Adeptus Mechanicus and Astra Militarum/Imperial Guard "Wiki"

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My blog is primarily my own personal fluff in the Warhammer 40,000 universe regarding the Draconis system such as the Knight House Yato in Draconis III, the Imperial Guard...I mean, Astra Militarum regiment trained there, the Draconian Armored Force, and the Forge World of Draconis IV with its Adeptus Mechanicus priesthood and Skitarii legions, and perhaps the Titan Legion, Legio Gojira (which will never happen because I don't have money for Forge World Titans).

Oh, and I'll throw in the Thousand Sons from time to time because they're my favorite Space Marine Legion. I refuse to believe that they are Traitors! They're just...ahem...secretly loyal to the Imperium!

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Razing of Prospero book review

The Razing of Prospero

The Razing of Prospero basically collects the 2 Horus Heresy novels, A Thousand Sons and Prospero Burns along with 4 short stories, Howl of the Hearthworld, Rebirth, Hunter's Moon and Thief of Revelations.

In case you don't know what's the story about, A Thousand Sons tells the tragic fall of Magnus the Red, the most powerful psyker in the Imperium of Man, the Primarch who is gifted with psychic powers. The first novel follows his legion, The Thousand Sons, and revolves around the adventures of Ahzek Ahriman, one of the coolest and most awesome Space Marines ever. In pre-Heresy at least. It opens up with the Thousand Sons exploring the world of Aghoru because of some ancient pyramid, that turns out to be tainted by Chaos. After clearing the world of Chaos, the Thousand Sons leave to aid the Space Wolves and the Word Bearers in the conquest of Shrike to bring it into the Imperium's fold. There, Magnus and Leman Russ, the primarch of the Space Wolves, nearly come to blows when the latter leads his forces to raze the libraries of Shrike, only for the Thousand Sons to stand in their way. This eventually leads to the Edict of Nikaea, where the Emperor decrees that all Legions dissolve their Librarius conclaves and never use psychic powers again.

Obviously Magnus doesn't listen, and when he learns of Horus's treachery, he performs a huge ritual to send his aether form to Terra where he shorts out the Golden Throne, kills lots of people and allows the daemons to invade the palace (read Master of Mankind for more details, I think). The Emperor obviously flips out, and Magnus flees back to Prospero weeping, and sulks like a spoilt child, throwing a tantrum in his room. He knows Russ and his Wolves are coming, but being the loyal Primarch that he is, he allows the Space Wolves to descend and raze Prospero.

So Prospero burns. The Thousand Sons don't share their father's decision to lie down and let the Wolves butcher them, so they fight back alongside the Prosperine Spireguard, who bravely held the line against the ruthless and merciless Space Wolves, the engimatic and anti-psyker Sisters of Silence, and the golden, legendary Adeptus Custodes. They win, thanks to their psychic powers, and kills lots of Space Wolves and Custodes, none who stood a chance against the might of the Thousand Sons' sorcery. Unfortunately the Sisters of Silence join the battle and nullify the Thousand Sons' powers, and thanks to the overwhelming numbers, the Space Wolves, Custodes and Sisters push the Thousand Sons all the way back to the last Pyramid of Photep. Finally Magnus changes his mind and takes to the field, challenging Russ. While he slays the Wolves, Russ breaks his back and defeats him. But at the moment of near-death, Magnus and the Pyramid of Photep, as well as a large swathe of Tizca into the Planet of Sorcerers, thus saving his legion from extermination but damning them to Chaos...for good.

A Thousand Sons is one of my favorite Horus Heresy books, right up there with Mechanicum. I like Mechanicum better, but probably because of the Knights, Titans and Mechanicum, but A Thousand Sons is a close second. Very close second. First, it's because the Thousand Sons is my favorite Space Marine legion. Especially in pre-Heresy or 30K. There is no other Space Marine Legion or Chapter I'll rather play with or read about. Grey Knights might be cool, but I guess they are the successor to the Thousand Sons after a fashion, but they lack the cults and variety of psychic powers, being Santic and Daemonhunters. Oh well. But there's something about psychic Marines that appeal to me.

Graham McNeill does their story justice. Magnus is portrayed as a sympathetic character, and you can really identify and feel for the guy. He might be powerful and highly intelligent, but even as a Primarch you can tell that he's far from perfect or far from being a Mary Sue like the usual stereotypes about Primarchs are. Right off the bat, you can see an arrogance in Magnus, especially when he grapples with the snake Daemon in Aghoru. You can see his overconfidence, - the fact that his hubris is what leads to his downfall is clear right from the start. Yet McNeill develops his character so well that you can't help but root for the guy. You can sense his loyalty, his passion for learning, his thirst for knowledge. You can see his strength and power. If only...if only his hubris didn't lead him to Tzeentch. Ugh. And he did what had to be done to save the Thousand Sons from the flesh change. It sucked, but it had to be done. I feel really sad. McNeill has done a good job in making this a tragedy because it is a tragedy. Magnus falls hard even though you don't want him to. You can relate to the guy.

