It has been ages since I last read something from the Horus Heresy series. Coincidentally, that happened to be Graham McNeill’s The Vengeful Spirit. And now finally, after a gap of some three years, I’m returning to the series that I fell in love with almost ten years ago. After catching myself back up with the Legacies of Betrayal anthology, I dived head-on into the latest release, The Crimson King by Graham McNeill, which carries on from A Thousand Sons, finally continuing a story almost five years old. The Crimson King does a lot to flesh out how the Thousand Sons legion fully turned away from the Emperor and how it “healed” itself after the terrible fall of Prospero. For any fan of the XVth Legion, this novel is a must-read.
The last audiobook that I remember listening to from Black Library is Dan Abnett’s Prospero Burns, one of the two books alongside Graham McNeill’s A Thousand Sons that told the story of the fall of Prospero, of Magnus, and the Thousand Sons Legion. I’d tried to read the book before many times but always gave up, the only such Horus Heresy novel I’ve struggled with so much to date. The audiobook was a better experience but the story was still too problematic for me. Fortunately, Dan’s next big Heresy novel, Know No Fear easily proved to be a much better experience in all respects and is one of my favourite Heresy novels to date. So there’s some balance.
Dan’s latest Heresy novel The Unremembered Empire is my first Heresy audiobook since spring 2012 that I have experienced primarily in the audio format. I listened to the novel back in September, supplementing it with reading the ebook on and off, and I liked the dual experience. The Unremembered Empire is one of the better novels of the series, but it is also one of the more weaker ones since it is a branching novel and it attempts to do too much with too many characters. Taken in the context of the series at large, it is a pretty decent novel, but taken on its own merits, if fails to satisfy as much as it should. There’s just way too much going on in the novel and that works against it. Had it been trimmed of a few plotlines, it would have been one of the best novels of the series.
Note: This review contains spoilers of varying degrees.
Black Library’s Horus Heresy series is a worldwide bestseller, and with good reason. Many of the novels and anthologies and audio dramas have ranged from good to stellar with very few bad apples in between. The series started off innocuously enough, but it has since then become the publisher’s flagship range, also with good reason. One of the first books in the series to come out, right alongside the excellent Deliverance Lost from Gav Thorpe, was Dan Abnett’s Know No Fear, a novel that proved to be a major game changer in the series, both in terms of the lore revealed and also for future novels. It is also one of the best novels in the series, by far.
In light of The Founding Fields currently suffering some major site issues, I’m going to be reposting my reviews from the site to the blog, so enjoy away!
The original review can be found here.
I’ve remarked before how strong Black Library’s audio range is for its flagship Horus Heresy series. The successes have been many, the not-successes very, very few. And that’s just the way I like it. Both Big Finish and Heavy Entertainment have done a great job with the voice-actors they’ve brought to the various stories, penned by some of the publisher’s finest writers, and the audios are one way that I can get a regular quick fix of Horus Heresy without hunkering down in a novel or an anthology. And gotta admit, listening to some of these high-action audios while in a gym has its own rewards too!
Last year the publisher debuted two brand-new audio dramas that used Dan Abnett’s near-excellent Know No Fear as a starting point. In that novel, the tale of the Word Bearers’ betrayal of the Ultramarines in the the Veridian system unfolded, and it was a turning point in the Horus Heresy, as important as the Dropsite Massacre at Istvaan V. While Nick Kyme’s audio Censure is set in the years after the betrayal at Calth (the primary world in the Veridian system) as the Underworld War for control of the world rages on, Gav Thorpe’s Honour To The Dead is set in the early moments of the betrayal. The former focuses on a key individual from Know No Fear and the latter on a battle between two Titan legions. Both are strong audios in almost all respects, and I would certainly recommend both.
Black Library’s Horus Heresy range has been notable since its inception to turn out some really high quality audio dramas. James Swallow began the great trend with his various Garro audio dramas, spinning out of his novel The Flight of the Eisenstein and other authors since have taken great steps forward with the format as well. Some along the way haven’t been as good as I wanted them to be, but by and large, the Horus Heresy audio drama range is quite a good one and I would definitely recommend readers of the novel to experiment with these and give them a chance.
One of the latest audios in the series is Templar by John French, which focuses on the Imperial Fists First Captain Sigismund as he leads a strike force of Imperial Fists against traitorous Word Bearers within the Sol System itself. Sigismund has largely been a background character in the series thus far, but under John French, I think the character is set to become a major player, as he should be, given how large a character he is in the lore. Produced by Heavy Entertainment, this is one of their finer audio dramas for Black Library, and voice-actor Gareth Armstrong remains as great as ever.
