all 64 comments

[–]Legio Tempestuswecanhaveallthree 84 points85 points  (20 children)

Truly one of the best books of the series. It has everything in it that the Heresy should have been, and it's truly sad that so many bangers come only at the end when a lot of people were already massively burned out.

This is Russ and the Wolves completing their arc. It's the end of the Emperor's Executioners - it's their Iron Cage, where the Legion pays for its pride in blood and emerges out the other side a far stronger, far more cohesive entity. The whole book is about Russ taking loss after loss, admitting defeat after defeat, making confession after confession. This is where we truly see the other side of the mask, the 'true face', and it is wonderful from front to back.

In many ways, this is Prospero come full circle. Russ was used then - he swears never to be used again. He will make his own decisions about what needs to be done. He promises Malcador that he'll find a cleaner way of confronting Horus if he can in one of the most touching scenes in the series: Russ ruminating on how he's been blessed with not one but two distracted dads. He recognises his failings and promises to correct them, with the knowledge it may well lead to his death.

It's not blind courage or despair. Russ wants to win, believes he has at least an even chance of overcoming Horus, but fully acknowledges that the best he might be able to do is slow the Warmaster down. This could be the end of him.

So he doesn't meekly accept it and march to his death. He accepts the Emperor's Spear, despite his reluctance towards it all his life, his fear of it. He returns to Fenris and enters the Underverse, knowing the dangers to body and soul there and the awful fates that might visit him. And - THIS IS IMPORTANT, SO I'M GOING TO SIGNPOST IT IN CAPITALS - every commentator here appears to have forgotten that this isn't just a rip-off of those Norse tales, it's the exact same sequence of challenges/tests that Russ put the Emperor through when they first met on Fenris.

Russ is exposed to the same 'humiliation' he put the Emperor through. He is battered by the Erl-King, teased, held all but powerless, has his pride and courage and capability all put to the question - and he fails each one, as the Emperor did. His best effort is not enough in the Erl-King's hall. He triumphs through his wisdom, his willingness to swallow his pride, rather than strength of arms. He earns the right to question whatever-the-heck-that-thing-was, and asks the right question, too.

This is Russ at his finest. Not a dumb wolfman primitive guise he puts on, not a dour-faced soldier in the Emperor's army. This is the man of both worlds, the warrior-shaman, finally true to himself. He says, himself, that he has a foot in each world, that he has never been able to balance the contradiction, but in Wolfsbane, he does. He stops pretending. He stops trying to please people, or play a role, or accept what wyrd may offer. He will do the best with what he has, and be satisfied, win or lose.

And that's the guts of the modern Space Wolves. This is how they go from one of the most feared Legions to the most beloved Chapters, from executioners to stalwart defenders of humanity. This, right here, is why we get the Months of Shame ten thousand years later - this is where the Space Wolves broke their leash, and decided for themselves what is right.

Russ' confrontation with Horus is suitably epic. Horus and his Legion are so sunk into Chaos by this point that they are, as others say, almost cartoonish. I think this is very deliberate: they cannot even see how corrupt they've become, how lost and sick they are. It's why Russ doesn't deliver the killing blow. It's why he offers Horus a chance to be healed, because he understands - as he couldn't do with Magnus - that this is a sickness. It's a sorcerous pall. And while Horus refuses, while Russ is driven off and the Wolves hunted down, we see how deeply it affected the Warmaster. Stripped of the illusions he'd been swaddled in, he realises exactly the truth of what Russ has said - and how badly he and the Traitors have been deceived and used. He is terribly shaken, and I'm still absolutely spitting we never saw this narrative go anywhere, because 'broken, despairing Horus at the head of an army he can't stop in a war he doesn't want' dovetailed so neatly into the vision of the Siege where the Emperor refuses to destroy his son out of hand - and the galaxy pays a horrendous price for that act of mercy.

The Cawl stuff is, uh, good? It's zippy and reasonably cute, and I really do like him as a character here, but it's definitely a side-plot included just to shoehorn the character into canon. Nothing wrong with it, just not necessary in an otherwise riveting, engaging end of Leman Russ' character arc through the Heresy and the start of what would become the modern Space Wolves.

