Mark of Calth – Various Authors

Mark of Calth

Published: 18 July 2013
Publisher: Black Library
Pages: 416
Series: Horus Heresy # 25
Format Read: Physical


The Heresy came to Calth without warning. In just a few hours of betrayal and bloodshed, the proud warriors of the XIIIth Legion – Guilliman’s own Ultramarines – were laid low by the treachery of their erstwhile brothers of the XVIIth. Now, as the planet is scoured by solar flares from the wounded Veridian star, the survivors must take the fight to the remaining Word Bearers and their foul allies, or face damnation in the gloomy arcology shelters beneath the planet’s surface. In this all-new collection of stories by authors including Dan Abnett, Aaron Demsbki-Bowden and Rob Sanders, witness the untold tales of the Underworld War. In the novella-length ‘Calth That Was’, Graham McNeill highlights the fateful encounter that will alter the destiny of Captain Ventanus and shape the face of the Ultramarines Chapter for ten thousand years to come. The battle for Calth is far from over.


I do not think there is anything more positive than starting your new year of reviews of, than with a book you actually physically read. In Mark of Calth, I not only felt so so drained after it, but I continue to feel like I was part of the wars taking place there. There were some decent stories to be read but having to go through them felt like quite a chore for me on certain days. Hence more lack of reviews towards the end of 2022. Jenn and I did not reach our goal of getting to book 30 in the HH series last year (we ould try for 35 this year?), but I am still happy that we are both doing the reading of these books and that she is also still in it for the long haul (if her book publishing does not take over too much of her time). I am also grateful to have some one on the ride with me as some of these books can go rather boring pretty fast. I had a decent time with M.o.C, even though it took me quite a while to get through them all. I again neglected to write my thoughts on each individual short story so my story break downs might be a bit all over the place and draw complete blanks, lets see:

The shards of Erebus – Guy Haley

This story takes place before the events of  Know no Fear, I believe and sees different Word Bearers (I think a total of 9?) each get a sliver from a special blade that is nearly always within reach of Erebus. What it exactly signifies was very vague to me, but I guess it was Erebus selecting a sort of inner sanctum or secret brotherhood much like other Legions have their different lodges. I also think that the people that get the blade shards are the ones taking the fight to Calth.

Calth that was – Graham McNeill

This was the looongest story in the collection and I could swear that it took me the whole of November just to get through it. This takes place 2 or so weeks after the events from Betrayer. Calth was not yet destroyed and the Ultramarines do not make it easy for the Word Bearers to count this as a victory. I think it was lightly touched on in Betrayer. It also Takes place, I think after Know no Fear as Captain Venatus features again. I think, or rather remember, he might have been left in charge while Guiliman takes the fight back to the aggressors. It has to be said that between this story and Know no Fear there was 5 books of which 2 were also short story collections. So remembering all the characters in this story was a bit tough for me. Why not include it in an earlier compilation perhaps?

Dark Heart – Anthony Reynolds

This story shows that the Word Bearers can not only be lethal to their enemies, but also to those they hold in low regard in their individual ambitions to learn the secrets to unlocking more power. A specific Word Bearer has to give an account of his actions pertaining to why he left his mentor for dead. This story takes place after the events of Betrayer again and was a little easier to follow.

The Traveler – David Annandale

The traveller was a look into the lives of the general public living in the underground arcologies/bunkers the Ultramarines built for in case of a planet wide attack. Now that we know the devastation of what happens in Know no Fear and Betrayer, it is difficult to believe that people actually survived. I also believe that this story hints at how thin the veil can be regarding what the Word Bearers unleashed on Calth. Knowing Annandale and some of his WH horror novels he knows how to tell a sinister tale. This was man vs his own mental well being vs deamonic onslaught…

A Deeper Darkness – Rob Sanders

Sanders wrote a Ultramarines vs Word Bearers short that sees the Ultramarines trying to secure arcologies. The WB have infiltrated a lot and the captain of the squad is in pursuit of a specific character. There were some cool imagery in this short. I liked the gothic horror to it and I think Sanders has a good grasp on the Word Bearer ways now that they are in league with Chaos.

The Underworld War – Aaron Dembski-Bowden

This story was quite a treat, but I think it was mainly because I got to read about Argal Tal again. At it’s core it was a story of how the Gal Vorbak are essentially “made”. Aaron is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors within BL. It was also nice to see Argal Tal and Lorgar have words and Argal Tal expressing that he did not know if he was fit enough for the task Lorgar set out for him. I also believe this story takes place long before the Know no Fear novel eventhough theres a sort of time travel element happening as we see a possible future as well as the person being initiated into the Gal Vorbak’s past.

Athame – John French

Athame was a weird one. French is familiar to me by now with some of his Dark Coil novels I have read and this could have easily been part of that. This story was of a disjointed voice speaking to a blade and telling it it’s own fate. I do not know who the voice belongs too, or what the story implies. My only guess is to expand the lore on the Athame blades in the most vaguest of ways.

Unmarked – Dan Abnett

This was another decent story taking place after the events of Know no Fear. Oll Persson returns and is riftwalking/portal hopping with a few survivors from that story. He has his own Athame and so is able to cut a gash in reality and walk to a different place. This story sees where they find themselves, also that there is a deamon on their tails. We also get to see a different working into the Athame as well as get a little more insight into what exactly the Perpetuals are there for, but again, very vague!

I ended up giving Mark of Calth a 3 out of 5. As I’ve stated in a previous post, I am getting a little fed up with there being a short story collection after every few books, its gone as crazy now as being a novel, then a collection followed by a novel and again a collection! Some of these stories I personally feel would have been way better just featured in an issue of Inferno! Others I feel should have come at a time closer to the ending of a certain HH novel, better yet included in that novel maybe?

I read the curator’s note in the edition I have in the 40K Legends Collection and it says in there that this was the first collection where all the authors actually sat around a table to discuss who was going to write about what. I can see that now looking back, that certain shorts tied into the lore of others and also expanded on each one. Things like the workings of the Athame and Perpetuals, like how powerful the Word Bearers are now and things like that. I also felt that maybe there should have at least been one story included that was not just WB and Ultramarine, but also the World Eaters perhaps? They were also a pretty big part in the war on Calth were they not? I do like the pictures included with that copy as well as more extended “enlightenment”. Here you can scroll through it too.

Thank you if you made it this far.

Till next time.


10 thoughts on “Mark of Calth – Various Authors

  1. I have no memory of actually reading this one, despite it being a fairly big deal within the HH. I remember hearing about it being more like a planned anthology, than just collecting all the stuff that’s been randomly published. I think I may need to go back and read this again, or maybe just a couple.

    You’re right about the number of anthologies though, it only gets worse in the 30s…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, if only stuff actually took place!! There are so many side-stories and nothing – I don’t think the narrative has moved on in about 8-10 books, it’s a real slog. I don’t mean to put you off, I just feel like you should know!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Good summary of the books on offer in this anthology.
    It was a slog, wasn’t it!?
    Some of the stories were really good, especially towards the end, but a bit… to little to late for me.
    Should have my review up tomorrow~

    I think we’ve a clear run of five books before the next anthology comes our way… then we’re in for rough waters!

    Liked by 1 person

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