In the wake of Black Library switching and changing the printing schedules and formats of its flagship Horus Heresy series back in late 2012, I fell off with the series in early 2013. Where before I read the publisher’s novels pretty much as soon as they were released or just prior, months went by before I read anything, and this applied more so to Horus Heresy since I preferred to wait for the regular paperback editions. As such, I am significantly behind in my reading, though the experience of catching up has been fairly delightful thus far, especially with their various audio dramas. I got back on track back in May with Nick Kyme’s Vulkan Lives, and that reignited my interest in the series, though I haven’t been able to read another Heresy novel until just a few days prior.
Mark of Calth is the twenty-fifth novel in the series and to read this one, there isn’t a lot that someone needs to have read already, which is great really. The anthology kicks off from Dan Abnett’s fairly amazing Know No Fear from 2012 and it expands upon a lot of the minor arcs in that novel, as well as setting the stage for more future stories. Guy Haley, David Annandale, Graham McNeill and Anthony Reynolds deliver some really good stories, with lots of action packed in, while the stories by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Dan Abnett, Rob Sanders and John French are good but do miss the mark in some ways.
The Horus Heresy is the one part of the Warhammer 40,000 lore that has had the most impact on the 41st millennium, the specific time of this far-future space opera/science fantasy setting that we are all most familiar with. The events of that era have influenced everything has happened since, and when Black Library began exploring this age of wonders, it was like a dream come true for countless fans of Warhammer 40,000. The response was phenomenal of course and in no time the series became a New York Times Bestseller hit. The army of writers involved have plumbed all sorts of depths of this era and they have come up with some really wonderful stuff over the past few years.
Of course, they’ve also had to deal with some of the downsides of this effort, and from my understanding, one of these is how Primarchs like Vulkan and Corax escaped the massacre at Istvaan V after the death of their brother Ferrus. Gav Thorpe explored the latter in an audio drama and a novel (both of which are fantastic by the way) and the former is dealt with by Nick Kyme, a recent entrant to the Heresy writing team and the result is one of the most bleakest Horus Heresy novels to date, Vulkan Lives. Nick explores the Primarch himself and one of the shattered remnants of the Salamanders Legion in this novel, and the results are interesting.
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.
If you have been following my progress on twitter for the last week or so, you can find me at @abhinavjain87, then you’ll know that work on the novel has been steadily progressing. In fact, it is better than steady because I’ve clocked an average of 2,900+ words over the last four days, which is my strongest performance ever. That average does kind of fall down to a measly 2,200+ however if I take into account the actual six writing days I’ve put in the project because the first two days weren’t really that good.
But, that is not the point of this post. Sure, I want to bask in the pleasure of doing so well on the writing front and share it with the world at large (and end up being accused of word e-peening in the process in which case you all haters can go take a hike) but I want to share just how I managed to do this.
So let’s see what really went down, huh?
To continue with what I talked about in my recent post ‘What’s in a name?‘ I had a discussion via email with the awesome Phalanx, one of Bolthole’s resident story-wizzes. The topic was the name I had chosen for the chapter formerly known as Sons of Corax.
It seems that there is a theory related to the name which ties the chapter, having nothing more than the name itself and a really really short blurb in the 3rd Edition Assassin’s codex, with a legion quite dissimilar to the Raven Guard.
The new name for the chapter is Angels of Retribution. And there are wild, very much IMO, theories out there in fandom that they are a Dark Angels successor chapter. The reasoning is that their name fits the convention for other First Legion successors, such as the Angels of Absolution, Angels of Redemption and the Angels of Vengeance. The unfounded theory has proven a little popular among dark angel fans with fanfic and player armies assembled that way.
Its not a bad thing but I am not a fan of the theory either. While there may have been a proper naming convention in place other than ‘oh these names look really cool for these guys’ that hardly should restrict me from picking it as the name for my Raven Guard successors. I considered a lot of names during the renaming process. Some of the ones that really jumped out were –
- Absolvers – The idea behind using the name that the chapter seeks to help Corax on his quest for redemption and forgiveness for his experiments with the legion’s gene-seed post-Istvaan.
- Avengers – The chapter is an active hunter of all the Betrayers of Istvaan. These are the Night Lords, the Alpha Legion, the Word Bearers and the Iron Warriors.
- Crusaders – The chapter has continued the purpose of the Great Crusade, much like the Black Templars have and actively hunts down Traitor Marines.
- Angels of Retribution – This somehow just fit all the above themes I wanted to get across. Plus, alone among the four names I shortlisted, it really resonated with him. It was a name I could definitely get behind. Not to mention the nice imagery you get when you read that name, particularly in conjunction with the Space Marines’ informal name – Angels of Death. Expect an updated chapter post soon!
As I have said before, names are very important to me when I am writing something.
