Horus Rising by Dan Abnett – A Book Review

Horus Rising


After thousands of years of expansion and conquest, the imperium of man is at its height. His dream for humanity nearly accomplished, the emperor hands over the reins of power to his warmaster, Horus, and heads back to Terra. But is Horus strong enough to control his fellow commanders and continue the emperor’s grand design?

Author: Dan Abnett

Publisher: The Black Library

Pages: 412

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: The Horus Heresy #1

My Chosen Format: Paperback

My Rating of ‘Horus Rising’: 4 out of 5

Purchase: AmazonAudible


I read the first twelve books or so in the Horus Heresy when they first came out but stopped due to moving away from the Warhammer franchise as a whole as far as my reading tastes went. But, ever since seeing Jenn at The Eternal Bookcase and Dave at Wordaholicanonymous reading and review the whole series from start to finish, it made me want to dive back in. So thanks, Jenn & Dave, for ensuring that there’s at least fifty-five books for me to pick up if my mind is drawing blanks in the future!

I remember when the Heresy first came out, Horus Rising was THE book that Black Library fans bought above all else. You were hungry and had only enough to buy food or Horus Rising? You were still hungry after you made the correct the choice. Just the way it was. For people like myself, who grew up with the books and had only heard of the primarchs as great figures that existed ten thousand years ago, never in the flesh, getting to read books where they featured as living, breathing characters was like all of your birthdays coming at once. I still get a feeling of awe when they walk into a book, so I think this series is a little extra-special for those who came to the universe before the primarchs were easily accessible.

That being said, the first time I read this book, I felt a little underwhelmed. I was expecting so much but didn’t feel it delivered. I was a bit younger then and only had eyes for action. Reading it with more adult-eyes, I enjoy the way Dan Abnett sets the stage for the authors that come after him. In Horus Rising we get to meet Horus before he fell, when he was the most loyal of the Emperor’s sons and the leader of the most devoted legion to the Imperial cause. 

Oh, how times will change.

The characters in this are an equal mix of astartes and regular humans (the humans being rembrancers who are tasked with recording the deeds of the astartes expeditionary fleets as they endeavour to conquer the galaxy in the name of Terra and the Emperor of Mankind.)

It’s an odd universe to be in as we, the reader, are reading from the perspective of the Imperium of Mankind (the good guys). But, as far as good guys go, they’re pretty horrible. The expeditionary fleets are trying spread mankind throughout the stars, this means conquering planets held by alien races and warring with other humans until they accept that the Imperium’s way is the right way. If you like the colour red and the Imperium doesn’t, chances are they’re going kill you. If you’re an alien (even a harmless alien) you might as well just give up now as they’ll kill you just for the crime of being different. They also hate religion. So if you believe in any god, they’ll kill you.

But yea, good guys. Wooooo!

Abnett does an excellent job of making the characters feel like real people rather than just names on a page that you know are destined to eat a stray bolter round at some point. He shows the inner workings of the legions (specifically the Lunar Wolves) in ways that we, as readers, had never really seen up until that point. I also like how invulnerable the astartes feel as, when they inevitably come against an enemy that tears through them like a knife through butter, you can’t help but get a ‘well, this is just got interesting’ feeling.

I personally found it enjoyable to see how Horus’ character goes from fiercely loyal to where he will eventually end up (a traitor) … it’s hardly a spoiler considering the name of the series. Horus Rising is a great start in that downward spiral. Fittingly, as with all falls, this book starts where Horus is at the absolute zenith of his powers, so he has so much farther to fall and such a range of emotions to encounter until he hits rock bottom.

I do find that parts of it went a tad slow and could have been pushed through a bit quicker than they were, but for the most part the whole thing was really enjoyable. It gives us everything from the inner workings of an astartes legion to the day to day running of one of the Emperor’s expeditionary forces.

As ever, with Abnett, the combat is superb. I personally feel he outdoes himself in the latter half of the book as far as combat goes. So yea, read this book if you want to start on the first step of the long, winding road that is the Horus Heresy. Get ready for plenty of action, intrigue and traitorous machinations in the books to come.

17 thoughts on “Horus Rising by Dan Abnett – A Book Review

  1. Glad this re-read went so well for you. I would say that 55 books is daunting, but honestly, I actually find it comforting. It means you know you will always have some books to read πŸ˜€
    There are times I wish that the Forgotten Realms had tried something this ambitious but considering their overall quality, it’s probably better they never did.

    So have a great life, because I suspect it’ll take at least a decade for you to work through this. Unless you get inspired that is πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s what I think. It’s a setting I enjoy so I’m thrilled there’s lots to get through.

      I’m hoping to get through at least 1 a month as a base target. But I’m aiming for 2. Already a third of the way through book 2.

      Was Drizzt D’urden the Forgotten Realms? I found them quite lacking/simple in the writing style

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Drizz’t was one of the better known characters in FR. And his stuff by Salvatore was considered some of the better stuff 😦

        So at one a month (because I KNOW you won’t be able to keep up 2 a month for years on end), you’re looking at less then 5 years then. That’s pretty good, as long as you don’t hit burn out…

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yea, burnout is a real fear, but I’ll just take it as it comes. There’s no pressure to get through all of them, it’s just something I really want to do. So as long as I do it before I die I’ll be a happy man πŸ˜‚ I’m not bothering with the short story collections either, so that’ll cut some of my reading pile down

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review mate. I had Horus Rising on my shelf for nearly six years before picking it up a year or two ago. My first read was not very possitive as I remember stating in my review if anyone ever asks me where to start HR is def not one of the books, unless you know the person will commit to the whole series… I have a bit of hit and miss when ti comes to Abnett the guy writes so well I feel that i am just too stupid to catch what he is getting at. I do appreciate the novel though as it was a good setup for what was to come next.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Forgot to say, I did not get a notification for you having linked me to your post. I think that only works if you link a physical post as opposed to the blog itself. Never the less I am happy to be a part of the inspiration that has you venturing into the HH series again. Exited for your coming reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, I wasn’t aware of such link issues. I wasn’t linking it so you’d feel obliged to read. It was more so anyone interested in BL books could find two other BL readers πŸ™‚

      I know what you mean. My first impressions when HR came out originally were average. I feel I appreciated it more this time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yea, like my ‘About Me’, Review Request’ page etc … I have a page book reviews and one for audio books. But I plan on reading more WH so thought I’d make a page where I could archive all the review links


  4. Just found this review in my reader and I’m really happy that Dave and I inspired you to pick up the series again.
    Horus Rising is such a good book; it (and the next two) made me start collecting Space Marines and enjoy 40k more as a hobby.

    I think I preferred it on my first read through as it had more impact, but it’s certainly a good and entertaining read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yea, fortunately for me, my first read through was the day it was released. So I have actually forgotten so much of what happens πŸ™ˆ

      Currently reading, and really enjoying Galaxy In Flames. On target for my 1 or 2 HH books a month.

      I’m glad you and Dave inspired me. Forgot how much I loved the setting


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