Friday, 5 April 2013

Horus Heresy Book Review: Fear to Tread By James Swallow

Man, talk about taking your time. Over 20 books into the Horus Heresy series and only now do the Blood Angels deign to make an appearance. The sons of Sanguinius have been conspicuously absent thus far as the Black Library endeavours to encompass the various threads and tangents of the Heresy. One can argue that there has already been copious amounts of filler already but there are 18 different legions to cover and I suppose it should come as no surprise that only now are the Blood Angels covered.

Their portrayal, as so often before, lies with James Swallow author of multiple Blood Angel novels and short stories previously. He has also tackled the Heresy previously with Flight of the Eisenstein, an important installment in the heresy and one which I personally quite enjoyed. It remains however to see how well he will combine the two. Was it worth the wait?

Now let me just get one thing out of the way before I start, it's a personal gripe and should be viewed as such but it drove me absolutely mad. Throughout this book 'Throne' is used as an epithet, this bothered me immensely. At the time this book is set (and some parts are set well before even that) the Emperor had only recently returned to Terra, before that he had been crusading with his sons. Certainly i find it difficult to believe that Throne (which i always took to refer to The Golden Throne anyway) had become a common expression. So I'm sure you'll understand my consternation at this out of place reference. Understandable post Heresy, glaring and awkward otherwise (in my own humble opinion) It's not the only time that Swallow seems to have difficulty with the setting but for me it was the most obvious.

Unfortunately this inconsistency is rife throughout the novel. We also get some more of Amit and an explanation into at least one of the successor chapters of the Blood Angels.

Other than that Swallow does a commendable job of handling the story. The action is vivid and epic without resorting to outright bolter porn although it can certainly get a little silly and his rather bombastic style of description grates at times. The book falls apart a little at the end with some of the dialogue in the last hundred pages or so bordering on laughable.

Speaking of laughable, the villains in this book are ATROCIOUS. Unintentionally comedic, this is a 101 in how NOT to do Chaos. Vapid, two dimensional and cartoonish they are at complete odds with Sanguinius who is reasonably well rounded even if he does suffer from some of the out of sorts dialogue mentioned earlier. Rather better served are the supporting characters with some excellent sub plots one of which deals with the ramifications of the edict of Nikea.

Fear to Tread could have been an excellent book, unfortunately due to some dodgy characters, ludicrous events and a bizarre retcon that already has many up in arms it will only be remembered as average at best. A fair to middling attempt that will sit above the likes of Battle for the Abyss and the much maligned Dark Angels books but never to be regarded as a classic.

A shame, the sons of Sanguinius deserved so much more. Still there is much of the Heresy to come in which the Blood Angels and Sanguinius play a bigger part so who knows what the future will bring?

3 out of 5


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