Review: LEGACIES OF BETRAYAL (Black Library)

Various-HH-LegaciesOfBetrayalThe 31st Horus Heresy book

Only from out of great conflict can true heroes arise. With the galaxy aflame and war on an unimaginable scale tearing the Imperium apart, champions of light and darkness venture onto countless fields of battle in service to their masters. They ask not for remembrance or reward – simply to meet their destiny head-on, and only by embracing that destiny will they come to learn what the unseen future may yet hold for them.

This anthology pulls together a number of short stories that have appeared elsewhere — either as eBook shorts, or as audiodramas, or included in previously limited edition anthologies (from the Black Library Horus Heresy Weekender, for example). I had already read (or listened to) seven of the 18 stories herein. Instead of re-reviewing these, I have included links to my earlier blog posts. For all the stories (save two), I have included synopses, and also the original covers. Overall, this is a very good anthology.

Wraight-BrotherhoodOfTheStormChris Wraight, BROTHERHOOD OF THE STORM

As word of Horus’s treachery spreads to fully half of the Legiones Astartes, Terra looks to the remaining loyalist Space Marines to defend the Imperium. One group, however, remains curiously silent in spite of apparent efforts from both sides to contact them – the noble Vth Legion, Jaghatai Khan’s fearsome White Scars. In the ork-held territory of Chondax, a bitter war has been raging since the Triumph at Ullanor, and only now do the sons of Chogoris return their gaze to the heavens…

Originally a limited edition novella, you can read my review here.


John French, SERPENT

This was a pretty short story. One I’m not entirely sure what happened — certainly, the significance escaped me. A ritual is interrupted by someone who is far more in-the-know about, not to mention in favour with the Ruinous Powers, and things kick off. While it is well-written, there wasn’t really anything about the story that said to me, “This is important to greater understanding of the Heresy period.” A bit disappointed by that fact, but not in the quality of the story. It’s entirely possible that I just missed something.

Originally published in the programme for the Black Library Horus Heresy Weekender 2013.


Haley-HH-HuntersMoonGuy Haley, HUNTER’S MOON

As sanctioned executioners, the Wolves of Fenris were tasked with rooting out treachery at the heart of the Legions… but would they be capable of carrying out a death sentence upon one of the Emperor’s own sons? Now, a stolen Alpha Legion dropship crashes on the primitive oceanic world of Pelago, bringing news of a terrible war that has erupted out among the stars. Will the pursuing traitors, thirsty for vengeance, reach the lone survivor before his own battle-brothers can?

I’ve actually listened to the audio-drama, but for some reason I never got around to reviewing it. This is an interesting story, before the Heresy fully erupts, and when the loyalties of the Primarchs is still under question. The Space Wolves were assigned to “protecting” each of the Emperor’s sons, but upon entering the presence of Alpharius, they were quickly set upon. The survivor relates this to his local, human saviours. But all does not go well. I enjoyed the different type of story, not to mention the different perspective: peripheral to the civil war, but ultimately caught up in its ripples. An interesting and well-written story.

Originally an audiodrama.


Annandale-HH-VeritasFerrumDavid Annandale, VERITAS FERRUM

The Iron Hands warship Veritas Ferrum arrives in the Isstvan system in the second wave of Imperial forces. Battered by the foes and forced to retreat, the crew must make a difficult choice when survivors of the massacre ask for aid.

This ties in with The Damnation of Pythos, set immediately before it — the Iron Hands ship of that name has arrived at Isstvan, and is immediately set upon by traitors. While searching for their brothers and Primarch, they come across survivors from the other loyal Legions and the captain, Atticus, must make a decision over whether to save them or continue his search. Well-paced, well-written, this was a very good, short story. I think it was kept at the right length, too. Longer might have made it feel over-done.

Originally an audiodrama.


