Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Vengeful Spirit (Book Review)

It's hard not to notice the growing trend in the last several books of the Horus Heresy. While showing no signs of halting the ongoing exploration of the Imperium's last days as a semi-benevolent empire and the war which destroyed all, there has definitely been a big push to streamline and interlink the universe. Rather than the episodic or semi-individual stories we had previously, many novels now serve as a continuation for countless short tales and other books. We saw this with Betrayer, Scars and Unremembered Empire, even Vulkan Lives to a lesser degree, and that continues here. Unfortunately, despite Graham McNeill being an incredibly talented writer when it comes to weaving countless sub-plots and a broad focus, Vengeful Spirit collapses under the weight of the author's ambition.

Set sometime after the events of Scars and Angel Exterminatus, the books sees focus returning to the Sons of Horus once more. Having allowed the legions of his brothers to do most of the work and remaining on the sidelines for some time, Horus leads both his legion and the Death Guard in a seemingly pointless assault on the world of Molech. Heavily defended by a vast warfleet, Imperial Knights, companies of astartes from other legions and millions of Imperial Army troops, it will be a costly victory at best. However, Horus remains convinced something vital to his war effort remains buried on the world. Something long left out of sight of the galaxy, so potent that the Emperor wiped his sons' very minds to hide it...


  1. Kind of a shame that this one didn't do so well, I was very curious to read it since the synopsis made it look like an integral part of the Horus Heresy, oh well, it's been proven to me by other authors that you can do great ideas terribly and even if it's a key part you should still skip it.

    I find it a bit ironic though that the best 40K stories I've seen have the least to do with the combat or any real wars going on.

    I think that might be because there's only so much you can do with combat as a whole, and there's so much more that can be done with the setting and characters, for example, I haven't read this book, but when I saw the plot summary on the black library and other websites I wanted to know the mystery behind the attack on the planet, I don't care about the war that's currently going on, I know how it'll end, personally I think it should be more of a setting than an active thing going on, I don't care about the Primarchs, I know what'll happen to them, their appearances can practically be classified as celebrity cameos, I don't even necessarily care if the planet falls to Horus, I'd find it more interesting if it managed to resist him and he chose to move on to consolidate his forces because they're spread a little thin at this point, because at least that would be breaking the mould in at least one way with this series.

    That's why I really liked The Unremembered Empire, it was looking at what we didn't already know and exploring what else was happening during the Heresy besides fighting and the Imperium slowly losing.

    Maybe what killed it for me is the Horus Heresy seems less and less like it should have happened the more we know about it, before, Horus dropped the virus bombs on Isstvan III to get the emperor to send troops to stop him, and they were slaughtered at Isstvan V since the whole thing was a trick, some of the legions sent were evil (and the Imperium never fully recovered from this), whereas now we learn that MASSIVE amounts of troops in each legion DIDN'T turn traitor, but only 1/3'rd of their number actually died, so then HALF the traitors went down to fight the loyalists, and the loyalists nearly killed them all, then the other half of the traitors came down to finish the job, and still took heavy losses doing so.

    So how could the traitor legions possibly have the manpower to pull off the drop-sight massacre? Let alone oppose the legions (and all other Imperial defences) that weren't actually there? Let alone conquer nearly the whole galaxy? In almost every book they've just got near infinite amounts of warriors, and I know how big the legions are, but that much attrition has to catch up on you, and in the heresy it never seems to.

    1. Well, the book is an integral part and does explain a few things, the problem is that while it focuses upon the important bits it never really shows too much of it. As the review said, there is honestly enough content here to do two separate novels and still have room for a moderately sized compendium of short stories, but crammed in as it is, there's just nowhere near enough room to fully realise any of them. So while Loken's return to the Heresy and Horus attempting to discover just what is being hidden from him are major storylines, neither is really fully examined.

      That does seem to be the general consensus among a lot of people, but not entirely. While the more introspective works such as A Thousand Sons, First Heretic and others are more memorable, there are still great titles like Galaxy In Flames and Know No Fear which do a good job of showing battles. Part of the problem is that, when they're focusing upon massive combat, it leaves only so much room to truly explore the galaxy in this time. Some novels do manage to effectively examine just how different M31 was, and the impact of the Heresy, but that often requires breaks in the narrative or pauses in battles. This is something that Betrayer actually did extremely well in my personal opinion, though i'll definitely agree that Unremembered Empire was a slightly better book.

      Actually I personally think the majority of the follow up to Isstvan III mostly worked. While they fought at Isstvan V in the following battle, the legions fought just long enough to draw in Ferrus Manus and his allies before pulling out and allowing the other traitors to do their work. From then on they have been either working alongside other forces or letting the less mauled forces do the bulk of the work. For example, Angel Exterminatus had the Emperor's Children operating alongside the Iron Warriors, and Betrayer had the World Eaters fighting alongside the Word Bearers. Here, to help assault a major world, two of the initial legions work together to battle one another. Plus, a lot of the tactics in this book did feature the legions using methods to avoid taking the brunt of attacks and working their way around major defences rather than storming them head on.

      Also, i'm sorry if these replies are late or there are any long breaks before I can follow up your comments. At the moment i'm juggling between a few writing projects, one of them quite an important one.