Deliverance Lost

Hey everybody!
I’ve made a return to the Horus Heresy lately, having read book 18 in the mammoth series: Deliverance Lost.

Deliverance Lost

The book follows on from the events of the dropsite massacre on Isstvan V, and details the activities of the Raven Guard, under their primarch Corvus Corax, as he attempts to rebuild the legion. I’ve admired the Raven Guard colour scheme when I’ve seen it in stuff like the Kill Team box set, but I’ve never really thought of myself as a fan of the XIX legion. However, after reading this book – well, I’m not about to start building a new army, but I do think I have a better appreciation for them.

As Corvax and his marines escape the Isstvan system, we discover that the Alpha Legion has managed to infiltrate the loyalists, and there is some really wonderful misdirection throughout the entire novel, as we follow the spy, “Alpharius”, as he gathers intelligence for Omegon, who has placed himself close to Deliverance, the heartland of the Raven Guard.

I think it’s widely known that Corvax obtained knowledge of genetic manipulation from the Emperor in order to rebuild his legion, especially since all of the Primaris hullabaloo that brought out other instances of people other than the Master of Mankind building space marines. Corvax obtains access to the primarch project itself after an elaborate set-piece trap sequence, which seemed somewhat out of place, but was nevertheless entertaining. Postulating that they could mix Raven Guard geneseed with primarch genetics to produce space marines that have the superhuman powers and enhanced growth rate of the primarchs, the Raven Guard begin to re-create their numbers, but this is sabotaged by “Alpharius” and his introduction of demon ichor to the genetic material, which causes the new recruits to spawn demonic talons and such. While thousands of marines are successfully made, it’s an unfortunate stumbling block on the road for Corvax, and I did find myself quite sorry for the poor guy as his continued attempts to re-build are thwarted!

While the Alpha Legion spies all seem to have been outed by the end of the novel, an interesting question is posed by the fact that, if the Alpha Legion has successfully infiltrated one legion, how many more have spies within them now? There is a lot here that has an impact within the wider storyline of the Heresy, and I particularly liked the idea that nobody was quite sure if the Raven Guard were still loyal to the Emperor at the beginning. The undercurrent of fear is shown to be quite the effective weapon, and you can easily believe that Horus doesn’t actually need to march on Terra quite yet, as the mistrust that he has sown among the Imperium is doing so much work for him already.

This is a really good novel, and one that I was surprised at because I hadn’t been expecting to enjoy it quite as much. I think the inclusion of the Alpha Legion helped here, for sure, but even without that, I was suitably intrigued by the Raven Guard that I’ve found myself looking forward to seeing where they get to next.

Until then, however, it’s time to join the Ultramarines properly, as the Battle of Calth beckons!

The Outcast Dead

I've been missing the heresy, so it's time to get back! #HorusHeresy

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I’m slowly making progress with the Horus Heresy series once again, having recently finished reading book 17 in the juggernaut of grimdark novel series, The Outcast Dead. It’s probably important to note that I’ve skipped Prospero Burns for the time being, as I’m not interested in Space Wolves (even if it is Dan Abnett at the pen), and have saved the short story compendium Age of Darkness for another time.

Anyhow!

The Outcast Dead is a very weird book, one that alternately fascinated me and annoyed the hell out of me. First of all to note, this is the first time a Horus Heresy novel takes place entirely on Terra. We follow the broken astropath Kai Zulane as he returns to the City of Sight for reconditioning, following a catastrophe aboard the Argo, a ship in the employ of the Navigator House Castana. Kai and the ship’s Navigator, Roxanne Castana, are the only two survivors of the tragedy, which saw a warp storm rip the ship apart, demons spilling into the ship and killing the entire crew. Roxanne herself has taken refuge from her House, who wanted to make her a scapegoat for the loss of the ship, at the Temple of Woe, a strange place near the Imperial Palace where people basically bring their dead for incineration.