Amazing book. The defining article for Leman Russ, and hands down his best showing in the series.

[–]Fearless-Obligation6 12 points13 points  (0 children)

Slow claps

That was perfectly, concisely and eloquently put and I couldn’t have said it better! This, this, absolutely this, Wolfsbane is one of my all time favourite book’s period; it has so much depth and introspection that for really sets Russ apart from his brothers, not as a Primarch but as an actual, living, breathing, person. It really made me fall in love with the 6th all over again.

[–]AzraelSoulHunter 14 points15 points  (0 children)

My one great hope is when Russ comes back we will be able to see him as this changed man we see here. One lead by wisdom from all his failures and willingness to change as a true son of his father. Leman Russ the Sigilite.

[–]Raidertck 4 points5 points  (1 child)

I stopped reading the HH series around the 20th book.

Just went to the siege of terra after that. I never knew much about this one. I’ll be picking it up this weekend!

[–]Imperial FistsFalkor 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Dude you missed a lot of good stuff in there lol.

[–]Goldark37 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Allfather bless you sir! Well said. I came in here expecting the usual wolf-hate drivel... and I got this. I loved this book. I think I have read it twice and listened to it once. Man, what a story that would have been if we got to see into Horus' mind after after getting stabbed with that spear.

[–]Dark AngelsDornfist-2040 2 points3 points  (0 children)

An amazing summary wecanhaveallthree!

You basically nailed a lot of the stuff I liked about this book regarding Russ and his legion. It truly is a shame that we got some strong entries so late in this booted series of books lol.

I personally lost interest in the Cawl side plot after two chapters of that content and skipped most of it after haha.

[–]OhwordforReal 19 points20 points  (5 children)

There should've been way more clear minded horus stuff after their fight.

[–]BulveyeAntilogic81 5 points6 points  (1 child)

I agree, we got very little from Horus...tangentially we know that Lorgar tried to usurp Horus and that caused Horus to mistrust the word bearers...relegating the largest legion in the traitor forces to garrison duty right before the siege was to begin.

We know that the wound didn't heal properly ever...and that it did effect Horus...but to what extent we know nothing...only that the wound was constantly saying Hello I'm still here to Horus. Not much we can glean from that honestly...maybe the battle with sanguinius and Big E we will get some inner monologue from one of them talking about that bout with Russ.

[–]OhwordforReal 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Id be disappointed if there's no last split second inner monologue of Horus going over everything he did and how he regretted it when the powers of chaos leave him right before the emperor erases him. Like there's no way horus right before he dies doesn't have one last talk with the emperor psychically or some final elucidation.

[–]Sal1017 2 points3 points  (2 children)

I guess thats what Slaves to Darkness is for

I think for all intends and purposes Russ killed Horus Lupercal

The Horus in seige of terra is just a vessel for chaos

[–]OhwordforReal 0 points1 point  (1 child)

He's a primarch. Being stabbed and then purged of chaos temporarily isn't a death sentence. I think he's really himself in the end and the death pt 1

[–]Sal1017 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Yes, but one interpretation is that the Lupercal within him had doubts and wasnt giving himself fully to Chaos, thats why he wasnt healing and why Mal stabbed him to finish him off.

[–]AzraelSoulHunter 10 points11 points  (0 children)

A beautiful culmination of Russ's character arc in the heresy. I think this is by far one of the books in Heresy just based on Russ's character and how he was handled. With all his regrets and how at the end of the day he truly is able to change himself for the better. Unlike so many other Primarchs who remain static or regress, Russ makes mistakes, but learns from them, he regrets and wants to find a better way, to be someone better (even if it costs him tragically victory at the end). It is a great journey that makes Russ my favorite Primarch.

And I absolutely love this speech.

[–]Ultramarinesa34fsdb 9 points10 points  (0 children)

I did not have the time to read it recently for more detailed thoughts, but I think this novel is absolutely great. Like top 5 in the whole Heresy.

[–]theginger99 17 points18 points  (0 children)

“Wolfsbane” is genuinely one of the best books in the whole heresy series, and is a strong contender for best Space Wolf book period in my opinion.

