For Christmas I received the Leman Russ novel from my lovely wife. I thought I'd just write a quick review.
There will be spoilers...
Firstly, the actual book is a work of art. I got the limited edition copy (No. 1815). It's leather bound, embossed with golden runes and exactly as I'd want a limited edition Space Wolves novel to be. My only gripe is the lack of any artwork within the book, like there usually is with the limited editions.
The story itself is essentially a detailed account of the legendary Wolf and Lion story, about how the masters of the Space Wolves and Dark Angels obtained their famous beef with each other.
The beginning of the book describes the first batch of Blooded Claws being inducted into the Chapter (as opposed to the Legion, this takes back at the end of the scouring). One of them is feeling melancholy and slips away for a moment alone, bumping into Leman Russ sneaking around and mourning the news that Lion El Johnson is lost/dead.
Russ recounts the story to the Blooded Claw, after revealing he hates all the bloody sagas being recounted all the time...
The story is pretty much as we know it. The Wolves have been hunting the home world of a race which are refusing to join the Imperium. But they are taking too long so the Dark Angels are sent to 'assist'. This soon speeds things up, the two legions finally meet as the Dark Angels are besieging the core system. The wolves rush in and screw things up, putting them on the back foot.
An accord is struck, the two would work together to assault the capital and The Lion agrees that Russ can have the warlord's head.
That's where the sh*t hits the fan.
What Russ doesn't know is that the Curse of the Wulfern is rearing its ugly head for the first time. The Legion knows that some don't make it through the initial trials, but now the 13th Company are finding that fully grown warriors can also succumb too. The Jarl of the 13th is worried that it is just his company, because they were Russ's mortal warriors that were all judged too old to take the helix and be turned into Space Marines, he's worried it is a flaw unique to their company and that if he reveals it, they will be censored.
So he keeps it hidden. Later, some of his warriors are kidnapped by the enemy and he's worried it is because they had turned.
Then we get to the final assault, the Wolves are pushing in to the palace, Russ can taste victory. But he wants the 13th there with him. Unfortunately they've gone off to rescue the captive Wulfern, stalling the advance. Russ goes to bring them to heel, further stalling.
The Lion is stuck between a rock and hard place: he promised the warlord to Russ but if he delays any further, the assault could fail, the defenders are mounting a counter attack. He waits, then reluctantly teleports in to finish the deed. Russ rocks up about 30 seconds too late, fuming with his own commanders, fuming with The Lion. The two Primarchs have their epic duel, pretty much destroying the palace whilst insulting the hell out of each other. But them Russ is like "why are we fighting again?" The Lion knocks him out and leaves, feeling that Russ' laughter is mocking him.
And that's pretty much it. Russ finishes his tale but telling the Blooded Claw never to forget the story, then sneaks off.
From reading between the lines I get the impression that Russ is not liking the changes in the Imperium, or even his own Legion, since the Horus Heresy ended. He liked it simple: warring and feasting, but is stuck with the knowledge that his own Legion will never achieve what some of the others had. He strikes me as very similar to Curze in this regard: he knows he can only work with what he's got but he's intelligent enough to know that he could have achieved so much more if he'd drawn a different lot. I get the impression Russ dislikes his own warriors in the same way that Curze does, he just doesn't know what to do about it.
The second insight is that of the two, The Lion is actually the one who holds a grudge longest and can't see the bigger picture. He hated Russ laughing at their feud. He never considered it as finished, so the first thing he did upon meeting Russ after the end of the Heresy was challenge him, and when Russ wouldn't fight, he stabbed him. Only then considering his honour restored.
We also learn that The Lion knows of the Wulfern curse but yet kept it secret, which I imagine is why Russ trusts him no matter their differences. And why he mourns his loss.
This is the second book I have read in a row by Chris Wraight (after Path of Heaven last week) so I'm a bit Wraighted out, but as usual the quality is high and I can only recommend reading this.
My final question, which is not really a single question, is about The Lion. After reading all of the Horus Heresy novels I'm still no clearer as to why he treated his legion on Caliban the way he did. There is no hint as to why he essentially abandoned them and Luther the way he did. Yes, they had a bit of a falling out, but he doesn't strike me as a man to leave a wound festering for 50 years hoping it will heal itself. If he thought Luther was a threat, he would have dealt with him immediately, not left him to corrupt his legion on the hearth world. You guys have any ideas?
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