Three Legions attempt the journey back to Terra…
Imperium Secundus lies revealed as a heretical folly. Terra has not fallen, though it remains inaccessible. Sanguinius, Guilliman and the Lion El’Johnson, the primarchs of the Triumvirate, must reach Terra at all costs. They seek to defend the Emperor, and to atone for their sins. But the Ruinstorm, a galaxy-wide maelstrom of chaos, hides the Throneworld from the primarchs. Now the fleets of three Legions depart Macragge, and the primarchs will stop at nothing to overcome the Ruinstorm. Yet an insidious enemy watches their every move, and plots against the weaknesses of the errant sons of the Emperor. Each has his own inner storm, and each marches towards his own ruin.
In this, the 46th novel in the Horus Heresy series, the three Legions stranded at Ultramar have sallied forth, attempting to break through the Ruinstorm and make their way back to Terra, to be by the Emperor’s side when Horus launches his final attack on the Imperial throne world. Annandale brings his A-game, and from the get-go we’re thrown right into the story. It’s Chaotic, interesting, and moves the story forward nicely. I really enjoyed this.
There’s a fair amount going on in this novel. It’s focused on the three loyal Primarchs’ attempts to leave Macragge and reunite with the Emperor on Terra. This means breaking through the Ruinstorm of the title — the massive warp anomaly brought into being by the Word Bearers’ shenanigans. Over the course of the novel, Annandale does a great job at showing us the different styles and characters of Sanguinius, Guilliman and the Lion. Their different temperaments — not to mention violent impulses — mean they view every situation from different angles. With the added influence of the Ruinstorm, though, their prejudices and secret anxieties are enhanced.
For me, Sanguinius’s centrality to the story was the most interesting aspect of the novel. Indeed, his and Curze’s prophetic abilities are really brought to the fore in this novel. (Oh, yes: Curze is along for the ride, as a prisoner of the Dark Angels. He’s one of my favourite primarchs, to be honest. I think, in many ways, he’s the most interesting. Shame he’s a psychopath…) The two primarchs’ gift of foresight has manifested in distinct cognitive issues: Sanguinius receives his visions (including that of his death) as something to learn from, to analyse and assess. Curze sees them as doom-laden prophecy, and sees the glass of the universe as very much almost empty.
Sanguinius spoke with the same certainty the Lion heard in Curze’s voice. Both of them lived only partially in the present. The other part of them existed in the inexorable reality of their future deaths.
The influence of the Ruinstorm on these two primarchs’ foresight is interesting, too: it’s never clear if what they are seeing is genuine prophecy or the machinations of Chaos, playing on the fact that the future is always shifting, altering. Except for their deaths — the two have always seen their ultimate fates, and it has informed their actions. But what if things could change? This is the crux of Sanguinius’s journey in the novel.
The shadow passed over the Night Haunter in his cell. He caught his breath. His eyes widened, staring into nothing, and in that nothing he felt dread. He had foreseen the shadow’s arrival, but now that it was here, the future turned into a cascade of doubt. Possibilities multiplied, then winked out. The certainty of the implacable succession of moments vanished. They were replaced with a blank. Nothing.
The novel has some great, big battles, as can be expected from the Heresy series. A couple of them are massive, and Annandale does a fantastic job of presenting the (let’s be honest) preposterous scale of battle during the Heresy, and against the unnatural forces of Chaos, and the sheer awesome power that the primarchs have at their finger tips — either in the form of their Legions, or in their own person. We see Sanguinius unleashed for the first time since Fear to Tread, and it is awesome.
Ruinstorm is a very good addition to the series. I very much enjoyed the greater presence of the primarchs, the examination of fate and free will, and the balance between action and character-focused content. This may be one of Annandale’s best, I think, and it certain felt more confident than The Damnation of Pythos. I hope he gets the chance to write more in the Horus Heresy setting.
Forty-six novels in, and the series is still going strong. This is a must for all fans of the series.
Ruinstorm is out now, published by Black Library.
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, Vulkan Lives (26), Scars (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 Purge, Wolf King, Cybernetica, War Without End (33), Pharos (34), The Honoured, The Unburdened, Eye of Terra (35), The Path of Heaven (36), The Silent War (37), Angels of Caliban (38), Praetorian of Dorn (39), Corax (40), The Master of Mankind (41), Garro (42), Shattered Legions (43), The Crimson King (44), Tallarn (45), Ruinstorm (46), Old Earth (47), The Burden of Loyalty (48)
Post-Script: I thought I’d share this snippet from the author’s note at the end of the book, as it’s a good summation of the author’s thinking and approach to the novel:
“What is the role of free will in this grand tragedy of the Imperium? Is fate truly unalterable? This is a big part of the paradoxes of Sanguinius and Curze. It is one thing for us, as readers, to know how things turn out. We are not the players on the stage. But what of these players who do know some of what is coming? Foreknowledge certainly didn’t help Oedipus avoid his fate, and Curze would seem to revel darkly in the inevitability of his doom. But perhaps Sanguinius is part of an unfortunate lineage, from Oedipus to Macbeth to Jake Gittes of Chinatown and beyond. These characters know just enough about the future that their efforts to forestall disaster only ensure its arrival. Furthermore, how responsible is each primarch for his own downfall? With these questions in mind, I wanted to explore, through Sanguinius (and much to the horror of Curze), the potential mutability of fate.”