The bulk of the first part of the novel deals with Kai Zulane and Roxanne alternately, and we get some insight into the working of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica at this time. However, when Magnus makes his ill-fated psychic attempt to warn the Emperor of Horus’ betrayal, the psychic shockwave is felt across Terra, and millions are destroyed by the warp spawn that manage to break into reality. During this incursion, Kai Zulane is given forbidden knowledge about the future that is deposited within his centre of guilt over what happened to the Argo, and he is incapable of accessing that knowledge until he has faced what happened.

He is taken to the Custodian Guard, who attempt to break the information out of him, but at this time a group of powerful Space Marines imprisoned within the Custodians’ dungeons make their escape attempt. Led by Atharva of the Thousand Sons, and including three World Eaters, a Luna Wolf, a Death Guard and an Emperor’s Children, the “Outcast Dead” break out, picking up Kai in the process, but their stolen flyer is shot down in the Petitioners’ City, a vast slum close to the Palace. The Marines are tracked along their way, and come up against the local ganglord Babu Dhakal, who turns out to be a Thunder Warrior that has inexplicably survived the Wars of Unification, and attempts to capture the Marines in an effort to use their geneseed to help prolong his life.

In a battle with the Babu’s enforcer Ghota, two of the Marines are killed, and so the remaining Outcast Dead take their bodies for disposal in the Temple of Woe. There, the Custodians catch up with them, and after a bloody battle, all of the Marines are killed, with the exception of Saverian the Luna Wolf. Kai, reunited with Roxanne, begs the Navigator to use her third eye’s power to kill him, to stop any further abuses of his body and mind in the effort to extract the knowledge of the future.

The book is weird, mainly because it takes place in the weird realm of the psychic. The astropaths and other folk at the City of Sight are all slightly odd, and a clear sense of other-ness really pervades the book. While we do get Space Marines in the form of the Outcast Dead, it’s really interesting to see another side of the Imperium, much like with Graham McNeill’s previous novel Mechanicum, which maintained itself largely without any recourse to the Astartes.

In addition, we get a bit of a look at the Navigators, though without as much depth as the astropaths. It was a little confusing at times, as Kai was said to be in the employ of House Castana and to be working for the Ultramarines, and I couldn’t quite work out what was going on there. Of course, the details are largely irrelevant. I don’t think the Navigators have been shown previously in the series, however, so it was nice to have them show up for a bit.

Indeed, we seem to get many fringe elements turn up in this book, as the Sisters of Silence make a brief but pivotal appearance at the final battle, as well as a couple of Custodians having some decent page-time. Finally, we get the elements of the mythical past in the form of two Thunder Warriors, who are all presumed dead following the Wars of Unity. I can’t quite decide if I liked this inclusion, or if it felt a bit like over-kill. Of course, while the fact that there were survivors shouldn’t be surprising given the breadth of the universe we’re dealing with here, I think I would have preferred them to be left out, and Babu Dhakal to have been a Space Marine washout or something.

For all that I found it fascinating, however, I was also really quite disappointed with the book. The story of the Heresy has barely advanced since the first couple of books in the series – with Nemesis providing the first proper step on the timeline since probably Battle for the Abyss. Instead of continuing the story, we’ve instead gone back a step to the psychic incursion of Magnus to warn the Emperor, which we saw in A Thousand Sons, six books prior. It’s not entirely all bad, don’t get me wrong, but I just feel like we’re not really getting anywhere right now. I get that the narrative is immense and epic and all the rest of it, but I’m used to novel series from the Star Wars universe that tell a complete storyline – even padded out quite considerably – within nineteen books…!

I’m still more interested in what’s happened to Garviel Loken at the end of Galaxy in Flames!

It was an enjoyable book for a lot of reasons, although the copy I have is absolutely riddled with typos, word omissions and, towards the end, printing errors. It is a little frustrating that we’re seventeen books into the series and we don’t seem to have advanced very far at all into the story of the Heresy, but I suppose that’s just how the series is being told.

Nemesis

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.

Horus Heresy Nemesis

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…

The First Heretic

Hoping for some motivation… #HorusHeresy

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The First Heretic is the fourteenth novel in the Horus Heresy series, and is an attempt I’ve made to get some inspiration to return to painting miniatures, after an alarming number of weeks where I haven’t taken up a paintbrush at all!

