The Primarchs – Edited by Christian Dunn

Title: The Primarchs
Author: Short story Anthology
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 30th July 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 440
Format: Paperback
Source: Private Collection
Series: Horus Heresy

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Created in the Emperor’s own image, the Primarchs had long thought themselves to be princes of the universe and masters of their own destiny – they led the Space Marine Legions in glorious conquest of the galaxy, and no enemy of the Imperium could stand against them. However, even amongst this legendary brotherhood, the seeds of dissent had been sown long before the treacherous Warmaster Horus declared his grand heresy. Gathered within this anthology are four novellas focusing on some of the mightiest warriors and leaders that mankind has ever known – Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus, Lion El’Jonson, and Konrad Curze – and the roles that they may have yet to play in a war that threatens to change the face of the Imperium forever.


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Moving onto book 20 of the Horus Heresy series, with the short story anthology The Primarchs and another buddy read with Dave and Wordaholic Anonymous.

The Primarchs are the 20 18 God-like sons of the Emperor of Mankind and gene-fathers of all known Space Marine chapters, The Primarch novel gives us four short stories about some of these characters and omitting others; giving a few subtle hints about the future to come in the rest of the series and filling in a few of the missing blanks that have cropped up along the way. The four stories are longer than the usual offerings within a Black Library short story anthology, averaging around 110 pages each. Most of them were good solid reads, which passed with ease – apart from the last one, which made me want to pull my hair out and throw the book across the room!

The Reflection Crack’d – Graham McNeill

In this short story, we revisit the Emperor’s Children as they struggle to identify their newly revisioned Primarch, Fulgrim. Through the eyes of Lucius the Eternal; a character that was introduced way back in Galaxy in Flames, we are introduced to a conflict within the Legion towards Fulgrim and the changes that have taken place within their leader. There are doubts that the current Fulgrim is their Fulgrim and how to go about cleansing him from the entity that is inhabiting his body. This story really ramps up the depravity of the Emperors Children and the depths that they go to in order to feel… something. Torture is pretty much the aim of the game in this story – as apparently, this is the best way to go about removing a daemon from its host – and how much Fulgrim actually enjoys being beaten black and blue. There we’re also some questionably sexual torture devices that left little to the imagination, but had to remain somewhat blurred due to Black Library trying to keep things ‘family-friendly.’ What I never really understood with Slaanesh is the vagueries that the publishers try to keep, as readers, we know what they’re trying to say, but it’s never explicitly said; there is no blurred line between pain and pleasure when it comes to this Lord of Chaos – and honestly, if you’re familiar with Hellraiser, it’s that.

What I found most enjoyable about the book is that it shows what the Emperor’s Children did after the events of Fulgrim, and helps to shape the identity of the Legion and details where they are to go next. Bridging the gap between now and their future. At the end of the short story, the Legion has a fully-formed identity; mostly established through Fulgrim’s seemingly incoherent rambling as he is being tortured by his sons.

The presentation of the characters was interesting too, the arrogance of them shone through the brightest; in individual personalities and through the Legion as a whole. The establishment of their victory celebrations before the battle has commenced was as enlightening as Lucius’ strong belief that he can fight a Primarch and win. It was wonderful to read about the Emperor’s Children again and I look forward to reading more about them now they are starting to establish their own Chaotic identity.

Feat of Iron – Nick Kyme

Iron Hands… I’ve struggled with a few of their stories before as I find them very dry and lacking in relatable personality. So, I was somewhat surprised by this story as, once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. It’s a precursor to the whole Horus Heresy that shows Ferrus Manus in the middle of compliance alongside the Death Guard. In the mix is some Eldar shenanigans where they’re trying to warn Ferrus Manus about his future and fate at the hands of Fulgrim; which has already happened early on in the series – so while the outcome of the short story is already known, it’s how it transpires that interesting. Although, maybe if the Eldar actually come out and say what they mean to say, maybe things would have ended up differently. Speaking in riddles to someone as straight-faced as Manus was never going to work!

The other characters, namely Bion Henricos and Shadrak Meduson, are interesting individuals who there may be more to come from. Each individual compliments their rigid chapter with their logical minds and dry personalities. And while most of Feat of Iron is about Ferrus Manus and establishing his character further to what has already been established and how he reacts to Xenos meddling – the seeds are being sown in these supplementary characters to keep the Iron Hands at the forefront of the Horus Heresy; as their Primarch has been slain it would be easy to count them out of the fight. However, stories such as Feat of Iron keep them in the game.

