After having read the first ten books of the Horus Heresy series in order, I’ve thus far been a bit more haphazard with my reading of the next batch of them. That said, there isn’t really a great need to read the books in their published order, as the Black Library has already told us!
Nemesis is the thirteenth book in the series, and while it does feel almost a side-story to that of the Heresy itself, it is nevertheless notable for being one of the few stories since Fulgrim that actually advances the story.
As the cover might suggest, we move from the Astartes to the Officio Assassinorum for this book, which deals with an attempt to assassinate Horus before his rebellion can get too out of hand. After yet another failed attempt from Clade Venenum to eliminate the Warmaster, the Master of Assassins pools the resources of the Officio to send an Execution Force team to strike the Warmaster at the world of Dagonet, where he is expected to appear in support of the local rebellion there.
Along the way, we also follow the plotline of a series of gruesome murders on the neighbouring planet of Iesta Veracrux. We eventually learn that the murders have been committed by an assassin in the employ of Erebus (who else?!) in a grand plan to eliminate the Emperor. The assassin is the failed attempt by Clade Culexus to create a sort of ultimate psyker-killer, known as the Black Pariah, though Erebus has performed a ritual to create a demonically-infused killer now called Spear. Spear is able to take on the aspect of anyone he has killed, and so assumes a series of roles that allow him to infiltrate a Rogue Trader local to Iesta Veracrux, with the goal of obtaining the Warrant of Trade. The Warrant was sealed with a drop of the Emperor’s own blood, and so Spear is trying to gain the power of the Master of Mankind through that drop.
All of this is going on while the Execution Force is assembled on Terra. I think this is the first Horus Heresy novel proper to truly deal with the homeworld of the Imperium, as we follow the team across the Atalantic and the Yndonesic Bloc. I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by the vision of the future Warhammer 40k presents to us, so really enjoyed these little vignettes – even if there was an element of Blues Brothers-esque putting the band together.
The team assembled, they travel to Dagonet and find the world has already declared for the Warmaster. Falling in with some rebels, they manage to set themselves up to await Horus’ imminent arrival, though when the Sons of Horus teleport down to the planet, the assassins discover they have killed a decoy – none other than Luc Sedirae. In retaliation, Horus orders an orbital bombardment of the planet, while the Execution Force finds themselves on the trail of Spear instead. One by one the assassins are felled by the Black Pariah, leaving the Vindicare assassin Eristede Kell to finish him off.
The mission is a failure, and the novel ends with Erebus sacrificing the remnants of Dagonet’s populace to the Ruinous Powers.
This is a really good book!
James Swallow has also written the fourth novel in the series, Flight of the Eisenstein, and that earlier entry in the series was also a really great read, enhancing the opening trilogy and also being the first published book of the Horus Heresy to take us to the Sol System. While we’ve been on Terra in the short story Blood Games, I was really intrigued to actually have it as part of a novel here, as I said earlier. It’s just so fascinating to me, especially having gotten so far through the Horus Heresy series without really getting there yet. I suppose in part, it provides a weird sort of grounding-point for the universe as a whole, as it is our own world and all. But anyway, definitely a highlight of the book for me!
I found the individual assassins to be really quite interesting in their own ways, though did find it difficult to keep a track of who was who when they were referred to by their Clade names. I suppose Culexus and Callidus, Vanus and Venenum and Vindicare are all pretty close to each other that it can be difficult to differentiate! The most useful thing, actually, was picturing them as the miniatures from the Assassinorum Execution Force boardgame – another set of miniatures that I have waiting for me to build!! Though I’m definitely more interested in doing so after reading this book…
This was a really great read, and unlike other novels that veer away from the main Astartes storylines, I actually really enjoyed the change of pace here. I’ve already read The First Heretic, of course, but it does kinda bother me that I skipped Fallen Angels – mainly due to not being so impressed by the previous installment in the Dark Angels storyline. I’m also not interested in the Space Wolves, so don’t want to progress to Prospero Burns (even though it is by the illustrious Dan Abnett). I might skip ahead to The Outcast Dead, actually, which is also supposed to be set on Terra…