Unaware of the wider Heresy and following the Warmaster’s increasingly cryptic orders, Roboute Guilliman returns to Ultramar to muster his Legion for war against the orks massing in the Veridian system. Without warning, their supposed allies in the Word Bearers Legion launch a devastating invasion of Calth, scattering the Ultramarines fleet and slaughtering all who stand in their way. This confirms the worst scenario Guilliman can imagine – Lorgar means to settle their bitter rivalry once and for all. As the traitors summon foul daemonic hosts and all the forces of Chaos, the Ultramarines are drawn into a grim and deadly struggle in which neither side can prevail.
Know no Fear is book 19 in the Horus Heresy series and a part of my buddy-read with Dave at WordaholicAnonymous, as always, I am grateful to have a buddy reader along with me during this series of ups and downs!
Know no Fear, as already mentioned, is the 19th book in the long-standing Horus Heresy series; it sees the inevitable return to the rivalry between the Ultramarines and the Word Bearers.
The Word Bearers are on course to destroy Calth; one of the key planets in the Realm of Ultramar, home of the Ultramarines Chapter. The entirety of this book is pretty much the Loyalists trying to figure out what is going on, who is attacking them, and subsequently fighting off this dastardly foe.
At the outset, I had a decent time reading Know no Fear, but there were also a fair handful of issues that I struggled with it too. It’s an action-packed, thrill of a book. In that respect, Know no Fear has it all, ship battles, boarding parties, melee and ranged warfare, and a whole load of grit thrown in too. And, these scenes are well written and enjoyable, but there’s very little else in the book; as someone reading the Horus Heresy series to find out more about the Chapters, Legions and key characters within I found this book rather lacking. The characters are really rather one-dimensional and easily forgotten; mostly because there are just so many of them in the book that it was extremely difficult to keep track of who was who and what each of the Space Marines was doing at any given time.
The first half of the novel was certainly a more interesting read – figuring out the Betrayal and the reasons behind it – had an appeal that wasn’t carried over to the later sections of the novel; where it just became an endless battle with little substance. It is a shame when there are some fantastic character interactions in the book; early on one Space Marine asks a fellow from the other chapter “So, Brother, what have you learned to kill since we last met?” Yet, these golden moments in the book, where characters have some personality, are few and far between.
In terms of characters, as already mentioned, there are a lot of them and as such, it didn’t feel like there was much page-time to really get to know any of them and because the focus is on the Ultramarines, they’re all pretty carbon copies of one another with little inflection to differentiate between them. The exception is Thiel, an Ultramarine marked for censure, who has his own clear-cut thoughts and mannerisms; he was a true life-saver of the book and the lore impact his red helmet has on Warhammer as a whole made up for the lack of much other substance. Another enjoyable character is Telemechrus, a newly instated Contemptor Dreadnought and the insight into his way of thinking added a unique flair to his character, something that was lacking elsewhere in the novel.
There’s also the brief introduction of the term Perpetual; a character that can reincarnate and is pretty much immortal. While I can understand the need to introduce this concept prior to certain events that are due to come, I felt it a little shoe-horned into an already bloated novel. The reintroduction of John Grammaticus and the Cabal through this thread of narrative felt a little jarring and purposeless – an unanswered question that felt unresolved.
My other major gripe about the book was that there was a lack of page-time for the key players we already know from previous books; Guilliman was lacking, assumed dead, for the vast majority of the book. Lorgar was a complete non-entity and Erebus did pretty much nothing. There was a solid back-story from The First Heretic that Know no Fear could have built upon, but it all fell a bit far from the mark.
Having announced all my grievances first, there are also some positives. The action is extremely vivid and well written. The combat scenes are easy to follow and viscerally captured. It’s easy to imagine the fear, questioning, doubts that are running through the Ultramarine’s minds as they question both the Theoretical and Practical elements of the events that are unfolding around them.
The manner in which the book is presented; introducing the term ‘Mark of Calth’ as subheadings were really rather clever. It helped to build up the anticipation of events and it gave an exact turning point to the realization of betray and heresy. It helped guide the reader through the events and helped to give a better understanding of which characters were doing what at any given time – it wasn’t quite enough to stave off the confusion completely.
Know no Fear’s not a bad book, it just doesn’t have all the elements in a book that I enjoy. Not enough character development, not enough substance behind all the action. And there’s a lot of action. Obviously, I’m not going to give up on this series just yet and I forever live in hope that there will be a decent book featuring Roboute Guilliman, as currently all the ones I have read fall flat and the Lord of Ultramar deserves better than that!