Review: TALLARN – EXECUTIONER by John French (Black Library)

French-HH-Tallarn-ExecutionerThe opening shots in the Horus Heresy’s greatest tank battle…

As one of the many staging grounds for the forces serving in the Great Crusade, the verdant world of Tallarn has long served as a transfer point for the personnel and war machines of the Imperial Army. Now, destroyed by a deadly virus-bomb attack launched by the battered Iron Warriors fleet, the entire world is reduced to a toxic wasteland where the survivors must fight to defend what little remains of their home. The remnants of the once mighty Jurnian 701st armoured regiment emerge from their underground shelters, and the opening movements of the Battle of Tallarn begin… even as more clandestine powers seek to manipulate events on both sides of the conflict.

Tallarn: Executioner is a formerly limited edition novella set in the best-selling and CR-favourite Horus Heresy series. Following on directly from the events in Graham McNeill’s excellent Angel Exterminatus, it covers the traitor Iron Warriors’ arrival in the Tallarn system. And, I must say, it’s rather good.

The story is pretty interesting: told from perspective of a handful of imperial tank crew members who had been stationed (and apparently forgotten) on Tallarn, it’s offers an outsider’s perspective on the brutal, relentless style of warfare practiced by the Iron Warriors. French also does a great job of evoking what it must be like to fight a battle from inside a tank: the claustrophobia, the limited sight-lines, the awesome power at the gunners’  fingertips… Not only that, when facing Space Marines, being in a tank is one of the few ways (on land) that a mere mortal human stands a chance.

Of course they were good. They were the Legiones Astartes.

“But out here, we are all war machines.”

Each chapter ends with some “reporting” on the Iron Warriors’ actions and the larger situation on Tallarn. From the grisly account of the virus bombing at the start, to the initial forays out into the noxious, flesh-melting fog in the aftermath, and then on to the opening shots and skirmishes in the tank war.

The writing is very good, the atmosphere and feel of the novel is gripping and tense. The characters are well-rounded and varied. It’s just long enough that we form good attachments to some of them, too.

Overall, then, this is a well-written, tight, and enjoyable novella. It adds a nice extra bit to the overall Horus Heresy story, and prepares the groundwork for the next novel, Tallarn: Ironclad (which will apparently be released this month through Black Library’s website). I do not, however, know how essential it will be to read this beforehand. Considering the quality of French’s writing here, though, I would definitely recommend it to all fans of the series.

FrenchJ-HH-BlackOculusReleased at roughly the same time as the novella, through the Black Library website, was French’s short story, Black Oculus. Here’s the official synopsis:

After Fulgrim’s ascension to daemonhood at Iydris, Perturabo and his Legion were trapped by the singularity at the heart of the so-called ‘Eye of Terror’. Their only option? To thread the needle, and dive into the heart of the black hole. Perhaps by sheer blind luck, they were transported far across the warp to the Tallarn System – but the Navigators in service to the Iron Warriors fleet were irreversibly corrupted by that harrowing experience. Now they serve a new purpose, and Perturabo’s plans for revenge come closer to fruition…

It is a very short story, one that offers a vague, mysterious and intriguing look at the journey between the end of Angel Exterminatus and this novella. Focusing on the experience of a single navigator, and the way the warp changes him and his fellow navigators’ perspective on reality… It’s well-written and pretty cool.

I’d say it was well worth reading if you’re a series completist, but I’m not sure that I would say it’s essential – I suppose that would depend on what happens later in the series, and especially this story-arc. (At £1 for what was only about five or six page-turns on my Kindle, it’s also quite expensive, relatively speaking.)


The Horus HeresyHorus RisingFalse GodsGalaxy in FlamesFlight of the EisensteinFulgrimDescent of AngelsLegionBattle for the AbyssMechanicumTales of HeresyFallen AngelsA Thousand SonsNemesisThe First HereticProspero BurnsAge of DarknessThe Outcast DeadDeliverance LostKnow No FearThe PrimarchsFear to TreadShadows of TreacheryAngel ExterminatusBetrayerMark of CalthPromethean SunScorched EarthVulkan LivesScars (I-III, IV-IX), The Unremembered EmpireVengeful SpiritThe Damnation of PythosLegacies of Betrayal, Death and Defiance

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