The Primarchs – Edited by Christian Dunn


Published: 29 May 2012
Publisher: Black Library
Pages: 416
Series: Horus Heresy #20
Format Read: Audible
Duration: 14h 32mins
Narrator(s): Gareth Armstrong, Sean Barrett, Jonathan Keeble, David Timson


Created in the Emperor’s own image, the Primarchs had long thought themselves to be princes of the universe and masters of their own destiny – they led the Space Marine Legions in glorious conquest of the galaxy, and no enemy of the Imperium could stand against them. However, even amongst this legendary brotherhood, the seeds of dissent had been sown long before the treacherous Warmaster Horus declared his grand heresy.

Gathered within this anthology are four novellas focusing on some of the mightiest warriors and leaders that mankind has ever known – Fulgrim, Lion El’Jonson, Ferrus Manus and the twin Primarchs Alpharius and Omegon – and the roles that they may have yet to play in a war which threatens to change the face of the Imperium forever.


We start the year with our first Horus Heresy read. Jenn and I started this earlier last week before I got tested positive, and I managed to get through two stories before I got sent home. Milou and I have been putting a puzzle together at home as we Isolate together. Having a story that reaches around the two too three hour mark, makes for great puzzling motivation. And it feels quite nice to have been able to finish a Heresy book in such a short time. I do not know how Jenn manages to read the physical so quick, but I take my hat of to her and, as always, thank you for accompanying me on this book.

While The Primarchs consist out of 18 demi godly beings(20 originally, but two have been written out of all the lore annals within the 40K lore), this anthology only consisted out of four longer than normal short stories. As far as I am concerned this book was quite a nice hit for me. Some stories gave me recaps as well as a little insight into what happened after certain books, some even during events that was not mentioned so far in the Heresy. Some stories set up foreboding scenarios to events that have already taken place as well as set up scenarios to books that will be coming later in this series. If you will permit me, I’ll do another sort of summery for each short and give my take on it.

