Betrayer review

Betrayer ‘Blood for the Blood God’ Review

Apologies for the delay since my last blog.  A planned break leading up to Christmas, coinciding with a dose of the plague over Christmas, means that I’ve been away far  longer than I had planned.  I can only assume Papa Nurgle was disappointed that I didn’t put Flight of the Eisenstein into my top 5 novels!  Anyway, I’m back now, and it’s my pleasure to review the latest novel within the Horus Heresy series, Betrayer by Aaron-Dembski-Bowden.

The Shadow Crusade has begun. While the Ultramarines reel from Kor Phaeron’s surprise attack on Calth,
Lorgar and the rest of the Word Bearers strike deep into the realm of Ultramar. Their unlikely allies,
Angron and the World Eaters, continue to ravage each new system they come across – upon the
garrison planet of Armatura, this relentless savagery may finally prove to be their undoing.
Worlds will burn, Legions will clash and a primarch will fall.

The 24th novel in the Horus Heresy series, and the second full Horus Heresy novel by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Betrayer covers the events of the Shadow Crusade, a lightning campaign by the joint forces of the Word Bearers and World Easters Legions against the Ultramarines realm of Ultramar.  Within the heresy timeline, Betrayer follows directly on the events covered in the novel, Know No Fear, and the audio drama, Butcher’s Nails, and also has links to the novels, Battle for the Abyss and The First Heretic, and the novella, Aurelian.

Whilst Betrayer heavily features the Word Bearers and Ultramarines Legions, it is undoubtedly the story of the World Eaters.  Just as some of the best novels within the series to date (think The First Heretic and A Thousand Sons) have taken specific legions and given them background and depth, so too Betrayer expands on the back story of the World Eaters and their Primarch, Angron.  Before Betrayer, it was all too easy to think of the World Eaters as a one dimensional legion, with all the ‘blood for the blood god’ rage and Angron’s bitterness their defining characteristics.  Dembski-Bowden does a superb job of building on these features to add real flavour to the legion.  Most notably, there is exploration of the butcher’s nails (implants that moderate the behaviour of the wearer) and their impact on Angron and the legionaries who are desperate to receive these modifications to feel closer to their Primarch.

Betrayer is packed full of action, probably second only to Know No Fear in terms of how much combat we actually see.  It features two huge battles, firstly over the Ultramarine world of Armatura, and secondly over a planet of deep significance to the World Eaters.  Both battles are combined void warfare between fleets of capital ships, and brutal ground warfare.  We see the contrast between the main protagonists; the berserk, close in brawling of the World Eaters, compared to the more orthodox, classical fighting style of the Ultramarines.  Both battles contain monumental individual clashes, and without giving any spoilers, some of these will certainly go down in Heresy folklore.

There has been some grumbling on various internet forums about the pace of the heresy series, and how the series isn’t progressing towards the climactic Siege of Terra (not a view I share!). For anyone concerned about this, the strategic aspect of the Shadow Crusade is covered from the viewpoint of Lorgar.  We gain an insight into Lorgar’s plans of how he intends to take the Ultramarines out of the balance of power.  Crucially, it appears Lorgar never believed it was possible to utterly destroy the Ultramarines legion, and this retrospectively casts new light onto the previous Word Bearer/Ultramarine conflicts from Know No Fear and Battle for the Abyss.  Betrayer, without doubt, progresses the series timeline, and although there are some insightful flashback sequences, the novel is definitely set within the ongoing timeline of the Heresy.

More than anything else, Betrayer is a story of brotherhood and loyalty.  This is demonstrated through two key relationships; Lorgar with Angron, and Argel Tal with Kharn (both captains within their respective legions, and both effectively the right hand man to their Primarchs).  For the two Primarchs, Dembski-Bowden charts the development of their relationship, the fraternal concern of Lorgar who wants to save Angron from being eventually killed by his implanted ‘butcher’s nails’, and the growing respect between the two of them as Angron sees the newfound strength and power of Lorgar.  Argel Tal and Kharn’s relationship is simpler.   Two powerful, renowned champions of their respective legions, these two figureheads are sword-brothers.  Their friendship is critical to maintaining the partnership between two legions who otherwise have little in common, and even less respect for each other!  Both captains show ultimate loyalty to one other throughout the course of the novel, with a hugely surprising twist at the end.

