Friday, September 11, 2009

Galaxy in Flames

Ben Counter's contribution to the Horus Heresy

I absolutely devoured the third book in Black Library's Horus Heresy series. After False Gods, I was slightly put off, but since I bought the first three books at the same time, I plodded along with book three. If you read my last review, I never said 'Gods' was "bad", but compared to this installment it pales considerably. I'm not familiar with the works of Ben Counter, but I've got to hand it to him, he does the world of the Astartes justice.

As I mentioned in the comments sections of book two's review, a lot of the loose ends I lamented in book two not only got wrapped up in this third one, but they weren't handled just for the sake of efficiency, but given some development and depth on their own. The full betrayal of the Warmaster Horus comes to a chilling fruition in this book and the events take place around a single event and the subsequent, drawn-out engagement in its aftermath. It is a well described tale, and each legion (chapter) involved is given the very distinct personality they deserve. The action is handled very well, and from a military sci-fi standpoint, moves along at a good clip. It mixes it up well from large scale actions, to one-on-one combat. In the initial assault on the technologically advanced world of Istvaan III, the descriptions of the people, cities, weapons, and armor was both interesting and vivid.

By the third book you'll probably become invested in most of the 'major' players and a handful of minor ones too. Many of the civilians have found new inner strengths and find it within themselves to stand up for their beliefs, no matter the sacrifice. The Astartes characters we have watched stand firm against a collapsing world around them continue to hold resolute as matters go from bad to much, much worse. The birth of the Imperial Cult, and the deification of the God Emperor of Mankind takes hold as a spark of light in the ever-growing darkness. Many brave souls meet their greatest challenges, and microcosms of Horus' grand betrayal are echoed throughout many of the individual storylines woven throughout.

I barely put this book down once I started it, it really grabs hold of you and propels you at a breakneck pace 'til the bitter end. It's a roller coaster of emotions, for lack of a better word, in and out as heroes triumph, only to face bigger challenges. Hope still flourishes, and the setup is laid out nicely leading to the next anticipated novel, Flight of the Eisenstein.


  1. Agree. Some of Counter's best work less the Soul Drinker's first trilogy.

    The downside is that the ever-present "Anti-Counter-Mafia" derides every Counter book as "Not as good as Dan Abnett" and subsequently hack on anything the poor guy does. I've read many of Abnett's stuff outside the HH and frankly, I don't see why he is touted as being better than other 40k writers. This book went a long way to silencing the critics on Counter, for a while anyway.

    Anyway, excellent book. Thanks for the thoughtful review.

  2. I have to completely agree with you I think this book was fantastic.

    I am reading Book 4 now and it is a liitle hard to get into because it starts off with some new characters.

    Still a good book so far though and I am really enjoying it.

  3. Thanks guys, it really was a good book. Actually, since Abnett had the task of writing book one, he had too much set up to do, and less 'meat of the story' to work with. In that respect, I'd say tops go to Counter.