  1. The Reflection Crack’d – Graham McNeill
    This story took a look at some of the Emperor’s Children captains that come to realise that Fulgrim might not be the leader they thought he was. They come to find out that he might or might not be possessed by a deamon. They do not even know that they are not themselves, also already converts to Slaanesh. This turns them later then into a band of people torturing their Primarch in a bid to rid him of the supposed deamon. Fulgrim being Fulgrim take it all in his his stride, even up the ass and groin I figure, while he spews revelations and nonsense at his sons all the while they take pleasure in the giving of torture, a trait that is synonymous with followers of Slaanesh. It made for pretty uncomfortable reading yet at the same time had me intrigued. I liked how this story also gave me a recap on what happened in Fulgrim. McNeill is one of my favourite BL authors and having written Fulgrim, he knew exactly what he was doing with this short. If I am not mistaken the events of this short is a set up for the novel Angel Exterminatus that is not that far off in the HH. I liked how cocky one of Fulgrim’s sons came of in this story, thinking that he can take on a Primarch, his own Primarch at that, it is a character that I know a little more about than others within 40K, his character was also more fleshed out in the Fulgrim novel, so it was great to see him again.
  2. Feat of Iron – Nick Kyme
    I know Kyme’s work on the Salamanders Legion, I did not know that he had the same passion for the Iron Hands as well. While Ferrus Manus gets killed quite early in the HH by brother Fulgrim which is no spoiler at this time anymore, but it was nice to see Ferus in action, even if he comes of as a very unlikeable Primarch. The Iron Hands are a Legion that pride themselves with modification to their flesh and swapping out with mechanical counterparts. “Flesh is weak” is a motto or creed that you will hear on each and every I.H lips or vox box. While I am among the few that get a kick out of reading Mechanicum novels, the Iron Hands reads very much like they are, yet some hold onto their humanity for a lot longer than their Mechanicum counter patrs, at least that is as far as I understand the Legion. I have not read a lot of I.H novels, so I have to get more clued in on them. Which is what this short did.  It is said that this short follows on another called Promethean Sun, only that short dealt with the same story arc only this time around its not through the eyes of the Salamanders, but the I’H.  The I.H and Death Gaurd are on some planet fighting Eldar or some other alien race, while some Eldar try interfere to try and warn Ferus of his possible demise at the hands of brother Fulgrim, very much the same way that the Alpha Legion was contacted in Legion. What the Eldar can’t seem to do right though is talk sense and they opt to show Ferus images of his fall, which only enrages Ferus as he is a man of logic and not prattling about and pissing in the wind. Ferus is a cold Primarch, I can only ascribe that to his possible mechanical hearts maybe, but I had a tonne of fun with this short. To see the Iron Hands in action as well as come to to know some characters that wil take up the mantle for his absence in later books is something I look forward too.
  3. The Lion – Gav Thorpe
    Whenever you read the Lion in any 40K title you know it will have something to do with the Dark Angels. After two full length novels as well as the short story Savage Weapons from the Age of Darkness anthology, which this short story further expands upon, we see The Lion and his Angels returning to a world they already helped out in a previous story. Only, this time it is being contested by the Death Gaurd as well as the Iron Hands. This short also happens in the time where it is known that Horus turned against the Emperor, but it is not well known which of his sons are fore or against the Emperor of Mankind. Not knowing a lot about who is and isn’t myself, I found this story a bit on the not so good side, while it had good themes going around. I think my aversion towards the Lion and the Angels comes from the first novel still, that I have said redeemed itself after Descent of Angels, but something about the Lion feels a bit off, like he does not really know all that well how to command yet and that is he is fairly new to the whole “I am a Primarch” shtick. It was a good read and I wonder what effect this short is going to have on the whole Heresy side of things. Another thing that this short introduced was the idea that maybe the edict of Nikea, the one where the Emperor forbade the use of psykers, might have put the loyal Legions at a dissadvantage, as the Traitor Legions seem to know a lot more since that was enforced. This leads to the Lion sanctioning some of his Librarians to use their powers. I am very exited for this new avenue that this story implies. Another thing i thought was that some of the technology that was mentioned regarding Warp Travel seems that it will be a prominent feature in future books to come.
  4. The Serpent Beneath – Rob Sanders
    Probably my favorite short in this collection as well as a short that will nag at me for a long time. The ending twist I did sort of see coming, but the route it took to get to that was quite a journey. Beneath The Serpent takes a look at the douplicity of the Alpha Legion. Not only do they have to show that they are in leauge with Horus, but at the same time they also have the interests of the Imperuim close to heart. While this was a sort of spy vs spy short story where they not only go up against the White Scars Legion, they also go up against their own Legion. What this story does to me personally is to devide my impression of if the Alpha Legion is loyalist or traitor. Its a very hard pillow to swallow with the the way they manipulate information. The technology they were after/needed to see destroyed felt like the same form of what was dealt with in the previous short. Rob spun a great tale with this novel. It also had a lot of action at the same time as showing how the Alpha Legion coordinate their attacks in such a way that they will not be detected. It also shows how good they are at manipulating other factions within the 40K setting. This time another unfortunate Mechanicum adept. You can never take a story where the Alpha Legion is concerned at face value. I love and hate it at the same time.

I had a good time with these stories. Eventhough they do not directly influence or bring the overall Heresy up to speed, they do add little bits and bobs for me to look out for in future novels. The fact that both the first and second, even maybe the third point to Angel Exterminatus, I feel this was a perfect start for this years HH kick off. I got recapped and refressed on older books as well as introduced to new possible keyplayers within the series. Even saw two characters killed of that I thought had a bigger part to play in the overall scheme of things.

The Primarchs got a 4 out of 5 from me. I can only recommend this to completionists that have read the HH up until book 19 the same way Jenn and I have. If you go into this book with zero knowledge you may find yourself lost. Hope this review was not too long and that those that have stuck with it till this part of it also do not feel too lost…

Have a good day.

7 thoughts on “The Primarchs – Edited by Christian Dunn

  1. I think that beings like the primarchs and other “ultra-whatevers” is what doesn’t work for me in the WH40K universe. I need that human connection 🙂

    Glad this was a good read. And starting off the new year is just bonus!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good bonus indeed. I understand the ultra whatever feel you have. Reading the heresy so far has me thinking a lot in the same way at times, and then there are certain stories that tie into the lore that i cant help but love.

      Liked by 1 person

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