Following on from the first book in the series a few weeks ago, I thought it about time to get on with the second novel in the Black Legion series, simply named Black Legion.
I must say, while I thought the first book was a pretty slow burn, this one was a lot more dynamic from the start. We’re back with Iskandar Khayon, as he tries to assassinate Thagus Daravek, a warlord of Chaos who has been bringing several warbands to his banner in the way Abaddon has been doing. We’re several years on from The Talon of Horus, and Khayon has been acting as Abaddon’s personal blade, though Daravek has been proving to be particularly difficult to kill. When his most recent attempt on the warlord’s life also fails, Abaddon sends Khayon to the mausoleum world of Maeleum, the world where Horus had initially been buried, on a nonsense mission that led the sorcerer to discover the existence of the Black Templars Chapter, and the seer, Moriana.
Moriana insists on being brought before Abaddon, and causes a slight rift between the new warmaster and his ruling council, the Ezekarion. This is especially true when Abaddon announces that he will lead a crusade into Imperial space, finally breaking the bonds keeping the Black Legion within the Eye of Terror.
Initially, this attempt does not work, as the stresses of the Warp destroy several ships from the armada. What’s more, Daravek catches up with them and a mutual annihilation looks likely. However, Daravek offers to parlay with Abaddon, and the two groups meet on the dead Craftworld of Taial’shara. There, Khayon comes very close to understanding the reasons why his attempts on Daravek’s life have failed for so long, as the warlord appears to have a peculiar hold over him.
Daravek demands Abaddon pledge himself and his forces to his own warband, which Abaddon scornfully refuses, but before anything further can happen, the Warp Ghost Saronos appears, offering to guide either group to Imperial space. While Daravek offers them ships and matériel, Abaddon simply offers them whatever they require, and wins their support. As it happens, Saronos wants their navigators, and while the Black Legion makes it out of the Eye, Khayon’s mentor Ashur-Kai is among those sacrified in the endeavour. However, when Khayon demands that Saronos removes his helm, he reveals himself to have the same face as Ashur-Kai…
Upon escaping the Eye, the Legion is confronted by the Black Templars fleet under the command of Sigismund, whom Abaddon determines to kill in single combat. The Vengeful Spirit is left under the command of Khayon, and Abaddon led the boarding action on the Eternal Crusader. Khayon psychically possesses one of the marines of the boarding party to witness the duel, but is forced to pull back. While the Black Legion has indeed made it out of the Eye, Daravek’s armada has also managed to make it through.
It transpires that Daravek has possessed a piece of Khayon’s soul, which has enabled him to exhibit a particular control over the sorcerer, as well as track him through the Warp. Daravek boards the Vengeful Spirit and massacres his way through the ship in search of Abaddon, who is still aboard the Eternal Crusader duelling Sigismund. Khayon is able to kill Daravek, and while Abaddon kills Sigismund, he is himself grievously wounded.
What a book! I felt like the first book didn’t really get going until Abaddon himself appeared, around two-thirds through. Here, however, the Black Legion is already formed and we’re in the thick of Khayon’s attempt on Daravek’s life. Of course, it is still slow in parts, as we still have the narrative device of the interrogation scenes.
A lot of the characters from the earlier book, such as Lheor and Sargon, are somewhat relegated to bit parts this time around, which on reflection seems a little disappointing. The novel has a much tighter focus, revolving around Khayon’s dealings with Abaddon and Daravek, with little time for much else. We do learn a little more of Khayon’s history, though, and we get some really excellent set-pieces, such as the opening chapter that sees Khayon using a breathtaking array of psychic powers.
Oh, and the void battle scenes… my goodness, there are some fantastic battles!!
I was hoping for a little more lore from the Maeleum section of the book, maybe more on the relationship between the Sons of Horus and the Black Legion. Of course, that section was there to get Moriana to Abaddon, but I feel as though it would have been perfect to see more of that meshing of the two. The fact that this is all I can say against it, though, really attests to how much I enjoyed it!
It’s a really good book, and I feel like it was along the same lines as The First Heretic as being classic Warhammer fiction. It’s making me really excited to see what happens next in the series, and I’m hoping that it comes out sooner rather than later!
All of this talk of Chaos has made me look again at the miniatures that I have for my own Heretic Astartes army. With 9th edition on the way, of course, it’ll be interesting to see how this force (indeed, any force) will work, but I’m hoping that it will be possible to bring along interesting armies with odd bits peppered in. I’m still sticking with the Chaos Cult idea, though perhaps with a few more Marines along the way.
Though I’m really hoping for a Renegades and Heretics army in the new edition!!