Horus Heresy (novels) - Synopsis - Book 11 To Book 20

Book 11 To Book 20

11. Fallen Angels: deceit and betrayal

Fallen Angels continues the Dark Angels tale begun in Book 6, Descent of Angels. The novel starts around the time of Book 6's conclusion, about 50 years before the Heresy, but forwards to just about the time of the Heresy's beginning in the opening chapters. It tells two stories: one concerns the effort of Primarch Lion El'Jonson and a small group of Dark Angels to deny a forge world (a planet devoted to manufacturing, especially of weapons) to Horus' forces; the other is the story of Luther (Lion El'Jonson's second), Zahariel El'Zurias (by now a full Space Marine), and a Dark Angels contingent sent back to Caliban, the Dark Angels Legion home world. They get involved in the fight against a growing insurgency that seeks to free the planet from under the Imperium's thumb.

12. A Thousand Sons: all is dust...

A Thousand Sons is the story of Primarch Magnus and the "Thousand Sons" Space Marines, the 15th Legion; it mainly takes place before the Heresy begins. Following a reprimand by the Emperor for dabbling in sorcery, Magnus and his Legion secretly continue to study the forbidden subjects. Then, around the time of Horus' corruption (Book 2), Magnus learns through sorcery of his brother's impending betrayal. He tries – again through sorcery – to warn the Emperor, believing that the gravity of the news justifies his disobedience. However, he overreaches with his powers and damages the vital and secret project the Emperor is undertaking (Book 1), endangering the safety of Terra itself in the process. The Emperor is enraged and orders Leman Russ, Primarch of the 6th Legion (the "Space Wolves"), to Prospero, the Thousand Sons Legion's in‑series home world. The Space Wolves, accompanied by other Imperial forces, are to bring Magnus and his Legion to Terra to account for themselves.

13. Nemesis: war within the shadows

Nemesis is set about two years after the events on Isstvan V described in Book 5, Fulgrim. It is a look at the war behind the war, the covert operations undertaken by the opposing sides in order to influence the visible conflict. Specifically, it deals with a plan by a secret Imperial organisation, the Officio Assassinorum, to eliminate Horus; an "Execution Force" consisting of operatives from all of the Officio's disciplines, and led by top-rated sniper Eristede Kell, is tasked with the mission. There have been several previous unsuccessful attempts against Horus' life, and this gives a high-ranking officer of the Traitor Word Bearers Legion the idea to field a nemesis weapon of his own: a highly specialised assassin, who is to be used in an audacious scheme to kill the Emperor.

14. The First Heretic: fall to Chaos

The First Heretic details the fall to Chaos of Primarch Lorgar and the 17th Space Marine Legion, the "Word Bearers". Decades before the start of the rebellion they become heretics relative to the Imperial Truth by introducing religious worship. This results in public and humiliating censure of Lorgar and the entire assembled Legion, by the Emperor himself. The despairing Lorgar is subsequently swayed by two of his most trusted lieutenants, who are in secret allegiance with Chaos; eventually both Primarch and Legion covertly embrace (and promote) the Primordial Truth, many years before Horus' corruption. The story is largely told from the point of view of Argel Tal, a Captain of the Word Bearers, who becomes commander of a Chaos-possessed elite Legion unit. It spans several decades, starting 43 years before the events on Isstvan V (Book 5) and concluding around the time the Word Bearers are on their way to assault Calth (Book 19).

15. Prospero Burns: the Wolves unleashed

Prospero Burns is part of the story arc of Book 12, however it follows a different but related timeline. The story begins more than a century before the Space Wolves-led mission to Prospero, and the concurrent start of the Heresy. It is presented from the point of view of Kasper Hawser, formerly a noted Terran academic who becomes a Crusade Remembrancer, and then the Oral Historian or skjald of the 3rd Company of the Space Wolves Legion. On the surface it is his story; the important understory concerns the long-term machinations of Chaos, whose aim is the destruction of both Space Wolves and Thousand Sons. Chaos attempts to exploit the weaknesses of the Primarchs and their Legions in order to pit them against each other – the ultimate result is the confrontation on Prospero. While this confrontation is taking place, Horus' previously covert rebellion becomes visible (Book 3). The novel also adds background to Horus' fall and to the planning of the Heresy campaign by Chaos and its forces.

