Horus Heresy: The Primarchs Edited by Christian Dunn – Advanced Review Part Two [Lord of the Night]


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

And now we continue with my advance review for The Primarchs with part two of the review, featuring the Dark Angel novella The Lion by Gav Thorpe and the Alpha Legion novella The Serpent Beneath by Rob Sanders. Two stories that focus on Lion El’Jonson and Alpharius Omegon, both underused and very interesting Primarchs. Lets begin…


The Lion by Gav Thorpe

The war for the Thramas sector rages on. The Dark Angels and the Night Lords have turned an entire sector into a battlefield, with the Lord of the First Legion Lion El’Jonson determined to keep the Dark King Konrad Curze from supporting Horus any further and Curze aiming to keep Jonson’s Legion away from the main fighting. The Lion’s mistrust has grown exponentially since his encounter with Curze and now he begins to question those around him, how loyal are the people he surrounds himself with? And how loyal is his homeworld of Caliban in his absence? The mission to Perditus takes precedence over all and the Lion must decide who he can trust and who he cannot trust as Horus’s rebellion consumes the galaxy.

The story of The Lion is an interesting look into the psyche of Jonson after his meeting with Konrad Curze in Savage Weapons. The story also sets up a nice arc that will hopefully be continued later on, and it reveals more about the actions of Jonson during the Heresy. The Thramas War is the background for the story and it shows an intricate war that is being waged by two completely different Legions. The best parts of the story for me were the scenes on Perditus that involved more of the cast and began to reveal more about the Lion’s strategies and plans for n0t only the Thramas War, but the entire Horus Heresy.

The cancer of suspicion...

The characters are varied with three different Legions present. Jonson is the protagonist and his actions and plans are very different from what we’ve come to expect from the rational Lord of the First, and they reveal a lot more about how Curze’s words and the Horus Heresy have affected the First Primarch. Other characters include the stalwart seneschal Corswain who acts as a cool head to his Primarch’s growing mistrust; the malicious Calas Typhon of the Death Guard and the unflinching Brother-Redemptor Nemiel. Some characters surprised me in this novella, while some were exactly what I expected them to be.

The action in the story is very cool. The first section of the novella contains a pitched battle between the Dark Angels and an enemy whom I won’t spoil, suffice to say they are very interesting to see in battle as fighting them is completely different for each one of them. And later on we have Astartes vs Astartes as we all love, bolters and blades crashing against each other. These parts are enjoyable, though not particularly stand-out.

The pacing is enjoyable, with the novella separated into sections marked by roman numerals its rather easy to read through The Lion as the shortest story in the anthology. I felt that the story started off slowly then burst forward until the middle part, then slowed down again until the final few pages when the mission really takes off. Its a good pace and won’t leave you bored.

The ending is quite a surprise. The Lion is certainly not the character I expected him to be and the revelation of his plans in the Horus Heresy are surprising to say the least. We know he won’t succeed but that he’d even seek to try what he plans is so interesting its enough to make you want him to succeed.

For a good story with some surprising revelations and setting up some future short stories, or perhaps a novel, I give The Lion a score of 7.3/10. This is a good story that any Dark Angels fan can enjoy, and hopefully we’ll see a certain “character” again in the future.

The Serpent Beneath by Rob Sanders

When it comes to secrets and infiltration the Alpha Legion are the most skilled of all the Space Marines, but when Primarch Omegon reveals that one of their own installations has a leak a single squad of Alpha Legionaires must achieve what sounds impossible. They must infiltrate their own Legion. But with this mission comes a horrific fact, to do so they must kill their own brothers, many innocent in order to eradicate one single traitor. Can Sigma Squad pull off an impossible mission? If they wish to preserve their Legion’s hidden agenda they must, but if they fail they will the allow the secrets of the Alpha Legion to reach the Emperor and his forces.

The story of The Serpent Beneath is very nicely structured and deeply fascinating. Reading just how the Alpha Legion operate from their own POV and seeing just how deep their manipulation runs is everything that Legion should have been. This is a very well constructed story that utilizes the uniqueness of the Alpha Legion to craft a story that only they could tell. The revelations in this story are very surprising, casting the Alpha Legion’s future in shadow. I enjoyed the story of TSB so much that it makes me hope that Rob Sanders will write the next Alpha Legion novel in the Horus Heresy.

The unquestioning loyalty...

The characters of the novella are an interesting bunch. Omegon is one of the key characters and the novella shows more about the lesser known of the Twin Primarchs, we learn more about how he operates and the lengths that he will go to for a mission. Squad Sigma are the second of the key characters, led by Sergeant Setebos the marines of Sigma are noted for being cold even by Alpha Legion standards and reveal a bit about how teh Alpha Legion really work. The other character that I enjoyed was the, likely Alpha-plus, psyker Xalmagundi who aids the Alpha Legion in their mission and shows what some psykers think about their lives and what their futures could hold.

The action of the novel is perfectly appropriate for the Alpha Legion. Marines slitting throats, snapping necks and making quick kills from the shadows dominate the novella, so much so that the actual blazing combat only enters near the very end. But the scenes when the Alpha Legion does what they do better than any other force in the galaxy are the real highlights of the novel, after reading this i’m convinced that the other Legions were all idiots to call Alpharius and Omegon’s methods of war pointless, Guilliman especially. Even Torias Telion couldn’t pull off what the Hydra does here.

The pacing of the novella is set nicely. Six chapters, which are very appropriately named, comprise The Serpent Beneath. The novella splits its story between the actual mission, and whenever something important in the mission is about to take place or an explanation is needed the narrative switches to the mission planning, and we see how the mission plan was put together and how Alpha Legion briefings work.

The ending is very interesting. I don’t know why Omegon did what he did, but the ramifications of it and the reasons behind it are definitely something that must be explored in the future. More of the Alpha Legion is needed before we can ever really understand the XXth Legion or the Twin Primarchs, but I reiterate that hopefully Rob Sanders will be writing the next Alpha Legion novel.

For its intricate story, fascinating characters and an in-depth look at the Alpha Legion methods of war and culture I give The Serpent Beneath a score of 8.7/10. In my opinion this is the best novella of the entire novel and is definitely worth reading even if you aren’t a fan of the XXth legion. The Serpent Beneath might just change your mind.

Now for my final score. The Primarchs is a great colletion of novellas combining into one great novel. Perhaps one day they’ll release an omnibus sized anthology and we can get a story about every Primarch but until then The Primarchs is one of the best sources on the Primarchs Ferrus Manus, Fulgrim, Alpharius Omegon and Lion El’Jonson. I give The Primarchs an overall score of 8.2/10, a very good score that this collection has earned. Rob Sanders, Gav Thorpe, Nick Kyme and Graham McNeill all share that score as each novella is crucial towards it. Even one less would have dipped the score considerably and thus they all deserve to share in the recognition for The Primarchs.

My favourite quote of the novella has to be…

“And let me be the serpent beneath. Hidden and waiting to strike.”

Should you buy this novel? If you are a Horus Heresy fan then obviously my answer is yes. If you want to know more about the Primarchs featured in the novel then definitely yes, each novella gives an in-depth look at these Primarchs and reveals a lot more about their characters. The Primarchs is definitely a novel that I would recommend to any fan of the Horus Heresy or who just wants to know a bit more about some characters that haven’t gotten a lot of face-time.

That’s it for this review, its been very fun writing yet another two-parter. Next will be Bloodsworn by Nathan Long, so 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.