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!
Betrayer is finally here! If you haven’t been as excited about the release of Aaron Dembski-Bowdens latest Horus Heresy novel as I have, then you need to have your head examined (Perhaps The Butchers Nails have dulled your wits!).
Continuing the story arc of Lorgar and his Word Bearers and delving into the origins of Angron and The World Eaters, Betrayer takes place shortly after the events of Dan Abnett’s Know No Fear. As usual in Warhammer 40k Novels, the events depicted in this book are from the view points of several different characters. In this case, all of them members of one of the two traitor legions mentioned earlier, or their accompanying Titan Legion. While the perspectives of Space Marine characters, and even that of their Primarch progenitors are a compelling read, the stories told from the points of view of their human thralls is extremely engaging. In particular the World Eaters flagship Captain Lotara, has an interesting story and a fascinating personality to go along with it. The chapters with her in them were some of my favorite.
Let’s not kid ourselves here though – the real stars of the book are Angron and Lorgar. Their interactions with each other, their respective legions and even several other primarchs are some of the most interesting portions of the book. As usual, Aaron has written compelling characters here. But what he does best, is make these villains and their motivations, understandable. The actions they take in this novel make sense. They do not come across as just impetuous children, but as the smart and powerful beings they are meant to be. The depiction of Angron in particular is very well done. This couldn’t have been easy, as in the past he has been (in my experience) a fairly one-dimensional character. But under Dembski-Bowdens pen, he becomes a fully fledged and realized character, full of emotions, pain, and frustration.
For me though, I will save the best for last. That of course is Kharn (eventually to be known as Kharn The Betrayer) of The World Eaters. Here we see the Captain of The 8th before he becomes the berzerker maniac he is known for in the Chaos Space Marines Codex and other stories. Kharn struggles against The Butchers Nails, as does many of his legion, but his moments of lucidity show him to be an extremely likeable character (and not just villain). This is the first time I have ever really had sympathy for Kharn!
Much like James Cameron did in Aliens with Ridley Scotts lore, Aaron does a great job of letting you in on the morbid joke. If you are at all familiar with Warhammer 40k, you know what is to become of Kharn, but in this book, the fact that you already know that information is used by the author for some very revealing moments. I could almost feel Dembski-Bowdens elbow nudging me in the side as if to say “Here it comes!”.
The action scenes, for the most part, are told with a wide stroke of the pen. We only zoom in to the specific details of axe swings and severed limbs when it is important to the detail of the story. This serves to keep the story moving along at a very fast clip. The pace of the novel only lets up to explain the next stage through dialogue of the key players involved.
This book lives up to the hype in this case and once again Aaron Dembski-Bowden proves that he can weave some of the best tales of the 41st Millennium. There are large reveals in this book as well, but they are approached with a knowing confidence of a skilled author. This is one of the books that advances the story in important ways, and you aren’t left wanting by the end of it. Well, maybe you are left wanting for more of it…
This is an absolute MUST read for any followers of The Horus Heresy.
5 out of 5 Stars