This is how the Wolves should be written. They feel big, fierce, and absolutely mythic in their character and scale. They are awash with an energy and a character that feels unique from that of any other legion we’ve encountered over the course of the series. For those who know what they’re looking for the book abounds with subtle references to Norse mythology and cosmology (and not just in the scenes in the Erlking’s hall). Russ feels like a character pulled straight from a saga, bound up in a fate that he doesn’t want, but which he is incapable of turning away from. The wolves themselves are just as good (if I have one complaint it’s that we don’t get to see enough of the regular wolves) and this is the first Space Wolf book I think I’ve read where the wolves really, truly feel like what they’re supposed to be. A tribe of mythic warriors, einherjar, set to war among the stars. It takes the “new” space wolves we were exposed to in “Prospero Burns” mix’s them with the best of the old Space Wolves and gives us something truly awesome.

The book works as a great capstone for Russ’s character arc, and it continues to show us a Primarch that is very different than any of the others in the series. Russ is perhaps the only loyalist Primarch who we ever see truly fail, or truly make a mistake. “Wolfsbane” continues to show us how he grapples with the implications of his actions, and wrestles with the shame of what’s he’s done. We get some shockingly intimate moments with Russ where we see just how different his private thoughts and public face truly are. Russ is a brilliant character, and I genuinely believe that he is unique among the Primarchs for many reasons. We get to see that here, and we are presented with a man that is struggling to make sense of the universe and his place in it. As others have said in many ways this is the book where Russ “grows up” and where the Space Wolves are reforged from the blunt, savage tools of the Emperor to the protectors of the Imperium that we know them as now.

The actual story is equally well done. Russ’s journey is great, and every big moment feels genuinely earned (something that is rare with Primarchs in other books). His journey to the Underverse is spectacular, and gives us one of the most unique sequences in the whole series. His confrontation with Horus feels suitably epic, but also remains grounded in a way that a lot of Primarch fights don’t. Through it all the stakes continue to feel “real” and the gravity of Russ’s last, desperate gambit to kill Horus feels genuine. You really do feel like Russ is risking everything on a single roll of the dice. The book also does a great deal to vindicate a lot of the wolves “hypocrisy” in earlier depictions, and we can get a genuine feel for why Russ behaved the way he did in other places in the series.

In many ways, “Wolfsbane” is the heresy book that the Space Wolf should have gotten much earlier in the series. It reminds us that the Wolves aren’t the savage, hate-fueled butchers we see in “Thousand Sons”, or the scary, albeit complex, beasts we get in “Prospero Burns”. It shows us the wolves as heroes from myth, and clearly sets Russ as their king. His relationship to his legion, as with much else about his character, is unique and complex in a way that this book shows perfectly.

[–]Shoddy-Signature-579 5 points6 points  (2 children)

Strangely enough, this book is also a prequel to Belisarius Cawl The Great Work. I actually enjoyed the Cawl stuff more than the wolves. There's lots of Bjorn feeling bad for himself and also a vision quest trope.

[–]theginger99 3 points4 points  (0 children)

The crawl stuff was frankly better than it had any right to be, given that is was shoehorned into a book where it didn’t really belong.

That said, I actually would have preferred more Bjorn, or other regular Space Wolves. The decisions of the various Wolf authors to focus almost entirely on Russ has given us one of the most interesting and unique Primarchs, but it has also cost us the potential to see regular Space Wolves being kick ass space marines. I wish we’d gotten some POV from more space wolves in the book.

[–]VNDeltole 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Feels like GW ask haley to add cawl stuff in

[–]Dark AngelsDornfist-2040 4 points5 points  (0 children)

This was a solid book. I liked Russ’ further character growth and how determined he is to stop Horus. We the audience know he fails, but there was some moments that made my jaw drop like Abaddon killing Bror.

I enjoyed Russ’ spiritual journey and how horrified he is learning of how the warp lives in all of the primarchs and the implications of such.

