Publisher: Black Library
Series: The Black Legion (#1)
Genre: Grimdark SF
Publication Date: 2014
Driven from the Imperium in the wake of the Horus Heresy, the traitor legions lurk within the Eye of terror and wait for their chance to return. But Chaos does not wait patiently, and a great civil war rages in the warp . . .
With a setting as expansive as Warhammer 40,000 there are spaces for all sorts of books. The recent releases of Warhammer Horror and Warhammer Crime are proof of this, but it goes deeper than just a mix of genres. There is also the matter of depth. Not thematic depth, as all Warhammer books tend to draw from the same well, but depth in relation to the setting itself. There are some books that stand wholly alone, and others that require a deeper knowledge of the setting and its lore to fully appreciate. I’m a fairly casual reader when it comes to Warhammer 40,000. I don’t play the game, I don’t read the codex that comes for each faction, and i don’t keep up with every lore development. What I know about the setting is whatever I glean from my scattershot novel reading. While a book like Double Eagle or Honourbound is perfectly accessible to a newcomer, others require a bit more of an understanding with the setting.
The Talon of Horus is one of these books. Right from the off it relies heavily on knowledge regarding the events of the Horus Heresy. This a series (and indeed a time period) about which I know essentially nothing. The only reading of the Horus Heresy I’ve done is a few of Dan Abnett’s short stories, and the blurbs of books as I return them unread to the shop’s shelves. It’s never been that interesting to me, though I can see the appeal it has to more dedicated fans than I. What this means for The Talon of Horus is that I am lacking a lot of context that the novel assumes. Names are thrown around a lot, and i assume they mean something to many readers. There’s an element of crossover with Ahriman, and I expect there are more references that I didn’t catch. Abaddon is by all accounts a major player in the Warhammer universe, but I find it hard to take seriously a man with a 2ft topknot.
What I did enjoy about this book is the structure. Framing narratives are always going to score points with me, and having the narrator crucified in the prologue is a bold way to kick things off. There are layers to the narrative too. Yes, you get the action scenes and grit you’d expect from a Black Library publication, but there is philosophy here too. Musings on the transient nature of civilisation, and the burden of power. It also features one of the most interesting takes on the forces of Chaos that I’ve yet come across.
If you’re deeply invested in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, you’re bound to enjoy The Talon of Horus. If you’re a casual reader like myself, just go in warned that it might be a bit much.