Horus Heresy Book Review: Deathfire, by Nick Kyme

Deathfire-eBookThe book tells the tale of the XVIII Legion as they return to Nocturne with the body of their Primarch, Vulkan. Following on from the events that take place in The Unremembered Empire, Deathfire is a tragic tale, for the Salamanders have lost much, including many of their battle-brothers and the father of their legion who, for the first time, has not recovered from his wounds. It’s a harrowing journey for Artellus Numeon, former Captain of the Pyre Guard, who must lead his brothers against some of the most horrific foes the Emperor’s warriors have ever faced.”

After what feels like an eternity of novellas, anthologies, audio and eBooks, following the bombastic The Unremembered Empire and Vengeful Spirit, the Salamanders take centre stage in a full length Horus Heresy novel. No more filler, shattered legions and timeline hopping, as Nick Kyme takes up the plot on Macragge and Imperium Secundus, to give the series a much needed forward thrust.

This is the 2nd book in a trilogy, Vulkan Lives being the 1st, and after a whole novel showing the immortal nature of the Primarch, it was quite a shock at the end of The Unremembered Empire to see him undone by those pesky Perpetuals, with the enigmatic Word Bearer, Barthusa Narek, left holding the blame. The author touches on the fragile nature of the second front, with Roboute Guilliman believing that Terra and the Emperor lost, cut off by warps storms, the only way forward is to sit, wait and consolidate, with Sanguinius as the figurehead, and a cautious Lion El’Jonson at his side. The band of brothers, after the betrayal of the traitors, clearly having trust issues. He also handles the censured Ultramarine, Aeonid Thiel, with aplomb, as we witness him going off piste to deal with traitors still lingering in Ultramar.

CIvfEK_WsAAyoxrArriving on Macragge, the Salamanders. also not happy at the idea of staying put, and mourning the loss of their Father, decide that action is the best course, and led by Artellus Numeon’s visions of mountains and fires, trust in their strength and plunge into the ruinstorm, to return Vulkan to the earth of Nocturne. Flashbacks to Isstvan V, and the journey through the various stages of grief, show a legion utterly broken and struggling to come to grips with their place in the galaxy. The Iron Hands may have lost their Primarch, but are still at relative legion strength, and with Corax rebuilding the Raven Guard, you really feel for the Salamanders and the crippling betrayal they suffered.

Diving into the warp, and pursued by the Word Bearers, who put out a call to arms due to the precious nature of the cargo being carried , the author conveys the absolute horror of warp travel that hasn’t been matched on paper since The Flight of the Eisenstein by James Swallow, and The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. I’d watched Event Horizon the week before, and like that fantastic film, the absolute horror of the crew being faced with their worst fears is conveyed with style. Even the usually robust Astartes are not exempt, and the narrative use of Sirens from Greek mythology is perfect.

Daemons, traitor legions, an unexpected Primarch, and even one of Malcador’s Knights Errant, with their incredible plot armour and ability to traverse the ruinstorm, pop up throughout the pursuit, and help ramp up the drama levels. As with most Horus Heresy novels, it’s a case of show and don’t tell, so you will be left with more questions than answers. However, the story is set up to be advanced again, more pieces are moved on the chess board, and we eagerly await the 3rd installment, and more proper novels which push towards Terra and the inevitable end. Which I believe include Rob Sanders continuing the story on Mars, Graham McNeill tackling The Crimson King, ADB taking up the mantle of the webway project on Terra, Gav Thorpe handling the Dark Angels and events Caliban, Chris Wraight with a sequel to the excellent Scars and Dan Abnett carrying Imperium Secundus forward.