'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

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Macknight
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'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#1 » Mar 10 2013 12:47

Hi, I've just finish reading 'Fire Caste' last night and I like to share my thoughts with you'all. The book contains fluff about vespid, kroot, kroot hound, krootox, kroot shaper, devilfish, hammerhead, piranha, fire warriors, pathfinders, gun drones, shield drones, sniper drones, sniper markerlight operator, stealth suits, crisis suits, broadsides, among couple others not in the codex. (gue'vesa janissaries, loxatl mercenaries(kommodo dragon with flechette dischargers on its back), sevitors with hovering system like the drones working for tau.)

There are quite a bit of characters involved, a lot of dying among them. It seem to me the author has taken the tau to the grim dark side of the 40k universe. :eek:

The story is pretty good, except the ending, which left me feeling unfinished. Such as the 'sea spider', reve, etc. After the 1st chapter, it seem like the book is another imperial novel with tau as the backdrop. But once the actual fighting starts, there is plenty of tau fluff, though its not the greater good tau we are all accustome to.
For the greater good!

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jentral
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#2 » Mar 10 2013 09:27

Considering it's based on a Death World that's more aquatic than normal it's understood to me. The main survivors on Death Worlds aren't the most cheerful I'd figure but feels wierd since this one's Aquatic. Gonna stop there but so far I'm happy I nabbed it off Itunes only on page 58 atm. Wish I would've got the PDF off Black Library instead though.
Fear the beasts in your head not the jungle. - Catachan

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Isoroku
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#3 » Mar 11 2013 06:08

You could spend any more information as names of commanders Tau since clan belong? And that other planets are mentioned in the book?

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Macknight
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#4 » Mar 11 2013 08:41

Isoroku wrote:You could spend any more information as names of commanders Tau since clan belong? And that other planets are mentioned in the book?


The planet is called 'Phaedra', it lies in the borders of the 2nd expansion, act as a buffer zone between the tau and the imperium. It's a watery, swampy planet, full of small island chains, archpalegos.

The war there has been fought for over 50 years. The Aun'O and the Shas'O are long dead, leaving the water caste'O in charge, the fire caste commander is Shas' El Wintertide, he is nowhere and everywhere. Even though he is technically the commander of the fire caste, he obeys the water caste'O.

Once the Aun'O has died, the Tau lost their 'cordination' ways that only an Aun could. They're almost like their human counter parts.
For the greater good!

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Isoroku
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#5 » Mar 11 2013 03:37

Phaedra is the world we fight? In the summary of the book called Dolorosa Coli

Seishin
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#6 » Mar 11 2013 03:52

The world is Phaedra, the continent is the Dolorosa Coil.

Sorry, but I did not vet the blurb for the book so that slipped through.

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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#7 » Mar 11 2013 05:02

No Problem Seishin!

I wanted to ask if other than the above Loxtal has conjured some other race besides tau auxiliary Kroot, Vespid and Gue'vesa

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Calmsword
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#8 » Mar 16 2013 10:57

I just finished the book- I'll add my thoughts to the discussion.

You know, I gotta say I'm not pleased. We've now had two books out in the same year, both named by concepts that are exclusively Tau, and both books have nothing to do with their titles.

I enjoyed Fire Caste to begin with. It's very much like the 'Apocalypse Now' and borrows heavily from that from name allusions to the overall plot of one man on a mission to kill an enigmatic traitor... But where were the Tau? And the answer to that is that they were simply not there.

Sure you have an angry Pathfinder (who's origin story can be downloaded from the Black Library website for a rediculious 2$ and something) but as you get introduced to more Tau characters they become the single-sided beings that other books have described:

The Tau are shiny (but this is a lie)
The Ethereals keep everything together (and without it the Tau are no different than humans)
The Greater Good is awesome! (But just another grim/dark lie)

There's nothing new in this book save for fleshing out the stalemate war that existed between the Empire and Imperium before the 3rd Sphere (I don't know when this book takes place but it's been going on for 50 years). The Imperial characters and the Arkan Regiment are amazingly done- and there's these awesome Steampunk powersuits the elite of the guard unit operates that I'm itching to convert that is clearly the Author examining the new allies element in 6th edition. But I'm reading a book that is, once again, given a Tau title but no Tau story.

If you like reading Imperial stories, it's perfect, and it really does a good job of describing a vast conspiracy that both governments were in on and the manipulation that goes into it. There is a strange daemon story that never gets resolved and the planet (Phadra/Fi'drash) they're fighting on is clearly cursed but refreshingly not by Chaos (at least the author never says so which IMHO was a great choice) I'm tired of everything 'weird' being chaos, in the big universe things should be strange all on their own.

