The Hunt for Vulkan has to be the most direct and contained book in the series so far. In fact, I was surprised to find that I was already half throThe Hunt for Vulkan has to be the most direct and contained book in the series so far. In fact, I was surprised to find that I was already half through the novel at some point, with not much complicated happening. It is focused on one thing: Finding Vulkan, and it did so well.
The downside to the Primarch focus is, obviously, that we get to see little of Terra or the wider Imperium once the hunt is on. While there are some very cool moments involving Koorland and the High Lords in the first few chapters, parallel to the Fists Exemplar's trip to the red planet, kicked off in the previous installment, the bulk of the story is set on Caldera, where Vulkan is rumored to reside nowadays.
Some people may notice that Caldera isn't new to Black Library fiction. While I haven't seen it brought up on fan forums before, this is the world Vulkan named himself in Nick Kyme's Promethean Sun for the Horus Heresy series. It wasn't an arbitrary choice to place Vulkan there, but one that makes a degree of sense in context of what came before. Though I am a little disappointed that David didn't take the opportunity to indulge in some dino-warfare, only mentioning shortly. Either way, bonus points for linking Vulkan back to the Great Crusade here.
This was Annandale's first Primarch outing. While he has written for the Horus Heresy already, he didn't get to tackle the super-superhumans there. After reading this book, I'm confident that he will do well once he gets the chance to do it again. Vulkan comes across as a force of nature, and in a way it felt like he was actively drawing strength from Caldera itself. We know that Vulkan is, physically, the strongest of the Primarchs, but held back a lot. Here, he is an unleashed Hulk, crushing Orks left and right, including their war machines. It is over the top action that set him clearly apart from any Space Marine, but is not without precedence if we look at the HH. Direct ties to the HH series are kept to a minimum, though, and a lot about Vulkan himself is left open and mysterious. The small tidbits we get are neat, but nothing that will blow your mind with revelations for the Heresy.
The Hunt for Vulkan is the first book in the series that I'd really say the Imperium is striking back against the orks in. For the first time, they are not just reacting to a threat but forcing the orks on the defensive. A lot of that is down to Vulkan's battle prowess, but also to the newfound unity under Koorland's leadership. Unlike before, the everybody for themselves mentality got replaced by everyon for the Imperium. Where before we had some characters and groups act with the Imperium in mind, or even offering sacrifices, they were always somewhat contained to their respective situations. Now they are acting for a greater purpose, and the result is an important victory for the Last Wall and the wider Imperium.
Fans have long criticised that the other, non-Imperial Fists Chapters were missing from the stage. We have been told that various big Chapters were engaged in their own parts of the galaxy, but now we have a call to Terra that promises Blood Angels, Space Wolves, Dark Angels and Ultramarines for future installments. We only get a glimpse of their reactions here, but they are promising and in-character.
Yet still, at the end of the book I was surprised it was already over. It didn't have as much going on for it as previous novels with their various plotlines all over. There were various angles to it, of course, but mostly confined to the action on and around Caldera. The Hunt for Vulkan is the heaviest book on action so far, and rightfully so, but I was still disappointed by the lack of complexity in the wider sense. It could have been more, but then, it didn't need to be. This was Vulkan's show to run, and as such, it succeeded....more
Echoes of the Long War is the sixth novel in the The Beast Arises series. As such, it marks the halfway point of the overall story, and has to liveEchoes of the Long War is the sixth novel in the The Beast Arises series. As such, it marks the halfway point of the overall story, and has to live up to high expectations. For the most part, it succeeded in doing that for me, despite a few shortcomings.
The biggest downside to me was the relative lack of Terra and the politics plotline. Only six out of twenty-three chapters take place on the Throneworld, one of which was shared with the Mars plotline, which other than that had two chapters to itself. What the book offered of these aspects was solid, enjoyable and intriguing. Drakan Vangorich finally set some things in motion, Koorland took decisive action and we even got to see a glimpse of the incoming disaster from Ecclesiarch Mesring. Adding the research on Mars to the mix, we get some pretty cool reveals and events that will impact the series going forward.
