Title: Lorgar: Bearer of the Word
Author: Gav Thorpe
Published by:Black Library
Publication date: 30th Sept. 2017
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Private Collection
Series: Horus Heresy: Primarchs
On the world of Colchis, mighty religions rule a decaying society in the name of absent gods – until the arrival of Lorgar. Primarch, prophet, leader of destiny, the Golden One is raised by Kor Phaeron, priest of the Covenant, to be his weapon in a quest for power. As the religious war spreads across the planet, spearheaded by the Brotherhood of Lorgar, the primarch is plagued by visions of the future and the coming of the Emperor. To find his place in this new order, he must reach a balance between the teachings of his adopted father Kor Phaeron, and the fate that he knows awaits him among the stars.
Lorgar: Bearer of the Word is one of the books in the Horus Heresy: Primarchs series by Black Library. Centered around the titular character, Lorgar who becomes the Primarch of the Word Bearers Legion.
Lorgar: Bearer of the Word, details the childhood and formative years of the Primarch on the planet Colchis, where he is introduced at an early age to religious doctrine that shapes his life and thoughts. To the point of obsession with religious texts and the need to serve some sort of God-like figure (Or figures.) This book is a true origins book for the character, detailing his life as he is formed by his ‘father’ figure Kor Phaeron as he spreads his religious doctrine throughout his homeworld, uniting all those under his singular banner. The world of Cholchis and the setting-building was rather well done, the inclusion of the ‘hours’ of the day at the beginning of the novel helped set the planet apart from others in the vast Imperium.
Unlike some of the Primarchs, Lorgar didn’t have an idyllic upbringing where he bonds with his father-figure and makes war with him in poetic righteousness. Lorgar: Bearer of the Word isn’t an easy comforting read. Religious themes throughout might be a bit of a no-go for some readers on it’s own; even if the religion is fictional, adding an abusive father-son relationship on top of that makes for some challenges. There’s nothing comforting about how Kor Phaeron treats Lorgar, it’s a dominating, over-bearing relationship that Kor Phaeron manipulates to his own gain, with very little let up. Kor Phaeron steals Lorgar from the wandering tribe that initially found him and treats him part-way between a slave and his acolyte. And, as a child yearning for a deeper purpose, Lorgar laps up the religious creed and abuse an dis entirely formed by it.
Lorgar: Bearer of the Word is very far removed from the usual offering of a Black Library novel in terms of content. There’s very little interaction between Lorgar and his Legion and there is absolutely no front line Space Marine combat. Instead, we are given a character-driven origin story, that becomes a very bitter pill to swallow. At the start of the novel, Kor Phaeron is roaming Colchis spreading the word of the Gods from the Empyrean; as time goes on and Lorgar starts suffering from afflictions and visions of ‘The One’ the Word twists to Lorgars personal narrative. The changes are subtle, but you can see how the Word shifts from worshipping the Chaos Gods of Colchis (Which have names that give a subtle nod towards the Chaos Gods of 40k) to the unknown Emperor of Mankind. (As an aside, it was in this book that I realised that Empyrean and Imperium as words are so close to one another.) I do feel like there was a little background missing in terms of the religious narrative; the origin of what the inhabitants of Colchis believe and how Kor Phaeron deviated from this would have helped to make the story feel more rounded.
Alongside Lorgar and Kor Phaeron, who are the main point of view characters, is Nairo, a slave under the control of Kor Phaeron. While Kor Phaeron is deciding what to do with Lorgar, Nairo befriends the youth and offers a more balanced perspective to the ideals that Kor Phaeron is preaching. Adding an intriguing level of conflict within the future Primarch; and giving temperance to the over-zealous nature of his core influence. It’s this triad that keeps the book interesting, as the plot is somewhat simple – preaching the Word and awaiting the inevitable coming of ‘The One’ – the conflicts between them all, the terrible father figure of Kor Phaeron, the eagerness in Lorgar to find something worth worship, and the balance between them in Nairo. It’s a chemistry that is intriguing, works but is ultimately doomed due to their personal conflicts.
As the story progresses, as Lorgar ages and the continent beneath him unites under a singular banner the conflicts from other sources give a little faster-paced action to the plot; but unlike many other Black Library novels, the combat isn’t the primary focus of the story – is actually made for a refreshing change after the sheer amount of Battlefront novels in the Black Library collection. What I find fascinating about this book is that the Primarch is allowed to shine without resorting to being a mere killing machine of God-like power. Cities fall under Lorgar’s word, and more often than not, not a single weapon is raised; all converted before his voice alone. If that fails, then along comes the ultimatum ‘The Word or the Mace’ which is interwoven as an idea early on in the novel and masterfully carried through.
The only thing I feel that’s lacking from Lorgar: Bearer of the Word is that final moment when Lorgar meets his God. The whole book is gearing up for this moment, and maybe it’s not included in this particular book because it is detailed elsewhere, but I feel it lacked that final bit of polish. We see the moment after Monarchia (The First Heretic) where Lorgar is reeling from his admonishing, but not the moment he meets this heralded being that he is wracked with visions over. It felt like that last crumb was missing.
Actually, this book made me feel rather forlorn. There are so many ‘What-if’s’ that could have ended up leading Lorgar down a much more wholesome path. Instead, he was shaped by a sadistic, failed, priest and formed into something broken and in dire need of a guiding purpose. It’s a fascinating read in many respects, but I can understand if the religious themes put off many readers.
A Character-Driven story going into high levels of detail about Lorgar and how he became Bearer of the Word. Introduces you to some real nasty characters and will give you certain ‘Fuck Kor Phaeron’ vibes. A great book if you’re interested in the Word Bearers Legion, but if you’re after the usual Black Library combat affair, then look elsewhere!