Horus Heresy: Thoughts Part 2

Well, I’ve read the 22nd novel in the series by now, the Shadows of Treachery, and it has sparked off more stuff that I think could feasibly turn into a part 4 for this series. Anyhow, last time I talked about this topic, I covered Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill, Ben Counter and James Swallow. This time its going to be Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Gav Thorpe, John French, and Rob Sanders.

First off, I’ve skipped over Mitchell Scanlon as I didn’t really like Descent of Angels to any degree and I have no other experiece with his work that I can recall. So I have next to zero interest in seeing more of the Heresy from his side. Where Mike Lee is concerned, I have yet to read Fallen Angels so I can’t comment in that regard unfortunately.

So let’s start off with Aaron Dembski-Bowden. His first work for the Horus Heresy was The First Heretic, a pre-Istvaan V novel about how the Word Bearers are corrupted to the service of Chaos and how Lorgar turns from being the man who considers the Emperor to be some kind of a one true god, to thinking of his father in less than appropriate terms in polite company. Overall, I liked the novel because of the insight it provided into the legion and into Lorgar. The same for his novella Aurelian which is set smack-dab in the middle of things in The First Heretic and tells the story of what Lorgar saw during his pilgrimage into the Eye of Terror. And then he tackled some different stuff for his Dark Angels v/s Night Lords short story Savage Weapons in the Age of Darkness anthology, and later he did the Butcher’s Nails audio drama, a story of Word Bearers and World Eaters against the Eldar. Prince of Crows, a Night Lords novella in the Shadows of Treachery anthology was all about being a character-study of the legion’s First Captain, Sevatar, than it was about Primarchs.

The theme that consistently been his strength in all his works for the series is the Primarch-Primarch interaction. He has a very good idea of how to make the relationships between these demi-gods real and believable, making these guys all appear more humane than most people give them credit for. There’s also a bit of grandstanding in his works, in that he packs in a bit too many super-awesome cool moments, a bit much for comfort. So I’m always wary of his stuff, but do respect what he’s good at. Ultimately, that’s what I want to see more of in his next two major releases: Betrayer and Nightfall/Midnight Souls (not sure what the novel is called). The first of these is a sequel to Butcher’s Nails and takes place in Ultima Segementum proper, quite close to Ultramar, or within it I think. The theme here is how Angron’s enhancements are killing him and how Lorgar corrupts him to the service of Khorne. The second is more Night Lords and I have no idea what it is going to cover.

But I do want to see a lot of interaction between the Primarchs involved in the events for these books. I want….. character studies of them. I want the author to delve into their psyche and show how they have all (Lorgar, Angron, Night Haunter) have changed since the Dropsite Massacre and where they are ultimately headed, the Siege of Terra. That’s really it.

Gav Thorpe, one of my favourite BL authors, has done some really great work in the Heresy so far. His short story Call of the Lion in the Tales of Heresy anthology harked back to the themes and concepts he introduced in his classic 40k novel Angels of Darkness, which I consider to be a definitive Dark Angels story. His Raven Guard audio drama Raven’s Flight gave us our first proper look at Corax and also showed a very emotional and personal side to any Primarch since Dan Abnett’s Horus in Horus Rising. The Faces of Treachery short story was a sequel to the audio but delved into the Alpha Legion and World Eaters this time. And this in turn was followed by his first Heresy novel, Deliverance Lost, which is the first in-depth look into the Raven Guard as yet, and is also one of the best of the bunch so far for me. And then he wrote The Lion a novella for The Primarchs anthology in which he tackled the Dark Angels once again, this time the Primarch himself. Taking all that into account, what has been Gav Thorpe’s strengths so far?

In all his work so far for the Heresy series, Gav has done a great job at showing all facets of life within a legion, whether it is the Primarch, or the senior commanders, or the support cadres or various mortal individuals such as Marcus Valerius of the Imperial Army. So he’s experimented with a lot of things and done them successfully. Moving forward, I want him to stick with the Raven Guard and the Dark Angels. The reason I want him to stick with the Dark Angels is because the legion has had a very inconsistent portrayal in the Heresy so far. Four different authors, four varying interpretations of what the Dark Angels are and just what makes Lion El’Jonson tick. Yeah, Gav has done some extensive work with the Dark Angels in 40k, no less that he is doing a trilogy about the Fallen starting in December this year, but I really do think that he is the best guy for the job. He understands the legion in both times, he gets the Dark Angels feel. And he is the best man to bring some consistency to their characterisation and give them a cohesive direction moving forward. With the Raven Guard, while I loved how he showed them in Deliverance Lost, I want him to take things further and emphasize what separates them from the White Scars, another legion which prefers hit-and-run style warfare. The legion’s condition post-Istvaan is perfectly suited to this since they have to make use of the most minimal numbers against foes which heavily outnumber them. They can effectively be the Legiones Astartes Black Ops forces. And I would love that.

