Published: 26 April 2011
Publisher: Black Library
Series: Horus Heresy #16
Format Read: Physical Copy
After the betrayal at Isstvan, Horus begins his campaign against the Emperor, a galaxy-wide war that can lead only to Terra. But the road to the final confrontation between father and son is a long one – seven years filled with secrecy and silence, plans and foundations being formed across distant stars. An unknown history is about to be unveiled as light is shed on the darkest years of the Horus Heresy, and revelations will surface that will shake the Imperium to its very foundation…
It is hard to believe that I am already this far into the Horus Heresy. While this is book 16, we had a short story collecion at book 10 already. Where Tales of Heresy was a goof read, Age of Darkness had some pretty big shoes to fill, but our general concensus was that it did a decent job of things. I say we as I was once again joined by the lovely Jenn who helped fill in some blanks here and there. Thank you for still sticking around to do this read along with me Jenn.
This might be one of those longer reviews that I do every now and again when I do reviews of short story collections. If you do not care about the nature or worried about being spoiled of what each short story is about you can skip right down to where my final verdict is. I´ll be adding the blurp for each short from GR before I give my own take on the story itself, Bare with me as there were nine stories in total. So strap in tight.
Rules of Engadgement – Graham McNeil:
Roboute Guilliman has put the finishing touches to his great work – the Codex Astartes. This tome will show his Ultramarines how to deal with any tactical situation, no matter the foe. But as the Horus Heresy reaches Ultramar, Captain Ventanus of the “Troublesome Fourth” must test the strictures of the Codex Astartes against the one foe that the primarch never expected: other Space Marines.
Age of Darkness opened with quite a good one as well as doing some fourth wall breaking in the sense of Guilliman’s book. Codex Astartes are the rule books one has to collect when building up a certain Space Marine army for the table top game. Each Legion or Chapter has it’s own rules and gimics as well as containing lore around that specific Chapter. Having Guilliman “write” this Rules of Engadgement book that his troops are to learn verbatim and carry out the principles in real battle scenarious was great. This story started of with the Ultramarines going up against the Deathguard, World Eaters and even the Salamanders which was weird as I thought the Salamanders were loyal to the Emperor. I actually had to put the book down and research why they turned or how it came to be that the Salamanders came to blows with the Ultramarines. Only to find out it was all just training missions. Quite a good twist for such a short story. It also ends with a possible set up to a future book maybe? With regards to a battle between Guilliman and Horus perhaps, it sounded very foreboding, but I had a blast reading through this one. I am also pretty sure that the cover for this collection ,ight have drawn inspiration from this short.
Liar`s Due – James Swallow:
News has reached Town Forty-Four, on the tranquil world of Virger-Mos II: Terra has fallen, the Emperor is dead and the Imperium belongs to Horus Lupercal. As the people of Forty-Four struggle to deal with this revelation and the rest of the planet falls into anarchy, Leon Kyyter begins to doubt the news, along with the stranger from Terra, the remembrancer with the odd tattoo…
Initially an Alpha LEgion short. Though I have not read too much surrounding the Alpha Legion apart from Legion, I know one is not supposed to know if they are loyal or not. This one does lean suspiciously heavily in Camp Horus territory. I was not to sure what to make about the short , but I had a feeling that that I missed something vital in a previous Heresy novel. I also felt that hints were dropped here regarding events that are still to happen within the full length novels. Was a decent spy- action story though.
Forgotten Sons – Nick Kyme
The planet Bastion must decide whether to remain loyal to the Emperor, or side with the rebel Horus. The Warmaster’s case is presented by an iterator, a master of persuasion. The Imperium has sent the Space Marines. Heka’tan and Arcadese must set aside their warlike natures and learn to be diplomats, or risk losing the world. But Horus wants the world, and a plan is in motion to ensure that the Space Marines fail in their task…
When I finished this short I felt like it was my favorite of the three I read so far. A Salamander and an Ultramarine are on a mission to sway a populace’s fealty to the cause of the Imperium and the Emperor, but are at a disadvantage as Horus uses an iterator to paint the Emperor in a bad light. There was a lot going on and this story felt to me that it had a bearing on previous books that Jenn and I had read so far. Scenes taken from First Heretic and The Thousand Sons as evidence against the Emperor as well as references to The Flight of Eisenstein, Fulgrim and Galaxy in Flames. One event that was a bit jarring was the Salamander suffering flashbacks to where Vulkan was killed. I cannot recall that being in a book we have covered yet, might just be me though. Knowing Kyme and having read the Salamander omnibus a few years ago (I reviewed it on my blog a few years ago Salamanders pretty suprizing how far my reviewing has come in the recent years…) , I at least knew enough of the Salamander’s mannerisms that featured in this short. It was a bit hit and miss where the Ultramarine was concerned. Also why they consider themselves Forgotten is not really explained or was heavily hinted at yet I probably have not gotten that far into the Heresy to know what it was about. Dropsite Massacar is something that still needs to happen in my books I figure. This was a fun read though lots of politics and action happening.
Last Remembrancer – John French:
In a secret fortress on the dark side of Titan, Rogal Dorn and Iacton Qruze meet with a prisoner. That prisoner has a tale to tell, of heroes and monsters, of honour and treachery, of life and death. He has stood at the side of the Warmaster himself, and he has a message for the Imperial Fists primarch. But can he be trusted? And can he be allowed to live? Rogal Dorn must decide the fate of the last remembrancer.
This was the shortes story of the lot. It is a good one too containing direct action direct action from the Primarch Rogal Dorn and a character of Horus’ Legion that stayed loyal to the Emperor. Interrogating a remembrancer apparently sent to Terra as Horus’ own warning. The ending confused me a little a little but I was not too phased by it.
