Across the war-torn galaxy, those sworn to Horus’s cause shake the Imperium to its very foundations. Before the traitors’ relentless onslaught, the wisdom of ages past is lost and forgotten, daemons hide amongst the common people and the warp’s corrupting influence can be seen in almost every facet of the Heresy. For those who would become champions of the new order, there can surely be no redemption – only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods…
This book collects five short stories set in the Horus Heresy age. Two of them I’ve already read and reviewed: the excellent Daemonology by Chris Wraight, and the very-short-but-also-very-good Black Oculus by John French. These three new stories are excellent. While not the longest anthology BL has done, this may be their best in terms of quality in a long while. Very highly recommended for fans of the series. The collection probably has more to offer fans who have read the novels that sowed the seeds for these stories, but they are also five examples of excellent, dark science fiction.
In its earliest days, the III Legion was blighted by a genetic flaw that threatened to end the Phoenician’s bloodline forever. Fortunately, through tireless effort and the miracle of the primarch’s own genetic perfection, visionaries like Apothecary Fabius were able to halt the corruption and restore the Emperor’s Children to their former glory. Except, it would seem, that a terrible secret has been kept from the rest of the Legion, and the threat of further degeneration is quite real…
This was a very interesting and well-written story. Picking up the timeline after Imperfect (also by Kyme), the story looks at Fabius Bile’s part in purging the Emperor’s Children of a blight that affects some members of the Legion. Fabius is conducting an examination and surgery, and while working his mind travels back to the early days of his research. The story is brilliantly written and structured, and the ending is fantastic. It’s a twist, and an interesting reveal, but I won’t go into any detail about it. Very highly recommended, Kyme really is just getting better and better. Superb.
Aboard the Molech’s Enlightenment, amongst the countless civilian refugees that fled the Warmaster’s invasion, a serpent makes its nest. The Chaos cult that brought House Devine to its knees lives on, preying upon the weak and the helpless, and it falls to Alivia Sureka to root out the evil that hides in plain sight. Luckily for her, she has an ally who is more than familiar with such tactics – the lone wolf Knight Errant, Severian.
This story picks up Alivia’s story after the end of Vengeful Spirit. It took me just a few minutes to reorient myself, and remember who she was (and just a little longer than I would have liked to remember Severian’s place in the story). It’s a much longer story than Chirurgeon, and so felt very substantial. There’s a good narrative build, and the story contains suitably interesting, weird and horrific daemonic shenanigans. It’s another story that features a lot of the newer developments in the Heresy setting: perpetuals, for example – a development I’m enjoying, as the authors are managing to avoid making them deus ex machina devices. Good characters and well-written, this is a good story. It’s not my favourite in the book, but that’s only because Chirurgeon, Daemonology and Twisted (below) are particularly excellent. Wolf Mother is a great continuation of the story McNeill started in The Devine Adoratrice and Vengeful Spirit.
Since he was crippled by rebel treachery on Sixty-Three Nineteen, Maloghurst ‘the Twisted’ has continued to serve Warmaster Horus as his closest aide and confidant. His loyalty has remained constant, but the XVI Legion has changed – rivalry and personal ambition run rife, and although Horus’s authority is supreme, his equerry’s is certainly not. When a daemonic plot to infest the Vengeful Spirit comes to light, Maloghurst reluctantly turns to the few allies he has left: the mysterious Davinites.
A great story to cap off the collection. Maloghurst, the Warmaster’s wounded and crippled equerry, takes centre stage for (perhaps) the first time. Haley does a wonderful job of drawing on the insecurities a crippled Astarte might develop, and the sneering contempt Maloghurst is subject to from the ever-more aggressive Sons of Horus legionnaires. Twisted is a great look into the lives on the ship, the eternal bickering and deadly politics at play for those who follow and worship the Chaotic powers. The title also works on a number of levels, which I won’t spoil here. Another excellent, definitely recommended story.
Overall, then, Blades of the Traitor is a must-read for fans of the Horus Heresy series. Very highly recommended for anyone who has been following the series for a while. For those who haven’t, it’s a fantastic example of the great writing the series has produced, although I do worry newcomers might be a little lost given how closely linked these stories are to previously-published novels.