[Review] Horus Heresy: Betrayer by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Thursday, June 13, 2013 K.Z. Freeman 1 Comments

It's been a while since last a read a bit of Warhammer 40k madness -- and madness it is.

Especially when penned by masters such as Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill, and now Aaaron Dembski-Bowden! And yet... Aaron is the usurper dethroning all with his most recent and fairly heretical instalment.
I first suspected what he was up as I read The First Heretic -- which was to climb on that blood-slick throne and laugh his warp-damned ass off.

And he has done precisely that, because Betrayer is the best the Horus Heresy series of books and Black Library has offered thus far.

First look at the cover art. Go on... I'll wait.

Did you look? Slightly awesometastic, isn't it?

As for the writing it has to be said that to truly appreciate these fine scribblings you have to have read The First Heretic and the novella Aurelian, then, after having listened to the insanity that is the Butcher's Nails audio drama, you may read this book. (having read stuff like After Desh'ea and Lord of the Red Sands is also welcome).

"Aaaah but the butcher's nails..."

The reason I say this, is because the story of the two brothers, Lorgar and Angron (the perpetually angry one), evolves through these stories, well mostly Loregar's, but it's still fun to read how the two work together - or should I say clash.
Lorgar always gets calmer, even when he says "You are not Fulgrim," (although he might punch a guy or three with a psychic mace to the face), while Angron simply gets angrier. At everything. All the time. Sometimes he too punches people, although he does it quite literally and with an axe. It is rare that he keeps his anger in check, but that eventually gets even worse. (for everyone)

And this, my friends, is the crux of the story; the relationship between these two titanic and sadly flawed characters. The Betrayer himself, aka Kharn, is also splendidly written, (the true quality of the written word comes out in its full when voiced in the audio book). His calm demeanour seeps through the pages while retaining a sense of simmering rage beneath, waiting to explode in someone's face.

Focusing on these two characters (the primarchs) is what makes this story great, because sometimes even other characters talk about these two, which again creates a sort of centred feel, almost as if Lorgar and Angron are the planets around which both legions gravitate.

Most know the tale and how it ends, but if you're a fan, you'll no doubt wish to know exactly how it shall happen. [Minor spoliers ahead] And I'll admin there was a bit of nerdboy glee on my part when Kharn "scolds" Angron for being so, "meh, whatever, dude" with Lorgar, after the first heretic had just saved the bloody one's behind.
And also, could a story go without Erebus screwing things up as usual? No. Although this is the first time he gets told to "piss off". [/spolier]

Superbly written action scenes punctuate the tale nicely and are thoroughly vivid, although not in the vein of McNeill, who likes to describe his gore quite elaborately.

A theme runs though most of The Horus Heresy books, meaning that each tends to subtly centre, or have behind it a specific God of the "Warp Pantheon" or Gods of Chaos. In this case it is the almighty Blood God Khorne and Tzeentch, who seem to be at the forefront. Splendid indeed!

All in all, the only reason I cannot give this book a ten is because I want Aaron to bleed his mind onto some more pages and make the next one even better!

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