Jumping into the Horus Heresy can be pretty daunting. It is, after all, a galactic civil war that makes the one in Star Wars look like school yard fisticuffs, and Black Library don’t always make it easy on us. Between the books not always following on from one another – and even when they do they’re usually at a different place and time – and the sheer volume of general release titles coupled with the explosion of short stories, audio dramas, event exclusives or limited editions, its all a bit tricky to figure out what’s essential to read and what’s not. That’s before you even try to navigate the Black Library site, the organization of which would make the labyrinthine Imperial Administratum proud.
John French’s short audio finds Warmaster Horus in a reflective mood as he muses on the state of the rebellion against the Emperor that is raging in his name, and his fortunes thus far. It’s a thoughtful piece, Horus is well aware of just how flawed the legions on his side are and what a volatile mix that is, yet has no choice but to rely on his brothers and their wayward legions to get the work done. Each has their own agenda, their own vendettas, and mutual mistrust and loathing. Horus thoughts also, inevitably, turn to the conclusion of the war.
As he reviews the many theatres of war across the galaxy, he wonders why the Emperor created him and teases us with the notion that perhaps he was designed specifically to be the ruination of empires – to tear down all his father’s work, to start anew just as he’d done countless times before. The unasked question being was his father just another despot to be overthrown all along, just not yet?
It’s a good short if somewhat incidental. It’s a character piece that gives Horus a momentary return to the complex character we were introduced to in the early novels all those years ago. As the Heresy saga wears on Horus becomes increasingly vague, one minute a feckless killer, the next a cackling schemer content for his generals to fight amongst themselves as if the enemy. Neither portray much dimension as Horus is no longer meant to be relatable as a character. He’s too far gone. Essentially, at this point in the tale he’s as much an ideal as the Emperor is, albeit a dark reflection.
Warmaster gives us some of Horus’ (for want of a better turn) humanity back. It’s a brief lifting of the veil to get the merest glimpse of the great man that once unified the galaxy. Not to mention the crucial insight into Horus’ strategy which could challenge the myth surrounding the attack on the Emperor’s palace.
At £2.50 it’s not brilliant value. Not when you consider you can get a full audio drama, over an hour long, for £10. That’s not to say it’s not worth the money. If you’re a die hard Horus Heresy fan or just want to understand the arch heretic that little better then you may as well – it’s hardly big money. Fans of a more nuanced 40k (or is that 30k) universe won’t be disappointed.
You can buy the audioshort from The Black Library priced £2.50.