False Gods: Book 2 of the Horus Heresy

Written by Graham McNeill and originally released of June 2006 False Gods is the second book in the Horus Heresy series.  The cast of characters is very much the same as within the first book and even with the change in authors these characters still feel like the same ones from the first book.  That is with the one glaring exception of Horus himself.  Please don’t get me wrong, I know that for the Horus Heresy to happen it is necessary for Horus to commit Heresy, I simply didn’t find the sudden way in which it occurs within this book overly gratifying or believable.

Similarly to the first book this story revolves largely around Garviel Loken, Captain of the 10th company of the Sons of Horus Space Marines.  The remembrancers assigned to the expedition that featured in the first novel are also prevalent in this story.  The worship of the Emperor, which was seen in one or two characters in the first book, explodes as the tragedy of Horus’s near death causes the mortal members of the 63rd expedition to turn somewhere for guidance and hope.  The fighting on Davin 3, one of the planet of Davin’s moons, is particularly interesting as we see the forces of Chaos in large numbers for the first time in the series.  Here the entire imperial force that assigned to govern Davin has been converted into forces of Nurgle, mainly plague zombies.  This part of the book is very interesting and overall False Gods does a great job of both keeping the action going and forwarding the over arching story of the Horus Heresy.

I did enjoy this book and will certainly continue to read the Horus Heresy series but I’m still a bit sour about how quickly Horus decided to turn his back on the Emperor and attempt to put himself in charge of the destiny of mankind.  Next up: Galaxy in Flames!

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Angels of Darkness

Angels of Darkness is a Horus Heresy related book from Black Library written by Gav Thorpe and originally published in 2003.  I say Heresy related because the main story of the book takes place in the 41st millennium and not in the time of Horus.  This book tells two stories in parallel much like the other two Warhammer 40,000 books I have recently reviewed.  The story follows Boreas, an Interrogator-Chaplain within the inner circle of the Dark Angles Space Marines.  Being an Interrogator-Chaplain means that Boreas has a secret duty to the Dark Angels to which all but the other members of the inner circle are ignorant: to hunt down and capture the Fallen.  The Fallen are former members of the Dark Angels who sided with Luther against Lion El’Jonson 10,000 years ago.

We follow Boreas first in the past as he interviews a former Chapter Commander, now a captured Fallen, in an attempt to make him repent so that he can be given a quick and painless death.  The story then jumps forward to the present where Boreas is posted on Piscina IV where he soon finds that a group of Fallen are behind all of the trouble in the area.  The story continues to transition between these two story lines as the mystery on Piscina IV unfolds and Boreas gains more information from his captive in the past.

Gav Thorpe does a good job making the Space Marines, obviously far beyond normal humans in so many ways, seem very human and at times almost vulnerable (blasphemy for a Space Marine I know) although these moments normally quickly pass and are followed by blowing things up and killing enemies in profusion.

I enjoyed this book and would like to read others by Mr. Thorpe in the future, the next of which will probably be Deliverance Lost when I get to that point in the Horus Heresy series.  I highly recommend this book to any fan of the Dark Angels and the Warhammer 40,000 setting.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Descent of Angels

Although Descent of Angels is the sixth book in the Horus Heresy series from The Black Library the story itself is really more of a prequel to the Heresy timeline.  Those looking forward to reading about what happens next with Horus and the Imperium of Man will possibly be frustrated by this fact but if you are willing to take this book for what it is, a stand-alone book that tells the origin story of the Dark Angels Space Marines, this is a very enjoyable read.

I decided to read this book directly after reading Horus Rising because I knew it was a prequel and because I wanted to know more about the Dark Angels in preparation for the Savage Worlds Campaign we here at the Goblin

Beat will soon be playing.  As such I went into reading this book with a clear understanding of what I was getting myself into and more than a little excited to read about the origins of one of my favorite Space Marine Chapters.  Like Horus Rising this book is told from the perspective of a relatively minor player in the overall story of the Dark Angels, this time a young man named Zahariel.