FrenchJ-Riven(HH)John French, RIVEN

As one of the vaunted Crusader Host, Brother Crius stood as the representative of the X Legion upon the soil of Holy Terra, but when he learns of the death of his beloved primarch Ferrus Manus at the hands of the traitors, his stoic, mechanical grief imbues him with the strength and resolve to undertake a special mission on behalf of Rogal Dorn himself. Striking out into the stars, he searches for any signs of his lost Iron Hands brethren, hoping to bring them back to Terra to aid in the final defence of the Palace. The question remains – just who has survived the slaughter on Isstvan V, and what yet remains of them?

Originally an eBook short, you can read my review here.


HaleyG-HH-Strike&FadeGuy Haley, STRIKE AND FADE

In the aftermath of the Isstvan V massacre, a group of Salamanders survivors lay a trap for their foes, a group of unwary Night Lords on the hunt for easy prey.

This story was pretty cool. Not what I was expecting. More on the survivors after Isstvan V, it shows a small group of Salamanders getting their revenge on some Night Lords. Another quite-short story. I enjoyed it a lot. Haley hasn’t written a huge amount of Horus Heresy fiction, I don’t think (at least, I haven’t read much of his work). I like what he’s done so far, though. Maybe we’ll get something a little longer by him in the near future. I did enjoy his latest, The Final Compliance of Sixty-Three Fourteen.

Originally an audiodrama.


Thorpe-HonourTheDead(HH)Gav Thorpe, HONOUR THE DEAD

As Calth burns, the Battle Titans of the Fire Masters legion take to the streets of the city of Ithraca, ready to massacre the fleeing civilian population in the name of their new, dark masters. But the remaining loyalist engines of the Legio Praesagius — the True Messengers — still stand ready to defend the Imperium, even in the face of almost certain death. With the nearby Ultramarines forces scattered and lost, the people of Ithraca must fend for themselves as gigantic war machines unleash apocalyptic weaponry across the ravaged skyline…

Originally an audiodrama, then an eBook, you can read my review here.


Dembski-Bowdeb-ButchersNails(HH)Aaron Dembski-Bowden, BUTCHER’S NAILS

The primarch Angron: gladiator-king and Horus’s lunatic attack dog. Never having hidden his resentment for his brothers, he now carves a bloody swathe through the galaxy in the Warmaster’s name, with the Heresy providing a convenient excuse to indulge his love of brutal warfare. When they are tasked with a secretive mission alongside the Word Bearers Legion, the World Eaters’ violent tendencies soon attract the attention of xenos raiders, troubled by the portents surrounding the primarch’s berserk fury and his ultimate destiny as ‘the Blood God’s son’…

Originally an audiodrama, and later collected in the Angron e-anthology, you can read my review here.


FrenchJ-HH-WarmasterJohn French, WARMASTER

In the strategium of the Vengeful Spirit, Warmaster Horus sets up his assault on his father’s Imperium. But just who is Horus talking to as he lays out his plans for galactic domination?

This was a very good short story — set shortly after the Isstvan V betrayal, we are with Horus in his strategium, speaking about his plans. We don’t know until the end who he’s addressing his comments to, but they are some interesting comments and observations about the path he finds himself on, not to mention who he has accompanying him:

“Strange is it not, that so many I wish beside me stand against me, while at my back are only the flawed and damaged. I am a master of broken monsters… I cannot control them or their sons, and they know it… They all know that this war is no longer something that can be guided, only ridden out. But they never understood me, not truly, and they understand less with each passing second. They doubt. They think that I have lost my way. I can see it in their hearts — the pettiness, the pride, the seeds of ruin driving them on, feeding the tempest. With such creatures must I remake the future!”

I welcomed the glimpse into Horus’s thoughts, and also his opinions of his brothers — especially the fact that he has the rebellious primarch’s equivalent of buyer’s remorse… French continues to impress greatly with his short fiction.

Originally an audiodrama.


McNeill-KryptosGraham McNeill, KRYPTOS

Bloodied but unbowed, the Raven Guard and the Iron Hands fight on. In the wake of the Dropsite Massacre, the shattered Legions are still prepared to bring the fight to Warmaster Horus and his traitorous allies. On the doomed forge world of Cavor Sarta, two veteran warriors of the Imperium strike deep into the heart of the Dark Mechanicum’s territory. With bolter and blade ready to cut down any who cross their path, they will seek out the enemy’s most valued asset: the mysterious ‘Kryptos’…

Originally released as an eBook short story, you can read my review here.


