The first in a new series focusing on each of the Emperor’s Primarchs
Long before the coming of the Imperium, the realm of Ultramar was ruled by Roboute Guilliman, the last Battle King of Macragge. Even after learning of his true heritage as a primarch son of the Emperor of Mankind, he strove to expand his domain as efficiently and benevolently as possible, with the XIII Legion Ultramarines as his alone to command. Now, facing a rival empire on the ork-held world of Thoas, Guilliman must choose his weapons carefully – otherwise his dream of a brighter future could be lost forever.
It’s no surprise to regular readers of CR that I’m quite fond of the Horus Heresy series. I was both surprised and pleased, therefore, when Black Library announced a companion series — one that would comprise one novel for each of the Primarchs, loyal and traitor, set before the Heresy. Given recent developments in the WH40k game universe, it’s perhaps not surprising that the series would kick off with Roboute Guilliman. And it’s a very strong start, too.
Guilliman is the rather square (let’s be honest) Primarch of the Ultramarines — obsessed with the theoretical and practical approaches to warfare and governance. He’s hyper-analytical, almost professorial in his interactions with his Legionnaires. What’s interesting in this novel, though, is the fact that Annandale has the Ultramarines and their Primarch facing a situation in which emotions get the better of the analytical. This novel takes a look at the conflict between the Ultramarines’ companies dominated by Terran-born Legionnaires and traditions, and the rapidly advancing Ultramar leadership and traditions. An issue most recently dealt with at length in Chris Wraight’s Scars and The Path of Heaven, Annandale does a great job of showing how the rules-inclined Ultramarines struggle to maintain both their traditions (for example, the destroyer companies) and their Primarch’s doctrines.
A relatively short novel, the story is focused and direct: it’s a single campaign, and the author directs readers’ attention to what is happening in the ranks and at leadership levels. Given that Guilliman is leading from the/a front, it makes for an action-packed, fast-paced novel. There are a lot of orks, a great deal of combat (both ranged and close-quarters), and some interesting insight into the Legion and how it’s developing during the Crusade. It also shows two sides of the Primarch — his analytical side, as well as his brutal aspect (seeing him wade into combat does conjure up some pretty powerful, frightening images).
Overall, this is a great addition to the Horus Heresy canon; as well as an entertaining, fast-paced military sci-fi novel. A must for fans of the Heresy series, and also a pretty good starting point for new readers.
Roboute Guilliman is out now, published by Black Library. The second and third novels in the series are also out now (reviews soon): Leman Russ and Magnus the Red. Perturabo, Lorgar and Fulgrim are scheduled to be the next three novels.