One of the most-anticipated battles of the Horus Heresy finally comes to pass
The Inner Walls are breached.
Traitor vanguards tear towards the heart of the Palace, sensing victory. Desperate gambits are attempted: an unwilling saint is released into the ruins, as well as an enthusiastic sinner. A black sword rises, forged from spite, ready to create a legend. But amid the slaughter, Jaghatai Khan, Warhawk of Chogoris, prepares to launch the most audacious strike of the conflict. His goal is nothing less than the liberation of the Lion’s Gate space port. Cut off from any help, he stakes everything on one desperate counter-offensive, launched against an old enemy who has been made far greater than he ever was before. As the White Scars ride out against the newly crowned lords of life and death, they know that defeat for them dooms not only the Legion, but Terra itself.
And so we come to the penultimate book in not only the Siege of Terra series, but the Horus Heresy over all. It’s been quite a journey, with many twists and turns of the story along the way. In Warhawk, fans will finally get to read about a particular confrontation that has been a long time coming. It’s one of the most epic duels I’ve read in Black Library fiction (or any other), and Wraight has done a fantastic job of realizing it on the page. I very much enjoyed reading this.
The main problem with reviewing Warhawk is the risk of spoilers. What I really want to write about is what’s on the cover: Jaghatai facing off against Mortarion. It is a confrontation that has seemed inevitable, in some ways, and there was a lot riding on the author’s ability to pull this off. And boy, does he ever pull it off. It is the climax of the novel, and the author absolutely nailed it. He had a fair amount of leeway, coming into the novel, as Jaghatai’s fate is only hinted at in the lore of the Siege of Terra. What Wraight has come up with gave me chills; more so than any other moment I can think of in the series so far. But I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone! So, I shall say no more about it. Just read it.
As with any novel that has a particular faction or Legion at its centre, readers will get plenty of examination of what it means to be a part of them: in this case, the White Scars, and how they fit within the larger Imperium (in terms of how they see themselves, and how others see them). Wraight also spends plenty of time focusing on the Death Guard, examining their continuing changes since they fell to Chaos and Nurgle. He throws in some “revelations” from a daemon, and we spend quite a bit of time seeing members of the Legion coming to terms with the changes wrought upon them — it’s not entirely the case that they welcomed them, at first. And, of course, there’s plenty more material on the relationship between the Primarchs, and between them and their Legions. This has always been one of my favourite parts of the Horus Heresy series, and I’ll definitely miss it once it’s over. (I’m sure there’ll be another series of novels that fills in the bit of “history” that follows the Heresy, though, so there should be plenty more reading material on the way in the near future.)
On the whole, Warhawk does a very good job of moving the story forward a little bit, offering some more tantalizing hints of what’s going on at this point in the siege, and what is to come. It also continues the trend of messing about with the mythology: the authors involved in the series have really leaned in to how history, lore, and mythology work — how events can be misremembered, exaggerated, or forgotten in ways that fundamentally could change our understanding of the “past”. Dan Abnett threw a lot of WTF?! moments into Saturnine, and Wraight has picked up and run with a couple of them rather nicely.
Warhawk is another excellent addition to the Siege of Terra and Horus Heresy series, and a must-read for anyone who’s been reading over the years. Wraight brings the story of the White Scars (of this era, at least) to a satisfying close. The series must be one of the most impressive feats in collective storytelling I’ve come across, and I can’t wait for the final book. (Which I assume is by Aaron Dembski-Bowden?)
Very highly recommended.
More Horus Heresy on CR: 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 Sun, Vulkan 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 Honoured, The Unburdened, Eye 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), Fury of Magnus (McNeill)