Reading the Horus Heresy, Primarchs Book 1: “Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar” by David Annandale

I know I’m late to the party, but I finally decided to start reading the “Horus Heresy,” a huge series of novels set in the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (though it is set much earlier than the year 40,000). I thought it would be awesome to blog the series as I go. With more than 50 novels and many, many short stories, there will be a lot of posts in this series (I doubt I’ll get to all the short stories). I’m reading the series in publication order unless otherwise noted. There will be SPOILERS from the books discussed as well as previous books in the series. Please DO NOT SPOIL later books in the series.

Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar by David Annandale

I took a break from the mainline Horus Heresy novels to dive into the Primarchs. I got the audiobook of Roboute Guilliman in a Humble Bundle and thought I’d give it a go, despite some middling reviews. I enjoyed the audiobook very much. It was well-read, and the pacing was spot on. As far as the book itself is concerned? I have mixed feelings.

My expectations going into a book about a Primarch are pretty straightforward: I expect to learn about the Primarch. Yet, I was surprised to find that Roboute Guilliman only resides in the background of the story, barely showing up, and when he does show up, it’s largely in his writings that introduce each chapter. So if the goal of the Primarchs series is to clue readers into the Primarchs, I’d say this book failed. And, given what the series seems to be advertised as–it’s literally titled “Primarchs”–I can’t help but assume that’s what the goal of the series is. 

But–and this is a big but–the book is actually quite enjoyable. It’s not very long, and the pacing is quick enough that it never feels bogged down, which is the problem I’ve had with several of the books in the main Horus Heresy series. The main thread of the plot finds the Ultramarines fighting over a planet with the Orks, basically trying to see if there’s anything worth recovering there. What surprised me (though readers who know a lot of the lore of Warhammer 40K may not find it a surprise) was the intense focus both on specifics of strategy and on the notion that cultures are worth recovering/restoring. The former is largely found through the few times Guilliman is featured in the book: as chapter introductions with excerpts from his writings. These open windows into the thought process of a Primarch who may not be the best strategist but is certainly one who values gaining the victory in an efficient, rather than glorious, way. The latter–the question of recovering/conserving cultures–had a twist at the end wherein it turns out the Ultramarines felt the culture they’d discovered wasn’t that worth learning about after all. Except that it held a warning for the Imperium, that a culture based upon war seems destined to fail. 

The action in the book doesn’t let up. I enjoyed the amount of action we had, with very little downtime. It made each character moment and conversation seem more valuable to the reader. The characters themselves were fine. They seemed to fit into tropes of Space Marines without being overly absurd or very deep. I noted before it Annandale avoids the pacing issues that have dogged several books in the Horus Heresy series, and I thought this felt fresh because of that.

Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar is a pretty fun installment in the Horus Heresy, but I don’t understand why it is considered a “Primarchs” book. It barely features the titular hero. As an Ultramarines book? It’s pretty fun. As a Primarchs book? I was disappointed. A good read, but don’t expect to learn much about Guilliman. Scoring the book was quite difficult, and I settled on a middling score myself when I rated it:  3/5 due to it not really living up to expectations, but still being a fun read. 

Links

Horus Heresy and Warhammer/40K Hub– All my posts on the Horus Heresy, as well as books throughout the Warhammer and 40K universe can be found here.

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

SDG.

 

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