Monday, June 8, 2009

False Gods by Graham McNeill

Dan Abnett's Horus Rising (review) began the saga of the fall of Horus, the greatest hero of the Imperium, in The Horus Heresy, the prequel series to Black Library's famous shared universe saga Warhammer 40,000, based on the Games Workshop game of the same name.  Abnett's novel was my introduction to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and also my favorite entry into the world thus far.  It was with great excitement, and very high hopes, that I began False Gods, the second installment of The Horus Heresy.

After the events of Horus Rising, the Sons of Horus (formerly the Luna Wolves) head to Davin, where a traitor to the Empire of Mankind has set up shop.  Flowing along with the dark, almost demonic hints of magic in the undertone from the first novel, there are whispers of darker possibilities, and the rest of the novel reflects that, giving a far darker, bloodier, more violent tale.  We still follow Loken, as well as other members of his Legion, as they fight to bring together all mankind, and destroy those that don't want to take part.  After Horus is mortally wounded, the Legion starts to take sides, those that want to uphold the ideas of the Great Crusade being undertaken, and those that will do anything to save their dying Warmaster, all while a religious cult that worships the Emperor is on the rise.

This huge level of conflict, with dozens of key characters, would be lost and fumbled in the hands of a lesser author, but McNeill matches and surpasses Abnett's prior entry, flinging caution to the wind, and leaving characters that are long-standing beaten, broken, dead, or acting like we never thought they would, yet these drastic changes of life and attitude are all done fully and well, with enough time for change and plenty of reason to make it all feel very organic, and completely realistic.  As the battle lines are drawn, their are people you care about on both sides, and confusion in the air about the level of power this mysterious Emperor holds, and the many chilling moments are more than enough to make you question what you presumed about all of the characters.

This novel was more action-packed, more suspenseful, more affecting, more intriguing, and more exciting than any other Warhammer 40,000 novel I have read yet.  McNeill does a masterful job with these characters and situations, and leaves on an ending that begs for you to move straight to the sequel.  This book, from what I have read so far, sets the bar for all over Warhammer 40,000 novels.  It will be a tough one to top.  I can't wait for the next Horus Heresy book, or to read the other books out by Graham McNeill.  I'm a fan.


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