An old writing project of mine, sparse details to be found here, spawned a madness that resulted in me inventing hundreds of names for dozens of factions. Everything from characters to planets, factions to organizations, weapons to starships and so on. I was quite prolific for that. Sadly the project never really saw much development beyond two large Excel files and about 140 pages in a regular copybook (that’s what us Indians call it). I still have all those files and the terrible amount of research I had to do to come up with names of starships and uniform designs and military rankings and what not.
Then there is the Angels of Retribution I am submitting to BL next month.
Also, the new project I have started. This one is about Space Marines of the Invictors chapter and Daemons. I’ve made more progress on this pitch in one day then I did on the Sons of Corax/Angels of Retribution in two months of focused efforts. My synopsis and summary are done pending review once the sample (currently at 435 words) is complete. And then the rounds of critiques and all.
I really like this pitch. At the moment it is tentatively titled Temptations although the story so far has nothing do with temptations. It was originally conceived as a marines versus Slaaneshi daemons short. I might even develop it into a novel, although that would be a lot of effort which I may not have the time for. Initial response to the story is that it reads better as a novel. I am hoping I can keep it down to a short and still keep it chock full of action and description and conflict.
Oh and the Invictors will be an Ultramarine successor. Although they have little to no contact with smurfies 🙂
The Sons of Corax gene-seed is derived from that of the Raven Guard and has similarly mutated over the millennia. Their skin and hair grow paler over time and turn white eventually while their eyes turn completely sea-green. They are also missing the Betcher’s Gland while their Neuroglottis and Lyman’s Ear have become especially sensitive. As such the gene-enhanced senses of the Sons of Corax are superior to their armor’s auto-senses and rival those of even the renowned Space Wolves.
The Sons of Corax hold to the belief that their gene-father Corax will one day return to lead all his sons in a final crusade against the hated Betrayers of Isstvan who nearly destroyed the XIXth Legion at the onset of the Horus Heresy. They are aware that Corax’s experiments failed because he possessed incomplete knowledge about both the cloning process and the gene-seed of the Astartes. Therefore they believe that he disappeared not to seek penance for his failed experiments with the Legion’s gene-seed but to seek knowledge that will perfect the process.
As such they revere their gene-seed all the more and have never sought to tamper with the genetic legacy of their Primarch. Their beliefs are known to none outside the Sons and the Raven Guard and these beliefs have sometimes caused friction between the two noble Chapters.
The Chapter venerates its Primarch Corax and the Lord of Mankind, the Emperor, above all others and like many other Chapters they view the Emperor not as a god but as the greatest and most powerful man to have ever lived. As Corax is descended from the Emperor, the Sons are descended from Corax himself and save the Emperor there is no other man they hold in higher regard. The Chapter has immortalized the Primarch of the XIXth Legiones Astartes by naming itself after him and it is one of the many ways in which they display their affection for him.
The Sons of Corax have earned the right to a homeworld many times over but all the High Commanders over the millennia have never accepted the offer, preferring to continue in the tradition of Taimon Naskius and the first battle-brothers of the Chapter. The warships of the chapter are the only homes that the Sons of Corax acknowledge, returning to the worlds of their birth only during recruiting missions to conduct their search for new warriors.
As a fleet-based Chapter, the Sons of Corax possess a considerable fleet of warships and possess three battle-barges (Montisgarre, Spear of Lycaeus, and Avalerion) as well as six strike cruisers (Crusader, Chevalier, Ravenna, Talon, Raven’s Fury and Wrath of Redemption). Additionally the Chapter possesses the forge-ship Raven Song and several escort squadrons of frigates and destroyers. Each of these warships serve as the home of one of the Companies of the Chapter, which are often referred to as the Fleet Companies.
The Montisgarre serves as the chapter’s fortress-monastery and has done so ever since the first days of its founding. It is a warship that saw service with the expeditionary fleets of the XIXth Legiones Astartes for a hundred and eighty years. However it was retired to Deliverance just before the onset of the Horus Heresy because of severe damage in its last engagement. It was repurposed as a training vessel and formed part of the system fleet. When the Sons of Corax were formed in the Third Founding it was gifted to the new chapter as part of the Raven Guard contribution of war supplies.
With the necessities of their nature as a crusading chapter and their growing numbers, the Sons were quickly able to collect a sizable fleet of warships and escorts. Eventually the Adeptus Mechanicus was able to supply the chapter with a proper fleet that served their purposes and replaced their casualties. The Kiavhari Wisdom, a modified Lunar-class cruiser, was once a part of the chapter fleet and assigned to the Fourth Company. The warship served for fourteen hundred years and had an honour roll including such victories as the Adenari Campaign of 205.M33. Eventually the Kiavhari Wisdom was destroyed in a Word Bearers ambush in mid-M34 during the War of Faith in the Sarosa subsector.
