- An anthology of seven stories
- Set during the Horus Heresy
- Published by Black Library in 2022
- Grimdark SF
- 205 pages
The world of Cthonia has joined the Warmaster’s heretical rebellion against the God-Emperor. On the surface, the Sons of Horus battle against the Imperial Fists, while in orbit loyalist forces consider the means to achieving their ends . . .
Barring the odd short story here and there, this is my first foray into the sprawling prequel series that is The Horus Heresy. It is, I’ll be the first to admit, perhaps not the best place to start. Released alongside Cthonia’s Reckoning was the more introductory Lupercal’s War, which is specifically aimed at getting people into The Horus Heresy. And yet this is the book that caught my eye. For one thing, it’s on the shorter side, so less of a burden if I don’t enjoy it. For another, I’ve already gleaned from osmosis many of the broader underpinnings of the Heresy, and having the basics recounted over the course of twenty-odd short stories doesn’t interest me nearly as much as diving into something with a more established presence. And so, into The Horus Heresy I step.
My immediate takeaway from this anthology is that a lot of my initial assumptions about The Horus Heresy were correct. This is, at its core, a story about grotesquely superhuman warriors slugging it out for a few hundred pages. Even within the mere handful of stories collected here, that does grow repetitive. There is more than one story of a loyalist soldier facing off against a traitor, and already they have managed to blend together in my mind. In these shorts, there’s nor really enough page space to develop the situation or characters beyond the need to deliver some bloodshed, so there’s not all that much to tell them apart. The glimpses we do get of Cthonian society in general, and the long history of gang warfare on the planet, are more interesting to me than the story being presented as the focus. That being said, space marines punching space marines is undoubtedly a big draw for many people, and on that level the book is a wild success.
The Horus Heresy has been running for a decade and a half now, and there main story is finally being brought to a close with the events of the Siege of Terra mini-series. Over those long years, and more than eighty novels, anthologies, and audio dramas, a lot of authors have had their chance to pen stories for the Heresy. Yet at its core, much of the main story remains in the hands of the old guard who kicked it all off. Whether or not the entire story comes to a climax, of it if spins off in a new direction remains unknown, but Cthonia’s Reckoning offers a chance for less familiar names to take a seat behind the wheel of the Heresy. Alongside established names such as John French and Gav Thorpe are newer authors, like Noah van Nguyen and Gary Kloster. If nothing else, this anthology proves that Black Library is in safe hands for the foreseeable future.
Cthonia’s Reckoning was a fun diversion, but not enough to get me hooked on The Horus Heresy. For the time being at least, I’ll be remaining in the 41st millennium. But if that oft-mythologised past era appeals to you, there are worse anthologies to take a look into.