First released as a twelve-part serialisation before being recombined as a standard novel, Chris Wraight’s Scars is the 28th novel in Black Library’s Horus Heresy series. It opens with the White Scars isolated on the fringes of the Great Crusade, only just beginning to receive contradictory reports of the events taking place elsewhere in the galaxy. Railing against the powers aiming to manipulate him – Russ’ Wolves request aid against the Alpha Legion in the Alaxxes Nebula, while a separate XXth Legion fleet blockades the Scars within the Chondax system – Jaghatai Khan chooses his own path and sets out to discover the truth of what’s really happening.
In an appealing parallel with their position in the Heresy storyline, the White Scars had until this point been on the fringes of the series, with just a handful of legionnaires appearing as minor characters and Jaghatai Khan having only featured in the novella Brotherhood of the Storm previously. As such this is a novel with an unusually clear purpose – to shine a light on the White Scars and properly establish them in the series. To this end Wraight focuses on the question of their loyalty, pitching Jaghatai and his sons as the unknown quantity within the legions, outliers who rail against authority and are content for others to underestimate them. With so little known for certain about them, neither side can be sure of where the Scars’ loyalty really lies.
Alongside Jaghatai and the Stormseer Yesugei we see much of the story through the eyes of the two Khans first seen in Brotherhood of the Storm, Shiban and Torghun. Their contrasting origins and ideologies act as a metaphor for the legion as a whole, as the divisions between the Terran and Chogorian legionnaires gradually become more prominent in terms of how they see themselves and what it means to each of them to be a White Scar. This becomes a key theme within the story as fractures within the legion slowly widen until the inevitable tipping point is reached. Showing the Scars from a human perspective we’re also introduced to Ilya Ravallion, a Munitorum General whose organisational skills have seen her attached to the legion in an attempt to bring some order to the running of their fleet, but who finds herself increasingly enamoured of their unique mindset.
It’s a masterclass in character building as Wraight single-handedly turns the Scars from an unknown quantity into a legion with both a well-developed identity and a fascinating role to play in upcoming events. Their headstrong, elusive nature is what makes them so interesting, setting them apart from the other more clearly-defined legions and giving them a sense of ambiguity previously reserved for the Alpha Legion or Thousand Sons. It’s not just a novel-length origin story, mind – this is a beautifully plotted book full of tension and very much aware of its place within the wider series, the various strands and plot arcs all leading up to a single point which will determine the direction of the White Scars and set other events properly in motion. It’s impressive stuff, comfortably in the top tier of Heresy novels.