16. Age of Darkness

Age of Darkness is a compilation of nine short stories by various authors. They take place during the seven‑year period between the Dropsite Massacre on Isstvan V (Book 5), and the conclusion of Horus' campaign. The stories present various facets of the unfolding conflict, as suspicion, insecurity, and paranoia spread through the galaxy on the wake of the Warmaster's betrayal. Subjects include: a Primarch prepares for the end of the Imperium; a Traitor PSYOP topples an Imperial planet; an unusual diplomatic contest will decide which side will be chosen by a world on the fence; a non-combatant may be a rebel agent or a herald of unpalatable truths for the Imperium; a Loyalist Space Marine in a Traitor Legion holds his own against his erstwhile brothers. Several of the included stories are linked through continuity; some are also prequels or sequels to stories in other series books.

17. The Outcast Dead: the truth lies within

The Outcast Dead is the first novel-length story in the series to take place almost entirely on Terra. It covers a relatively short period, starting several months before Magnus' catastrophic psychic visit at the Imperial Palace (Book 12), and concluding several months after this event. The unauthorised visit is central to the story: apart from damaging the Emperor's top secret project (Book 1) and the planet's defense, it massively disrupts Terra's long-range communications infrastructure. The ensuing isolation and confusion cause indecision and delays for the Loyalist side. The story's main character is Kai Zulane, previously a gifted Imperial astropath attached to the Ultramarines Legion. He unwittingly becomes the keeper of a secret that could decide the victor in the developing galactic civil war. The secret has additional implications regarding the Heresy's conclusion and the future course of the Imperium of Man. "The Outcast Dead" are other protagonists: a small, disparate group of Space Marines suspected as traitors, with whom Zulane falls in during the second half of the book.

18. Deliverance Lost: ghosts of Terra

Deliverance Lost is mainly concerned with the actions of Primarch Corvus Corax and his Space Marine Command, the 19th Legion or "Raven Guard", during the year following the Dropsite Massacre (Book 5). However, operatives and the Primarch of the Alpha Legion play a prominent role. The story starts about 3 months after the Dropsite Massacre, with the unexpected rescue of Corax and the remnants of his Legion (at less than 5% strength due to casualties in that battle). Arriving at Terra a few months after the events described in The Outcast Dead take place, Corax convinces the Emperor to impart to him the knowledge and material that may accelerate the rebuilding of his Legion. The second part of the novel describes the effort to reconstitute the Raven Guard, undertaken on Deliverance (its home world in Warhammer 40,000 fiction), and the pursuit of opposite objectives by the Alpha Legion. The novel features the reappearance of The Cabal (Book 7), and of other well-known characters; it also adds information about the developing strategies and subterfuge applied by the opposing sides, including reasons for Horus' timetable and for the Emperor's actions during the initial stages of the Heresy.

19. Know No Fear: the battle of Calth

Know No Fear documents the rebels' surprise assault on Calth, an ascendant Ultramar system world. It is planned and led by the Traitor Word Bearers Legion, now fully and openly committed to the spread of the Primordial Truth. The narrative starts close to where the timelines of Book 8 and Book 14 converge (in their respective conclusions), with the invasion force en route to, or near the planet. The rebel mission has aims beyond just delivering a crippling blow to the Ultramarines Legion and their home system; its objectives may affect the entire Heresy campaign. The story tracks the Calth assault from its opening covert phases, and the actions of several characters. Unaware of the developing rebellion and the Word Bearers' true role and allegiance, Primarch Roboute Guilliman and his Ultramarines are unprepared for the underhand invasion: it is total, bloody war, with ritualistic undertones, scorched earth tactics, decisive use of technology, and the considerable involvement of Chaos; the inconceivable treachery and its implications forever change the Loyalists' view of reality.

20. The Primarchs

The Primarchs is a compilation of four novellas by different authors, each story starring one of the "sons" of the Emperor. The novellas further develop these characters, who make multiple appearances in the series: following the Dropsite Massacre (Book 5), Fulgrim, perversely empowered by his own corruption, reveals his true nature and future plans to top officers of his compromised Legion; during a Great Crusade campaign against the enigmatic Eldar, Ferrus Manus, already beset by unsettling dreams, is subjected by alien sorcerers to stark, portendous visions and warnings about his future and role in the soon to be revealed Heresy; with Horus' rebellion in full swing after the events of Isstvan V, a suspicious and isolated Lion El'Jonson accepts the newly revealed realities of the Warp and decides on an independent course of action for the Dark Angels in the unfolding conflict; around the same time, and plotting a typically indecipherable course in the expanding war, the twinned Primarch of the Alpha Legion is involved in a unique counterintelligence operation that extends the Legion's customary deceptions inwards.

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