Watchers of the Throne is a bold examination of the consequences of Warzone: Fenris and The Gathering Storm. It is balancing act of complementary stories and musings which ultimately provide a framework to understanding what has transpired.
What Wraight achieves more than anything else is, by centering his focus on Terra, to drive home the scale of the galaxy and the conflict it faces. Facts we take as simple gospel in canon take so long to cross the void; till the disaster of Fenris is dropped almost on top of the Fall of Cadia. Through the human eyes of Tieron (The Chancellor of the Senatorum Imperialis), we watch as hope slowly bleeds away. Through the viewpoint of Custodian Valerian, we see the strictures which bind him to the Palace tighten and loosen, as he struggles with philosophical musings and armed conflict. And through Aleya of the Anathema Psykana we see the rage at being forgotten and ill-used by the galaxy at large.
Each of these characters presents in first person, which really personalises the narrative. Aleya's story crackles with anger, especially at the dismissive terms which blight her order. Hers is the most direct of the stories, and complements her warrior nature very well, in addition to underlining the trials she has suffered in her soullessness.
Valerian struggles with the burden of duty, acknowledging that his kind were always meant to be more than soldiers. Much of his story plays off the cues previously set up in both The Carrion Throne and Master of Mankind; showing us the Adeptus Custodes as fundamentally out of place in this dark millennium, yet clinging to the precepts of the past.
Tieron binds aspects of these stories together, as he tries desperately to muster and release the institutions which might give humanity a fighting chance. He is a very human character, relatable in his flaws and his failings, yet also admirable for his supreme commitment to the idea of the Imperium rather than its floundering realities.
When battle is finally properly joined, it is in the height of the Blindness, with the Great Rift splitting the sky. The frenetic and hard-hitting battles follow some grisly cult scenes. Wraight carves the horror of the Warp onto the setting and inflicts it on his cast, giving us the same upheaval from multiple points of view.
Far more than Dark Imperium, this feels like a primer. Not of a "new normal" but of the absolute madness that marked the end of 7th edition 40k. While Terra does not feel as inhabited or vital as it did in The Carrion Throne, Wraight still makes it feel like a character in its own right; even if it is one that feels at points not long for the world.
Definitely a recommended read for anyone who feels as though they need to catch up with the hows and whys of 8th edition, rather than what to expect going ahead.