Cowboy Cam #2

November 7th, 2019

Home / Reviews / Page 2 / The Horus Heresy

Hello, I’m back again!

I know it’s been a while since I last wrote a review, and I know I still haven’t finished my review series for Spinward Fringe, but due to my inability to stick with any sort of reading schedule, I have strayed from my plans drastically. Back for one of the first Gung-Ho Geeks book/reading club sessions Horus Rising, the first book of the Horus Heresy won the vote. I had always wanted to read the Heresy novels as I enjoy the “modern” era of the 40k universe, but never did due to the sheer ridiculous number of novels, short stories, novellas, Primarch spinoffs, and the new Siege of Terra series. There are over 50 novels in the main series alone. Such an undertaking isn’t to be done lightly.
However, I loved Horus Rising and ended up buying a humble bundle Warhammer ebooks set, which had mostly 40k but some Heresy novels. After reading the next two books, False Gods and Galaxy in Flames, another humble bundle deal came out that was HH focused and I bought it. Now I’m towards the beginning of the 12th book, A Thousand Sons, and have no plans of stopping.

I’ve also read the Guilliman Primarch novel and am currently reading the Russ Primarch novel as well. For those I think I will do short but more in-depth reviews later on. For the main run of the HH I will do these roughly 10 book reviews focusing on large concepts in each book and overarching storylines to the Heresy as a whole.

Now with all the background junk out of the way, let’s get into the reviews!

Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames

Garviel Loken is one of the coolest space marine characters, and makes me want more stories about him, set prior to the Heresy. I also like the Great Crusade and it’d be neat seeing more stories set before the HH with Astartes Legions conquering the galaxy for the Emperor.
The second-best character would honestly be Horus. Seeing this great hero of the Imperium, that we all know eventually became a renegade and traitor, and yet finding him not to be a villain at this juncture is amazing. A character whose name I’ve associated with a curse in 40k proper, and yet he’s a genuinely good guy.
All of the remembrancers are cool characters too, and I never thought I’d enjoy reading about scribes and poets and artists in the Warhammer universe. Another shock for me was that I ended up liking these Adeptus Astartes (Space Marines for the uninitiated) of the Luna Wolves. I’ve always been an Imperial Guard guy for Warhammer 40k, and have laughed at Space Marines, thinking them to be entirely overrated. Then, here I am reading a novel where Imperial Army units aren’t the focus, and the only non-augmented humans aren’t warriors, and I realize that not all Space Marines are uninteresting.

A good part of the narrative is that the Luna Wolves and the rest of the men and women in this expedition fleet know nothing of Chaos and its powers. This is entirely different from 40k, where everyone knows about daemons and other evils in the Warp. Following these people as they go from shock, to denial, to grudging acceptance of things they see is really neat. Also, the Emperor not being considered a god is vastly different from 40k and seeing the Imperium as a bastion of Science and rationality is weird instead of it being bogged down by the bloated religion of 40k. Also, seeing the beginnings of the Lecticio Divinatus, Emperor Worship, spread thru this secular force is really neat.
Seeing Horus slowly be corrupted is also very neat and believable, I won’t go into specifics, however.

The culling of the traitor legions of loyalist marines is one of the hardest things to get over. These characters you’ve grown to love being split apart and having to fight against their brothers is absolutely heartbreaking. But, prior to reading these, I assumed that the traitor legions all turned, not that they were wracked by their own internal civil wars amidst the larger one. This is a nice touch, as it makes the HH much more believable.

(Fun fact: this was originally gonna be just for book 1 but I realized I couldn’t remember where things began and ended with as the first 3 books are very interconnected).

Overall rating of the 3 books in one: 9/10

Book 4: Flight of the Eisenstein

I loved seeing a unit of Death Guard Astartes that aren’t a bunch of heretical pussbags leaking offal like they are in 40k. Garro is also my favorite Space Marine after having just briefly appeared prior to this novel and then getting this full fledged one. The story was also much more suspenseful than the others so far, as they had a mission that you definitely don’t know if they can succeed or not, and I won’t go further with it, so you’re left in suspense. Just know they are attempting to warn Terra of the Heresy. Also, finding out what appears to be the origins of the Death Watch was very cool and something I had never thought about before, just taking their existence for granted.

Overall rating: 10/10

Book 5: Fulgrim

Not to be confused with the Horus Heresy Primarch spin off novel also called Fulgrim.
Don’t you enjoy stuff like that? If so you’ll love Warhammer HH and 40k where there are tons of novels with similar names. This book, as the title says, is about the Primarch Fulgrim of the Emperor’s Children Legion of Space Marines. This was one of the best written novels I have ever read and also one of the most absolutely disturbing. Seeing Fulgrim battle with the will of the denizens of the Warp is very chilling. Also, seeing the aftermath of it is one of the most gruesome things ever. Ever heard of the Chaos God Slaneesh? If so, think about what could happen to Fulgrim, his lads, and the normal humans on board the vessels of their fleet, and then make it much worse.
This one also deals with Loyalist retaliation over the Heresy, and the first death of a Primarch so far in the novels. Hopefully the dead Primarch in question gets some more novels about him set earlier in the timeline because it’d really suck if he only appears as a secondary character in one book.

