Quick Review: SONS OF THE SELENAR by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeillG-HHSoT-SonsOfTheSelenarThe Shattered Legions’ story comes to a heroic, tragic, and fitting end

The Shattered Legions crew of the Sisypheum, broken and at the end of their endurance, find themselves divided – torn between following their resurrected captain on a suicidal mission or obeying orders to return to Terra and rejoin their Legion brothers.

Following a series of garbled messages intercepted by the Kryptos, the divided warriors descend to the shattered surface of Luna. Here, their bonds of loyalty, duty, and their devotion to one another will be tested as ancient horrors of the earliest days of gene-manipulation are unleashed, and a long-buried secret is revealed.

A secret that will have far-reaching consequences for the future course of the galaxy, no matter who eventually claims Terra.

Following the betrayal at Isstvan, a handful of loyalist legions were shattered. Various members of these forces — Salamanders, Raven Guard, and Iron Hands — eventually coalesced into mixed forces that have persecuted their own crusade against Horus and his Traitor Legions. As the Siege of Terra begins, the vestiges of this ragtag force makes its way to the Solar system. I really enjoyed this novella.

Sons of the Selenar is a little different from not only the other novels in the Siege of Terra series, but it is also different from most of the Horus Heresy series as a whole. It has a narrow scope, focusing on a relatively tiny force of loyalists as they arrive back in the Solar system. Their initial plan of returning to Terra is delayed as they intercept a distress signal and redirect their attention to Luna. There, Horus’s forces are hunting for a mysterious, legendary artifact that could hold the keys to Horus’s victory and also future longevity and control of the Astartes and technology that could even enhance his forces, unlocking some of the secrets the Emperor took advantage of.

The revelations (at least to me) of Luna’s place in the Imperium and how the genesmiths’ talents were utilized — apparently not wholly willingly — by the Emperor to forge his transhuman warriors were really interesting. The characters we meet are interesting and quite different from many others. The closest being members of the Mechanicum, I guess, but they are a bit more horrific in their desire to augment themselves and distance themselves from the human form.

‘The Selenar have always existed in the cracks between perception,’ she said. ‘We have gone by many names and used many guises through the ages to move through the world of men – the Eleusinians, Oesirica, the Damia, the Immacolata… The list goes on, but every name and every guise had but one purpose… To keep our power of creation out of the hands of men… Because we knew you would do what your kind always does with such a gift – you would seek to turn it into a weapon of conquest and dominance. And that’s exactly what the Emperor did when He stole it from us all those years ago.’

It’s a quick read, with a tightly-plotted story. It helps that we already know some of these characters quite well, but McNeill does a fantastic job of reintroducing readers to them and quickly investing us in their fates. There’s still plenty of action, of course, but what really stood out for me were the moments of brotherhood — these characters, from disparate legions, have forged new bonds of brotherhood in the crucible of a long, intergalactic guerrilla war against their treacherous cousins. The novel has plenty of moving moments, as well as a few amusing moments that are common for novels featuring Legionaries from such different Legions. There’s also a little more examination of these differences, and how the ongoing civil war is affecting or enhancing Legion eccentricities (such as the Iron Hands’ fetishization of machinery and augmentation). Similarly, the survivors contemplate their own likely fates — after all, they have been lifted up by so many to be godlike or nigh-unkillable, but now as more time passes and a greater toll is taken, they recognize that maybe their time in the Imperium’s story is coming to an end.

‘Before the galaxy went mad, I never considered my own death,’ replied Branthan. ‘Not even in theoretical dialogues with the Thirteenth. The Apothecaries told me that we were basically immortal, and the remembrancers claimed we were gods. That should have been warning enough, for what story of gods does not end with them cast down and destroyed?’

Overall, then, I would absolutely recommend this novella to all fans of the Horus Heresy series. It’s a bit strange to write such a statement at this point in the decade-plus series — who’s going to start with this one? Sons of the Selenar adds some extra layers to our understanding of the Emperor’s early machinations and also the structure of the Imperium at this point. It all builds to a dramatic and tragic ending with notes that allude to events that will happen between the end of the Heresy and the WH40k “present”. This novella is a fitting end to the story of the Shattered Legions, one that is certainly fitting and quietly heroic. I’ll miss these characters.

I’m very much looking forward to McNeill’s next contribution to the Siege of Terra series.

*

Graham McNeill’s Sons of the Selenar is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK. The author’s next book in the series is the novella The Fury of Magnus — you can read a bit more about that here and here.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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 SunVulkan 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 HonouredThe UnburdenedEye 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), Wolfsbane (49), Born of Flame (50), Slaves to Darkness (51), Heralds of the Siege (52), Titandeath (53), The Buried Dagger (54)

Siege of Terra: The Solar War (French), The Lost and the Damned (Haley) and The First Wall (Thorpe), Sons of the Selenar (McNeill), Saturnine (Abnett)

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