Like several of these early Horus Heresy novels, the book begins decades before the actual Heresy itself, as we see the Word Bearers legion humiliated by the Emperor for their veneration of him. The book opens in the city of Monarchia on the planet of Khur, where the Ultramarines systematically destroy the city on the orders of the Emperor himself. When Lorgar arrives with his legion to discover what is going on, he is met with Roboute Guilliman and Malcador the Sigillite, who explain that the Emperor dislikes the veneration shown to him, but Lorgar refuses to heed them, swatting both aside with zealous fury until the Emperor himself teleports to the ruins of the city and rebukes Lorgar in front of his entire legion. He leaves a squad of twenty Custodes to watch over the legion and ensure they do not lapse into idolatry once more.

The Word Bearers then return to Lorgar’s home planet of Colchis, along with one of the few survivors of Monarchia’s destruction, and essentially lick their wounds. Lorgar¬†determines to renew the Word Bearers’ efforts in the galaxy, and for the next few decades, they appear to make a clean break of things by ensuring compliance after flawless compliance. The Custodes and the Astartes bond somewhat, and all seems well. However, beneath the surface, Lorgar has been swayed by his closest advisers, Kor Phaeron and Erebus, into pursuing a more devious agenda.

They arrive on the world of Cadia, and after being welcomed by the natives as if they had been expected, they are invited to witness a ceremony, at the climax of which one of the Custodes is sacrificed, which allows for the demon Ingethel to be brought forth from the Warp. Lorgar talks at length with the demon, before sending a small contingent of his warriors led by Argel Tal into the warp storm above the planet. In the storm, the demon explains several truths to the legion, such as the fall of the Eldar race, and also the birth of the primarchs in the Emperor’s gene labs. Argel Tal is told that the Emperor learnt how to create the primarchs from the Chaos gods, but then refused to keep his side of the bargain. In a sort of Back to the Future moment, Argel Tal is forced to destroy the haematrope reactor that allows for Chaos to enter into the labs and fling the primarchs to the four corners of the galaxy.

Argel Tal and the marines with him are possessed by demons, and the Word Bearers begin their efforts for vengeance against the Emperor, by sending out chaplains into the other legions to spread the word – notably, of course, Erebus is seconded to the Sons of Horus. Several more years pass, and the legion remains outwardly loyal, though the demonic possession begins to take hold, just as news is brought of the Warmaster’s rebellion in the Isstvan system. The legion makes all haste, making sure to prevent the Custodes from landing first, and join forces with the Night Lords, Alpha Legion and Iron Warriors to provide a relief force for the main traitor legions on the planet.

We get to see the drop-site massacre from a different perspective, with a focus on Lorgar’s fight against Corax, before the Custodes arrive and learn that the Word Bearers have in fact been traitors all along. Argel Tal and his company, now transformed into the demonic Gal Vorbak, slaughter the Custodians. The novel ends as the Word Bearers begin to enact their vengeance against the Ultramarines, setting course for Calth…

The First Heretic

This book was actually a pleasure to read, despite the subject matter! I suppose, having been so intrigued by Erebus since meeting him in Horus Rising, I was looking forward to seeing more of him. That said, the main focus of this book is split between Argel Tal, captain of the 7th assault company, and the primarch himself. Notably, I think this is the first time in the series where we get to meet a lot of the other legions and their primarchs – the Ultramarines, Raven Guard, Iron Warriors and Night Lords all appear with speaking parts, however minute!

The First Heretic deals with what I suppose can be construed as the absolute pivotal moment in the entire Horus Heresy – Lorgar turning from the Emperor and pursuing the path of Chaos. (I suppose “the Lorgar Heresy” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but anyway). While on the face of things, there isn’t really anything bad about this book, I did feel that Lorgar’s turn to Chaos was perhaps a little too convenient – I know that we know, as readers, what must happen, but as with a lot of prequel stories, there is a fine line to walk when dealing with the inevitability of something and making it natural and believable. For me, I’ve always struggled with accepting just how quickly Horus was seduced by Chaos in the second book, and it’s a similar thing here with Lorgar. While the story does work fine as it is, I couldn’t help thinking at times that it was only going this way because we were expecting it to do so, and it offered little surprise along the way.

