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post #7 of (permalink) Old 05-19-13, 08:48 AM
Sequere_me_in_Tenebras
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My Goodread's account - http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/11554340-stuart-west

Wouldn't mind helping you chaps out with this on Heresy. This is a review I've written on Goodreads for "Betrayer" :-

Brilliant, a return to form for the Horus Heresy series. Blistering pace. I felt like I was running along in the battle.

ADB's writing here is it's usual high calibre with punchy, immersive battle scenes and some excellent characterisation. Minor spoilers below.

One of the highlights of "Betrayer" is the sympathetic portrayal of rebellious primarchs Angron and Lorgar. They are shown to be thoughtful, intelligent beings, neither of whom believes they are evil. Rather they are victims of desecration of their honour by the emperor and the butcher's nails (Angron) or doing what is necessary to lay bare the emperor's lies and reveal an, albeit unpalatable, truth (Lorgar). Their monstrousness is more subtly revealed by the barely mentioned but obvious fact that the background to their actions is the destruction of civilizations and the ending of billions of ordinary human lives, which they seem barely to notice in pursuit of their personal desires. The background to why Lorgar and Angron are as they are is explored and draws the chain of events leading to the heresy past Horus "vanity and Erebus" machinations back to the Emperor's own actions more potently in this book than in most of the others in the series.

Certainly a strong point of this book is characterization. Angron, Primarch of the World Eaters, largely takes centre stage and is depicted in a way that makes him both credible and almost sympathetic, to the extent that such an enraged character can be. What makes this character (and Khârn, his Equerry and right-hand man) interesting is their somewhat tragic humanity as their try, at times at least, to maintain some sanity and fight against the Nails that make them into monsters. Another feature that I appreciated was that Lorgar was much more credible in this volume than when he appeared in "The First Heretic", where I found he was a bit of wimp. At least some of the secondary characters are just as good, such as Lotara Sarrin, Angron's flag captain, Argel Tal of the Word Bearers or Lhorke the Dreadnought and a relic of the past. I almost forgot to mention the arch-traitor, arch-schemer and loathsome Erebus, First Chaplain of the Word Bearers and Dark Apostle of the Word who is, of course, suitably horrid.

So lets talk WARRRRRR. Seeing as this is a potent weapon that ADB has a tight grip upon in regards to his writing. Some of the battle descriptions make up the second strong point of this book. Particularly memorable are the void battles and the battles opposing Titans against each other. Here, however, you get a feeling a "deja vu", to some extent, especially when one of the rebels' flagships comes crashing onto the planet (a bit like in "Know No Fear") that they are invading. You might, however, become a bit tired with the blood and gore scenes which are repeated, and perhaps a bit over-emphasized, at each of the World Eaters engagements. However, they do have the merit of showing how (and why) this Legion's warriors and its arch-gladiator Angron (loosely modelled on Spartacus) become possessed and completely berserk with bloodlust (due to the butcher's nails - thanks Angron). It is their utter carelessness and relentlessness, together with their superior hand to hand fighting skills that make Angron's legion so often victorious, and allows their Primarch to best two of his brothers. Other battle highlights are the titan battles and void combat.

However to play devils advocate here (as I've contradicted myself on purpose during this review, to give perspective) lets look at the theme "the running at the enemy whilst shouting wins every time" from the portrayal of the World Eaters in battle. The problem is that in highlighting the problem with the Butcher's nails and the importance of the non-marine characters, Dembski-Bowden repeatedly points out that the World Eaters are like rabid animals with poor tactics, poor unit cohesion, poor communications, little battlefield command (what tactical direction there is comes from the human flag-captain), friendly fire incidents, little use of combined arms (eg their titan legion bemoans its loss rate as higher than other legions because the world eater marines just don't work in concert with them), poor battlefield discipline, a high casualty rate etc. Despite this we have to believe they slaughter their way through vast numbers of Ultramarines, the most tactically sophisticated, numerous, disciplined, brilliantly led etc legion, on their own territory. And the reason they can do this? Well, its repeatedly explained that its because they are aggressive. Snarling and waving your chainaxe around whilst charging at the enemy slightly more often than you charge your own battle brothers pretty much trumps any fancy tactical, superior firepower, or other nonsense the enemy might try and will always win the day. And even if your casualty rate is stupidly high your legion will somehow never get worn down by attrition. Its so daft that it seriously undermines the whole book. That's for fans of the loyalists anyway.

There are also great non-combat plotlines such as the continuation of Argal Tal's storyline in an unexpected but satisfying direction and the development of Kharn. There are great new characters such as Lotara Sarrin the World Eaters flag-captain and other human and mechanicum characters. In the great non-astartes characters he creates the author tackles the question of how the World Eater's legion could be kept running if all Angron and his space marines want to do is charge the enemy head on at every opportunity. Its a well done reversal of the usual 'even though they were created to be warrior-servants of the teeming human multitudes the god like space marines do everything brilliantly and just allow the humans to tag along'. How Angron's insistence on his marines having the Butcher's nails is destroying the legion and how they cling to brotherhood as everything else that usually defines a space marine is stripped away is movingly explored.

Then there is the plot itself, with two dimensions to it. The first one is to cripple the Ultramarines by destroying as much of their forces, of their strategic assets (dockyards, industries, etc...) and of their worlds as possible and prevent them from reinforcing Terra. The second aspect, which the books focuses much more upon, is the use that Lorgar tries to make of such destructions on a massive scale in order to bring the forces of the Warp into the "real" world. This is another area where I found that ADB's narrative was perhaps not entirely convincing or perhaps a bit "overdone", although it is a rather minor quibble on my part, rather than a serious criticism.

"Betrayer" is a most welcome and worthwhile addition to the series. It is a continuation of both "The First Heretic" (from ADB also), to the extent that we learn more about Lorgar and more of his inner personality. He is the primarch of the Word Bearers, his devious schemes having been covered in part by the previously mentioned title. "Know no Fear" (by Dan Abnett) covers the traitorous attack on Calth and on the Ultramarines.

Current PhD student at Exeter University - "For the Glory - The Development of Battlefield tactics throughout the Ancient World."

Moments that amused me; Sevatar Prince of Crows

(When running into Alastor Rushal "The Raven" on the Invincible Reason)
"You won't believe how I got here."

(When told that a Commodore has survived an ambush and is now the highest ranking survivor.)
"That makes him the new fleet admiral. Offer him my insincere congratulations on a rank he earned purely by being the last naval officer standing. But what's the bad news?"

Last edited by Sequere_me_in_Tenebras; 06-21-13 at 11:38 PM. Reason: provided a link to my reviews
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