HH14 – Scars! Part II

Scars! Episode II – an advanced review




Hot on the heels of yesterday’s review of Episode 1 of Scars by Chris Wraight, those good chaps at Black Library Towers have kindly sent through an advance copy of Episode 2.  If you read my previous blog, you may have sensed how much I enjoyed the first instalment, so I tucked into this one with gusto.


Episode 2 (re)introduces another couple of main characters from Brotherhood of the Storm, with Wraight spending time to craft out their back stories to give more depth to the characters.  We also revisit our main protagonists, particularly seeing clandestine activity of the ‘I can’t say’ variety from one of the characters which really emphasises the internal factions within the White Scars legion.


This story also brings together a couple of elements of the Horus Heresy that have been hinted at, or covered in more detail, in earlier works.  The most obvious link is back to the twin Prospero novels (A Thousand Sons and Propero Burns).  We have references back to the Council of Nikea (where the Emperor banned the use of psychic powers), and the relationship between certain legions and individuals who featured heavily in the Council.


One section of Episode 2 harkens back to brief passage within the novella, The Serpent Beneath (written by Rob Sanders, and contained in The Primarchs anthology).  Clearly the seeds of this story were planted deliberately a long time ago, but it is developed seamlessly into this novel by Wraight.  The Serpent Beneath was an Alpha Legion novella, and throughout this episode of Scars, the threat of the Alpha Legion is palpable to us as readers (despite remaining unknown to the main viewpoint characters).


The last nugget, is that a third legion (not the White Scars or Alpha Legion) makes an appearance, possibly unexpectedly to some although probably not to anyone familiar with Horus Heresy Collected Visions art book.  This legion is fresh from action, and the depiction of their emotions at what they have been involved in is superbly executed.


Wraight’s prose remains excellent.  The descriptions are vivid, the characters are fleshed out in great detail, and there are many brilliant gems of background information to enthral any Heresy fan.  One description in particular, that of an Astartes space fleet mustering for deployment, is superb, a vivid, almost poetic description of the threat such a fleet contains.  Episode 1, the opening chapter of Scars, held the promise of greatness, and Episode 2 only enhances this.  I cannot wait for the next instalment!




If you have any comments about this blog, or anything at all Horus Heresy related, please either comment here or drop me a message on twitter @Marcoos14.


All the best,


HH13: Scars!





It’s only a week since I last blogged, with a review of an extract of the forthcoming Limited Edition Novella, Scorched Earth.  Since then, Black Library has pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the surprise release of an unexpected novel, in an unexpected format!


For those who closely follow the news and rumours about planned Horus Heresy releases (and I’d like to consider myself one of them) the release of Scars, a Horus Heresy novel by Chris Wraight, was not on the radar.  Having only recently finished Vulkan Lives, I was ready for a couple of months wait until Unremembered Empire becomes available.  Hell, it’s even listed within Vulkan Lives as the 27th (and therefore next) full length novel in the Horus Heresy.  It’s fair to say the release of Scars has caught me out!


What’s even more unusual, at least as far as the Horus Heresy series goes, is the format.  Scars is being released as a serialised eBook. The first episode hit the eShelves earlier this week.  The remaining 11 instalments will be released over the next 11 weeks.  This is the first instance of Black Library releasing a Horus Heresy novel in this format, although some previous short stories have gone on sale as eBooks before making their way into other formats.


I have to confess; I’m in two minds as to whether I like this turn of events or not.  On the one hand, we’re getting more Horus Heresy content earlier than we could otherwise have hoped for, but I’m not a fan of a serialised novels in general.  I like to read a book to completion, and am naturally impatient. I can get through a new Horus Heresy novel in an evening at first read, so waiting an enforced 7 days for the next chapter will be hard for me to take. However, the biggest concern I have with this is the value for money it provides.  A typical Horus Heresy eBook costs £11.99. Each individual episode of the Scars serialisation will cost £1.50 (assuming the price for the 1st episode remains constant), giving a total price of £18 for the full book.  I personally couldn’t justify that to myself, especially when the stunning hardback edition is only £2 more.


At this stage I have to admit, I’m in a very fortunate position. The fantastic guys & gals over at Black Library have kindly sent me a review copy of the Scars Episode One.  Hopefully this hasn’t biased my opinion of the novel – I’d like to think I can give an honest opinion even about a series I feel passionately about. So here we go…


Scars  Episode 1  Review


Scars sees a return to the forefront of the Horus Heresy of the White Scars legion, one of the (if not the) least represented legions to date within the series.  The White Scars, as revealed in Brotherhood of the Storm, have been out of contact with most of the other legions in the timeline following the end of the Ullanor campaign up to the early events of the actual Heresy, including Isstvan III and V.


