I had the joy of spending my holidays with the latest Horus Heresy novel "Prospero Burns : The Wolves unleashed" by Dan Abnett. Picking up the novel I was disappointed before I even opened the book when I saw the name Dan Abnett on the front; instead of one of the authors well versed in Space Wolves (aka the guys who wrote the highly enjoyable Ragnar Blackmane novels). I don't hate Abnett as a writer, but of the many 40k universe novels I have read his typically are the novels that end up at used book stores.
(SPOILER FREE SECTION)
I wasn't expecting much going into the novel, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good the story is. The majority of the novel is written from the point of view of Kaspar Hawser (also called Ahmad Ibn Rustah), a historian turned remembrancer who becomes the skjald (keeper and teller of stories) for a company of the 6th Legion (Space Wolves). The story is a rather compelling telling of the actions of a portion of the Space Wolves Legion leading up to, and during, the destruction of Prospero and the Thousands Sons Legion. The only parts of the novel I found a tad boring where the snippets of back story for Hawser, which at first I skimmed as quickly as possible. As the novel goes on you start to realize that the flash backs of back story actually have purpose and they become more integral to the story; and thus more readable.
An important thing to point out is that this novel is not just a re-tell of "A Thousand Sons" from a different point of view, although there is cross over of events and locations. It tells a completely new story with new characters, that happens to end up with the same dramatic event.
If you are a fan of the Horus Heresy series you will enjoy this latest installment and will find it (mostly) satisfying, even for an Abnett novel.
(scroll down for some spoilers!)
(here there be spoilers!)
(here there be spoilers!)
(Minor Spoiler section)
For those of you who want more info on the novel here is a more detailed report of what to expect:
The novel starts out from the point of view of a human (Fenrisian) warrior whose tribe is being attacked, and wiped out, by neighboring tribes due to their island being the recipient of a falling star. The falling star turns out to be an escape pod carrying our main character Kasper Hawser (aka Ahmad Ibn Rustah). The last two tribe members and Kasper are saved at the last second by a Space Marine, nicely told from the point of view of one of the ignorant fenrisian tribesman and is a good start to the novel.
The story continues after the passage of time from the point of view of Kasper, who has been physically rebuilt (and improved) from the ground up by the apothecaries of the Space Wolves. The Company master of this portion of the Space Wolves Legion seems unsure at first what to do with Kasper, and implies that the prevalent thought of his companions is to simply get rid of him. Instead Kasper gets a chance to put his historian/remembrancer skills to use when he is appointed to be that companies skjald. As skjald he is in charge of gathering the sagas, stories, and histories from the Space Wolves so that he can re-tell them as dramatic stories, a master of oral history (written history is forbidden). He spends time getting to know the Space Wolves around him, and is plagued by dreams of his past.
The second portion of the novel tells the conquest and destruction of a human civilization called the Olamic Quietude. This particular offshoot of humanity uses it's advanced technology to build robotic bodies with artificial organs/fluids which has the brain and spinal cord of a human inside (removed from the human bodies during childhood). Obviously their particular use of technology is just too naughty by imperial standards so the Wolves (and imperial army) wipe them out. Kasper is along for the ride and learns about the role of the Space Wolves as the Emperors' tool of extreme capitol punishment.
The third and final portion of the novel encompasses the trial of Nikea and the invasion of Prospero. At Nikea the novel provides tidbits that happened behind the scenes while the events of "A Thousand Sons" happened. We meet Russ, who is portrayed as a friendly and frequently joking warrior, who of course could rip you limb from limb if he felt like it, and the basis of his humor centers around the idle threat of violence. We find out that Kasper is being used as a spy by some unknown agency, although Magnus is suspected.
Between the events at Nikea and the attack on Prospero multiple Rune priests work to uncover what/whom is the true agency using Kasper as a spy; they are unsuccessful. By this time in the story Kasper has been fully accepted as a member of the Company and has "gone native," even learning to fight with the Wolves favorite weapon, the axe.
The actual attack on Prospero in the novel is surprisingly short. Abnett obviously didn't want to re-tell the same story, so he focused on what Kasper witnessed while attached to a certain number of Wolves. The agent responsible for turning Kasper into a spy is revealed and we have a climactic battle to destroy him. I'll tell you the agent is not Magnus and the battle between him and Russ is not told in this novel; I won't tell more on this subject so you can enjoy it for yourself.
My favorite part of this novel is that the last portion of the novel is told as a story by Kasper of the final events of the sacking of Prospero to a undisclosed group of Space Wolves. It's a good ending and I enjoyed it.
I liked the novel and can't wait for the next installment of the Horus Heresy saga.