Horus Rising Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Horus Rising

Loyal captain Garviel Loken, accompanying Warmaster Horus on his crusade of conquest, watches as circumstances conspire to erode the dream of the rationalist Empire he serves. This is the first book in the Horus Hersey series, telling the story of the fall of Horus, most beloved of the Emperor's Primarch sons, into the worship of Chaos, ten millenia before the era of Warhammer 40K. Horus Rising sets its action shortly after the Emperor has handed command of the Crusade's forces over to Horus and retired to Holy Terra to build the Astronomicon, the psychic beacon making interstellar travel by humans easier and safer.
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As the novel opens, Horus' Luna Wolves Space Marine legion is descending on Sixty-Three-Nineteen, a former colony world whose human inhabitants have created their own Emperor. After negotiations between the fleet and the world fail, the Wolves deploy four companies, including that of Garviel Loken. The action is short-lived, and entirely successful; Horus himself kills the false Emperor.

For his courage and skill in the attack on the palace, Loken is promoted into Horus' inner circle, the Mournival. Loken also interacts with a variety of advisers (Iterators) and artist-historians (Remembrancers). In the process, the reader is introduced to one of the pivotal differences between the Imperium of the 40th millennium and that of the 30th: while the 40K setting is deeply superstitious, full of oppressed masses that worship the Emperor as a god, the Imperium of Rising is devoted to a rationalist dogma with no room for religion.

Rebels in the south of the newly-conquered planet fight the Imperial Guard to a standstill in the Whisperhead Mountains region. In response, the Wolves deploy Loken's 10th company to crack their defenses, which they do without a single casualty. During the battle, Loken hears a mysterious voice claiming to be "Samus" on the coms. After the battle, Sergeant Xavyer Jubal wanders into a cave; when Loken follows, Jubal claims to be Samus and assaults his commander. Loken kills him. Upon return to the legion's vessels, Loken finds out from Horus himself that Jubal was possessed by a deamonic entity from the Warp, a possibility that the Imperium's rationist dogma denies. Horus informs his officer that the true purpose of the spread of the Imperial Truth and the Crusade is to eliminate the threat of the Warp once and for all by denying it access to the belief of humanity, which it needs to flourish.

The Wolves redeploy to One-Forty-Twenty, also called Murder, in response to a call from some fellow Space Marines. in the ships hanging in orbit, Loken discovers the rise of warrior-brotherhoods among the Marines (including the deceased Jubal) and the beginnings of an illicit faith worshiping the Emperor as a god. On the planet, the Marines face heavy resistance from powerful, spider-like aliens. As the battle reaches its climax, the ships of a previously-unknown human interstellar empire, the Interex, arrive, revealing that they have banished the spider creatures to Murder, and that the mysterious signals that the Imperium encountered entering the system were warnings from the Interex to stay away.

Horus and his Wolves head to the worlds of the interex to forge a peace treaty. Although Horus seeks a peaceful resolution to the encounter, many of his staff push him to war on the lost empire, pointing to the Interex's absorption of Xeno culture and technology (particularly that of the Eldar) as a threat. Loken befriends an Interex guard, who claims that the empire is wary of the Imperium out of fear of the taint of Chaos, which some fear haunts the forces of Terra. The negotiations break down when an artifact weapon, an anathame, is stolen from Interex facilities; while Horus pleads with both sides to end hostilities and find a solution, his entreaties fall on deaf ears. Horus and his command staff escape the world.

The Wolves and associated Guard unites quickly subdue the Interex and prepare to reintegrate the lost humans into the Imperium. As the ships of the Crusade prepare to travel to their next destination, Warmaster Horus expresses doubt in the purpose of the Crusade, saying that there has to be a better way. The seed of doubt and heresy is planted in his heart. And, deep in the bowels of the fleet, the thief of the anathame, Erebus, a secret servant of Chaos, plots his next move.
Best part of story, including ending: This is the book that made me fall in love with Abnett's prose. He takes a subject that would be easy to ruin (the corruption of Horus, outlined in many other Warhammer 40K products) and makes it poetic by focusing not on the larger intergalactic action, but on the smaller moments. The result is a book that is more Shakespearean tragedy than supermarket action novel.

Best scene in story: The scene where Samus possesses Jubal presents the Warp and Chaos as an inchoate, Lovecraftean, unknowable foe, which is awesome.

Opinion about the main character: The heroic Loken is a great protagonist. He's classically tragic, an incredibly powerful warrior-poet whose own sense of honor and love of his fellows blinds him the the corruption growing around him.

The review of this Book prepared by Joshua Richardson a Level 4 Yellow-Headed Blackbird scholar

Chapter Analysis of Horus Rising

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book Descript. of chases or violence 30%planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 20%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 30%Descript. of society, phenomena (tech), places 20% Tone of book    -   depressing/sad FANTASY or SCIENCE FICTION?    -   science fiction story War or Invasion    -   Yes Major kinds of combat:    -   guns Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book

Main Character

Identity:    -   Male Profession/status:    -   champion of justice Age:    -   long lived adults If magical mental powers:    -   super strength Really unusual traits?    -   Super genius


A substantial portion of this book takes place on a non-Earth planetary body:    -   unfriendly aliens    -   neutral aliens Planet outside solar system?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Accounts of torture and death?    -   moderately detailed references to deaths scientific jargon? (SF only)    -   none/very little science jargon needed How much dialogue?    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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Dan Abnett Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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