Horus Heresy: Scars (Episode XII) by Chris Wraight – Ebook Review [Bellarius]
Getting around to Episode XII, Bellarius sees how the finale to Chris Wraight’s Scars resolves its events.
“Lots, of action, pacing and ideas, but very little closure.” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields
So here we are, after twelve weeks of serialised chapters being handed out piece by piece Scars concludes with plenty of explosions. Fighting his now realised foe on a world burned in one of the opening acts of the Heresy, Jaghatai Khan’s legion burns around him in the fires of civil war. Cut off with only a handful of his troops as Yesugei still nowhere to be seen , the fate of a legion hangs in the balance…
Having finished Scars now it’s fairly clear what the book’s problems and strengths are. It has a lot of inventive concepts, a good direction upon how to explore them, and ways which to flesh out groups both previously seen and ignored in this series. The main issue is that it ultimately came at the cost of cohesion and a strong overall narrative. It’s a novel where it’s visibly overstuffed by ideas and unable to fully realise them all while at the same time maintaining a good structure and strong storytelling.
The addition of the Space Wolves made things overcomplicated and unfocused in the beginning, and the finale fails to really bring closure to the tale. Instead of actually ending, the story just stops with very little actually resolved beyond one or potentially two characters. Everything from the Space Wolves inclusion to Yesugei’s tale, which while being interesting ultimately added nothing to the core narrative, were both events which were worth exploring but not here. Every tale involved would have only been stronger had they been separated out into short stories or novellas (widely available ones not limited edition novellas if you’re reading, Black Library!), and it would have allowed for better focus. To actually concentrate upon the lead characters introduced, the events on-board the main fleet, even the main plotline of the novel to actually give it a proper conclusion. As a result of these issues, Scars ultimately becomes a story with fantastic individual events rather than a fantastic novel overall.
Episode XII’s best moments ultimately surround Jaghatai himself, both in confronting the major foes within his legion and those in front of him. Far less of an enigma than before, he has been gradually fleshed out through the episodes until he has become a far more understandable character. The unfortunate problem is that these are just that: Moments. They are very isolated in how they appear and not integrated into the narrative anywhere near as well as they should have been.
Khan’s speech following the effective end to the civil war is a great moment, giving insight onto how he treated his legion and giving some ideas as to why the animosity and individuality of the likes of Torghun might remain. Unfortunately this is backed by very little, with few if any displays in the book actually giving his statements real meaning. The fact the civil war itself starts and ends insanely quickly hardly helps matters. While avoiding the obvious problem everyone had with so many White Scars supposedly proceeding to turn traitor, it resolves few to none of the actual problems behind their reasons for turning traitor in the first place. Potential corruption, Chaos influence, schisms due to differences in origin, none are actually looked into or addressed leaving them hanging.
Many characters also fail to really connect with one another. While some of the more human characters finally become directly involved, many others are not. What happens to Yesugei’s crew is never addressed, with many characters not being seen following their final jump through the Warp, and the actual climatic battle is pitifully brief and underwhelming.
As with all episodes these need to be judged individually, but Episode XII needs to be accounted for on how well it ties up events. On both accounts it fails miserably, with Wraight’s flaws of non-descriptive environment and inability to utilise proper closing segments causing all the more problems. There are good bits to the story, but they are unfortunately too few to save this tale.
Up until now each of these reviews has carried the same message: Wait until Scars is released in full, do not buy this individually. Well, definitely don’t buy XII on its own, but given how much of the ending makes Scars feel like a side-story I’m honestly not sure if it will be worth it now.