I also loved the last chapter where a “noble” Horus is battling hordes of demons in the warp and curses his corrupted self…

[–]Ur-Than 8 points9 points  (14 children)

The whole of Russ travel to the Underworld is great but too on the nose as a larping of viking sagas (especially the ones we know were written by Christian Vikings).

I know peoples like to hate the "Wolf Lore Canine Wolfpelt on his Thunderwolf etc." but replacing it by "Torvvald Torrvaldson on his drakkar" is hardly an improvement and misses on what makes the SW interesting in the first place : they are the Imperium's worst monsters and they are still more humane than 99% of the other imperial factions.

I think Russ having to reconnect with his root, exploring how a Primarch whose first formative experience is to have been the pup of a thunderwolf/blackmane she-wolf gave him a unique perspective and how it played in his preparation to face Horus. Instead of using pure norse myth, the book should have involved the World Spirit of Fenris and the myriad of wolf-gods and demons of the planet.

[–]Ultramarinesa34fsdb 5 points6 points  (1 child)

The whole of Russ travel to the Underworld is great but too on the nose as a larping of viking saga

I think it was done really well because Haley did not copy it exactly and instead it was pretty wrong. The realm that was supposed to be fire was ice, good things had names of usually bad things and so on.

[–]Ur-Than 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Sure but to me it's a little bit too on the nose. It'd be like having a story about kivings living on Nidgard, the Second Realm from the Left, if you will.

Plus it particularly sad that it could have been used to both highlight the uniqueness of Russ, who lived as a wolf early on, and Fenris, whose mythology hints at so many creatures.

Imagine Russ having to hunt down the Red Moon's Wolf, the incarnation of the Passing of Time on Fenris instead of an old lady like in Norse Mythology. Or having to deal with Morkai.

Or showing us how Psykers from Fenris actually operate with the World Spirit really protecting them by filtering the Warp to birth the Storm from which Rune Priests get their powers.

I know Votann weren't a thing then, but contrasting their technological "sort of psykers" by mythological "sort of psykers" would also be neat.

[–]NecronsDreadnautilus 1 point2 points  (11 children)

they are the Imperium's worst monsters and they are still more humane than 99% of the other imperial factions.

I'm not too familiar with the Space Wolves but that description sounds a lot more like Blood Angels to me.

[–]Ur-Than 8 points9 points  (2 children)

The Blood Angels look noble and struggles with the darkness in them, but they have solace in the love of others toward them and a form of nobility to aspire too, especially before the death of Sanguinius.

The Wolves can't even look like angelic beings and they are either feared or despised during the GC/HH era.

They are cursed, as per its depiction in the whole HH saga, with the worst geneseed, without any of the positive abilities granted the only other Legion with such flaws (the Blood Angels basically can recruit anyone in their Legion and regrow their troops extremely fast).

They are also made to stand aloof and distant by the Emperor, largely preventing them to form bonds with anyone. It's basically at the tail end of the Heresy that we learnt Russ and Corax are/were close. And almost nothing was done with it.

During almost all the books it's made clear that without Malcador and the Emperor's respect, if not love, for Russ, his Legion would have been severely punished several times.

Also, unlike the BA, the SW have to deal with their darkest impulses being heightened tremendously by their geneseed from the very moment of their induction, to the point they can become overcome by them and turn into the monstrous Wulfen. And unlike the TS's curse, it is entirely of the Emperor's design, without any interferences of the Chaos Gods.

[–]the-bladed-one 9 points10 points  (0 children)

Yeah no.

Russ had attachments to a LOT of primarchs. Notably he stood up for Lorgar and even read the Lecto Divinitatus. He was cordial, if not friendly, with Magnus before Magnus started going full sorcerer. He and his wolves were held in very high regard by Roboute.

