Monday, May 15, 2017

REVIEW: Magnus the Red - Master of Prospero

I am a huge fan of the novel A Thousand Sons by Graham McNeil, so I was definitely excited to see him take back up the reins of the big red giant with this installment in the Primarch series. Taking us back to a time before the Heresy erupted and all was still good amongst the legions, Magnus the Red: Master of Prospero allows us to delve a little deeper into the mystical Primarch and his sons when they were all still getting to know each other.

This was my first jump into the Primarch series, having not read the Guilliman or Russ books prior to this. I fully intend to get back to those at some point, I just have so much to read. Luckily for me, the Primarch series books are completely independent from each other, with each telling a self contained story. The story in this one actually opens up after the Heresy is already over with Magnus a broken shell on the Planet of Sorcerers. Quickly though we are brought into his memories of the past and find ourselves on a planet where deadly electro-magnetic forces are literally ripping the world apart. We are well before any of the conflicts of the Heresy break out and instead most of this story revolves around the legions trying to evacuate the planet and facing off against forces even they can't control, elemental forces. We find the Thousand Sons searching the ruins of a recently destroyed city, looking for ancient relics from Old Night that they hope to preserve. The first character we meet here is a face I didn't expect to see again so soon, Atharva, another one of Graham's creations from The Outcast Dead. It's interesting to see the Thousand Sons so soon after being reunited with their Primarch. It's implied that they had spent at least several years with him on Prospero before setting off again, but they still aren't really sure what to make of him. When the city is hit by one of the violent storms the Marines and their mortal counterparts are forced to evacuate, and they are pretty astounded when Magnus strides out of the storm completely unharmed, surrounded by a nimbus of psychic energy. It's amusing how much they still underestimate his power.

Once the Thousand Sons expedition is back at the planet's capital we are introduced to the other legion giving assistance, the Iron Warriors led by their own Primarch, Perturabo. I loved Graham's rendition of this legion in Angel Exterminatus, and here we get to see him take a stab at them while they were still loyal. In the city we find Ahriman and Forrix working together to organize the flood of refugees trying to leave the planet. The pair discuss each other's legions and Primarchs, trying to figure each other out. At this point, the extent of the psychic might of the Thousand Sons as a legion is still slightly under wraps, and they are hesitant to display what they can do in front of another legion. I was super excited to see Forrix again. I really liked him in Storm of Iron from the 40k-verse, and any chance I get to see him during the Heresy or the Great Crusade I'll gladly take. It's really interesting seeing these two interact, especially at this point in the timeline. All of the Space Marines seem so unsure about everything about themselves. Their capabilities, their Primarchs, their brother legions. It's great getting to experience them trying to figure this all out. The camaraderie between Ahriman and Forrix, at least at first, is fantastic too, and I'm sad we won't get a buddy cop spinoff with them.

Soon elements of a fanatical doomsday cult on the planet start to crop up, launching terrorist style attacks on the populace. Between dealing with these insurgents, continuing to process the evacuation, investigating further strange relics including an ancient spaceship buried beneath the planet's crust, launching rescue missions, and trying to determine the true cause of this planet's demise the plot never lets up. You go from one awesome scene to another, yet somehow there is still plenty of time to let all of the characters breathe and have the moment to shine. Ahriman is fascinating as usual and continues to steal the show whenever he shows up. Magnus and Perturabo are a joy to read, especially when they are interacting with each other, and Atharva, Forrix, Falk, Hathor Maat, and more round out the amazing collection of characters. It's like Graham got to go into his toy box and play with all of his best creations from the Heresy in one book. Just like all of his other novels, there are a couple of moments of truly mind-blowing action scenes that would give any Hollywood blockbuster a run for its money. My favorite bit involves a gargantuan spaceship crashing back into the planet with only psychic might to oppose it.

The insurrection feels real and earned, and a true threat to the legions and their efforts. One of my favorite things is how they would yell "Hail Shaitan" as they attacked, praising their dark god. It's a fun little wink and nod from Graham and I couldn't help but chuckle a bit every time I read it. Despite this they never felt anything less then completely threatening and the climax to the book lives up to everything that came before it. The only disappointing thing to me is that the novel came to an end; I just wanted more! There are so many great little moments that I could fill an entire week's worth of articles just talking about them. For instance there is a great humanizing moment for Falk near the end when he's talking to Perturabo in a particularly dangerous moment. Seeing as how we know his ultimate fate from Storm of Iron it was great to see a more vulnerable side to him.

I highly, highly recommend picking up this book. Like I said at the start, it's completely self contained, so you don't need to read any of the other Primarch books to enjoy it, or any other book for that matter. Having said that, your reading experience will definitely be enhanced if you have read A Thousand Sons, The Outcast Dead, Angel Exterminatus, and Storm of Iron. What are you waiting for, the Master of Prospero awaits you!

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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