July retrospective

Hey everybody,

Well it doesn’t seem like five minutes since I was here with my June retrospective, and already July has been and gone! With everything going on in real life right now, I have (unsurprisingly!) been a bit busy to be doing any fun stuff, as holding a baby to get her to sleep (and all the other associated activities!) don’t really allow for anything else. But I have been reading, which is probably going to be the main focus of this post!

I’ve been reading a lot of Necromunda books, both the current range of hardcovers and also the old Gang War supplements that were released three years ago now. Perhaps because of the fact that I’m now outnumbered by women at home, I’ve been taking a long look at House Escher for the game, and did actually manage to find a spare moment to paint some miniatures earlier in the month! So hurrah for that! I haven’t managed to get very far though, and haven’t managed to do so again, either. But never mind. I think, having a second child, it’s easier because you know there will come a time when the stars align and you get your free time back in the evenings – it isn’t suddenly a black hole of having no available time for the foreseeable future!

I’ve been reading a lot about campaign play as well, and seeing how that all works out for the game. It’s really exciting, and I think it’s going to be at the top of my list when I’m able to have something like regular gaming once more!

The roadmap for Necromunda was recently updated, to show the plastic weapon upgrades for Orlock, Van Saar and Cawdor are coming in the next quarter, and a new gang in Q4! This is very exciting, I must say. A lot of speculation is being made around classics such as Ratskins or Skavvies, but I do recall hearing at one of the Open Days that they also had plans for totally new gangs, which of course we have seen already with the Corpse Grinders, so I’m very excited to see what’s coming. Very exciting times in the Underhive right now – and it’d be even better if we had the Delaque weapons!

The new edition of Kill Team has been announced, with GW making a very big deal of it coming out next month. I’ve been back and forth so much on this one, but I think I’m still at the point where I’m really excited for the new system. Whether I am able to get my hands on the new box or not is, of course, the big question, but I think it looks like it should make a really interesting board game style of game, even if I nevermake up another team. But, who am I kidding? Of course I’m going to be making more teams!

The thing is, though, I’m really feeling the narrative focus this time around, and I know people have been losing their literal minds on the internet by the fact that it now uses movement templates rather than inches, but I do find myself quite liking the fact that the rules have changed to a more bespoke system. However, it’s the narrative, for me, that I’m keen to dive into, and I’m really looking forward to assembling a team of spec-ops to use. Furthermore, I think I’ll most likely be assembling a team or two that are purely meant for Kill Team, and not simply taking a bunch of models from my 40k collection to use in this game, which I have done in the past. The Krieg models are a perfect case in point, and I think I might be keeping a few Tempestus Scions for the game as well. We shall see!

As I said, though, I’ve mainly been reading this month, and have managed to make my way through two of the anthologies for the Horus Heresy, Shadows of Treachery and The Primarchs – so I think I’m reasonably now up to date on everything that I’ve missed! As ever, anthologies are a bit of an uneven experience for me, so rather than going through them both story-by-story, I thought I’d pick out my absolute favourites to talk about from each.

Prince of Crows

Published in Shadows of Treachery, this follows on from Savage Weapons, where Konrad Curze was wounded by Lion el’Jonson during their duel. With Curze lying comatose, First Captain Sevatar re-forms the Kyroptera advisory council of the Night Lords, and plans how to save the Legion as the Thramas Crusade draws to its conclusion, with the Dark Angels poised to annihilate the VIII Legion. The Legion commanders each take a portion of the fleet to raid Imperial space, while Sevatar himself uses his nascent psychic ability to bring back the Night Haunter from his coma, and lead a retaliatory strike against the Lion’s cruiser. While this attack ultimately fails, it does allow for Curze to hide himself in the bowels of the Invincible Reason.

I really enjoyed this novella – it’s probably one of the best Horus Heresy stories that I’ve read for some time, actually! The Night Lords haven’t really had a novel properly dedicated to them, they’re always just on the sidelines – I’m not sure if that changes, as I’ve only just broken into the 30s in the series, but I feel like they’re something of a forgotten Legion, really! There are a couple of short stories though, which somewhat culminate with this novella, joining the dots as to what’s happening out on the fringes before Curze then makes an appearance in The Unremembered Empire. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s nice to see the Legion structures and compare / contrast how each works. The Night Lords, for all that they’re said to be a band of ruthless murderers, still have that similar command structure, the Kyroptera being roughly analogous to the Mournival of the Sons of Horus.

We also get an extended flashback/memory sequence from Curze, detailing his early life on Nostramo, which was nice to get that full story in print, as it’s a fairly major part of the lore, etc. It’s a fairly lengthy novella, and gives a lot of action as well as some of the quieter moments to allow for a bit of Legion lore to get in, as well. Overall, I definitely enjoyed it!

Shadows of Treachery is otherwise a bit bland, with a couple of shorter stories that just felt dull and unnecessary when talking about the Heresy as a whole, but we also have The Crimson Fist, which was a bit of a drawn-out explanation for why the Imperial Fists didn’t make it to Isstvan V. I wasn’t a huge fan, truth be told.

The Serpent Beneath

This is another fantastic novella-length story, published in The Primarchs and this time dealing with the Alpha Legion. My favourite of the Legions, the story is actually quite fascinating as it deals with the Legion infiltrating Tenebrae Station, which is controlled by their own brother legionaries. The station is being used to create the warp storms that are keeping the White Scars at Chondax, but several security leaks have been traced to the installation and Omegon decides to form a team to neutralise this threat.

The narrative is really quite cleverly constructed, as it keeps slipping back to the planning meeting that Omegon held with the team, and then into the action of their infiltration. It poses the very intriguing question, what happens when you need to infiltrate your own Legion, and so know your own tricks? 

There are so many twists and turns along the way that it is virtually impossible to summarise them all, but the story takes a hugely interesting turn at the very end, where Omegon and Alpharius discuss the situation. It seems Omegon had fabricated the security leak as a means to destroy the station, a gift from the Cabal, and it is possible that he is trying to subvert his twin’s plans – is Omegon a secret loyalist? Who the hell knows, this is the Alpha Legion, after all! It was a great story, with a look at the wider universe outside of the space marines – when Omegon is recruiting his team, we get something almost akin to a film noir sequence of the hooded marines stalking a Mechanicum operative. This is just one of many cases in point, though, as the story was exceedingly cinematic, and it read really well as a result.

The Primarchs is essentially four novellas that tell stories about Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus, Lion el’Jonson, and Omegon. The Fulgrim story actually turned out to be fairly important, bridging the gap between Fulgrim and Angel Exterminatus, and clearing up some minor points that had be a little confused at the time. The Iron Hands story is notable for being a tale with Ferrus Manus front and centre (considering he is killed in book three of the series), and I thought it posed some interesting questions about the Legion, notably how easy it would be to overcome the warriors if you can disrupt their bionics.

In addition to reading, I’ve also been watching more TV, starting to make my way through The Expanse on Amazon Prime. It’s been years since I first read Leviathan Wakes, and I’m still a little put out that I’ve not yet made it to the next book in the series! I really need to pull my finger out on that front. I’ve watched the first series, and I was really impressed by the look of it, and the feel for how they’ve translated the book to the screen. I do find myself increasingly impressed at how good TV shows have become in recent years – watching WandaVision earlier in the year, I was continually blown away by how the production values made it feel very much like a part of the MCU. The Expanse is in a similar vein, with a big-budget feel to it. I did feel lost for the most part, because the storyline has been mixed up, I believe, with some of the more political storylines from Cibola Burn. So I did find it a little hard to follow at times, but that was only because I was thinking of it in terms of the book! I think that adding this political dimension in right away has been the best decision, though, because it greatly enhances the world-building – in my initial review of the book, I did mention the fact that we don’t get a lot of that as a downside to the story.

