After the opening barrage of the trilogy that make up the first three books, the series takes the first steps on branching out to huge tangents. Books 4 and 5 do at least take up from where the first three left and tell the descent in to heresy and more on the Istvaan campaigns from different perspectives. After that, book 6 goes completely different with the beginning of the Dark Angels story.
I can’t help but feel that after the first 3-5 books, that there wasn’t necessarily a coherent plan as to how the series would pan out. This begins to show itself here but even more so when we get to books 7-10. Don’t get me wrong though, there are some brilliant pieces of work and very interesting stories but I wish that there was a bit more method to madness that is the Horus Heresy Series!
4. The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow
This is one of my favourite books in the series and off the back of this, I’ve read a lot more of James Swallow’s work. Garro is one of the best characters in the series and the way he is portrayed by the author is very different to any other space marine we have ever come across. Garro seems human and full of doubt, making it much easier to relate to him throughout this book and subsequent audio dramas.
It was particularly interesting to understand more about the Death Guard and their previous incarnation as the Dusk Raiders. Also of interest was the conflict within the legion between those born on Terra and the newer legionaries from Barbarus. From this, particularly with the personalities of Grulgor and Typhon, it is almost easy to see their descent in to heresy and to join with Horus.
All in all I highly recommend reading this and delving in to the subsequent audio dramas and stories involving Garro.
- Best character – An obvious choice of Garro
- Best battle sequence – Death Guard vs Jorgall
- Best non-battle part – The interactions between Garro and Keeler
- Primarch Count – 3 – Mortarion, Horus and Rogal Dorn
5. Fulgrim by Graham McNeill
Fulgrim tells the full story of the fall of Fulgrim and the Emperor’s children. At just over 500 pages, it is definitely a full and comprehensive story. It is mainly told through the eyes of Captain Solomon Demeter who is a similar character to Saul Tarvitz, if a bit more charismatic and reckless.
There are a number of particular highlights, such as Fulgrim’s relationship with Ferrus Manus and the heartbreaking way that ends, as well as Fulgrim’s and Horus and the almost big brother, little brother way their relationship is. Finally there is the first actual description of Istvaan V and how that battle plays out.
Although Demeter and some of the rememberencers provide a point for sympathy and humanity, the book is almost entirely unrelenting in its misery. From Fulgrim’s doubts and petulance, to the horror and madness of the legion’s fall to Slaanesh, it can be quite a hard-going book. To get the full picture of the heresy and see it from the Emperor’s Children’s point of view though, it is an essential read.
- Best character – Another obvious choice with Solomon Demeter
- Best battle sequence – Fulgrim vs and Eldar Avatar
- Best non-battle part – Fulgrim being chastised by Horus
- Primarch Count – 7 (!) – Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus, Horus, Angron, Vulkan, Corax and Mortarion
6. Descent of Angels by Mitchel Scanlon
Descent of Angels begins the story of the Dark Angels and the mysteries that surround them. It is mainly told through the eyes of Zahariel, who rises from inductee to the order to a fully-fledged Astartes and Librarian. Zahariel is a very interesting character and his path gives an interesting perspective.
The story begins before the Emperor’s coming, with the Lion begin to unite Caliban under his/the Order’s rule. This section of the book is actually a signficant portion of it and it almost runs out of kilter with the series so far. It is like reading an interesting quasi-medieval story that bears no relation to the previous books. The author has taken a lot of flack for this but as an isolated book it is an interesting read. It also feeds in to the subsequent novels about the Dark Angels, though when I first read this in 2007, these were a long way off.
My main problems with it (beyond those already mentioned) is that we don’t really get to understand the Lion or Luther properly. I think the main character should have been a lot closer to these two to understand the dynamic of their relationship properly; if we are being honest, this is what most Dark Angels fans want to know about.
- Best character – Luther
- Best battle sequence – Zahariel vs a great beast
- Best non-battle part – Zahariel’s induction to the order
- Primarch Count – 1 – Just the Lion