Review: Horus Heresy - Fear to Tread / Author: James Swallow / Publisher: The Black Library / Release Date: August 30th
Fear to Tread is the latest in the long-running Horus Heresy series and the first book to focus on the activities of those perennial favourites, the Blood Angels. For those of you who don’t know the series (where have you been?), the Blood Angels are a legion of blood-drinking space templars who police the galaxy on the behalf of humanity, founded by the angelic looking Sanguinius, a scientifically created demi-god with white wings and a beautiful face. This sort of thing is pretty standard for a Horus Heresy novel; it’s a world filled with giant sized cyclopean sorcerers and space elves, after all.
The Heresy series is very much focused on the secret origins of the Warhammer 40,000 setting, and James Swallow, having written rather splendid books about the Blood Angels in the past, was the perfect person to write Fear to Tread. Swallow finds the fine balance between melodrama and action here; on the one hand, if you’re telling a tale of blood drinking super-humans, then you have to explore the consequences of that, but if you take that too far you end up making the whole thing yet another vampire story. Swallow dodges this obvious trap by focusing on other conflicts; duty versus loyalty, courage versus wisdom and paranoia versus caution.
The plot is one of betrayal and triumph; the Blood Angels are sent on a mission to finish off a foe they thought long vanquished. On the way, they discover a conspiracy of evil and a world possessed by demonic forces. This much, by the way, is obvious from the cover; Neil Roberts has yet again outdone himself, and you come into Fear to Tread with no illusions that this will be a lengthy discussion on the nature of humanity, as the cover features a demon fighting an angel on a hell torn plane. It’s beautifully rendered and also tells the reader to expect excitement. Fear to Tread is an action packed, bloody romp filled with tooth and nail combat and in your face action. That said, it isn’t a good starting point for those who don’t know the setting; those who are into Warhammer, the Horus Heresy or the Blood Angels will eat this up, whereas tourists will find themselves confused (and are better off reading Swallows’ previous book in the series; Nemesis).