Horus Heresy: False Gods by Graham McNeill – Dual Review [Bane of Kings & Lord of the Night]
Bane of Kings and Lord of the Night continue their revisitation of the Horus Heresy series with Graham McNeill’s first entry, False Gods, the second book in the New York Times Bestselling, Multi-Author epic published by Black Library. You can find their first review of Horus Rising here.
“A weak second installment in the Horus Heresy series by Graham McNeill and not his finest moment, but is essential reading if you want to learn why Horus fell.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields
“A classic novel that is one of the most important and most tragic parts of the Horus Heresy. This is a novel that is not to be missed!” – Lord of the Night – The Founding Fields.
Lord of the Night’s Thoughts
It’s been a while since my Horus Rising review with Bane of Kings, but we are still committed to reviewing each and every Horus Heresy novel in a series of dual-reviews. So this time it’s False Gods by Graham McNeill, the second book in the Lupercal trilogy and a novel that contains one of the most critical and poignant moments in the Horus Heresy. Horus’s fall.
The Great Crusade continues on. Now Warmaster of the Imperial armies, second only to the Emperor himself, Horus Lupercal and his newly renamed Legion, the Sons of Horus, lead the war effort to ensure mankind’s manifest destiny to rule the stars. But other forces are watching Horus, forces that are believed to be superstition and myth by all but a few, forces that are planning the end of the Great Crusade and the beginning of mankind’s downfall. With hidden enemies plotting against him, doubts about his worthiness to be Warmaster, and unresolved feelings towards his father’s “retirement” from the Great Crusade, Horus Lupercal’s most pivotal moment is coming. The moment when he must choose his own destiny, to be Warmaster, or to be Emperor.
The story that False Gods continues is the personal story of Horus and his Legion, which is of course the most obvious starting point for the Heresy to show where it began with Horus’s fall. McNeill handles that most critical of parts, the moment that Horus falls and he makes it a scene to remember, along with the rest of the story as Horus begins to change slowly and subtly, and his Legion along with him. The gravitas of this novel cannot be understated, this is a scene that had to be good, but McNeill not only does that and more, he also makes it understandable as well. Throughout the novel we see glimpses of the darker path that Horus and his Legion are about to walk and McNeill makes it understandable, not agreeable or even likeable unless you support Horus, but we can understand why Horus chooses this path. That combined with the increasing tension in the Legion, the hints of lines being drawn and those that might not support Primarch over Emperor, this is a novel that is all about falling and what leads to a fall.
The characters are the same cast from the previous book with one or two additions. It’s Horus that is the centerpiece of course and as I stated above this is the novel that chronicles his fall, and thus he begins to change. McNeil makes these changes subtle and slow, a harsher decision there, a hastier choice there. Bit by bit Horus begins to change from the likeable Primarch we saw in Horus Rising and take his first steps to the Warmaster we know he will become. McNeill’s characters are consistently strong and we learn much about their motives, and their loyalties. Some will do anything for Horus, and some have limits. Some characters on both sides are not where we thought they would be, and McNeill makes both loyalist and traitor characters that we can root for, or at least understand.
The action is solid and well-written. The Sons of Horus continue to be strong combatents and provide many moments of bolter and blade, but we also get some more brutal moments with the World Eaters and one particular scene mid-novel that is not only atmospherically chilling, but also a great battle scene and one that is a grim foreshadow of things to come in the Heresy, things that will vastly change the series for it’s characters and readers. Other then that the action is solid but I cannot think of any other stand-out moments, suffice to say that the battle scenes have a good narrative and are coreographed nicely.
The pacing of the book is well done. With four separate parts the novel flows nicely from start to finish, and with the importance of events in the novel it’s hard not to be sucked in and want to keep reading and reading until you’re finished. McNeill makes each part work well, and end on moments that have you dying to know what will happen next or as a result of what just happened. McNeill continues to establish the vastly different 30k universe that Abnett started and he does a good job of it, and of bringing the first signs of darkness to it’s universe and showing that there is far more hidden behind the scenes that the characters have yet to realise, but they will.
My favourite quote, I think it is definitely this one for just how prophetic and sad it is,
“I believe we will all rue the day you brought the Warmaster here.”
The ending is a dark one and I think is written very very well. Of course we knew it was coming but that doesn’t make those final pages any less tragic, or grim as the final line foreshadows one of the darkest moments in all of Warhammer. McNeill does a really exceptional job here, each scene of the epilogue shows something momentous that will greatly affect events to come, and that final scene is the darkest of all as we see Horus as we always knew he would become. Warmaster and traitor to the Imperium. And yet over all of it there is that sense of tragedy for things that never needed to happen, things that were manipulated to happen and for Horus who has fallen from a man of honour into a traitor that will make the galaxy burn for his ambition. Definitely a powerful moment.
