This is the first collection of novellas in the Horus Heresy series and its a bit of a mixed bag. The Primarchs featured are Fulgrim, Lion El'Jonson, Ferrus Manus, and the twins Alpharius and Omegon (not Kurze as Amazon seems to have suggested). Two of the stories are great, two are pretty forgettable.
The Reflection Crack'd, by Graham McNeill, is pretty awesome. People say Fulgrim was a pretty explicit and graphic tale - well, it gets even worse in this story. Essentially members of the Emperoro's Children suspect all is not as it seems with their 'Primarch' and decide to investigate. And the Emperoro's Children don't just want to talk t their leader. A great story which poses and answers questions that are quite important to the larger Heresy series.
Then you get two frankly weaker tales about the Ferrus and the Lion. Feat of Iron reminded me a lot of the last chapters of The Inquisition Wares, by Ian Watson. A promising start with what should be interesting characters turns into a lot of people walking through a desert, waiting for something to happen. Yes, there are a few fights, but the bare bones of it - that Ferrus had some warning of his impending doom - could have been handled in a short story.
The Lion is similarly overwritten. Somewhere in the the galaxy there is a secret planet with a secret project. Two Legions are fighting over it and The Lion steps in. Maybe that secret will have further bearing on the Heresy, maybe not. But again, there's not a lot revealed about the Lion or his Legion to make me feel this is essential reading for anyone but the most devoted fans of the First.
It does get interesting again with The Serpent Beneath though. The Alpha Legion live up to their reputation as the ultimate infiltrators and backstabbers as Alpharius leads a hand-picked squad to infiltrate and sabotage a top secret project being run by - the Alpha Legion! Many twists and turns, action and intrigue, all the best ingredients in a great story about the tricksiest Legion in the galaxy.
On balance then, this is a pretty good selection of tales. If you're a fan of the Legions within you will probably enjoy them nonetheless. If you're just reading it as part of the series though, don't expect to get as much from each novella.
It is sometimes amusing to see how two reviewers can feel more or less the same about a book, although disagreeing on its contents. This book includes four novellas on four different primarchs. some are great. Others, less so. To a large extent, whether you find them "good" or "bad" is up to personal preferences.
First of all, all of the novellas are "fillers" build around Isstvan V to some extent, although only one of them - the one abiout Ferrus Manus - deals with events before this massacre. This is, for me also, one of the weakest, despite being still interesting because you learn about the Iron Hands Legion (or, at least I learned a few things about them). This is largely because you expect something to happen but it doesn't, apart from a couple of unconclusive fights, so you may end up by being somewhat disappointed (at least I was). You also don't learn much more about Ferrus Manus himself than what you can find in other books of the HH series: he tends to be arrogant and somewhat rash, to put it mildly, and, to me, this novella did not really have anything new to add about him.
Contrary to the other reviewer, the novella that I liked the less was the novella on the Emperor's Children and on Fulgrim. I liked the fact that Graham McNeill gives center stage to Lucius and tells us more about him. I found that what happened to Eidolon and the way that the fight between Fulgrim and his daemon is resolved were both rather implausible, although I cannot say much more without spoiling the story for others.
I rather liked the novella on the Lion - a Primarch that has never been among my personal favorites. This is because the author shows how Lion's growing paranoïa clouds his judgement little by little to the effect that, in his view, Roboute is no better than Horus. It also shows Lion's tendency to "me toism" and his ambiguïty. Rather than taking sides in a fight opposing the Empire and the rebels and attacking a splinter group of the Death Guard while supporting a war band of the Iron Hands, he separates them and takes possession of the prize that they both were trying to grab for themselves. In addition, the author quite obviously, but also rather nicely, shows us how Lion's state of mind shifts as a result of the HH, preparing us for the future climax of the return of the Lion to Caliban...
The last novella on the Alpha Legion and Omegon (rather than Alpharius) was also interesting to hte extent that we get a few good glimpses of their infiltration and subversion tactics (for instance against the White Scars or the snatching of a Mechanicum official). However, the main piece of the story - and its end - are less plausible. I am still not convinced that the best way to protect a top secret project suffering from a leak is to infiltrate and attack one's own base. Omegon's ultimate deceptions were also rather far-fetched in my view. Where they really necessary?
So Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus, Lion and Omegon (and Alpharius but to a lesser extent), these are the four primarchs included in this book, which is good, overall. It's a pity, however, that we didn't learn more about the Khan or Sanguinius, for instance, although I understand that, in the latter's case, an HH novel is going to address this issue shortly...
on 30 October 2012
Yes I really mean that! Not only are the stories in this book uninspired, and more significantly in some cases rather boring, but they actually damage the work of other books which have come before - most notably Graham McNeil's 'Fulgrim'.