It’s a great series, anyway, and I think in general this is some of the most believable sci-fi that we have out there. Definitely looking forward to diving into more of this!

June Retrospective

Hey everybody,
It’s already time for another retrospective, and we’re suddenly already halfway through 2021! That soon happened. June has been something of a slow month for my blog, because I had the fairly huge event of my second daughter being born on the 18th of the month! Freya came into the world only a couple of days early, although completely unplanned as she couldn’t wait to join the world, so was delivered on the bathroom floor 😳 She’s been doing great though, and her big sister Phoebe is hopefully going to be a big help to us all, despite being only 21 months old, herself 🤣

I’ve been reading quite a bit, and was able to schedule a couple of book reviews to make sure that my blog didn’t just shut down for a few months as happened with the birth of the Firstborn. Master and Apprentice was a little disappointing, but I’m aware that I seem to be almost routinely bashing the new canon stuff, so I need to try to be better and approach these books a little more positively. Hopefully when I get round to stuff like the Alphabet Squadron series, I’ll enjoy them as much as I did Alexander Freed’s Battlefront novel.

I’ve really been on a bit of a Horus Heresy bender, though, partly because I’ve grown tired of continually making statements here along the lines of “I just want to read five more books in the series this year” and “I just want to make it to x, that’s only 4 books to get through”. I’ve been going back to read some of those anthologies that I skipped over back in the day, thinking I just want to read the actual story, and I’ve also been progressing forwards, getting to book 32, Legacies of Betrayal.


This is a bit of an odd duck, to me, being a collection of lots of short stories that previously saw release as audio books, or as part of the BL Advent Calendar that usually has shorter-than-normal stories. It kicks off with Brotherhood of the Storm, which is a novella prequel to the excellent Scars, and one story that I enjoyed quite a bit, even if at times it felt a bit superfluous. There are some interesting shorts in here that give us a tiny insight into how the war is going, such as Strike and Fade showing a group of Salamanders ambushing some Night Lords on Isstvan V while the dust settles. Veritas Ferrum is a short prequel to Damnation of Pythos, and shows the Iron Hands rescuing the Salamanders before they escape the Isstvan system – the sort of story could (should?) have been included as a prologue to the parent novel, but anyway. There are a couple of World Eaters stories by ADB that were quite good – I particularly enjoyed Heart of the Conqueror, which showed the internal conflict experienced by the ship’s Navigator – aware of the fact the Legion has turned against the Emperor, who she sees as a kind of saviour/patron figure, she kills herself and thus pulls the flagship out of the Warp. The stand-outs though, were Censure, which showed us the Ultramarines vs Word Bearers on the irradiated world of Calth (I had no idea that Kurtha Sedd was a character before the box set!) and Kryptos, which featured the Raven Guard/Iron Hands stealth assassin team from Angel Exterminatus. These stories were of a more traditional length, and were able to give a more proper development to the actual storyline they had.

So it was a curious book, overall, having a lot of short, forgettable, dare I say pointless little side stories, but at least I’m ploughing through – only another 23 books to go! 😳

There was some very exciting news about Arkham Horror LCG at the start of the month, with the change to how they’re going to publish cycles from now on, and last week we had the news that there’ll be a revised core set doing the rounds, which will feature a complete playset of the player cards, as well as some of those cards from later expansions to give new folks a better experience right out of the box. Otherwise, it’s still the same 5 investigators (albeit with new art) and they’re going up against the Night of the Zealot as before. I find it interesting that they’re choosing to do this, full playset of cards etc, as it seems to be indicating the shift of the LCG model away from what it has been, and instead making it more like the board game that it pretty much was anyway. I think it’s really exciting, especially if they can pepper the year with stand-alone scenarios to keep the attention on the game, rather than just relying on one, potentially two release events in a year.

Of course, there’s a part of me thinking perhaps this could be signalling the end of the game, as Call of Cthulhu went to a similarly concentrated release schedule of deluxe boxes only before it folded. But even if that were to happen, I think I’m pretty confident that this game has got enough content and playability in the existing cycles that I’ll be playing it for years to come!


Speaking of playing with old stuff, I suppose Lord of the Rings can now be counted as an older game that has finished! I’ve recently had some time to have a few games with this old favourite, playing the first three scenarios in the Angmar Awakened cycle. I was initially planning this for Christmastime, of course, but better late than never, I suppose!! I’ll post something next month going over these, anyway!

June has been pretty much all about rediscovering Magic the Gathering, after I’d found some cards in the attic that I have no real memory of buying! I’ve written a couple of posts where I’ve caught up with the recent sets, here and here, though I’m still trying to be a little circumspect with it, not flying off the deep end with buying cards left and right! I’ve got a couple of deck ideas that I want to share, too, so stay tuned for more on that front!!

However, the biggest game news from June came from Necromunda, when I was finally able to play a real game with James, my Delaque vs his Orlocks. That was a lot of fun – I knew I’d enjoy it, having previously solo played the game at the back end of 2020, but it was a whole load of fun with another person, and we’re planning to get more games and hopefully a campaign in once Freya is settled and the kids are sleeping through the night!


As a consequence, I’ve picked up the new Hive War box set! I knew I wanted more Delaque models anyway, and after playing with the zone mortalis stuff, I think it was clear that the Dark Uprising stuff, while excellent, wasn’t going to be enough for a 3×2 board. The cost of more Delaque and more terrain would be around the £58 mark at my local store, where I could also pick up Hive War for £71, netting me more Escher for just £13, as well as the new book and stuff. So that was pretty much a no-brainer, I thought!

The set is actually quite nice as a starting set, coming with enough terrain to play some games, but I’m pretty sure that even GW themselves tell you it’s only intended as a starting point, and you will get more out of it with more terrain. Which is fine, after all! The rule book, specific to this box, has got the basic rules in it, as well as some “starter” gang rules for all six House gangs, allowing you to build a gang using the box only and these rules. It feels pared-back, but this is the point of this box, remember!

When the Hive War box came out, we also had plastic weapon upgrades for Escher and Goliath (the original two gangs, remember), which seem to be a blend of weapons from the Forge World weapons kits for both gangs. I’m really hoping that, when House of Shadows comes out soon, we’ll also have plastic upgrades for Delaque, so I’m holding off from building too many more gangers for the time being! As I mentioned at the start of the week, though, I’ve started to poke my nose into House Escher, so I could well be making a move there in the coming weeks!

I feel like Necromunda is in a very exciting place right now, as we’re poised on that brink of “what’s next?” once the Delaque get their book.

That pretty much sums things up for now, anyway! I’m hoping that I can do a proper catch-up of the hobby goals sometime in early July – I had planned a mid-point check in for this blog, but I think I’m running a bit long here already. But stay tuned for that!

The Damnation of Pythos

Hey everybody,
Today I’m continuing to catch up with the books that I’ve been wading through of late, and will be taking a look at The Damnation of Pythos, the 30th book in the Horus Heresy series! 30 books in already – man, it doesn’t seem at all like these things are dragging on…

Be warned – here be spoilers!

