Angel Exterminatus by Graham McNeil: A review

So I caved and bought the hardback of Angel Exterminatus. I was in two minds whether I wanted to or not, but I’m glad that I did (my back was not after I’d lugged it, Betrayer and my copy of the 6th Ed. Rulebook back from my local GW and round the supermarket). Perturabo turned out to be far more interesting than I expected, and he has a unique reason for rebelling, both of which make him a compelling and strangely sympathetic protagonist.

Perturabo is definitely far more interesting as a protagonist than an antagonist. In The Crimson Fist he was The Bad Guy and only the negative side of his personality was revealed. In Angel Exterminatus he is one of the “heroes” and we have more reason to feel sympathetic to him, even when he’s throwing a tantrum.

What was nice, and surprising, is that McNeil has written Perturabo as a creative rather than a warlike (tactical or plain psychotic) Primarch. There is a broad streak of Leonardo da Vinci in the character and there is the impression that, like Lorgar and Magnus and even Corax (see Deliverance Lost), he would much rather be studying and building than laying waste to the galaxy. I’m beginning to think that the Primarch Project and the Great Crusade would have been very different if the Primarchs hadn’t been scattered. Magnus’s final role has been revealed, but the behaviour of Perturabo suggests to me that he was meant to be an Empire builder in a literal as well as a figurative way. It makes me wonder what the roles of Angron and Curze would have been had they had a kinder upbringing.

Anyway, back to the book. The Iron Warriors themselves are a mixed bunch, and you can see the scheming that will ultimately split the Chaos Legions into Warbands. I like the unique take on the lodges. The Iron Warriors are renegades rather than Chaos followers and it shows in their behaviour and their attitudes, something that is shown into sharp relief by the actions of the book’s antagonists, The Emperor’s Children, who have fallen almost as far as it is possible to go. The third party in the story are a group of survivors from Isstvaan V, mostly Iron Hands. Two of them, Wayland of the Iron Hands (where else) and Sharrowkyn of the Raven Guard turned up in the short story Kryptos (which you should read if you haven’t yet!), but Angel Exteriminatus introduces more of the group including  Frater Thamatica, a mad Iron Father (think Tesla in power armour), Captain Branthan, the dying captain held in stasis, Tarsa, the Salamander’s apothecary caring for him and Branthan’s Equerry, Cadmus Tyro, who is actually running things. The Iron Hands in this book are more human than in other books, but they work really well. I really, really hope that we see a lot more of these guys in future.

I was a bit grumpy about the idea of moving to hardback but the book itself is not too clunky (and will therefore still sit on my Horus Heresy shelf) and Neil Robert’s cover artwork is great as always. My only niggle is that Karl Richardson’s internal artwork feels a bit out of place. The way the illustrations are scattered through the book feels a bit Young Adult and doesn’t really do the illustrations themselves justice. I wonder if they would have been better as a section on glossy paper like the maps in the Space Marine Battles series.

I’m not sure that I’ll go back and buy the hardback re-releases of the new books, even the possibility of pictures of Loken, Tarvitz, Garro etc. isn’t enough to negate the fact that we have perfectly good paperback copies at home already. I’ll certainly buy Mark of Calth in hardback when it’s released though, for sure.

Anyway, sorry for the delay in posting. If you haven’t read Angel Exterminatus yet, you should, and if you like e books you should really also read Kryptos too. Neither are placeholder stories and both are excellent reads.

L.o.F.

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