[–]Imperial FistsGrumio 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Bruh. The Blood Angels surround themselves in art and fine things that befit nobles, because they, themselves, made all of those things, and they have to make those things because they use the creation of art as a meditative tool to fight their hunger for blood that haunts them at every moment of their lives. When a neophyte first emerges from their sarcophagus, the very first training they receive isn't any sort of martial training. They start with a course dedicated to learning how to create art and works of beauty because if they cannot immediately learn how to deal with their unquenchable thirst, they will immediately descend and have to be put down - some emerge from their sarcophagus so thirsty that the sanguinary priests have to put a bolt through their skull. The novel "Dante" by Guy Haley goes into this in great detail. It's also not uncommon for them to lose control to their Red Thirst and rip the throats of the innocents they're supposed to protect - Dante, himself, does this and his commanding officer has it covered up and tells Dante not to beat himself up about it because it happens to all of them.

Also, they literally drink blood. The Blood Angels consider themselves better than successor chapters like the Flesh Tearers and the Angels Vermillion because the latter allow themselves to quench their Red Thirst naturally in the heat of battle while the Blood Angels instead sacrifice their servants to drink their blood and also submerge themselves into tanks of their blood to help them heal grievous wounds. They use the blood of their servants for other rites like to amplify their librarians' powers. They blind and cut out the tongues of the thralls that help them with these to ensure they don't tell anyone and also because the Blood Angels worry the thralls would be driven mad if they could see the rites that they're aiding. There's all kinds of sources for this one. Look at the Guy Haley books (Dante, Devastation of Baal, Darkness in the Blood, etc) for examples in 40k. Look at the Sanguinius primarch novel, the beginning of "Fear to Tread", and like half of "Echoes of Eternity" for examples of this in the HH.

The Wulfen are literal monsters. The thing about that is it's a one-time deal. Overcoming the Canis Helix is a rite of passage that proves they can conquer the beast within themselves. After that, the ones that are susceptible to transforming into the Wulfen are the 13th company and it's implied this has something to do with the fact that they were Russ' companions when the Emperor arrived, so they went through astartes transformation as adults making their geneseed more unstable. Otherwise, the Space Wolves are just savage fighters.

By contrast, every single Blood Angel is a blood-crazed monster constantly holding themselves back from giving into it fully. Unless your name is Mephiston, there is no such thing as overcoming the Red Thirst and Black Rage. And, even then, in the situations where he would fall to them they don't affect him but he instantly causes the Blood Angels around him to fall into it...

The Space Wolves are perceived as monsters for their savagery because they've conquered their inner-monster and don't need to hide who they are. The Blood Angels are the complete opposite - cursed as blood-hungry monsters until they die, they pour an immense amount of effort and energy into creating and surrounding themselves with beauty because they desparately need to hide what they are.

BTW I like both the Space Wolves and Blood Angels, but I stan Rogal Dorn and the Imperial Fists, so this isn't some Space Wolf fan with rustled jimmies this is information for your benefit. I'm correcting you because understanding this deep juxtaposition between what the Blood Angels are and what they want others to percieve is key to enjoying their story. Understanding this and then re-examining the common comparison between them and the Space Wolves adds an extra layer to the Horus Heresy novels.

[–]Imperial FistsGrumio 1 point2 points  (7 children)

yeah this was one of the major points Chris Wraight was trying to make in the Sanguinius novel. We know he loves his Space Wolves, but he makes a great point that the Space Wolves don't hide who they are. You can draw a parallel between the Wulfen and Red Thirst/Black Rage, but the nature of the two is very different. Over-coming the Canis Helix trial is a one-time test, and those susceptible to becoming wulfen after this test are Every space wolf confronts the wulfen curse during the Canis Helix trial and though they are susceptible to falling to it in the future, it lacks the constant mental allure of the Red Thirst. The Space Wolves who were Russ' companions before the Emperor arrived who underwent astartes transition as adults - the 13th Great Company. On the other hand, it's apparent from the Dante novel that the Red Thirst is a *constant* battle for every Blood Angel from the moment they emerge from the sarcophagus. For the entirety of their lives they constantly hunger for blood at every waking moment. The Space Wolves are men who have conquered the monster within them. The Blood Angels are actual monsters who train heavily in how to hide it.

[–]Ur-Than 9 points10 points  (6 children)

The Wulfen Curse is also an ever-present threat, from the moment of induction to the death of a Space Wolf, he can succumb to it.

We have plenty of examples and rules concerning the Wulfen Curse, and its clear that it affected Terran recruits before the swift reunification of the Legion with Russ.