The book features what I think is our first showcase of the Iron Hands Legion since the series began – for sure, they’ve been in it since the start, but never as the stars of the show. The sons of Ferrus Manus were one of those Legions that were utterly decimated at Isstvan V, along with the Salamanders and the Raven Guard, and the survivors here are ragged group of all three. Led by Captain Atticus of the 111th Clan Company, the group is drawn to the death world of Pythos in the Pandorax system. There, their astropath Rhydia Erephren discovers a block of psychically-attuned black rock referred to as “the anomaly”, and cannot explain its presence. The space marines are set upon by the weirdly carnivorous beasts of the world, and begin to make a formal settlement on the world while they properly regroup.

After a battle with the Emperor’s Children, where the Iron Hands are able to extract some measure of retribution against the III Legion for their primarch’s murder of Ferrus, the Iron Hands return to Pythos to wait out a Warp storm, during which they are greeted by thousands upon thousands of junker-style ships that appear to be coming to Pythos to settle. The world continues to extract a toll on the civilians, who seem weirdly unfazed by the attacks by the massive native saurians. Meanwhile, the Legion serfs on the planet are being afflicted by nocturnal terrors, with many killing themselves in the grip of madness.

While the colonists are building their settlement, a fissure opens in the ground, revealing a submerged structure that the Iron Hands explore, only to discover it full of carnivorous maggots the size of a man. Things come to a head when Captain Atticus orders a lance hit directly on the ruins site from his flagship Veritas Ferrum, only for it to somehow be deflected back at the ship, destroying the Legionaries’ only way off-planet.

The colonists are soon revealed to be expatriates from Davin, and working to bring about the presence of the daemon Madail into realspace. The daemon’s presence then allows for a cavalcade of lesser daemons to pour forth from the Warp gates within the ruined structures under the surface, and Erephren is barely able to send a warning to Terra before the Iron Hands are completely overcome.

In the epilogue, the message is received by the astropaths of Terra, but the clerks there are unbelieving of such “mythology” and consign it to the piles of thousands of other unread messages.

It took me a long while to get into this book. Whether that was because of real life intruding on things, or something else, who knows. I did find David Annandale’s style a little too off-putting though, as well – the way that a short burst of action would be accompanied by, sometimes, a page and a half of introspection and tangents. But after I was about halfway through, I think I managed to get into it and stuff.

There is a very real sense of dread that is slowly unravelled as the book moves on, as well. After the initial furore of the native fauna of Pythos is seen, we get several nights of utter dread when something is clearly not right – it’s a wonderful way of building up the atmosphere, especially as these moments are seen through the eyes of the Legion serfs, the general humans who help the Legion. While the world also has an effect on the space marines, being transhuman they are somewhat able to shrug it off – especially when we’re talking about Iron Hands, whose motto is “the flesh is weak” and seek to replace their body parts with cybernetica.

I don’t think I’ve felt the need to put a spoiler warning on a Horus Heresy novel for quite some time, as the books all feel fairly dull as regards massive surprises go. However, the revelation that the colonists come from Davin was quite staggering, especially because of the simplicity with which it was announced. It’s a shock to us, the reader, because we know what happens in False Gods, but it’s almost irrelevant to the Iron Hands serf who learns it with us. I really liked that call-back, and I’m intrigued by the idea that we might not be done with the planet of Horus’ downfall yet.

As I alluded to earlier, though, the narrative of the Horus Heresy does seem to be getting really diluted at this point. I really enjoyed Vengeful Spirit, because it was a bit like a return to the principal narrative that had been left off sometime around book 5, but once again here we’re having a story that, while fairly decent in the end, didn’t honestly feel like a Horus Heresy novel for the most part. The little skirmish with the Emperor’s Children was the closest we got, and that only took up about 50 pages.

It’s a really intriguing book though, and I really liked the way that the tension is built up throughout, with the focus on the dread of what is out there. I don’t think I’ve read about many death worlds in 40k before now, so it was also pretty good to see just how bad some of these things can be! The finale was a bit ridiculous and over-the-top, to the point where I did struggle to picture what was going on for the most part, but this isn’t Shakespeare, I guess, so we’re just along for the ride!

April retrospective

Hey everybody,
It’s the end of another month, and we’re already a third of the way through the year! After quite an eventful March, I feel as though my April doesn’t really measure up! Lots of real-world stuff going on, sadly, but as this blog is being published, I’m coming to the end of a very relaxing week away, which is hopefully going to help propel me to new heights in May! Well, we can but hope!

While perhaps not as much has happened in April, I think what I have been able to do has been pretty big! I want to start with Warhammer, because why not – indeed, most of this blog is probably going to be taken up with plastic crack! After a few years of having the game, I have finally made it round to trying out Warhammer Underworlds, and I think I’ve become obsessed…

In these coronavirus times, I’m still playing games with myself, so stuff like this and Warcry has suffered a bit, but nevertheless, I can say that I wholeheartedly love the idea and the playstyle and I cannot wait to play against a real person! The only warband that I have painted is still the Thorns of the Briar Queen from the Nightvault set, though I have recently made efforts to get the Godsworn Hunt warband painted as well, having made a start back when Contrasts were new and all. Very small progress, but progress nonetheless.

I definitely think I’m obsessed, though!

I’ve also been making some very decent progress with the Ossiarch Bonereapers! In my latest New Army Update blog, I showed off some Immortis Guard, as well as the plans for the Endless Spells and Arch-Kavalos Zandtos. Well, the Spells are finished, and while everything is just done to tabletop standard, I do like how these things have turned out! I must say, I struggled with each one to think of a good colour scheme for them – I wanted something different to the ghostly-green of the box art, but I never knew what! In the end, I went for ghostly-blue, in the main,as a nod to the Mortisan Boneshaper.

The army is definitely coming along, though. I’m trying to not get too distracted with Underworlds and other projects, so that it won’t be too long before I’ll have a fourth update blog with yet more finished miniatures! Although it is exciting to think that I’m only one model away from having that 1000-point list fully painted!

Of course, the Ossiarch Bonereapers are due for their own Underworlds warband to come out soon, talk about worlds colliding! So that’s definitely something to look forward to.

While we’re talking about new miniatures…

The next Broken Realms book is going to be accompanied by a slew of huge model releases, it seems, not least of which is a new Lord Kroak for the Seraphon, and this fabulous thing for Slaanesh! If I was excited for the plastic Keeper of Secrets back in 2019, I don’t even know where to start with this beauty! Slaanesh is, of course, my favourite, and I keep talking about how much I want to have a Slaanesh army. Well, given that they’re quite possibly now the most-supported of the four Ruinous Powers, it seems like I need to make a start with these glorious things! I do need to try and control myself at times, of course, but when things like this come along, I just don’t know what to do…

The Keeper is a big model, but these things look huge, due to the wings and everything. I really didn’t see this coming, but I definitely want at least one!

Moving away from the Mortal Realms now, I’ve been reading quite a bit of the Horus Heresy this month – mainly catching up on some of those books that I had left out up to this point.

Prospero Burns is the 15th novel in the series, and tells the story of the Burning of Prospero from the point of view of the VI Legion. Now, the book is by Dan Abnett, one of the Black Library’s greatest, and it deals with one of the most critical moments in the Heresy that has already had a fantastic novel covering those events. What’s not to like? Well, it’s Space Wolves, and if there’s one Legion I just cannot enjoy, it’s these. In all fairness to him, Dan does a great job and the story feels very much like a sort of Viking Saga. It’s told from the point of view of Kasper Hawser, who functions a bit like a Remembrancer for the Legion. He’s a noted academic from Terra, and we get to see some of his backstory investigating sites and the like. He seems to have a particular specialism in the Imperium’s past during Old Night, which was particularly intriguing. However, during one of these academic investigations, he is seemingly turned into a sleeper agent by the Thousand Sons, and sent to Fenris to live alongside the Space Wolves Legion, acting as an early warning system for Magnus to ensure Leman Russ is never sent against him.