The rest of the book is focused on the Fists Exemplar's battles against the ork menace, both in the void as on ground. I'd say that this was much needed, as we haven't really seen much battle with them for the past few books. The Proletarian Crusade didn't focus much on the action, and neither did the semi-purge of the attack moon over Terra. Most action scenes were either lacking the Last Wall Chapters, or had them on their back foot.
This time we get a more proactive look at the Space Marine operations. While Chapter Master Thane leaves the stage for most of the book, his First Captain, Zerberyn, who we've seen in Predator, Prey already, takes the role of protagonist. He is a Fist Exemplar through and through, and his disapproval of the Last Wall protocol is important to his character development. Throughout the story, Zerberyn is forced to move from his rigid stance and take drastic measures to prevent a greater evil. The guy takes a real beating in having his moral stance and views on the split between good and bad questioned at every turn. It was a satisfying arc for the character, and I can't wait to see how it will develop from here on.
The same storyline also features the Iron Warriors' Warsmith Kalkator from the previous installments. He provides a counterpoint to Zerberyn and the Exemplars, but once more, I didn't find him to be a real evildoer. He represents many of the virtues of the sons of Perturabo, while sharing few of the post-Heresy downsides of his brethren. He plays a vital role in the overall plot, and leads the Exemplars to Prax, an Iron Warriors world that, in the meantime, has been infested by orks who conduct very, very terrible things there. I won't spoil what they do, but by the Emperor, these revelations left a big impact and turned the grimdark scale of the series a few points past 11.
In general, the orks were more brutal but also sophisticated in Echoes. Their armoury got some big unexpected additions with far-reaching effects, and even their hierarchy got a good amount of pagetime. We get to see the clan origins, for example, which was cool.
What bothered me a bit were the aforementioned lack of Terra chapters compared to the action parts, and some of the Exemplar chapters dragged a little. Though to be fair, the politics were of a high quality (and featured some new players) and the action ramped up significantly towards the end - which was explosive on multiple levels.
As a series midpoint, Echoes of the Long War managed to increase the threat level of the orks while furthering internal schisms but also offer some solutions here and there, and shock the reader with some gruesome ideas. A bunch of characters are left on very shaky ground, and the aftereffects of their actions will ripple through the coming novels.
David Guymer has managed to live up to the series' high standards, addressing previous plot points while introducing new ones and shifting the course of the series into a position where the Imperium might be able to strike back at the green menace. The tables are turning, and Guymer presented that very well....more
The Path of Heaven is a monumental entry in the Horus Heresy series. It achieves much, reveals details about the nature of the war and the Emperor'sThe Path of Heaven is a monumental entry in the Horus Heresy series. It achieves much, reveals details about the nature of the war and the Emperor's secrets, but also develops not just one but three Legions and as many Primarchs beyond what we have seen so far. While some sections might drag on a little too much in the early chapters, things pick up speed later on, and end with some very powerful scenes. As a whole, I loved this novel.
Chris Wraight has set the foundation for the White Scars Legion in Scars, a couple of years back. He builds on his successes in this installment, set over four years after the conclusion of Scars. It shows a very different picture from the laughing speed-riders of the Ordu of Jaghatai, however. They are at breaking point; weary, their moods far removed from joy. The war of attrition they have been waging to delay the Warmaster's forces has taken its toll on them, and they are on the verge of losing their soul as a Legion.
The difference between the two books' renditions of the White Scars may be jarring to readers. Some characters, like Shiban Khan of the Brotherhood of the Storm, signify the strongest discrepancies - visibly scarred from the climax of Scars, he is bitter, quick to hold grudges, out for revenge and willing to throw everything away to get it. His position within the Legion has changed, too.