As with many other books in the series, we start a long way out from Isstvan V, and I do feel a little tired of this construction for Horus Heresy novels now. With the exception of perhaps Battle for the Abyss, which itself was a fairly contained storyline anyway, none of the novels I’ve yet read has advanced the storyline beyond Fulgrim – though I did skip Nemesis to read this one, so perhaps I’m missing something here. Obviously, Forge World are keen to make this into an epic tale for the ages, but a part of me can already see just how much the storyline is being milked for all its worth!

But when all’s said and done, this was actually a really good book, and one that I found myself looking forward to picking up in the evenings after work, etc. It seems there are very few books that I’ve come across recently where I can say that, anyway!

What a time to be alive!

Well, then!

Things seem to be getting crazy in Warhammer 40k right now, with the emergence of Roboute Guilliman from stasis after, I believe, the Triumvirate of Ynnead somehow managed to bring him back from the point of death. He’s coming back with friends, as seems to be the way of things with The Gathering Storm storyline, and is poised to lead the Imperial answer to the threat of Chaos and the 13th Black Crusade.

I have to say, I absolutely love the model. A lot of folks are unimpressed, but I think that’s just the curse of the internet generally hating everything and anything new. I’m not unreserved – I really don’t like the face, but he comes with a helmeted option that I would probably use should I end up getting him.

(Who am I trying to fool – of course I’ll be getting him!)

This is all definitely cool, of course, and I’m very excited about seeing the father of the Ultramarines (the grandfather, then, of my Novamarines!) It really is a great time to be a fan of 40k, as we enter the 30th anniversary year of the game with what looks to be an immense shake-up!

I find it very surprising, in one sense, that we’re seeing this stuff now – it’s at least a month before we’ll have plastic Guilliman in our hands – but then, it seems to be the thing for GW to do nowadays, giving us plenty of advance warning about releases. Look at Tzaanuary, and the Eldar Triumvirate/new Stormcast stuff, all being spoiled well before pre-order dates, let alone release. I find it surprising because, previously, it seemed the business model was very much around impulse-buying, but now we’re being given time to plan out our purchases, and as a result, I’m curious to see if people may be foregoing the new Eldar in favour of the big guy.

I’m personally torn – I mean, I want those Eldar models, though primarily I only want the Incubus guy, as he would best fit in my Dark Eldar army. This morning, I did have the idea of potentially using the Avatar model as a Keeper of Secrets, which I suppose could work, but I’m suddenly more excited for the new Primarch than I am for the space elves, even though I’ve switched from Ultramarines. I’m definitely buying the book, but I’m trying to save up to buy a house, so I’m thinking differently about these things now. I just find it interesting to see how this new strategy of advance warning will work out for them, and if we’ll see a return to more guarded releases…

At any rate, we’re also getting a new Cypher, and a new Grey Knights Grand Master, which is very exciting! I’m not so much of a Cypher fan – despite my love of the Deathwing, Dark Angels in general I can take or leave. I’ve often thought about adding some Grey Knights to my collection in the pre-Deathwatch days, too, though was always a bit saddened that their characters are all finecast. So that’s pretty exciting, all told!

Rise of the Primarch will apparently be the conclusion to The Gathering Storm, which begs the question: what’s next? I wonder if we are indeed going to be getting 8th Edition in April, or if 40k will take a little bit of a back seat for a while as happened with Age of Sigmar after their big summer campaign last year, before we get something more grand later on. I don’t know, but it definitely seems like an exciting time to be a fan right now!

Added to all of this enjoyment, of course, we have the Horus Heresy Weekender happening today and tomorrow at Nottingham, where a lot of amazing stuff is coming out, both for the Thousand Sons and the Legio Custodes! I believe Space Puppies are getting some stuff too…

Definitely check out the live blog over on the Community website, but if you’re a member of any of the Facebook groups for Warhammer 40k, you’ve doubtless seen the wonderful Contemptor Dreadnoughts and miscellaneous awesome that is on show already!

