I’ve always had a thing for bitter ol’ Perturabo. I think everyone was a little endeared to him after reading Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeill. The poor guy just wanted to build something, and all his father tasked him with was destruction. As we’ve gone further into the Horus Heresy, Perturabo has become less and less likable as both a character and a Primarch. Which is probably why it took me so long to read Guy Haley’s Perturabo: The Hammer of Olympia.
Welp, that was a mistake.
Iron Within, Stoic Without
The book tells three stories, that of Perturabo the youth, Perturabo the Primarch, and Perturabo the “father.” The youth story tells of Perturabo’s upbringing. This section of the story is interesting only because we finally get to see Perturabo’s stubborn rejection of his adopted father. Dammekos, while not a super swell guy, really does try to get his son to reciprocate his affections. To be fair, Perturabo wisely sees Dammekos only has affection because Perturabo is a useful tool, something which has great foreshadowing into his future relationship with the Emperor.
Guy Haley does a good job of expanding upon his origin and founding, and in some ways it’s a welcome explanation. In some ways, it proves he was always an asshole (let’s be frank here), and I have to question why I ever liked this character to begin with.
Do Not Question the Great and Powerful Perturabo
I’ve maybe mentioned that Warsmith Dantioch is, like, one of my favorite characters. His dishonor and subsequent banishing has long been hinted at, but Perturabo: The Hammer of Olympia finally breaks it down. Given as much as we already knew and inferred about Danitoch’s banishment, it’s mostly just a fill-in-the-blanks section. The biggest reveal here is just how unforgiving and cold Perturabo is. One of his rising stars, and truly devoted sons is ravaged by a xenos species, and Perturabo essentially casts him aside as he would a broken toy.
“You Never Became a Man”
The last 30-odd pages are where this book truly shines and stands out. As Perturabo returns home to suppress the rebellion on Olympos, he comes face-to-face with the one person he every truly cared about, his sister Calliphone. On one hand, you could argue that this portion of the book is rather on-the-nose. It is, essentially, Guy Haley giving a psychiatric evaluation of Perturabo. It’s nothing we don’t know or didn’t piece together ourselves, but it’s unarguably heartbreaking hearing it from the lips of his sister as she dresses him down.
Not only does Perturabo assume worst intentions with every interaction in his life, he is also unable to see how others view his actions. The idea that decimation is causing him to have to replenish his ranks all the faster, thus depleting his home world’s population faster than ever before should be obvious. Of course the people are going to start to question him and the Imperium. But because it’s for the glory of the legion, Perturabo is blinded to the tyrant he’s become. He cannot see that in banishing one evil, he’s replaced it with something worse.
Calliphone pointing out that Perturabo is nothing more than a petulant child was crushing to read because she’s not wrong. He casts aside anything that is damaged and “unworthy” of his affections. He flies into a rage when people question him. In so many scenes it’s hard to not picture him stomping his foot like a toddler screaming “It’s not fair.”
The Curse of Knowledge
I enjoyed this book, but in some ways, if I could go back, I would have stopped reading anything about Perturabo after Angel Exterminatus. He’s gone from being one of my favorite, sympathetic traitor primarchs to being a real asshole. There’s tragedy in him, sure, but it’s really hard to find anything likable about the guy now. I love this book because it really helps color subsequent stories about him, and watching him have a mental breakdown over the revelation of what he has done to Olympos is heart wrenching. But he also kind of deserved it?
I have spent a surprising amount of time running this book over in my head. I never expected to have some complicated emotions over a primarch. Thanks a lot, Guy Haley.