Overall rating: 8.5/10

Book 6: Descent of Angels

Always had I thought that the Dark Angels were a cool looking Space Marine Legion but knew nothing of them nor their history. This novel made me want to build a Dark Angels army for Tabletop, however, my wallet yelled at me enough to stop me. So HH novels are this great Sci Fi Crusade across the stars that ends up turning into a Galactic Civil War that makes Star Wars look wimpy. This novel is set on the isolated planet of Caliban, a world where Orders of Knights protect the peasants and nobles alike from great beasts in the wild forests of the world. Yes, you heard me right. Knights. As in dudes in swords and armor. Sure, the armor is ancient power armor and the swords are chainswords and they’ve got archaic bolt pistols, but the fact remains that a bunch of dudes in armor, called knights, are riding around the woods on horses killing dragons and stuff. As someone who loves sci fi and fantasy, this combined it all together in one neat little package and I love it.

The leads characters are two cousins that are more like brothers, aspirants to the Knightly Order simply called…. The Order (yeah terrible name but go with it). Both of these guys are great characters, and they serve alongside heroic Knights like Sar Luther, second in command of the Order, Grand Master Lion El Jonson, and a mysterious individual known only as The Lord Cypher amongst others. And almost the whole book takes place before the arrival of the Imperial Crusade.

Overall rating: 10/10 (yeah, I have heard a ton of people hate on this one - fight me!)

Book 7: Legion

An awesome novel set mostly on a planet, the name of which I have forgotten, which is being conquered by an Imperial Crusade fleet, seemingly one without Space Marines backing them. Introduces an entity known as the Cabal, which is some Xenos organization of super smart dudes who wanna save the galaxy. Introduces a perpetual, John Grammaticus, who is an absolute badass. Perpetuals are people that can die and just keep coming back. Think of Big Daddy E, aka the Emprah of Mankind, and possibly Saint Celestine (although she might just be an angel or something. Idk, man.).
The Crusaders, specifically some unit called the Geno, are who it starts off with and it follows them when it isn’t following John. They’re having a helluva time fighting these noncompliant folks on this world. So much so that some “specialists” come in. Alpha legion bois show up and then the war becomes even more confusing as no one knows whose side anyone else is on. Secret Agents, spies, soldiers, secret alien organizations, never dying individuals, a losing war, what more could you ask for?

Also, a very relevant question. Who is Alpharius? That fellow over there? This one over here? The one in the back? None of them? The answer to these is simply yes. (Alpharius is the Primarch of the Alpha Legion to the uninit… Oh god there are Alpha Legion agents banging down my door, send he-)

Overall Rating: 10/10 because Alpha Legion are loyalists *glances nervously at the Space Marine with a hydra on his shoulder pad behind me*

Book 8: Battle for the Abyss

Basically, there is a space station somewhere nearby-ish to Ultramar, the home system of the Ultramarines (E.N. and you thought “The Order” was uninspired...). The Word Bearers and some heretek (not a misspelling) group of the Mechanicum make a big ol spaceship and are gonna go wreck Ultramar. Some boring stuff happens on the space station between all these marines. Their ship goes missing so time for an investigation.
Long story short, this group of marines from various legions, some of which end up being heretics, although these members aren’t, go on a hunt for this big ship, eventually learn their purpose, and go on a quest to stop them. Things happen, and finally it ends. Maybe I am being a bit too harsh on it but it really wasn’t great.

Overall Rating 5/10

Book 9: Mechanicum

Overall a fantastic read. You really see the Cult Mechanicus as it should be, not the narrow, dogmatic view of no new stuff ever. Most of these lads would be branded hereteks like Cawl in 40k, when they are literally just trying to make technological advances.
The next cool bit would be you get a real feel for Titans and how they enter combat and how they and their pilots work in tandem. Also, delves into their religion in ways I didn’t imagine. Plus the main characters are just a lowly group of tech adepts and a skitarri warrior, but admech folks from all walks of life on both sides of the civil war are introduced and you get a really solid feel for how the mechanicus works.

Overall rating 9.5/10

Book 10: Tales of Heresy

It’s a little difficult to talk about a short story collection like this, just know that the two best stories are The Last Church and the one about the Custodes, (the emperor’s loyal cadre of kinda space marines but better), Blood Games. So, I will focus on those.

The Last Church is a meeting between “Revelation” and the last priest in the last church on Terra at the end of the Wars of Unification. It goes into how this religion works (it’s an Abrahamic one) and has “Revelation” and the priest argue over theology and science and whether religion is a good or an evil. It is really thought provoking and while “Revelation” has some good points; I feel as if the priest is more right than him, especially with me knowing how important faith is in 40k.

Blood Games on the other hand focuses on the Custodian Guard and their efforts to keep the Emperor safe, especially since the Warmaster Horus has become a traitor. It’s like a spyish type of novel, if the spies were superhuman warriors wearing giant golden power armor… wait… that doesn’t sound like spies at all (E.N. neither do Tauren Rogues, but hey!)…

Overall rating: 6.5/10

The Finale

All in all, the first 10 books of the Horus Heresy are a mixed bag, leaning towards being mostly good. I am currently reading book 12 and have no plans of stopping until every book of the HH has been read. Then I might take a break lol. I’ve also preordered a HH spinoff novel about Constantin Valdor, Captain-General of the Custodes, and I’ll leave a review of the Limited Edition’s quality and the story itself. Also, as I said earlier I will be doing individual reviews for the Primarch spinoff novels. And I might split up siege of terra too, but that depends on if I start writing a review before I get halfway thru them and if they are all out by the time I start them.

See ya next time partners, Cowboy Cam signing off. Remember, the Emperor Protects!

About the author: