Fulgrim by Graham McNeill – A Book Review



Under the command of the newly appointed Warmaster Horus, the Great Crusade continues. Fulgrim, Primarch of the Emperor’s Children, leads his warriors into battle against a vile alien foe, unaware of the darker forces that have already set their sights upon the Imperium of Man. Loyalties are tested, and every murderous whim indulged as the Emperor’s Children take their first steps down the road to true corruption – a road that will ultimately lead them to the killing fields of Isstvan V…

Author: Graham McNeill

Publisher: Black Library

Release Date: 28/08/2014

Series: The Horus Heresy #5

Pages: 512

Genre: Science Fiction/Warhammer

My Chosen Format: Paperback

My Rating for ‘Fulgrim’: 4 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon, Audible



With ‘Fulgrim’ Back Library dives back into the frustrating ‘we’ve got to a certain point so now we’re going to go back and show you what other folk were doing before then’ storytelling for the majority of the book. I get it, it’s pretty cool to know what other factions were doing before the opening trilogy took us to a huge plot point. All I’m saying is, perhaps the opening trilogy shouldn’t have been a trilogy. Get to that big plot point later on. Give these other books a chance to shine rather than dulling them with a hefty coat of ‘stop trying to make me care too much as I already know what happens to a good portion of the characters’.

Right, now my obligatory Black Library HH story dynamic bashing is out of the way, I can dive in with the rest of the review.

This one took me a good long while to get through. This is mostly due to the aforementioned ‘I know what’s going to happen to most of the characters’ so it didn’t really have me churning through the pages. Especially with the first hundred or so being given over to page-filling technique of ‘Astartes fighting an alien race in painful detail, when far less detail would have been just as good’. I know why they do this but it doesn’t make me like the fact that they do it. It just makes the books all seem pretty samey.

The battle with the Laer was important as it serves as the basis for the descent into decadent madness of the Emperor’s Children, but far less page time was needed. Summaries could have been given in place of lengthy throw away battles and I’d have been way happier for it.

For the most part, Fulgrim is a pretty good read. For me, it was going to be a three star score until I hit the last portion of the book and it got really good, really fast and just had to be bumped up to a four. It frustrated me due to the retelling of old events, but the end did just enough to push the overall story of the Horus Heresy further along to make this book enjoyable. BUT. The whole ‘why don’t you do summaries for the overly-long alien battles’ gets screamed ever louder when the aftermath of actual battles that matter are summarised to speed things along. If I were in those HH Production meetings, angry words would have been said, potted plants would have been overturned. Pure chaos would have been unleashed.

Another slight let down for me was the remembrancers. Unlike in the opening three books, the remembrancers felt as if they were just there rather than essential to the plot. This isn’t a great thing considering their contributions were essential. I just felt that none of them had any real character or flavour other than ‘human that’s really good at their chosen artform’. In the opening books they felt like likeable, relatable people, in this book they did not. In Fulgrim, they went from having no flavour to full on taste sensation with no room for enjoyment in between.

The astartes, as one would expect, were handled a lot better and I felt their characters were expanded upon really well. But, given the title of the novel, I feel it’s no surprise that the primarchs are the ones that truly had shining moments. Even if their decisions were a bit ‘flip of the switch’ for my liking in a few instances.

I’m writing this review at a time when there are over fifty books in the series and I’m wondering if there really needs to be that many given how much of this book could have been condensed into summaries. That being said, I am enjoying it and hope to push on for many, many books to come. I just hope some of the downsides in this book don’t show their heads too often.

This is a reread for me. I read it when it first came out and, while I enjoyed it this time, I did not enjoy it anywhere near as much as the first time. Although I gave it a four, it only scraped over the line to score that. So, had I wrote this review on another day, it could have gone either way.


13 thoughts on “Fulgrim by Graham McNeill – A Book Review

  1. After reading your review I mentally classified it as a 3 star book. This is important to me since my reading time is precious and I have no time to waste on books that do not have 4 reviews coupled with some 5 stars by other reviewers. Good review, but you could have saved me some time by giving it a 3 star (I read 3 star reviews but faster, just in case it contains reference to better work)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure. I’m certainly keeping bullet-pointed notes of major plot points that have happened so far just in case I take a break from the series like I did last time. Then, at least, I could come back without feeling I needed to start again

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have it 🙂 One of many WH40 books from the recent Humble Bundles… and it sounds like something I will want to read, at some point, but I’m in no hurry – I can read a few Warhammer novels for the next decade now, now need to do them all at once…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review mate. Valid points you have here. Unlike you, fulgrim was a first read for me and i believe git 5 stars from me. One thing that grated on me a bit was how easy fulgrim got so taken up by a magical sword and just forgot what was going on around him. This book made me sad to see the fall of the Chapter first hand and how they misinterpreted that “perfection” that they deem so high in regard. It also makes a great novel that sets up the people of the Empy’s Children in future books to come. I get the gripes you have with it too though. They were minor anoyances to me though as most books in HH are still new to me. Again, great review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. I think the fact that a primarch could be swayed from loyal to traitor so quickly was a bit rushed. But, HH seems to have a rushed feel to some of the bigger points and a lazy pace to the less interesting 😂

      I was glad that it had some major driving points as far as pushing the overall story forward goes.

      Liked by 1 person

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