Horus Heresy: Know No Fear by Dan Abnett – Advanced Review [Lord of the Night]

I didn't think it possible that i'd find a Heresy novel that I liked more than The First Heretic until the Siege of Terra was written. But I did. And here it is.

Lord of the Night reviews the latest in the acclaimed Horus Heresy series, the novelization of the Battle of Calth titled Know No Fear, by New York Times Best-Selling author Dan Abnett.

“Theoretical: A novel that was expected and hoped to be one of the crowning moments of the Heresy series. Practical: A novel that exceeds all expectations and takes its place as one of the crowning novels of Black Library.”The Founding Fields

Know No Fear took its time in getting to me but after reading it I can safely say that even if it had taken a third week to get to me, it would have been worth every single second.  Dan Abnett has written nothing less than a masterpiece.

The Heresy has seen some of the galaxy’s darkest moments. The Istvaan Massacre, the Razing of Prospero, the Corruption of Horus. And now the Calth Atrocity will take its place amongst them. The XVII Legion has played its deadliest hand, treachery directed at the Warrior-Kings of Ultramar on their home soil. For the first time the Ultramarines face a foe they have no theoretical ideas or practical tactics against, fellow Space Marines. With their fleet scattered, thousands of legionnaires dead along with millions of innocents, and their most hated foe at their doorstep and with them some of the most malevolent nightmares of man, the Battle of Calth has begun.

Abnett has created a huge range of characters for this novel. For the first time the Dramatis Personae stretches across two sets of pages rather than just one. Roboute Guilliman is shown in-depth for the first time, and we see the humor beneath this austere figure and the deep sense of brotherhood he feels that compels him to try and repair his relationship with Lorgar Aurelian. Other notable characters include the censured sergeant Aeonid Thiel, behind-the-lines captain Remus Ventanus and the sergeants of the 4th company, and the normal yet mysterious Oll Persson. The Ultramarines have the widest cast of the entire novel and many characters make their first and last appearances, but Abnett weaves them together masterfully and shows how deep the treachery of the XVII cuts them all.

I didn't think it possible that i'd find a Heresy novel that I liked more than The First Heretic until the Siege of Terra was written. But I did. And here it is.

The Word Bearers are not neglected either. Famed characters like the deceitful Erebus, brutal Kor Phaeron and of course Lorgar Aurelian himself make their appearances, but some new characters make a debut. The ambitious Hol Beloth; Sorot Tchure, a commander with something to prove, and Ulmor Nul a relentless tracker for the Legion. Abnett has added to the cast of the XVII Legion very nicely and hopefully we will see some more of these characters in the future.

The action of the novel is starkly brilliant. The writing style Abnett has chosen makes the action much more heart-pounding by making it feel as if you are standing there watching every single bolter shot and sword stroke. The Ultramarines fight as fiercely as cornered and wounded animals, many tearing swaths through the Word Bearers before their deaths. And the Word Bearers unleash their true form of warfare for the first time in the Heresy, Warpcraft warfare, and show just how deadly it is to warriors whom have never seen it before.

The pacing of the novel is unique. Using the Mark of Calth, Abnett actually times the battle. Prior to each character pov shift the Mark is displayed stating the number of Hours, Minutes and Seconds until or after Guilliman officially declares the start of battle. This gives the novel a very good pace as you can tell just how long has eclipsed since each event happened, and it adds to the sense that though a battle can seem like it takes months or even years, sometimes it only takes hours.

The ending is stunning and unexpected. I honestly did not think Abnett would use such an event as the epilogue, but it was very well chosen and adds a nice symmetry to the novel and to the Battle of Calth as a whole. And the final words evoke a sense of amazement to the XIII Legion, as even so far down the line, they have not nor will they ever forget Calth.

For a grand score I give Know No Fear a 10/10 for a brilliant story, scenes that belong in a movie and desperately need their own soundtrack to add to the epic feeling, a very good writing style that gave Calth its own unique feeling in the series, and for exceeding all expectations for this fantastic battle. I strongly feel that Know No Fear is Dan Abnett’s finest work yet, better than Eisenhorn and better than Gaunt’s Ghosts, then Legion and Horus Rising. I think that Know No Fear is the best Horus Heresy book yet, even better than The First Heretic. Never thought that Abnett could surpass ADB in my eyes but there it is.

Should you buy this novel? YES! Any Heresy fan must read this novel, even if you haven’t gotten this far in the series yet read Know No Fear next. If you haven’t read the Heresy yet, start.

Well that is it for another review. This one was a joy to write, if only to show my support for Know No Fear. Dan Abnett, if you ever read this, i’m sorry I ever doubted you would do anything less than a spectacular job. You surpassed every expectation I had by an immense degree. Thank you for this novel, I await your next work with more anticipation than ever before. Until next time.


