From humble beginnings in 2006 Black Library’s Horus Heresy series has grown and grown, and we now have the 29th book in the series in the form of Graham McNeill’s epic novel Vengeful Spirit. Epic in both scale and physical size, over 500+ pages we get titans, Imperial Knights, five (yes, five!) primarchs, Malcador’s Knights Errant and the return to the printed page of a fan favourite from the original trilogy. Speaking of the original trilogy, Vengeful Spirit is the first novel since those heady days where we see Horus as a main protagonist – after 20-odd books of lurking in the shadows he has finally come out into the spotlight once again. And boy, has he come out swinging!
In a similar vein to the recent Unremembered Empire by Dan Abnett, here we get a story that draws upon strands from a wide range of previous books, short stories and audio dramas. Following on from at least eight different threads, McNeill has managed to tie these all together into a slick, coherent tale without losing anything in the way of pacing or accessibility. It isn’t advisable to start the series here, but if you have read most of the previous books and dabbled in the audio dramas then everything will make complete sense, and even if not there’s nothing that you won’t be able to pick up. That being said, there are a couple of short stories in The Imperial Truth and the Black Library Anthology ’13/’14 that are great little introductions to two of the themes in Vengeful Spirit, so if you can get hold of The Devine Adoratrice and Luna Mendax then definitely do read those first.
So given that it is after all the Horus Heresy, now that the big man himself is back centre stage, does Vengeful Spirit do him justice? In short…absolutely! We’re reminded of just why it’s Horus, and not any of the other primarchs, who is Warmaster. Shown from the viewpoint of both his lieutenants and his enemies, we see just how vibrant and powerful a man he is, both on and off the battlefield. He doesn’t have things all his way by any stretch, but when he flexes his muscles it’s hugely impressive and entertaining. It’s even, in an unusual move for Heresy books, unexpectedly amusing in places, as Horus trades verbal barbs with some of his inhuman allies.
In essence, this massive book gives us pretty much everything a Heresy novel should. Loads of awesome action? Check. Primarchs being badass? Check. Insight into what’s driving some of the major characters? Check. Hints at what’s to come in the series? Check, big time. With Unremembered Empire doing a similar job on the other side of the galaxy of bring story strands together, and Scars re-introducing one of the less well covered legions, things really seem to be picking up pace in the series. One can only look forward to what’s coming next!