Speaking of World Eaters, I finished Betrayer by Aaron Dembski Bowden a few weeks ago. I read it on my shiny new iPad- it really is an amazing device (see my review of Digital White Dwarf here ). At any rate, how was Betrayer, you may ask? Well, let's find out, shall we?
"Aye. Piss on Angron's grave when he finally lies dead" - Gharte of the World Eaters
I have said it before, and I will say it again right now- ADB may well be the best writer at Black Library right now. It always seems to be a toss up between him and Abnett, and this book has only added to that- especially since this book is, in so many ways, a continuation of Abnett's fantastic Know No Fear. Indeed, it as a worthy follow-up to that story, as well as a story that expands on the entire Horus Heresy line in so many ways (though I'm contemplating calling it Lorgar's Heresy, considering the events of these books).
Basically, Betrayer continues the story of Know No Fear: a secondary group of Word Bearers has teamed up with the World Eaters to continue the assault on the Ultramar region, engaging in Lorgar's "Shadow Crusade" to plunge the region into anarchy, thus cutting off Guilliman from the rest of the Imperium. However, as always with Lorgar, he has something else up his sleeve. He is planning to sacrifice all in order to... save Angron's life?! What the...?
Exactly. It's surprising twists and turns like this that make the book so damn exciting. It is a great conciet to put the Word Bearers with the World Eaters- seeing Angron and Lorgar together (with amazing character beats for each), at first I kept hearing the Odd Couple theme. However, while their interactions were often amusing, they quickly became full of portent (knowing how the Heresy ends up). Further, the two legions are not, how shall I say... well coordinated. They despise each other, with the exception of Kharn (surprisingly level-headed) and Argel Tal (great to see him again), who both can see that things aren't so good with the rebellion and their respective Primarchs, no matter how things may seem.
So- the real star of the book is Angron, and what a character he is. ADB does the incredible- again- he takes what was always a rather 2 dimensional Primarch and makes him a full person- a WOUNDED full person at that. More than any other Primarch's portrayal, this one felt raw, emotional, realistic (if that is possible in 40K). Without filling in all the blanks, ADB shows that Angron is the "broken Primarch", ruined by the world he landed on as an infant (which we now learn is called Nuceria, in the Ultima Segmentum of all places!). All he ever knew was violence, bloodshed, tragedy, and loss. He never had a chance to develop normally- literally, thanks to the Butcher's Nails surgically implanted in his head, a device that makes him crave violence. This has made him angry, twisted, and bitter. Even his own legion is frustrated by his unpredictability and the fact that he is "damaged goods". It has also given Angron a rather unique view- he feels that the Emperor is a sham, a con artist just like any other would-be tyrant. In the words of Angron during a flashback:
"We fight because the Emperor wants every world in his hands. All he knows is slavery, painted in the inoffensive cloak of compliance. The very notion of freedom is a horror to him... We offer them compliance, or we offer them death".
That is powerful stuff- Angron has put his finger on the very contradiction that brings down the Imperium of 30K. This is what causes Chaos to engulf half the legions and the Imperium. And Angron calls it before just about anybody. Simply amazing. Angron is very sympathetic throughout, and you can't help but root for him, even if you know how this will turn out. Quite a literary feat indeed.
I really, really don't want to spoil the details of the story, as if you are a HH fan, this book has it all. I really like how ADB is tying his story to so many others in the HH series- (and even from other things like The Emperor's Gift and Ravenor, believe it or not) it really is exciting to feel this momentum and how the HH is so very complex. ADB is a juggler in this story- he has so many balls in the air at once and you fear that he may just drop them- but he doesn't, with a climax that is exciting, while tying up some threads while creating whole new ones. Everyone gets their moments: Lorgar, Kharn, Argel Tal, Guilliman, Erebus. The action is frantic at points, always exciting but clear to follow. Plots are furthered: what's the deal between Erebus and Lorgar- just who is playing whom exactly? Who is John Grammaticus and his guys, exactly- the biological children of the Emperor, perhaps? And Kharn? And... well, there's so much more, but again, I don't want to spoil.
The ending is just fantastic- incredibly fitting and fulfilling. Indeed, there is a great symmetry about where things start and where they end up, with a degree of irony for Lorgar and Angron alike. I loved it, and I can't wait to see where it goes from here. Just a note of caution- you need to read several HH stories to get this one fully, including: Legion, The First Heretic, After D'eshea, Butcher's Nails, and of course Know No Fear (D'eshea in particular- a short story). I mean, you can follow it if you haven't, BUT you'll get more out of it if you have, that's all I'm saying.
I'm currently in the middle of Ahriman: Exile, and its quite good, I must say. I'll let you know when I'm done with it. Until next time...