The majority of this book takes place on the world of Caliban, and is more post-apocalyptic fantasy than science fiction.  The book opens with the story of how Zahariel is accepted as an Aspirant to The Order, a knightly organization run by Lion El’Jonson and Luther.  The Lion is already a giant of a man and leads The Order in fighting the Great Beasts, creatures mutated by the Warp or some other power into man-killing beasts of mythical power.

The turning point in the story comes when the Imperium arrives on Caliban and the Lion finds out that he is in fact not a normal man but a Primarch, created by the Emperor of Mankind to lead his Adeptus Astartes (Space Marines) and from who’s very genetic code new Space Marines would be modeled.  Here Zahariel is brought fully into the world of Warhammer 40k and the world of Caliban is forever changed from a world covered in trees and home to knights to the home-world of the Dark Angels.

The author does a good job showing the relationship between Luther and El’Jonson and mirroring that relationship with Zahariel and his cousin Nemiel.  Both relationships are a blend of brotherhood with an undercurrent of jealousy that slowly erodes.

There is a genuine sense of loss at the end of the story as Luther is sent away in what amounts to exile on Caliban where he and a selected group of Dark Angels are to oversee the training of new Space Marines.  This schism sets the stage for the eventual destruction of Caliban and the loss of the Lion.

I truly enjoyed the depictions of Caliban and the humanity given to all of the main characters.  It was interesting to see a Primarch trying to live life as a normal man with no understanding of his true origins or destiny and then to see him lifted up to the purpose for which he was created.

As with the first book I read in this series I found myself excited to read more.  I recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of the Space Marines, especially the Dark Angels.  This novel does more to give background and depth to the overall Horus story than it does moving the actual story forward, so for those only interested in the core Horus Heresy story-line it would be okay to skip this novel but I would urge you to at least give it a chance.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

#046 Interview with Bruce Cordell

This week we sit down with Bruce Cordell, author and D&D Next designer as we talk about the Far Realm and several of his books including Plague of Spells, City of Torment, Key of Stars from the Abolethic Sovereignty series and Sword of the Gods and the recently released Spinner of Lies.  Also check out our review of Spinner of Lies while you are at it.

 

We appreciate any and all 5-star reviews on iTunes and likes on Facebook. Tell your friends about the show and send any comments, questions or ideas to podcast@goblinbeat.com

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Horus Rising

Way back in the golden days of my youth there was a time when I commanded squads of the Emperor’s chosen warriors as they fought their way through various fields of battle, killing Orks, Tyranids, Eldar and the dreaded forces of Chaos.  Then I graduated from college and no longer had the necessary time to spend constructing and painting Warhammer 40k miniatures, much less actually playing the game.  I never lost my love of the game or the setting though, and recently I discovered that not long after I stopped playing a series of books started being published about one of the most pivotal moments in the future/history of 40k: The Horus Heresy.

Horus Rising is the first book in this series and focuses on Horus and his legion of Space Marines soon after the Emperor has declared Horus Warmaster and placed him in charge of finishing the job of bringing the rest of the galaxy into compliance with the Empire’s ideals.  The story is told mostly from the perspective of Garviel Loken, Captain of the 10th company of the Luna Wolves Space Marines.  Loken is an up and coming officer at the beginning of the book and finds himself embroiled in the middle of most of the fighting and intrigue as the story progresses.

As the first book in what was going to be a fairly large series by Black Library (the company that publishes all Warhammer 40k books) this book also bears the burden of setting up the state of the universe for the reader.  This is done amazingly well and I am confident any reader coming fresh into the 40k world would be able to follow the story line with little or no difficulty.  Great levels of detail are given about the state of the Imperium of Man, the location of troops, the relationship between Horus and the other Primarchs (the god-like super humans upon whom all space marines are based), and the make-up of Horus’s battle fleet.  What is more, all of this context is given in a way that continues to drive the story forward, keeping the action from stalling while the author gives pages of detail.

Speaking of action this book is full of it, which is exactly what a fan of the Warhammer 40k video games or table-top games would expect.  The Space Marines are every bit as powerful and impressive within Horus Rising as they are in these other settings.  Almost unstoppable, the marines are the supreme fighting force we all know and love.  Lose a hand in the middle of a fight?  Put it in a bag and use the other one!  You can always get it put back on later.  In battle after battle the marines march forward with equal parts indomitable will and awe-inspiring weaponry no matter when or where they must fight.

