Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Don't worry. None of this blood is mine.

The First Heretic – 1st Review

Short but sweet, at My Favourite Books:


Reprinted here for kicks:

Amidst the galaxy-wide war of the Great Crusade, the Emperor castigates the Word Bearers for their worship. Distraught at this judgement, Lorgar and his Legion seek another path while devastating world after world, venting their fury and fervour on the battlefield. Their search for a new purpose leads them to the edge of the material universe, where they meet ancient forces far more powerful than they could have imagined. Having set out to illuminate the Imperium, the corruption of Chaos takes hold and their path to damnation begins. Unbeknownst to the Word Bearers, their quest for truth contains the very roots of heresy…

“Reeling in the wake of the reprimand levied by the Emperor, the foundations of his belief undermined , Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers, returns to his homeworld to contemplate the future of his Legion and the nature of his service to the Emperor. He finds comfort in the ancient rituals of Colchis, the same religion that he had quashed in a bloody civil war. With this an obsession is born, one that echoes the voice that calls to him in his dreams, beckoning him towards the edge of the galaxy.

The story begins 43 years before the infamous betrayal at Isstvan V and follows Argel Tal, a captain of the Legion, as his loyalty to Lorgar sets him on the route that will culminate in the ultimate heresy taking root in his flesh.

Aaron has dug deep here, giving us a solid character who you can’t help but empathise with, even while you know that what he is doing is wrong on so many levels; because you can get under his skin, and understand who he is, and what drives him and his battle-brothers, the tragedy of what is unfolding around him carries that much more weight. Right to the bitter end, when he and the remnants of his company stand bloodied and tattered in body and soul on the ravaged battlefields of Isstvan, their erstwhile brethren lying broken at his feet, Argel remains an engaging and sympathetic character.

This isn’t an action heavy story, although Aaron is certainly no slouch in this department- his visceral depiction of the carnage of Isstvan flies off the page. The First Heretic doesn’t suffer for that though in the slightest; it’s an intelligent and gripping portrayal of a once loyal Legion’s slow fall into the grip of Chaos. The road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

If there was ever any doubt or worry about Aaron’s ability to do justice to the Horus Heresy series, it hasn’t so much as been dismissed as shot into the heart of the sun. This is brilliant stuff.”

August 27, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Sounds like my pre-order was well placed! Can’t wait to get my grubby hands on it.

    Comment by Andreas Fabricius | August 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. Excellent stuff. I’m looking forward to this novel.

    Comment by Tim Kenyon | August 27, 2010 | Reply

  3. Man now I cant wait for this! =O Ahh shiiit.

    Comment by Forkmaster | August 27, 2010 | Reply

  4. Not really a complaint so much as a question, you’re really not big on action at all are you?

    Comment by Nick Sharps | August 27, 2010 | Reply

    • There’s a fight – or something actiony – in practically every chapter in Soul Hunter and Helsreach, dude. The way I come into it is: when there’s a battle, I like it to really matter; to be about something; and to develop/highlight a character or the plot in some way. No fight ever happens for the sake of it, unless that itself is the point.

      EDIT: I think I remember your name from a mediocre Amazon review. It’s hard to take your opinion seriously when you genuinely think Grimaldus was “whiny”, man.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | August 27, 2010 | Reply

      • Hey, just wanted to chime in and say I think your current ratio of action, character development and plot development really works for me. I think one of your strengths above many other BL authors is good dialogue, and that’s really more entertaining than just descriptions of battles, or the surrounding scenery. This is not to say your fight scenes aren’t good; you did do a wonderful job with the fight between the two dreadnoughts and the battle between Talos and the assassin in Soul Hunter.

        Comment by Chinh Tran | August 27, 2010

      • Hey, I meant no offense. I fully believe that action without purpose gets seriously tedious. As long as the plot has some considerable depth there’s no reason to overload on the skull-bashing. There just wasn’t a whole lot of depth to Helsreach, it was a pretty standard last stand type scenario. I don’t even consider that your fault, when a character is stuck in one area for the length of a novel with one objective then there’s only so much he can do. I think both of the Space Marine Battles novels so far have been pretty shallow.

        And as for the Amazon review, I did give you a mediocre rating. I also plan on giving Soul Hunter a great review when I finally get around to it. But you don’t have to bash my opinion because I thought your portrayal of Grimaldus was a bit heavy on the angst. It’s an opinion. Not all of your fans has to worship every one of your books. I’m a huge McNeill fan but I gave his latest Ultramarine’s novel a rough review too. I wasn’t attacking him, I just think he can do better.

        Comment by Nick Sharps | August 27, 2010

  5. I’m so stoked for this. I’m glad you took it the same route as some of your other stuff. Anybody can do 300 something pages of lasgun fire and bolter shells, but to weave a good story first and foremost is something to be treasured in the grim dark.

