Compared to regular Warhammer 40,000, The Horus Heresy is relatively easy to follow in terms of having a reading order. The main books in the series are all numbered and to get a general timeline of events you can just follow them from start to finish. However, when it comes to the short stories, the waters are a little murkier. While there are the short story collections that count as numbered books, there are plenty that appear outside of those. The Lightning Tower by Dan Abnett is one such short story.
It follows the Primarch, Rogal Dorn, as he prepares the Earth’s defences for his brother’s invasion. This is an introspective look at Dorn and the defences without any action, but full of character. The Lightning Tower is a melancholic story of Dorn tearing down the majesty and beauty of the Imperial Palace, to turn it into a fortress. There’s a sadness throughout as Dorn considers the price of this war and what is expected of him as a son and warrior. We see the doubt and worry within the Lord of the Imperial Fists and this goes a long way to humanise him for the events we know are coming.
The Lightning Tower also asks Dorn an important question, “What are you afraid of?”. And we get to see him try to answer this question in lots of different ways, exploring his relationship with the other Primarchs. While it technically follows on from The Dark King which delves further into Dorn and Konrad Curze, Primarch of the Night Lords, The Lightning Tower gives you enough context of their confrontation so you understand Dorn’s horror at his brother. This means that you don’t need to have read The Dark King to get the most out of The Lightning Tower, but it does serve as a nice continuation if you have.
We also get a little bit of Malcador the Sigillite towards the end of the story as he speaks with Dorn about his concerns. Malcador is a constantly enigmatic character and his inclusion here sparks my interest in him further. He questions Dorn about what he’s afraid of and the two discuss that answer. I won’t spoil what happens as this short story is worth reading or listening to yourself.
The Lightning Tower was my personal favourite story in the Crusade and Other Stories book and continues the trend of emotional, character-driven Warhammer stories that keep me engaged throughout. Its inclusion in that book is confusing as, without the context that it’s set during The Horus Heresy, someone new to the franchise could be forgiven for thinking it was during the same setting as the rest of the stories in that book. However, as a part of the wider tapestry that makes up The Horus Heresy, The Lightning Tower is an excellent insight into the doubt and fear within Rogal Dorn, Primarch of the Imperial Fists. And you can read it at any point in your Horus Heresy read through to enjoy it as well.
Thanks for reading. If you want more books from the Horus Heresy, then Legion comes highly recommend. Alternatively, the short story Extinction is set just after the heresy ends and marks the start of the Black Legion (series and army).
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