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Lord of the Night reviews the wonderful Horus Heresy anthology, The Primarchs, edited by Christian Dunn, with stories from Graham McNeill, Rob Sanders, Gav Thorpe and Nick Kyme.
“An fascinating and revealing collection that delves further into the stories of the lesser-known Primarchs, a must-read for any fan of the Horus Heresy!” – The Founding Fields
Here we are with yet another two part review, I do like writing these and not just because they make my review list look longer than it actually is hehe. This time its The Primarchs, an anthology of novellas about, you guessed it, the Primarchs. This time we have stories on Fulgrim, The Lion, Ferrus Manus and Alpharius Omegon. This part of the review will focus on the first two stories, The Reflection Crack’d by Graham McNeill and Feat of Iron by Nick Kyme. So let’s begin.
The Reflection Crack’d by Graham McNeill
The Emperor’s Children’s fall is nearly complete. Once the finest example of martial discipline and prowess, they have now become little more than hedonistic deviants; seeking nothing but their own self-satisfaction. But for now they remain a Legion, so long as Horus commands it. But something is calling to them, something that wishes them to defy their changed Primarch Fulgrim and enter a place that has been declared anathema to them. Meanwhile Fulgrim is starting to become mercurial and strange, and some of his children have noticed that he has become different since the killing fields of Istvaan III. As Fulgrim becomes more and more erratic it is clear that something must be done, but what has happened to the IIIrd Primarch. And what is the vision that he is driven to create.
The story of The Reflection Crack’d reveals a lot about the Emperor’s Children Post-Istvaan, and hints towards their future in the Horus Heresy. I very much enjoyed the revelations that this story brought to light, and what happened to a certain character who will remain nameless in this review, but Pyroriffic knows who i’m talking about. The end reveal in the story sets up the stage for Graham McNeill’s next Heresy novel and this story has me greatly anticipating it, because while this story revealed a lot about the IIIrd Legion, it did reveal something about the future, and at the same time revealed nothing at all. A name is all we have, but its just enough to get us demanding more.
The characters in the story were brilliant. The key characters of Fulgrim are all present and we see how they have changed after Istvaan. Lucius is the same as ever; cocky, arrogant and eager to test his blade but we see a bit more of his inner thoughts and how he actually views everybody around him, and his own opinion of himself. Proud Julius Kaesoron has become an arrogant pleasure-seeker, denying himself nothing and hating the Imperium down to its bones. Marius Vairosean is one of the most changed, now the leader of the elite Kakaphoni marines, having become just as depraved as the rest of his Legion and perhaps more so. Fulgrim was the real focus of the story though and the Daemon that resides within his body, we see what that Daemon has done and the changes that Fulgrim has undergone in that time.
The action scenes of the story are few in number but are quite interesting. We get to see Lucius in battle, and the rather analytical mind that lies within him, and of course Noise Marines tearing up the world around them with bursts of sounds that should never be heard. And we get to see some more of Fulgrim, but the best part by far was seeing him display the skills that he has learned since his murder of Ferrus Manus. Though its tough to compare that scene to the final battle scene of the novel, one that showcases just how strong a Primarch really is compared to a Space Marine.
The pacing of the story is easy to read and enjoyable. Around one-hundred pages long and separated into a few sections, The Reflection Crack’d was an easy read for me, that I finished after two days of reading and enjoyed every moment of it. The story really engages the reader with the mystery that is Fulgrim and his Legion’s desire to find out what has changed with their beloved Primarch, and with some exciting sword scenes courtesy of Lucius only add to the enjoyable tale of the Emperor’s Children.
The ending is just tantalizing. The mystery of Fulgrim has been closed, and with an ending that nobody saw coming but only makes the IIIrd Primarch more interesting. But the most interesting part for me was the revelation of Fulgrim’s plans. We know little to nothing about the plans, but for a name. A name that makes no sense, yet is all that we need to know a bit more about what is coming to make the future even bleaker.