John French is a newcomer to the Heresy line-up, having done three stories so far within the series: the deeply emotional and nuanced short story The Last Remembrancer in Age of Darkness in which he tackled Rogal Dorn and gave us some valuable insight into the Imperial Fists Primarch, an insight that jives very well with his other portrayals in The Outcast Dead, The Dark King and The Lightning Tower; the audio drama Grey Angel in which he tackled the returned-from-the-dead Cerberus and his battle-brother Iacton Qruze against the under-suspicion warriors of the Dark Angels legion present on Caliban; the novella Crimson Fist which detailed to a degree the Battle of the Phall system between the Imperial Fists and the Iron Warriors, plus the relationship between Dorn and his First Captain, Sigismund the Templar. All excellent stories that highlight just how well he can get into the psyche of a Primarch like the other writers on the series.

For his future works, what I want him to do is spread himself around in the series. Instead of focusing on a Primarch or a legion or what have you, he should do more short stories, novellas and audios on everything within the Heresy. An Imperial Fists audio here, a Custodes novella here. A Dark Angels short story here and a Perturabo audio there. He hasn’t written any novels yet for BL if I’m remembering right so I can’t speak as to his strengths in that format but these shorter formats he definitely has them down pat. And the reason that he should be doing so much widespread stuff is because I think he has that versatility in him to pull it off since even in 40k he has written about Alpha Legion, White Consuls, Thousand Sons, all cracking stories.

Finally, we have Rob Sanders, a definite rising star within the ranks of the writers freelancing for Black Library. Rob has been part of the 40k universe for a while, having done a lot of short-form work over the years, plus a few novels. I haven’t read much of his work to be honest but what I have read I’ve liked immensely: the Alpha Legion/Crimson Consuls short story The Long Games at Carcharias, the Legion of the Damned novel of the same name that I think is one of the best Black Library novels to date, the Horus Heresy Iron Warriors short story Iron Within and the Horus Heresy Alpha Legion novella The Serpent Beneath. Although I do confess that I found the Inquisitor Czevak novel Atlas Infernal to be a tough book to get through and never finished it. Plus he has dropped some hints that he is doing quite a bit of work with the Alpha Legion for the future so that’s good.

With regards to the Heresy, I’d love for him to tackle two legions in particular: Iron Warriors and Alpha Legion. Iron Warriors because he wrote Iron Within which is one of the best HH short stories out there and showed off loyalist Iron Warriors to great effect. The ending of it also ties in to the whole (theoretically) Imperium Secundus idea that Guilliman is shaping off in Ultramar, a contingency plan should the Imperium fail and Terra fall in which case the empire of Mankind would stay alive in Ultramar with (possibly) Guilliman at its head. A lot of the recent stories such as Fear To Tread, Rules of Engagement, The Lion and others support this to one degree or another. And I want Rob to explore that through Warsmith Dantioch and his men. Given their nature, these guys are perfectly suited to the task and I think that if Iron Within is anything to go by, then Rob can do the legion justice. Add to that that Graham McNeill’s next novel is also about Iron Warriors (traitors this time) and it is his Guilliman who is espousing Imperium Secundus. So, Rob and his Iron Warriors are perfectly suited to the task of approaching that over-arching concept from a second angle.

Then, I want him doing Alpha Legion because he did such a great job of continuing what Dan Abnett did in Legion and what Gav Thorpe brought forward in Deliverance Lost. The interplay between Alpharius and Omegon is something that I really enjoyed and all the murkying up of the waters that Rob did with the ending of The Serpent Beneath was a great move. The Alpha Legion appear to be pursuing their own goals rather than following either Horus or the Cabal expressly and the hints of possible rifts between Alpharius and Omegon add a great dimension to the Heresy as it sets up a lot of the future stuff we already know about quite perfectly. One case of that being Alpharius’ supposed death at Guilliman’s hands after the Heresy and the Alpha Legion’s undiminished capabilities following that major battle.


So, there you go, another installment of this feature. Next time, I’ll be tackling Matthew Farrer, Nick Kyme and Chris Wraight.

Posted on September 22, 2012, in Bolthole, General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Can I steal your brain please?


  2. I think Gav said he wants to explore more of the Imperial Army especially the Therion Cohort in Deliverance Lost, maybe Gav can write the confrontation between Luther and the Lion although that is after the Heresy.

    I agree that Rob Sanders should write something about the alpha legion but I doubt he’ll do any more Iron Warriors again for some reason, the chapter in The Long Games at Carcharias is called the Crimson Consuls not the Crimson Castellans.

    On Aaron anything by him is excellent I haven’t read anything I didn’t like about that he has written so I can’t wait for when he writes Nightfall the Night Lords HH novel, that’s if he ever gets round to doing it.
    I want Dan Abnett to do a full novel on the White Scars, I think he’s the only one in the HH team to them justice. Like what he did with Space Wolves in Prospero Burns. I know Chris Wraight has a novella on them coming out but I think Dan would be the best to write about them.


    • I intensely disliked Prospero Burns. I tried to read the book five times but I just couldn’t get past all the Hawser stuff on Prospero. I did listen to the audiobook when it was released earlier this year but still don’t like it. Its too complicated a novel for me, too not-Astartes. And it also continued the whole silliness of Rune Priests being allowed when every other legion has had to disband its Librarians. And so, I don’t want Dan to experiment with new legions.


  1. Pingback: September Report « Angels of Retribution

  2. Pingback: Horus Heresy: Thoughts Part 3 « Angels of Retribution

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