Audiobook Review: The First Heretic By Aaron Dembski-Bowden – Warhammer: The Horus Heresy – Book 14

audiobookNephrite’s Month Of Heresies

And once again I have returned to the Warp. As the world I come from has been ‘blessed’ by Nurgle on a somewhat universal scale I am joined once more by my Warpspawn companion. Say hello my…friend.

Was it not last year when I first lead you down this path my ‘friend’? I feel no need for such frivolities as introductions.

You argue your case well. Since we have returned to the topic of heresies it only makes sense to return to The Urizen, the first of all heretics. Ah yes…Lorgar Aurelian the 17thPrimarch who called Colchis his home. And yet…he is the purest of all heretics. But how?

Indeed, now let us observe the first to fall.

The plot of The First Heretic is as follows: The 17th Legion Word Bearers have fallen to hubris. Lorgar has been secretly teaching worlds they conquer on behalf of The Emperor that The Emperor is a God incarnate. To teach them the error of their ways, The Emperor has sent the 13th Legion – the Ultramarines – led by Roboute Guilliman to destroy the city of Monarchia on the world of Khur the greatest creation of Lorgar and his sons.

Upon being rather forcibly rebuked, Lorgar falls under the ‘spell’ of his two foster father figures First Chaplain Erebus (who will be familiar to those of you who read my review of False Gods) and Kor Phaeron a very close ally and friend. The two of them convince Lorgar to search for some ‘true god’ to worship as they explore the stars and in doing so…the first seeds of heresy enter The Word Bearers Legion.

As you might be able to guess from my description The First Heretic despite being book 14 is not 14th chronologically. This happens a lot during the Horus Heresy. According to some research of mine The First Heretic takes place over a 50 year period from 47 years prior to Horus Rising to The Drop Site Massacre to events I haven’t covered yet involving the planet of Calth.

As well as this Lorgar is not the only main character of note. Two other main characters include Argel Tal a Captain in the Serrated Sun chapter of The Word Bearers who is the main point of view character for most of the book. But I cannot forget The Blessed Lady who has another name I won’t attempt to spell. She is one of only seven survivors from Monarchia as well as the only one to actually see its destruction…even if it does blind her. Throughout the course of the novel she acts as a moral guardian or confessor figure for the Legion but especially for Argel Tal who becomes her closest friend over the course of the story.

The characterisation in the book comes across as very genuine. Lorgar being a naturally very philosophical and intellectual type is genuinely searching for what he sees as a true God figure not aware of where that search will end. At points he seems truly desperate and broken as is depicted beautifully by ADB’s prose. There’s a reason I praised Helsreach to hell and back. Lorgar truly starts his search in this book with the best of intentions for his Legion and for the Imperium. It will take many many books for him to be where he is in The Revelation Of The Word.

As well as this both The Blessed Lady and Argel Tal start with very clear visions of who they are and what they should be. Only to have those ideas changed or their internal view of themselves warped over time. Argel Tal in particular…

The writing in this book is glorious as this event deserves. The true first heretic – or perhaps my Warpspawn friend the true Arch-Deceiver? – is given the full Shakespearean tragedy treatment and it is both beautiful and heartbreaking. There are so many in this book who have no idea what will happen. So many who know and do not care. And so much blood that shall be shed over this search for a true god.

I would not call him a Deceiver. He went in search of truth after a false faith was robbed from him and he found the four. How is that Deceit?

That is true…although he did fall under the spell of others as I said. Perhaps Erebus would be a better fit for Arch-Deceiver. And yet there is something I haven’t mentioned yet directly. Perhaps we should tell them about Lorgar’s true victory? You see…Lorgar’s original truth. That of The Emperor as a God? Through certain unexpected means…the holy text Lorgar wrote – the Lectitio Divinitatus – has become a cornerstone of the modern Imperium. The so called Imperial Truth. (See my review for The Revelation Of The Word.)

However I am a reviewer of audiobooks. As well as praising the original books the level of praise is equally high for the audio editions. The narrator for The First Heretic is Gareth Armstrong who I have spoken of previously as he played the part of Be’lakor in The First Prince as well as doing narration duties for Little Horus and the Inspector Maigret series of detective novels. I must praise Armstrong as his voice is perfect for all the required battle scenes throughout the narrative especially the scenes at Isstvan. I also loved his heartfelt pleas as Lorgar and his persuasively silky voice for Erebus. His ability to change his tone and display the character’s true emotions in the narrative is brilliant and makes the already excellent story one I actually struggled to put down. Honestly The First Heretic is one of my favourite books in the entire Heresy and one I expect I’ll listen to again soon.

I certainly hope some of my readers will join me in returning to The Horus Heresy and the world of Warhammer. Who among you will join me and my chaotic companion over the remains of Monarchia…or above Colchis? Listening to the oratory of the Seventeenth Son? We aren’t done yet. Are we?

Oh yes we are done here and yet it must be shocking for some, the knowledge of the lie their Imperium is built upon and its true origins. But this is not when the die of the heresy was first cast. That was by The Emperor long ago. In all his claims of not desiring godhood he doesn’t do a good job of not making people assume it first. He just destroys that and those who come to a conclusion he is at fault to cause. But come let us go back further still. Man once worshipped gods other than the four. Shall we see what became of that and the real monster that is the cause of so much death?

 Indeed. It is time for us to go back to the days of The Last Church of Old Terra. The dying days of Old Night…The Age Of Strife before The Emperor’s true glory days. But what a story it is. See you all soon.


Nephrite and Sgathaich



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