Issue Five of the Warhammer 40,000 Legends Collection from Hachette and Black Library returns to the Horus Heresy with Horus Rising by Dan Abnett. The opening novel of the Heresy series, first published ten years ago, this is where it all began for what’s become the biggest and most popular series that Black Library have ever published. After a further 40+ novels (and counting) this is still generally held as one of the series high points, and is an obvious entry in the …Legends Collection.
It’s one of those first-in-a-series books that does more than just set the scene for what’s to come – looking back now, it introduced a tone, a style, a sense of scale that instantly set it (and what followed) apart from all of the 40k books that came before. 40k is all about the grim darkness, but here we saw a different tone in a book whose characters were filled with hope for the future, who hadn’t yet experienced the pain of betrayal and the hopelessness of inevitability. It had primarchs, the first time we’d ever got to see these demigods in their original state, and it had Space Marines in the thousands – it felt fresh. It also felt powerful, as we – the readers, most of us at least – knew what was coming. Horus is on the rise as we start the series, but we all know what happens in the end…
So it introduced us to the concepts of the Horus Heresy series, and it also introduced us to a whole raft of characters whose stories have resonated through the rest of the series. Horus, Abaddon, Loken, Erebus, Eidolon, Sindermann, Keeler, just to name a few. Some of these were already familiar to existing 40k fans, while others were brand new and never before seen. One thing’s for sure though; we were seeing characters, archetypes, legions in a new light. For me, the most important thing that Horus Rising did was remind me…remind us all…that life isn’t black and white. Horus wasn’t just the guy who fell to chaos and took his brothers with him. He had history, he had his own motivations, and he was a fascinating character to read about.
In the articles about the previous four books in the series I’ve looked at whether they were good choices to include in the collection. That question doesn’t even need to be asked here – okay, The First Heretic fits (in a slightly weird way) as the opening book of the collection, as it’s very much about thematic beginnings, but this is the actual beginning of the Heresy series. It’s a book of firsts, it’s by comfortably the most popular Black Library author, and ultimately it’s just a damn good book.
Production-wise it’s up to the usual standard, with the expected introduction, internal artwork and cool cover. In fact, and this is a very personal observation, I’d go as far as to say I like this version of the artwork more than the original. Of all of Neil Roberts’ covers I think I like this one the least, but in moody black and white I reckon it works WAY better, looking satisfyingly grittier and dirtier. Also, if you’re counting, this one has got number 13 on the spine.
Overall then, another success. It’s no surprise to see Dan Abnett cropping up twice already, and if anyone was surprised that this wasn’t the first Heresy novel to be included, now you can breathe a sigh of relief. Presumably we’re not going to see anything like all of the Heresy novels in this collection, but two out of five is a pretty high ratio and it’s a safe bet that we’ll see at least a few more as things progress.