Earlier novels have hinted that Horus believed Jaghatai Khan, Primarch of the White Scars, would side with him in the rebellion, and yet we know from the distant origins of the Horus Heresy that the White Scars remained loyal to the Emperor, fighting in defence at the Siege of Terra.  Scars promises to explain how the legion came to remain loyal as a whole, whilst dealing with dissention amongst the ranks.  The title no doubt refers not only to the White Scars, but the mental scars of a legion divided!


Scars is the first full length Horus Heresy novel by Chris Wraight, following on from the excellent limited edition novella, Brotherhood of the Storm, which I talked about on the blog last October.  Episode 1 contains the first chapter of the novel, and can be downloaded from Black Library.


Scars episode 1


Of all the Legiones Astartes, the White Scars of Jaghatai Khan remain the most enigmatic and elusive. Born of a civilisation that prizes honour, speed and fearsome loyalty, their allegiance has yet remained unclear even as the galaxy is torn apart by Horus’s treachery, and both sides have apparently counted them among their potential allies in the war to come. But when the Alpha Legion launch an unexplained and simultaneous attack against the White Scars and Space Wolves, the Khan must decide once and for all whether he will stand with the Emperor or the Warmaster… or neither.


Let’s be clear; this is the first chapter. It’s a set up for events later in the book, introducing us to the main protagonists.  Nothing really happens. There is very little in the way of action.  And yet… it is utterly compelling!


The main protagonists are characters we are already familiar with.  Chapter one gives their background story, which provides just enough information to understand how they differ in upbringing, beliefs, battle doctrine and loyalty (although who knows what twists and turns might be contained within the rest of the novel).  The story adds fascinating detail to some of the events of the early pre-heresy era , specifically around recruitment of Astartes into the various marine legions.  The physical development of Astartes, both the training regime and surgical enhancements are also covered, adding more depth to the story.


I only have limited experience of Wraight’s work, but I have to say I am really impressed with what I have read.  Brotherhood of the Storm was excellent, and Scars promises to deliver more of the same.  The White Scars are in safe hands it appears, and Black Library looks to have added another stellar writer to the high table of the Horus Heresy.




If you have any comments about this blog, or anything at all Horus Heresy related, please either comment here or drop me a message on twitter @Marcoos14.


All the best,



Hot off the Press

Hot (some might say Scorching*) off the Press!

* groan!

It feels like Nick Kyme month at the moment. Not only has Vulkan Lives just gone on sale, not only has Scorched Earth come up for pre-order, but today we’ve had the MP3 release of the audio drama, Censure! It must have been a fairly hectic time for Mr Kyme, something I hope to be able to share more with you all about in the not-too-distant future (hint hint!).

Censure by Nick Kyme


So there I was merrily listening to Censure, when a particularly intriguing email arrived. I’m fortunate enough to have been asked to write an advanced review of an extract of the forthcoming novella, Scorched Earth. To say I was excited about this would be something of an understatement! It would, of course, have been churlish to turn down this offer, and so two readings later here I am.

To provide context, the review copy is approximately 3,000 words in length, so it’s probably no more than 5% of the entire story. I also don’t know which section of the novella I have been given for a fact, although it reads like the opening section to a book so that is my assumption. It’s certainly set before the brief extract that was posted on the Black Library blog earlier this week (see here if you want to read it).

Scorched Earth ‘From the Ashes of Isstvan’ Review

Scorched Earth is the 6th and latest ‘limited edition / limited release’ Horus Heresy novella from Black Library. It is written by Nick Kyme, and follows on from his previous Horus Heresy works for Black Library, including Vulkan Lives, Feat of Iron and Promethean Sun. Scorched Earth is available to order until Friday 2nd August 2013 – see here for details.

 Scorched Earth by Nick Kyme


 “Nearly a quarter of a million loyal Space Marines lost their lives on Isstvan V – the Dropsite Massacre
lasted only a few hours, and yet the Iron Hands, Raven Guard and Salamanders were slaughtered by those
they had once called kin. With the disappearance of their primarch weighing heavily upon their
hearts, Ra’stan and Usabius of the XVIIIth Legion leave behind their fellow survivors and strike out
into the Urgall Depression. Their mission: to find what, if anything, remains of mighty Vulkan…”

The first thing that strikes me about Scorched Earth is the mood of the piece. Set in the immediate aftermath of the Dropsite Massacre, two survivors have to cope with the reality of the sudden annihilation of their legion, and the psychological impact of their betrayal at the hands of former brother legions. Kyme captures the despair of the situation through the eyes of the main protagonist, Ra’stan, a Captain of the XVIII Legion Salamanders, reflecting on the contrast between the hope and belief during the trials of Ra’stan’s early pre-Astartes life compared to hopelessness of the present. The desperation and bleakness of the environment, and its effect upon Ra’stan is a theme that is regularly returned to, reinforcing the chilling reality for the reader.

