I read Pharos, the 34th book in the Horus Heresy series, by Guy Haley in about four days. I got to a certain point in the audiobook where I couldn’t put it down. And since the narrator, John Banks, was so frickin’ amazing telling the story, I didn’t want to simply read the book. I downloaded the Audible app on to my TV and listened to the rest of the book while folding laundry. I also had my Kindle open so I could make highlights and take notes. My kids thought I was insane. Maybe I was. Regardless, without a doubt, Pharos is one of the best books in the latter half of the HH, possibly THE best book in Hereticum Secundus. It beats out The Unremembered Empire for one reason. If you’ve read this column up to this point, you know exactly what that one reason is.
Like a Bug Zapper in the Night…
The Pharos itself is a giant beacon of light, in great reductive terms. The end of the book strongly suggests that this is what attracted the tyranids to the galaxy or at the very least, this is what woke them up. But the Pharos attracted another group of monsters, which should shock no one that the beacon would attract traitor legions.
Unfortunately for the Ultramar system, it attracted the worst of them—Night Lords. They have no idea what the Pharos is, but they don’t entirely care. It’s shiny, it’s new, and the Ultramarines have it. Therefore, they want it. Welcome to the Hunger Games.
The way the Night Lords stalk their quarries—they’re not enemies, they’re more prey than anything else—is incredibly terrifying. I foolishly hoped that the Ultramarines who stumbled upon the Night Lords on the orbital station would survive. I at least wanted Caias to survive. I choked a sob when Skraivok tossed Caias’ head at Captain Lethicus’ feet. You killed the funny guy? The guy who said “We float for Macragge”? That guy? You’re all monsters.
The Sargent in charge of the raw neophytes was also killed? The guy who was laughably giving flying lessons to the young scouts while the Night Lords were shooting him down? Why do you all hate the funny guys?
At least Curze acknowledges they were and are monsters. Well, he begrudgingly acknowledges it.
Always they had been regarded as villains of the blackest degree, even though their terror tactics preserved far more lives than the cleaner warfare of other Legions. As monsters was how they were seen, and so monsters were what they had become.
And speaking of Curze, by far, the most incredible scene in the book is his conversation with Sanguinius. I had wondered what happened to Curze after his deus ex machina exit in The Unremembered Empire. Now I know. Like Curze, I begrudgingly called Jen and told her that thanks to this conversation, I now understand her affinity for the Night Haunter. Guy Haley expertly demonstrated the emotional roller coaster that is Konrad Curze in one brother-to-brother conversation. I still strongly dislike the skin flensing Night Lords, but I GET Curze.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a sucker for learning how the brothers feel about one another. Curze went through quite a bit of this with Sanguinius. My favorite remark was when he called Robby Bobby the “Avenging Beancounter.” I laughed so hard and bookmarked it. It especially complements Krukesh the Pale commenting that “Roboute Guilliman has a mind like an abacus.”
Guilliman’s imitation of the Lion was also hysterical. At the same time, I wanted to ask Robby Bobby if he was new here. Why so surprised the Lion ran off without telling anyone? He CLEARLY knows what is best, and you’re an idiot if you don’t see that AND automatically know his intentions. I mean, it’s not that hard.
Dantioch and Polux is the best bromance in WH40k/30k. Change my mind.
If you’ve already read this book, then you already know 1) it’s true and 2) what I want to say but won’t for spoiler reasons. I love this friendship so much. Two Legionaries from known rival Legions somehow coming together as the best of friends is nothing short of amazing and sweet. If I was an Imperial Fists fan, I’d make friendship bracelets for Jen and me.
And I can’t say anything else. Just go read Pharos if you’ve read The Unremembered Empire. I know a lot of the Hereticum Secundus is Not Good™, but Pharos by Guy Haley is a shining light in a sea of sludge. Pun totally intended. (Also highly recommend the audiobook version because John Banks is one of the best narrators for the Black Library.)
I somehow doubt I’ll read the next book as quickly, since it’s yet another short story collection. I know, I was shocked too.
Thirty-four books down, 20 books to go.
Horus Hearsay is dedicated to Keri’s journey through the Horus Heresy saga. The chronicling of the Horus Heresy began over ten years ago, with currently 54 books in total, not counting The Primarchs series or the various short stories. Horus Hearsay will only cover the main novels.
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