[Book Review] Angel Exterminatus – Graham McNeill

Title: Angel Exterminatus
Author
: Graham McNeill
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 18th July 2013
Genre: Science-Fiction/War
Pages: 544
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Collection
Series: Horus Heresy

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Blurb/Synopsis

Perturabo – master of siegecraft, and the executioner of Olympia. Long has he lived in the shadow of his more favoured primarch brothers, frustrated by the mundane and ignominious duties which regularly fall to his Legion. When Fulgrim offers him the chance to lead an expedition in search of ancient and destructive xenos weaponry, the Iron Warriors and the Emperor’s Children unite and venture deep into the heart of the great star maelstrom that haunts Perturabo’s dreams. Pursued by vengeful survivors from Isstvan V and the revenants of a dead eldar world, they must work quickly if they are to unleash the devastating power of the Angel Exterminatus!

Book Review

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Let’s get things back on track with some proper reviews! Continuing my Horus Heresy Buddy read with Dave. Been on a bit of a go-slow with this one so I am glad to have finally broken the back of it and got it out of the way!


Angel Exterminatus is the 23rd book in Black Libraries Horus Heresy series. It picks up the story of Fulgrim, who has been somewhat quiet since his short story, The Reflection Crack’d, in The Primarchs anthology and how he interacts with his Brother Primarch Perturabo; leading him and his Legion astray and trying to get them to do his bidding involving retrieving ancient Eldar Weaponry and, dubious stories of Godhood.

As always, there is a lot going on in this Horus Heresy offering in the form of the Legions involved. Not only do we have the twisted Emperors Children, but we also have Iron Warriors and Iron Hands. It took me a while to get to grips with each of the Legions and the characters that they had on offer. There seemed to be little difference between the Iron Legions, who are both written as bitter characters. The Iron Warriors certainly get this trait from their Primarch, who hasn’t turned traitor for any other reason than everyone always underestimates him, especially The Emperor who barely paid him any heed – preferring the self-righteous Rogal Dorn with whim Perturabo holds a particular distaste towards. I, too, am guilty of underestimating Perturabo, who has been one of my least favourite Primarchs for some time now. However, having read Angel Exterminatus he has gone up in my esteem. He is a character that certain catpures the reader and develops as the story progresses. Not is he only a trench-digger and castle breaker, he is also a master craftsman and the object os his designs; little model figures. He becomes an interesting character to read about as the story progresses and, I am actually looking forward to reading more about him… maybe?

Fulgrim, Primarch and leader of the Emperor’s Children, on the other hand, has become the sort of character that I detest. Self-serving, attention seeking and whiney. Has he always been this way? I recall finding his story in Fulgrim tragic and endearing, but that feels like a far stretch from the vivid descriptions of debauchery that surround him in Angel Exterminatus; the whisperings of the Gods have evolved into shouts and screams! Now we’re treated to overly descriptive volumes of the Emperor’s Childrens pursuits and it’s disturbing to say the least!

The main plot is easy to follow, with enough twists and turns to keep the pages flowing; eventually. Angel Exterminatus is slow to get going – mostly due to Fulgrim’s irritating posturing – but when it does the action, intrigue and drama are sublime. There are many interconnecting sub-plots to the novel also, some of which feed back into the main story arc, others, don’t seem to work so successfully and make the book feel a little bloated where it doesn’t need to be. I felt like some of these sub-plots needed to come to a resolution and am left with the impression that they may be picked up again later, but I’m not holding my breath as sub-plots have done unresolved in previous novels. Or, I am still waiting for them to be picked up again. There are some unanswered questions within Angel Exterminatus itself – how did the loyalists get their own Eldar guide? Which it would have been nice if answered, but… alas.

As with other Horus Heresy books, death is rampant, and characters die in the face of war with one another, but none of them feels impactful. There was nothing making me feel like any of the key characters were under any real level of threat other than indoctrination. As such, I felt it hard to really care about them; often they were too busy trying to out-do others in they’re allied with rather than fight the bigger battles which left a bit of a sour taste. The characters just don’t see the bigger picture and, after a while, their choices and motivations boarder on unbelievable. Much like the Raven Guards motivations to fight Lucius in hand-to-hand combat; abandoning logical reason and tactical advantage is clearly a trait that the Space Marine indoctrination method relies upon.

Fabius Bile gets a lot of page time in this book and is establishing himself as a character that stands out beyond others. The same can be said for Lucius, the swordsman. Seeing the two connecting themselves towards the end of the novel is an eye-brow-raising moment, that I am hoping is expanded on further down the line. Sadly, many of the Iron Warriors characters blur together in their desire to mess one another over. There’s little individuality between them and as such, the character count was hindered. It may have enhanced the novel to have picked out a couple of them and really focus on what made them stand out from one another. Sadly, instead I just got a bit lost.

As for the Iron Hands and the Loyalist representation in the novel, I am interested in seeing where they go to next. A particular highlight of the novel is Brother Bombastus, the rather unhinged veteran dreadnought. I’ve not always been too fond of dreadnoughts but after reading about Bombastus and Berosuss, I am converted! The combat between them is a particular highlight and reading the journey of how they got there is entertaining. The rest of the Loyalists, though, leave a lot to be desired. Iron Hands aren’t the most enthusiastic of characters and their personalities were lacking. What made them interesting was the fact they’d banded together on the Sisypheum, a space craft, with a couple of other Legion Members (Raven Guard and Salamanders) which gave them something to be measured by, if they were alone, they’d have been much less interest to their section of the novel.

Honestly, I’ve tried to put my Legion bias behind me while reading this book as it was never going to grip me like others in the series have done. None of the Legions within are personal favourites and that made it a difficult book to get through, but I’ve tried not to take this bias into account in terms of review. Angel Exterminatus has its fair share of problems. One instance I recall reading and raising an eyebrow to; one of the Iron Warriors is introduced to Fabuis Biles Terata (Genetically modified grossities) and they’re disgusted and quip; “I wouldn’t want to meet their Mothers.” In a male-dominated environment like Warhammer – especially Space Marines – this didn’t sit well. In my understanding, The Emperor made the Primarchs, the Primarch’s make Astartes, and an Astartes made the Terata. At no point in this is a woman involved in this process and yet… we still get the blame!?

It’s not all bad news for Angel Exterminatus. The action sequences are thick and fast, easy to follow and enjoyable for their easy banter. The character interactions are entertaining for the most part and seeing some familiar faces making the rounds made for an enjoyable romp.

Summary

Not my favourite entry in the Horus Heresy series. I couldn’t quite get passed my Legion/Chapter bias and enjoy the novel for what it was. Perturabo was a great character to read about and seeing him get more page time was a highlight. Fulgrim was really annoying. Secondary characters blended into one another which made me feel lost. Some great descriptions of action sequences throughout, interspersed between character intrigue and drama. Dreadnoughts!!

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