Earlier Horus Heresy works dealing with the fighting upon Isstvan V rarely captured the full effect of the cataclysm… one which saw well over 250,000 Astartes lose their lives in less than a single day. This is absolutely not something of which you could accuse Scorched Earth. Kyme superbly demonstrates the sheer destruction and carnage through detailed description of the destroyed vehicles and piles of dead carcasses, most memorably portrayed in a scene during which the protagonists are forced to hide in order to evade capture.

Following on from the same treatment in Vulkan Lives, Kyme writes in the first person from Ra’stan’s perspective. Without checking back through my Horus Heresy collection, I cannot remember this being a common style (if used previously at all). In Scorched Earth, the use of first person is brilliantly executed, and really enhances the effect of the carnage, destruction and despair experienced by those ‘lucky’ enough to survive the initial massacre.

Particularly in the extract published on the Black Library blog, but also in this extract, we see the lengths that the survivors are driven to in order to extend (however briefly that might be) their lives. In close encounters with traitor forces, the protagonists make life-and-death decisions (their lives, others’ deaths) in the rational, almost clinical, manner of a true professional. The conflicting emotions faced by the two Salamanders as they make these choices are beautifully portrayed, adding yet another layer to the tragedy of Isstvan V.

I do have a few minor issues with the novella. A couple of phrases seem out of place. I could live with ‘super-man’ to describe an Astartes if it was uttered by one of the more arrogant legions (Emperor’s Children, I hear you cry), but it doesn’t fit with my impression of the more compassionate Salamanders legion. More disappointing though was the use of the word ‘heresy’ to describe the massacre. I may be imagining this, but I believe that Black Library have deliberately tried not to use the ‘h’ word at this stage in the storyline, preferring to describe it as a ‘rebellion’. Some of the narrative could have benefitted from a little more pruning at the editorial stage, especially the opening sentence of the extract.

However, setting aside these minor quibbles, this extract demonstrates that Scorched Earth is going to be a worthy addition to the Horus Heresy collection. The novella does a superb job of transforming the fantasy of clashing forces portrayed in such celebrated works as Fulgrim and The First Heretic into the tragic reality of the aftermath of a massacre. It would be unfair of me to rate the novella based upon one extract, but it was a genuine pleasure to go back to the events of Isstvan V, and to touch upon one out of a potentially hundreds of untold stories. I’m really looking forward to finishing this story, and eagerly await the next works from Mr Kyme. Hurry up Black Library, send my copy scorching* its way to me!

* sorry, last one I promise!


If you have any comments about this blog, or anything at all Horus Heresy related, please either comment here or drop me a message on twitter @Marcoos14.

All the best,

What’s 6 Months Amongst Friends?

Six Months of Updates!!!

So… it’s been the mere matter of 6 months since my last update. I could offer up all manner of excuses for this, but to be honest the simple answer is that it’s not good enough! So my friends, I am back… I can’t guarantee when my next post will appear, but I can honestly tell you I do have the intention to write more frequently!

To ease back into the blog, I thought it worth recapping what’s happened since my last update. In January, I reviewed Betrayer by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, the 24th novel in the Horus Heresy series. Since then, we’ve apparently not had much new content – just one full title, the Mark of Calth anthology. But of course, this doesn’t paint the full picture – there are reasons we haven’t seen as much of the traditional storyline content, and there have been a lot of other formats released. So let’s talk about this in more detail.

A Change of Format

With the release of Angel Exterminatus in October 2012, Black Library moved to a different publishing schedule for each of the novels.

  • Each novel is now available initially as a hardback ‘Collector’s Edition’ format exclusively from GW stores or the Black Library website.
  • Three months after the release of the hardback format, the standard ‘Trade’ format will be released – this is a standard publishing industry paperback size.
  • Six months after the trade paperback, the ‘Legacy’ paperback edition will be released.

For anyone who wants to collect the original, or legacy, format books, this has meant a significant wait. In fact, it’s only recently that Angel Exterminatus has come out in this format, and it will still be a little time before Betrayer is available. Whilst this isn’t great, the consolation is that it’s a one off pushback of the release schedule, and from now on there will be a regular release of new titles. For those who want to keep up with latest stories as soon as they are released, but are concerned to have matching versions of the earlier books with the newer releases, the older books are being gradually re-released in the Collector’s Edition format.

I don’t fully understand the change of formats – I believe it’s something to do with matching the Black Library formats with the industry standards so that it’s easier to sell to book retailers. I am however a fan of the hardback format, even if the price of £20 per book is a little off-putting, mainly because the books look superb on my book shelf. I’m not going to mention the condition of some of my earlier paperbacks, other than to say they don’t always stand up well to bath time reading!

