Horus Heresy: Know No Fear by Dan Abnett – Advanced Review [Lord of the Night]
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.
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.
AVE DOMINUS NOX! AND FOR CALTH!