Luther: First of the Fallen – Gav Thorpe

“A collection of vignettes chronicling the past and present of an iconic character in the Warhammer series through detailed, broken narrative.”

Title: Luther: First of the Fallen
Series: The Horus Heresy: Characters
Author: Gav Thorpe
Published byBlack Library
Publication date: 13th April 2021
Genre: Science-Fiction/War
Pages: 224
Format: Hardback
Source: Private Collection

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Blurb/Synopsis

Hero. Villain. Protector. Destroyer. Loyal. Fallen. Luther embodies the duality at the heart of the Dark Angels – but what is his story? Prepare to find out…

Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Managed to pick this up when I went to the smaller Warhammer store in Nottingham while on holiday. It then won my Instagram Poll, hurrah, quick turn-around on a new book!


Luther: First of the Fallen is part of a newer series in the Horus Heresy featuring additional characters and is presented in the same style format as The Horus Heresy: Primarchs series; these are some lovely books to read and hold and feel nice in quality. The first of these spin-off novels featured Valdor: Birth of the Imperium, but since reading the first of the two Dark Angels novels in the main Horus Heresy novels, I’ve found myself wanting to know more about Luther and his motivations.

Luther: First of the Fallen gives more detail in the traitorous Dark Angel’s life, past and present. Through a series of vinigettes we’re shown the intimate details of his life growing up in the untamed wilds of Caliban and how he rose through the ranks of the Order – the precursor to the Astartes Legion – the coming of the Lion and establishment of the Imperium of Mankind on the death world.

The reader is shown two sides of Luther, the secret captive known only to the Grand Masters of the Dark Angels and the youth growing up on Caliban. The later of these is told through the eyes of Luther and details the key events throughout his life and the messages and warning that he learned as these events shaped him. The former side shows a near-broken man desprate for the Dark Angels to heed his warnings. Although I have read a fair amount about the Dark Angels and enjoy them as a faction, their secrecy and how this book brings enlightenment to those secrets, I did feel like I was missing some vital piece of knowledge that would have helped me understand the intricacies of this book a little better, so unlike my previous Black Library read, I don’t feel like this would be a good entry level for someone new to the setting.

Most notably, for my favourite part of the novel; the scenes set in the early days of Caliban, the Dark Angels homeworld, before the Imperium put it’s brand on it. The scenes brought about vivid imagery of Athurian style legends of heroic knights riding out to tame the Great Beasts of the world and bringing back trophies of their triumphs – I craved a lot more of this style of reading after Descent of Angels, but this is very far from the norm of the Warhamer 40k setting. While the main characters are often heroic there is a special flavour to these scenes of early life on Caliban that sets the novel apart from others.

Luther: First of the Fallen shows insight to key events in Luthers life and glosses over others. It shows how he first meets the Lion on Caliban and how the Primarch got his name. The narrative touches on Luthers motivations, but doesn’t elaborate too intently on scenes that will be covered in other novels.

Luther as a main character is somewhat run-of-the-mill, charismatic, heroic and noble. Everything in which a true-knight should be. However, there is the obvious flaw within him that’s detailed through the interogations and interactions he has with the Grand Masters over the vast years in which he is held captive. The element of stasis and the technology of it isn’t something I have come across within the Warhammer setting before, but it added an interesting element to the story; do other Legions have this technology or is it just another heretical secret of the Dark Angels? The metting of the Grand Masters through the ages and how the Dark Angels change through the years is a subtle intrigue to the novella and shows how the eras of the Horus Heresy and ‘modern’ Warhammer differ.

There is a while host of other characters in Luther: First of the Fallen. Many of which come and go throughout the eras. Rarely are any of the side-characters mentioned more than once and add to the overwhelming sense of loss that surrounds Luther; while he isn’t a character that can truly be sympathised with – he makes the mother of all mistakes – there is a certain feeling of tragedy surrounding him. While the Space Marines subject him to mental and physical tortures the true impact is felt in the loss of those he once counted among his friends and family – I also found it a pleasure to read that the Order was a faction of equality and many of Luthers fellow knights were female, and just as capable as the main character.

I must admit some of the messages behind the tales that Luthers told to the Grand Masters were a bit lost on me – maybe these would be clearer if I was a little further through the main Horus Heresy, so I don’t count my personal confusion in the rating of the novel as I throughly enjoyed the book regardless. Especially the darker elements of Luthers motivations; the interactions between himself, the members of other Legions and other entities. Luther: First of the Fallen is a fantastic read but like a lot of the Space Marine related books from Black Library it will appeal more to those that are either lore completionists or Dark Angel enthusiasts. I wouldn’t exactly count myself as either and maybe this is why I enjoyed the imaginative story-telling of Luthers stories more, the interactions of his past and the tangled web of his charisma, at the base level of their story telling, compared to the vague messages behind them.

Summary

A collection of vignettes that detail the life of Luther, pivotal character attached to the Dark Angels Legion. Well-crafted story-telling of a broken narrative; showing pre-imperium life of Caliban and the Order that lived there, the hunting of their Great Beasts as well as the years closer to modern-day Warhammer. A richly vivid book with a well-written, flawed, main character. A must read for those wishing to read more about the early days of Caliban and their Arthurian-style Order.