Angron’s fateful demand of his Legion
As the Emperor travels the galaxy at the head of his Great Crusade, few events are as important as rediscovering his scattered sons, the primarchs, and bestowing them as the masters of their Legions. United, a Legion becomes a reflection of its primarch, both in his strengths and his flaws. For the Twelfth Legion, once the War Hounds and now the World Eaters, the line between strength and flaw is almost impossible to separate. Placed in command of a Legion he does not want, in service to a father he cannot forgive, Angron gives an ultimatum to his children, one that will set them down a path that they can never return from. So desperate for his acknowledgement, will the World Eaters follow their father and cast themselves in his broken image or will they resist? And will any of them ever learn who their father was truly meant to be?
In this, the eleventh novel in the Horus Heresy: Primarchs series, Ian St. Martin draws back the curtain on one of the most important events in the World Eaters’ history: the adoption of the Butcher’s Nails. A fast-paced and interesting short novel, which really improves the overall picture we have of Angron. I really enjoyed this.
Before the Horus Heresy novels and short fiction, the World Eaters often seemed to be rather two-dimensional: they were bloodthirsty berserkers, without the Viking stylings of the Space Wolves. Since the Heresy series has investigated and uncovered the Legion’s “history”, however, we have got a far more interesting, complex picture of Angron and his sons. Angron has only been at the centre of one novel before, Betrayer, and a handful of short stories — most notably After De’Shea by Matthew Farrer, and Butcher’s Nails and Lord of the Red Sands by Aaron Dembski-Bowden (all three are collected in Angron). I was therefore very much looking forward to another book that delves into Angron’s past and also his impact on the World Eaters.
There are two main threads to the novel: flashbacks to Angron’s time as a slave on Nuceria, and a campaign during the Grand Crusade surrounding the time of the World Eaters’ adoption of the Butcher’s Nails. The former is pretty interesting, because it gives us a glimpse of what Angron was like before he was mutilated by the slave-masters and received the Butcher’s Nails himself — a surprisingly compassionate, empathetic being. It makes us wonder what might have been… I think the author did a very good job of showing this side of Angron, using it to good effect in providing a stark contrast with the frothing, out-of-control berserker he was by the time the Emperor found him and united him with his Legion.
The Grand Crusade storyline is equally interesting. The World Eaters have been trying to replicate the Butcher’s Nails and implant them into a Legionnaire. Thus far, the experiments have been utterly, dramatically and catastrophically unsuccessful. (Would you think it’s a good idea to implant a psychosis-inducing contraption into a psyker? Yeah, me neither…) Without spoiling any story-elements, the campaign in which they are currently engaged provides some useful inspiration. The quest to properly implant the Nails has become a central concern for many World Eaters, who are experiencing considerable psychological angst and pain at their Primarch’s obvious derision and apathy. They struggle to balance and handle the simultaneous awe and terror Angron instills in them: he has a Primarch’s preternatural majesty and aura of command, while also having a temper and fury that rests on the lightest of hair-triggers. The World Eaters become split, however, as some believe the Nails will be the doom of the Legion and work to prevent successful completion of the project.
Reading this novel, I was left with a niggling question: How on Terra did the Emperor not purge this Legion? He (apparently) did so for the two lost Primarchs and Legions, so given the events covered in this book, and also various other events that are ‘known’ about their antics and method of warfare, one can’t help but question the Emperor’s decision to keep them in service. After all, the aforementioned Space Wolves fulfil the role of Imperium’s executioners, so Angron’s and the World Eaters’ hyper-aggressive style isn’t exactly necessary. Is it a result of the Emperor’s guilt? Is he as detached as he’s sometimes portrayed to be (mainly in short stories), considering the Primarchs and the Legions purely as sentient tools? Or, given that it’s the Emperor, are his motives and agenda opaque to us mere mortals? All of the above?
I enjoyed this quite a bit, and I think it might be the best of the Primarchs novels so far. Given that many of the other Primarchs have received a lot more attention and examination in the Horus Heresy series proper, St. Martin had more space to flesh out Angron’s character and his relationship with his Legion. The novel, therefore, has a more illuminating and substantive feel to it than others in this companion series.
Aside from that consideration, the novel is also just really good: well-written, good characters all around, great action sequences and some interesting examination of the Legions, World Eaters, Primarchs and the setting in general. Reading this has made me move a number of St. Martin’s other novels higher up on my TBR mountain — first up will be either Lucius: The Faultless Blade or his novella Steel Daemon.
I think a lot of fans of the Horus Heresy and Primarchs series are going to really enjoy this novel. Definitely recommended.
Horus Heresy Primarchs Series: Roboute Guilliman, Leman Russ, Magnus the Red, Perturabo, Lorgar, Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus, Jaghatai Khan, Vulkan, Corax, Angron, Konrad Curze (2019)