The planet Molech was brought into the fold many years ago during the Great Crusade. The Emperor himself , along with Horus, Perturbo, Mortarion, the Khan and Fulgrim brought Molech to compliance.
Molech also has a huge garrison of imperial tanks, troops and super heavies. It also is home to a few hundred Ultramarines and Blood Angels. A titan legion and their Mechanicum support are also stationed here including a gigundus Imperator Titan. Finally, there are several noble houses that each have their own force of Imperial Knights. If this is a compliant and happy planet, then why did the Emperor leave so many troops here?
That is what Horus is trying to discover (and Graham McNeill is going to tell us ) in Vengeful Spirit.
The Sons of Horus are on the march and heading to Molech. Here Horus hopes to discover what the Emperor has hidden from him and the other Primarchs who helped pull Molech back into the Imperium of Man. Can the combined force of Sons of Horus, Death Guard and some shenanigans from Fulgrim break through the Imperial forces and find this super cool secret?
Meanwhile, House Devine, one of the noble houses on Molech, is having a bit of a family tiff that leads to some usurping and restructuring. They are on the fence on whether to side with the approaching Sons of Horus or to fight for the Emperor. I guess they need to commune with their white snake worshipping cult to decide. Just another snake cult huh? Yeah, guess who is causing those problems.
Back on Earth, I mean Terra, we get a look at a non-Dirty Dozen of marines that Russ and Malcador are going to send into the belly of The Vengeful Spirit, Horus’s flagship. They are going sneak in and mark locations for a future assault. Here there is a small “surprise” that one Luna Wolf still lives, Garviel Loken. See he didn’t die on Istvaan III. Which I figured he didn’t, but I didn’t know for sure until now. Well if I had listened to the Hersey audio books I guess I would have known this already. They are Malcador’s Knights Errant and they are a pretty fun little strike force: a Space Wolf, a World Eater, three Luna Wolves, an Emperor’s Child, an Ultramarine, an Iron Hand, a Raven Guard and a White Scar. How can that fail? What the frak is Loken going to do if he runs into the Mournival members or better yet Horus?
There is a lot going on in this book. At times it feels like two books that couldn’t make it on their own so they combined into one. Now there is the typical cool 40K..er I mean 30K battle, blood and booms we all expect in here. There is also some much needed attention for Horus that has been lacking since the first three novels in the series. It was great to see that he is still not written as the atypical 40K chaos leader all crazy and killy. He is measured, calm and calculating. Horus is a fantastic character and could use more screen time and I hope he gets it soon. Who doesn’t like a hero falling from grace? The interaction with Loken and his not "Dirty Dozen" was great stuff as well. The banter was fun. The mix of different legion styles and philosophies was a great dynamic.
Sadly for all the great stuff there was a lot of this I found to be drek. There are too many extra characters and events in here. Was there a reason to delve so deep into House Devine (Imperial Knight house) and their personal mess? No. Did we need so much about all the Imperial commanders? Nope. What was the point of the rolling ambulance and their crew? None really. Why was Mortarion and his gang thrown in and then do really nothing? Not sure. When the frak is Mortarion going to get his own tale and stop being an add on in these books? The Blood Angels and Ultramarines had more story behind them and then really did nothing for the time spent introducing them.
Holy crap we need another Perputual in this series?!?! I say no, but we got one anyway. These eternal people keep popping up like the wizards in Tolkien’s Middle Earth. I guess with them and their meddling this story could not move forward? I say yes it can and it should. Oh…the continued drek of immortal humans in this series. Now there is another one I have to try and remember and even better not care about. What is that now three or four of these guys?
The Loken story could have been a novel in itself. How and why is he still alive? His struggle to face his old chapter and Primarch again felt a bit underdeveloped and rushed. Wait…this just in I guess I needed to listen to the Garro audio books to discover that tidbit. What? Really? There is a quasi-prequel to this, but it is only in audio form? Why? That is weak sauce Black Library. Weak sauce indeed! The Horus story could have been a singular novel as well. Especially after the secret of Molech is revealed. The events that unfolded after that are just glossed over and left to the imagination. The rest of the story could have been summed up in another anthology book and not filled time here.
I did enjoy the majority of Vengeful Spirit. There are just elements that I found underdeveloped and unnecessary. If this was a Horus and Sons story it would have been stronger. If the Loken story was a standalone it too would have been much better. Also the fact this has follow-up elements from audio books is disheartening. The combat action is standard for Graham McNeill books so that was equally enjoyable. It is just shame that the human element is such unwanted turd. A skip for those just passing through this series. However, the Horus and Loken tale make it a grab for the die hard Hersey book reading group. Just skim over the boring human element and enjoy everything else.