For anyone who prefers reading in different formats, Black Library continues to offer eBook and Unabridged Audio versions of the new Horus Heresy novels and all of the rereleased Collector’s Editions. For the new, forthcoming novels, these should be available alongside the release of the hardback – so even if you don’t want to move over to the hardback format there is no need to wait 9 months to catch up on the latest novels. This is part of a wider Black Library plan to provide all of the Horus Heresy written material in all three formats. As it was explained to the audience at the Horus Heresy Weekender;

‘Everything, in every format, eventually’ – Laurie Goulding, Black Library editor

Betrayer, in every format, now!

Betrayer bundle

So, only one book? Really?

My earlier pronouncement of only one book being released in the last 6 months was a bit of a red herring. Whilst it’s true that the only novel within the full series to be released is Mark of Calth, the release of the next full novel, Vulkan Lives is due in the very near future. I’m in a fortunate position, living close enough to Warhammer World to travel over there, and have managed to get my hands on a signed copy of Vulkan Lives already. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, dear readers, but I will say that I really enjoyed the novel. I’m also happy to report, that after a little personal scepticism over the book’s title, upon reading the novel I don’t think there could be a more fitting title.

There have also been a couple of limited edition releases; The Imperial Truth, which is an event exclusive anthology featuring some excellent short stories from the great and good of the Horus Heresy authors, and Corax: Soulforge which is the first in a trilogy of limited edition Raven Guard novellas by Gav Thorpe.

 The Imperial Truth cover art

The Imperial Truth

We’ve also had several new audio dramas; The Sigillite by Chris Wraight, Honour to the Dead by Gav Thorpe, and Wolf Hunt by Graham McNeill. I really like the audio drama format – these are stories that are specifically written for audio, and are acted by a cast rather than narrated by a single narrator. The sound effects in the dramas add an extra dimension, and I would suggest anyone interested in Titan legions should give Honour to the Dead a try.

Finally, there have also been several e-shorts released. Most of these have been featured in another format previously (or subsequent to their e-short release), but in some instances in might be more cost effective or convenient to just buy the e-short to complete your collection. These are;

  • The Gates of Terra – originally released in French in the 2012 Games Day France chapbook
  • Angron – an anthology of short stories containing After Desh’ea (from the Tales of Heresy anthology), Lord of the Red Sands (subsequently included in The Imperial Truth anthology) and Butcher’s Nails (a prose version of the previously released audio drama)
  • Dark Heart – subsequently released in the Mark of Calth anthology

Only this week, we have also had released (at the time of writing) three short stories that featured in previous event exclusive anthologies; Death of a Silver Smith (originally released in the Games Day 2011 anthology, and subsequently included in the Shadows of Treachery anthology), Distant Echoes of Old Night (originally released in the Games Day 2012 anthology) and Lost Sons (originally released in the Black Library Weekender 2012 anthology). I have no certainty on this, but I also expect to see the release of The Divine Word (also from the Black Library Weekender 2012 anthology).


Lost Sons cover artLost Sons

Personally I am disappointed with the release of these short stories in electronic format. Not because they are now available to the wider audience, but because had I realised the 2012 short stories would be out so soon, I would have preferred to wait to get them individually (I have little interest in the stories set in the 40K or Warhammer universes). It would certainly make me think twice before buying another event anthology… although I suppose that depends on how big they make the Horus Heresy logo!!


Well that’s a relief – a blog post written and completed. If you have any comments about anything I’ve written, please drop me a message on here or on twitter @Marcoos14

All the best,

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.


  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


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,



BDD 153 – Horus Heresy Update with Marcoos

Horus Heresy Update

Horus Heresy Update with Marcoos

Its Whimsical Wednesday and I head off the Warhammer Piste and talk to Marcus and get the latest Horus Heresy Updates.

On this episode we;

  • Draw the winner of the Horus Rising contest
  • Talk about the Advernt Calander short Audio Dramas
  • Preview the Bretrayer by Aaron Demski Bowden and talk about how he is a rising star of the Heresy authors
  • Talk about The Primarchs Discovery Order Blog post from Marcus.

I listened to the latest Garro – Sword of Truth Audio Drama this week and Marcus delves into some of the details that I missed in this story line.

we finish up by talking about what we can expect from the Heresy in the coming months, and the main one that interests us is the Unremembered Empire by Dan Abnett.  The artwork has been release over the last few weeks and is just stunning (click the image for a large version)

Unremembered Empire


If you have anything to say about this episode feel free to let me know by leaving a comment below or sending an email to bencurry@baddice.co.uk

I look forwards to hearing what you have to say!