The Lion – Gav Thorpe

I am starting to feel much more at home with the Dark Angels than I am other Chapters of the Imperium! I am starting to enjoy the time I read about this secretive and elusive Chapter and its characters, Primarch, and non. Having read, and for the most part enjoyed, the longer stories featuring the Dark Angels (Descent of Angels and Fallen Angels) I found this one of the easier novellas to get to grips with. The Lion is as stubborn as always and forging his own path as he navigates Horus’ betrayal and the remaining loyalists.

This short story skips forwards in time once more and the knowledge of Horus’ betrayal is wide-spread but has sown seeds of doubt in The Lions mind as to who remains loyal to the Imperium and who has turned traitor, so when returning to a world being fought over – A world that was previously brought to compliance by the Dark Angels – The Lion goes in with tactical acumen and orders a wide-spread stand down by all present; with added threats of destruction to all sides.

What I enjoyed about this novel is it’s starting to show the further rifts within the Dark Angels. Cracks that had started to show in Fallen Angels and the division of loyalties within each layer of the Chapter. There is a key-character death in this novel that is glossed over, but I can see coming back into play later in the series. The death was over the edict of Nikea, which banned the use of Psyker/Librarian powers. This is the only solution presented to a problem in the novel so Lion allows his Librarians to doff their chains and make crazy with their brains! Much like Dave says in his review, I am excited about the prospects of this; will it become widespread usage or only within a certain few Legions? It’ll. be an interesting story-arch to follow.

The Serpent Beneath – Rob Sanders

Dave loved this short story. I hated it! This story took longer for me to read than the rest of the book put together. I’d pick it up. Read a few pages. Put it down again frustrated with it. Only to rinse and repeat. I still don’t fully know what it was about, other than the Alpha Legion had to infiltrate a base of Alpha Legion in order to completely destroy something beyond all semblance of recognition. Using decoys, misdirection, and any means necessary to basically, drive an asteroid into a sun so that no one could ever find evidence of its existence.

There was a pretty big twist at the end of the story, which I figure out about halfway through. It was a pretty obvious event, but I can see what the author was trying to do; add more duplicity to the already complex Legion. This is a novel, like most Alpha Legion novels, that makes me question who they’re really doing all their dastardly, mustache-twirling deeds for. It also made me re-think certain relationships and purposes for doing things in the Alpharius Primarch book. Everyone has is useful in some way to the Alpha Legion – anyone can be used as a tool.

What I disliked about the story wasn’t its core narrative or its characters it was the way in which it was written. In one scene, the key characters were in a briefing room, coming up with the plan of what was going to happen when they were in action; then, after being told how they were going to go about the plan, I then had to read how they did it. This concept works great on film/visual media because you’re told a sentence of what’s going to happen, then you get shown all the glorious action as it happens. In a book, you’re just reading the same thing twice with a few changes – it didn’t make for an entertaining read and I am rather envious of Daves listening experience of the audiobook; which I can only assume would have worked better.

What I enjoy the most about these anthology books in the Horus Heresy series, isn’t that they advance the heresy arc as a whole, but they fill in a few blanks or raise a few other questions here and there. While we have the main story arcs in the longer novels, these collections do their best to bridge the gaps between the stories and they’ll have already prepared the reader for events that may be yet to come. The term Angel Exterminatus was brought up a couple of times in this novel; which is the title of book 23 in the series – so a foreshadowing of events to come?

The Lion saw one of my favorite characters from that particular story arc die, in a manner most unexpected, so I am hoping that when we revisit the Dark Angels, there is more to delve into there too!

I am eager to keep picking up this series this year, so hopefully, Dave and I can continue to read more of the Horus Heresy and keep things going – as I find that I forget as much as I remember about these books; they are so vast, the character count so high, the location/world-setting so big, it can be a bit hard to keep track of everyone and everything, I am just grateful that I have someone on board that helps keep me up to speed! So once again, thanks to Dave for keeping me going with this series. Onwards to Fear To Tread?

6 responses to “The Primarchs – Edited by Christian Dunn”

  1. Great review Jenn. As far as Emperor’s Children are concerned you wont have to wait too long as they Feature alongside Perturabo, i know this only because it was the first ever WH book i read and understood fuckall of so very long ago. So i am exited for that. I think most of my enjoyment was that i was hone and could easily concentrate on every story, while at the same time being able to make mental notes. I am exited for whats coming next. Will start our Fear to Tread thread on GR when i get home.


  2. Great review, as always. I still don’t understand why you like the Dark Angels books. I’m pretty sure my son picked them as a 40K army (for me to build and paint, he’s a lazy git) simply because he knows I like them least of all the Loyalist Legions… And I feel your pain with the Alpha Legion. I want to scream any time they show up. I despise them. And I hate the GW/BL love for them and how perfect warriors are more perfect and better because their twat of a daddy is Alpharius. Or Omegon. Or who the eff cares. alpha legion sucks.


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