Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeill – Dual Advance Review [Lord of the Night and Bane of Kings]
Lord of the Night and Bane of Kings review the supremely enjoyable and depraved Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeill, in it’s Collectors Hardback format.
“McNeill outdoes himself with a grand tale of a depraved madman, an unappreciated hero and lost cities and ancient demons. A must-read for any Heresy fan!” – Lord of the Night, The Founding Fields
“A great entry to the Horus Heresy, masterfully written by one of Black Library’s Top Authors.” ~Bane of Kings, the Founding Fields
Lord of the Night’s Thoughts
After getting past the shock of having received the Collectors Hardback of Angel Exterminatus along with my new batch of ARCs I immediately sat down to read it. It has been a little while since I last read McNeill, but this book reminded me of why he is awesome and at the same time reminded me, intentionally, of all his other works and why I love them. Fans of McNeill will love Angel Exterminatus, and it might just convert a few of those who don’t onto this winning team.
As Horus’s rebellion grinds on the Iron Warriors take the time to humble their great enemies, the Sons of Dorn. But when Fulgrim and his Emperor’s Children, now completely unrecognizable from the honourable warriors that once formed the III Legion, arrive with an enticing offer that Perturabo cannot refuse, both Legions set off for a region of space that is said to hold a cache of ancient xenos weaponry, they find themselves pulled into a game of treachery and mistrust as they enter a city of the dead, pursued by a ragtag group of survivors from Istvaan V that are determined to stop them at all costs. But can anything stand up to the power of the Angel Exterminatus?
The story that Angel Exterminatus tells is what Dan Abnett promised us some time ago, the stories that we didn’t know we wanted. Well this definitely falls into that category, from start to finish the book explores the past that we have wanted to see, events that we knew were coming still surprise us and brand new twists and turns keep us on the edge of our seats as a brand new story set in the Horus Heresy earns a place alongside such landmarks as Signus and Calth. What made me love the book was the fact that McNeill managed to work in both past and present so well, and tell three separate stories in one book and have them mesh together so well and have none of them become superfluous or dull at any point. And of course something that is well known in the Heresy occurs, completely unexpectedly and in a way that nobody saw coming, and I salute McNeill for that impressive feat of managing to show people that just because you know how the Heresy goes, doesn’t mean you know exactly how it goes.
I would be remiss if of course I did not congratulate Graham McNeill for what is surely the most amazing feat of this novel, the characters. If you’ve read a McNeill Heresy book or a 40k book, you will recognize some characters here. Warsmiths Forrix and Kroeger from Storm of Iron return alongside Berossus and Toramino; and favourites of Fulgrim arrive in the form of Marius Vairosean, Julius Kaerosoron and what EC novel would be complete without that smug bastard Lucius or that creepy mad scientist Fabius, who gets some incredibly cool and horrific scenes. But all of them gain new depth as we see Forrix before he became jaded, Kroeger before he became a frothing manaic, and we see just how depraved Marius and Julius and all the others have become since Fulgrim. Fulgrim is of course delightfully decadent and insane, but Perturabo is the shining star of the novel in this reviewer’s opinion as the Lord of Iron is explored for the first time and we see not only what makes him tick, but why this honourable warrior joined with Horus Lupercal despite not being called for or lured by Chaos. And the crew of the Sisypheum, though new additions, are already working to become as popular as the rest with Sabik Wayland and Nykoni Sharrowkyn at the front of their story.
The action scenes are, as expected, wonderful. McNeill proved he can write siege warfare with the best of them in Storm of Iron and Angel Exterminatus only solidifies that proof. The Iron Warriors are put on display not only as characters but in battle, with vicious sieges and highlights on the logistic side, what supplies a siege and how is the minutiae of such immense undertakings handled, and the knock-down fights that occur when the walls are breached and the blood starts flowing. The Emperor’s Children do not disappoint either as the Kakaphoni take to the field or Fulgrim and Lucius show the rest of the galaxy just what swordsmanship really is, and the rest of them bring new levels of excess to the battlefield. But the final battle deserves special mention for being artistically stupendous, a greatly coreographed battle against some very well chosen and imagined enemies, though I was surprised Fulgrim did not recognize them as he really should have.
