Quick Review: SONS OF THE EMPEROR (Black Library)

Various-HHP-SonsOfTheEmperorAn anthology of short stories about the Primarchs

From their shadowed origins to the desperate battles that ensued when half of them rebelled against their father, the Sons of the Emperor – the vaunted primarchs – were among the greatest of humanity’s champions, warriors without peer and heroes whose deeds became legend.

From the Angel Sanguinius, who took the sole brunt of his Legion’s most brutal acts, to Vulkan, whose humanity made him unique amongst his brothers, and from dour Perturabo, architect, inventor and murderous warlord, to Horus, whose shining light was eclipsed only by the darkness that grew within his soul, this anthology covers eight of the primarchs and their greatest – or darkest – deeds.

Contents:
The Passing of Angels by John French
The Abyssal Edge by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Mercy of the Dragon by Nick Kyme
Shadow of the Past by Gav Thorpe
The Emperor’s Architect by Guy Haley
Prince of Blood by L J Goulding
The Ancient Awaits by Graham McNeill
Misbegotten by Dan Abnett

This is a great anthology. Originally released as a special for the Black Library Weekender in 2018, it collects eight stories by some of the best authors working on the Horus Heresy series. Each of them offers something new and interesting, alternative and original impressions and glimpses of some of the Primarchs. I really enjoyed this.

John French’s THE PASSING OF ANGELS is an interesting tale. It offers insight into the duality of the Blood Angels: their angelic aspect duelling with the reality that they are brutal, genhanced killers. Sanguinius, full of compassion for humanity and others, is forced to bring to bear the Destroyers — the troops who utilize some of the worst weapons available to the Legions. A good look at how the noble Blood Angels justify the use of such terrible weapons to themselves, and how their Primarch carries that burden in order to relieve it from his sons.

In THE ABYSSAL EDGE, Aaron Dembski-Bowden returns to the Night Lords, a Legion he has written quite a bit about before (most notably in the Night Lords novels, one of my favourite sci-fi trilogies ever). It’s a short story, one that gives readers a good glimpse of how the Night Lords’ human servants see their Astartes lords — and especially Sevatar, the “Prince of Crows”. The event in question also offers a nice look at how rigid the Night Haunter could be, but also Magnus’s insatiable thirst for knowledge and desire to preserve it at all costs. It’s pre-Heresy, but nevertheless shows the cracks in the relationship between the two brothers and the considerably different styles of the Thousand Sons and the Night Lords. Really enjoyed it.

In MERCY OF THE DRAGON, Nick Kyme presents two events from Vulkan’s life: his reunion with the Emperor and also one of his first campaigns with a fellow Primarch, Ferrus Manus. Kyme uses these two events to give us a clearer understanding of how the Emperor saw Vulkan’s place among his sons. Despite, in some ways being the least human (he’s a perpetual, after all), Vulkan’s heart and compassion are among his most important traits. As Ferrus points out at one point, he is also a monster on the battlefield. In many ways, therefore, Kyme shows us how Vulkan is perhaps the ideal manifestation of what the Emperor hoped the Primarchs would be.

SHADOW OF THE PAST is an interesting story. Maybe set quite a bit after the Heresy, a cadre of Word Bearers are busy setting up a bastion and temple on a planet. But something is stalking and killing the Legionnaires. A long, bitter rivalry is at the heart, and we get to see Lorgar in his daemonic glory. I don’t want to spoil who/what the killer is (although, given the author, I’m sure many will guess). It’s a really interesting example of that character’s powers and abilities. I hope we see more of him in this aspect, and learn a bit more about him. (Cryptic, I know, but it is a very good story.)

I really liked the premise of Guy Haley’s THE EMPEROR’S ARCHITECT. Perturabo’s influence is at the centre of the story, as two remembrancers tour Olympia and discover the lasting impact he has had on the world and its people. It offers a couple of outsiders’ perspectives of Perturabo, showing us a very different side of him: he is magnificent, highly accomplished and focused. He is also vainglorious, petty, narcissistic. I liked that this story built on Haley’s Hammer of Olympia novel, digging deeper into the negative aspects of Perturabo’s character, as well as giving us a brief look at his arrival on the planet and early experiences there. Very good.

L.J. Goulding’s PRINCE OF BLOOD is set on the World Eaters’ flagship, Conqueror. Taking place on the way to Terra, after the events of Betrayer, the effects of the Warp and Angron’s new allegiance is taking its toll on the crew. Thrown out of the Warp, and abandoned by their Word Bearer chaperones, Khârn and other fleet authorities must figure out what has happened, where they are, what they should do, and where to go. He confronts Angron, who is experiencing a rare moment of lucidity… If you’ve been following the fiction focused on the World Eaters and Angron, you’ll certainly get something out of this. I very much appreciate the fact that the publisher and authors are doing a great job of fleshing out Angron’s character, making him more interesting than just a frothing psychopath. Given his favoured station, most of these stories have also added layers to Khârn’s character as well, just as this one does.

Ah, Fulgrim. The first Primarch to ascend to daemonhood (in McNeill’s excellent Angel Exterminatus), he is always an interesting figure to read about. In THE ANCIENT AWAITS, a small cadre of Thousand Sons have been despatched to a planet, answering a distress call. The planet has a history, however, and the message may have actually been a trap. But for whom? And why? An entertaining story.

It’s always nice when Horus is at the centre of a story. In MISBEGOTTEN, set before the Heresy and Horus’s fall, we get a short glimpse of the noble, inspiring and compassionate Warmaster as he once was. An ideal hero for the expanding Imperium, still a believer in the Emperor’s mission. Also, some gribbly beasts to fight.

Overall, I really enjoyed this collection of stories. Each of them offers a new perspective of one or more of the Emperor’s loyal and traitorous sons. The stories are spread across the timeline, which means they’re also nicely varied. I’ve read so much Heresy fiction, now, but I am always impressed that the authors keep coming up with new and interesting stories about these incredible characters. Sure, there have been a small handful of the novels that didn’t blow me away, but they have all contributed something that has made this series (in my humble opinions) one of the most impressive sci-fi achievements. Well-written, interesting and engaging, this is a very good read.

Definitely recommended for all fans of the Horus Heresy and Primarchs series.

*

Sons of the Emperor is out now, published by Black Library. The stories highlighted in blue in the synopsis are available individually, with the rest coming out over the next few Mondays, in case you want to pick-and-choose which ones you read about. (Although, I would recommend getting the collection.) Another anthology — Scions of the Emperor — was released for the 2019 Black Library Weekender. I hope we don’t have to wait a full year before that one’s more widely available… Here’s to hoping.

Follow the Author (French): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Dembski-Bowden): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Kyme): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Thorpe): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Haley): Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Goulding): Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (McNeill): Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Follow the Author (Abnett): Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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