I do this every book: Here are some new facts about the Empire-

-The Tau utilize atmospheric drones with rail guns to deny aerial attacks
-Loxatl are used, as stated, and they add an interesting dynamic to the Tau way of war
-A group of Kroot who become addicted to the fungal blooms that grow from corpses and weakened humans have prospered called 'Canker Eaters'. They don't really explain this event but the Shas'O leading the Tau decades ago went after them and got lost in the swamps. They are insane and very much mutated (but, cleverly, not by Chaos which is refreshing)
-The Tau human allies, at least on this world, are called Janissary's and they have pulse weapons, Firewarrior shaped armor and use open topped skimmers that are described kind of like Jabba the Hutts smaller sailing barges. Pretty cool.
-Humans are being trained as pathfinders. They are also true believers and add a wonderful dynamic to the Empire as they bring their own argument to the virtues of the Tau'Va.
-Markerlights are used as training lasers during exercises.
-There is a strange conversation between an Imperial and a Shas'o where the 'O struggles to tell him what caste he is apart of and says 'Smoke' I don't know what this means, but in my opinion I think that the Shas'O was suffering from battlesuit neurosis and perhaps he was describing that he should be of the Fire Caste but now he's just 'smoke', don't know, the author doesn't explain it and you're better off for it.
-AMRYTHAA: Tau for 'Wellspring of Life'
-The Tau are not beyond re-utlizing servitors with anti-grav tech and pulse weapons.
-The Adeptus Mechanicus can advance a Tau lifespan.
-Phadra is called Fi'drash in Tau
-Tau 'nostril flares' are the equivalent of a human smile.
-OATH OF CONSEQUENCE: something the Pathfinder says after her unit was wiped out, it's like a oath of vengeance I guess.
-AUN'O HAMAAN was the Ethereal in charge before dying.

Corrections/Spoilers








Mackknight: Wintertide is not in charge, it's a Shas'El Aabal.
~Good Hunting

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Lyi'ot
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#9 » Mar 16 2013 11:12

It seems a little unfair to criticize Fire Caste for being an Imperial-centric story when the author, Peter Fehervari, always made it clear that the book was really an IG story at heart. And I wrote up a short review of the "angry Pathinder"'s short story; I very much liked it, and thought the $2 was well spent.

Outside of your unhappiness with it, Calmsword, it does sound like the book has some really fun ideas and "set pieces." I personally can't wait to read it; too bad "Real Life" keeps getting in the way.

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Doombringer
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#10 » Mar 16 2013 12:03

Spoilers, Beware

I don't particularly disagree with Calmsword about any one point.

Fire Caste is an amazingly weaved Imperial story which I was rather disappointed to see was concluded, but in my opinion not adequately explained. I put the book down with a "maybe the warp did it?" feeling that I usually get when there's an obvious contradiction between two Games Workshop sources, which I believe had to do with the apparent randomness of it all. Rather than the main antagonist being an intelligent, acting agency, it seems like the antagonist was the warp itself. I suppose it's much like reading a novel where the main antagonist is a fierce storm, a volcano, or some other natural disaster, which isn't impossible, but it was unexpected.

Though Fehervari gave everyone a clear heads-up that it was going to be an Imperial Guard novel at heart, I think the book was still misleadingly named, especially considering the rather anticlimactic scene at the end. It had the potential to be far more revelatory and meaningful if the two species' representatives of their respective warrior castes, tactics, and philosophies, had the opportunity to have a deeper dialogue rather than simply sling insults and potentially unfounded accusations at one another only for the book to come to an abrupt end.

Regarding the tau and the manner of their characterization, I found myself liking them tremendously at first due to their conduct of the war and the nature of their machinations and politicking, only toward the end of the novel growing an uneasy feeling about the way they were written. As the story progressed and we learned more about the tau and their fractured coalition, and gained some insight into their psyche and motivations, it became apparent to me that they were written as if they were emotionless robots struggling with situations where they should probably be feeling things, rather than as emotional and passionate beings struggling with a doctrine that requires, or rather necessitates (a common theme in the novel which had a missed opportunity to be applied here), a dispassionate stoicism and rationality that suppresses their impulsive nature.

It's a subtle difference that isn't a game changer by any means, but I think Fehervari puts the cart before the horse by the end of the novel, and in hindsight, it is easier for me to grasp how a character such as Jhi'kaara could come about without sacrificing being internally consistent.

Additionally, I can't say I like the implication that the tau empire would literally fall apart without an Aun mediating every petty dispute, nor that tau would so quickly turn against their own in an Aun's absence. The way the dispute between the shas'el and por'o was handled was very poor, and though I immediately picked up on the underlying plot of deception once I read the shas'el's name for the first time, I sincerely hoped it wouldn't go that far, lest we see another memetic theme of intra-caste betrayal and secondhand assassination accompanying the growing trends of overly naive and excessively grimdark tau that already pervade tau background.