Even Jaghatai, Primarch of the White Scars, is feeling time running out. He is desperate to bring his Legion back to Terra to defend the Throneworld, trying to fulfill his oaths. With the Warp being unstable and the traitors at his heels, the way is closed to him, and he has to gamble with the lives of his sons. He is also very reflective this time around, musing on the Emperor and his reasons for leaving the Great Crusade. One of those scenes brings one of the most evocative, tragic yet powerful quotes the series has seen to date to the table:
So I fight for a Father who I never loved, against a brother that I did. I defend an empire that never wanted me against an army that would have taken me in a heartbeat.
It does a wonderful job illustrating Jaghatai's position in the Imperium, yet also shows an incredible strength of character that catapulted the Khagan to my top favorite Primarchs. He is set apart from his brothers in so many ways, not least of all his will to be true to himself and do what he sees as right, even as he sees his Legion falling apart.
This puts him into contrast with Mortarion, the other Primarch in a main role here. The two have unfinished business, of course. Mortarion, though, abandoned the Imperium in an attempt to get rid of warpcraft and psykers. Ironically, he gave it all another, stronger foothold in doing so, and now he struggles with his new position. While at the same time he wishes to stand beside Horus at Terra and be in the Warmaster's favor, he is trying to understand the warp and sorcery while keeping it firmly leashed and outlawed within the region.
Wraight really dialed Mortarion's corruption-meter back from McNeill's version in Vengeful Spirit, where he unleashed a personified life-eater virus. While this could be interpreted as inconsistencies between authors' visions of a character, I think Chris sold it well enough to not feel that way to me. If anything, I enjoy how Mortarion is being shown as balancing on the knife's edge. He will fall, of course, and cut himself. We know the destination, as with many things Heresy, but The Path of Heaven gave us another satisfying bit of the journey.
The third Legion in play (beyond the sorta-cameos of two more) are the Emperor's Children, who have a bigger role overall than the Death Guard. Mortarion is shown more often interacting with Lord Commander Eidolon, now called the Soul-Severed, than his own Legion. Eidolon is now in command of about a third of Fulgrim's Legion, and it all gave off vibes of early Chaos warbands, especially due to the introduction of Ravasch Cario, Prefector of the Palatine Blades. His encounter with Eidolon was both entertaining and exciting, and his role over the course of the story was cool to follow. His position within the Emperor's Children is a tenuous one indeed.
What I did not enjoy as much about the novel were early action scenes, which fulfilled their purpose of showing the complex maneuvering of the Khagan, but also felt a little disjointed and dragged on for almost a quarter of the book. I wish the author had instead focused a little more on a couple of (in my opinion) underused characters and developed the relationship between Shiban and Torghun Khan more. The resolution to their plotline felt lukewarm to me, especially considering what they've been through since Brotherhood of the Storm, and how they were always set up as contrasting characters. They have made somewhat of a role reversal in this book, which I liked a lot, but I think that Wraight could have taken it a little farther still.
At the end of it, though, this book was full of memorable moments. Gutwrenching ones, too. There were many deaths I wouldn't have expected going in, and most of them left some sort of impact on me. Experiencing the Khagan's pained reactions to it all left a scar, too. The Path of Heaven did a fantastic job showing us the weariness of the Legions, and how the Heresy is taking its toll on everyone. I felt that this installment did a better job at that than any other book so far.
But the end is coming at long last. This one definitely opens up the next phase of the Heresy War in a bombastic way (quite literally, all things considered), and progresses the plot on many points. To me, it felt revitalizing for the series as a whole, after many excursions to the Eastern Fringes or the bunch of anthologies following the draught of new releases in 2015 year. The series needed a book as strong as The Path of Heaven, and while it isn't without flaws and some missed potential, it is a very strong entry.
‘Do not grieve. I saw him before we were pulled out. He was already laughing.’
I could ramble on about many details and characters about the book that I enjoyed, but really, I am just going to recommend reading it yourselves. If you have kept up with the series this far, you owe it to yourselves to dig into The Path of Heaven. And if you have been frustrated by the lack of progress on the main plot points, or the Imperium Secundus arc, then this should still be something to look into.
The Path of Heaven takes the Scars through hell, and I was glad to be along for the journey....more