Nemesis – James Swallow

Published: 27 July 2010
Publisher: Black Library
Pages: 507
Series: Horus Heresy #13
Format Read:Physical Copy


After the horrors of Istvaan V, Horus declares outright war against the Imperium. In the shadows of the Emperor’s Palace, powerful figures convene.Their plan is to send a team of assassins to execute the arch-traitor Horus and end the war for the galaxy of mankind before it’s even begun. But what they cannot know is that another assassin is abroad already, with his sights firmly set on killing the Emperor.


With that unlucky number 13 behind it’s description, Nemesis was kinda bound to be a bit of a blank round fired from the bolter of Black Library Publishing. To have this book right after the huge success that was A Thousand Sons also did not work in it’s favor. If you have not already read my reading partner Jenn I urge you to go and see some of the major problems she had with this novel. While I did not go as far as giving this a 1 out of 5, it still pissed me of by margins that I am not all together happy with and therefore this review will be showcasing pissed off Inquisitor Jenn and Savatarius. Savatartius felt like tearing this book apart with his teeth nearing the end to live up to his Chapters name The Word Eaters, but I managed to reign him in as I needed evidence still to be able to write some form of review.

nemesis busts smlExhibit P (Pissed off people…)

Nemesis started of great if not a bit slow. I was exited to read more about the Assissinorium side of Terra and the general premise of this book had a lot of potential. To be introduced to 6 ” Assassin Clades”, each with their own way of taking out a target was great. Why they had to meet up and keep things secret and “away from the Emperor” I do not understand too much. It is my understanding that ever since book one in this series, wherever a secret gathering is concerned, things turn out towards a fight because of misunderstandings between friends, brothers and alike. I liked how certain Clades made me think about certain Space Marine Chapters they might have taken inspiration of. The one dealing in poisons had a bit of a Death Guard ring to it, the Eversors had me thinking it had a mild case of the Needles that is installed in the World Eaters’ brains for stimulating permanent aggression, the Clade that uses, or clones Pariahs had a smell of the Silent Sisters about it and so on.

With a set up like that how could this book then end up angering both Jenn and I you may ask and the answer is a simple one. If you make a book out to be an assassination attempt on Horus himself, why fuck around with some planetary rebellion to catch the attention of the Warmaster to force him to come down to said planet and attempt to blow his head of? Why not use all those “combined skills” to infiltrate his flagship and deal the killing blow in his home where he feels most comfortable with? Why introduce me to a million different people that I do not feel any inclination for and that do not help to steer the story onward to it’s final conclusion? The conclusion may also not come as a shock to you seeing as the Horus Heresy did not come to a close at book 13, as there are still 43 books to go in the main series.

One of my main problems started to arise around the 70% mark of the novel. At 40% in, the individual assassins were still being introduced. It read like a game I once played called Mass Effect where you go and recruit certain people for a mission each one having a certain skill, in Nemesis these people were chosen by their respective Clades as “the best of the bestest”. Also taking place while this is going on is some police investigation of a new kind of serial killer that leaves obscene trophies behind and trying to find the person behind it. As well as a potential civil war on a planet not far from where the investigations are taking place the planet that our six assembled assassins are setting up their plan to kill Horus. I say this book started to grate on me by the 70% mark as the story just did not want to move forward. In A Thousand Sons, I was told so many times that there are no such things as coincidences and yet the book right after it was riddled with it. All of a sudden one Assassin happens to be a Emperor fanatic and says fuck the main mission, two assassins happen to be a brother and sister at odds with one another because of a past that gradually gets revealed, but that I did not care for as the interlocking plot arcs kept shifting perspective to an “evil assassin” that I felt ended up being more of a focal point than the six assassins that I was exited to learn more about. Why could not more time be spent making me feel some form of connection to the six that were supposed to play the main role only to subvert me the one that I started laothing near the end. One that read like a Resident Evil game boss that just refuses to die and keeps on mutating into something different, because “coincidentiality”? (Did I just make up a new word with coincidental?). So yeah, the characters were all a bit flat, I did care for some more than others and some people’s origins were things I was more interested in than the main plot of the whole book.

I liked one person in particular and her character did not do too much throughout the whole story that much, but it introduced me or rather re-introduced me to the Pariah side of 40K, I also think she is featured on the cover of the novel, but I could be wrong. Swallow does show some good quality writing at times, but at most times the execution of certain stuff just fell face first into a puddle. While Nemesis made me think of a lot of different games and movies I might have experienced throughout my life the one thing I did not feel was that this did not belong in the HH series. As a 40K book it read fine but for a book I was hoping would further the Heresy part of the series along it failed and there was the final straw for me personally. Were it not for the list of names at the start of the book to remind me who was who this novel would have drastically my views on it. Not only had the Assassins names but were also referred to as the names of their Clades, so in one sentence it would speak of a person or deal with a conversation between two, but it would feel like there were six involved in that scenario, it was disgruntling and I do not even know if that is a word I can use in this sentence, but oh well, I am no professional writer…