McNeill also does a very good job of fleshing out Ahriman. Ahzek Ahriman is not the two-dimensional two-bit villain that he is often portrayed in campaigns (bloody hell, who the hell scripted his character in Wrath of Magnus?!). Here, he is even more human than Magnus - he, like his brothers, has access to the dangerous but powerful psychic powers of the warp, but you can see his unsurety, his lack of confidence, and the very same fears that plague us mortals. If McNeill hasn't established him as an Astartes from the XV Legion, you'll never know that he's superhuman. Well, aside from the fact that he can harness the aether and cast sorcery, of course. He makes an excellent protagonist who sometimes questions his father and has doubts about the future of his Legion. It makes his fall into the Exiled One all the more tragic - right off the bat you can see what horrors the future lies for him, and the ending - wow. I call this the "Rubric" - and any Thousand Sons fan will know what's coming.

I also like the way Graham McNeill sets the Thousand Sons up against the rest of the Imperium. They are feared as warlocks, sorcerers, misfits who dabble in the occult, yet the hypocrisy of their detractors are clear to see. Montarion with his Death Guard dabbling in the arts of Nurgle. The Space Wolves, the main antagonists, particularly when Leman Russ demands for Magnus's censure, are clearly hypocrites, with Ohthere Wyrdmake being a two-faced, backstabbing, lying, betraying bastard and their use of Rune Priests (oh, they are Rune Priests, not Librarians, and they don't harness the powers of the Warp but some mumbo jumbo that is not corrupt because we say so!). The antagonism brings out the human aspect of the Thousand Sons more, as well as the human side of the Space Marines and the Imperium. These aren't just superhuman soldiers. These are also petty mortals with their politicking and squabbling as they jostle for influence and power.

All in all, I really like how Graham McNeill depicts the Thousand Sons in this novel, making them so human, relatable and delivering an epic tragedy that has you so invested in the characters that you can't help lament their deaths. This is one of the best Horus Heresy novels ever, along with Mechanicum, and I recommend that you read them.

Prospero Burns, on the other hand, is written in a very different style. Dan Abnett has a very distinct writing style from Graham McNeill, and if you're especially reading Prospero Burns immediately after A Thousand Sons, you'll find the sudden change in style jarring. Dan Abnett is a lot more descriptive, and shall I say...a bit slow to get into the meat of the story. Graham McNeill jumps right into the main plot, into the action and stuff, but Dan Abnett is the type to weave more fragmentary narratives that kind of weave around each other until you suddenly find the whole picture falling in place for you in the end. I mean, I love Graham McNeill's selection of Ahzek Ahriman as the protagonist and narrator of A Thousand Sons because he lent the Thousand Sons a very human perspective. There was Lemuel Gaumon to provide the human perspective, but quite frankly he and his friends weren't needed. They ended up fleeing Prospero in the end anyway, so...I gather the only point of their existence in the story was to play the human element and to show what outsiders think of the Thousand Sons. That aspect wasn't exactly developed to its full potential - Lemuel turned out to have psychic potential which Ahriman slowly trains and develops, but he never turns into a full-fledged psyker. Rather, they're there to reflect the changes in the Thousand Sons from benefactors to scary stangers who don't care about the lives of mortals. But even with the death of Kallista, I just don't really feel it, you know? After being absorbed in the perspective of Ahriman and the Thousand Sons, I sympathize with them a lot more than I do with Kallista or Lemuel, who are basically freeloading off the Thousand Sons and doing nothing in Ticza but training or meeting at cafes. Ugh. On the other hand, Prospero Burns excels in the human perspective because we're put into the shoes of Kasper Hawser also known as Ahmad Ibn Rustah. In contrast to McNeill's A Thousand Sons, Abnett's Prospero Burns tells the story entirely from Kasper's perspective. We don't get a glimpse into the minds of the Space Wolves - and to be honest, I'm actually glad for that - but instead we get a coming of age tale of Kasper, who ironically starts off as an eighty-year-old only to be rebuilt into a younger body after a period of eighteen years.

