Horus Rising by Dan Abnett

January 2011
Black Library Audio
Read by Martyn Eliis


The Imperium of Man is at the heights of its power, expanding across the galaxy and vanquishing those who might get in the way of the Emperor’s Crusade.  A young “son” of the Emperor has been rising to power as the Emperor’s chosen Warmaster.  The role of Warmaster is to act in the Emperor’s stead, be the voice and the body of the Emperor where the Emperor cannot be.  The Warmaster is Horus and it is the 31st Millennium.  While the majority of fiction in the Warhammer dark future takes place in the 41st Millennium, the events that begin to unfold in this novel shape the Imperium of Man into the unquestioned power of the cosmos.

Although the title is in reference to Warmaster Horus, Abnett focuses his story on a young Captain rising within the ranks of Horus’s Lunar Wolves.  The Captain is Gavriel Loken and Horus Rising brings to light how Loken becomes part of the Mournival, Horus’s inner circle of advisors. In this respect, I like Abnett’s choice of POV character as it provides a view into the story from more of an outsider perspective than if the story was told through the eyes of Horus himself.

The Warhammer universe is one of the most dense and chronicled shared world/media properties in genre fiction whose popularity and presence in has grown considerably over the past half-decade to decade.  With that in mind, one could easily be daunted by deciding where to begin a journey into the chronicles of the Imperium of Man as a lack of knowledge about the milieu may be off-putting. Rest assured, Dan Abnett’s narrative is a very welcoming place for readers both old and new.  Granted, it also helps that this book is the launch of a new series and storyline.

The mythology of the universe comes through quite well, a paranoid mood is projected, and an utter reverence for the Emperor as a living god are all prevalent. Comparatively, I’ve only read a few Warhammer 40,000 novels, but one of the aspects I enjoyed the most was the melding of a far future setting of space-ships, cloning, and galactic struggle and the mythic over-tones associated with the Emperor and the God-like reverence with which he is held. Again, Abnett pulls that off very well here.

Perhaps my only problem with the narrative is keeping some of the characters straight and knowing who was who, particularly some of the soldiers. 

The review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the utter brilliance with which Martyn Ellis reads the novel.  I’ve only listened to a few audio books prior to Martyn Ellis’s superbly entertaining reading of Dan Abnett’s Horus Rising, and this was the first one I listened to through completion. His performance, and that’s what it was, was much more than a simple reading.  The slight changes in vocal tones, and the varying of character’s specific voices was great and I got the sense that Mr. Ellis had a great deal of fun spouting Abnett’s narrative.

Overall, this was a terrific way to “read” the book and whether audio edition or print edition, I’ll at some point be following the fall of Horus as the Imperium of man descends into Chaos-driven Civil War.

© 2011 Rob H. Bedford

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