Review: PRAETORIAN OF DORN by John French (Black Library)

FrenchJ-HH-PraetorianOfDornThe Heresy arrives on Terra

Recalled from the Great Crusade after Ullanor, Rogal Dorn and the VIIth Legion were appointed as the Emperor’s praetorians – but only after the Warmaster’s treachery was revealed did the full extent of that sacred duty become apparent. Now, the Solar System comes under attack for the first time since the war began, and many of the seemingly impregnable defences wrought by the Imperial Fists prove inadequate. With all eyes fixed firmly upon this new threat beyond the gates of Terra, who in turn will protect Dorn from the enemy within?

The 39th novel in the Horus Heresy series finally brings the traitors to Terra. This is a really interesting, well-constructed novel, featuring plenty of subterfuge, close combat and big set-piece battles. If you’re a fan of the series, and have been following it since the beginning, I’m sure you’ll appreciate how this novel moves the story of the Heresy forward.

John French has made his name writing plenty of short stories set in the Heresy timeline, as well as the recommended Ahriman trilogy of novels. In Praetorian of Dorn, he takes on the enviable task of bringing Traitor forces into the Sol system, as well as Alpha Legion infiltrators to Terra itself. The Imperial Fists, the loyalist Legion tasked with fortifying and protecting the throneworld, feature heavily, which I was rather happy about: while they’re not the most exciting or interesting Legion, it was nice to have a break from the usual attention-hogs. They are noble, conflicted in their own ways, suffering from the long war and there is evidence of cracks in morale starting to show. Dorn features in flashbacks and some present scenes (especially at the end, when we get to see him in combat).

The Alpha Legion are presented entirely as they should be: sneaky, obfuscating, and very dangerous. A Legion that is always interesting and frustrating to read about, French does a great job of planting just enough questions and red herrings to keep the reader guessing. Even the ending, which seems pretty clear, could very well be a fake… Speaking of, it’s a great (not to mention surprising) ending, and one that could have serious implications for the rest of the series.

Compared to the rest of the series, Praetorian of Dorn is not my favourite book — the story, while engaging and well-composed, wasn’t quite as smooth as we’ve seen in the past. It never dragged, but it always wasn’t quite as riveting as some others have been. At the same time, it is not nearly as bad as some of the novels released after the opening trilogy and before A Thousand Sons (I won’t name names).

Action-packed, with some mystery and insurrection, Praetorian of Dorn is a must-read for fans of the series. I’m very much looking forward to the next novel in the series (The Master of Mankind by Aaron Dembski-Bowden), but I also hope this is not French’s last contribution to the series. I hope he gets to write more, whether short stories, novellas or even another novel.

Recommended.

*

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 Exterminatus (23), Betrayer (24), Mark of Calth (25), Promethean Sun, Scorched Earth, Vulkan 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 & Defiance, Tallarn: Executioner, Blades of the Traitor, Deathfire (32), The PurgeWolf King, Cybernetica, Garro: Vow of FaithWar Without End (33), Pharos (34), The Honoured, The Unburdened, Eye of Terra (35), The Seventh Serpent, The Path of Heaven (36), The Silent War (37), Meduson, Tallarn: Ironclad, Angels of Caliban (38), Praetorian of Dorn (39), Corax (40), Sons of the Forge, The Master of Mankind (41)

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4 thoughts on “Review: PRAETORIAN OF DORN by John French (Black Library)

  1. This novel absolutely nails the Alpha Legion and the way they fight. It’s a much better Alpha Legion novel than Legion had been.

    But I agree with you that despite how well-put-together the story seemed, there was simply something missing from it. I don’t know if it was the same for you but I liked reading the story more than remembering it afterward. Some of it comes maybe from how foolish the Alpha Legion seem in hindsight…? When the plans and intentions of the Alpha Legion were revealed, I was surprised. At the same time, though, once you reach the ending where everything becomes clear, I thought “Did the Alpha Legion really think that this would end well for them?”. And what follows lets the whole event feel more like a stepping-stone towards something greater (I mean, indirectly the whole thing is about Horus’ eventual attack on Terra). This subtracted from the experience of it as a standalone-story for me as well.

    Like

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