Lord of the Night

Lord of the Night is one of TFF’s original reviewers. He’s done quite a few for TFF and that number keeps expanding. You’ll enjoy his diverse mix of book reviews. Always a treat.

  • Raloth Arlyandor

    I’ll be getting this, sure as sure

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660825194 James Crichton on Facebook

    As I’m still very early in reading it I will say that I was a little skeptical with the chronological approach and less of a story telling… now as I read more, the flow has picked up, characters are developing and I’m really digging this book!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=120370921380176 The Founding Fields on Facebook

    How did you get a review copy of it James ~ Larry

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=120370921380176 The Founding Fields on Facebook

    How did you get a review copy of it James ~ Larry

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660825194 James Crichton on Facebook

    Its available online as an ebook…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660825194 James Crichton on Facebook

    Keep up with their wbsite man… Lol ive had it for a few days now

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=120370921380176 The Founding Fields on Facebook

    LOL it’s not suppose to be out until March 2012.

  • Anonymous

    Nice review – I’ve got similar opinions to you myself, and I’m quite a far way through the novel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660825194 James Crichton on Facebook

    They stated they were releasing it early due to overwhelming excitement. It was pisted on their blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660825194 James Crichton on Facebook

    Posted lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=120370921380176 The Founding Fields on Facebook

    Ahhh, poor Amazon does not have their copies yet then (who we normally use for street dates). I am 2 books back in the series, well three now and need to catch up ~ Larry

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Larry-Killian/759634946 Larry Killian

    REALLY want to read this and I am 2 books behind in the series. Damn it! Great review, makes me want to read it more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrey-Nalyotov/100003117494326 Andrey Nalyotov

    Theoretical – good planning and ideas! Practical – awesome writing! But one minor flaw that gets to all Dan Abnetts novels – the ending is always rushed! It would be an apocalyptical moment in the universe when Dans ending would be practically methodical!

  • Nicksharps13

    Better than Gaunt’s Ghosts, Legion, Horus Rising, or Eisenhorn? Hardly. This is a fun book for sure and you’re spot on about the pacing but the characters are pretty flat and the action definitely doesn’t stack up to any of the Gaunt’s Ghosts books. It was nice to get a more action oriented tale when the last few HH books have been a little slow but this isn’t even in the top ten best Abnett books.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve read Gaunt’s Ghosts and its enjoyable but ultimately its not the series that many make it out to be. Frankly I say this is Abnett’s finest work, and it will take a lot for him to top it.

      • http://www.thefoundingfields.com/ Commissar Ploss

        i’d have to say that the GG series is quintessential Abnett. it doesn’t get any better than that.


        • Anonymous

          Eh I think it does. Gaunt’s Ghosts is a good series and I understand why a lot of people enjoy it but I think its just not the gamebreaking ultimate series that many say it is. Its a good Guard series but I just don’t think it matches up with some other series.

          Eisenhorn and Know No Fear are Abnett’s finest work in my opinion. KNF comes first and Eisenhorn is a close second. Though the coming Bequin series may shoot past it. But it’ll take a lot to trump KNF in my opinion.

      • Nicksharps13

        Well we’re all entitled to our own opinions, this one just surprises me. I think the most peripheral character of the Gaunt’s Ghosts series has twice the depth of any of the characters of Know No Fear. Know No Fear is all action/reaction. It’s an event novel and as fun as disaster movies are you rarely run into people coming out of the theatre saying, “Boy! John Cusack’s character was very complex.”

        • Anonymous

          Those characters dont face the treachery, betrayal and horror that the Ultramarines face at seeing their brothers turn on them and their world die.

          Its the betrayal that really makes the characters fascinating as they all attempt to understand why it happened, try to rationalize it, and start to realise what it means for the galaxy and the Imperial way of life.

  • http://doelago.blogspot.com/ Doelago

    Great review!

    I also think this is Abnett`s finest work. I did not expect anything to be as good as “Legion” or “Prospero Burns”, but this was, heck, it was even better.

  • Pingback: Know No Fear by Dan Abnett – Dual Advance Review [Shadowhawk/Jeff Preston] | The Founding Fields()

  • Cubsckc

    Another interesting review. I think you said it best when you said that novels pace is “unique.” It is unique. The only problem I had with the novel is that Dan didn’t do enough to create a character that will be a legacy for the series.

    Another thing I feel has made some heresy novels leave their mark better than others is showing the closeness of the traitors and loyalists and showing the betrayal break it apart. This novel ALMOST does this, when it shows Lorgar on the screen with Guilliman. You almost saw emotion, but after this, the Word Bearers are not shown to have a bitter hatred, but this sadistic stereotypical evil that was depicted the same way in Battle for the Abyss.

    I feel that you saying this book is the best in the series is not very fair. The novel seemed very one-sided and didn’t produce characters besides the guardsmen that people are looking forward to seeing later in the series.

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