Betrayer – Aaron Dembsk-Bowden


Published: December 2012
Publisher: Black Library
Pages: 410
Series: Horus Heresy #25
Format Read: Physical Copy


The Shadow Crusade has begun. While the Ultramarines reel from Kor Phaeron’s surprise attack on Calth, Lorgar and the rest of the Word Bearers strike deep into the realm of Ultramar. Their unlikely allies, Angron and the World Eaters, continue to ravage each new system they come across – upon the garrison planet of Armatura, this relentless savagery may finally prove to be their undoing. Worlds will burn, Legions will clash and a primarch will fall.


Well as far as that insta post goes, I am very happy with how this book turned out. Number 24 in the Horus Heresy and another buddy read with Jenn, who has already put up her review as she flew through this one. I did not lag too far behind with this one at least as I have had a little short vacation this past two weeks, also not being home helped the reading a lot. I actually took out a great chunk of the last bit while waiting in line for nearly 4 hours just to see “THE” statue of David in Florence, Italy, finally finishing the book while waiting for our flight back home from Pisa airport. This book is now one of my favourites in the HH series, I am very eager to see if there will be any books that are coming that will sway my thoughts on this one.

Betrayer follows nearly directly after Know No Fear, where the Word Bearers (from here on out WB) are exacting their revenge for the transgression that happened at the start of The First Heretic at the hands of the Ultramarines. What this book also did well was tie in more of the earlier books in the series, I am talking of the fact that Battle for the Abyss now makes a lot more sense as it was not only about one ship that the WB had built, nope, Lorgar built 3 of those! This also somewhat tying in the novel of Mechanicum. That revalation had me say ooooh sheeet out loud and added so much more to the suspense, it also told me that wherever Lorgar is involved, I need to start paying more attention. There is also a part in this book that still talks of swaying Sanguinius of the Blood Angels to the Chaos path, which is what happens in Fear to Tread, which we already know failed, as Fear to tread was also an earlier book. This time around though it is not just the WB, but they bring another brother legion to the party, the World Eaters (WE from here on out). The WB plan is not only a revenge arc, it also pushes the overall Heresy part forward, a thing I have been looking forward to seeing for a while now. While I have been familiar with the fact that the WE primarch would eventually end up as either a vessel or an emissary of Khorne, this novel shows us how that transpired. I also believe that the short story After Desh’ea in Tales Of Heresy had a big part to play in the forming and outcome of how the WE as a Legion evolved (or rather devolved) since making contact with their primarch.

There are a lot of action scenes in this one and there was almost never a dull moment. While this has only been my second Aaron Dembski-Bowden novel, I am starting to see that I have a lot of catching up to do with his other works within Black Library. The guy can write, and he knew exactly what I wanted to read in this novel. From interactions between the WE and WB, the exchange between the primarchs of the WB, WE and the Ultramarines before the battle in the last part of the book. The relationship between Argel Tal of the WB and Khárn of the WE, the exchange between Khárn and their fleet captain, the able bodied Letora. The interactions between Khárn and the WE titans- seriously, the fact that your world will be invaded by the WE is heavy enough, but I only found out that they also employ Titans, as well as Dreadnaughts, that was such a revelation and eye opener for me. Like another oh shit, the WE use Titans AND Dreadnaughts?????!!!

Talking of Titans, if there is one thing you read this novel for it is the part where Angron faces of against one, while he just reached the surface after digging himself out of being buried alive after the Ultramarines basically level a city block on top of him. All this to save his brother, Lorgar. There are so many good scenes in this novel holy moly… The fact that there was, again, a well written dreadnaught in this novel just astounded me. In this case Lhorke, I can’t go into too much detail, but he was such a compelling character to read. As well as the operaters of the Emerald Quen Titan. Ech character was a pleasure to read about, apart from Erebus, because fuck that snake of a guy!

To get back to the the Fleet captain, Letora. I know I have said this before, but Gamesworkshop and Black Library seem to have been pushing for more female fronted novels in the not-so-distant past. I have also said before that I do understand that it is necessary to be inclusive, just don’t Mary Sue them then, which is what has happened in some novels I have come across. Letora on the other hand? Man I want a series written for her character alone. Being human and commanding a WE battle barge as well as giving, not only Marines of the WE lip, but also not backing down from someone like Angron, that takes a lot of balls, I don’t know what it is that Letora has for breakfast, I hope it’s Khorne-flakes but I do not want to be on the receiving end of her ire. She was as bad ass as the rest of the WE. I know Bowden will probably never read this review, but if someone knows him, please, I would like some more Letora!

