Horus Heresy: Primarchs
July 24, 2018
Limited Edition, Hardback, Audio Book
Of all the Primarchs, Jaghatai Khan is perhaps the most unknowable. It's not just that he wants it that way, he doesn't give a ork's ass if you like him or not. Learning this, however, is not Chris Wraight's strongest offering.
After reading Chris Wraight’s Leman Russ Primarch book, I was back on Team Primarch series and picked up Jaghatai Khan — Warhawk of Chogoris. Little is known about the Khan, giving him this air of mystique which would most likely please the Khan greatly. By the end of Jaghatai Khan I better understand the man, but I’m not sure I loved the journey to get there.
The charlatan savage
One of the defining characteristics of both Jaghatai Khan and the White Scars is the illusion of savagery. Much like Leman Russ and his Wolves, the Scars are all too happy to let people believe they are backwater savages, when in fact they are far more intelligent and formidable. The difference between Russ and Khan, though, is that Russ intentionally plays the savage to give him the upper hand, whereas Khan really doesn’t give a single, solitary shit what you think of him. He knows he and his legion aren’t savages, and your opinion really isn’t very important to him.
This was, I think, the biggest surprise of the book. It’s not just that Jaghatai Khan is reserved and stand-offish, it’s that he has little tolerance for any of the politicking and favor-garnering of his brothers. In fact, while he claims to respect his brothers, his actions and conversations with his own Scars don’t really seem to support that. At one point he mentions that Horus is little better than Malcador, merely following the whims of his master (it’s funny because it’s true).
Perhaps one of the best scenes happens very early in the book, with a meeting of the Khan and the Adeptus Mechanicus. As with all of Papa E’s sons, the Mechanicus has built him a flagship worthy of awe. The Khan shows up and the tech priests attempt to dazzle him with what they’ve built and done. Jaghatai proceeds to dress them down saying he’s not an ignorant savage and they need to strip the entire ship and make it GO FAST because he knows what he wants and he wants it NOW. The Khan has little patience for any bullshit, if you’ve not picked up on that. Speaking of that…
The warp gonna warp
The central conflict of the book is that Jaghatai is aware of the dangers of the warp and psykers. The Imperial Truth sits ill with him because he believes that a lot of trouble and headache can be avoided if the Emperor would just come clean with everyone. One cannot know to avoid danger if one doesn’t know the danger exists.
This is, of course, a long-standing argument among fans in regard to the entire heresy. The Emperor doesn’t tell his sons (or people) about the dangers of Chaos and the warp, and ergo his sons are rightfully upset when told that they were lied to, and that makes them fall. But, it’s very easy to argue that had Magnus or Lorgar been told about the warp and Chaos, they STILL would have gone headfirst so…chicken or egg?
To show Jaghatai a lesson, Malcador and the Emperor send him to a planet that is ruled by Dramatic Irony. The people of the planet worship giant, psychic beings that are basically mindflayers. In order to keep the mindflayers’ power charged, people must be fed to them regularly. The people are, of course, pleased to do this because their “angels” know what’s best, and are all-powerful, all-knowing beings that are worthy of being worshiped. They are, in a word, “fanatical.” They are, in two words, “Imperial foreshadowing.”
The Emperor’s hope was that Jaghatai would see this as a parable for why the Imperial Truth was so important. If people believed in religion and knew about the dangers of the warp, they would start to worship him to keep them safe and guide them. Potentially mindlessly sacrificing themselves to him. I really love Chris Wraight as an author, but this was not only heavy-handed, it felt unnecessary.
The unknowable brother
The most interesting part of the book is the reminder that no one really knows Jaghatai Khan. There was talk, pre-Heresy, that Malcador was convinced Khan would side with Horus. In fact, given that Horus and Magnus were the closest Jaghatai had to friends, that seemed well and good. Hell, Horus seemed pretty convinced the Scars would back him as well. Too bad he didn’t realize that Khan found him to be a lapdog to whomever he served. Which, again, he was. Khan truthbombs are my favorite truthbombs.
The Khan is the ultimate wizened warrior. He sees the Emperor as an older, wizened warrior, more akin to the guru on the mountaintop, and less as an infallible leader or father. He is a man apart from his brothers in that regard (perhaps Mortarion is most similar). Likewise, he sees his brothers as equally skilled warriors who are worthy to fight alongside, but not necessarily to forge the path forward. All of this is to say that while he respects them superficially, he does not blindly follow. Nor will he come to their beck and call.
Just before Nikaea, not only did Khan refuse to promise his vote to Sanguinius (he denies Space Jesus!) he considers leaving the Imperium entirely. Of course we know this doesn’t come to pass, but just knowing that the Khan views his brothers from such a removed stance, and doesn’t blindly love Big E or the Imperium tells you all you need to know about the character.
I’m glad I read the book because holy shit does that really make him more interesting, and it also may have just made him my new favorite primarch. But I could have done without the heavy-handed planet of Dramatic Irony.