A Thousand Sons – Graham McNeill

Published: 23 February 2010
Publisher: Black Library
Pages: 558
Series: Horus Heresy #12
Format Read: Physical Copy


Censured at the Council of Nikea for his flagrant use of sorcery, Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons Legion retreat to their home world of Prospero to continue their use of the arcane arts in secret. But when the ill-fated primarch foresees the treachery of Warmaster Horus and warns the Emperor with the very powers he was forbidden to use, the Master of Mankind dispatches fellow primarch Leman Russ to attack Prospero itself. But Magnus has seen more than the betrayal of Horus and the witnessed revelations will change the fate of his fallen Legion, and its primarch, forever.


My version gives detailed history of when the stories happen along the 40K timeline. which is great.

I want to start of my review by saying that, much like my Mechanicum review, I also own this copy that is part of the Warhammer 40K Legends collection, so you can expect a few nice foto’s, albeit it unskillfully taken as it is hard to keep the book steady and take a picture at te same time, I did try though. A Thousands Sons is also part of my ongoing partner read with Jenn @Eternal Bookcase, her review of this went up last month already, but I am a slow reader… Please head over there and give her follow if you do not already do so.

A Thousand Sons was a great book. It is one of the longer Horus Heresy novels out there according to my knowledge. This book was a beast to hold as well as contained so much inside it that I am having a hard time writing a review for it. I also do not know to review it without giving out spoilers, but seeing as this is an old series already I hope you can forgive me for going into that territory as I have no other idea as to how to approach the review I have planned out in my mind.

The original color cover art of A Thousand Sons by Neil Roberts

A Thousand Sons is a book that gives us a glimpse as to who this Space Marine Chapter is/was. As I went through the novel I could not help but think why I liked this unconventional origin story as opposed to the one I got in Descent of Angels. This book’s first main part takes place in the era before Horus has been appointed as Warmaster. We see a Legion following the orders of their Primarch as well as get to know individual characters that will accompany us throughout the rest of the story, I’ll get to this in a bit. The next part is where the Emperor makes it known that Horus will be taking up the reigns after the battle of Ullanor and that the Emperor heads to Terra on his secret mission. Accompanying this part is also the telling of off Magnus and his Legion’s from stopping to use sorcery as it is dangerous. Part three sees the misunderstandings that lead into the demise and destruction of the Thousands Sons’ home world Prospero. This book weaves an intricate tale throughout all these parts of how it came about that Magnus made a pact with a Deamon of sorts to save the genetic flaw that comes from his own gene seed. How it was exactly managed is still a little bit vague to me, but I bet it will be explained better upon in later books regarding this Chapter. The main thing that I took away is that the forces of Chaos have long foreseen the coming of the Emperor and have made it their mission to sow as much discord among the Emperor’s creations to hold back total dominion by this “great entity”.

Magnus on the right, his right hand man Ahriman on the left…

Magnus seemed like a much more hands on Primarch to others that I have read before in HH. There was a part in the book that he even told a remembrancer of his Legions origins as well as the fact that he had one of the best connections with the Emperor and actually remembers his creation. That has also not happened before apart from a remembrancer being allowed to sit down with Gavriel Loken in the first two HH books. This was one of the few HH novels so far where I read quite a lot of things seen through the eyes of a Primarch. Magnus had a lot of depth and yet was flawed in such a way that came of as arrogant at times. He was nothing but aspiring to be a good example for his “sons”. He also carried a deep secret that only comes out when all shit hits the fan, but he did not hide or cower away from the judgement in the end and that made me respect him a lot more than I have ever thought I would any primarch, but then again almost any primarch’s story is a sad one. In A Thousand Sons’ case it just goes to show how misunderstandings and jealousy can bring about the end of a great love for fellow brother that were on the same side from the start, that part just ripped my heart out and threw it onto the sidewalk as a freight train was on a collision course with said sidewalk at the same time, I am still processing if I now hate the counter Legion or if I can accept it for what it was. This book broke me and I can’t help but feel that maybe Chaos is right in fighting the Emperor, every book just makes me feel more and more like joining the Dark side of 40K… Heresy!

