Tuesday, October 2, 2007

REVIEW: The Dark King/The Lightning Tower


This review contains spoilers.

The Horus Heresy Chapbook contains two short stories; The Dark King and The Lightning Tower, by Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett respectively. It is a limited edition of 1500 copies.

The stories concern themselves with two Primarchs who have developed a bitter enmity; Rogal Dorn of the Imperial Fists and Konrad Curze of the Night Lords.

Part 2 - The Dark King by Graham McNeill

Konrad Curze, Primarch of the Night Lords, is haunted by visions of Astartes fighting each other and a golden eagle cast from the heavens. As he comes to his senses he realises that he has attacked Rogal Dorn, Primarch of the Imperial Fists. Curze is imprisoned.

Curze and Dorn had quarreled about the purpose of the Great Crusade; Curze thought it was to conquer, to force obedience through fear, while Dorn thought it was to liberate and govern with benevolence. The Night Lords Primarch tries to illustrate his point. Curze gave a gun to a prisoner. While Curze intimidated the prisoner, he was compliant. As soon as Curze turned his back, the prisoner attacked him. Curze mercilessly killed the prisoner. Dorn is disgusted and orders that the Night Lords stand down from the conflict on Cheraut.

Curze told Fulgrim, Primarch of the Emperor's Children, about his tormenting visions. Fulgrim breaks his confidence and tells Dorn. Dorn confronts Curze. This leads to the fight between Curze and Dorn described earlier.

Curze learns that the Night Lords are to be recalled to Terra to account for their methods. He also discovers that Nostramo, their homeworld, is rife with corruption and lawlessness. Curze escapes his prison and slaughters many marines in the event. He uses the shadows and relishes the fear he causes in his victims. He becomes the Night Haunter.

Curze returns to Nostramo. The Imperial Fists follow him. Society on Nostramo has broken down. Curze belives that without the fear of reprisal, humanity has reverted to it's basest desires and that the Emperor's belief in the goodness of mankind is folly. Curze reads the Tarot cards and gets the same reading as Malcador in The Lightning Tower. Curze destroys Nostramo in the belief that it's sacrifice is what is required to preserve the galaxy for humanity.

Konrad Curze has always been one of the most interesting Primarchs to me, largely because of the literary and film links with Kurtz from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Colonel Kurtz from the film Apocalypse Now. I loved both the book and the film and the Kurtz character is integral to both of them. He is an ambiguous figure who exists to critique progress and the nature of civilization and seems able to connect to some base, animal will within himself and humanity.

Of course the other reading is that he is simply insane. His visions are true, though...

It's good to see an outing for Curze and a glimpse into his tragedy. It's also good that he doesn't descend into the typical pantomime villain, evilly cackling as he hatches his nefarious plans. Instead he is plagued by troubling truths and is betrayed and forced out by those around him. His twisted relationship with Dorn is well drawn and McNeill's writing is as solid and dependable as ever.

I give the The Dark King and The Lightning Tower 8/10.


All of my reviews end in a score out of ten for the product. The table below explains what that score means.

  • 10/10 Perfect, absolutely nothing better
  • 9/10 Excellent, highly recommended
  • 8/10 Very good, recommended
  • 7/10 Good
  • 6/10 Above average, some problems
  • 5/10 Average, some good points some bad points
  • 4/10 Below average, some redeeming features
  • 3/10 Poor, major flaws
  • 2/10 Very poor, avoid if possible
  • 1/10 Absolutely appalling

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