This is the next book by Andy Hoare after his space marines battle book, Hunt for Voldorius. Like the previous book, this one deals with the White Scars, but like the last book, the White Scars are not the only players. In the last book it was the Raven Guard space marines, here it is imperial guard, and a whole host of other space marines.
This book tells the story of the beginning of the Damocles Gulf Crusade. A pretty hastily assembled crusade has been put together to put down the Tau incursion. This is one of the first times the Imperium has come into contact with the Tau after an initial discovery a couple thousand years ago, when the Tau were savages.
Well now things are different. The Tau are more advanced that expected and someone actually suggests that they may be more advanced technology-wise than the Imperium.
One of the things that Mr. Hoare does well is the fight scenes, and there is a lot of fighting in this book. He does a good job of describing battles with space marines, light infantry, and even some imperial guard armor and space combat.
Another thing that I really like about this book was the discovery that the imperial forces were going through. For most, this was one of the first times they have encountered Tau. So when they are ambushed by Kroot, they aren't called Kroot, they are called Carnivors after their post-battle celebratory meal is observed by imperial forces. The same goes for most of the Tau units from stealth suits to broadsides to the crisis suits. Even though I knew what they were, it added a nice touch to see things brand new through the eyes of these soldiers.
There were, however, quite a few things I didn't like. First of all we see that main White Scares character, Veteran Sergeant Sarik as the captain of a Strike Cruiser, but then later on he seems to be the main ground commander of all of the space marine chapters (and there appears to be dozens of them). It was just an odd transition, made even more odd when you consider that there is a Iron Hands captain that seems to never leave his ship in orbit.
Another thing that really bothered me was the Rogue trader. This guy has a suit of power armor, which I can totally see happening, but he as given command of an entire Imperial Guard regiment. To boot, most of them speak a form of low gothic that he cannot understand so he is stuck speaking through the colonel and the sergeant major, but of course he rarely stays with them, he is usually found with his radio man to whom he has a very hard time communicating with to begin with. I'm sure that wouldn't be a liability in a combat situation. I guess the thing that really bugged me was that the leaders of this regiment were not only NOT unhappy that this outsider with apparently no military experience is put in charge of their regiment, they seem proud and happy about it. That just didn't sit right with me.
There was also a side plot about the rogue trader's daughter. It really seemed pointless. I don't understand why it was even in there. Perhaps it had something to do with background fluff that was already in the universe? But I found myself skimming through the parts with her in it.
Another thing that bugged me was the fact that it seemed that the Tau were being commanded off planet, and as soon as the communications between their orbiting ship and the ground was cut, the Tau folded. Is this something that is established in the fluff? I know that Tau suck on the board right now due to their old codex, but they REALLY sucked in this story.
Lastly, the end of the book just seemed really abrupt. There was a lot of foreshadowing and it just seemed like a weak way to cut it off. And then there was the final battle that was a little WTF? A rogue trader is doing THAT? There are how many docking bays on an imperial battleship and they chose to land THERE? Just a pretty poor ending.
All-in-all this wasn't a terrible book, but it did seem that the things i disliked outnumbered the things I did like. I feel that if Mr. Hoare didn't do such a good job with the combat, and if the combat hadn't been so much of the book, I would have had to rate it lower.
As it is, I give Savage Scars three Kroot chowing down on dead guardsmen, out of five.