If you ask me to compare, I can't really say Prospero Burns is as good as A Thousand Sons. No, Abnett is definitely a good author, and Prospero Burns is certainly a good read. But do I like it as much as A Thousand Sons? Not really. It kind of meanders and turns. I think the whole point of Prospero Burns was to show what the Imperium thinks of the Space Wolves - as ruthless, merciless, scary, brutal, monstrous, and then to kind of counter that judgement through Kasper's point of view. Now I like Kasper's character. I like him a lot as a protagonist. Abnett definitely develops him very well as a protagonist, allowing room for growth not just in the physical sense but also in terms of maturity. There are a few nice twists here and there that help tie what seems like a meandering, fragmentary narrative together into a single cohesive whole, but when all is said and done, they do seem a bit unnecessary. I mean, Kasper being saved by Fith was awesome. Don't get me wrong. I like that scene, and Fith as a normal man fighting against all odds, and eventually becoming a Space Wolf was a touch I really like. But the story should be titled Kasper Hawser or The Tale of Kasper Hawser because quite frankly, it really doesn't get much into the burning of Prospero until the very end. Instead we get all these hints at subterfuge, at how Kasper had been unknowingly used by the Great Enemy to become a double agent or unwilling operative all this time, and how the Wolves are ruthless when they're not. We do get some sympathy for the Wolves, but the only characters you feel for are Kasper and Fith. The other Wolves just come and go. It's kind of different from A Thousand Sons where every Captain of the Fellowships and different cults feel distinctive, have their own colorful personalities which are further enhanced by their separate powers. You can't help but grin at Khalophis's fiery agressiveness. You cheer for Phosis T'kar's reckless charge with his telekinetic powers only to mourn his tragic death at the hands of the Custodes and Space Wolves. You can't help but be moved by the tragedy of young but wise Baleq Uthizzar. You share the fears and cocky confidence of Hathor Maat. You appreciate the wisdom of Ahzek Ahriman and partake in his worries about his legion. You even feel sorry for Magnus when he commits that massive error of breaking into the Golden Throne, only to realize that his hubris has ruined everything.

You don't feel any of that for the Space Wolves. Other than Fith, who you cheer for as he saves Kasper as a mere man in the beginning, and the engimatic Bear whose name Kasper didn't correctly capture, and the couple of Rune Priests (the kindly Longfang, Ulvurul Heoroth and Aun Helwinter, but the latter is pretty much forgettable other than your usual, typical cliched wise priest), the rest of the Space Wolves are pretty much forgettable. They just blend in together and you can in fact pass them off for each other without realizing the difference. Sure this guy died...but so did the other guy. They both died glorious deaths. Yay. Let's talk about them as a Skajd. Uh...what were their names again? Doesn't matter because there really isn't anything distinctive about them as Space Wolves. They truly are wolves, you know? You can't tell them apart from the other, except for Fith.

Even Leman Russ is this godlike figure who...well, you just don't feel for him. I guess you're supposed to be annoyed at his arrogance, especially when you see how eager he is to smash Magnus, but truthfully, the guy is...well, he's just not as well done, fully fleshed out or developed as Magnus. And it's funny because it's Magnus who falls while Russ remains loyal. But you don't get the same sense of tragedy here, you don't lament Russ's anger because...he's quite frankly a very one-dimensional character as the Wolf King, you just don't connect or feel for Russ. He's a godlike Primarch and that's all Kasper needs to know. Sure, there's the part in the end where Russ talks to him to honor his contributions to the Rout, but all in all you just don't get the saem sense of attachment to Russ as you do for Magnus and his tragic fall.

In that sense, A Thousand Sons is the superior novel. That's not taking anything away from Prospero Burns, however. It is still a good book. Abnett is a master of weaving many fragmentary narratives together into a single coherent whole and dropping a number of good twists to leave you in suspense. And truthfully, it's not so much the story of the Space Wolves razing Prospero as it is the role of Kasper Hawser in playing a major part in the burning of Prospero. As I said, the novel can be named The Tale of Kasper Hawser and it would have been fine as it is. It has a lot more to do with the machinations that led Kasper to the events of the razing of Prospero rather than the burning of Prospero itself. That's the strength, however. By personalizing such a major event through the eyes of a single human character because such a huge scope can't be captured by multiple characaters (funnily A Thousand Sons does succeed there, but never mind), we get a very personal tale. Actually, I don't even know what I'm talking about here, I guess I'm trying to say that Prospero Burns's strength lies in the personalization of the huge narrative through a single character in contrast to A Thousand Sons's wider scope.

The short stories on the other hand...though written by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Chris Wraight, Guy Haley and Graham McNeill..most of them are quite frankly, forgettable. You can get by without reading them, but I guess that's the point of short stories. The only short story worth reading, in my opinion, is Thief of Revelations by...you guess it, Graham McNeill. Chris Wraight's Rebirth is actually not bad, to be honest, but the other two, Howl of the Hearthworld and Hunter's Moon are not exactly very interesting. I'm not saying this because they're told from the perspective of the Space Wolves. I mean, I don't mind reading Space Wolves stories such as Battle of the Fang, which I have yet to read, but the problem is that neither of them is related to the razing of Prospero.

