Review: The Honoured by Rob Sanders

Posted by DarkChaplain at 3/07/2016
The Battle for Calth is over, and the Underworld War has begun. Steloc Aethon and his Ultramarine brothers battle the treacherous Word Bearers in the darkness, but will they be consumed by vengeance?

In the immediate aftermath of the Word Bearers’ attack on Calth, survivors from both sides were driven into the subterranean arcology shelters by the tortured Veridian star. While their primarch Roboute Guilliman had planned for many seemingly unthinkable eventualities, the Ultramarines now face a new war in the underworld – could Steloc Aethon, renowned captain of ‘the Honoured 19th’ Company, be the one to lead them to ultimate victory over the traitors? Perhaps, if he can master his own bitter desire for vengeance…
In late 2015, Black Library released two new half-length novels (roughly 200 pages) to accompany the Horus Heresy: Betrayal at Calth boxed game by overlord Games Workshop.
One of these is "The Honoured" by Rob Sanders. Here's my take on it.

The Story:
"The Battle for Calth is over, and the Underworld War has begun. Steloc Aethon and his Ultramarine brothers battle the treacherous Word Bearers in the darkness, but will they be consumed by vengeance?

In the immediate aftermath of the Word Bearers’ attack on Calth, survivors from both sides were driven into the subterranean arcology shelters by the tortured Veridian star. While their primarch Roboute Guilliman had planned for many seemingly unthinkable eventualities, the Ultramarines now face a new war in the underworld – could Steloc Aethon, renowned captain of ‘the Honoured 19th’ Company, be the one to lead them to ultimate victory over the traitors? Perhaps, if he can master his own bitter desire for vengeance…"

The Review
What The Honoured does rather well is depict the Ultramarines' trauma following the death of Calth's sun, and the rush for the arcologies, to take shelter from the radiation.
Had it focused more on these aspects and less on the many action scenes that only ever see side characters or Word Bearers dead, this could've been an excellent short novel.

Instead, I found myself wanting to skip paragraphs during the many battles, and groaned over and over as the terminator sergeant in this story got beaten, battered, frozen, left hanging on a ledge and what not, all with his armor's integrity already compromised from prolonged exposure at the surface before reaching the arcology entrance. This character had so much plot armor, I just couldn't take it.

The organizational and smaller-scale engagements early on are rather well done and interesting. In fact, the scenes of Captain Aethon and his command making contact with other Ultramarine forces throughout the depths of Calth were more engaging to me than the exchange of bolter shells later on, including the sheer unstoppable Word Bearers dreadnought which shreds everything but the relevant characters. There was just so much over the top action here, mostly with very predictable outcomes, that I felt the tension sucked right out of it.

What it does well is depict Steloc Aethon's doubts and clinging to the faint hope that, somehow, Kurtha Sedd, his former friend and leader of the Word Bearers in the vicinity, can be redeemed and made to see reason. That their friendship still counts for something.
Instead, Aethon is setting up his own suffering and disappointment.

I am not sure if the battles were mandated by the book being a companion novel to the Horus Heresy: Battle at Calth tabletop set, but it would certainly explain the focus on big, bombastic action scenes that heavily pronounced the "bigger" models from the set, and just wouldn't let them go down. It makes me wonder how much more fulfilling and rewarding The Honoured could have been with less of these, and more character development instead.

The Honoured on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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