It is a bit sad to be honest as both Jenn and my views on this are in stark contrast with other reviewers on GR. 5 out of 5s have been given there, but I have stopped rating my book reading through rose tinted glasses and I have decided to do reviews on these books in a more than usual honest way. I can forgive Nemesis for a lot, but I cannot forgive it for the fact that in the last 4 chapters the 350 page setup needed a speed train way to conclude all the different plot points and take care of all the characters involved. While I would love to give spoilers on a negative review I am holding back as another fellow blogger has recently taken up to reading the HH series and I am going to try hold more things back for future reviews of this series, or add a whole “Spoiler ” part to them. We will have to see. I am glad I got to finish this novel at least otherwise I would have had not reviews really for this month. I hope my reading will speed up a bit from here on out. As I have said earlier this got a 3 out of 5 from me on GR, but I told Jenn that I was torn between giving it a 2 or 3.

29 thoughts on “Nemesis – James Swallow

      1. Sorry to hear that man. We on the otherhand have been given yet anither extension of lockdown. Now set for 15 March😔. Means we will have been spending 3 full months at home…

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Yup, fully agree with you – not the worst book in the Heresy series but very disappointing none the less. It also left me wondering why, given that the Assassins are such a key part of the Imperium, they took one shot at killing Horus and then disappear from the war altogether. Surely they should have dispatched every assassin that was available, and tried to take out all of the traitor primarchs and as many other key players as possible? Imagine how differently the war might have played out if Abaddon, Erebus or Kharn had been picked off by a sniper long before things really got going? There are enough unexpected deaths in the series that we as readers would have felt a lot more narrative tension if the book had focussed on someone important but a little more low profile than Horus himself. Instead this is the last time the Assassins do anything significant in the Heresy which given what a major part they will play in the Imperium from then on just seemed weird to me.

    Let’s see, it’s First Heretic next right? Not wanting to oversell it to you but I absolutely bloody love that book. It’s the first one I read (I didn’t have much idea of the order they were meant to be read in but I really liked the cover. To be honest though a lot of it is set pre-Heresy – much like Legion – so you can get away with reading it out of order). Anyway, I’m rambling but I reckon you’re in for a treat (which after reading Nemesis you certainly deserve!). 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Man that taking a shot at “Horus” while he was still taking his helmet off was just dumb, the guy just shot him becaus he had a cape on? Really?? Sucks though as in the book before i read this one there was a very cool assassin idea introduced working alongside an inquisitor.

      Yeah First Heretic is up next, just waiting for Jenn to give the all clear so we can start. I have it in that special edition like the 1000 Sons novel so you can expect a lot of foto’s in my review. Thank you for stopping by mate.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I feel like the series so far has had not that much focus on the Astartes to start with mate, you mostly see it all unfold through the eyes of second or third people’s perspectives. I did like the start of Nemesis, but by the end i just wanted it to be done already… will see about Outcast when i get to it… still a ways away from it

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Really? I feel like I defined the majority of these books by which Legion they focused on! I know what you mean with wanting it to be over, I seem to remember it being a bit of a rushed muddle.

        It’s been a while since I read any Heresy, I must try harder there!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It focuses on the Legion but almost always through the eyes of a remembrancer or some human counterpart. I have no beef with that kind of thing, but after 1000 Sons, i feel that’s the kinda way I want all HH books to be told in, have the primarchs feature more, see more through Astartes eyes… it might just be me though, we pick up on different things it seems.

        Since that review, have you read Fallen Angels? That book redeemed the story of Decent of Angels by a lot … ill be starting First Heretic soon.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m sure there are plenty of books like that to come, then! Though I do feel like the series becomes so patchy from here, meandering through and getting lost at times. I think I’m up to Vengeful Spirit now, just can’t seem to bring myself to want to read it yet!!

        I haven’t yet read it, no – I’m sure you’ve told me previously that it’s worth reading, but I’m not sure if I even kept hold of it!! I’m sure I’ll get to it at some point!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. That is quite a good review you had there mate. I guess this was one of those hit or miss books. I know Jenn and my views on it are in the not so popular list.


  2. Glad you’re thinking of little old me when not dishing up the spoilers 😉

    At least you could take some positives from this, more than Jenn took from it at least.

    Safe to say, I’m not looking forward to this one a whole lot, despite the amazing cover. I’m also very hit and miss as far as James Swallow goes … so that’s another thing that has me wincing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Swallow Wrote Eisenstein that you are very close to being at i think and we both loved that book albeit it does get a little Nurgly at times, still you might like Nemesis as Jenn and I seem to be in the minority over that one…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m 100 pages into Eisenstein. The only issue I have so far is that, after seeing a split between a small number of captains in the Sons of Horus over loyalty to the Emperor … the exact same storyline is being written about the Death Guard captains. Hope it goes a slightly different route. Just seems a bit uninspired for Swallow to be writing the exact same split. Garro and Loken are practically the same character as well (both hate the Lodge, both are very regimented and by the book, they are even both given special captain roles with Loken in Mournival and Garro as ‘Battle Captain. Garro has a Housecarl, Loken was the only guy who loved hanging out with Remembrancers etc …)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: March Plans
  4. Pingback: Fallen Angels

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.