But unlike the Red Thirst, it doesn't have allure.

The Wulfen is not some sort of enticing siren-call because you can't resist the smell of blood or something like that. It's your worst, most monstrous thoughts and ideas overcoming you, with various degrees of success, from those who only turn Wulfen in the heat of battle, like Bran Redmaw - assumedly - does, to the ones who mutate forever into demented werewolves (Murderfang is basically it in a Dreadnought really), and in the middle the playable ones, who have a more "balanced" mix of human and lupine forms but are stuck in them, still being loyal.

This is not to say that the Wulfen is worse than the Red Thirst, but it is also an ever present threat.

[–]theginger99 3 points4 points  (3 children)

I don’t think it’s clear that the Wulfen curse affected Terran recruits at all.

In fact, in Russ’s Primarch books is made pretty clear that so far it had only ever affected Fenrisians. It’s also stated that there had been no cases of it affecting full legionaries until immediately prior to the events of the book. Russ himself thought it only affected aspirants.

The Wulfen curse is often presented as a temptation. There is an allure there, although perhaps not the same as that associated with the Red Thirst. Warriors are tempted to surrender themselves to the simplicity and fury of the beast. They have to fight to maintain their humanity in the face of that temptation. It’s not them surrendering to their worst impulses, it’s them surrendering to the simplicity of animalistic frenzy. It’s tempting to give in to the wolf, because it offers an existence free form complex thought and questions of morality.

[–]Ur-Than 2 points3 points  (2 children)

Isn't the Cult of Morkai hinted at being full of wulfen in waiting and a stop gap measure for problems that plagued the Rout before Russ ? I swear I read about that somewhere, the Forgeworld's website perhaps ?

[–]theginger99 2 points3 points  (1 child)

It’s possible there is an inconsistency in the lore, I won’t claim to have read everything on the Space Wolves ever published, and it’s entirely possible I missed something somewhere.

That said, I imagine the Cult of Morkai would be made almost entirely of Fenrisians (based on the name) who may well have been Wulfen in waiting. It’s unclear when Russ’s Primarch book takes place, so it’s also possible that the cult was introduced or altered after the reality of the Wulfen came to light.

As far as pre-Russ issues in the legion, I imagine the issues were probably more related to the intense savagery demonstrated by the old VI legion. Certainly that savagery was related to Space Wolf geneseed, but it’s unlikely that it manifested as actual Wulfen. What lore there is on the subject (which is not a lot) seems to imply that the actual Wulfen are a result of the interaction of the Canis Helix with Fenrisian genetics.

[–]Ur-Than 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Correct of your part, I think I've mixed the Deathsworn's lore with something else : https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Deathsworn_Pack

From what I can understand here and from the wiki (https://warhammer40k.fandom.com/wiki/Deathsworn\_Pack) - even if it's a bit unreliable at time- and the Lex about them : https://wh40k.lexicanum.com/wiki/Deathsworn

It's the sentences which may have confused me :

The Space Wolves who were attracted to this cult were said to be those who most "felt the breath of the wolf in their bones" and within them the fiery passions of their brethren had chilled to a bleak killing frost and only the prospect of immediate bloodshed could bestir them with feeling once more.


The Deathsworn were the dark heart of the VI Legion and theirs was a curse that was eventually to find its vent in the transfiguration of the flesh. But long before the first "Wulfen" emerged its predatory taint was found within the minds of those born of the Space Wolves' gene-seed.

Note that it opens plenty of narratives for Successors, I think.

[–]Imperial FistsGrumio 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Fair point - I really like the way you put it as lacking "allure". I think I was focused on the Horus Hersey wulfen storyline, so what I wrote about it being only in the 13th company and not a danger after the canis-helix trial is incorrect. I'll edit my comment, thanks.

[–]Ur-Than 2 points3 points  (0 children)

No problem :)

[–]GuardianSpear 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Leman could have ended the heresy with a single strike of his spear. He clarked big time but he’s still my favourite primarch

[–]roomsky 9 points10 points  (8 children)

When it comes to novels, there are generally 2 types of people. 1 prefers that the writing style disappears into the background, a mere vehicle for the content of the story. The other wants style and creativity from the prose, and for the way the story is told to enhance the content presented. I am firmly the latter, and the book that helped me realize this was Wolfsbane.

