Holy......this book changes so much with -this- important event..
The first thing I will say is that there are parts that I thought were great, and there were parts I thought were either unnecessary or poorly executed. Overall it's still one of the better books of the series, but it's not without it's faults.
To set the scene, the prologue is the first meeting between Russ and Horus directly after he's been found by the Emperor. Horus and the Big E are observing Russ and some of his 'pack' and discussing their induction into the Imperium and Russ being given the VIth Legion to command. It goes to great lengths within 3 pages to tell you that Horus is jealous of the fact that others will share in the Emperors presence, and he want's to be the sole person who does that. That Horus is a jealous sole, and that in time he'll become jealous of the Emperor. It's a nice scene in the way that it introduces Russ, and the way that the Emperor knows there's a difference between the Russ that his pack brothers sees and the actual Russ, with him constantly telling Horus not to underestimate him. There's a great bit where Russ and Horus are talking, and Russ is having problems with some of the words of the Imperium and is referring to aspects of Fenrisian life, Horus starts to correct Russ on the proper terminology and Russ is "Oh, ok. I only started learning your language 5 days ago" which amazes Horus. But the scene is very blunt in the overall message: Horus is a jealous soul...
Book begins on Terra, and specifically the arrival of Sanguinius to Terra from Guillimans Little Heresy. Russ has been getting debriefs from the team that Malcador sent out to mark up the Venegeful Spirit for an attack, and last on his list is Loken. It's a good little piece between the last of the Loyal Lunar Wolves and the Wolf King, and the final question that Russ poses to Loken is great: "Can I kill him?" to which Loken eventually replies "No...". However even in this scene there's the telegraphing of future things, specifically the Spear. You're pointed to the Spear, towards the back of Russ command room where his other weapons are much closer to him, and the way that Russ keeps an eye on it because he doesn't fully trust it. And that's something that carries through the book - Russ doesn't like or trust the Spear, and only accommodates it because it's a gift from the Emperor that he made. He doesn't dare try to destroy it, but often tries to "accidentally" leave it behind places only to find it coming back to him. Even when Sanguinius returns and there's to be a meeting between the Primarchs on Terra, Russ stubbornly takes the Spear with him just in case the Emperor shows up, he doesn't want to seem ungrateful for it despite not liking it.
The meeting of the Primarchs was a bit mixed. It had some great points but overall my impression of the Primarchs other than Russ were that they just felt underwhelming. The discussion between them felt like it could have been between mid-tier Astartes rather the pinnacle of the Emperors work, and the dialogue felt mostly interchangeable. The use of Librarians and Rune Priests, and the fundamental hypocrisy of Russ being one of the more vocal proponents of Nikea and the sanctioning of Magnus was brought up, and it was handled in such a way to make you go "That makes sense, guess we can move on to bigger things". Dorn is still fixated on defence, to which everyone but Russ is agreed upon and Russ announces that he's off to kill the Warmaster. Everyone in the room is against that, taking away a Primarch and a Legion from the defence of Terra - and in one of the funnier moments of the book Russ declares that should the Emperor himself decree that he should stay then he will. He then yells out to the Emperor to let him know he should stay, mocks a 'listening to the silence' by tilting his head slightly and more or less goes "... well, I think we have an answer". Russ is really likeable in this book.
As his Legion is preparing to depart from Terra, Russ get's summoned by Malcador for a discussion, and a seemingly customary board game that has deeper meaning... Malcador reveals that Russ cannot defeat Horus with his new power, and that should Russ head out that neither he or the Emperor can see what will happen as a result. Russ is still determined to go, but need to take his Legion somewhere first before heading to the Venegeful Spirit for a confrontation with his brother, and leaves Malcador. Malcador notices that Russ has left his spear behind...
With the last of the Rout ready to depart Terra, Russ gets a visit from Valdor on his flagship. Russ is somewhat surprised because he's been on Terra for 6 months and tried to get an audience with Vlador with no success, and as he's about to leave Valdor comes to him. Russ starts to question what's going on in the basement of the palace, with the fact that there is a noticeable Custode reduction around the palace. Valdor can't tell him anything, despite Russ correctly determining that there is a battle going on that the Emperor and the Custodes are heading up, and this is why the Emperor hasn't been seen in a long time. Even when Russ simply asks whether or not they're winning, Valdor still can't comment on it. Frustrated Russ demands to know why Valdor has come to see him here and now, to which Valdor replies "You left this behind when you spoke to Malcador" and the Spear is brought in on a velvet lined grave-trolley. OK GUY HALEY WE GET IT - THE SPEAR IS IMPORTANT!!!! So important that Captain-General of the Custodes has been tasked to return it to Russ despite the fact that Horus could literally be arriving in a matter of days...
On a slightly more serious note, this could've been done better with Loken returning the Spear. There could have been a continuation of the meeting at the beginning of the book, Loken desperate to be taken along to face his Primarch again. Valdor didn't need to be in here just for that - and that is solely why he's in the book.
Speaking of characters in this book for no good reason, Belisarius Cawl. At this point he's an acolyte in the Mechanicum who gets raised to the position fo Tech-Adept. He's stationed on a Forge World that's on a warp route to Beta Garmon, and as such is tactically important in the Heresy. He's smart, even by Mechanicum standards, and has way with working things out and creating things. But honestly, this is shoe-horned in at best as there's no actual connection between Cawl and this story other than to set up his 30k persona. The location of the Forge World is important, and anything relating to the events there could be handled by a disposable Tech-Adpet. Seeing as Cawl makes up a solid 10%-15% of the page count of this book, to me it feels really forced.