I especially disliked that the por'o had overall command of the theater despite being at war, just because of his rank. This reeks of incredible mismanagement and perhaps a slight misunderstanding by the author of the differences between organizational and functional leadership which would be foundational principles of tau culture given their caste-based duties and responsibilities. Just because the por is an 'O doesn't mean he automatically "outranks" a shas. He is accorded the respect due his rank, but both maintain functional leadership over their respective areas of expertise.

For all the tau are talked up by Games Workshop about being a beacon of light in a dark galaxy, a unified and reasonable species, pragmatic and dutiful to the core, and about the castes working in intimate and coordinated unison, it is somewhat distressing that we seem to see the polar opposite coming from the Black Library.

That said, I found the novel to be money well spent. The Imperial characterizations were far more complex and enjoyable than the tau, and watching each of them grow and develop was rewarding and fun. Fehervari certainly has a knack for the complex weave of intrigue and suspense which I certainly hope he can apply to more Black Library novels in the future - well-written stories about more than just the conduct of war are few and far between in the Black Library's archives, and they are welcomed with open arms.




Miscellaneous tidbits to add to Calmsword's list:

- The new transport is called a Cuttlefish.
- Tau are still considered to be a short-lived species, the Por'o being considered "ancient" at 83 thanks to Mechanicus juvenat treatments.
- I'd like to add that the tau who identified himself as of the 'Smoke' caste did not offer his name or rank. I suppose we can infer that this was the Shas'o, since it is mentioned that the battlesuit looked old and may have predated Wintertide's "rule," but in Gurdjief's past narrative, he mentions that the battlesuit's colors and heraldry were at odds with a then-presently commanding Wintertide's whites and blacks, implying otherwise.
- Oh, and "nostrils", plural, was used many times throughout the novel to describe the tau's nose. Do the tau have more than one nostril in their nasal cavity? I wonder. :roll:

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Calmsword
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#11 » Mar 16 2013 12:07

The short story was great, I just thought it would be a little longer when you look at comparative online publishing house and what 2 dollars gets you.

I didn't read anything about him insisting that it's a Imperial story at heart... I just don't understand why you would advertise something as iconic as 'FIRE CASTE' and then have almost nothing about said fire caste in your story. It's not unfair, it's a critique from a customer who was under the impression he could trust the advertising.

The book isn't 'bad' but it is a let down if you think you're looking forward to reading a story about the Tau. Regarding the story overall there are big holes left in the plot and the characters own struggle. While this is one of the best stories I've read regarding the internal struggle of an individual in the 40k'verse, there are too many loose ends by the last page and so the final chapters are, in a word; rushed.

I did state there are good things and most importantly new ideas that Black Library badly needs, but in terms of a 'tau' reader it's not up to snuff, Elliot.
~Good Hunting

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Calmsword
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#12 » Mar 16 2013 12:11

Doombringer: Did you read The Greater Good? If you did there's a Water Caste Envoy that is also in his hundreds of years old- wondering what you thought of that.

It should be said, bringing up the life span and everything, that the Por'O knew that his fellow Tau looked down on him for accepting the life-extension treatments.
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Doombringer
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#13 » Mar 16 2013 12:15

Yep, I read The Greater Good, but I believe the Por'o in that novel was only sixty years older than in For the Emperor.

I am honestly at odds here, and I'm not quite sure what to believe at this point. The Greater Good isn't technically at odds with the Rulebook's tidbit that some tau just inexplicably live longer (though he wasn't picked out as unique or special by the author or Cain), and Fire Caste simply mentions that 83 is ancient.

Technically neither are contradictory or mutually exclusive. Perhaps some tau do inexplicably live longer, but those tau that don't must resort to juvenat, which is an artificial extension that has attached stigma?

R.D.
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#14 » Mar 16 2013 04:02

Honestly, by now I'm not bothered by contradictions in BL fluff to whatever conceptions we may have; the only reason, like I've said before, that Tau fluff may seem more consistent is that there's simply less of it, and thus less to contradict. No veteran 40ker expects consistent fluff from this area by now, and honestly, I'm good with that--better that each author gets to present their own interpretations and conceptions, and with the fickle nature of the background, it's easy to simply pick and choose. Even then, it's noted even in the codex that Tau are not homogenous, and can vary across the empire in their temperaments and thinking.

It is mildly disappointing that they made it more IG focused, but well, given that the target audience is mostly human, what do you expect. We are at least getting something wholly Tau with the Shadowsun book.

I do take it the general Tau way of war was presented better than in Courage and Honor or Savage Scars, though'? ;)

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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#15 » Mar 16 2013 04:35

Maybe, but I am alarmed that the authors are not well informed about the idiosyncrasies Tau before writing a novel which will be protagonists or antagonists with great exposure.
If we ever had luck and play an author CJ Cherryh type, if you know the type of focus was anthropocentric adventure ....