Wraight-HH-WolfsClawChris Wraight, WOLF’S CLAW

Caught by the renegade forces of the Alpha Legion and forced to take refuge in the Alaxxes Nebula, the Space Wolves are bloodied but unbowed. The young pack leader Bjorn – now known to his warriors as ‘the One-Handed’ – is desperate to recover his honour in battle, but replacing lost limbs for proud legionaries is not a task worthy of the Iron Priests. If Bjorn is to fight again, then he must seek out new claws for himself and christen them in the blood of the traitors…

I always like reading about Bjorn — this is the story of how he got around the loss of his hand, with a most beneficial solution. It’s a pretty good story, too — mixture of battlefield fury and sidelines bureaucracy (which he gets around, of course, by being blunt). I enjoyed this.

Originally an audiodrama.


McNeillG-HH-ThiefOfRevelationsGraham McNeill, THIEF OF REVELATIONS

The Thousand Sons – a Legion whose destiny was irrevocably altered at Prospero, and yet who now seem to dance only to fate’s tune. Ahzek Ahriman and Magnus the Red cast their psychic sight over the galaxy, seeking any clue as to what the future might hold and where their true allegiance should ultimately be placed.

I recently read the first novel in John French’s series about Ahriman post-Heresy, Exile. He’s a fascinating character, and any new bit of fiction featuring him at the centre is very welcome, in my opinion. This story takes us to before the Rubric that damned his Legion. He meets with Magnus to discuss his plans, and to seek the Red King’s aid in achieving it. A well-composed story, and one that adds yet another layer to the tragedy that befalls both the Legion and Ahriman’s good intentions.

Originally an audiodrama.


Thorpe-HH-DivineWordGav Thorpe, THE DIVINE WORD

Despite being prohibited by the Imperial Truth, the religious text known as the ‘Lectitio Divinitatus’ has gathered many believers from across the galaxy. Fighting alongside the Raven Guard Legion, Marcus Valerius of the Therion Cohort has long scorned those who seek to deify the Emperor, but a flash of inspiration leads him to question whether or not there are greater forces at work in the universe…

Originally an eBook short, you can read my review here.


McNeill-HH-LuciusTheEternalBladeGraham McNeill, LUCIUS: THE ETERNAL BLADE

Renowned as one of the finest duelists the galaxy has ever known, Lucius seeks ever greater challenges against which to test himself. After the Emperor’s Children Legion scattered in the wake of their primarch’s apotheosis on Iydris, he finds his way into the domain of a similarly legendary swordsman — Sanakht of the Thousand Sons. But which of these infamous warriors carries the greater favour amongst their new masters?

Lucius, the cocky blademaster of the Emperor’s Children, still confused as to how he remains alive (after the events of Angel Exterminatus), but also continuing his vane quest to prove that he has no equal in hand-to-hand combat, travels to the Thousand Sons’ planet to test his mettle against their best warrior. An interesting, over-too-quickly short story that adds an extra bit of background and colour to this most arrogant and interesting of characters.

Originally an audiodrama.


ReynoldsA-HH-KharnAnthony Reynolds, KHÂRN: THE EIGHTFOLD PATH

In the fighting pits of the Conqueror, Khârn and his fellow World Eaters compete in ever-bloodier contests of carnage and mayhem. As the Butcher’s Nails dig ever deeper into their brains, the Legion have forsaken the Crimson Path. Now they walk a darker, more dangerous road: the Eightfold Path.

This could be the best story in the anthology: in terms of writing craft, Reynolds manages to pour so much into this very short story, without being explicit. When you read it, you know exactly what he’s trying to tell us, and exactly the point he’s making about the changing nature of the World Eaters. Very well done indeed. I wish he wrote more for the series…

Originally an audiodrama.