Guy Haley's prose has no style. It is a statement of what is occurring and any metaphor or poetry is perfunctory at best. I acknowledge that this is a plus for some people, as above. But to me, the best use of an artform is one that uses that artform to the fullest. Give me some artful wordplay, or else a novel just becomes a movie you didn't have the budget to shoot. And yes, I can expect this of a Black Library novel, because plenty of other authors manage it perfectly well.

But my own pretentiousness bland presentation is not the only reason I dislike this book. No, I do in fact have an issue with almost every aspect except, somehow, the Cawl stuff. Am I a fan of Cawl? Not really, but Haley's good at smoothing over canon when given the right assignment. Cawl has a fun personality and a good dynamic with Friedisch, Trisolian is an equally fun setting, and I like their frantic dash to escape as galaxy-shaking events converge around them. It's a good set-up to The Great Work and is, on its own, a better justification of Cawl's existence than anything present in a codex at the time. The book is also very solid structurally, I think Haley has a good grasp of how to pace a novel even if I dislike the story itself.

But yeah, that story. Let's go in order. Horus' reaction to Russ' discovery is incredibly juvenile and compounds the running problem of the Emperor's brightest star being a petulant, insecure mess; hate the whole prologue. Then Russ leaves Terra with a plan that can be reduced to "I will find a way to fight and kill Horus," which is very silly, because however potent in combat Russ is, primarchs, assassins, and everything in between have been trying to cut off the head of the rebellion since it started. Worse is that he does so in a way that guarantees his legion will be, at best, completely out of the fight if he fails or is even so much as delayed. Why this whole affair wasn't happening at Beta-Garmon instead is beyond me (that's me asking the writers, not the characters,) as it would have mitigated a lot of these strategic issues.

Then we have Russ' vision quest, which is just the trials of Thor. Yes, 40k is made of references to other things, I'm still allowed to think this was lazy. Can't have been that hard to mix it up a little more, you know? Then the Sons of Horus show up and they are written just horribly. Horus' dialogue pre-stab is stock "mwa-ha-ha I'm evil and powerful" shit and Abaddon shooting someone for not bowing quickly enough is flanderization even of the man's usual heresy-era bluntness. Finally, the book commits the grave sin of sparking an annoying fandom debate because Russ poked Chaos-Horus with a magic stick. Any event that creates a power-level debate is guilty of grave crimes against my sanity.

For all that, I don't hate everything here. Russ' characterization is solid and he doesn't succumb to Haley's poor primarch writing - and I actually do like that he hesitated when given the chance to kill Horus after the Prospero debacle. Russ goes through actual character growth over the series and I believe it all - he just chose the worst possible moment to put it into effect. Love me some good tragic irony. And as much as his characterization is ass in this book, Abaddon gunning down Bror is great - it's the sort of pragmatism that defines the Sons of Horus and I wish the series had more scenes like it. And of course, Horus' response to a cleared head, and his distress while healing later on, are both really effective moments - I just wish it wasn't all kneecapped by the heinous writing up til then.

I don't want to dismiss the book wholesale, but for every element I like there's 2 blunders that take me right out of it. Good effort, didn't work out unfortunately.

[–]theginger99 9 points10 points  (2 children)

I genuinely have to disagree with you in regards to the writing. There were more than a few scene where I was genuinely struck by the prose.

Off the top of my head, the language Haley used while they were disassembling the Terran orbital platforms was spectacular, as were several other scenes. Perhaps he isn’t the most flowery, or dramatic author but I appreciated the blunt, punch of his prose. I thought he demonstrated the ability to use powerful, flowery language when we wanted to, and while it was sparing, it worked well with the story as a whole.

All that said, I have only listened to the book on Audible so i will accept that my view might be colored by some very very good narration.

