Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nemesis - Book Review

Nemesis - James Swallow

After the horrors of Istvaan V, Horus declares outright war against the Imperium. In the shadows of the Emperor's Palace, powerful figures convene.Their plan is to send a team of assassins to execute the arch-traitor Horus and end the war for the galaxy of mankind before it's even begun. But what they cannot know is that another assassin is abroad already, with his sights firmly set on killing the Emperor.

Nemesis is the latest in the Black Library Horus Heresy series, this book by James Swallow takes a look at the Horus Heresy from a slightly different and more secretive perspective, and actually explains some of the characters and organisations we know from “modern day” fiction and background. This novel takes a major step back from the front lines, where the legions, fleets and men and women of the Imperial Guard do battle, this novel takes a look at the microscopic level of planning and execution that takes place when the Emperors scalpel is used. The novel concentrates on the Imperium's temples of assassins, each temple is unique with their own styles, methodologies and internal politics. Some are familiar and some not so, but all have been tasked to work together to hunt the most prized of traitors, the Warmaster Horus.

The novel is appears a simple concept but is actually made up of three interwoven stories, which all duck and weave around one another to bring the whole thing together to a point. The main story follows the assassins' as they for their Execution team from their respective temples. It follows the team and their overlords as they plan and organise their team and the task ahead. The second thread is almost a complete novel in itself, it follows local law enforcement as they track a series of evolving murders across their planet and eventually uncover the plans of a chaos bred assassin. The third thread to run through the book is the theme of the heresy and the growing tensions across the galaxy, from the planetary and “local” level, across the forces of the Legions and right up to the chambers of the Imperial Palace.

The Execution Force made up of one assassin from each of the major `clade' or Temples are drawn together and then sent to a system with underlying loyalties to Horus to await their target. Despite their numerous idiosyncrasies and their obtuse attitude the diversity of characters allow for a number of perspectives of the job, and as their plan unfolds the relationships between the assassins develop in surprising and humanising ways. Most importantly though the underlying tenets of the imperial faith start to appear and help in the shaping of the assassins attitudes.

The other chaos bred assassin is a real horror he is a being twisted by Chaos and malice into a perfect killing machine by the darkness of Erebus and he has been set on the road with one purpose, killing the Emperor. Trained in very different and sinister methods, almost spiritual methods, this monster cuts a swathe of carnage over the course of its mission. The climax is where the two sets of assassins meet and play their dance out to the end around the scenes of a Legion at war.

The final thread looks at the simmering under currents of hate, fear and resentment on the planets that are in the path of the battle fleets and of the people that fear what might come next. The fear and ineptitude of some of the establishments in the book are plain to see, but others less so almost until it is too late. It’s also good to see the conflicts of words within the Imperial Palace in this novel, and it features as much as the fighting and really sets the novel apart from some of the previous novels.

The Horus Heresy series is improving in leaps and bounds and the writing style of James Swallow has come on in the same manner too. All the disjointed threads and ideals work together and with his writing style flow in to a nice and cohesive novel that really pulls you in further to the whole Heresy saga. As the novel deals with a different side of the Heresy I think the novel really works and is worthy of a good solid 4.5 stars. A great addition to the series.

Available from:

Nemesis - James Swallow
softback, 416pp • ISBN 9781844168682


Aldonis said...

So - at the end - did you take away that Dorn had warned Horus about the assassins? I somewhat did - but not being a big fan of Dorn in the fluff - interested in someone else's thoughts.

Thanks for doing the review....

Millest said...

Most definately. I also get the impression that dorn either doesnt know where he stands yet when it comes to side or that he is hoping to single handedly resolve the whole problem. Basically he comes across as arrogant and strangely naive, in short as much as I like dorn before I now can't stand him almost as much as I can't stand Erebus!

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