What? Why would Magnus even think such a thing? Well, he is perhaps the only psyker on a level with the Emperor Himself, so maybe he had a premonition. Anyway, the Wolves keep Hawser in stasis when they discover his identity, before deciding to study him as he studied them, in an attempt to discover more of his intentions. We revisit a lot of ground covered by Graham McNeil’s book, including the Council of Nikea, where Hawser’s role as spy is revealed to him by Russ. Hawser and the Wolves attempt to discover what exactly is going on, and it eventually transpires that he was in fact possessed by a daemon of Chaos, with the purpose of ensuring the mutual annihilation of both Thousand Sons and Space Wolves. The Thousand Sons’ psychic potential had no room in the plans of the Ruinous Powers, and the Wolves are the only Legion to pose a real threat to Horus and his Sons. Makes sense, no?

The Burning of Prospero happens as we all know, with Russ and the Wolves decimating the Thousand Sons, and Magnus fleeing with his Legion into the Warp to the Planet of the Sorcerers. Hawser agrees to go back into stasis so that he cannot be used against Russ again.

I don’t know what it is, but I just dislike the Space Wolves, particularly in how they’re handled in the fiction. I get it, they’re Space Vikings, and everything is wolf this and wolf that, with pelts all over the place, and the battle brothers drinking mead and eating raw meat with their special fangs. If Chaos’ plan had worked, and the two Legions had destroyed each other, I don’t think I’d have been all that concerned with the loss of the VI Legion. Dan Abnett does a wonderful job of creating some truly atmospheric scenes, and we get a very interesting look at the Legion like nothing we’ve had before, but I found myself most often feeling that they worked particularly well when read as some kind of Viking story, and not as Warhammer.

But that’s just me!

I suppose it’s difficult to get away from the fact that the book just feels a bit superfluous, and really we could just have A Thousand Sons and miss this one completely, and the whole Heresy story wouldn’t suffer for it. I think this gets worse as the series moves along – I’m actually about to start on book 30, and I believe it gets a bit rough at times as the books range wider and wider, with more and more superfluous entries in the series. Prospero Burns was an interesting book in some respects, showing us marines in a different light, and it actually gave me the strange feeling of actually being a bit like a serious, grown-up novel, at times. No mere bolter porn, for sure! But ultimately, I just wasn’t that into it, and it really felt like a chore to get through it.

To help me get through it, I actually started to read something else, with a kind of reward system going on. Bad, isn’t it? Never thought I’d say that about Dan Abnett, but honestly I think it’s really just my own personal hang-ups about the Legion, and not the quality of the writing, that are colouring this review.

I read this book alongside my fellow bloggers Jenn and Dave, although I think I started a bit early and finished first, but you can now check out Inquisitor Jenn’s thoughts on the book here, and Dave’s review is now here! Be warned, though, punches have not been pulled!

I also read book sixteen, Age of Darkness. The second anthology in the series, I thought this one much better than the first, Tales of Heresy. Perhaps because more has happened by this point in the series, and so there is more for the short stories to tie into? At any rate, there are nine stories here, written by all manner of Black Library alums, including Dan Abnett who wrote Little Horus – the story of how Horus Aximand of the Sons of Horus Legion had his face cut off. Delightful! The stories all feel quite important, though I think that might be due to having read so far into the series now, coming back to this book has helped me make sense of how a lot of them fit into the overall series to date.

I thought Liar’s Due, by James Swallow, was a good story. Different, in that it dealt with a lone Alpha Legion operative as he sows discord throughout the normal people of the Imperium. It really shows how the XX Legion wage their wars, through intrigue and subterfuge, without needing to fire a shot themselves. Savage Weapons is a story that I’ve read before, by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. It deals with a parlay gone wrong between Lion el’Jonson and Konrad Curze, and is I think the first time in the Horus Heresy that we get to seriously see the Night Lords (though I could be wrong there!) It is set during the events of the Thramas Crusade, which is notable for being an attempt to keep the Dark Angels from Terra by having the Night Lords run amok in Ultima Segmentum. The story is mainly told by ADB in this and Prince of Crows, one that I’m looking forward to reading at some point soon!

Little Horus and The Last Remembrancer directly link to the 29th novel, Vengeful Spirit, which I have covered in its own blog here. That is definitely worth the read, and I am still impressed with the breadth of that book!

Darth Bane Trilogy

It’s not been all Warhammer, though, as I’ve finally drawn to a conclusion with the Darth Bane trilogy! Not my favourite, by any stretch of the imagination – you can read my rambling thoughts on the final book, and the trilogy as a whole, here!

I’ve finally started to read the hardcover sensation that is Light of the Jedi, as well – the inaugural novel in the High Republic series. Be sure to check back for my review when that goes up!

It seems to be an exciting time for Star Wars, with the announcement of the “special event series”, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Originally slated to be a movie along the lines of Rogue One, it was announced as a series in 2019 but put on hold due to “script problems” a year later. With the announcement of the cast, though, we’re well on the way to getting this series in 2022, I believe, and I’m really intrigued to see what it’s all about. The Mandalorian has really shown just how good Star Wars on the small screen can be, and while I don’t know what the significance of “a special event series” will be, I would like to think that we’re in for something really special.

I just hope Obi-Wan and Vader never actually meet…

Lots going on right now to be excited for, though! The Cassian Andor spin-off series has already been filming since December, although we don’t have a release date yet. The Book of Boba Fett is set for release in December this year, though, and the third season of The Mandalorian will be out sometime after that, maybe this time next year? Definitely a lot to look forward to, at any rate!! I do wonder if we’ll get many more movies, with the way the TV series have been a success for Disney+ so far. I suppose it does hearken back to what I was talking about with WandaVision though, in that the series can show a lot more of the slow moments, whereas the movies seem to have to deal with just one big adventure. The upcoming Rogue Squadron movie is probably going to be something along these lines, I’d guess…

Oh yes, and I turned 7 on 21 April!

Anyway, I’m rambling here! Time to wrap things up. It’s been a slower month for sure, and I haven’t had the time for as much as I’d have liked, but things are definitely ticking along with the hobby, and you can definitely look forward to more Underworlds content as it continues to take over my life!!

Vengeful Spirit

Hey everybody,
I’m determined to make a proper effort with the Horus Heresy series this year, starting with the juggernaut that is Vengeful Spirit!

This book, the 29th in the series, has felt like a breath of fresh air, after the last few books which were a little more difficult to get through, and always felt like they were going nowhere. I suppose I’ve been a little put off by the chunky size of this one, but almost as soon as I’d made a start on the book, I was enjoying it!

We’re back in the thick of the Heresy, with Horus reassembling the Mournival to replace both Loken and Torgaddon following the purge of the Legion. The story picks up immediately after the short story Little Horus, which I haven’t yet read (my bad), but the Sons of Horus have successfully defeated a White Scars assault on their primarch at the planet Dwell. There, Horus has learnt of the planet Molech, about which he has some hazy memories that he doesn’t understand – all the primarchs are supposed to have eidetic memories, so why can’t he remember it? He meets with his brothers Fulgrim and Mortarion, who were also there, and all three come to the conclusion the Emperor himself has tampered with their memories. According to the information Horus has learnt on Dwell, Molech could be a site of great power, possibly where the Emperor gained his god-like power. As they begin to plan their assault, however, they come under attack by an Iron Hands warband, and Horus basically decimates their ships by jumping onto them and pummeling them with his mace, Worldbreaker.