Horus Rising takes place in on three separate planets as well as the space ships used to transport the fleet from one location to another.  Each planet is a unique and interesting back-drop to the story being told and has unique challenges for Loken and the rest of the Luna Wolves to overcome.  My favorite planet from the book was probably Murder, but with a name like that how could you not like it?

I really enjoyed this book and will most likely be reviewing several more in the series in the coming weeks.  The only real issue I had was that there seemed to be two completely separate stories within this book with no real overarching cohesion between the two other than the main characters.  Both stories were interesting but it felt a bit confusing having the two completely different stories juxtaposed within one novel.  Perhaps this is just a product of being the first book in a larger series and will make more sense as the overall story of the Horus Heresy unfolds.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

The Dungeon Survival Handbook

Into the Unknown: The Dungeon Survival Handbook is a D&D 4e supplemental guide that goes along with the most recent season of D&D Encounters.  This guide is divided into sections providing general information about dungeons and has sections that will be interesting to players and others geared more towards dungeon masters.  There has been some grumbling about this because there are large sections of this guide that are useless to you no matter which side of the DM screen you sit.  This is a valid criticism and were I a player that never ran games I wouldn’t be overly happy with the book since only the first few sections give information that is strictly for players.

What’s inside?

For players the first few sections of this book contain all of the juicy bits.  First and foremost for my players were the new races.  There are three new playable races including Goblins, Kobolds and Svirfneblin.  Goblins as player characters got everyone here at Crimson Bastards particularly excited to the point that we will be running a one-shot adventure very soon featuring goblin characters.  There are also a few new character themes and backgrounds which are dungeon and underdark related and give a little extra color to your dungeon oriented characters.

Most of the remainder of the book gives general information about dungeons: who/what creates them, what you might find inside of them, the different types of dungeons etc.  There are also some interesting notes sprinkled throughout the book with tidbits about the history of dungeons throughout all editions of D&D and how they have affected the game going forward.  I found the history of the Far Realms section extremely interesting as my entire current campaign sprouted from the idea of using D&D’s version of the Great Old Ones to kick things off.

There was a time in D&D when the best thing about any book, especially a DM related book, was the back of the book where all of the appendices and tables were kept.  It was possible to spend an entire gaming session making rolls for random treasure and creating unique magical items for party members.  The back of this book therefore took me back to those glorious days when I found the appendix for random dungeon creation.  Here you can roll for the creator and master of the dungeon, the followers and the monsters that dwell within the dungeon itself.  There are even tables of quirks to help you to give the dungeon a more interesting feel.  Where my players have been solely focused on the Goblin entry of this book all of my time and excitement has been here, in the back of the book.  These tables are great even if you don’t want to use random generation as they give you lists to choose from for each part of the dungeon and help to get you thinking of what fun things you can add to make yours unique and exciting.

Verdict

This book is definitely a niche product.  If you are a player then the worth of the volume is fairly limited unless you plan on handing it to  your DM (which is okay, DMs love free books to help them think of ways to kill you…I mean challenge you) to use as a source of inspiration.  If you are a DM planning to create some dungeons for your own campaign then this book might be for you.  The writers obviously spent a great deal of time coming up with some of the most fun and interesting ideas out there and it can only help to have this book at your side as you plan your next adventure.

Rating: ★★★¾☆ 

Book Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole

Stephen King is a wonderful writer. No doubt of that. He’s sold millions of novels over his long writing career. My personal favorite has been “The Dark Tower” series. I’ve spend many a good hour with Roland Deschain, Mid-World’s last “Gunslinger” as he journeyed across his post apocalyptic World in search of the elusive Dark Tower and the final confrontation with the his nemesis the “Crimson King”

After this conflict, I thought that Roland would put his guns down forever and ride off into the sunset of literary fame, with Stephen King resting on the laurels of this huge and practically life long writing achievement. Then I heard about “The Wind Through the Keyhole”

As it turns out, this 8th book in the Dark Tower series is actual “sequentially” book IV.V since it takes place after Roland’s tet escapes the Green Palace at the end of Wizard and Glass, and before they reach Calla Bryn Sturgis, setting for Wolves of the Calla.