Livery of the Thousand Sons pre Horus Heresy as well as another rendition of Magnus

Thousand Sons had some great lore intertwined with not only the Legion, but the 40K setting as well. I can not help but feel that the Legion takes a lot of inspiration from both Egyptian as well as Aztec culture. I may be horribly wrong, but that is what I felt. Each person that is from Prospero or within the Thousand Sons is in some way a psyker or in laymen’s terms a sorcerer. Magnus has trained them in understanding the Warp beter than any other person I have heard of so far within 40K. The beauty of this book lay in McNeill’s ease of story telling that could possibly make any person interested in starting Warhammer understanding what exactly is going on. As I came closer to the middle of the book I thought to myself that this would’ve been a great start to the Horus Heresy. Apart from seeing how Horus fell from grace in the first three books, A Thousand Sons gave me glimpses into other books as well that went before it. It could easily be read as a kind of prophesied book and then start the series from book one. At least to my mind. Being at ease with the Warp gives each Thousand Son a certain ability, the Legion have divided themselves into different “cults” that make up the whole of it. This was so neatly done and it was great to read how others would describe the legion in battle. Where Angron’s people were all barbarian and the Ultramarines stoic the Thousand Sons are describe by other brother Legions as calm, collected, as close to nearly robotic even, but this comes from the fact that they can close of their emotions, rising above certain “Enumirations” as they call it. These enumirations are stronger than any Librarian psychic hood, but that us no surprise as each individual is potentially a stronger Librarian that there ever will have been. Each cult member also had a “tutelary” akin to a familiar that helped them in battle. These familiars were some how taken out of the Warp and employed to each Thousand Son individual. I had a feeling that things would turn out badly and I was shown to be right about it nearing the ending of the novel…

Some extra info regarding the warp and psykers. This is not included within the normal HH books

I appreciate that Thousand Sons took it’s time in moving the plot along. There was a lot of history covered, a lot of answers I have had in the past answered as well as creating new ones I am looking forward to uncover. While the Legion absconded from Russ of the Space Wolves’ summons to help with a battle in the Arc Reach, Magnus had his sons trying to uncover a mystery on a planet that could have great importance of the future. Russ ends up sending a detachment of his Legion to go and get Magnus. It turns out there is a deamon calling himself Choronzon, trapped on the planet and Magnus makes quick work of dispatching it. One of the Wolves that stood out for me within this part of the book was Othere Wyrdmake that I thought would make an awesome companion to Ahriman as the two seemed to be of like mindedness, sadly this is 40K and not everything has a happy ending ever within this setting. Ahriman and Wyrdmake do trade experiences though as Ahriman figures that if he can make one Space Wolve see that they do not differ he will consider it a win. Sadly a Wolve will always be a Wolve and if you do not see eye to eye with one, the rest will also follow suit. Ahriman realizes this too late, but on the scales of Time all of this was bound to happen. Events after this investigation lead up to where Magnus and Russ almost comes to physical blows while battling int the Arc Reach Cluster against an avian type of xenos alongside the Word Bearers. I found it amusing that the Word Bearer Primarch Lorgar actually held these two away from killing one another, but there is no mistaking that the love was long lost between Magnus and Russ, this event just sealed the deal.

Phosis T’kar another Thousand Son and a very old drawing of Prospero

Not long after this Magnus and his sons are summoned to a planet to discuss the use of magic. The people of Terra are growing fearful and of coarse it turns out to be a direct trail for the Thousand Sons Legion. This part of the book broke my hart as Magnus sees himself as the most loyal to the Emperor, but still gets told of. Worst of all it is the Emperor that bestows the judgement that all use of “magic” must be stopped. I find it funny as Magnus explains or tries to reason that even though what they do is seen as magic is basically the same as what the Astropaths do while traveling the Warp. I find it funny that the judgment was proclaimed on a planet that was still somehow magically being created. I found it disheartening that some one that also uses the warp yet calls it by another name was so adamant in the accusations. Another head scratch moment for me was to see how offish Mortarion of the Death Guard was at the trail, yet he also employed some form of primitive mathematical magic even before he turned traitor. These are all just insights I have thought of while going through the book and did not happen in the novel itself. One thing that stood out for me was that there were even other Legions that spoke up about the judgment or tried to give better insight into the employ of Librarians. I was surprised that the White Scars was one of the legions speaking in favor of Magnus, yet still the judgement was passed.

