Saturday, 13 June 2015

Horus Heresy Book Review: Blades of the Traitor

Another review another Anthology, the novels are coming but boy are they taking their time. Hopefully we'll be reading Crimson King, Angels of Caliban and Deathfire soon but for now these snippets are what we are receiving, so they will have to suffice.

And on the whole i'm OK with that, although once again all of this has been released before I long ago gave up trying to keep up with the myriad of e-books and Audio stories and shorts that are being doled out, ill quite happily wait for them to be released in compendiums like this one. But, i'm still jonesing for a REAL Horusey fix...

Still, Blades of the Traitor is not half bad, five stories of indeterminate length loosely themed around a moment in time of the Heresy. We seem to be in no rush to get to Terra (and presumably the end of the series) and have settled into a holding pattern to flesh out the different legions and catch up on the repercussions of the events that have occurred. Both the aftermath of Istvaan and events in Ultramar have taken centre stage of late and i don't see this changing any time soon.

Still, on with the review! The first story is Daemonology: by Chris Wraight. I REALLY enjoyed this story though its true identity took a while to establish itself. It focuses mainly around the Death Guard Primarch Mortarion who, steadfast in his refusal to adopt the warp and psychics is rampaging across a system destroying worlds in his wake. Hurting from his defeat at the hands of Jagahati Kahn he is out for blood, and he finds it after a fashion as he captures a daemonhost in order to learn its secrets. Abhoring Psychic powers will the Daemon's revelations push him over the edge? This story really marks the tipping point of the Death Guards final fall to Nurgle and was a fantastic read. Mortarion is well portrayed and with pre-heresy flashbacks providing a glimpse to the being he was before he turned and he is very identifiable as we learn of his insecurities and frustrations. It's a great insight into Mortarion's psyche and rounds the Primarch out, giving depth to a figure that has rarely been featured. On top of that it is very well written as usual and overall a joy to read.  I'd quite welcome a full Death Guard book from Mr Wraight.

Next up is the extremely short but still very good Black Ocuulus by John French. Its one of those odd stories that isn't really about much, it's more of a theme piece, this time focusing on warp travel from the viewpoint of a corrupted navigator at the point the command to enter the Warp (presumably after the events of Angel Exterminatus) by Perturabo and the nature of what he can now see. other than that there is really not a great deal to say about it! it is very well written and the best short of its type i have read outside of perhaps 'The Warmaster' Very good very much enjoyed

The third story is Twisted by Guy Haley, i've not read a great deal by this author but thoroughly enjoyed this story about Horus Lupercal's equerry the crippled and 'twisted' Maloghurst. Functioning more or less in Horus' place in matters of State. Petitioned and barracked by the non Astartes and derided and scorned by his fellows his is an odd role. His injuries meaning he can never again lead forces in battle and consigning him to this bureaucratic role for which he will never earn his peers respect. There is a great deal to this story and many facets within but it is not hard to read at any point. I enjoyed this story for a number of reasons and felt it was well written.

For one thing it is very good to see Horus in his own Heresy again, though it is a supporting role at best. Secondly it is gratifying to get a feel for how the Vengeful spirit and those within are changing slowly corrupted and becoming as 'twisted' as the Equerry himself. The Davinites are heavily featured and without spoiling too much they are integral to a Daemonic plot to take over the Vengeful Spirit and put Horus on a leash. Its a great read and Maloghurst becomes an instant favourite. Plots and mystery abound and its a great read. At this point i was really enjoying Blades of the Traitor.

Next up was Chirurgeon by Nick Kyme. I've found Kyme a bit hit and miss in the Horusey, whilst i have enjoyed his shorts and novellas i struggled quite a bit with Vulkan Lives due to its clunky structure and flawless title character, thankfully this is a lot less unwieldy than that novel. Following on more or less immediately from 'Imperfect' from the previous novella of anthologies, rather than Fulgrim we get the perspective of Fabius as he heads back to his laboratory to continue his research . In fact this is easily one the most in depth analyses of the Emperors Children Apothecary we have seen yet. As well as present day the story liberally uses flashbacks and we find out that even back in the early days after the founding that Fulgrim's legion were beset by Geneseed degradation and blight. We find out about Fabius' attempts to curtail the spread of this throughout his legion and the lengths to which he has to go to to prevent its destruction.

Its a pretty good read from Nick and well written, the focus is kept solely in one place and as Fabius carries out a dissection on one fallen comrade in a hope of finding a cure for the new afflictions wracking the Emperors Children he idly reminiscences over the past. There is little to no action within, only lots of plot and character development and a rather nice little reveal at the end. Best viewed as an accompaniment to 'Imperfect' Chirurgeon
is good if not excellent, lessened only by the excellence of what has come before.

Which brings us to the last installment, Wolf Mother by Graham McNeil. this is set more or less as a direct sequel to Vengeful spirit and i would say more than ANY other anthology thus far you really should have read the other books in the series before you read what is within Blades of the Traitor. Wolf Mother revolves  around Alivia the perpetual character from Vengeful Spirit and seemingly brings her arc to a close. Joining forces with Severian from the Knights Errant Alivia seeks to rescue her adopted children from Cultists on board the Molechs Enlightenment. Much of the book is told from the perspective of the children. Leading to some whimsical if slightly overreaching exposition revolving around the seemingly ubiquitous book of childrens stories from OUR time that Vivyen seems to cling to like a comfort blanket.

Still there is some good stuff later on as the action picks up. We find out exactly what the cultists have intended for the children and there is some wonderfully descriptive writing from Graham that puts you right in the children's places as their fate unfolds. There is also a fantastic passage featuring Severian which i wont spoil here but involves the very specific use of an Astartes implant. Its not perfect, i found some of the writing a bit clumsy which is very unusual for Mr McNeil but i like a lot of what he has done here and although you must have read Vengeful Spirit to really understand what is going on it is worth your time. Indeed, i feel that conversely this actually enhances that book and i shall have to go back to read it again. It feels like something that should have been in there but was perhaps removed to make room for the Knight house story arc. (something that chafed at me somewhat as you can see in my review here)

So overall Blades of the Traitor is a rather satisfying slice of Horusey action, filling in yet more gaps in the rich tapestry of the Horus Heresy.  I would remark that more than any other book so far this one relies on you having read linked novels and shorts and whether you have done so will directly affect your enjoyment of the stories within. That said i am hankering for another real slice of heresy action sooner rather than later. In the meantime this works as a stopgap nicely.


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