Howl of the Hearthworld is...boring. Nothing happens. It's about ten pages long, and just talks about how Space Wolves work. Basically, a bunch of Space Wolves are sent to Terra to guard Rogal Dorn and the Imperial Fists as a watchpack or something, and they're not happy about it because they want to take part in the war. At that time they didn't think Terra will ever fall to war. Anyway, they argue with Russ, Russ says "frak you, just obey me." They obey, get on a ship, talk to this scribe - who ironically is the most interesting character in the short story, who tries to get their names. Then you get these pointless accounts of how each Space Wolf got their names, and how they're amused when the scribe records their "fake" names without realizing it. I don't get the joke, and I relate to the scribe, Prelate Quilym Yei, more than the Space Wolves. A very pointless account, and you're not missing anything if you don't read it. Seriously nothing of note happens.

On the other hand, Rebirth by Chris Wraight is an intriguing account that tells of the Fourth Fellowship of the Thousand Sons returning to Prospero after it was razed. They descend to the devastated surface in an attempt to find clues as to what transpired here, only to be attacked by the World Eaters. The who squad is wiped out, with only Revuel Arvida surviving. There's a few nice twists here and there with Brother-Captain Menes Kalliston beginning the narration in first person and a few switches here and there in the forms of flashback, and the sudden revelation that Kalliston's captor is a World Eater and not the Space Wolf he thought he was. This one is worth a read, so if you want to find out what happens to Prospero afterward, or if there are any survivors of the Thousand Sons (I mean loyalists), particularly the ones who weree away when the Space Wolves attacked, then yeah, read this. Apparently there's a link to the Blood Ravens in the Dawn of War series here, but I don't know. Other than Arvida's "knowledge is power" and his raven mark, I don't know where to make the connection, but it would be interesting if there was one. Additionally, there's some story where Revuel Arvida was fused with a shard of Magnus and becomes Janus, the first grand master of the Grey Knights, but I haven't read that story firsthand so I don't know about it.

Hunter's Moon is interesting, but ultimately it doesn't tie into the Razing of Prospero because it's just a Space Wolf crashing into the sea, saved by three humans, only to end up getting killed. Okay, it's a funny story, and a lot more interesting than Howl of the Hearthwood because something actually happens and the end put a smile on my face. Basically, Torbjorn and his pack of brothers discovered that the Alpha Legion had turned to Chaos, and attacked them. Most of them ended up killed by the Alpha Legion, but Torbjorn managed to kill Alpharius...or so he thinks. When I read how he was telling the three humans how he slew Alpharius, I burst out laughing. I admit, I actually laughed at that. The first thought that came to my mind was, "you thought you slew Alpharius, but it was I, his double!" (sorry, Jojo reference) And then when the Alpha Legion arrived in the end, and Alpharius walked out, very much alive, I grinned at Torbjorn's shock and his demise. Man, that was hilarious as hell. Hey, this is Alpharius we're talking about here. You think you killed him? Don't delude yourself.

But...while a fun and entertaining read (well, in the end, anyway, the beginning was boring as hell, and seriously there was no need to narrate how the mortals saved Torbjorn from the downed Thunderhawk or the whole pretentious sailor seafaring narration), it has nothing to do with The Razing of Prospero. Prospero is not mentioned here, neither is the Thousand Sons. It's the Alpha Legion instead, but...yeah. You can skip it if you want, or read it on its own. Actually, you should read it as an Alpha Legion short story, not a Space Wolf short story and certainly not a Prospero one.

The last one, Thief of Revelations, certainly lacks the action, twists and fun of Rebirth and Hunter's Moon, but it actually is the most relevant story to The Razing of Prospero. It tells the tale of Ahriman and friends during their time in the Planet of Sorcerers. More of their brethren have fallen to the flesh change, but their Primarch, Magnus, does nothing. However, Magnus has a reason - he knows that trying to look for a solution would be temporary, just as when he bargained with Chaos to save them, it was but a temporary measure. Therefore he looked for other stuff, more profound stuff to think about. This therefore ties in nicely with Ahriman's path to exile as he proceeds toward the plan of the Rubric without the supervision of his uncaring father. It is, as I said, the most relevant short story to the Razing of Prospero, and worth the read. Especially if you want to know the fate of the Thousand Sons shortly after Prospero's fall, and before they turned into Rubric Marines. It gives deeper insight into Ahriman's motivations and decisions, and why he walked upon the path of no return and eventually exile. How he turned from the favorite son into the exiled one.

So yeah, I would definitely recommend you get The Razing of Prospero package, which nicely wraps up these stories into a single awesome package. If you've already gotten A Thousand Sons and Prospero Burns, there is no need to get this. The short stories are not worth it...if you really want, just get Thief of Revelations or maybe Rebirth as well. Hunter's Moon you should get if you're into Alpha Legion short stories, but Howl of the Heathworld, I'm sorry to say, is a waste of time and space.

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