Horus. The Great Betrayer. The Warmaster. With the Heresy over and the heretics banished from Terra, The Talon of Horus picks up with a Traitor Warband in the Eye of Terror. And already I’m hooked. From my first steps into Warhammer 40k, I’ve always enjoyed the ‘evil’ side more than the Imperium. They are fractured characters who often do the wrong thing for the right reason and have descended into Chaos. Other times they are flat out awful people and watching them is both horrifying and cathartic. Either way, they have some fantastic stories to tell and The Talon of Horus is by far one of my favourites.
The Talon of Horus by Aaron Dembski-Bowden chronicles the founding of the Black Legion and Abaddon’s rise to Warmaster. It is the first in a trilogy (as of now the third book hasn’t been released) and The Talon of Horus primarily focuses on the search for the former First Captain and the days before the Black Legion was formed.
Throughout the book we primarily follow, former Thousand Son and Sorcerer, Iskandar Khayon and he is a fantastic main character. All of the characters in The Talon of Horus are great with time spent to develop each. However, we spend the most time with Iskandar getting to understand why he left his legion and what his motivations are for helping the Sons of Horus find Abaddon. It fleshes out what happened between The Horus Heresy and the main 40k timeline and gives us some awesome characters to love/hate along the way.
Like all truly great Warhammer books, The Talon of Horus isn’t just big fight after big fights (although there are plenty of amazing battles). Instead, we frequently take a slower pace as characters talk, the Eye of Terror is explored and we delve beneath the surface of what happened after the heresy was concluded. This slower pace means that we can appreciate the fights even more and it means that when our character’s lives are in danger, then we care all the more.
And then the fights. Oh wow, the fights. Since Khayon is a sorcerer we get to experience the horror of wielding warp craft up close. He summons incredible powers, commands terrifying demons to do his bidding and is a total badass throughout. The fight scenes never devolve into a blow by blow of events but rather have their purpose within the overall plot. Whether this is the book’s climax (which I won’t spoil but let’s just say Fabius Bile makes an appearance and it is amazing) or Iskandar’s grudge against another Astartes, the fights are in constant flow and you feel their danger. A space marine is a being to fear and one with the power of the warp behind them is something else entirely. You are constantly reminded of that power throughout the story.
As the book progresses you stop seeing these characters as anything like the ‘bad guys’. Instead, they become the heroes going on one daring mission to the next. If you aren’t already a fan of the Black Legion or chaos space marines in general, then this book should go a long way to converting you. None of the characters are portrayed as mindless evil killers with no agency of their own as even the World Eater among them who embodies rage is seen to be more than what you might at first think. Instead, we see men who have been thrown aside by their fathers, used and discarded. We see anger at the Imperium, the Primarchs and a drive to conquer it all for themselves.
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