Bookclubbing – Black Legion – A Warhammer 40,000 Novel – Review

Khayon returns

Black Legion by Aaron Demski-Bowden is the follow up to The Talon of Horus, one of my favourite Warhammer books. I’ll start by saying that I love it and follow that up with some quick criticism about how Black Library names their books. Black Legion is the second book in a series called Black Legion and the first was Abaddon: The Talon of Horus. For a casual reader, how would they know that these two books were linked to the Black Legion series? I think having the first book carry the series name is fine but the second? It’s just confusing. On top of that, the first book has the prefix title of Abaddon which makes it sound like it’s part of an Abaddon series. They’ve done this before with the likes of Cadian Honour: A Minka Lesk Story, which was less her story than a story she was in. On one hand, it means that you don’t feel like you need to read previous books to pick up what’s happening. However, that only lasts as long as the first page of the actual book because if you start the Black Legion series at Black Legion you’d miss important events from The Talon of Horus that are mentioned frequently throughout this book. I hope Black Library sorts this out because while it seems like an easy way to attract people to every book if your first book was one in the middle of a series you’d be confused and probably not read another. And that would be a shame. Anyway, on with the actual review.

Black Legion - Executioner
Image Credit: sigma,two

Black Legion picks up after the events of The Talon of Horus with Abaddon gathering power and rallying the shattered Legions under his banner. We again follow the perspective of Khayon who is now Abaddon’s chief assassin. Initially, Khayon is tasked with killing a rival warlord and from their events that will shake the Eye of Terror start to unfold. Black Legion perfectly encapsulates the best of Warhammer 40,000 novels with excellent characters with depth and flaws, with action that has you squirming in your seat and a plot that keeps you up late at night demanding answers to your many questions. My only criticism is that you need to read the book before it (The Talon of Horus) to fully appreciate these events, and that’s barely a criticism because that story is awesome as well.

Whereas The Talon of Horus at times felt like a MacGuffin hunt, Black Legion is more nuanced. We follow Khayon during his assassination attempt before switching to supporting the Black Legion (not the book this time but the fleet) as they attempt to escape the Eye of Terror. In this way, the story feels like a natural progression from start to finish and not like our characters are going out of their way to fulfil the narrative requirements. The twists and turns along the way meant that every part was compelling and raised questions about the future of Khayon and the rest of the cast.

Black Legion - Troops
Image Credit: sigma.two

While this book focuses more heavily on Khayon, we do see other characters from The Talon of Horus. We spend a lot of time with Abaddon and learn about the weight he bears as leader of the Black Legion and what he hopes to accomplish. This insight goes a long way to humanise him. This reaches its pinnacle when he confronts Sigismond. This entire section is incredibly sad and remarkable heart-wrenching. The once brothers and friends stand on opposing ideologies once again and Abaddon tries to reconcile with Sigismond one final time. I wasn’t expecting to see such reluctance from Abaddon to fight the son of Dorn and the conclusion their battle leaves its mark on the reader and the lord of the Black Legion both.

warhammer 40k - abaddon the despoiler

And that’s just Abaddon. We also spend time with Telemachon and Lheorvine, each playing their role in the wider story and riffing off Khayon throughout. This is especially true of Telemachon as we delve a little deeper into his relationship with Khayon as he toys with Nefertari. Telemachon brings some humour to the mix with his uniquely disturbing sense of mischief but he also remains a clear threat to everyone around him while also being loyal to Abaddon. And while Lheor isn’t in this book as much, when he is it’s always fun and I hope we get to see more of him in future novels.

Quite frankly, I love this book. Khayon is fast becoming my favourite 40k character and the Black Legion (novel) strikes the perfect balance all Warhammer books should strive for. One of the best things about the Black Legion (the legion this time), is how raw their emotions are and the fact that they feel everything. This is perfectly encapsulated when Abaddon and Sigismond cross blades, and it’s beautiful. If you’ve read Talon of Hours, this book is a must read. However, if you haven’t I say it’s worth starting at the beginning to get this most out of this awesome sequel.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check out our review of Talon of Horus to see where this story starts. Alternatively, to back right to the beginning why not read some o four reviews of The Horus Heresy.

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