Russ makes a stop of at Fenris to plan what he is going to do, and this is where the middle part of the book is set and is the best part, in my opinion. It feels very reminiscent of Prospero Burns in the description of the Aett, the way that the Rout talks to each other, and there's a lot of focus on Bjorn as he continues with his Primarchs favour despite being a low level in the overall pecking order. Oh, and he doesn't like being called 'The Fell-Handed', he prefers 'The One-Handed' and it's something that really grinds his gears. I won't speak to much about this part of the book, its the best part and is too full of spoilers.
Back to the Forge World, because guess what? The traitors have arrived demanding compliance and loyalty to the Warmaster and Kelbor Hal. After a small battle the traitors win with the remaining Mechanicum pledging allegiance to the Warmaster directly - he actually shows up to a massive ceremony where all the Mechanicum individually pledge loyalty to Horus at his feet, or get their brains blown out by Abaddon. I'm not kidding here...
And this is one of the main problems for me in the book, that Russ is written very well but every other Primarch doesn't get a similar treatment, Horus in particular. I don't understand why in the middle of an uprising he's leading, on his way to a tactically astute staging ground for a massive invasion of the Sol System comprising of 9 Legions and supporting forces beyond measure, that Horus has the time or the inclination to accept personal fealty from a large number of minor Mechanicum personnel. Except that it gives us a 'cool moment' of Cawl kneeling before the Warmaster, and despite having to say that he's on the side of the Warmaster decides that he can't ever serve someone that evil and has to get out of there. That's literally the only reason I can see that Horus is placed there, if it weren't for Cawl it would have been a random Sons of Horus captain accepting the surrender.
So after returning to Fenris, and formulated a strategy where Russ can help the Imperium by confronting Horus even though he can't defeat the Warmaster (Hint: the spear is really important, in case you missed that earlier), the Rout makes it's way to the Venegeful Spirit. Because those markings on the Venegeful Spirit that the Knights Errant were placing about, they weren't just internal battle signs showing directions or high priority targets, there was also some specially designed runic powers that allow the Rune Priests to track the Venegeful Spirit through the galaxy. And they track him to this Forge World, where Russ takes the majority of his Legion (around 40,000 astartes) and his fleet to tackle the Warmaster.
Again, without spoiling too much, there's a big battle with the bulk of the Rout boarding the Venegeful Spirit where they are massively outnumbered and outgunned. Russ eventually finds his way to Horus, and again poor writing for Horus leaves him twiddling his imaginary moustache as he tries to get Russ to join him, before giving up and flat out attacking him. Horus lives, Russ is badly injured but ultimately accomplishes what he set out to do, and the Rout are left to escape after taking horrendous casualties. With Russ being patched up and unable to lead the remaining jarls take the fleet to Yarrant. Horus gives Abaddon the command to pursue the wolf fleet, before moving his own towards Beta Garmon. And this is where the book ends.
It might sound like I'm being overly harsh, but honestly the best parts of the book are the parts I don't want to talk about - people should experience it for themselves. Russ and the Wolves are portrayed brilliantly here. But this book does have it's problems. Whether it's forcing characters into the narrative, not being able to portray the other Primarchs (especially Horus) with any real depth or dimension, or lacking some subtlety in making you aware of key plot points.
Overall I'd say this is a solid 7 out of 10
The spear contains essence or something of the Emperor, its psychic presence bothers Russ and he doesn't like fighting with spears anyway.
Russ does not need to win, merely to land a telling blow on Horus. He does so during a typical feint which brings back the "Don't underestimate him Horus" from early in the book. Horus drops from daemon mode and speaks honestly but doesn't change his opinion on matters, Russ realises he is lost and even though during the retreat he says "I could have killed Horus" he doesn't regret not doing it and just seems happy to have wounded him. The damage is done, Horus is damaged by the end of the book and has visions of "normal" mode where he isn't corrupted. The word 'weak' stands out. He's not invincible any more. Mission accomplished.
If that means Sanguinius has another role, I would like that. I always found the non Battle of Terra legions to be missing out on something bigger. This was the Space Wolves chance to join the very long road to Terra and actually have done something in the process.
Horus and Russ take the main moments of the battle here but once Russ gets his beating after wounding Horus, Space Wolves throw their lives away to save him - jumping on top of him, grabbing arms, etc. The Space Wolves are painted to take the absolute beating that you'd expect them to but they do land a lot of damage and are smart enough to keep their route clear for the retreat - though none expect to do so It's a fitting way to write them out of the Heresy as a large fighting force and I hope all legions who are not present on Terra get that treatment.
My favourite bit of the book is how it tries to address the hypocrisy that people like to cry about. To do so I feel that you need to separate things to shamans and warlocks. Shaman know when to stop, warlocks want all power at all costs. The White Scars and Space Wolves are shaman, the Thousand Sons and Word Bearers are warlocks.
If you can accept that then you can see why these legions don't see themselves as hypocrites but you can also see why others accuse them of being so in both fluff and fanbase terms.
Some of this book talks about knowing your limits, not becoming what you hate but Russ almost suggests to use the warp against Horus - the reason he was sent to kill the Thousand Sons was because he was scared of the Loyalists having access to that power. It makes sense.
No wonder Magnus had such a bad reaction when Ragnar Blackmane threw the Spear of Russ into his eye.
Aaaahhh, you made me want to buy a H.H book after giving up on the entire series ages ago, thanks a lot! That was a nice little debrief, thanks for sharing, and Russ definitely sounds more interesting than before and not just "super space viking"
I do wonder about the implications for the end of the Horus Heresy, given that it changes a major piece of Lore. Certainly they werent kidding about how we shouldnt take anything for granted at the finale. That the passing of millenia clearly have warped the tale, and given Guiliman's reflection over the Emperor's sword in Dark Imperium.
Or that something else got established as the 'official' version, over perhaps a far more damning event happening to not damage morale even further.
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