Each Company is responsible for its own recruitment and the training of its recruits who are drawn from all over the Tempestus Segmentum from the worlds visited by the Fleet-Companies of the Chapter. All potential Chaplains, Librarians and Apothecaries are sent to the Montisgarre while those neophytes who display technical aptitude are sent to the forge-ship Raven Song to serve under the Chapter’s Master of the Forge. As some battle-brothers have been known to have displayed psychic potential far past their time as a novice Scout, all battle-brothers of the Chapter are regularly screened by their Company Librarians and those who show such abilities are then sent to the Montisgarre.
The Chapter symbol of the Sons of Corax is a golden raven clutching a black spear and is displayed on the left shoulder pad. The Chapter’s colour scheme is blue armour with orange kneepads, boots, chest eagle and backpack. Veterans are differentiated by their white helmets while officers wear white helmets with gold stripes.
While squad designations are never displayed, company colour is displayed as shoulder pad trims while the Company badge is displayed on the right shoulder pad:
- 1st Company – Colour: Silver, Badge: Silver Raven/White Spear/Black Background.
- 2nd Company – Colour: Yellow, Badge: Yellow Raven/Black Spear/White Background.
- 3rd Company – Colour: Red, Badge: Red Raven/White Spear/Black Background.
- 4th Company – Colour: Green, Badge: Green Raven/Black Spear/White Background.
- 5th Company – Colour: Black, Badge: Black Raven/White Spear/Black Background.
- 6th Company – Colour: Orange, Badge: Orange Raven/Black Spear/White Background.
- 7th Company – Colour: Purple, Badge: Purple Raven/White Spear/Black Background.
- 8th Company – Colour: Grey, Badge: Grey Raven/Black Spear/White Background.
- 9th Company – Colour: Blue, Badge: Blue Raven/White Spear/Black Background.
Chapter records state that the first Astartes to bear the name Sons of Corax once belonged to the Raven Guard Third and Eighth companies that were still struggling to recoup their losses following the Horus Heresy. Captain Taimon Naskius of the Raven Guard Eighth was chosen by his Chapter Master to lead the newly formed Sons of Corax and continue to protect Humanity. In the age of the Imperium’s rebirth from the ashes of its devastating civil war, Space Marine forces were needed more than ever. Several new chapters were sanctioned for the Third Founding and they took part in some of the bloodiest battles in Imperial history. Captain Naskius took the title of High Commander, a former legion rank often bestowed by the Primarch Corax upon the most preeminent fleet captain. The Sons of Corax were gifted with the battle-barge Montisgarre, a warship of the Great Crusade that had served since the Heresy as a training vessel in the Deliverance system.
High Commander Naskius established the Sons as a crusading chapter and chose the Tempestus Segmentum as his eternal warzone. In the early years of their founding the Sons worked frequently alongside their predecessors the Raven Guard and several newly commissioned Imperial Guard regiments. The Sons established cooperative pacts with many of these regiments and cemented their ties to Raven Guard. Over the years the Sons have exchanged many battle honours with their allies and the Vault of Conquest aboard Montisgarre is home to the battle standards commemorating their victories. They have earned recognition across the entirety of the Segmentum for their dedication and loyalty as well as their relentless persecution of all enemies of the Imperium.
Yet for all their nobility and their glorious battle record they have had their moments of ill-repute and campaigns that have failed. During the Frannos Heresy of 119.M37 the Chapter slaughtered hundreds of thousands of civilians of Orlin IV in order to capture the traitorous Cardinal Frannos. The Ordo Hereticus demanded custody of the prisoner but the Sons refused and executed the Cardinal publicly, an act of defiance that earned them bitter enemies amongst the Ordo. This and other incidents have created mutual distrust between the Ordo and the Chapter and the Sons have ever avoided Inquisitorial control. Given the political connections cultivated by the Chapter, the Ordo Hereticus has avoided open confrontations, preferring to work covertly.
In 533.M39 the chapter participated in an Imperial campaign to drive out the forces of Chaos in the Becoun subsector and reclaim it in the name of the Emperor. However, incompetent leadership and political infighting doomed the campaign from the start with initial victories overshadowed by one disastrous defeat after another. The 8th and 9th companies who had taken part in the campaign suffered crippling casualties and were forced to withdraw three years later lest they be wiped out completely. Over a hundred and fifty battle-brothers had been lost and it took the chapter nearly seven decades to bring both companies back to full strength.
Over the millennia, the Sons of Corax have fought a great many different foes but of all of them they prefer most to fight the renegades and traitors of the Chaos Space Marines. The Chapter nurses a particular hatred for the Betrayers of Isstvan, the Traitor Legions of the Iron Warriors, Alpha Legion, Night Lords and the Word Bearers. The Sons have brought many of their enemies’ followers to justice and their fury when dealing with these accursed followers of Chaos is unmatched.