For a great continuance to Horus’s story, likeable characters and characters that we can understand if not root for, and for setting the stage for the finale of this opening trilogy I give False Gods a score of 8.0/10. Anyone whose read Horus Rising will probably go right onto False Gods, I did, and I would heartily recommend that you do and that after you finish False Gods you get right onto Galaxy in Flames to see where Horus’s choices will lead him and the Sons of Horus. Hint: It isn’t a good place. Any fan of the Heresy will recognise that final line, and what it promises is coming very soon. And if that isn’t incentive enough to move onto the third novel right away, what is?
That’s it for this review. Our (I and Bane) next review for our HH series will be Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter. So until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!
Bane of Kings’ Thoughts
The Great Crusade that has taken humanity into the stars continues. The Emperor of mankind has handed the reins of command to his favoured son, the Warmaster Horus. Yet all is not well in the armies of the Imperium. Horus is still battling against the jealousy and resentment of his brother primarchs and, when he is injured in combat on the planet Davin, he must also battle his inner daemon. With all the temptations that Chaos has to offer, can the weakened Horus resist?
Graham McNeill’s False Gods is a book that is never going to make it anywhere near the top half of the Horus Heresy series for me, and If I made a list, it would come near the bottom. But first, let’s talk about the Horus Heresy series as a whole. The now New York Times Bestselling series has come a massive way since its roots as a three-book trilogy ending with the betrayal at Isstvann III in Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter. It’s now stretching into and beyond 20 books published, and has risen to become Black Library’s flagship series.
With such a vast period of time and space to cover, there was no way that Dan Abnett could have possibly covered the whole series on his own. After all, the author has certain strengths and weaknesses which is why the series has been included to find room for multiple authors. Now, obviously – there are both positives and negatives with a multi-author written series. The positives are mainly that we get chances of seeing books being published quicker, and we get to see alternative views on the Heresy from different authors. The negatives are fairly obvious – not every writer can match the quality of Dan Abnett, and False Gods is an example of this.
First off, let’s start with the negatives of this book, of which there are many. Firstly, and this may be me being nitpicky, but the book – or the edition that I read, boasts multiple typos that should have been fixed by an editor. This kept making me lose interest in the novel every time I came across a mistake, and whilst it’s been a while now since I last re-read the book and can’t quite come across the exact mistakes, I was left disinterested in the pages that followed which was a real shame.
Secondly, McNeill has a load of characters all shoved into one book, and it becomes a point where the dramatis personae is unbearable and unless you have a large enough book to develop the pages and make the book’s characters compelling enough to read more of, then they quickly loose their interest and you will find yourself only sticking to the characters that you like and lose track of the others. However, not all of the characters are uninteresting in this book though – Loken and Torgaddon continued to remain my favourite characters of the novel and are probably my favourite characters of the entire opening trilogy, and McNeill manages to capture their human reactions very well, despite the fact that they are Adeptus Astartes, superhuman killing machines. It’s a shame that he couldn’t have done this with the rest of the dramatis personae as well.
Take Horus, for example, the Warmaster. Whilst he gains much more of the spotlight in this novel than in the last, he somewhat falls flat as a character and doesn’t really develop over the course of the book. He doesn’t grow, and his character trait can be attributed to one thing – ambition. The main reason for his downfall, and his ultimate corruption. I also felt that the dream sequences featuring Horus were somewhat differently paced from the rest of the narrative, and I would have loved them if they were on their own or told in a similar style to the rest of the book – I just felt that they were out of place here.
However, there are some things that I enjoyed about this book other than Loken and Torgaddon. I felt that the action was written well, and I think this is what he does best. The battles in the Swamp in Davin shortly before Horus falls are possibly one of the strongest moments in this novel, and McNeill really manages to capture war on a sheer scale. It’s just a shame that the character development failed to shine here, especially in a book that need character development the most to work.
THE HORUS HERESY SERIES: Horus Rising by Dan Abnett, False Gods by Graham McNeill, Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter, The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow, Fulgrim by Graham McNeill, Descent of Angels by Mitchel Scanlon, The Dark King and the Lightning Tower by Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill (Audio), Legion by Dan Abnett, Battle for the Abyss by Ben Counter, Mechanicum by Graham McNeill, Tales of Heresy by Various Authors, Fallen Angels by Mike Lee, Raven’s Flight by Gav Thorpe (Audio), A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill, Nemesis by James Swallow, The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Garro: Oath of Moment by James Swallow (Audio), Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett, Garro: Legion of One by James Swallow (Audio), Age of Darkness by Various Authors, Promethean Sun by Nick Kyme (Limited Edition), Aurelian by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (Limited Edition), The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill, Deliverance Lost by Gav Thorpe, Know No Fear by Dan Abnett, The Primarchs by Various Authors, Fear to Tread by James Swallow, Shadows of Treachery by Various Authors, Brotherhood of the Storm by Chris Wraight (Limited Edition), Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeill, Garro: Sword of Truth by James Swallow (Audio), Betrayer by Aaron Dembski-Bowden