Hobby Progress, week 51

It’s the penultimate week of my hobby progress blogs, and for those of you who are into this stuff, Merry Christmas! Get yourself another mince pie, and let’s take a look at what I’ve been up to this week!

It’s actually been another fairly slow week, as I’ve finished off a couple of the things I talked about in last week’s update, but very little else.

First of all, let’s look at this, my first ever attempt at proper freehand stuff. For a first attempt, I think it looks pretty great actually, but for what I was trying to achieve, it does leave quite a bit to be desired. The marines themselves look nice, though – I’m actually really pleased with how the Centurion has turned out, and the Command Squad guys look fine and stuff. Standard Alpha Legion scheme at this point, really, and there’s not a lot else I can say about them!

My attempt at OSL for the Corvus-Alpha legionaries has turned out pretty okay, again for my first serious attempt at doing it. I’d built up the blue on the armour with Temple Guard Blue, which is brighter than the usual Teclis Blue that I highlight it with anyway, but still hadn’t provided enough of an effect to be really noticeable, unfortunately. I then went in with Baharroth Blue, going lightly over the plasma coils and then building it up with a vaguely drybrush/stipple effect to create the diffuse glow, and while I do think it looks decent enough, I still think the fact that I’m basically doing a blue glow on blue armour leaves the effect somewhat lacking. But it’s serviceable, and I suppose that’s the main thing!

Finally, I’ve got a second Tactical Support Squad finished! These guys are equipped with flamers, so it’s the unupgraded version of the unit, and again, they’re just the standard Alpha Legionaries. Since reading about the concept of the tactical support squad, I’ve always enjoyed the idea of having these guys launched at the battlefield in a drop pod and just dousing the whole place in flame, covering a retreat or something super dramatic-like, so I’m glad to have them in the army, even if I never end up doing anything of that sort!

All together, it was a productive week for the Alpha Legion, as yesterday I built up a second Tactical Squad! And an apothecary…

I’d set myself a bit of a challenge for Christmas Eve, to get as far as I could with these chaps, and in the event I was just impressed that I’d managed to build them all. Once these have been painted, that will mean I have the minimum force required to play some 30k, so I hope that I can start getting some games in in the new year!

The apothecary is for the January painting challenge at my local GW store, where we need to paint an elite unit. I’m kinda taking the easy route, as I believe most people are using the plastics from the Calth and/or Prospero sets, so terminators, while I’m going for the single apothecary. I do now also have the necessary weapon options to start looking into building some Lernaean Terminators, but I’m hoping to work on some other stuff as we move into 2017, so I want to go easy on it!

Along with finishing off some of the Necron things I’ve had hanging about for a long time, I’ve decided to make my dream of a Slaaneshi daemon force a reality, and so want to get moving with the Daemonettes and Seeker Chariot that have both been built up since the summer, and then start adding things like Hellstriders and Daemon Princes to the roster, and eventually some bigger stuff like the Warshrine! Looking forward to seeing where that goes, anyway! Age of Sigmar is still as big as it ever has been at my local store, and I get the vague impression that the uncertainty around 40k’s future as we look at 8th edition has been causing a few 40k regulars to drift into AoS – the chap I played a few weeks ago has started a zombie force, for instance, and there are skaven rumblings from die-hard Eldar players. So I think it’ll be good to have a force for each system – while I do have Stormcast Eternals coming out of my ears, Slaanesh is something that I’ve wanted to build for a long time…

Finally, I built up five Tree-Revenants. I actually have no idea what I’m going to do with them now as, while I do have some dryads and whatnot, I don’t really need yet more miniatures to paint at the moment!!

Anyway, there’s just one week left before the end of the year and the culmination of my hobby progress blogs for 2016. Fortunately I do have the week off work, so I hope to get some things finished – stay tuned for that, at least!! And whatever you’ve been up to today, I hope it’s been a wonderful time!