Magisterium by Chris Wraight (Short Story Review)

For long years ever since their name was first put down, the Custodians of the Emperor have been an organization of mystique and secrets. Over the last several years we have seen ever more of them and the veils have been pulled back bit by bit, exposing the secrets of the Emperor’s companions, and it has been a damn exciting time. Whether we look at the novels The Emperor’s Legion or The Carrion Throne or the various appearances of the Legio in the Horus Heresy in various forms, they have ever been the pinnacle of the Emperor’s gene-forging, shining examples of a bright future that even the Legiones Astartes struggled to match.

Chris Wraight’s Magisterium takes us back in time to the Legio’s first and greatest defeat. We know that when Magnus applied the darkest sorcerous arts to warn the Emperor of Horus’ treachery, he unwittingly destroyed the Webway Project and that a bitter struggle between the Emperor’s Custodians and the forces of Chaos raged in the deepest heart of the Imperial Palace. Now, we see the fallout of that war as the survivors tally the cost and prepare themselves for the inevitable siege that Horus is bringing, and it is a superb read by any measure.

Chris Wraight sets this story in the immediate aftermath of the Webway War, and the Legio Custodes has taken some horrific losses defending the deepest vaults of the Imperial Palace: from an army ten thousand strong, it is now down to less than a tenth of that. It is a shock to their system and through the character of Custodian Samonas, who seems to be the current equerry to the Legio’s commander Constantin Valdor, this is hammered home again and again. As such, Magisterium is very much a melancholic story that also has some good introspective bits to it when Samonas and Valdor converse about their new realities.

However, things don’t really heat up until Valdor holds a meeting with Rogal Dorn and the two of them almost come to verbal blows with each other, which was actually scary to read about and anticipate. One the greatest defender of the Emperor, an alpha amongst the leonine Custodes, and the other the Praetorian of Terra. Some harsh truths are exchanged and I found their conversation to be absolutely riveting because it isn’t about just what the Custodes and the Sisterhood and the Mechanicum did down in the Palace’s vaults, but about the role of the Custodes as companions of the Emperor and their mentality. A-plus stuff all the way.

And that’s not all, because as an addendum to the Dorn-Valdor conversation, we also get flashbacks of Russ’ assault on Magnus at Prospero, the second great tragedy resulting from Magnus’ foolish and thoughtless attempt to warn  the Emperor of Horus’ treachery. What Valdor says in both instances isn’t something I’ll repeat here, for the power of his words in reading them for yourself, but suffice to say that it gives the reader perspective on the Primarch Project itself and, I think, for once we see just what Valdor and the other Custodes think of the Primarchs themselves and the roles of the Emperor’s sons in forging the Imperium.

Magisterium is rather short of a story, and I was definitely left wanting more out of it. Despite the length, Chris packs a ton of punch into its pages, and he really wowed me every page. The story has some great beats and despite being very much a sequel to Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Master of Mankind it does stand on its own, requiring only the basic knowledge of the Webway Project and how it was sabotaged and what resulted from that. For stories like these, which only give you a small snapshot of the larger conflict, this is very important I feel because that creates a far better impetus for the reader to go out and read more in a sort of natural way.

In the end, Magisterium is another great stand-alone story in the Horus Heresy, much like Guy Haley’s Duty Waits from recent times, and a great new addition to the immense tapestry that we know as the Horus Heresy. And for those interested in reading more of the effects of the losses that the Custodes take here, do make a point to read Chris’ The Emperor’s Legion, for it goes into some more detail about how the Legio changed from here on out and it informs their later traditions as well.

Rating: 10/10

More Chris Wraight:

  • Horus Heresy #28A: Brotherhood of the Storm (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #31: Legacies of Betrayal: Wolf Claw (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #31: Legacies of Betrayal: Lone Wolf (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #33: War Without End: Allegiance (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #33: War Without End: Daemonology (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #34C: Meduson: Hand Elect (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #34C: Meduson: Grey Talon (Review)
  • Horus Heresy #36: The Path of Heaven (Review)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine Battles: Battle of the Fang (Review)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Space Wolves: Blood of Asaheim (Review)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Vaults of Terra: The Carrion Throne (Review)
  • Warhammer 40,000: Watchers of The Throne: The Emperor’s Legion (Review)
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Luthor Huss: The March of Doom (Review)

More Horus Heresy:

  • Death of A Silversmith by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • #17: The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • Thief of Revelations by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • The Raven’s Flight by Gav Thorpe (Review)
  • #19: Know No Fear by Dan Abnett (Review)
  • #19D: Oath of Moment by James Swallow (Review)
  • #19F: Burden of Duty  by James Swallow (Review)
  • #19G: Legion of One by James Swallow (Review)
  • #20: The Primarchs by Christian Dunn (Review)
  • #21: Fear To Tread by James Swallow (Review)
  • #22: Shadows of Treachery by Christian Dunn and Nick Kyme (Review)
  • #23: Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • Butcher’s Nails by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Review)
  • #24B: Templar by John French (Review)
  • #25: Mark of Calth by Laurie Goulding (Review)
  • #25B: Grey Angel by John French (Review)
  • 25D: Honour To The Dead by Gav Thorpe (Review)
  • #25E: Promethean Sun by Nick Kyme (Review)
  • Censure by Nick Kyme (Review)
  • #26: Vulkan Lives by Nick Kyme (Review)
  • #27: The Unremembered Empire by Dan Abnett (Review)
  • #28E: The Devine Adoratrice by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • #30: The Damnation of Pythos by David Annandale (Review)
  • #31: Legacies of Betrayal by Laurie Goulding (Review)
  • #32: Deathfire by Nick Kyme (Review)
  • #33: War Without End by Laurie Goulding (Review)
  • #34: Pharos by Guy Haley (Review)
  • #34C: Meduson by Laurie Goulding (Review)
  • #34D: The Seventh Serpent by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • #38: Angels of Caliban by Gav Thorpe (Review)
  • #39: Praetorian of Dorn by John French (Review)
  • #42: Garro by James Swallow (Review)
  • #44: The Crimson King by Graham McNeill (Review)
  • The Primarchs #1: Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar by David Annandale (Review)
  • The Primarchs #4: Perturabo: The Hammer of Olympia by Guy Haley (Review)
  • The Primarchs #5: Lorgar: Bearer of The Word by Gav Thorpe (Review)
  • The Primarchs #6: Fulgrim: The Palatine Phoenix by Josh Reynolds (Review)
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