I’ve talked earlier about the amount of action involved in Betrayer.  In a novel with the by-line, ‘Blood for the Blood God’, this is perhaps unsurprising.  The unrelenting pace of the conflict, the desperate close range brawling as the World Eaters get to grips with their opponents, and the abandonment of all tactical plans as the butcher’s nails take hold, left me feeling breathless at times.  The reality of warfare; the confusion, loss of contact, poor visibility, and the sheer desperation of brutal hand to hand combat, are superbly portrayed by Dembski-Bowden.

Highlights:

  1. I can’t believed I haven’t even talked about Titans yet.  There are a number of scenes involving Titans on both sides of the conflict that help to demonstrate the scale of the conflict and the power involved on both sides.
  2. For anyone well versed in 40K (and 30K lore), we are familiar with the Ultramarines as a stoic, tactically superb and disciplined fighting force.  In Betrayer, we see a completely different side to their Primarch, Roboute Guilliman, who deliberately ignores the most sensible strategic option in order to vent his anger and take revenge upon the legions that have inflicted so much damage to his legion and realm.
  3. Erebus, First Chaplain of the Word Bearers and one of the main architects of the heresy, reaches new heights of villainy. It’s also really interesting to see the change in his relationship with Lorgar.

I’m really struggling to think of anything I would change.  If anything, I wish the book was longer.  There are a couple of sections within each of the key battles that I’d love to have seen expanded.  In particular, the battle involving the Titan, Corinthian, and the closing stages on Armatura seemed truncated.  I can understand the editorial decisions to keep these brief – neither event is key to the story – so this is only a minor gripe.

Overall, it’s difficult for me to judge this novel outside of the context of the heresy, but within the Horus Heresy this book is an absolute masterpiece.  I would put this at the very top of anything we have seen thus far. Dembski-Bowden had a great reputation beforehand, and with Betrayer he has put himself at the pinnacle of Black Library authors.  I would certainly recommend Betrayer to anyone with an interest in 30K or 40K, and it would be a great introduction to the Horus Heresy series for anyone who hasn’t yet tried it.

Rating: 10/10

Feedback

Well, that’s all from me folks.  A written book review is a new departure for me, so I would be really interested in your feedback. As ever, if you have any comments about anything I’ve written, please drop me a message on here or on twitter @Marcoos14

All the best,

Marcus

 

Whispers from the Warp

Whispers from the Warp

Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for the positive response to my last blog post.  Whilst writing it I worried that I was alone in my fascination for the subject, but it appears that I was wrong.  Special thanks to Angel of Blood, who posted up additional information around the discoveries of Lorgar and the Lion.  There’s more information than I had collated, and this might lead to a reappraisal of my discovery order.

This is a quick blog to bring you up to speed with some of the rumours of what is happening in the world of the Horus Heresy, information that has been made available through mostly unofficial channels, hence the title of the blog.

It would be remiss of me not to start with the special Black Library announcement due tomorrow (or today depending on when this is published and you read it!).  Sat here waiting, it would be easy for me to say nothing, but I’m going to hazard a guess that this is the announcement of the Horus Heresy audio script book.  This was mentioned at the Black Library Weekender and is due out around Christmas, so the timing fits.  The script book will contain the following audio books;

  • Raven’s Flight by Gav Thorpe
  • Butcher’s Nails by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
  • Dark King by Graham McNeill
  • The Lightening Tower by Dan Abnett
  • Garro: Oath of Moment by James Swallow
  • Garro: Legion of One by James Swallow

To hedge my bets, it could also be an announcement of some new 10 minute audio dramas, which I believe will be available on download only.  These were discussed at the Black Library Weekender, but I’m afraid in amongst all the hectic scribbling I may possibly have made an error with the titles.  I certainly believe one will be called Warmaster, written by John French (of The Crimson Fist fame), and it goes without saying will feature Horus quite heavily!  The other two will focus on the ‘shattered legions’, although I don’t believe this will be the title of either.  These will be penned by Guy Haley and David Annandale, both Horus Heresy newcomers, and it will be interesting to see some new creative input into the series.