    Comment by Inache | August 27, 2010 | Reply

  6. I just got half a stalk.

    Comment by Lord Tharand | August 27, 2010 | Reply

    • Grody.

      Comment by aarondembskibowden | August 27, 2010 | Reply

      • It may be grody but I know you laughed! Seriously though, I think your style of character development is going to serve Lorgar and his boys well.

        Comment by Lord Tharand | August 27, 2010

  7. I thought Soul Hunter was quite low on “action” / “stuff you’d actually use miniatures for,” too. But that’s not a bad thing. I’d sooner know how Talos went from putting marines back together to taking them apart. And it is relative to the rest of Black Library; what was the Ghost’s book that took place over one battle? It was like 24 but with 40k.

    But, back on topic, I’m looking forward to more of Istvaan V. I know it was in Fulgrim and Flight of the Eisenstein, but there is only one battle that’s more important in the 40k canon.

    Comment by G | August 28, 2010 | Reply

  8. I am so coming to Games Day now just so I can buy First Heretic a couple of months early.


    Comment by Rachel | August 28, 2010 | Reply

  9. I’m not normaly a band wagoner but I really enjoyed all your novels. I think it’s great u engage on some of the forums yet put the idiots in their place when you have to. I’m really looking forward to this novel it might become my favorite out of the series. wish they let u do some blood angels in the heresy. Please keep up the excellent work and give us more heresy novels. question- would you ever do a novel with a dreadnought as main character? Thank you.

    Comment by Jesse B. | August 28, 2010 | Reply

  10. Sounds awesome. I can’t wait to get this one… just wish I could go to Games day and get it rather then wait a freaking extra month, or possibly week if Black Library actually ship the book once its up for pre-order rather then wait a few weeks.

    Comment by Lord of the Night | August 28, 2010 | Reply

  11. Hey man, this is cool stuff.
    I couldn’t help but giggle at Nick Sharps comments though, about a Black Templar and ‘angst’…(To NS) BT’s are inherently angst-ridden dude, and pretty quick to anger…do you read your fluff NS?
    I thought the portrayal of Grimaldus was bang on, and did a good job of how ‘shirty’ his progenitor in Dorn could be, let alone their (BTs) chief: Sigismund. If you’d paid the least bit of attention to a certain HH audiobook (The Lightning Tower) you’d know that Sigismund got incredibly rattled by jest between the Emperors chief ordinator and Dorn! He was as uptight as they come albeit in exceptional circumstances…BTS are the prime example of their first High Marshal Sigismund: Not. Too. Good. With. Humans.
    Happy Back-logging dude!!!

    Comment by Rob Ash Cypher White | August 29, 2010 | Reply

  12. Here’s the thing. It was my opinion. It’s a customer review. I found Grimaldus to be pretty one dimensional on the emotional spectrum so that’s what I wrote. I don’t have to agree with everyone else. Different strokes for different folks.

    Comment by Nick Sharps | August 29, 2010 | Reply

    • Indeed this is true. Similarly as you are allowed to speak your mind – you must also recognise that others will want to share their opinions of what you wrote.

      Comment by Tim Kenyon | August 29, 2010 | Reply

      • Of course they are. But there’s no need for hostility. I think ADB is good, I think he’s got a lot of potential. The most good you can ever do an author you admire is to challenge him instead of kissing his/her ass.

        Comment by Nick Sharps | August 29, 2010

  13. You won’t find any hostility here, just people saying what they think. Just like yourself.

    Comment by Rob Ash Cypher White | August 29, 2010 | Reply

  14. 23.I read this book and was completely blown away. I have waited for what words took place between Lorgar and the Emperor, lost not knowing. When I did read it I had no idea for what I felt after what the Emperor said that day to Lorgar. I had compassion and guilt for him. But what I really felt was sadness for them. The whole story just drags you thru the pain and is so perfectly scripted that it just tears your heart out. Well done Aaron, I loved every moment

    Comment by Michael | November 6, 2010 | Reply

  15. I’d just like to say thank you for such a well written book. The Heresy was growing a bit stale for me though your book combined with Thousand Sons and Prospero Burns have envigorated the saga, yours along with Grahams and Dans was one of the first books for a while I just couldn’t put down.

    Some have complained about the lack of action but I personally loved the pacing and the exploration of the Word Bearers and Lorgar.

    I also loved the character development and how I sympathised with Argel even as he willingly sunk deeper and deeper into darkness and the revalation about the scattering of the Primarchs was masterly! Did you have to clear that with GW first?

    Anyway I hope you write many more HH books, I’d love to read a Blood angels one by you but that’ll probably go to James won’t it? 😦

    Anyway thanks again. Soul Hunter and Helsreach are on order.

    Comment by John Ryan | January 31, 2011 | Reply

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