A look at the Night Haunter’s spiral into madness, and his last hours
Of all the Emperor’s immortal sons, the primarchs, it is Konrad Curze whose legend is the darkest. Born in the shadows of Nostramo, a world of murderers, thieves and worse, is it any surprise that he became the figure of dread known only as the Night Haunter?
Heed now the tragic story of the creature Konrad Curze, master of the Night Lords Legion, of how he became a monster and a weapon of terror. He who once served the Imperium saw the truth in a maddening universe and the hypocrisy of a loveless father. From the blood-soaked gutters of his hiveworld upbringing, to the last days of his ill-fated existence, Curze is a primarch like no other and his tale is one to chill the very bone…
In this, Guy Haley’s third Primarchs novel, readers get a fascinating look at Konrad Curze: the Night Haunter, and gene-father of the Night Lords, the Emperor’s terror troops. A nuanced examination of Curze’s place in the expanding Imperium, as well as an account of his final hours — lost to madness, despair and bitterness.
There are a few threads from previous Horus Heresy and Primarchs books picked up and tied off in this novel. For example, this novel starts with the recovery of Konrad Curze’s prison sarcophagus, in which he was ejected into space by his brothers Sanguinius and Lion El’Johnson, in David Annandale’s Ruinstorm. Unfortunately or the crew of the ship that finds him, he did not enjoy his time in there…
More importantly, Haley also wrote Corax, about the eponymous Primarch of the Raven Guard (a Legion that has benefited greatly from the Heresy fiction). In that novel, the author started a discussion that continues in Konrad Curze: a comparison of these two Primarchs, and the vastly different paths they have walked. Each of them has an affinity for the darkness, as a tool and also a refuge. They are both Legions that use assassination and fear to achieve their ends — Corax and his sons are rather more subtle, however. In Curze, Haley offers Konrad’s side of the comparison: he is bitter and hates the Emperor for making him who he is, unable to understand why he wasn’t given the same respect as the Raven Lord, not to mention also Corax’s mysterious shadow gift.
‘I wonder often if Corax would have followed me into this same darkness, had the war not come. He and I were so similar, we could have been twins. Of them all, he and Sanguinius were the closest to me – not personally, none of them were my friends,’ Curze said sarcastically. ‘There were never any friends for me. But they were the most alike, though for different reasons. Corax and I, yes, both creatures of darkness, I the murderer, he the assassin, both preoccupied by justice, both raised around criminals.’
Equally, he doesn’t understand why the Emperor didn’t come to his defence when he fulfilled his role and purpose — in many ways, Curze’s relationships with the Emperor is a more transparent father-son psychodrama than most of the other Primarchs. Indeed, these novels comprise one of the most complicated family sagas ever written. As with some of the other books that have focused on the Traitor Primarchs, Konrad is far more clear-eyed about the Emperor’s flaws and mistakes (although, it should be noted that the Emperor never suggests he’s perfect, and that part of the problem is that others don’t believe him).
‘You see, that’s what I don’t understand. Why did you breed such a clutch of hypocrites?’
The novel is split between what turns out to be the Primarch’s final hours, on the one hand, and various flashbacks across Curze’s life. In the former, Konrad is ranting and raving against an effigy of his father, the Emperor. If you’ve read Aaron Dembski-Bowden’s Night Lords series, then you will know the story of Curze’s death, but it is by no means necessary to have done so in order to enjoy this book. You might, however, enjoy the cameos of certain key characters from that series — for example, Sevatar (who I really liked this this novel), the Painted Count, and also Talos (one of my favourite WH40k characters).
It’s clear that Konrad has not handled the aforementioned gift of foresight as well as his fellow Primarch, Sanguinius. Where the Angel looks to the future with hope, believing that his and humanity’s fate is not set, Curze sees it as inevitable and makes choices that he believes will bring about the inevitable, rather than the best outcome. Like Sanguinius, Curze has had a vision of his own death. Unlike Sanguinius, who has tried to see a path to avoid his death (as witnessed in Ruinstorm), Curze is resigned to his fate.
As the novel progresses, alternating between various points in Curze’s life, we see his decline. At first, he is terrifying but also magnificent — the shimmer of the near-divine still evident in his presence. As time progresses, though, he becomes ever-more twisted, filthy and insane. He comes to inhabit so fully the role he was meant to play. By the end, he is a base killer, a murderer who revels in the death and horror he creates.
“It is abhorrent, what I do. I am abhorrent. But my abhorrence is only a concentration of the sins of all men, magnified in me ten thousandfold. You intended us to be exemplars of humanity. You succeeded all too well.”
The Primarchs series has really improved in recent volumes. This is easily one of the best in the series. Haley has done an excellent of improving our overall picture and understanding of Curze, and tying together so many threads of the overall Heresy story (macro- and micro-level). Those who have read all or a lot of the Heresy series will probably get more out of this novel than only casual readers. Nevertheless, I urge fans of the Horus Heresy and Primarch series, as well as WH40k in general, to pick this up when it’s released.
Very highly recommended.
Twelve down, six to go.
Guy Haley’s Konrad Curze: Night Haunter is due to be published by Black Library in August 2019.