“‘I was there,” he would say afterwards, until afterwards became a time quite devoid of laughter. ‘I was there, the day Horus slew the Emperor.’”
You know a book series- and make no mistake, the Horus Heresy is a series-in-progress composed of 30 books written by twelve authors, dubbed the High Lords of Terra- is good when the first line of the first novel hooks you. This one line not only hooked me, it snagged my imagination and hasn’t let go. It has beaten and tormented me, as well as lifted my soul to the grandest of heights… only to let me plummet into the depths of Chaos.
There are very few books- let alone entire series of books- that can claim that. This is one of them.
Horus Rising (subtitled “The seeds of Chaos are sown”), by Dan Abnett (author of Gaunt’s Ghosts, if you’re familiar with that), is the series opener. It sets the stage and gives you a simple glimpse into the Great Crusade at its height. The Emperor has returned to Terra after the devastating campaign at Ullanor against the greenskin horde, leaving his favored son, Horus Lupercal, as the Warmaster of the Great Crusade. It follows Garviel Loken, Captain of the 10th Company of the XVI Legion (the Luna Wolves, Horus’s own sons) after his appointment to the Mournival, a small, informal council dedicated to advising their Primarch and Warmaster. As such, he is in a unique position to observe- and then object to- the changes he sees within his Legion, within his brothers, and within Horus. Changes that will ultimately lead to Horus’s corruption and downfall.
Now, one has to understand- I came into this series understanding what was taking place, but having no details. So when I started reading (especially the second time, through an English Major’s eyes), I began to see patterns and portents that were peppered throughout the novel. Easter eggs that were so ironic I nearly screamed “OH THE IRONY!”
And let’s not forget the foreshadowing, which is as epic in scale as it is innocuous (if you don’t know what you’re looking for.)
“They wore polished black armor, dark as night, as if they belonged to some other, black Legion.”
“For as Sedirae once said, ‘The only thing that can beat an Astartes is another Astartes,’ and they had all laughed at that. The impossible was nothing to be scared of.”
My goodness, these lines gave me the shivers.
But what I think is the most fascinating thing about Horus Rising is the irony and juxtaposition of ritualism and logic. At nearly every turn, Loken is greeted with ritual- his induction into the Mournival, the revelation and secretive nature of the warrior lodges (think Freemasons) within not only the Luna Wolves, but other Legions as well. These things grate on him. Why are humans, supposedly enlightened and completely secular creatures, still clinging to whispers and shadows and secrets of this nature? And why does it seem to be running rampant amongst the Astartes, who are supposed to be humanity’s greatest warriors and their role models?
Ultimately, this begs the question: why has humanity lost its ritualistic roots? Why have we forsaken spirituality and belief for logic? Why is the casting down of gods and prayer and religion and ritual such a huge deal? Is there something out there, something that will listen?
One needs only look at Eidolon, Lord Commander in service to the Third Legion, the Emperor’s Children, to know that this is so. From the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew there was something wrong with him. He was too power hungry. Too greedy. To ready to ingratiate himself with the powers that be in the Great Crusade. Loken didn’t like him, or trust him. Neither did I.
I knew the Fall would start with him. But I’m not going to spoil it for you. Read it for yourself.