After what feels like an age, I have now finished War Without End, the 33rd instalment in the series. It’s another anthology, in what feels like a very grindy, middle of the road space within the overall storyline. I don’t really have anything against short story anthologies, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the time with the Horus Heresy, these stories can be very hit and miss, and they rarely seem to advance the overall storyline.
There are some interesting inclusions in here. I think the stand-out for me is The Laurel of Defiance, which is an Ultramarines story centred on Lucretius Corvo (who will go on to found the Novamarines chapter after the Heresy is over and done with). It’s a great story that shows us the Ultramarines as the statesmen and politicians they are meant to be when all war is over, and Corvo’s own feelings on that are quite interesting, to say the least! We see the Ultramarines during an awards ceremony, and Corvo reflects back on the action that got him there, where he and his legionaries took down a Word Bearers’ possessed Titan.
Allegiance, by Chris Wraight, is another good entry, although I did struggle a bit to get through this one. It shows a Thousand Sons legionary who has not turned from the Emperor, being rehabilitated into the White Scars legion. Around that main storyline, we see the continuing purge of the disloyal White Scars following the Scars novel, where several legionaries attempted to introduce warrior lodges in the same manner as the Sons of Horus.
In terms of continuing the storylines from previous novels, Gunsight brings us back to the assassin Eristede Kell following his failed mission to kill Horus in Nemesis. I really liked that book, contrary to a lot of popular opinion, it seems, and I really liked the way this story let its madness unfold as well. The ending was quite a surprise, too, but along the way I think it was really cool to see how the menials and the serfs of the Warmaster’s legion have reacted to his treachery.
Another story that deals with the goings-on within the Vengeful Spirit is Twisted, which follows the Warmaster’s equerry Maloghurst as he is hounded by a daemon. This builds on some of the threads from the Vengeful Spirit novel, specifically Maloghurst’s dabbling in the Warp and his creation of the Luperci. It’s an interesting story because it shows us the influence the Davinite cultists are having on the Sons of Horus, and while the whole heresy is undoubtedly traced to Horus and his lust for power, you do get the feeling here that actually these cultists are perhaps almost more to blame for the whole thing, with their corrupting influence on the legiones astartes. Interesting stuff!
Among these are stories about the Alpha Legion, Dark Angels and Iron Hands, among others, as well as the little people of the galaxy. There’s a story about the lodges on Davin that acts as a prequel to The Damnation of Pythos, another book that I know not a lot of people like. There is a story from Graham McNeil that ties in to his Vengeful Spirit and the Titan lords featured in that book, which was all a bit convoluted at first, but interesting in its way. We also have a Night Lords story that acts as a prequel to the next novel, Pharos. I had been enjoying how the Night Lords were just peppered through several novellas so far, as we follow the Thramas Crusade almost as a side event, but sometimes, these stories are just too gruesome.
Overall, there were some interesting stories here, if you’re really invested in the massive sprawl of the Heresy as a series, and you’re following along all of the various plot threads and such. I have to say though, at this point in the grand scheme of things, it feels like we’re just stuck with nothing really going on, and it is all starting to become really stale. Yes, it is enjoyable to see these slices of life of the serfs aboard the Vengeful Spirit, or seeing the flashbacks for Captain Corvo the Titankiller, but there is a very definite sense, for me, of “just where is this going?” I sometimes wonder if the Heresy has got too large a cast, although this was perhaps unavoidable given that all eighteen legions have a starring role. There is just too much ground to cover, unfortunately, and the pace of things now that we’re in the 30s is really starting to show.
Next up is Pharos, though, and I have a hope that this one will begin to point us in the right direction again. Fingers crossed, and all that!