Nemesis – James Swallow

Book Cover for Nemesis by James Swallow

Title: Nemesis
Author: James Swallow
Published byBlack Library
Publication date: August 2010
Genre: Science Fiction/War
Pages: 507
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Collection

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After the horrors of Isstvan V, Horus has declared outright war against the Imperium – but in the shadows of the Emperor’s Palace, powerful figures convene. Their plan? To send a specially selected team of clade assassins to execute the Warmaster, end the struggle for the throne of Terra before it has even fully begun. What they cannot know is that Horus and his dark allies have already embarked upon an equally sinister plan of their own, and the clock is ticking…


Rating: 1 out of 5.

Onto the next of the Horus Heresy buddy reads, Nemesis, with Dave from WordaholicAnonymous. As ever, when Dave has shared his own thoughts of the 13th book in the series, I shall link it here.

Nemesis introduces the reader to the Officio Assassinorum; a collective of Assassin houses that usually work alone but in this instance have come together with the ultimate goal of getting the traitor Warmaster Horus in their sights.

If the star-rating above didn’t give it away already, this book really didn’t do it for me; for several reasons. I found it incredibly slow to get moving, to the point that at 40% of the book – I could tell this thanks to GoodReads tracking – we’re still being introduced to some of the main character assassins. It was frustrating to the point of just wanting the book to get on with it. Get to the point of the story a bit quicker than it did.

Ultimately, you know that the plan, and therefore the main plot, of the book, is doomed to fail – sorry if this is spoiler-y, but considering this is the 13th book in a series of 50+ if it wasn’t startlingly obvious, then I don’t know what is – and therefore it feels less interesting and overall rather pointless. I know a book is meant to be about the journey, how the characters take you from one point to another as much as anything else and somehow, even with the plethora of characters in this book, the journey doesn’t feel worth taking.

The characters, other than being fine examples of their clades (assassin cults) fall flat in the personality department. There is little substance to them other than them being archetypes of their houses. There’s very little for the reader to engage with and get behind; what with constant in-fighting, bickering and general childishness. There was something of an attempt made at giving two of them something of a deeper relationship in the sibling sense that just came across as contrived.

Despite all this negativity, there was something else that I felt most disappointed with. Initially, alongside the storyline of the Assassins coming together to form their gang, there is an investigative-sub plot; detailing some rather gory crime scenes. This part of the book got me excited and I was curious to see how this plot, set on a completely different planet, would tie into the story as a whole. This part was interesting and carried me through the rest of the book. Then it just got… weird! The investigation was left behind and in its place, the character Spear came to be. This aspect of the book then started to feel increasingly disjointed and senseless and in the end, the actions of the murders of the investigation had no meaning or impact on the rest of the novel.

Spear as an antagonist just felt pointlessly odd. He showed that the elite assassins, the best of their clades, we’re actually incompetent at everything they tried. I didn’t really come to much of an understanding of what he was or was trying to do – other than exact his own assassination attempt against the loyalists. Unfortunately, Spear is given far too much page time. The reader is ‘tricked’ into believing that he is in the book from the get-go and because he plot sabotages the only part of the book that is initially enjoyable, I detested him.

There was very little to tie this book into the rest of the Horus Heresy series, aside from some fleeting comments; mention of the Blood Games from the Dan Abnett short story in Tales of Heresy. I can understand what Nemesis was trying to do; introduce the reader to the concepts of the Officio Assassinorum so that they may play a part further along in the Horus Heresy series, but it does this in such a way that is ponderous. If more time had been spent on developing the Assassin Execution Force characters, and less time on insignificance, then there would have been something worth enjoying about the book.

If Nemesis wasn’t a part of my buddy read with Dave, I’d have put it in the DNF pile early and moved on to the next book in the series. It was dull from start to finish with overly bloated prose. What makes me so angry about this book is because there is a lot of potentials for it to be amazing; yes, you know what the assassins are attempting is doomed to fail, but the assassins clades are all uniquely interesting. There could have been so much more focus on them being decent at their jobs, as at one point they single-handedly turn the tide of a civil war. If we’d seen examples of the assassins taking part in this, being the elite members of their clades like we’re told, rather than the fleeting glimpses we’re given, Nemesis could have been so much more interesting and the characters would have had more depth to them.


Unless you’re a Horus Heresy completeionist, give Nemesis a miss! Dull characters wrapped up in a plot that does nothing to further the overall Horus Heresy arc. It’s like a really bad filler-episode of Supernatural, but worse.

3 responses to “Nemesis – James Swallow”

    • Unfortunately, they do yes.
      It’ll be much better when the posts are copied over and new reviews are posted. At the moment this blog is just getting caught up to where the other one left off.
      It’s giving me a good load of posts until I get some books finished though, so I can’t complain too much!

      Liked by 1 person

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