Gods, Tarkis Blaylock is overwritten by Telok.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Living Battery: It's eventually revealed that the temporal anomalies caused by the Breath of the Gods are powered by a colony of trapped Hrud, a xenos race with an innate ability to manipulate time in a localized area around them.
  • 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 the galactic gravitational background, alternate dimension generators and weapons capable of cracking planets open.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Redshirt Navy: 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. 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.
  • Shout-Out:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): Priests Of Mars


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