All in all I have to say this entry in the HH series is a true let-down. I understand the Black Library would like to keep it's cash cow mooing right along, but more and more I'm seeing entries into this series that have nothing to add to the epic storylines laid out in the first several books. None of the four novellas in this volume contribute anything significant to my understanding of the primarchs they center around. (Spoiler Alerts)
The first story deals with Fulgrim, primarch of the Emperor's Children legion. Taking place shortly after Isstvan V, it depicts depravity, excess, indulgence, and a prolonged torture sequence that made me feel like I was reading the script of a snuff film. I can't help but feel that most fans are well aware of the horrors of the burgeoning 40k universe in this series, but what I would find more compelling is the effect of this on its inhabitants rather than just more depictions the horror- it should be made to matter to the characters, to impact them. The non-revelation at the end was a poor payoff for enduring this tripe. McNeill should be ashamed to put this out- he's better than this.
The second novella concerns an ordeal Ferrus Manus, primarch of the Iron Hands, endures at the hands of an Eldar farseer. Nick Kyme makes little effort to set this in a context of the greater events unfolding in the series- seriously, change some names and you could easily set this in any 40k novel. That's the problem I had with Salamander, the first in his trilogy centering around the Salamanders chapter- it, too, had little context in the greater setting- I had problems trying to understand why the story was going on. Same here in the story about Ferrus and his Iron Hands. The battle scenes were adequate- watching the Eldar turn the Iron Hands' supposed strength against them was interesting- but little else was compelling. I have to say this is more from a growing trend in the HH series rather than poor writing; the plot device of using a character burdened with a terrible foresight trying to warn another character about to be destroyed. This could be compelling, but when we, as readers of the previous books, know what is going to happen to the character destined for said destruction regardless of the warnings, it becomes less compelling and suspenseful and more "why bother". The Outcast Dead by McNeill was a HH novel that revolved wholly around this concept. Why write a whole story revolving around warning someone we know will be ignoring it, sealing a fate we already know of? More importantly, why read it?
The third tale involves Lion El'Jonson, primarch of the Dark Angels. This was the most compelling of the stories, and actually added a bit to our knowledge of this brooding leader. It was well paced, with harrowing combat and conflict, and the Lion was shown as a leader and a contemplator. Although we've all seen the "Geller-field-is-down-here-come-the-daemons" sequences, the one in this tale is pretty intense. A good entry, hinting at turmoil to come, so it does contain a bit of context from the greater weaving of the overall epic. I enjoyed this one.
The last story, by Rob Sanders, deals with the twin primarchs of the Alpha Legion. I wish I could say I could see what he was trying to depict, but I can't. This entry was a mess, from it's convoluted beginning to an ending that beggars belief. One of the twins, Omegon, is concerned with an information leak at a secret Alpha Legion installation. He secures and employs numerous assets to...(I can't believe I'm writing this) infiltrate and destroy their own base from within. It made as much sense to me as a general ordering a shock-and-awe strike against one of our own aircraft carriers to handle a black marketeer dealing in bootleg footwear. The story abounds with odd decisions and questionable actions. I understand that the Alpha Legion is known as the spy/ subterfuge legion, sitting like a bloated spider at the center of a web of information and deceit that spans the galaxy, but this novella didn't depict that legion- it depicted the paranoid-schizophrenic multiple personality disorder legion we were led to believe was the Alpha Legion...I think...
If this is typical of Sanders' work, I can't say I'm enthused to try it again.
Disappointing when taken in whole, with the story about Lion El'jonson the diamond in the rough here, I have to say it's a poor entry in the Horus Heresy series. It would have been one star, but for the Lion's story, so two stars.