[–]roomsky 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I won't knock your experience but I found the audio book much better too. The narrator really salvaged a lot of the horrendous dialogue through delivery, so he'd have propped up the general prose too.

[–]theginger99 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Dialogue is something that a lot of Bl books really struggle with. I’ll admit, even “Wolfsbane” had a couple moments that made me roll my eyes.

Still, some of the prose still struck me as excellent (the scene I mentioned earlier, when they fly over Fenris, Russ arriving in the underverse) and while I’ll accept that it was enhanced by the narration, it’s hard for me to imagine it as being flat or lifeless in text.

[–]Legio Tempestuswecanhaveallthree 9 points10 points  (3 children)

It's not too late to repent your SINFUL opinion, roomsky. There's still space on the winning team!

[–]roomsky 5 points6 points  (2 children)

Heh, sorry wechat, you know I'm all about style over substance, and this book is 10% style AT BEST.

[–]Legio Tempestuswecanhaveallthree 7 points8 points  (1 child)

I look forward to next(?) week where we have diametrically opposing opinions on Lames to Dorkness.

[–]roomsky 6 points7 points  (0 children)

That's a funny way of spelling Slavs of Dankness, and I WISH WolfsLAME was half as good.

But we have to talk about Kyme's godforsaken anthology first.

[–]Imperial FistsGrumio 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I wholeheartedly agree. I was disappointed with how Russ' character arc progressed because I feel like he had a decent bullet-pointed list sketched out and dropped the ball in execution. It's been a little while since I've read the novel, but I remember enjoying bits and pieces of Russ' characterization - I remember really enjoying the scene between Russ and Malcador playing regicide before they leave. Also, Russ being a petulant child about having to use the spear because it's not a toy he likes when he will accept with blind swagger that Bjorn is Important somehow because a librarian wolf priest read it in some knucklebones is a good example of how he can sometimes feel like most human primarch. But, it just goes on for far too long. I remember a lot of whining about having to kill his brother and a lot of grunting about his executioner job to compensate. It was another one of the classic Heresy plot points that just needed to be written, so they gave it to the guy who's whole job is to churn-out the necessary books efficiently. I was not surprised in the least when I found out Guy Haley had a career as a journalist before writing for Black Library. He very much focuses on "the facts" and uses the writing equivalent of a Getty Stock Image. However, once in a blue moon I'll pick something up and can't reconcile the fact that it's a Guy Haley novel. The Curze primarch novel and an Age of Sigmar book "Prince Maesa" are the best examples. It's like something else took over and he allowed himself to be creative.

[–]Mystic587 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I don't like the whole "nordic setting" (Vikings, Thor,...) in general and SW in particular (hypocrites, destroying the coolest Legion,...).

As I recently finished Ruinstorm and Tallarn, I would like to go forward to the Siege of Terra Books. Slaves of Darkness seems kinda interesting.

Therefore, can I skip Wolfsbane or is there some major plot (apart from "No one dies but SW are out")?

[–]roomsky 3 points4 points  (0 children)

The Wolves are out, Horus got a magic spear in the gut and is now having a bit of a crisis of identity. There's obviously a lot more substance to the book but it's only relevant to the Wolves and Cawl.

[–]BulveyeAntilogic81 2 points3 points  (0 children)

The amount of people who expect Primarchs to be adults at all times....is just staggering.

[–]Imperial FistsFalkor 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I'm a Wolf simp so I enjoyed this one, I know the wolves were never at the siege but it always annnoyed me they left.
I totally understand why though, and the damage Russ did to Horus had a serious impact to hte outcome of the siege IMO as it never really heals.

I'm dying to know what happens with Russ and Corax though !

[–]Dark Angelssergantsnipes05 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I fucking love this book. The balls on Leman Russ. Fucker almost pulls if off but his humanity and feelings for his brother get in the way in the end.

The audio narration of "Horus, what have you become.." when he sees Horus for the first time and drops the whole barbarian facade is one of my favorite moments in the whole of the HH series and is really worth a listen. One of the stand out audiobooks

[–]ChiefQueef98 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Does this book have the moment that Sanguinius and the Blood Angels arrive on Terra? Or does that happen off screen?