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.
I’ve made it well known how little I think of Fulgrim and his Emperor’s Children. Granted, I hadn’t seen much of Fulgrim before Graham McNeill’s novel, but if Eidolon’s behavior was anything to go by, then I knew he was reprehensible. Also, he sided with Horus. This guy is bad news, he thinks too much of himself, and his Legion is just the worst. Ten thousand years later, the Traitor Legions still hate the Emperor’s Children. Simply put, I was not looking forward to reading this book.
I had a feeling it would be about Saul Tarvitz’s point of view on how things went down on Isstvan III, maybe Horus’s rebellion from Fulgrim’s point of view, and what Fulgrim was doing during the events of Isstvan III. We knew from False Gods that he was going to try to recruit Ferrus Manus of the Iron Hands, and he’s been absent since he accepted that mission. It would make sense to focus on what went down between those two.
The Hoity-Toity Legion
To my surprise, Fulgrim starts way before Horus himself turned to the dark side of the warp. Graham McNeill painted a lovely picture of exactly who the Emperor’s Children were before they became traitorous douchebags. Unfortunately, they were always douchebags. They all, including Fulgrim, had rather high opinions of themselves and about the arts in general. Fulgrim didn’t have reporter remembrancers on his ship; he had poets, artists, and composers. Because of course he did. What else would you expect the Primarch of the Purple Legion to have?
I rolled my eyes a lot during this first 25% or so of the book. However, I had to admit that Fulgrim didn’t seem like an evil prick. He was stuck on himself to be sure, but he was a devoted son to the Emperor, beloved by all. But then the III Legion brought the Laer planet under compliance. I had a feeling things were bad upon reading the description of the Laerans. My fears solidified when Julius talked to Solomon about the Laer temple. If that wasn’t enough, reading the remembrancers’ reaction to the temple placed the final nail.
The Emperor’s Children unwittingly stumbled upon a planet of Slaanesh worshipers. When Fulgrim took a pretty sword from the temple, he essentially asked Slaanesh to come into his heart and be his Lord and Savior.
I tweeted this when I read it, that if I’ve learned nothing from this book, it’s that talking swords are bad. If a sword starts talking to you, you burn that heresy to the ground and pray to the Emperor for forgiveness. Although I guess they wouldn’t pray to the Emperor, since the Emperor insisted he wasn’t and isn’t a god. But that’s beside the point. Talking swords are bad, yo.
As Fulgrim Turns
Graham McNeill crafted Fulgrim’s turning perfectly. It never once felt rushed or sudden, which False Gods unfortunately did. Fulgrim didn’t change his thinking about the world overnight; it took a long time for the sword to chirp in his ear ideas that others were trying to steal his glory. First it was Second Captain Solomon. Then it was his favorite brother, Ferrus Manus of the X Legion. I swear this daemon on Slaanesh took a line right out of The Devil’s Advocate: “Vanity. It’s my favorite sin.” That’s all it had to do to sway Fulgrim. Make him feel jealous. Make him feel others are jealous of him. Appeal to his ego.
Even though I didn’t like Fulgrim before I started this book, I was devastated reading his slow fall. I knew how this was going to end, obviously, since I read False Gods. Most of this took place before Horus nearly died on Davin. When Fulgrim met with Horus after his experience in the warp, Fulgrim was still on the side of the Emperor. He came to see if what the eldar farseer told him was true. about Horus’s upcoming betrayal. Then Horus laid it all out on the line for Fulgrim. He told him exactly what he had seen and what he was going to do. Fulgrim then watched him in horror as Horus punched (and destroyed) a priceless mural of the Emperor. I admit, I nearly cried with Fulgrim. I strongly believe that if he never took that sword from the temple, he would not have sided with Horus.
And then the most tragic event never would have happened.
I knew Fulgrim was going to kill Ferrus. You can’t throw a stick near WH40k lore without hitting a reference regarding Ferrus’s missing head. But even when you know the outcome to something, if it’s presented well, it will still affect you. Graham McNeill did exactly that.
My heart broke for both Ferrus and Fulgrim when the latter told Ferrus about Horus’s plan. You can plainly feel how much Fulgrim believed that Ferrus would listen to him and agree to turn against the Emperor. And even though the symbolism was a bit on the nose, I still got a little emotional when Ferrus broke the sword he made for Fulgrim.
And then the actual deed happened. Nothing prepared me for Fulgrim’s instant regret. I wasn’t prepared for the daemon to release Fulgrim’s mind and see what he had done, much less for his realizations that everything Ferrus did for him was out of love. It was too much for me.
I never did like Fulgrim. I can count how many Emperor’s Children I like on one hand. He’s a selfish, prissy primarch who says “perfection” way too much. (If I made a drinking game out of the word “perfection” for this book, I’d be dead by halfway through.)
But his fall was incredibly sorrowful. I didn’t think that was possible, which makes me even happier to have read this book. It doesn’t remove Flight of the Eisenstein as my favorite book of the Horus Heresy, but it’s a damn close second.
Five books down, 49 to go.