ThorpeG-HH-CypherGuardianOfOrderGav Thorpe, CYPHER: GUARDIAN OF ORDER

For a select few amongst the First Legion, the Northwilds of Caliban hold a particularly dark secret. At the command of Luther himself, young Librarian Zahariel accompanies the Lord Cypher on one of his mysterious forays into the unknown depths. But an ancient evil is stirring once more and, with rumours of galactic civil war creeping back to their home world, it may have already sunken its claws into the Dark Angels Legion…

The Dark Angels’ place in the Horus Heresy remains frustratingly dissatisfying. There’s just something about the way they’ve been presented that has failed to live up to expectations, not to mention storytelling quality, as the other Legions and factions involved. This is a short diversion, which alludes to something I was unfamiliar with, and therefore left me feeling a bit nonplussed. It’s well-written, to be sure, but didn’t really add much because of my lack of investment in their part of the overall series narrative.

Originally an audiodrama.


Aaron Dembski-Bowden, HEART OF THE CONQUEROR

Another very short story, and one that offers a look into the thoughts of a loyal astropath — but one tasked with navigating the World Eaters’ flagship to Terra… How should she address her dual loyalties? Should she serve the Emperor or the Legion and Warmaster? It’s a very well written short story, but I do wish it had been longer. It had a lot of potential, and was over too quickly. That being said, it was a good ending.

Originally published in the programme for the Black Library Horus Heresy Weekender 2014.


Kyme-HH-CensureAUDNick Kyme, CENSURE

In the depths of Calth’s arcology network, the Underworld War has raged for years. Aeonid Thiel, previously an honoured sergeant of the Ultramarines, once again finds himself in trouble – pitted against the daemonic forces of the Word Bearers, he has no choice but to venture back to the ravaged surface and brave the deadly solar flares that have scoured all life from this world. With a lowly Imperial Army trooper as his only companion, it falls to him to drive the maniacal Dark Apostle Kurtha Sedd and his warband from the overrun XIIIth Legion stronghold.

Originally an audiodrama, then an eBook short, you can read my review here.


Wraight-HH-BjornLoneWolfChris Wraight, BJORN: LONE WOLF

As daemons swarm across the fields of Velbayne, bringing madness and Chaos to all that they touch, Leman Russ and the Rout stand arrayed against them. Packs fight back to back, brothers protecting one another – except for one. The Lone Wolf, the warrior without a pack, stands alone. And somewhere on the battlefield is a foe against which he will have vengeance…

A very good story to finish on — it follows on very well from Wraight’s Wolf’s Claw, above. Very short, but excellent.

Originally an eBook short.


I wanted to pick up on just one comment from the editor’s afterword. Goulding writes that, “The Horus Heresy series is a collection too, in a way, and every story is relevant.” He makes this point after explaining the reason for bringing together these stories, and how their contents could have repercussions for what is to come (only we may not know how). If this is the case, then I don’t understand the high number of limited editions novellas, with the majority of the readership either cut off or priced out for years after they’re released. This seems odd, to me (and many others I’m sure), to admit that it’s all essential to understanding the wider Heresy, but at the same time actively excluding whole swathes of fans. It can’t be the case that the number of each limited edition’s print run is the same as the total series readership. An aside, and a common complaint I know, but I found it particularly strange to have this in the afterword.

If you’re a fan of the series, then I strongly recommend this collection, as it fills in some gaps and offers hints for what is to come. And, of course, because it’s near-universally well-written.

The Horus Heresy: Horus Rising, False Gods, Galaxy in Flames, Flight of the Eisenstein,Fulgrim, Descent of Angels, Legion, Battle for the Abyss, MechanicumTales of Heresy, Fallen Angels, A Thousand Sons, Nemesis, The First Heretic, Prospero Burns, Age of Darkness, The Outcast Dead, Deliverance Lost, Know No Fear, The Primarchs, Fear to Tread, Shadows of Treachery, Angel Exterminatus, Betrayer, Mark of Calth, Promethean Sun, Scorched Earth,Vulkan Lives, Scars (I-III, IV-IX), The Unremembered Empire, Vengeful Spirit, The Damnation of Pythos, Legacies of Betrayal

13 thoughts on “Review: LEGACIES OF BETRAYAL (Black Library)

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