Ratboy reviews – Shadows of Treachery

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From the battlefields of Phall and Isstvan, to the haunted shadows of Terra itself – the greatest war in the history of mankind rages on. While the traitor Legions continue their campaign of terror across the galaxy, preparations are made for the defence of the Imperial Palace and the final, inevitable reckoning that must yet come between Horus and the Emperor…

And I read it cover to cover. That’s right a week to kill in Canberra and the Horus Heresy novel Shadows of Treachery! What more could a man ask for?!
shadows of treachery review

Shadows of Treachery is the twenty-second book in the awesome Horus Heresy saga. It is a compilation volume collecting five short stories and two novella. The stories serve to fill in the gaps is the series and add detail to other events that occur in the time line. The stories focus mainly on the VII and VIII legions, the Imperial Fists and the Night Lords, and their gene-father primarchs, Rogal Dorn and Konrad Curze.

What did I think of the stories? Well, I’m glad you asked …

  • The Crimson Fist – John French Of all the authors, I am not as familiar with John French, and found the story hard to get into. French had a great grasp of the characters of Rogal Dorn and Sigismund and certainly kept them inline with a lot of the other fiction; even in the following stories.
    Unfortunately, I didn’t think that the other characters were as fleshed out. Alexis Polux, Captain of the VII, has some detailed flash backs to help develop his history but I didn’t get terribly excited about the character.
    The Crimson Fist is really a story in two parts; Rogal Dorn and Sigismund on Terra and the Imperial Fist fleet Retribution swallowed up by the warp and dumped in the Phall System on their way to punish the traitor, Horus. John French has crafted an interesting story about how heroes really survive in the face of adversity. He has a good storytelling style, it’s just a little slow in parts.
  • The Dark King – Graham McNeill Paired with the Lightning Tower, the Dark King was offered as an audio book and is published here as a novella. In the Dark King, we get to see the cracks appearing in Konrad Kurze’s “armour”. Nostromo has degenerated again into a crime infested society, Curze’s visions of an Empire burning seem more and more true visions of things to come.
    Most interesting of all we see the stark contrast between the two brothers’ philosophies of war and rule. The order and benevolent rule of the Empire and Rogal Dorn versus the rule of fear and retribution of Konrad Curze “… any chance mortals get they will choose the path of dissent …”.
    We also begin to see the recurring theme of the tarot cards; Konrad Curze’s visions lead, ultimately, to his demonstration of his idea of rule through fear. A brief, but thoroughly enjoyable read and an excellent insight to the Night Lords and their ultimately doomed Primarch. I really get the feeling (along with other supporting stories) that the Night Lords turned to Chaos only because they could see no other choice.
  • The Lightning Tower – Dan Abnett Gaunt’s Ghosts was a page turner; I devoured and regularly re-read the series. For Dan Adbnett, I am a total fanboi. I looked forward to reading his short story the Lightning Tower. I wasn’t let down. There is only a limited amount that an author can do in such a short period, and Abnett has reinforced the frustration of Rogal Dorn as he prepares the Imperial Palace for the inevitable siege about to take place. Particularly interesting, is the regret that Dorn feels having to destroy the façade of the Imperial Palace to replace it with fortifications and defences.
  • The Kaban Project – Graham McNeill McNeil’s second short story is a little more obscure than the other stories in the collection. Still, the story of a lone tech adept and a “thinking” machine, a forbidden technology presents another insight to the Horus Heresy and the birth of the Dark Mechanicum. Pursued across Mars by a tech-assassin and desperately seeing sanctuary in a rival Magos’ foundry, the end, inevitable as it is, comes from a source unexpected.
  • Raven’s Flight – Gav Thorpe The tragic tale of the Raven Guard continues in Raven’s Flight. In Fulgrim, we see the start of the events in Raven’s Flight. It slots in nicely after the events of the Istvaan Massacre, and is a tight and well crafted story. Thorpe shows us what it has cost the remaining Loyalists in the face of their Traitor Legion brothers’ betrayal. The Raven Guard are the masters of hit and run tactics; the decimated remains of the chapter fight a desperate series of battles as the battered legion is able, through on marine, to put faith in another man’s prophetic dreams. When you put it like that, it sounds a lot less tense and enthralling than the story is. Through Deliverance Lost, I found enough enthusiasm to revisit my marine army and even built my own Shrike! Raven’s Flight cements it further.
  • Death of a Silversmith – Graham McNeill An interesting tale and a silversmith left to die in his own forge. It is a very short piece and serves as a sort of prequel to the whole Horus Heresy series, being set on the Vengeful Spirit, Horus Lupercal’s flagship.
  • Prince of Crows – Aaron Dembski-Bowden This one is the gem; an excellent story set after the events of The Dark King. The story details the Sevatar, who was the most beloved son. After Curze’s death, Sevatar was thought to be the only Night Lord capable of keeping the legion going. Conversely, Sevatar is a condemned man and must forever wear gauntlets painted red. Quite the dichotomy of hero and anti-hero.
    The story remains wide open for more telling, but is a brilliantly executed piece of fiction.

I have been reading the Horus Heresy novels since they were first published and have enjoy them. There are notable exception *COUGH* Dark Angels *COUGH*. I really, really enjoyed Shadows of Treachery. Stranded in Canberra, there are worse ways to spend a few night’s reading. The stories fit very well into the series, and develop the characters of the Night Lords, in particular, in far more detail than we have seen previously.

Click here to buy Shadows of Treachery!