On Terra, Leman Russ decides the best course of action is to lead a surgical strike against Horus, and with Malcador’s help recruits Garviel Loken to lead a strike team of Knights-Errant to board the Vengeful Spirit and basically light the way for Russ’ attack. The team travels to Titan to arm and assemble in full, and Loken discovers his personal remembrancer Mersadie Oliton is being kept a prisoner there.

Meanwhile, the spirit of Ignatius Grulgor returns to Mortarion, fully corrupted by the power of Nurgle. The Sons of Horus find themselves with their own daemon, when Serghar Targost and Maloghurst the Twisted use the braindead body of Gor Geraddon to bring forth the first of the Luperci, Tormageddon. The Luperci are the Sons of Horus equivalent to the Word Bearers’ Gal Vorbak, and Tormageddon was initially brought forth by Erebus from a fragment of the soul of Tarik Torgaddon. The Traitor flotilla arrives at Molech shortly after the balance of power has shifted, with the Imperial Governor there killed by his own son during a beast hunt.

The Battle of Molech is pretty grim, and forms the epic central narrative of the book. The first couple of hundred pages have all that set-up, then once everyone is in position, it’s a bit like all hell breaks loose, first in the void and then on the surface. The ground assault takes place to allow Horus to learn exactly what happened on the world all those years ago with the Emperor, and in fairly devastating fashion, he finds out.

The Emperor made his bargain with the Chaos gods on Molech, gaining the knowledge with which to make the Primarchs and all the rest of it. As we know, the Emperor didn’t intend to keep his side of the bargain, and so the Ruinous Powers created the Warp storm that scattered them all. It’s hinted at early on – how did the Emperor manage to leave Molech if He left His starship on the world? – but the revelation of what exactly Molech’s importance is still managed to surprise me!

The fighting is intense, but Horus finds his way to the Warp gate, and in suitably mystical fashion, travels through and becomes empowered by the Ruinous Powers. Meanwhile on the ship, Loken and the rest discover a cult surrounding Targhost as he is about to create another Luperci, and the team destroy them all. However, Targhost’s “death” reveals that he is possessed by none other than the daemon Samus, which kinda traumatises Loken. Horus, already somehow aware of them aboard the ship, has sent a team to capture them, and following a brutal skirmish, the Knights-Errant are brought before the Warmaster. Horus tries to convince Loken to rejoin the ranks of his Sons, but despite a deep-seated desire for that earlier belonging, Loken refuses and more fighting breaks out. Iacton Qruze attempts to kill Horus himself, and many others go down fighting, but the surviving members of the strike team are rescued, to return to Terra.

I really liked this book, a lot. As I said at the start, I had been growing a bit disappointed in the series, as it seemed to just be expanding outwards with no effort to move the story on. Here, however, perhaps more so than with any other novel since Fulgrim, it feels like the book is a direct sequel to the opening books. There are so many elements that are drawn from the earlier novels, it makes things feel much more cohesive than at any other point in the series so far, I think.

A big part of this, of course, is that this is very much a Horus novel. We have three main characters that we follow – Loken, Horus Aximand, and the Primarch himself. Mingled into this are so many other elements that the book does begin to feel quite bloated, especially the second part with the main battle. A lot of the negative reviews that I’ve read seem to focus on this perceived bloat, but I think it somehow adds to the truly epic frame of the story. It’s like, we had the opening trilogy/five books which truly set the scene, then we go off into the wilderness somewhat as we explore all of the side stories and whatnot, but here is where the series begins to rein in those threads and we start to get something more like cohesion across the whole Heresy. A lot of the story that has been told in short story form, including the Garro series of audio dramas etc, is also worked back into the mainstream of the novel series here.

It’s a huge task, and it has lead to a correspondingly huge book. Some of the story does, at times, feel like it’s probably a bit unnecessary. The whole Knight storyline for the Titan legions of House Devine could probably have been cut out, of shortened, with more focus instead on the combined garrison of Blood Angels and Ultramarines, as that felt like it should have had more time devoted to it. Indeed, the Blood Angels seemed otherwise to be utterly pointless as an inclusion. Another seemingly unnecessary inclusion was that of the Red Angel, which felt almost like it had been shoe-horned in simply because it is something that has happened already in the series, and so can also be referenced. I suppose it makes sense that Horus has it, so it maybe would be mentioned in a book about the primarch, but it all just fell a bit flat, somehow.

But none of that really detracts from the whole, overall. It’s a meaty epic of a book, and now that I come to think of it, we’ve not really had anything like this in the series yet. The Horus Heresy is an epic story in every sense of the word, and I think Vengeful Spirit is quite possibly the first book (at #29) to truly show us that epic scale of the subject matter.

Very much required reading, I must say!

Fallen Angels

Hey everybody,
After having put it off for years, I’ve finally read the eleventh book in the Horus Heresy series, Fallen Angels.

I’m a bit out of sync, then, as the previous novel that I’d read was the 28th entry in the series, Scars! Fallen Angels is a direct sequel to the sixth book, Descent of Angels, a novel that I have grown to dislike so much since I first read it back in the day, that I have projected that dislike onto its sequel without really much thought. However, after discussing it with Dave of wordaholicsanonymous fame, I decided to go for it and see what I’ve missed.

As it turns out, Fallen Angels isn’t all that bad. It’s not a great novel – I’m not about to start evangelising about it to you all – but it certainly holds a place within the chronology of the Heresy, and much like Dave says in his review, this book makes so much more sense of the last one. It’s a fact that doesn’t make me like Descent of Angels any more (a book that requires a sequel to make sense of it?) but I can at least let go some of that annoyance with the earlier entry!

Fallen Angels has two storylines, as we once again follow Zahariel and Nemiel on their progress with the Dark Angels Legion. Zahariel is among the space marines exiled to Caliban with Luther, after the events during the Compliance of Sarosh (where Luther kinda conspired to kill the Lion) while Nemiel is in the thick of things with the primarch himself, as news of Horus’ rebellion spreads and the Dark Angels are given the task of denying the traitors access to the Forge World of Diamat, close to the Isstvan system. We’re sort of behind the times in this book then, in that the dropsite massacre hasn’t yet come to pass, but Mars has already fallen so we’re following on from the ninth book. If ever there was a novel in this series that shows how skewed the timeline is when you try to read these books in order, surely Fallen Angels is it!

I’ll be discussing spoilers from here out, so be warned!