Other characters that are worth mentioning is Esca and his brotherhood of Librarians from the WE. They could not get the Nails treatment and therefore see how their brothers are tuning into more and more maddening creatures and can do nothing about it as their presence seems to irritate the Nails. Him and the other librarians do, do some pretty cool stuff regarding trying to make telepathic communication with Angron as well as go mind to mind against Lorgar when they at last figure out what Lorgar has in store for Angron. Another book that made a brief feature was where the Perpetuals are doing some stuff that I still do not know what the outcome of will be. John Grammaticus from the Legion novel is mentioned and I wonder if we will see him back in the HH some time, its been a while since the perpetuals did anything of note since that novel. Here they steal the Blessed Lady from the WB during an assault as Guiliman and his Ultramarines exact some revenge for the events that take place in Know no Fear.

Another relationship that was a feast to read was that of Kharn and Argel Tal. Argel being a demon host since the events of First Heretic and Kharn loosing his mind due to the Nails. The Nails being such a driving force behind the WE devolution was also interesting to read. Another thing that helped me connect with Kharn is his very dry humour and the way he observed certain scenarios. Add to that the fact that I read the Primarchs novel surrounding Angron as well the Khârn standalone made this an even more enjoyable read for me. It is not a prerequisite that you should read them before Betrayer though, reading them afterwards would be equally enjoyable if the World Eaters Legion are your thing, they are definitely mine…

So the Word Bearers are already sort of corrupted by the time Horus Heresy starts, and the events that lead up to that are sort of divulged in First Heretic, but it is with Betrayer that we see Lorger and co not only lead the WE further down a path that they will end on, while Lorgar believes he is saving Angron from the Nails killing him, but also shows how the WB have evolved in the way they make war. Earlier they were in the back lines, but here they are now fighting there beside the WE, somewhat.. . Betrayer follows a bit of the same formula that Angel Exterminatus kind of started, where Fulgrim became either an emissary or daemon of Slaanesh, Lorgar seems to have made a pact with Khorne regarding the events of this novel in his plight to “save” Angron, making him either possessed by Khorne himself or a lesser deamon, but that ending of the novel where Angron tells Kharn to make him a throne of skulls was more than telling…

Betrayer got a full and very well deserved 5 out of 5 from me on GR. It is probably my new favourite in the HH series. I could easily recommend it to anyone, but if you do not follow everything WH some wiki reading will need to be done just to get up to speed on events before this novel takes place. I think Dembski-Bowden did a good job of tying so many novels together while there was never a boring moment to be had. Jenn flew through this novel, and I was at least not lagging a whole month and a half behind this time around. By now we have already started the next HH read. Feels kinda cool to have two HH reviews go up in the same month, I have not had that happen this year. Betrayer also marked my 30th book for this year. While 30 is kinda low in contrast to the 60 I read the last two years, I am still happy that I get any reading done.


21 thoughts on “Betrayer – Aaron Dembsk-Bowden

      1. I still have to make up for my absence past few months…. Cant say i had a word burnout, just a WP making it difficult to post stuff burnout. That and the fact that i did a lot of traveling last few months….

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This is such a good book and your review makes me want to go back and read it all over again.

    If nothing else, you’re right about one thing. Fuck Erebus.
    But, you’re also right about a lot of other things in this review and I agree with your words.
    There’s so much to say and enthuse about!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jeroen, yeah Jen and i have been picking away at this series since before last year and we probably still have about two years of reading to go still. Not everyone reads All the books like the short story anthologies like Jenn and I do, but there are some good books in the mix.


      1. Having a reading buddy along the way helps alot. Yeah we are now on book 25 (Betrayer was 24). Sometimes it can be a slog, as not all books are as action oriented as this one was, but its part of building more understanding about other books also set in the universe. Not a must you should read the whole series to understand more, but for me personally it fills in a lot of blanks here and there. I do like connecting different stories with one another, its like an easter egg hunt🙂


      1. I dont recall he loses a limb in this one, Kharn does beat the shit out of him after Lorgar told him who it was that killed Argal Tal


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