Ten million tanks! Or maybe one million tanks. Whatever the number, the Battle of Tallarn is famed for the vast numbers of armoured vehicles that were deployed. In his Horus Heresy novella Tallarn : Executioner, John French chronicles the opening sequence of this infamous battle, from the initial virus bombing of the once-verdant world to the early engagements that demonstrated to the Iron Warriors that Tallarn’s population wasn’t going to let them have their world without a fight. Originally available only as a Limited Edition novella, it’s now been re-issued in standard format to coincide with the release of Tallarn : Ironclad, the next in the Tallarn arc.
Despite the preponderance of tanks, this is very much a character piece, with three different viewpoint characters each experiencing things slightly differently. From the Tallarn native whose life has been turned upside down to two tank commanders, each at different stages in their careers and their relationships with armoured warfare, the fearful nature of this war takes its toll in some pretty awful ways. Interestingly, if there’s a comparison to be made with any other Black Library books it’s with the Gaunt’s Ghosts series, both in terms of the characters’ motivations and relationships, and also the grim hopelessness of the situation and the way in which characters are forced to make do, to either find ways to make things work or die.
This is a pretty bleak book, as befits a story set on a virus-bombed world, with poorly-equipped humans fighting a guerilla war against the might of the Iron Warriors. Unsurprisingly, considering that much of it takes place within underground shelters or the cramped confines of various armoured vehicles, it is a tense, tightly-wound, claustrophobic story. In his acknowledgements John French thanks several people for their input regarding the nature of armoured warfare, and their involvement has clearly paid off as there’s a real sense throughout of just how scary it must be to fight in that way. Bleak and scary though it may be, it’s an absolutely gripping story.
While it’s a well-known event within the Horus Heresy timeline, the Battle of Tallarn isn’t one of the most crucial ones, certainly not compared to Isstvan, Calth, Prospero and so on. As such it’s a suitable subject for covering via shorter mediums; the original plan was apparently to release three novellas, although it appears that Tallarn : Ironclad will instead be a longer novella covering the remainder of this story. Judging by Executioner, it’s a story that is absolutely worth telling and one that John French is handling admirably. Non-essential to the wider Heresy story perhaps, but very much worth reading for fans of the series.