On 25th February, 2003 Black Library released a rather innocuous-looking novel by author and game designer Gav Thorpe. Titled Angels of Darkness, it marked his first foray into the realm of the mysterious but valiant Space Marines and of all the ones he could have taken his pick of, he chose the deliberately obfuscative Dark Angels. Descendants of the First Legion, the Dark Angels harbour great and terrible secrets of their past, secrets that if they ever came to light would damn the chapter and all its successors. A rich ten-thousand year history erased in a heartbeat. Angels of Darkness proved to be a hit, so much so that it received a second printing only three years later and just three years past it received a fourth printing.
Angels of Darkness is the story of the traitor warrior Merir Astelan and the hero Boreas as their lives intersect and as years down the line Boreas reflects on that encounter. It is a well-woven tale of mystery and intrigue as we learn some of the secrets of the Dark Angels from the war-wracked Horus Heresy era and learn also the events that shaped Astelan into the traitor he became. Not to mention how Boreas has been shaped over those years and the final moments of his life of toiling in secret far from the eyes of his brothers.
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Of all the Legions we’ve seen so far in the series, it is perhaps the Imperial Fists of whom we have seen very little of in comparison. The World Eaters and the Iron Warriors might make a claim as well, but they have at least been at the forefront of the Heresy all the way while the Imperial Fists have been relegated to the defense of Terra and seemingly have done little of note, being a static legion in effect. Which kind of rankles since the VII Legion is as interesting as any of the others and Dorn’s role as the Praetorian of Terra is a vital one in the Heresy.
John French’s Praetorian of Dorn was all set to change the shortcomings of the series with regards to the VII Legion. Pitting Dorn and his sons against the vile machinations of Alpharius and his nefarious sons, Praetorian of Dorn turned out to be a rather mixed novel that spent far too much time on the XX Legion rather than the VII, and thus failed to really elucidate a strong sense of Legion personality for the Imperial Fists while the Alpha Legion only got better and better. With some big revelations and a fantastic climax, it wasn’t a bad novel however, but it did leave me very dissatisfied in the final reckoning.
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Some fifteen years ago (five days to the fifteen-year anniversary as of the writing of this review!), Gav Thorpe and Black Library gave to us an innocuous novel called Angels of Darkness which featured a long-interrogation by an Interrogator-Chaplain of the Dark Angels of a traitor Space Marine called Merir Astelan. That novel, in a hundred little ways, was a serious game-changer as the years unfolded, not only because of the groundwork that it and Gav laid for future Dark Angels novels in M41 but also for what would later become the Horus Heresy series and the Dark Angels’ role within.
With Angels of Caliban, Gav continues many of his earlier plotlines that were introduced in the Horus Heresy series, some of which are actually offshoots of what we learned in Angels of Darkness, and that’s perhaps the best compliment for the book itself. This is a watershed moment in history for the Dark Angels as the veil behind some of their deepest mysteries is finally pulled back and we learn just how close the Legion skirted towards damnation. And not only that, but we get some epic scenes involving Guilliman’s Imperium Secundus, the beginning of the fall as it were and get deeper into the mind of the Lion and those closest (and furthest) from him.
Note: This review may contain some minor spoilers for the book.
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From the old lore, all we really knew of the White Scars Legion was their heroic defense of Terra alongside the Blood Angels and Imperial Fists when the traitorous Warmaster finally arrived on throneworld for the final stroke of his heresy. But, in the last few years Chris Wraight has done a great job of not only adding to the character and identity of the V Legion, but also giving them a significant role in the larger Heresy. And it has been fantastic seeing the White Scars and Jaghatai Khan himself develop so and being put front and center for the coming battles.
The Path of Heaven is the culmination of more than two years of such development. In many ways, we have come full circle from the events of Brotherhood of The Storm as the stories of its major characters are resolved and they all move forward to a new phase. The last few full-length novels of the series have been great, and The Path of Heaven is another crowning achievement not just for the series overall but for Chris Wraight himself, for The Path of Heaven is an absolutely amazing novel with some great depths to the various plots, both ongoing and new, and some really sweet development of the characters.
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The Horus Heresy series has given us plenty of great anthologies, whether we talk about the very first one, Tales of Heresy or something much more recent than that, such as Meduson. They are an excellent place to reprint various short stories and novellas that have only been released online or in limited edition, and many of these also continue various story-lines that haven’t been continued in the full-length novels. Ultimately, that’s one of the best things I love about them and today I’m going to talk about another good one.
War Without End definitely ranks among the best that the series has to offer. It contains a lion’s share of stories that have been released over the last few years for the series, and offers us some truly good gems. The Devine Adoratrice, Sermon of Exodus, Daemonology, The Laurel of Defiance and others are really good stories that touch on so many different facets of the Heresy and bring a much larger perspective to what’s going on.
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As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, the story of the Horus Heresy is one of great tragedy, of dreams shattered, of brotherhoods sundered, of oaths broken, of horrors unleashed. The greatest of these horrors was the Dropsite Massacre on the world of Istvaan V, where the loyal legions of the Warmaster Horus ambushed and nearly wiped out three legions loyal to the Emperor. That event unleashed the greatest tragedy of the Heresy, when brother fought brother, when brother killed brother. In the wake of such a cataclysmic event, how the Imperial legions survived to take their revenge and even prosper and adapt is one of the greatest highlights of the era.
Meduson is an anthology that continues the tale of the so-called Shattered Legions, the Iron Hands, Salamanders and Raven Guard. We begin with a great introduction to the titular character Shadrak Meduson, a line-captain of the Iron Hands, and continue on from there as several characters from across the Iron Hands are shown to evolve to accommodate changing circumstances or fall in failure and even delves into some of what the traitors are doing. It is a decent anthology featuring some of the Horus Heresy series’ best writers, and there are some true gems here that lay the foundation for what follows on.
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The original review can be found at The Founding Fields, here.
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