Author: Graham McNeill
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 2 July 2007
Genre: Science Fiction/War
Source: Personal Collection
“Under the command of the newly appointed Warmaster Horus, the Great Crusade continues. Fulgrim, Primarch of the Emperor’s Children, leads his warriors into battle against a vile alien foe, unaware of the darker forces that have already set their sights upon the Imperium of Man. Loyalties are tested, and every murderous whim indulged as the Emperor’s Children take their first steps down the road to true corruption – a road that will ultimately lead them to the killing fields of Isstvan V…” – Black Library’s synopsis of Fulgrim.
I have buddied up with fellow book reader and reviewer Dave, from Wordaholic Anonymous for my Horus Heresy reads and when his review of Fulgrim is written up and shared I shall link to it here also.
Fulgrim is the 5th book in the Horus Heresy series and shows the events of the unfolding Heresy from the viewpoint of Fulgrim, Primarch of the Emperors Children – a fact that you’re not allowed to forget as this nugget of information is rammed down your throat every few pages! Fulgrim documents the fall from grace of the Primarch and his Legion and takes the reader on a joy-ride of hedonistic proportions.
I struggled with Fulgrim initially and found it somewhat a drudge to get started, but around the 200 pages mark it picks up the pace and get infinitely better – the plot deepens and the characters that felt somewhat one dimensional prior start to build personalities of their own. As the title suggests, Fulgrim is about the Primarch of the Emperors Children and it was great to read a book in the Horus Heresy in which one of the Emperors sons takes the centre stage.
Not to say that the other characters aren’t enjoyable; as this book takes place pre and post the events of first four books in the Horus Heresy, it’s nice to see some of the other characters in previous books have a little more depth given too them. Including Captain Demeter who we only get brief glimpses of in Galaxy in Flames. The characters grow into their own as the book progresses and it’s nice to see them develop. At the beginning of Fulgrim, the other characters all feel rather bland and differing only in name, as the novel progresses they take on their distinct personalities and grow into wonderful characters in their own rights. Mostly, I am looking at Julius and Marius, two of Fulgrims Captains. We’re also ‘treated’ to more of Lucius, the insufferable swordsman who is established well in Galaxy of Flames.
Along for the ride are the usual handful of human mortals; who bring about a vital role in Fulgrim and, as ever, for me they are as fascinating as the Space Marines and I found the role that they played and how it mirrored the Legion they’d been sent to serve an extremely interesting addition to the book.
We’re also introduced to the Xenos race the Eldar for the first time during Fulgrim and while it was brief, I did find them a pleasure to read about – so much so, I am interested to pick up other books about the Eldar race.
What happens to Fulgrim throughout this book is nothing short of horrible and even though his fate is mostly self inflicted, I felt really sorry for him and his fate. As mentioned, it is horrible, but Fulgrim as a book doesn’t pull it’s punches. Fulgrim makes the previous offerings of the Horus Heresy feel like a walk in the park on a warm sunny day. There are scenes in this book that would make the more faint-hearted reader queasy and McNeills descriptions during these nightmarish scenes are a real strength to the book. As the book reaches it’s climax, so too does the horror that the reader has to encounter and I found these elements to the book a real page turner; which is why I say the book get better the further you read. But, I personally like all that grizzly stuff in my fiction when it is as well written and considered as it is in Fulgrim. Fulgrim is a lot more mature than the previous offerings of the Horus Heresy series and some of the scenes in it are deeply disturbing – carefully concealed scenes of rape, bodily mutilation and wanton murder are just a handful of the more depraved depictions within and while the previous books in the Horus Heresy aren’t exactly friendly I do feel that Fulgrim steps the ‘horror’ notch up a few levels, so that is something to be aware of if you’re not too familiar with the series.
I did find myself getting somewhat tired of reading the descriptions of Fulgrims magnificence and how perfectly polished his armour was. These, along with the constant reminder that he is the Primarch of the Emperors Children, got a little tiresome and unwarranted.
Fulgrim finally treats us to the large scale battle of Istvaan V between the heretics and loyalists, but I felt like this vital part to the story was somewhat glossed over and very brief – I felt like a lot more depth could have been given to this pivotal battle as well as the rather epic duel that takes place during it.
Fulgrim is a great tale and I found it a joy to read (Once it got going) but as it is longer than the other books in the Horus Heresy so far, I do wonder if it could have benefited from being split into two books and lengthened further – giving McNeill more time to explore the elements of the story that felt rushed; such as the supposed epic battle at the end of the book.
I am also now confused, as a few of the Horus Heresy books have mentioned that Space Marines get their ribs broken, but I was under the impression that their rib cages have fused together into one solid plate…