On Caliban, Zahariel learns of the rebellion against the rule of Luther, led by some former knightly masters who see the Imperium as slave-masters and are trying to restore their freedom. Zahariel is a staunch Imperialist, but is dismayed to see the rifts forming between those Caliban natives and the marines (and others) imported from Terra, and even more dismayed when he sees Luther seemingly begin to sympathise with the rebels. Investigating possible rebel activity in the old Northwilds, he discovers a foul rite that has taken place, bringing immense worms into existence and feeding off the life-energy of humans. He learns that this was merely a test for a much larger ritual that seems to be formented by Terrans, and so Luther and the Dark Angels descend on the ritual site, only Luther seems to want to bind to his will the creature that these sorcerers have seemingly brought forth from the Warp, using Zahariel’s powers as a Librarian to do so. The creature dissipates and Zahariel effectively dies for five minutes, but is brought back to life by the Master of Caliban, who later on promises he’ll be better-prepared next time…

Meanwhile on Diamat, Nemiel is leading a landing party against the traitors in an effort to take back the Forge World, but the Dark Angels soon discover that the Forge has fallen and its leader, Magos Archoi, is actually in league with the Dark Mechanicum. The extent of the Magos’ treachery is cunningly played out as the Warmaster’s reinforcements arrive, as Horus is intent on retrieving some Titan siege-guns he had the Forge World make for him around fifty years earlier. The Dark Angels are able to use a Dreadnought in their party to operate one of these siege guns and deflect the Sons of Horus from their objective, but the epilogue is just dripping with irony as the Lion hands over control of the weapons to none other than Perturabo.

I’m weird. I wanted to not like this book, as I wanted to feel somewhat vindicated for my dislike of Descent of Angels all these years. While I didn’t end up loving it, I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. There were maybe two chapters that were outstanding for me, both of them in the Diamat storyline, where we see some fairly brutal city fighting that felt incredibly cinematic and really well-executed: the rush to rescue the Dreadnought drop pod after landing on the world, and then the defence of the Forge against the landing of the Sons of Horus. There was something really visceral in the writing here, where you could really picture the bombed-out cityscape, with the Dark Angels running through the ruins covered in dust… really very well done, that!

The Caliban storyline felt like a pretty slow-burn, as the intrigue was explored around the divisions between Terrans and Calibanites, something that felt entirely natural following on from the earlier book, and I suppose something that keeps up the theme of several novels that have dealt with those kinds of divisions. We saw it with the White Scars as well, and I’m sure there are plenty of other instances where the “native” troops feel themselves much more special than their Terran fellows, as they are (in their own minds) closer to the Primarch. Here, though, it is only part of a much larger conspiracy that begins to set the wheels in motion for Luther’s betrayal of the Lion, and provides that whole foundation for the Dark Angels being divided into the Fallen (Luther’s followers who fell to Chaos alongside him) and the Unforgiven (those Legionaries who stood with the Lion).

However, this book subtly posed the question of the Lion’s loyalty by bringing up the idea that he may have understood the wild beasts of Caliban to be linked to the Warp, and by insisting on hunting them to extinction, it then leaves the people of Caliban open to the Warp taint, as they had previously shunned those areas because of the beasts.

As I said, the book does provide some degree of legitimacy for having a sword and sorcery novel in what is otherwise a fairly hard sci-fi setting, and while I did end up enjoying this book more than I’d expected, it’s not exactly in my top five from the series so far. If nothing else, though, I’m glad to have finally made the time to read it!

Scars

Hey everybody,
It’s been a while! I’ve been working my way slowly through the twenty-eighth novel in the Horus Heresy series, Scars. Written by Chris Wraight, one of my favourite Warhammer novelists, it’s actually a really good read, albeit a bit of an odd one. Originally serialised online back in 2013, the story does have some elements that mark it out as such, such as the occasional recaps.

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The novel, unsurprisingly, features the White Scars legion front and centre (I think the only time we’ve seen them previously was the sixth novel, Descent of Angels). The legion is a bit of an anomaly, as they are still almost always deployed as a single unit, rather than in multiple warbands to multiple fronts. The legion has, up to this point, been deployed on Chondax. We get a lot of background on them, following in particular two initiates and their careers in the legion – one a Chogorian called Shiban, and a Terran called Torghun who was originally intended to join the Luna Wolves. We also follow the primarch himself, Jaghatai Khan, as the pacing is quite broad during the beginning. The system has been cut off with Warp storms, however, leaving the Khan awaiting orders, and his legion subsequently restless.

In contrast, we also see the Space Wolves dealing with the aftermath of the battle on Prospero. While they are licking their own wounds, they are set upon by the Alpha Legion, some of whom board the Wolves’ ships and, when confronted, state that they are doing the Emperor’s work.

When the White Scars emerge from the storms, they receive multiple conflicting orders, including from Rogal Dorn asking for them to join him on Terra for the defense. The Khan, going against all of the orders that he has received, decides to go to Prospero to see for sure if Magnus has been defeated, and in an effort to learn the truth of what is happening in the galaxy. The planet has been utterly devastated, and teleporting down to the surface with his keshig guard, the Khan is beset by psychic ghosts and separated from his bodyguard. He discovers a psychic projection of Magnus however, who confirms that the Space Wolves attacked his legion, although he understands now the reasons for his censure.

While in orbit, it emerges that there are several warrior lodges within the legion, however, and as the novel goes on, it transpires that these lodges are in communication with the Sons of Horus, and believe that their true purpose is to join them in their rebellion. One of the lord commanders of the legion, Hasik, effectively leads a coup on the ships, awaiting the arrival of the Sons of Horus to join them. However, the legion who arrives to support the coup is the Death Guard, with Mortarion joining Jaghatai on the surface in an attempt to convince him to join Horus’ cause.

Needless to say, Jaghatai is not to be swayed, and things are finally made clear as regards what is happening in the universe when Targutai Yesughei, the legion’s chief librarian, arrives with news that the Warmaster has indeed gone over to Chaos, having himself come across some survivors from Isstvan III in the course of his travels across the galaxy.

Horus Heresy Scars

This is actually a really great book, one that I enjoyed a lot. The atmosphere of uncertainty in the galaxy at this time is captured really well, in particular with the use of the Alpha Legion launching their attacks on both the Space Wolves and the White Scars. The inclusion of the Alpha Legion, and their misdirection, was quite a masterstroke really, as their presence is often guaranteed to add to the air of confusion.

There is a fantastic battle sequence when the White Scars punch through the attack of the Alpha Legion – we get to see that they are really a unique legion for their use of speed. They use a lot of pseudo-Mongolian throughout the book, which I was surprised didn’t interfere too much with the telling of the story as things went along. Often with such things, I find them hard-going, but there was obviously just the right amount used that meant it wasn’t hard to keep track!

The book is a little odd in that the story seems to just forget about the Space Wolves around halfway through. Of course, I’m not a Space Wolves fan at all, so I’m not really missing that side of things, but it did feel a bit strange how they were just left out. Anyway! It was really interesting to see the events of the burning of Prospero revisited, too, and to see what has happened to the planet since the attack. Of course, it was a little bit contrived how one Thousand Sons legionary had managed to survive and led the keshig guard to safety, etc, but I suppose the narrative needed something!

Something that I keep coming back to, though, is just how effective the atmosphere of the unknown is here. The Khan really doesn’t know who to trust, and so reverts to his old friend Magnus, with whom he had pushed so strongly for the use of the librarius within the legions. There is a moment of great irony when Yesughei remarks how the Edict of Nikea has effectively hamstrung the loyalists, removing their greatest weapon against the traitors and their Warp-craft. Even though we’re still roughly around the mid-point of the series, there is a sense already of trying to pull together several plot elements from across the wider Heresy, and making a cohesive narrative out of things. Whether that was intentional or not, I don’t know, but it’s really quite remarkable how the author is able to make the book feel like the legion have been sidelined, keeping them apart from the rest of the goings-on in the galaxy, but at the same time pulling together these plot threads to make it all feel like one long story. Bravo, that man!

