The Flesh Is Weak: Iron Hands in Black Library

This coming Saturday sees the release ofThe Voice of Mars, a brand new Iron Hands Warhammer 40,000 novel by David Guymer, focusing on one of the Chapter’s Iron Fathers as he deals with alien technology and potential treachery. With this new look at the former X Legion incoming, we thought we’d take a trip down memory-engram lane and look at the other takes on the Iron Hands that have come from Black Library.

Let’s start with the Horus Heresy, shall we? The Iron Hands, famously, don’t play a major part in the war, what with their primarch Ferrus Manus being the first to fall (in Graham McNeill’s Fulgrim). But they’ve been far from absent in the series… First off are a couple of Great Crusade-set tales that show the Iron Tenth at their height. Ferrus Manus: The Gorgon of Medusa, by David Guymer, and Nick Kyme’s novella ‘Feat of Iron’ from The Primarchs both show the Legion fighting under the command of the primarch and are a great look at their attitudes prior to their great loss.

After the Isstvan massacre and the death of Ferrus Manus, the Iron Hands fractured, their various clan-companies forming the core of the guerrilla army known as the Shattered Legions. David Annandale’s stories 
Veritas Ferrum and The Damnation of Pythos follow one splinter group who find themselves up against a daemonic threat on a feral world.

Meanwhile, the exploits of the main force of the Shattered Legions, under the command of the warleader Shadrak Meduson, are covered in the aptly titled anthology Shattered Legions. This contains a host of stories by various authors that delve into the nature of the Iron Hands after the death of Ferrus Manus, and how they’re changed by this loss.

That change continues all the way into the 41st Millennium, where the Iron Hands have a fairly sinister reputation. Known for replacing parts of their bodies with bionic enhancements – all the better to purge the innate weakness of flesh – and for being coldly logical rather than compassionate, they are akin to the Adeptus Mechanicus in their search for mechanical perfection.

Their first major appearance in Black Library fiction was the novel Iron Hands by Jonathan Green. This classic tale neatly showcases two of the Chapter’s (sometimes conflicting) impulses as it follows Iron Father Gdolkin on a mission for the Adeptus Mechanicus – but one which could also lead to information about Ferrus Manus’ death.

A pair of linked short stories – The Blessing of Iron by Anthony Reynolds and The Memory of Flesh by Matthew Farrer – also delved into the relationship between the Chapter and Mars, as treachery on a forge world threatened both.

Chris Wraight tackled the Iron Hands and their obsession with the weakness of flesh and purity of the machine – as well as looking at how their seemingly emotionless nature can conceal great fury – in the short story Flesh and Space Marine Battles novel Wrath of Iron, which also links back to the Horus Heresy in interesting ways.

A few authors have also taken a look at how the Iron Hands relate to their fellow Space Marines from other Chapters in various short stories. Phil Kelly’s Iron Soul sees a Space Wolf discovering how far the sons of Medusa will go in search of machine perfection, while Justin D Hill’s Deadhenge is a Deathwatch tale that shows how revenge is a strong motivator, even for an alien-hunting battle-brother of the Iron Hands.

The novel Medusan Wings by Matt Westbrook took another tack, taking the Iron Hands to the sky as a squadron of Space Marines fighter pilots try to overcome what they see as their inherent weakness in the face of an ork invasion. If you like high-octane aerial action with your ruminations on what it is to be human, this just might be for you.

Most recently, David Guymer has been turning his iron writing hand to the Chapter, kicking off with an audio drama, The Calculus of Battle, which pitted the Iron Hands and their chosen Warleader, Kardan Stronos, against possibly their greatest nightmare – an enemy which is flesh and biology unfettered, the absolute antithesis of the machine, the monstrous tyranids.

David followed up the audio drama with a novel focusing on Stronos. The Eye of Medusa delves deep into the duality of the Iron Hands, the constant battle between the cold logic of the machine and the emotional life of humanity. It also tests their relationship with the Adeptus Mechanicus, as they prosecute a war of extermination on a Mechanicus world…

And that brings us neatly back to The Voice of Mars, David’s sequel to The Eye of Medusa. How will it develop the relationship between the Chapter and the tech-priests, and how will it continue to test the very nature of the Iron Hands? You’ll be able to find out on Saturday, when the novel becomes available to order.

In the meantime, why not enter our first Black Library monthly competition on Facebook? This month, you can win a copy of David Annandale’s forthcoming Warhammer Age of Sigmar novel Neferata: Mortarch of Blood ­­– in a lavish Limited Edition format, no less! All you have to do is share your favourite quote from a Black Library story with us – head over to Facebook now to find out more.

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