For its engrossing mystery and the in-depth look we have been given at the Emperor’s Children as they slide further, and headfirst, into decadence I give The Reflection Crack’d a score of 8.6/10. This is just the first of the reasons that The Primarchs is worth reading. Anyone who read Fulgrim and hungered for more about the Emperor’s Children, this is the story you were waiting for.
Feat of Iron by Nick Kyme
The Flesh is Weak. The creed of the Iron Hands has served them well through the Great Crusade, until now. The planet One-Five-Five-Four, a new target of conquest ruled by the manipulative Eldar, that is now host to three Legions. The Salamanders, the Death Guard and the Iron Hands. But of all the Legions the Iron Hands are facing the hardest trial, the deserts of this benighted world only prove their credo of iron over flesh as their army units fall behind. But when the Gorgon goes missing in action, his men must carry on the campaign in his stead. And in the end it may not be iron that carries the day. And where is the Gorgon, and just what is the message that someone desperately wants him to understand.
The story of Feat of Iron was mixed to me really. The first half of the story was decent enough but did not really interest me very much; though there were a few stand-out scenes. For me the story didn’t really pick up until midway, roughly a little bit into the second section, which is where things started to really interest me and make me want to read more. The key part of the story is Manus’s abduction and the reasons behind it, and the journey he undertakes is just as important as his captors attempt to make him understand just why it is he has been taken, and what they want of him.
The characters are good, but personally only a few of them stood out to me. First of course was Ferrus Manus, the Gorgon, who by the end I respected quite a lot for his endurance and his desire to earn the Emperor’s respect, and that of his brothers. Bion Henricos was the next most compelling character for me, his affinity for humans is an interesting trait and I do hope he didn’t die at Istvaan so that we can see him again. The only other character I found to be interesting was Gabriel Santar, who Heresy readers will recognize as one of the fallen Iron Hands at Istvaan, who I think displayed the beliefs and culture of the Iron Hands perfectly throughout the story.
The action scenes are very good. Plenty of Terminator battles are present in the story and with the Gorgon and the legendary Forgebreaker fighting against an enemy that fans of the series should be able to identify if they pay close enough attention. I got it rather quickly, after all could it have been any other opponent that would try to murder Ferrus Manus? No, it couldn’t have been. The Eldar bring their might to bear as well, matching psykic sorceries against the iron might of the Xth Legion, and when Howling Banshees are involved you know there’ll be plenty of awesome close combat fighting, but add Terminators into it and the fighting takes on a whole other level of coolness.
The pacing of the story is ok but as I have said the first half dragged for me. But the second half more than made up for it as the novella became much more interesting and engrossing. Once I reached that part I wanted to finish Feat of Iron not just to get onto the next story, but to know how this story ended. Spread across three ‘chapters’ the novella is easy to read once you get past the first hump and the Gorgon’s own adventure will really drag you along for the ride.
Special note. I want to say I greatly enjoyed the scene on pages 174 and 175. Any discerning reader will understand what the statues in that scene are meant to be, and the identity of each one. It was a very interesting scene and I spent a few moments re-reading it once I had finished those pages, working out the puzzle for myself. And of course the revelation at the end of The Reflection Crack’d is contined here, the ominous name repeated to ears that also cannot make sense of it.
The ending is one of the most mysterious parts of the entire novel thus far. The Gorgon may not be what was sought, but while I can guess at what Manus’s abductors were speaking of, I cannot make sense of the entire thing. But for now fate is set in motion and things will only get darker from here on out.
For an interesting story, albeit with a slow start, and a nice addition to the mysteries behind the scenes of the Heresy I give Feat of Iron a score of 7.4/10. Though it has a slow start its worth reading the entire story of Feat of Iron, by the end you’ll definitely consider it time well spent.
That’s it for this part of the review. Next time i’ll be reviewing the second half of The Primarchs with the stories The Lion by Gav Thorpe and The Serpent Beneath by Rob Sanders. Until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!