Book Review: The Primarchs / Author: Christian Dunn/ Publisher: The Black Library / Release Date: May 24th
The Primarchs is the most recent release in the seemingly endless Horus Heresy series, and as the name suggests, focuses on the exploits of the god-like leaders of the armies of the man. The Primarchs is an anthology of four novella length stories, each by a different author.
It opens with Graham McNeil’s The Reflection Crack’d, a uniquely dark twist on the Portrait of Dorian Grey. Previously in the series, we saw the Primarch Fulgrim in some pretty dire straits, with some pretty important questions left unanswered. McNeil returns to form here, and proceeds to unveil all sorts of secrets about Fulgrim and his closest generals. This is not a tale for the squeamish, and very much about the character progression; this contains elements of an origin story the fans have been waiting for, as well as a scene that will make fans of the series applaud.
The character progression continues in Nick Kyme’s Feat of Iron, a tale about Ferrus Manus, the cybernetic Primarch. The Horus Heresy has a huge cast of characters, and Manus is perhaps the most underused; he doesn’t get much time centre stage for a variety of reasons, so it’s nice to see him showcased this way. Feat of Iron puts Manus and his legion in a series of near impossible challenges, both physical and spiritual. It’s a good Horus Heresy story, though Kyme has written much stronger (and similar) tales in the past.
One of the hidden jewels of the Black Library’s dark crown is Gav Thorpe. He consistently provides firm tales told in a riveting sort of way, and has gone from strength to strength in recent years. His contribution to the anthology is The Lion, and features the leader of that most mysterious of legions, The Dark Angels. It’s a bit of a curates egg of a novella; fans will love it, those not as familiar with the setting may miss some of the finer notes. It’s always a pleasure to read Thorpe’s work, and this is him combining his growing writing skill with his love for very geeky things.
Finally, we have Rob Sanders tale, The Serpent Beneath is a cinematic thrill ride, showcasing some of the more memorable aspects of the setting. Not only does it feature the special-ops like Alpha Legion, it also features the hive-like cities, people with earthquake generating psychic powers, remote outposts with secret projects, double-dealing and bold strategies. Sander’s delivers a fast paced end to the anthology, and it’s certainly a page turner. He captures the various elements of the setting perfectly, it’s exciting, epic and also very, very grim.
Though one should not judge a book by its cover, special mention should be made of the artwork on the front of The Primarchs; the covers on these books are usually pretty special, but artist Neil Roberts has outdone himself, creating a powerful image that sets the anthology up perfectly. This is not a book for those looking to get into the series; either start at the beginning or try Dan Abnett’s Legion, but it is a good example as to why it continues to be so popular.