Overall, though, I thought this was a really fascinating look at the legion that has been somewhat on the sidelines for the series up to now. We’re 28 books in, and only now seeing yet another “new” legion – crazy! Of course, we haven’t really met the Night Lords or the Iron Hands in proper novels, either, which just feels ridiculous now that I think about it!

The Unremembered Empire

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Last week, I finished reading The Unremembered Empire, the 27th novel in the Horus Heresy series. I’ve not read one of these books since Betrayer back in the summer. In real time, there is the short story anthology Mark of Calth to check out, as well as the Salamanders novel Vulkan Lives, though I’ve decided to leap over some of those novels that don’t really hold any interest for me and keep ploughing through the main storyline. (That said, I might come back to some of the short stories, we’ll see!)

In the weeks and months after the invasion of Ultramar by the Word Bearers, Roboute Guilliman has sought to create something of a haven for the Imperial loyalists in the five hundred worlds. Since the planet of Sotha has seen the mysterious Pharos xenotech that has almost replaced the Astronomican as a light through the Ruinstorm, principally squads of Salamanders and Space Wolves, the latter sent to shadow Guilliman and censor him if he proves to be disloyal.

After an attack on the Ultramarines’ Primarch by shadowy members of the Alpha Legion, Guilliman reveals his plans to provide an Imperium Secundus centred on Macragge, but he is incredibly reluctant to sit on the throne himself. However, when he is about to reluctantly take up the mantle of regent, none other than Lion el’Johnson arrives with near-Legion strength Dark Angels, following the light of the Pharos. Guilliman finds it difficult to trust the Lion, however, due to his almost compulsive keeping of secrets, one of which proves almost disastrous for Macragge, as Konrad Curze is revealed to have hidden on the Lion’s ship.

Curze and the Lion aren’t the only Primarchs to descend upon Macragge, however, as not only Vulkan arrives, insane following his torture at the hands of Curze, but also Sanguinius and his Blood Angels, fresh from their battles in the Signus Cluster.

Curze runs amok in Magna Macragge Civitas, over a night of hell for the combined Ultramarines and Dark Angels forces, though he is sent into the Warp by the Perpetuals John Grammaticus and Damon Prytanis, who have arrived on the planet to fulfill the wishes of the Cabal by killing Vulkan, furthering their plans to allow Horus to win the war and for Chaos to burn itself out: if Vulkan is not present to help defend Terra, this will be easier. Guilliman proclaims Sanguinius as the new Emperor, as the Primarchs agree to immediately forget about this whole episode if it is proven that Terra and the Emperor still stand firm.

The Unremembered Empire

I’d fully expected to really enjoy this book. Dan Abnett is of course a fan favourite, and I really enjoyed Know No Fear, the last time he wrote about the Ultramarines. I don’t know whether it was just something as straightforward as the fact the cover had me expecting Sanguinius to show up for more of the book, but I just couldn’t get into it as much as previous books. There’s a lot going on, for sure, and Abnett covers a lot of ground between following up with Vulkan, bringing the Lion and Curze as well as then Sanguinius into the five hundred worlds.

We actually have a lot of Guilliman and the Lion, which was actually quite interesting for the most part, as we see the pair of them grow to almost-trust each other as potentially the only two Loyalist Primarchs remaining in the galaxy. I find it interesting that the Lion is a consummate secret-keeper in a period of time when we don’t have the whole baggage of Luther and the Fallen yet. It’s just part of his shtick, I guess. I’ve not read much of the Lion yet in the series, having avoided much of him after Descent of Angels, but this was a really welcome return to him.

Guilliman was much more of the statesman that we have come to expect from Ultramarines at large, with a surprising lack of the tactical/strategical brilliance we saw in Know No Fear. At least, that was my feeling! He’s still a much more interesting character than a lot of people would have you believe, of course, and his role in the book as the architect of the Imperium Secundus was really fitting overall. Maybe that’s where his strategic thinking comes in, though? Hm.

I think the highlight of this book, though, is probably the night of terror wrought by Curze throughout Magna Macragge Civitas. It’s a study in terror tactics, and I was really impressed at how relentless the pacing was. We do get inside of Curze’s head, and see how he is driven by his visions, and that sense of invincibility that he has, having seen his death already. However, for the majority (the entirety? I can’t remember) of the night, we’re seeing things from the eyes of others, which gives a real sense of the danger going on.

There is almost a Shattered-Legions sense from the book early on, when we see White Scars, an Imperial Fist, Iron Hands and Salamanders all converge on Macragge – only to discover that there is an Iron Warriors warsmith in charge of the Pharos! However, this is quickly pushed into the background as we focus on the Ultramarines and Dark Angels. Rightly so? I don’t know. They do make something of a reappearance later on, of course, but it feels a bit like a lost opportunity. For sure, the ending does feel almost rushed, with the denouement with Sanguinius being proclaimed Emperor coming almost as an afterthought…

I realise that I’m being quite critical of this book, but I suppose that’s only because I was hoping for so much from a Dan Abnett novel, and his previous offerings in the series have been pretty solid. I think it’s a pretty well-known fact by this point, however, that the Horus Heresy series does slacken off a little bit in the middle, as we’ve got so much ground to cover. Having 18 Legions pretty much all as important as each other is a tall order, though, and things do broaden out considerably in order to cover every corner. I think it does begin to tighten back up, though, as we get into the 30s, so hopefully there’s not long to go before we get back into the realms of the good stuff.


I think I said this about a year ago, but I want to get back into reading the series, and see if I can make some decent headway into it all. Two more novels have recently been released in paperback, bringing us up to fifty-one paperbacks now available. Gulp! I’ve definitely got some catching up to do, but at least I’m at the halfway point of the 54-book series!

Betrayer

Hey everybody,
It may have taken me almost a month to finish it, but I have finally made it through Betrayer, the 24th novel in the Horus Heresy series. The length of time it took me is no reflection on the quality of the book, I’d just like to put that out there now – I think I’ve just been tied up with the joys of moving home, and so reading has been put somewhat onto the back burner for the time being!

There are spoilers in this review, so you have been warned!

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Betrayer is almost a direct sequel to Dembski-Bowden’s first novel in the series, The First Heretic, as we continue to follow Lorgar and his plans to bring about the downfall of his father, the Emperor of Mankind. This isn’t purely a Word Bearers story, however, as the spotlight is shared with the XII Legion, the World Eaters, as the title might suggest. The main protagonists are Argel Tal of the XVII, and of course, Khârn of the XII. While the story is called Betrayer, Khârn didn’t earn the title until the Battle of Skalathrax, years after the Heresy – I thought it curious at first, as I was expecting some kind of payoff for this that never came. However, looking back, most of the characters could be called traitors as the novel progresses!

So it turns out that the Word Bearers and World Eaters share quite a bond, and Khârn and Argel Tal are particularly close. Most of the novel shows them fighting side by side as the combined Legion forces seek to overrun the military training world of Armatura. The planet is one of strategic importance to the Ultramarines who, as we know from previous novels in this series, Lorgar is attempting to utterly break following his humiliation at their hands (albeit, on the Emperor’s orders). The first half of the book explores the relationship between the two Legions, as well as that between the Legions and their respective Primarchs, while the prosecute the war on Armatura.