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BabaGanoosh
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#16 » Mar 16 2013 05:15

Maybe Tau seem to live longer because of travel at relativistic speeds on ships, since they don't use the warp for travel?

Though this is not something often brought up in 40k...

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Doombringer
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#17 » Mar 16 2013 05:45

R.D., I think I take more exception simply because it's hard to write tau well, and from the preview we had of Out Caste, I was very hopeful that Fire Caste, and by extension Fehervari, would get it right.

That's not to say that the novel was poorly written. Quite the contrary! It just missed some subtleties that would be reasonably difficult to pick up on without being a bit more familiar with the source material, and perhaps got it so close (Fehervari clearly did a fair share of research, if his use of tau naming conventions and customs, Battlesuits, war fighting philosophy, etc. is anything to show for) that it was doubly disappointing that it happened to fall short on some rather glaring points.

And while tau aren't fully homogenous, it has been beaten into us with a stick from the Codex that the tau are a collectivist and notably (abnormally?) highly unified species. Games Workshop has gone to great lengths, through in-universe discussions, postulations, and even interrogations of ranking tau (including ethereals), that the majority of tau simply do not comprehend the idea of dissent at a culturally alien level. Part of what makes Farsight's story so unique and compelling is that he is perhaps the only recorded instance of a tau openly expressing his doubts and acting on them (though why is still unknown, and I'd rather not speculate within the scope of this thought). To make matters worse, tau do not kill other tau outside of ritual combat (the thought is physically sickening on a racial level due to the ever present reminders of the mont'au), and all this scheming, backstabbing, tension, and individualism is somewhat uncharacteristic, internally.

Perhaps I'm the one who is off the mark, but I can't imagine that a race of people who live under the constant, indoctrinated fear that they could bring about another mont'au, and who live amongst constant, daily reminders of the evidence of progress they have made through specialization and cooperation with one another, would so readily commit to clandestine scheming that results in the deaths of countless members of their own species, or wear their disillusionment, individual hatred, or disrespect for one another on their sleeve as obviously as Fehervari's tau do. I was able to rationalize Kill Team as a decision by the High Council on T'au to double cross the Imperium and unify the Empire, in the name of the Greater Good, against the human threat and kick off the Third Sphere Expansion. To see yet another example of such meddlesome acts by a tau, for such shaky personal reasons and without any of Ambassador Coldwind's goals and aspirations, is disappointing in the extreme.

And yes, one thing Fehervari does remarkably well is capture the tau way of war. There is a distinct and well written conveyance of the tau's use of maneuver warfare, their caution, and desire for planning before committing to battle, which no other novel has yet been able to match. Additionally, I found Fehervari's pathfinders and stealth suits very convincing, as were the tau's use of screening forces and auxiliaries.

And @ Isoroku, I wouldn't say Fehervari wasn't well informed, I just don't think he captured the essence of the tau in a manner that did them justice, and I dislike the idea that the tau collective would fall apart at the slightest provocation in the absence of an ethereal.

As we know, multi-caste coalitions are sent far and wide on reconnaissance and exploration missions, diplomatic envoys, and waystation duties, and some colonies can go many years without an aun's presence. In fact, the chia'gors are designed to mediate inter-caste disputes without the need of an aun to serve as an arbiter. If we took Fehervari's writing as an example of what to expect, these things appear to be impossible and the tau would descend into infighting, backstabbing, and hired assassinations as soon as the highest ranking tau in the room takes over despite being outside his area of expertise, makes some bad decisions, and then tries rationalizing his behavior or course of action without any evidence of its efficacy or success.

Seishin
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Re: 'Fire Caste'-spoilers/review

Post#18 » Mar 16 2013 06:55

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to say that I appreciate the carefully argued responses to the novel. Speaking as a fairly new writer, I am committed to honing my craft relentlessly, hence thoughtful feedback is invaluable. These forums display an unusually high level of analysis and articulation, which is why I felt compelled to sign up. Well, that and the fascination we so obviously share for the tau.

Forgive me, but I have a lethal deadline looming so I won't be able to respond to the points raised on this thread until next week, but rest assured I will do so.
For now I will simply confirm that I did an enormous amount of research before and during the writing of Fire Caste and endeavoured to portray the tau with respect and intelligence throughout. Nothing was done without intense deliberation, but given the relatively sparse information we have at present, it's perhaps inevitable that interpretations of them will vary.

One last note - I'd like to mention that I'm working on a blog entry for Black Library to go alongside Fire Caste, so keep an eye on the site if you're interested.
It will touch on some of the issues mentioned on this thread.

PF

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