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.
A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeill
Psykers and Heresy go hand-in-hand in the Warhammer 40K universe, and picking up this book about the Thousand Sons Legion had me expecting to find astartes that were already broken and mired in Chaotic evil. I say this as someone who has really only experienced the WH40K universe piecemeal, having started years ago with the Eisenhorn Trilogy and then picking away at different reads that looked interesting, largely through omnibus editions. So it’s likely someone who is steeped in the lore of the universe will laugh at my comments. That’s okay. I’m writing this about my own journey, and I hope you’ll take it with me! All of this is to say I had no idea I’d run into Magnus the Red and Ahriman (who, so far as I know, are both pretty evil dudes in the 40K part of the universe) as such sympathetic characters.
A Thousand Sons starts off almost as an invitation–come read, and see that the Thousand Sons tried to do what was right. It’s a great hook, and I was enthralled right away. There are multiple perspectives here, something that I have enjoyed and also that I’ve been annoyed by in turns in the Horus Heresy. Here, it works quite well, as the perspective of the Remembrancers gives not just extra insight from “normal” people (HUGE scare quotes around “normal”) but also allows more investment in the overall plot. So McNeill here creates a story with numerous interesting characters–something several of the books have lacked thus far.
Perhaps the most interesting of all, though, are Ahriman and Magnus. The latter doesn’t have as many pages dedicated to him, but they both shine as deep characters with motives that make sense even as they descend into evil. Making evil characters that are both believable and even sympathetic is an accomplishment, and McNeill does it so well here. You understand why Magnus thinks he needs the power of Chaos/Psychic powers. You see why he chose to heal his Sons even though he ultimately misunderstood the cost. You can question the apparent overreach and reactive way that the Emperor and Space Wolves move in the book. (I know, I’m hiding from the Inquisition right now!) It gives the book a feel of discovery and foreboding that makes the Warhammer universe work so well.
A Thousand Sons is a fantastic, though not flawless, read. It certainly reinvigorated my interest in the series, and made the eponymous Legion fascinating to me. Definitely one of the best reads in the Horus Heresy so far.
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.
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