I think this book marks Angron’s first appearance in the series, as well, which is something of an event in itself! Angron is a tortured and broken man, whose Legion has a peculiarly sad relationship with him. Angron was raised as a slave in the gladiatorial arena on Nuceria, with the Butcher’s Nails hammered into his skull to make him fight all the more brutally. Upon reuniting with his Legion, Angron then insisted that his sons also take the implants, and they willingly agreed in the hope that it would bring them closer to him. However, the implants seem to be killing them slowly, and even the Primarch is being worn down. As for the Legion’s librarians, they cannot take the Nails as the implants outright kill them. Shunned by their battle brothers, the librarians are a sad coterie of outcasts among the wider Legion. The World Eaters are, quite frankly, a very troubled and tense legion!

Lorgar seeks to use this to his advantage, and the results are quite shocking!

Following the devastation of Armatura, we have more of the intrigue that we’ve come to expect from any book involving Lorgar’s Legion. Erebus makes his insidious return from Calth, and the plans are put into motion to move the fighting to Nuceria, Angron’s homeworld. The former slave moves from city to city, destroying all reminders of his former life on the planet, and as they reach the final settlement, a rag-tag armada of Ultramarines vessels arrives in-system, beginning the absolute best depiction of a void battle that I have ever read in a Warhammer 40k novel! Most battle depictions are ground based; I suppose because the source material is a miniature war game where the overwhelming number of models are infantry. But seriously, even with all of the sci-fi I have come across in my time, this battle was just so awesome.

It turns out that Lorgar is attempting to bring about the Ruinstorm here on Nuceria, the Warp Storm that will cut off the 500 worlds of Ultramar from the rest of the galaxy. However, his plans look to have been foiled when Roboute Guilliman turns up, and the two brothers have an epic duel – while Lorgar does manage to hold his own at first, Guilliman gains the upper hand until Angron rushes to his defence. It is kind of suggested that no Primarch can actually hope to defeat Angron in melee combat, due to his unfettered fury and rage, and that really comes across until the full extent of Lorgar’s plan becomes apparent: in order to prevent the Nails from killing his brother, Lorgar has offered Angron up to the Chaos gods to be transformed. The librarians, despite being shunned by their brothers and Primarch, come to Angron’s aid and fight a psychic battle with Lorgar, almost defeating him. But it was not meant to be, and all of the remaining psykers were killed in their efforts to save their Primarch.

At the culmination of everything, Angron is transformed into a Greater Daemon of Khorne…

This was a really cracking book, I really enjoyed it! If I hadn’t been so tied-up with the mechanics of moving house, I think I’d probably have read it through in a matter of days. The action sequences are fantastic, with some truly cinematic scenes – the one that keeps sticking in my mind is the attempt to destroy Lorgar by the Legio Oberon and their plasma cannons; he simply deflects one blast with a kine-shield, the second one almost immolates him completely, though just as the Titan attempts to crush him underfoot, Angron swoops in and basically stops the Titan’s foot with his own brute strength.

That void battle over Nuceria, though. I mean, wow! I’m half tempted to go back and re-read that part just for the kicks!

Of course, no book is perfect, and I think anything that deals with the Word Bearers is almost flawed from the outset by the heavy reliance on Erebus as a character. As we know, the First Chaplain was the one to plant the worm in Horus’ ear about rebellion against the Emperor. However, it has been suggested in several books now that the Word Bearers sent envoys to their brother Legions in a similar attempt to turn them, too. So why is it always Erebus? Where is the Chaplain who attempted to turn the Night Lords, or the Salamanders?

He is an interesting character of course, don’t get me wrong, but he seems to be popping up all over the place and the effect now is almost comic. Like he’s a stock Word Bearer for the authors. Where’s the diversity?! I think it was doubly annoying because it is mentioned here a couple of times that Erebus is intent on turning Sanguinius (the novel, it seems, takes place around the same time as Fear to Tread), but he was also instrumental alongside Kor Phaeron at Calth. While Warp travel is a thing, of course, Erebus gets around super quickly for my liking, and I think I would prefer to start seeing more Chaplains of the Word popping up to take on the role of schemer extraordinaire.

While their duel was fantastic, Guilliman seems to just pop up a bit awkwardly on Nuceria, as well. It was cool to see some element of retribution for Calth, following up from Know No Fear, it did feel a little bit contrived to have him join in the fray when he did.

But there are minor complaints about what is otherwise an amazing book!

Angel Exterminatus

It’s been a couple of weeks since I finished reading Angel Exterminatus, so I thought it about time I came here and wrote up some of my usual rambling thoughts about it!!

I feel very much like I’m in the land of filler novels at the minute, with the last full-length novel in the series I read, Fear to Tread, being the same. It seems like there is just so much to cover, having such an extensive cast already, that the stories are becoming, not necessarily the same, but alike enough that it’s growing old already. And Angel Exterminatus is only book 23 of what we now know to be a 50-book series!

This book is the first to properly feature Perturabo and the Iron Warriors, as we follow the legion during an action on the planet Hydra Cortadus (later seen in the novel Storm of Iron, of course!) The Iron Warriors are joined by the Emperor’s Children, who have all gone a bit weird since Perturabo last saw them, and Fulgrim stokes his brothers curiosity around gaining control of a fabled eldar super-weapon known as the Angel Exterminatus, from a planet deep within the galactic phenomenon known as the Eye of Terror. Perturabo is essentially duped by Fulgrim, who is attempting to rise to daemonhood through a ritual on this eldar croneworld – in order to get there, he needs Perturabo’s knowledge of labyrinths to navigate the hidden ways.

Perturabo, for his part, is well aware that he is being used, but is nevertheless curious as to what is going on, so goes along with the charade but manages to stop Fulgrim’s ascendancy at the last minute. Both parties are in turn being stalked by a ragged band of Iron Hands, who also show up on the croneworld and all hell breaks loose. A lot of the Iron Hands shenanigans did feel a little bit like they were getting in the way of the main story, partly because it felt like these sections were lifted from another book entirely, so I’m not sure they were exactly needed for this one. But I suppose it does add to the confusion at the end. Overall, though, while a lot of work has gone into the character-building for Perturabo, I think there was a lot of chaff that could have been trimmed from this one.

I’ve read of so many people claiming that this book is just so amazing, that I found myself initially let down by it. I usually enjoy Graham McNeill’s work, as well, which kinda compounded the problem. It’s not a bad book, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s just the issue of coming on the back of so much filler, because nothing really happens in this book it just also lapses into that category. We have a really intriguing character portrait of the Primarch of the IV Legion, as well as a continuation of the depravities of the III Legion, and it actually fits really well with McNeill’s earlier novel, Fulgrim. While Perturabo is definitely front and centre of the cover, the book is as much about the ongoing issues with the Emperor’s Children, and we see more of Lucius, Fabius and the Kakophoni. Julius Kaesoron also returns, which I thought was a nice touch, as it feels like he’s sometimes sidelined in favour of the other Emperor’s Children legionaries.

At this point in the story, I feel like more needs to be happening to drive the overall narrative forward, and we’re just not getting that right now. What’s going on with Horus? He hasn’t properly appeared since the opening trilogy, and the odd cameo where he just glowers and rages isn’t really cutting it for me.

I realize, however, that I’ve not been very good at keeping going with the Horus Heresy series, so I’m hoping that this year I can make some decent progress here. I’m going to aim to read up to The Damnation of Pythos, at least, and hopefully get to grips with the ongoing narrative. It’s a total of seven more novels (well, six and an anthology) so it’s not exactly impossible! From reading the backs of some of these novels, it sounds like there is a definite return to the story of the Word Bearers as architects of the Heresy, and – hopefully – we see a return to something like an ongoing storyline. Character studies are all fine and good, of course, but there is a significant part of me that is expecting more out of this series at this point!