The Emperor is enraged. Primarch Magnus the Red of the Thousand Sons Legion has made a terrible mistake that endangers the very safety of Terra. With no other choice, the Emperor charges Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves, with the apprehension of his brother from the Thousand Sons’ home world of Prospero. This planet of sorcerers will not be easy to overcome, but Russ and his Space Wolves are not easily deterred. With wrath in his heart, Russ is determined to bring Magnus to justice and bring about the fall of Prospero.
Prospero Burns is told through the eyes of Kasper Hawser; an Imperial Citizen that goes around collecting and documenting remnants of the past, looking to learn the truth about Old Night and what happened to bring humanity to its knees. Compelled by bureaucratic frustrations he gives up his high-profile job to integrate himself within the ranks of the Space Wolves as a skjald – an oral historian. Through his eyes were given an in depth understanding of the Space Wolves legion as he integrates himself into their culture.
The initial pacing of the book is painfully slow and the plot jumps around all over the place. I confess to confusion at the early stages. I didn’t quite know what I was reading or who I was reading about, it was all rather jarring. Combining this with some rather confusing double speak that reminded me of Skaven, I was at a bit of a loss. Once the confusion settled and the book made head-way into its depths, it felt a little better – the plot had a sense of purpose; uncovering the traits of the Space Wolves and taking a deeper look into their chapters character. Prospero Burns shows us just how different the Space Wolves are to the other Legions, but also in how they are seen by others. General members of the Imperium see them as savage brutes, little more. While there is some truth to this, Prospero Burns also shows us how they’re so much more than that. The detailed descriptions and scenes depicting their characteristics are well written and enjoyable to a certain degree, they certainly further the imagery of the Space Wolves.
However, seeing as this book is described as the razing of Prospero through the eyes of the Space Wolves, I am sorely disappointed. A lot of the book is preamble – setting the scenes of the Space Wolves themselves – rather than the alternative focus that it’s sold as. There is very little focus on the individual Space Wolves themselves. Although the story being told from a non-Astartes allows for a deeper insight into the Legion, it leaves a lot to be desired when compared to A Thousand Sons, which not only gave good insight into the Legion, but had some very strong Astartes characters to lead the narrative. What we’re given in Prospero Burns is a lot of sub-plot about a character that, ultimately, we’ll never see again because the Horus Heresy will progress and there’s no room in it for such minor characters. Kaspar Hawser isn’t a bad character, truth be told. There is very little room for him to have an impact beyond what he documents in Prospero Burns, so the waffle of his origins and dream-experiences being repeated felt like a drudge. We’re here to read about the Horus Heresy as a whole and the key events that should have had a lot more impact – the Council of Nikea and razing of Prospero feel like they’re quickly glossed over in lieu of a remembrancers insignificant past. Insignificant to the wider Horus Heresy, at the very least.
Another of my complaints about this book is the lack of personality within the collection of Space Wolves. As a whole they’re celebrated as a Legion of their own merit; the qualities of the legion are detailed nicely and as a larger body they’re brimming with glorious details. However on an individual basis there was very little difference between them. They didn’t come across as well rounded individuals; which was one of the highest selling points early on in the Horus Heresy series. I also found that there was a distinct lack of Leman Russ in the novel, he was there, but his page time was relatively short. Considering he is mentioned three times in the blurb, I’d have thought him to be a more central character throughout the whole affair. Then again, I’d have imagined the razing of Prospero to have had a much larger part to play, bearing in mind the name of the book!
This wasn’t an easy book to get through, Dan Abnett has written some really solid entries in the series so far and I am surprised at how poorly parts of this book were edited. If I ever read the words ‘Wet Leopard growl/purr’ again I think I’ll gouge my eyeballs out to save me the horror! The phrase is so unusual and over-used it really stood out, although I adore Black Library publications, I have noticed now that there seems to be a lack of solid editing in their works and Prospero Burns really could have done with another good round or two of editing; not only to catch the over-use of certain phrases, but also to help with the rampant jumping of plot and the initially slow pacing. There’s also the issue of repetition in the book. At one point Kasper Hawser is delving into one of his dreams in order to find out a truth hidden inside it. This dream is, literally, copied and pasted several times in the later half of the book. The first time this happened, I thought my son had moved my bookmark in a ‘I’m sure I’ve already read this,’ moment of uncertainty. There was, somehow, a feeling of laziness to it all, which a good editor should have picked up on.
The Horus Heresy series is becoming a bit of a tiresome series and Prospero Burns, while giving a good account of the Space Wolves, does very little to further the over-arching story within the Horus Heresy. There’s maybe a little snippet towards the end of the book that adds to whatw e already know, but theres certainly a feeling of ‘One step forwards, two steps backwards,’ to the whole thing. At this point in the series, I am very much hoping that some traction happens in the next couple of books, or this is all going to be one very long, very drawn-out affair.
A good study into the makings of the Space Wolves Legion through the eyes of an outsider. A slow-paced plot that doesn’t cover any new ground in the Horus Heresy saga other than to give a bit more meaning to the Space Wolves themselves. Although called Prospero Burns the razing of Prospero only comes into play right at the end of the book and little mention is given to Leman Russ, despite him being mentioned on the blurb. Wholly misleading and rather disappointing.