Cant say I read the name Seraphis anywhere in the book, but the inclusion of dreadnaughts are always welcome

After the Order at Nikea, the planet where Magnus was dealt his judgement, Magnus and his Legion return to Prospero. Ahriman still continues to instruct the remembrancer in his Legion’s ways as the rest of the Legion goes into studying more and scrying the Warp to look for answers to the future. On one such occasion Magnus sees the betrayal of Horus and instructs his legion to help him with a ritual to astroproject his spirit to Terra to warn the Emperor. This event sees Magnus discover the error of his ways as even though he wants to help his father and still considers himself loyal to the throne, he breaks the device that the Emperor was building as well as using the powers he was forbidden to use by the Emperor. The sad thing is that Magnus sees that it was his father’s intention to use this device in the future as Magnus’ psychic abilities are said to be as great, if not greater than that of the Emperor. Anyways, Emperor has to go against his warning of using magic and sends Russ to go and “deal” with the guilty Primarch. Russ does not hear arrest but destroy and there we get the fall of Prospero all summed up. The action that takes place in this book was well paced in between all the lore and I can not help but feel I am doing this book an injustice with my sad excuse of a review. There is so much I want to say yet I am forgetting all of it as well as not wanting to give too much away.

Here are some more things I appreciated:

The Thousand Sons chose the people they wanted as remembrancers. It turned out that each person they chose had a power of some sort. Magnus saw it fit to instruct these individuals as to save them a life of hardship and misunderstanding. One of the remembrancers hailed from a place in the “Nordafric” basically 40K’s version of North Africa, the fact that Africa is a thing in 40K just makes me feel so much more included. Said remembrancer also employed a ritual of the Sangoma to focus, for those that do not know, a Sangoma is the word used for witch doctor in many of the native tribes in Southern as well as Nothern Africa. Sangoma’s still make a lot of decisions for the tribes they are a part of in today’s times.

This one sentence, out of the many quotable sentences within the novel; “I can’t leave”, said Lemuel, “there is so much I’ve yet to learn from the Thousand Sons”. “You can’t learn when you are dead”, said Kallista…

Not only was there lore given on the Thousand Sons, but also of other Legions such as the White Scars, Space Wolves, Emperor’s Children, but to greater effect it was the Space Wolves that saw more lore given as the exchange between Ahriman and Wyrdmake happened.

I loved how easy McNell made it to underastand the Warp, it was like gliding through the air.

There were some love interests in this book. Nothing graphical, just the fact that two women were lovers that played a small part in getting them off planet before the Wolves struck.

There were even some Love Craft making a cameo by way of the Pnakotic manuscripts as well as a quote taken from Ralf Waldo Emerson’s Concord Hymn, where Magnus and Russ almost came to blows.

Savatarius and Inquisitor Jenn approves

I think it is safe to say I might have bored the shit out of you all with my rambling ons. I’ll keep it short here. Thousand Sons got a 5 out of 5 from me. On GR I stated that I doubt that there will be a book in this series that will be able to top what I got out of this book. Like I said,it feels like this could easily be read before you actually begin the Horus Heresy and if ever I do plan on giving this series a re read, this will be the book I start with.

I hope you made it this far in my review…

28 thoughts on “A Thousand Sons – Graham McNeill

  1. Thanks for including that history pix at the beginning. I zoomed in on it and read away.

    Those pictures included in the book were a really nice touch. How big, dimensionwise, is the book? It just seems like it must be bigger than a standard sized paperback to include the pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love it! I read this one years ago, and reading your review really brought back the memories 😃 Graham McNeil is an incredible storyteller, and I definitely agree with you that he can pull you in even if you know nothing about 40k!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah the only place I saw it before seeing your book reviews were the game packs in the store with the paint miniatures. That’s the extent of my knowledge on it besides what I have read here. I’m liking the ties into egyptian stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a great review to read. It brought back all the recent memories!!
    You made some excellent points in your review too – I liked your note on feeling included towards the end. I think that’s one of the great things about Warhammer 40k books, they have cultural references in them that make you think ‘That’s awesome!’

    This special version looks really pretty too, I am envious that you got to read a picture book version!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jenn. I do not know if it is still running but Hattchett Partworks ran this series a few years ago. Milou actually got me one of ebay the other day. This series span just over or exactly 80 books, all hard covers all pictured like this and mechanicum. Ive been inquiring if it is possible to complete my set but that seems to be a case i am going to loose seeing as they dont ship to the netherlands… i have an extra copy of Blood of Asaheim i am willing to ship over to you if you’d like. Seeing as That place was also named in 1000 Sons I figure it would be a cool read too.

      Thank you for the kind words.


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