The pacing is nicely done, at 444 pages long in hardback which is surely over 500 in a paperback Angel Exterminatus is a good read that you can sit down and really get into. I myself finished it in around 8-12 hours of reading spread across two days. With 27 numbered chapters in three sections, the novel will have you hooked from the start and at no point does the action, surprises or deeply enjoyable character interaction slow down or stop. Also I would once again say that if you’ve ever read a Graham McNeill book before, you’ll find a reference to it here. I think only Priests of Mars was not referenced, though I could be wrong. But Storm of Iron, the Ultramarines series, A Thousand Sons, The Outcast Dead and Fulgrim are all referenced to here, some of them you’ll recognize quite obviously as you are meant to, and some are subtle and you could miss. But there are one or two that your meant to see right away, and they made me chuckle as I connected the dots in my head.
Now for my favourite quote, there are quite a few but none made me smile as much as this one did,
“What? I didn’t catch that.”
The ending was quite good, though somewhat of a cliffhangar in my opinion. But it’s heartening to see Perturabo in his element and espousing the creed that led him from a cliffside on Olympia to standing on a bridge before something that every 40k fan will recognize instantly, and the set up for what will come later is just brilliant. I can’t wait to see what Horus and the others think of what has happened here, which is what MUST happen in on of the Heresy books in the near future. The epilogue also provided a very fascinating event, and a reference that is just too good and too funny not to laugh at.
For a great story that we never knew we wanted, the first real look into the Iron Warriors and their Primarch, and for taking something that we knew was coming and still shocking us with it, I give Angel Exterminatus a grand score of 9.5/10. A few things that confuse me somewhat, and one thing that could have used an explanation keep the book from a 10/10 score, but those are minor quibbles when compared to the rest of the book that brings old and new characters to the front and gives them depth, and for all the things i’ve already mentioned.
That’s it for this review. I’ll hand things off to Bane of Kings now, who’ll be giving you his own opinion of the novel. My next review will be Ravenwing by Gav Thorpe, so until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!
Bane of Kings’ Thoughts
Angel Exterminatus had to be a good novel, partly due to the fact that it is the first new release of a hardback Horus Heresy novel. For those Black Library fans that still aren’t clear on how the new format will work, three months before the release of the paperback format, you will be getting Angel Exterminatus in Collector’s Edition. When Angel Exterminatus hits the shelves, it will hit them in a trade paperback format currently seen in the Space Marine Battles series. And then, six months after the trade paperback’s release, we will get the standard, mass market release format. With that in mind, I’m using the hardback, Collector’s Edition which I’m using as a basis for my review will be published three months before the paperback release. It will contain an author afterward (which obviously you don’t want to read until you’ve read the book), and four specially commissioned black and white illustrations by Karl Richardson. Now that I’ve got that cleared out of the way though, we can move on. Because Angel Exterminatus is one hell of a novel, that despite a couple of minor flaws, I believe will satisfy those that have brought the CE, as well as fans of not only the Iron Warriors, but also the Emperor’s Children, the Iron Hands and the Raven Guard.
Perturabo – master of siegecraft, and the executioner of Olympia. Long has he lived in the shadow of his more favoured primarch brothers, frustrated by the mundane and ignominious duties which regularly fall to his Legion. When Fulgrim offers him the chance to lead an expedition in search of ancient and destructive xenos weaponry, the Iron Warriors and the Emperor’s Children unite and venture deep into the heart of the great star maelstrom that haunts Perturabo’s dreams. Pursued by vengeful survivors from Isstvan V and the revenants of a dead eldar world, they must work quickly if they are to unleash the devastating power of the Angel Exterminatus!
So let’s start off with Angel Exterminatus’ strengths. It’s a great book, containing several action-packed moments in space and on dry land right the way through. You really get the feel, mainly due to the Primarch action, that this is certainly a Horus Heresy novel, and readers wouldn’t have it any other way. Perturabo and Fulgrim both have key roles in Angel Exterminatus, and this is the first real time that we get an inside look into Perturabo in this long-running series, and I’m sure it will delight fans who have been wanting a long-overdue origin story of the Primarch of the Iron Warriors Legion.
This is, despite elements of the Emperor’s Children and loyalists getting POVs to themselves, firmly an Iron Warriors novel. As McNeill has written about them before in the 40k Universe in his Ultramarines series (and the Iron Warriors Omnibus), he knows what he’s doing. We even get to see some characters that he’s written in the 40k Universe be explored in more detail in this novel. You don’t have to have read his 40k works to understand Angel Exterminatus, but the fan who has read both will get the most from this novel. The last page in particular is a welcoming treat for any Iron Warriors readers, but I won’t spoil it for you here, you’ll have to read it yourself.