The character of Fulgrim himself, resplendent in the most pretentiously titled story ever released by Black Library in 'The Reflection Crack'd' is reduced to a cackling, two-dimensional super-villain. Other characters around him are inconsistent compared to their earlier incarnation, and in particular one of the most intriguing 'baddie' characters of McNeil's previous stories is wasted in a throwaway manner that makes me wonder how The Lord of the Rings would have read if Grima Wormtongue had fallen off his horse and died several chapters in.
The action sequences, so often the draw for many readers of the Heresy series, were completely OTT to the point where I thought surely the author must have spent too long watching Final Fantasy cut-scenes; just missing giant luminous 'KAPOOW' and 'WAZAP' cut-out stickers for the reader to attach and therefore complete the transition to a comic book. In all senses, and regarding 'The Reflection Crack'd' in particular, I just can't reconcile the writing in this book with some of the work they have produced previously, especially Graham McNeil who left me so enraptured with 'Mechanicum' and 'A Thousand Sons'. It was almost enough to make me wonder whether someone else had ghost-written the stories under his name.
So, thanks to this collection of B-Sides (which I think is the correct way to think about it), this marks the last time I will pick up a book in the Heresy series without reading a review first. With the exception of 'The Serpent Beneath', a rather fun read despite a quantity of twists that makes Martin Scorses's 'Departed' seem relatively straightforward by comparison, all of the stories in this book are instantly forgettable and add nothing to the Heresy series. Either of the other two Heresy anthologies would make a far better purchase.
on 18 November 2013
Worth reading for any HH fan, the stories are well thought out and offer enough of an incentive to be worth reading (Fulgrim, Lionel Jonson etc) it enhances the respective Primarchs storylines superbly and offers an insight into their mindsets. That being said, its another filler book...
on 18 March 2014
I was looking forward to big things with this collection of novella's featuring Lion El'Jonson, Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus and the Alpha legion twins but not all of the stories had me gripped throughout and I was even slightly disappointed with a couple of them. I'm not sure if part of the reason for this is the great expectation one has when it comes to reading about the magnificence of a Primarch, but then this of course will always be somewhat of an inevitability.
The better of the four tales was The Serpant Beneath featuring the Alpha legion and a typically clandestine approach to a particular problem nestled within their own ranks that required their attention. There was plenty of action and more than enough going on to keep your attention. In fact, if I hadn't had paid enough attention then it could quite possibly have become slightly confusing!
The other three tales certainly had their enjoyable moments but I also found parts of them a bit of a slog. I wanted to hear more about Ferrus Manus and Lion El'Jonson, and although their stories plunged them both into dire danger with plenty of adrenaline fuelled fury, there didn't seem to be that same depth that I found in the other two novellas. The Reflection Crack'd offered a little more but I did find the build up a touch slow considering it is only a novella. The interaction between Fulgrim and his followers was very good though and McNeill painted a very nice back drop of concern that ran through Fulgrim's Captains prompting an excellent finale.
All in all, if you want to read about pure, unadulterated God-like Primarchs, you may be disappointed, however the saving grace of McNeill and Sanders writing should keep you reading until the end.
on 29 July 2012
The Serpent Beneath with its Alpha Legion back story is brilliant, yet takes the mystery and twisted allegiances too far.
The others? Terrible.
Feat Of Iron is so bad I stopped twice, The Reflection Crack'd is ... Dull, reversing the best story point of the Emperors Children (no spoilers, my favourite part anyway). The Lion is so by the numbers you can almost see the... Wait no I've already forgotten.
Anyway, some Horus Heresy is great, it's written almost entirely by Abnett with support from Dembski-Bokwden, some of the rest is passable, some is crap. This is towards the bottom of passable.
Better than Battle For The Abys. But so is a painfully car crash.
Stop milking the series Black Library.
on 28 May 2012
The HH series will soon take longer to finish than the actual Heresy. This is yet another filler pumped out in the series to ensure they get their 3 published cash cows out per year.
There are four stories in this book, all are well written yet none really add much to the heresy.
The problem with this book is three of the stories are a bit of a waste,
Fulgrim is tricked by a Demon, that eventually consumes him and his Legion - yes we know this already - how do we know? Because they have already covered it in a far better story, fair enough it covers it from other points of view but basically it is the same story - we already know how it is going to end
The Alpha Legion - tricky buggers, can't be trusted, always into some long and complex plot aren't they, hmm haven't we already covered this - twice?
The Lion and his Dark Angels - well he is a strange one isn't he, a paranoid loner who is slowly dividing his own sons through his own distrust and jealousy - yeah I could have sworn I read that someplace else already, oh yes that would be in the two full stories and at least one short story in fact, but thanks for labouring the point just in case we haven't quite got it yet.
