Review: THE PATH OF HEAVEN by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

WraightC-HH-PathOfHeavenThe White Scars decide their part in the Heresy

For too long had the Vth Legion ranged out beyond the sight of the wider Imperium, remaining ignorant of the Warmaster’s rebellion and the war that inevitably followed. Only once their primarch, Jaghatai Khan, had satisfied himself that the path before them was just and true did the White Scars choose a side, taking the fight to the traitors on every front. But, four years later, the Legion’s unfettered spirit has been broken by relentless attritional warfare against the Death Guard and the Emperor’s Children – the Khan’s Stormseers must find a clear route to Terra if they are to take part in the final, apocalyptic battle.

This novel follows on from Wraight’s Scars, finally bringing the White Scars back front-and-centre. There’s a lot going on in the story, on both sides of the Heresy, and, true to the White Scars’ nature, it’s fast-paced. I enjoyed this a great deal, and it may be Wraight’s best novel to date.

Readers who have been craving more progress in the overall Horus Heresy story will be very happy with The Path of Heaven. This is not, after all, set anywhere near Calth and Imperium Secundus. The White Scars, still operating as a fast-attack strike force against traitors wherever they find them, are starting to feel the strain of a protracted war of attrition. The internal schism covered in Scars has been more-or-less dealt with, and those who had flirted with supporting Horus have been banished. Some of this novel follows a specific group of the banished, who featured in Scars. Now, the fact that Scars was first released in instalments proved to be a bit of a handicap: even though I read it in three chunks (as opposed to 11), many of the salient details and specifics of who was who had slipped from my memory. Nevertheless, I was able to follow along and certain important and relevant details were filled in or referenced over the course of the novel so I rarely felt lost for long, if at all. The Scars have more-or-less reorganized and moved on from their internal schism, but there are still a few lingering resentments and issues.

Wraight has really pulled out all the stops for this novel. The three Legions featured are so very different, and the author does a wonderful job of bringing their idiosyncrasies and cultures to life on the page. True, the Emperor’s Children have fallen even further since we last saw them in a novel — embracing their single-minded pursuit of pleasure and sensation with ever-more-unnerving zeal. The Death Guard, still stubbornly holding on to “purity”, have embraced their role at Horus’s side, even though Mortarion remains suspicious about and self-conscious about his relationship with his brother Primarchs.

This novel features a lot more Chaotic shenanigans and beasties than most other Heresy novels — after all, the aforementioned Emperor’s Children have fully accepted their new allegiance. There are daemons, mutations (Chaotic and apothecary-created), epic brawls in the warp and in the void. Wraight manages to keep descriptions to a minimum, resisting any urge to over-describe the chaotic-ness of any of his fictional creations. The same goes for the action and battle scenes — the writing is kept pretty tight and focused. In addition, while the Emperor’s Children are flamboyant and excessive in everything they do, the author manages to keep them from becoming cartoonish — their new mien and obsessions are far more sinister.

I really enjoyed this novel — it ticked all the boxes of what a Heresy novel needs to do, as well as most things that a sci-fi novel needs to be. It was entertaining, moved the story forward, introduced some new ideas, and concluded some plot threads. There is a fair amount of tragedy, too. I quickly become reinvested in the fates of the characters.

Very highly recommended for all fans of the series, The Path of Heaven could be Wraight’s best novel to date. I can’t wait to read his next Heresy novel, whatever that may be. Excellent.

*

The Horus Heresy: Horus Rising (1), False Gods (2), Galaxy in Flames (3), Flight of the Eisenstein (4), Fulgrim (5), Descent of Angels (6), Legion (7), Battle for the Abyss (8), Mechanicum (9), Tales of Heresy (10), Fallen Angels (11), A Thousand Sons  (12), Nemesis (13), The First Heretic (14), Prospero Burns (15), Age of Darkness (16), The Outcast Dead (17), Deliverance Lost (18), Know No Fear (19), The Primarchs (20), Fear to Tread (21), Shadows of Treachery (22), Angel Exterminates (23), Betrayer (24), Mark of Calth (25), Promethean SunScorched EarthVulkan Lives (26), Scars (I-III, IV-IX; 27), The Unremembered Empire (28), Vengeful Spirit (29), The Damnation of Pythos (30), Legacies of Betrayal (31), Death & DefianceTallarn: ExecutionerBlades of the TraitorDeathfire (32), The PurgeWolf KingCyberneticaGarro: Vow of FaithRavenlordWar Without End (33), Pharos (34), The HonouredThe UnburdenedEye of Terra (35), The Seventh SerpentThe Path of Heaven (36), The Silent War (37), MedusonTallarn: IroncladAngels of Caliban (38), Praetorian of Dorn (39), Corax

Also on CR: Interview with Chris Wraight (2011)

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