With Book 12 (A Thousand Sons) the heresy series finally kicked-off properly and the next three continue to get in to the real heart of the background and ever-expanding story.
Book 13 – Nemesis by James Swallow
Despite what I’ve said above, Nemesis does take us somewhat off the beaten track again. It is a very interesting book but in the grand scheme of the overall storyline it is of limited value.
The premise is for Horus to be assassinated by a an elite kill-team comprising assassins from all of the major temples. Simultaneously Erebus has set loose his own assassin to steal an artifact with a drop of the Emperor’s blood on it. Events then play out on an unfortunate planet that the Sons of Horus are forced to bring back to compliance after the assassins stoke up rebel resistance to a Horus-turned world.
The main appeal of the book for me was that story delved in to each of the assassin temples; a first for me to read. There is also an excellent sub-plot involving Erebus’ assassin that is more like a murder mystery plot for a while. The story also looks at the real cost of the war for the ‘normal’ people and you can empathise with the fear and the struggles that they face.
Overall I enjoyed it, I just don’t think that the story was necessary as a full-blown novel within the series.
Best Character – Iesta Veracrux
Best fighting part – most of the assassins trying to subdue an Eversor
Best non-fighting part – Intrigue on Terra between Valdor the Custodian and Rogal Dorn
Primarch count – 2 – Rogal Dorn and Horus
Book 14 – The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
The First Heretic was Dembski-Bowden’s first full-length foray in to the series and it has set him up as one of the series and Black Library’s premier authors. Without doubt it is one of the best books in the series and tells a much needed story to fill in a lot of gaps from previous novels.
The book tells the story of the Word Bearers fall in to damnation, all the way from well before the heresy starts to the Battle of Istvaan V. It is told mainly through the eyes of the Word Bearer Argel Tal, a sometimes reluctant particpant in events. Argel Tal is a brilliant character and it is a testimant to the author that he is such a sympathetic character! His friendship and inevitable betrayal of the Custodians was heart-breakingly written.
As well as the brilliant writing, as mentioned previously the books fills in many gaps and is crucial to understanding why the Heresy happened. It shows why the Word Bearers turned from the Emperor and how they were secretly the first to fall in to heresy. As well as Argel Tal, the characters of Lorgar, Erebus and Kor Phaeron are well-written. Lorgar in particular is one of the most complex and interesting characters in the series.
This is a must-read book within the series!
Best Character – Argel Tal
Best fighting part – Lorgar vs Corax
Best non-fighting part – Argel Tal’s many conversations with Cyrene
Primarch count – 7 (!) – Lorgar, Gulliman, Magnus, Corax, Perturabo, Ferrus Manus, Konrad Curze
Book 15 – Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett
I know I said the last book was one of my favourites but this one is as well! Abnett got some very undeserved criticism for the book but I think it is well-written and tells the story from a very interesting perspective. For me, the Space Wolves have never been better understood than through this book and I think that is because we look at them from an outsider’s perspective. In a way, the story reminds me of the film The 13th Warrior (obscure film reference!).
The story’s ultimate focus is the Space Wolves ending up on Prospero to complete the story from A Thousand Sons. It does this in a roundabout way though with the story being told through the eyes of Kasper Hawser. Hawser is a conservator and pseudo-archaeologist who rose to a position of influence on Terra but ended up coming to Fenris to document the wolves. Due to a misunderstanding his ship is shot down and the story then comprises of his experiences with the wolves as a Skald, with in-between sequences of flashbacks to his past and how he came to be there. Events bring Hawser close to the Wolves as they fight through compliances, as well as the Council of Nikea and ultimately the razing of Prospero.
The twists in the tale thoughout the story are very well done and the first time I read it, I hadn’t guessed what Hawser really was. As mentioned above, I think seeing the story through the eyes of Hawser gave a really good perspective and understanding of the wolves. They are not simply savages but a legion with a specific purpose that they will always undertake, now matter how much they may not want to.
Even as a standalone novel I think this book is excellent and Abnett has once again shown he is the best writer the Black Library have.
Best Character – Kasper Hawser
Best fighting part – On Prospero with Bear vs Chaos
Best non-fighting part – The Council of Nikea
Primarch count – 3 – Russ, Magnus, Fulgrim