The fourth story is about the doomed Magnus and his Iron Hands, finally a story about someone else for a change, this story at least adds more to the background of the heresy because it allows another Legion to shine (even if it is only for a short time)
The core of the problem here is that they could have published a 4 story book but taken the chance to bring in some of the other legions that have hardly been mentioned - The Salamanders, The Night Lords, The White Scars, The Iron Warriors, The Blood Angels(though to be fair they are getting a book to themselves later this year)etc, etc. All that is really missing from this collection is a story about Horus in which we find out he may be plotting something quite bad against the Emperor (sorry that may be a spoiler)
In summary a well written book by four writers covering very familiar ground, for both them and us.
on 20 August 2013
I really like the HH, but these short stories are too often sub par. All four stories feel like they exist for the sake of the book (and its price) and not the HH canon. And when you have ~100 pages to fill out, but no real story, those pages will be filled with long needless and tiresome sentences, which at some point tries to describe an interior or state of mind, but mostly ends up being cumbersome.
The battle sequences are keeping this book afloat.
I'm a massive reader of the Warhammer 40K titles so when I had the chance to get to know the originators and Primarchs of the Emperor's Legions I really couldn't wait to get my hands on the book. What unfurls within is a series of four short stories written by some of the top talent at Black Library, Each has their own benefits and strengths and also their weaknesses within the text.
Whilst I did enjoy the tales, I wanted something that separated these venerable warriors from the masses that were to follow in their name, I wanted tales of inspirational history that demonstrated why the Space Marines would each lay down their lives in the battle for the Emperor and of course I wanted something that really grabbed firmly from start to finish without giving you chance to breath.
What I got did do this to a certain degree but in my opinion I feel that the writers had to hold something back purely for the fact that these warriors were the originators, and whilst I felt that they did fulfil their brief I think that for me the fear of filling these boots of the Astates "God" were mighty big to fill.
All in it was a solid read and I did enjoy it despite my niggles. But for me, the best tale was saga of Alpharius and Omegon.
on 4 July 2012
As the headline suggests, this is a perfectly suitable book for getting rid of a few hours at a weekend or train ride but does very little to add to the HH series overall, indeed it is difficult not to feel more than a little repetition with parts of this.
Part of what made the opening 5 books in the HH series so appealing were the frequent appearances of the Primarch characters and their interactions with others giving a good feel for the personalities of these galaxy ruling demi gods, as well as books which in some way gave an idea of the scale of events at this supposed time. Since the start though many books seem to have failed to capture this and feel more like standard 40K books rather than the series of epic scope novels which outline events forging the shape of the galaxy for 10 millennia. This goes some way toward addressing this but ultimately falls short.
Reviewing each individually:
The Reflection Crack'd (Emperors children) - provides a suitable addition to the story arch in Fulgrim and is generally entertaining with a reasonable degree of interaction between the Primarch and Legion. A slightly unexpected turn of events at one point and overall the story flows nicely and gives a nice, but brief, view into a legion fallen to Chaos and losing structure.
Feat of Iron (Iron Hands) - While it is good that one of the legions not yet to receive a full novel has been featured this falls some way short of the mark. Despite featuring a series of skirmishes this seems to move at a slow pace. Ferrus Manus is on his own for large parts of the story and what we get is more a series of thoughts and introspections which add nothing either in the story or the wider HH series, indeed it feels a lot like other "visions" sections in prior HH books without giving away any spoilers for those who haven't yet read them.
The Lion (Dark Angles) - Probably the best constructed story in which the author cleverly shows the impact of the Lion's growing paranoia and uncertainty and provides a good level of character development which you could follow to understand future actions of the Dark Angels and their progenitor in the established HH background. The reappearance of the Death Guard, albeit briefly, also provides a nice distraction.
The Serpent Beneath (Alpha Legion) - Aren't they sneaky, I wonder if there will be many utterly expected unexpected twists in this story? Ok this is actually a reasonable story but does stretch willing disbelief a little far at times. It seems more a commentary on the operations of the legion themselves and the doctrine of total secrecy than an interesting insight into the Primarch(s) involved. Again though it rattles along at a reasonable pace but, as with most of this collection does leave you feeling a little short changed.
So, acceptable then but could have been so much more. 3 stories focus on Legions and Primarchs which have already had at least 1 full novel of their own. This is an annoyance. Personally, for example I would like to at least get an insight into the workings of Angron's ill disciplined berserkers or Perturabo's bitter brotherhood as they slide toward siding with Horus but as mentioned the stories take the easy way out and follow the safer path of dealing with already established legions.
As a standalone book this is worthy buying as overall it isn't bad and at places good, but as part of the HH series I have to mark it down as it does little for the story arch overall.
Ideally books in a series should move the story onward as the original 5 titles managed so well or add more depth and detail to previous tales in an interesting way and despite being in the whole a distracting read this book just doesn't do that.