What helps make Angel Exterminatus even more enjoyable is that it explores on the concept of rivalries between the traitor legions, and the breaking of trust. There was a reason why in the lore, Horus had to make a quick and decisive strike on Terra – for if he’d have carried out the Age of Darkness any further, then the legions under his command would have surely turned to petty infighting. This is great at showing at this point in the Horus Heresy Universe that whilst not all Renegade Marines are all Chaos Space Marines, all Chaos Space Marines are Renegade Marines. To typify my point, is the following quote below:
“Something vile has taken root within the Emperor’s Children…”
~Forrix, Iron Warriors First Captain, Page 219, Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeill
By this point in the book, Iron Warriors and the Emperor’s Children are not getting on well, and that’s an understatement. For those expecting Horus’s forces to all fall under one banner in this novel and not backstab anybody, then you clearly will be in for a shock. I won’t go into anymore details, but McNeill does a great job at getting the interactions between the Iron Warriors and the Emperor’s Children right, and showing their hostility.
I found the pace to be superb. Whilst Angel Exterminatus may be action packed all the way through, it’s far from your average bolter porn novel. Look at for example, Rynn’s World by Steve Parker. Courage and Honour by Graham McNeill. They were bolter porn novels. Angel Exterminatus on the other hand, was not. It develops characters that we previously saw in The Iron Warriors Omnibus and even in earlier Horus Heresy stories, (Emperor’s Children), from an author who has written both legions before.
If there’s one problem that I have with Angel Exterminatus, it’s that the Emperor’s Children, is that whilst I thought that they were portrayed well, it’s that they’re little more than a plot device. It turns out that I’m not the only one who’s had these thoughts as well, for Bellarius, fellow TFF reviewer, states that “the legion reached the end of its story with Fulgrim and there is little else to say about them.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement. Whilst Emperor’s Children fans may be satisfied with how they’re portrayed, they won’t be satisfied with their role in the novel.
The loyalist factions in Angel Exterminatus are portrayed strongly as well, and we get a nice look into how the Iron Hands, Salamanders and Raven Guard operate following the betrayal on Isstvan III. Whilst we had a whole novel devoted to the subject matter with Gav Thorpe’s Deliverance Lost, It’s always good to see McNeill write Raven Guard and I hope that he one day writes a full blown novel about them. His Raven Guard character was easily my favourite out of the whole novel, and they were one of the few things that kept me reading in The Chapter’s Due.
In conclusion, whilst Angel Exterminatus may not be the best Horus Heresy novel of 2012, with Know No Fear holding that honour, Angel Exterminatus is sure as hell a strong entry to the series and whilst I think the hardback upgrade should have started with Know No Fear, it’s worth buying early and in collectors format if you can get the money for it.
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 Mitchell Scanlon, Legion by Dan Abnett, Battle for the Abyss by Ben Counter, Mechanium by Graham McNeill, Tales of Heresy edited by Lindsey Priestley and Nick Kyme, Fallen Angels by Mike Lee, A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill, Nemesis by James Swallow, The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett, Age of Darkness edited by Christian Dunn, The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill, Deliverance Lost by Gav Thorpe, Know No Fear by Dan Abnett, The Primarchs edited by Christian Dunn, Fear to Tread by James Swallow, Shadows of Treachery edited by Christian Dunn and Nick Kyme, Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeill, Betrayer by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (2013), The Mark of Calth (TBA)*
Novellas and Short Stories: Promethean Sun by Nick Kyme, Aurelian by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Army of One by Rob Sanders, Kryptos by Graham McNeill, Distant Echoes of Old Night by Rob Sanders, Brotherhood of the Storm by Chris Wraight
Audio Books: Horus Rising by Dan Abnett, False Gods by Graham McNeill, Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter, A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill, Prospero Burns by Dan Abnett, Age of Darkness edited by Christian Dunn, The Outcast Dead by Graham McNeill, Know No Fear by Dan Abnett, The Primarchs edited by Christian Dunn, Fear to Tread by James Swallow.
All of these Audio Books can be found in print form (see above), and most are available as unabridged and/or abridged titles.
Audio Dramas: The Dark King and The Lightning Tower by Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill *, Raven’s Flight by Gav Thorpe *, Garro: Oath of Moment by James Swallow, Garro: Legion of One by James Swallow, Butchers Nails by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Grey Angel by John French, Garro: Sword of Truth by James Swallow, Burden of Duty by James Swallow
*These Audio Books are available in print form in the Shadows of Treachery Anthology.