The Siege of Terra as the Horus Heresy draws closer to the end
After seven years of bitter war, the end has come at last for the conflict known infamously as the Horus Heresy. Terra now lies within the Warmaster’s sights, the Throneworld and the seat of his father’s rule. Horus’ desire is nothing less than the death of the Emperor of Mankind and the utter subjugation of the Imperium. He has become the ascendant vessel of Chaos, and amassed a terrible army with which to enact his will and vengeance. But the way to the Throne will be hard as the primarch Rogal Dorn, the Praetorian and protector of Terra, marshals the defences. First and foremost, Horus must challenge the might of the Sol System itself and the many fleets and bulwarks arrayed there. To gain even a foothold on Terran soil, he must first contend the Solar War. Thus the first stage of the greatest conflict in the history of all mankind begins.
This series has been a long time coming. The Horus Heresy series began with Dan Abnett’s Horus Rising, published back in 2006. After 53 more books, countless short stories, audio-dramas and more, the traitor forces of Warmaster Horus are knocking on the doors of the Solar system. This novel covers the opening moves of the end-stage, and French does a fantastic job of portraying this chaotic, brutal siege. If the rest of the Siege of Terra series is as strong (or stronger) than this, fans are in for one hell of a ride.
Many fan-favourite characters make an appearance. Horus himself, of course, as well as his staunchest, most loyal son Abaddon. Other key and interesting traitors are among those engineering the opening stages of the attack on Terra — including Ahriman, some of his fellow Thousand Sons sorcerers, and secretive and distrusted Word Bearer apostles, who are maneuvering to bring about certain Chaotic shenanigans to aid the traitors. The leaders of the Imperial Fists — Dorn, of course, as well as his stoic and dutiful commanders, holding the line against the opening waves of attackers. I enjoyed reading about the defenders’ attempts to tease out the Warmaster’s plan, not to mention his location (read the novel for more on that).
While the larger conflict is taking place, in The Solar War French also brings together some storylines that were seeded right at the start of the Horus Heresy series. (I’m going to do my best to avoid all spoilers, so some of this review may come across as rather vague.) Certain characters return, and French draws on events in Horus Rising and others to weave an impressive, twisty plot alongside that of the nascent siege and void war.
This novel could easily have just been 400~ pages of action and conflict. Thankfully, however, French provides readers with far more than wall-to-wall bolter action. Even well-established characters — Abaddon, for example — get a bit more background, their pasts fleshed out. Indeed, I was quite surprised how self-reflective Abaddon was, but I enjoyed learning more about his induction into the Luna Wolves (albeit only briefly). Certain characters are questioning their path and actions, if not their hoped-for outcome (Ahriman, for example). Others, on the other hand, are itching to get to grips with their enemies. French provides readers with plenty of new and interesting insights into his characters and their motives, in these final stages of the Heresy.
There were some surprising absences from the story, which leads me to assume they will be handled by other authors (for example, the Death Guard and Alpha Legion, to name but two). It’ll also be interesting to see how the Traitor Primarchs make themselves known in the siege and final battles to come.
Needless to say, I very much enjoyed The Solar War. It is clearly only the opening moves of the final attack, but French does a great job of providing certain conclusions for a handful of characters (new and old), as well as setting up what promises to be a truly epic confrontation between Horus and his traitors, and the Emperor and the embattled loyalists.
Very highly recommended, this is a must read for all fans of the Horus Heresy series and also WH40k in general. I really enjoyed it.
John French’s The Solar War is available for pre-order now, published by Black Library this Saturday (May 18th). [The next novel in the series is The Lost and the Damned by Guy Haley, due out later this year.]