The ‘shattered legions’ denomination refers to the three Loyalist Legions that were ambushed at the Dropsite Massacre on Istvaan V, namely the Iron Hands, Salamanders and Raven Guard, so expect one or more of these legions to feature heavily.  Of the three, I’m expecting to see the Iron Hands and Salamanders, partially because the Raven Guard have already received a lot of coverage in their own novels, but mostly because this was strongly hinted at by CZ Dunn (Author and Black Library Editor whose credits include the Age of Darkness anthology) on twitter.  He also confirmed the recording of 4 new Horus Heresy audio dramas, which means a 4th one that I have no idea about (possibly one of the 2013 released included in my Black Library Weekender day 1 update here.

Next up, we have the customary Black Library advent calendar.  This year, we’re being treated to a new short story each day. These stories are going to be set in all of the various worlds and timelines that Black Library cover, so as well as the Horus Heresy we will also get regular 40K, Warhammer and Time of Legends.  Given the massive coverage of 40K novels, I would expect half of the 24 stories to be in that setting, so at best I hope to see 4 Horus Heresy shorts.  As yet, we haven’t had one, but it can’t be long now.  Another Black Library Editor, Graeme Lyon, tweeted that, “the Horus Heresy stories will be something a bit different and interesting…” and, “all the Heresy stories share a common link. They all deal with the consequences of a certain massacre”.  The obvious guess would be Istvaan V, but there are numerous other possibilities (apparently there’s an abundance of massacres during the Horus Heresy).  At £0.79 each, I’m sure these short stories will be popular!  You can find them here.

It’s been a busy week on twitter! Whilst the Black Library website has remained tight lipped on when we can expect the next full length Horus Heresy novel, Betrayer by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, their twitter feed has confirmed it will be available for pre-order (in Hardback format) on the 7th December.  I’ve already waxed lyrical (or at least, as lyrically as I can manage) about ADB’s previous Horus Heresy work, so it should come as no surprise to say I really am excited about this one!  Betrayer follows on from Butcher’s Nails, and even has links to Battle for the Abyss, and is set running almost parallel to Know No Fear.  We’re going to see Angron, Lorgar and their Legions destroying several (many?) of the worlds of Ultramar, the homeworld system controlled by the Ultramarines Legion.  40K fans should really like this one too as it will heavily feature Kharn, a senior captain of the World Eaters Legion, and no doubt explain why he became known as ‘the Betrayer’.

So that’s all of the Whispers from the Warp for this time.  I’m sure I’ll be returning to this at some point in the future though!

Competitions and Book Share

The competition to win a signed copy of Dan Abnett’s Horus Rising Audio Book are now closed.  I’ll be drawing the winner of this competition with Ben Curry later this week, so listen into the Bad Dice Daily podcast to find out if you’ve won.  Lupercal!

I’d also like to plug something new I’ve started, the ‘Horus Heresy book share’.  As I upgrade my collection of novels to the new hardback format, I will be giving the paperback versions to anyone who wants to read the series, provided they promise to hand it on once read.  I’ve already started with False Gods, which will be heading to Ian Brown as soon as I find a suitable envelope. Next up I’ve got a copy of Galaxy in Flames that needs a new home, and this is available to send me a direct message on twitter with their address to post it to.

Feedback

Well, that’s all from me folks.  As ever, if you have any comments about anything I’ve written, please drop me a message on here or on twitter @Marcoos14

All the best,

Marcus