The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill – Advanced Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings reviews The Outcast Dead, a novel published by Black Library and written by Graham McNeill, and is part of the multi-author, New York Times bestselling Horus Heresy series.

Exploring inner workings of the Astropaths for the first time in the Horus Heresy, The Outcast Dead reminds us again why Graham McNeill is one of the better Black Library authors.” ~The Founding Fields

Black Library’s flagship series, the Horus Heresy, is back in the form of The Outcast Dead, written by the New York Times Bestseller, and David Gemmell Legend Award winner, Graham McNeill, who has contributed most towards this million-selling series, with fantastic tales like Fulgrim and A Thousand Sons, both of which rank high in my list of awesome Horus Heresy Novels, and it’s always good to see another McNeill novel, especially if it’s set in the 31st Millennium.

The Outcast Dead fails to disappoint in that regard, and although not a full on ‘bolter-porn’ novel like A Thousand Sons was, it certainly is a lot different others of its ilk, like Nemesis by James Swallow and Mechanium, also by McNeill – for reasons that I will go into later into this review, but first off, here’s the plot of The Outcast Dead.

Taking place just before the Dropsite massacre at Isstvan V and leading up to the Burning of Prospero, The Outcast Dead delves into what life was like on Terra, the cradle of humanity, for those during the opening years of the Horus Heresy. Astropath Kai Zulane is the hero in this novel, and you see him on the front cover there, surrounded by a group of astartes called “The Outcast Dead”. When Zulane unwittingly learns of a secret that could tip the war for or against Horus and his turncoat forces, he is forced to flee for his life.

However, perhaps some truths should not be unmasked.

The Outcast Dead was set entirely on Terra, meaning there are hardly any full-scale battles throughout the pages. But nonetheless, I believe McNeill lives up to my expectations, producing an excellent book.

As well as shedding some light on Astropaths, The Outcast Dead also gives a few references for the hardcore fans of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. For example, previously – there was a plot hole which had The Night Lords dispatched to Isstvan V after their Primarch had struck Rogal Dorn on Terra beforehand.

“Lord Dorn was adamant that we not send the fleet assembly orders to Konrad Curze, only to the Night Lords Chapters stationed within the Sol System.”

~The Outcast Dead, Page 73

Almost a hundred pages later, we’re given yet more information about the two missing legions, which we hardly know anything about, other than that the Second and the Eleventh were wiped from all records following the Horus Heresy, and this quote in particular refers to what will happen to Magnus the Red, just before the Burning of Prospero.

“It means that the Wolves will be loosened again.”

~The Outcast Dead, Page 172

Indeed, anybody who’s read A Thousand Sons and Prospero Burns will know that the Wolves are loosened again to deal with Magnus, so we can presume that something happened to the second and eleventh legions that was against the Emperor’s laws, and something bad – meaning that the Wolves were let off their leash.

The Outcast Dead is filled with lore that the hardcore 40k fan will enjoy, but any casual fan won’t get as much out of this latest instalment in the Horus Heresy novel. But nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pass this one up.

Now, onto the characters. Kai Zulane is the main star of the show, and you can see him on the front, the man surrounded by what is presumably the Outcast Dead, which composes of Two World Eaters, a Death Guard, a Emperor’s Child, a Luna Wolf (Note, for some reason, McNeill has decided to call them Luna Wolves, a name which I prefer above the Sons of Horus, despite that they should be called The Sons of Horus anyway – seeing as The Outcast Dead is set after the Ullanor Crusade), and finally a Thousand Son.

How these warriors come to Terra in the first place is almost anyone’s guess, but the novel leads us to believe that they are arrested just for wearing the colours of enemy legions. If I remember correctly, it doesn’t delve into why they were on Terra in the first place.

Back to Zulane, he is, at the beginning of the novel, coming across as a bit of an arrogant Astropath, especially as the first glimpse of him is insulting somebody else. But as the novel wears on, you begin to understand the Astropath and indeed, feel sympathy for him when something happens to him about midway through the novel.

Although the first part of The Outcast Dead is a bit slow, things really pick up when we are introduced to the Outcast Dead characters themselves. Like I said earlier, there’s no all out war, but just because there isn’t, doesn’t make The Outcast Dead a bad book.

Although not as, sadly – as good as Fulgrim and A Thousand Sons, it’s certainly head and shoulders above Mechanium, making The Outcast Dead one of the better Horus Heresy novels, in my opinion, as I’ve probably mentioned before at some point.

The Outcast Dead really looks into what life was like on Terra in the aftermath of the Dropsite Massacre as well, and we learn what it is like to be an Imperial citizen during these dark times.

As you’ve probably gathered from above, the description is pretty well done, detailed and enjoyable to read.

Rating: 4/5

More Horus Heresy: Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames, Flight of the Eisenstein, Fulgrim, Descent of Angels, Legion, Battle for the Abyss, Mechanium, Tales of Heresy, Fallen Angels, A Thousand Sons, Nemesis, The First Heretic, Prospero Burns, Age of Darkness, The Outcast Dead, Deliverance Lost (January 2012), Know No Fear (March 2012), The Primarchs (June 2012), Fear to Tread (September 2012)


David Ploss

I’m a bit of an awesome person. :) I’m a semi-famous 40k Intellect and the Business Manager of Chique Geek Entertainment, LLC. I’m a book reviewer and the owner of Beware my wonky-ness…


  • Pingback: Black Library Live 2012 – Preview 1 – Attending Authors | The Founding Fields

The Founding Fields - Blogged