Title: Vulkan: Lord of Drakes (The Horus Heresy: Primarchs)
Author: David Annandale
Published by: Black Library
Publication date: 4th Oct 2018
Source: Personal Collection
As the Emperor marshals his armies to reclaim the galaxy for the glory of mankind, one by one his Space Marine Legions are reunited with their missing primarchs. The XVIII Legion are still waiting to find their true identity, unaware their own lord has been found. In the Taras Division, legionaries face annihilation as they take a last, desperate stand against a monstrous ork invasion. Meanwhile, on Nocturne, Vulkan has raised and trained a new force of warriors. Now it is the time for him to lead his sons into battle. Now it is the time for him to truly don the mantle of primarch, not only to save one half of his Legion, but forge a new, indivisible whole.
Vulkan: Lord of Drakes follows two sides of the Salamanders Legion, those awaiting orders on the homeworld of Nocturne and a separate, Terran, faction fighting for survival against an Ork horde in the Taras Division. The setting is that Vulkan has recently returned to Nocturne after being with The Emperor, his father on Terra. With his Legion still divided, there are questions and doubts arising within the Nocturne Salamanders which adds an emotional level to the heroes within the novella. Especially the Nocturne faction of the Salamanders, who have doubts to their acceptance and place within the Terran section of the Legion; will they be able to work alongside and already established Legion despite their differences? In particular the doubts of Nomus Rhy’tan, the Salamanders Chaplain, are voiced. What I enjoy about the Salamanders, more so than other Space Marine Legions, is their connection to humanity and their desire to protect at all costs and this really comes out in Vulkan: Lord of Drakes.
While the main focus is on the Primarch of the Legion, Vulkan, there are other characters involved in the story, of particular note is Lord Commander Cassian Vaughn of the Terran Salamanders; it is through him and his actions that we are told a large portion of the story and are given a grounded understanding of the Legion – their rather ‘suicidal’ tendencies and tactics in battle. He is a solid character and while the focus of Vulkan: Lord of Drakes is meant to be on the Primarch, I found myself enjoying scenes with Vaughn and other supporting characters just as much. It is in the second half of the novella that Vulkan comes to the fore and we are really shown the true might of the Salamanders Primarch.
There is a certain scale to the plot in this book and it’s huge. The Salamanders are fighting against an Ork invasion coming from an ‘attack moon.’ There are elements of space warfare in Vulkan: Lord of Drakes as much as there is planetary combat but somehow I didn’t quite get a grasp of how vast things were meant to be, certainly not in concerns to the planet-side combat. There is a high body count to the book, but this is narrowed down to just a handful of characters so somehow the struggle didn’t come across as dire as it could, and possibly, should have. Most of the Space Marines are just standard ‘cardboard copies’ of one another and lacking in personality (Aside from a few mentioned above) which made it difficult to deeply care for them.
The plot of Vulkan: Lord of Drakes is rather simple to grasp and didn’t leave me scratching my head too much in confusion. The Terran Salamanders are in deep trouble fighting a horde of Orks and in need of reinforcements. The Nocturne Salamanders are waiting for the ‘go ahead’ to join their brethren and the timing for them to reunite is critical. If anything the book suffers from its simplicity. While I had no issue with reading it, as it has been a while, Vulkan: Lord of Drakes sits nicely in the ‘bolter porn’ classifications of Warhammer 40k Novels and if you’re expecting anything profound or overly enlightening from the book, you’ll be disapointed. Vulkan: Lord of Drakes has a lot of action, there is a lot of fighting against Orks, with both gun and sword, and it’s an enjoyable, easy to read romp with a little insight into the Salamanders Legion thrown in between. However I did find Promethean Sun, a much more enlightening book when it comes to the Salamanders back-story, so if you’re picking up Vulkan: Lord of Drakes for anything profound then I’d recommend picking up Promethean Sun instead.
Vulkan: Lord of Drakes is the 9th book in the Horus Heresy: Primarchs series but it’s a stand alone novel set in the Warhammer 30/40k universe and works well enough as one, a bit of background Warhammer knowledge would probably help the reader understand the novella a bit better, but again, it works well enough as a stand alone and a decent introduction to what Black Library has to offer.
Vulkan: Lord of Drakes is a fast-paced action fest of a book. If you like your Warhammer books to be a bit more thoughtful in content than just an outright war then you might be best of looking elsewhere; this is also the case if you’re looking for in depth backstory for the XVIIIth Legion. In which case, I’d look to the short story Promethean Sun.
I think this novella would be best enjoyed by fans of the XVIIIth legion, purely because it highly features them and there are some great, memorable scenes of both the Primarch himself and supporting characters doing some really entertaining, combat-related things. But the book itself can be easily classed as Bolter-Porn (Which may or may-not be a good thing, depending on what the reader is looking for.)
I enjoyed this offering in the Horus Heresy: Primarchs series that I am inspired to find other offerings in the series and give them a read – as I am finding that the Horus Heresy series is currently featuring the Primarchs less and less.