Using this technique of “pre-quelling” or back writing as I like to call it, King fills in some more of Roland’s childhood through another unique bit of writing…telling a story within a story…within ANOTHER story. And a delightful and delicious piece of writing!

Roland is stuck in a small town with his “Tet” of people during a “Starkblast” a huge and supremely dangerous ice storm which can freeze and kill anything in it’s path. It’s during this storm that King’s writing creativity kicks in and he unfolds his trifecta of stories in one book. Continue reading “Book Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole”

Dad Reviews: Red Dragon Codex

We have been going through a definite dinosaur/dragon fest at my house lately. My son recently brought home a book titled “Bronze Dragon Codex” from his school library and showed it to me.  I flipped the book over and started reading the back, mainly because you don’t hear much about bronze dragons outside of D&D, and quickly realized the setting of the book was Krynn, the world of Dragonlance.  I also soon found out that the first book in the series was Red Dragon Codex by Rebecca Shelley and R. D. Henham, so my son and I went to the library website to reserve it so we could start at the beginning.

First off, if you are an adult and have never read any Dragonlance books, I implore you to get a copy of the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  Those novels are amazing and forged the world of Krynn into what it is in these Codex books.  If however you are or have a young adult or you have already read the Chronicles then go ahead and pick up this book.  It is completely enjoyable without any prior knowledge of Krynn and as such makes a great entry-point for new readers. Continue reading “Dad Reviews: Red Dragon Codex”

Dad Reviews: Kenny and the Dragon

Back in the late nineties my friends and I got our hands on the Planescape box set for second edition Dungeons and Dragons.  There were tons of things about the set that were compelling, immersive and just plain cool.  But what I remember most about all of it now looking back is the art work.  Something about it made me love everything to do with Planescape and to this day I can’t look at a single drawing from that set without feeling nostalgia.  The tiefling first illustrated there is still my idea of how a tiefling should look despite the changes made in the newer editions of Dungeons and Dragons.

Well it turns out that the artist responsible for all that wonderful work in Planescape went on to also become a writer.  Many of you will know Tony DiTerlizzi for his work as a co-author for The Spiderwick Chronicles.  I have yet to read any of those books with my kids but I have watched the movie with them and they really enjoyed it so it might be worth a review in the future.

One of my sons has a real love for anything dragon or dinosaur related along with a love of bedtime stories so we spend a good bit of time reading different books every week.  Recently while looking on Amazon for new books I came across this one by the aforementioned Tony DiTerlizzi.  At 151 pages it was longer than our normal bedtime story which can be read in a few minutes before bed.  As a result I had to spend some time explaining that we would read some each night before bed until we finished it.  Once that idea sunk in though the reading of this book was wonderful.

Every night while we were reading it my son would rush into his room at bedtime and grab the book, bring it to me and then hop on his bed so we could get back to Kenny and Grahame (like the cracker).  The illustrations are a great way to break up story reading and getting to the next one was one of my three-year old’s big reasons for always wanting to read more of the book.

The story moves along quickly and all of the characters are well fleshed out, feeling realistic and helping to drive the story along naturally.  I also really appreciated the mentions several other books get within the story as Kenny all of the main characters are book lovers and constantly talking about great books they are reading or have read, all the way from Gilgamesh to The Reluctant Dragon.

Kenny and the Dragon is a wonderful book and a great addition to any family’s collection.  It worked well for us as a bedtime story but older children will enjoy reading it themselves.  Give it a try, you will not be disappointed.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Understanding the Abyssal Plague

Over the past year or so I’m sure most of you, like me, have seen new D&D novels coming out marked as part of the Abyssal Plague series of books.  I’ve done a fairly decent job keeping up with reading all of these and have found them fairly enjoyable.  I have even been pleasantly surprised by some of the tangentially related off-shoot novels ( Sword of The Gods) but when I found out the last book in the core trilogy was coming out in April I realized I have no idea how many other books are in the series and in what order I would need to read them.  So, like any good engineer I sat down and made a diagram of the books in this series to help me wrap my head around it.

Continue reading “Understanding the Abyssal Plague”