[Book Review] Betrayer – Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Title: Betrayer
: Aaron Dembski-Bowden
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 26th Sept 2013
Genre: Science-Fiction/War
Pages: 416
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal Collection
Series: Horus Heresy

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The Shadow Crusade has begun. While the Ultramarines reel from Kor Phaeron’s surprise attack on Calth, Lorgar and the rest of the Word Bearers strike deep into Ultramar. Their unlikely allies, Angron and the World Eaters, continue to ravage each new system they come across – upon the garrison planet of Armatura, this relentless savagery may finally prove to be their undoing. Worlds will burn, Legions will clash and a primarch will fall.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Book number 24 in the Heresy buddy read with Dave. And. Wow. What a book! Normally, I at least try and pace myself with Dave. This one, however, please accept my sincerest apologies, I couldn’t put it down.

Betrayer continues the long-spanning Horus Heresy series by aligning Lorgar’s Word Bearers and Angron’s World Eaters and putting them, once again, against the Ultramarines. Continuing on from the events that transpired during Know no Fear but with a focus on another series of battles happening in the Ultramar Sector. Lorgar and Angron carve a hole in the sector, leaving nothing but corpses in their wake.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden is my favourite Warhammer author, so from the outset, I had wonderful expectations for this book. It didn’t disappoint. What I like the most about Bemski-Bowden’s work is his ability to really make you care for the characters you’re reading about. I’ve read about Argel Tal and Kharn in other books in the Horus Heresy series. They’ve been decent characters, but in Betrayer, you really get a sense of chemistry between the two of them, as well as them being able to properly stand on their own two feet. There is a sense of urgency in the battle-sequences involving these two and, despite the fact that Argel Tal is mostly a daemon-host at this point, you still root for him to win out against the enemies that he faces; even if those enemies are the loyalists you’re meant to side with. Their interactions and dialogue are so well considered, it’s astounding! These are real characters, having real conversations and you really care about them.

The same can be said for the two Primarchs. At one point early on in the book, I laughed out loud and declared Lorgar ‘as mad as a box of frogs’ but I adore him still. He does some pretty terrible things in this book and yet, he’s still likeable. Angron, a Primarch easily dismissed as a complete hot-headed, rage-monster, turns into a tragic being of fate. His story is so heart breakingly presented that I almost wept for him!

On top of all the amazing Astartes characters, we have Lotara Sarrin, naval captain of the World Eaters’ capital ship; Conqueror. A human woman capable in her skills and doubly capable of keeping the respect of her charges. She carries a mark of respect in the form of a bloodied hand-print on her uniform and the way she deals with those on her ship is just wonderful. She added a layer to the book that is packed with personality and pizazz. Dembski-Bowden is a master when it comes to writing characters and the events that transpire around them. They all stand out as individuals and in books with a character count as high as the Horus Heresy novels, that is no mean feat.

I still hate Erebus; that guy is irredeemable. Well done, also, for keeping that trend alive.

There are space battles, melee combats and action aplenty in the novel too, so it’s not all a character interaction fest. Everything drives the plot forwards until its dramatic conclusion. The details of the Word Eaters suffering through the butcher’s nail’s were fantastic and relevant. Everything pushes the story to that one final event. Even as Lorgar, Angron and Guilliman were having their mettles tested against one another, everything is ticking to that final conclusion. And, what a conclusion it is!

There’s also the inclusion of Titans in this book. Never before have I really enjoyed reading about Titans. The books were too… mechanical. Lacking any sense of personality that made them relatable and understandable to me. Betrayer dispelled all that. There’s a very memorable scene in which the two Primarchs, Lorgar and Angron, are battling it out, fighting and saving one another (as is a trend in the novel) and a Titan comes along to wipe them off the face of the earth. If for no other reason, read Betrayer for this scene! What I am trying to convey is that this book is so packed with awesome and inspiring scenes, led by fantastically written characters, that it makes it hard to put down. Its so fast-paced, entertaining and enjoyable. It’s easily one of my favourite books in the series. Even if it did tear my heart out of my chest just to stab a dagger into it.

All of this is presented in prose that is easily digestible. Nothing over the top or flowery descriptions that lose their impact. While there are technical terms in the book, they aren’t over-blown and confusing. It’s what I like the most about Dembski-Bowden’s work, it’s easy to pick up and read; even in a setting that can be as complicated as Warhammer.

Yet another piece of praise, Betrayer takes the next set in the overall Heresy aspect of the series. Hurrah! Now, I am sure we’ll face a bit of a stagnant patch in the series just to keep it padded out a bit more. Can’t wait.

I did get a bit confused about some of the references to Kor Phaeron and his battle at Calth, thinking that I had missed some vital parts in the series somehow. No. I just blanked half of the events of Know no Fear from my memory. I figure it’s my own fault for having so long between books in the series.


One of my favourite books in the series for a while! Lorgar and Angron are wonderful Primarchs to follow, packed with bags of character. Sub-characters are just as good. Well-written action sequences. Dehumanising of the enemy make for a revelation seeing as you’re (probably) meant to be rooting for them. Absolute belter of an ending.

5 responses to “[Book Review] Betrayer – Aaron Dembski-Bowden”

  1. I love the point you make about ADB’s prose, he writes just so damn well. You can almost just tell it’s him writing a book without looking at the name on the front, but it’s not because he writes particularly flowery or anything. Very believable characters too. Definitely one of the best books in the series, and one that I hadn’t expected to like due to not really caring about either Angry Ron or his legion…

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s what I appreciate about him. He is easy to pick up and read, but you still get the complexities of plot and character with his work.
      I was looking forward to this one due to Word Bearer’s bias. I wasn’t expecting to come out of it feeling the way I did towards Angron.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review Jenn. I am happy that its not taken me a month and a half to finish this one. I also lost a bit of the Kor Phearon battles refferences. I can only remember lorgar saying bye to Guiliman but the battles themselves are lost on me. Also I am really happy with this novel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s the issue with having so many threads in the same series to keep up with and having so many books in between. Some of the finer details are bound to get lost.
      Hopefully, the next one will go down just as easily.

      Liked by 1 person

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