Rebirth – Chris Wright
Captain Kalliston of the Thousand Sons, taken captive in the shattered ruins of his homeworld, is tortured and interrogated by an unseen foe. He is sure that he knows the nature of his captor, and plays a dangerous game to get him to reveal himself. But the truth is very different and far more dangerous than he thinks, and he is in more danger than he could possibly imagine… It’s a look at the shattered ruins of Prospero and how it feels to lose your Legion, your world and your identity. And speaking of identity, the guest star will make your jaw drop…
Rebirth was a great little short, this is probably what I wanted Prospero Burns to be more like and less of the novel we actually got. A Thousand Son returns to Prospero six months after the events that happen near the end of The Thousands Sons novel, only to become hunted himself. Who is hunting him? Why was Prospero attacked? All these answers he finds under the harsh tutelage of his torturer, all the while giving us a first hand account of the ordeals he is going through. My kind of story this. Also some more information comes to light about the Heresy which seems to be in full swing now.
The Face of Treachery – Gav Thorpe:
The Raven Guard have arrived at Isstvan V to rescue Corax and other survivors of the treacherous Dropsite Massacre, but the enemy still encircle the world. As starships clash in fierce void war and the life of a primarch hangs in the balance, the key to victory lies in the hands of one Space Marine in the rebel fleet, a warrior who is not what he appears.
Some spaceship shennanigans that feature the World Eaters on the hunt for Salamanders and Ravenguard. This takes place after the so calle Dropsite Massacar – which we have not yet come across. A lot happens in this short that either spoil or serves as a great setup for future books to come. As I finished this short I could not help but quench previous thoughts regarding the shorts contained in this book I have a feeling that this should have maybe come out at a later stage in the Heresy. I loved the reveal at the end of this storyy that featured some more Alpha Legion action, this time semi leaning towards the Emperor’s cause or to help the two Legions that are prey to the relentles World Eater hunt. Also getting to know a bit about the Ravenguard by a small margin was was great as they have not really featured a lot in the HH yet.
Little Horus – Dan Abnett:
“Little” Horus Aximand is uneasy about the direction that the Sons of Horus have taken. As he leads the Warmaster’s forces in their attempt to bring the mausoleums of Dwell under their sway, he faces his own doubts, the planet’s natives… and Space Marines of the Iron Hands. As battle rages with his erstwhile brothers, Little Horus faces a challenge that will change his life forever, if it doesn’t end it altogether.
This was but a glimpse at the attempt on Horus’ life. “Little Horus” Aximand takes centre stage as he goes up against some Iron Hands and White Scars. I have no idea where this short will tie into. I am also pretty sure the Iron Hands are pissed at Horus for letting Fulgrim kill their Primarch, but in our read up until now nothing has been stated on how the Iron Hands turned, either to be against Horus or turn traitor as they have no Primarch to lead them. I do recall from a book that I read long ago that they all turn mad somehow, turning themselves from Trans Human into near robotic killing maschines. The White Scars, even not knowing a great deal about them I at least know they are one of the loyal Chapters. One White Scar ends up leaving quite a scar on Little Horus’ face…
The Iron Within:
The Iron Warriors, now traitors, return to a world they conquered long ago. But one of their number remains loyal to the Emperor, and battle is joined on the fortress-world. Years ago, the Iron Warriors left Barabaras Dantioch, a crippled warsmith, on the world of Lesser Damantyne. Now, having declared their allegiance to the traitor Horus, they have returned. As the planet’s garrison prepares for war, Dantioch must choose between loyalty to his legion or to the Emperor.
Give it to Rob Sanders to turn things topsy turvey. Where it ain’t just Chapter vs Chapter, but the members of a specific Chapter going at it against members of their own. Initially a siege short story that gives us a glimpse of the Iron Hands as both attacker and defenders. Tonnes of action to be had as well as reveals partianing to the Heresy. If I am to believe other reviews in this story this was to introduce a character that will be playing another big part in the Heresy futher on. This short also had a Dreadnaught, there is nothing that pulls harder at my heart strings than a good Dreadnaught with a tragic backstory as well as it was done in here. I really liked this short story.
Savage Weapons – Aaron Dembski-Bowden:
For two years, the Dark Angels have battled the Night Lords on the worlds of the Aegis sector, and they are no closer to victory. When the traitor’s Primarch – the Night Haunter – issues a challenge, Lion’El Johnson of the Dark Angels descends to an abandoned world for a final confrontation with his treacherous brother. But the Night Haunter has a darker purpose…
Dark Angels vs Nigh Lords! While I have now read two Dark Angels novels within the Heresy and only the one Primarchs novel for Curze, I cannot say I have any knowledge as to what this story hinted at or the history between him and the Lion. What I can say is this was quite a good short to round things of for the collection. While this also felt like a setup to a book Jenn and I still have to come across, it was a delight to read. I thought it was going to deal with the events at the end of the Fallen Angels novel, I did not expect Curze to be in it at all. I should really make a plan to read more Night Lords novels. Salty Space Batmen vigilantes in space sounds like my cup of brandy indeed.
Even while I feel like much of what is still to come in further Heresy novels was spoiled through some of these stories, I am still exited to start the next novel in the series. I had a blast going through all these even though it took me over a month to read nine shorts… It also feels awesome to have read a physical book again, I do miss it most days.
Age of Darknes got a score of 4 out of 5 from me on GR and I’ll recommned it only for those that deem themselves completionists and doing what Jenn and I are attempting, reading the Horus Heresy from book 1 through to the end (currently sitting at 54 main novels…). There is a hit and miss factor to be taken into account as not everyone likes the same thing. In my case these stories were mostly positively received. If you managed to make it this far into my review I would just like to say thank you for taking the time to read through my thoughts.