Title: Perturabo: The Hammer of Olympia (Primarchs #4)

Author: Guy Haley

Publisher: The Black Library

Date of Publication: May, 2017

Approximate Pages: 208

Review by: HeritorA

“Abbati, medico, patrono que intima pande”
(Conceal not the truth from thy physician and lawyer)

Guy Haley is a proficient and talented author, who wrote quite a lot in his writing career. Richards and Klein, Railroad, shorts and standalone novels and a lot of AoS and W40K stories. Even a full Horus Heresy novel.
Perturabo: Hammer of Olympia is his second big foray into the time of Great Crusade/HH in M30-31K.
Let’s point out something from the start – the Primarch series, which goes at the time and before the mainstream of Horus Heresy is a definite success for BL as a publisher. Partly due to the time it’s start to sell. Partly due to the ‘main’ characters of each narrative.
I already reviewed all of the previous installments, which are quite different in ratings. From a truly boring and uninteresting Roboute Guilliman: Lord of Ultramar to a good Magnus the Red: Master of Prospero and amazing Leman Russ: The Great Wolf.
Guy Haley has a lot to prove with that novella sized novel. And he did – especially if he got one of the hardest jobs so far.
The IV Legion Primarch has suffered a lot through years under the writing pen. His character was written by a big range of BL authors. Each of them used this character as a staging stone in their own stories and showed him absolutely in different light. But what they all used as a constant – is that Perturabo is a petulant child with the complex issues of self-validation and grandeur. And that Lord of Iron in general is a sadist and impersonation of fury itself (sometimes even Angron could envy Perturabo’s agression).
So Haley’s job was not an easy one. And as a truly proficient writer he tried to do the best he can with what he got. But even through he tried to do best – result is a mixed bag of stones.
First of all I will mention that I’m not a big fan of Iron Warriors – mostly cause you can’t be so unchangeable in your behavior and logic in a Galaxy of M30-31K. So I was patiently waiting will someone will give them justice in all their long road of HH and show true meaning to all their actions. So far – the best depiction of Perturabo was done by John French and partly by Graham McNeill. Partly – cause ‘Angel Exterminatus’ has more flaws than goods. And seems I will still be waiting further… Cause Haley failed with them (Not so profoundly as McNeil) but still – it is a failure.
Second – I was expecting to see the reason why let’s say a rank legionary of IW Grand battalion live and breath. And… another failure.
Third – that’s the first BL book in a long while which I was trying to read and finish for 9 days. And not because I was too busy (through I was) – but because it’s missed something, a soul if you would say.
But let’s dissect it the right way.
As BL synopsis said: “Born to a life of political conflict, Perturabo was always considered a child prodigy among the people of Olympia – indeed, his philosophical and scientific works were beyond compare. But then, after his rediscovery by the Emperor and decades of thankless military campaigning on the Great Crusade, the primarch begins to resent his Legion’s place in the Imperium. When word reaches him of turmoil on his adoptive home world, he orders the Iron Warriors to abandon their campaign against the alien hrud and crush this emerging rebellion by any means necessary…”
But it is much more. It is a war story and a story of regret. It is a story of one vengeful, spiteful curmudgeon, and how he sees himself very differently, as a misunderstood genius.
In general novella consists of 2 parts and addendum. 1 part is focusing on Perturabo during his youth on Olympia and should have shown us why he became that way. Second part focuses on his role and part in the Great Crusade and upon his return to the world that defined him. Addendum is a story from the eyes of one warsmith Barabas Dantioch and how he became the ‘insolent’ cripple in UE and Pharos.
Story progression is quite good and actions seen are definitely not bad. But where this novella shine – is actions about time-warping hrud (and not in a definitive look at what makes the master of iron tick).
That’s the first time we truly saw how SM found one of the ‘enemies’ that are more efficient than the Emperors Legions themselves. And how sad that is – especially then we are shown that they are not even fighting – but simply running/migrating away.
There’s a huge amount about the hrud in the novella (and probably the best parts of it) – not least a ground-breaking revelation about what their “migrations” actually are…
But through awesome they are they are replaced with events of Perturabo youth on Olympia and his logic behind prosecution of Olympia later on in Great Crusade. And it’s here where all the interesting build up failed utterly flat.
Novella contains a lot of interesting secondary/main characters – the good old Triarchs of Iron Warriors, battalions commanders etc. But where Guy Haley truly shine – it then depicting a usual human beings. And his cohorts of Olympian characters is what makes the book alive. Dammekos, Adophus, Lord of Iron ‘sister’ from a tyrant side – they are real and they are what makes the novella truly ticks for the Perturabo character.
And here we have the main character of the novella – great Perturabo or let’s say his egocentric logic. That’s who is the main character of Perturabo: Hammer of Olympia. And thus I will go to the cons, cause they are truly and totally based on Perturabo’s depiction.
Let be honest – Perturabo always was a petulant ego-maniac. Guy Haley tried to make Lord of Iron feel sympathetic (not empathetic! important distinction). But sadly – he failed in that. Partly it’s not his fault – IV Legion Primarch was ruined by different authors before him. Each of them tried to do justice to his character. Instead they are totally ruined his personality.
There are a lot of points in his life where you can see he easily could have been different. Or where him being a ‘giant jerk’ wouldn’t have mattered as much, because being a ‘giant jerk’ is part of the whole “intergalactic warlord” job description.
What are the real reasons for him to snapped and be so full of loathing and hate? Olympia showed him kindness, Dammekos always said ‘how great he was’ – instead even upon first meeting for his ‘step-father’ roaring maelstorm in Perturabo’s head declared him a liar.
Even being a boy he made assumptions which he validate as a constant of a universe. In regards to how he felt about Olympians, he just knew he wasn’t one of them from the beginning and was made for bigger things. AS a result – he never made any deep connections, he used them as tools to and then dispose of them, then they had served their purpose.
A lot of IW fans will tell you that among all the Primarchs, nobody embodies the weariness, the meat grinder aspect of the Great Crusade, quite like Perturabo. Many may lament it, but most still accept their lot in it. Perturabo chafed at it, always. His talents didn’t just serve to tear down fortresses, but also his own character and Legion. Instead of uniting it and making something greater.
Just look at Perturabo’s behavior with failures, even when he was the reason for them:
«Dantioch did not like the bitterness of this statement. ‘Then perhaps, my lord, it is your mistake in persisting with this campaign in the face of all available information.»
He simply can’t fathom that he could be wrong:
«Stone and iron decayed, everything decayed, but the rapidity with which the human body ceased good function and began to collapse offended his sense of order. Humanity was, in many ways, despicable ‘Others have suffered the same fate and yet they fulfill the orders given them,’ said the Primarch. ‘You were told to hold the straits. You did not.»
If I had the father like him – I would have rebelled after the first year. You can’t follow a cruel king who kills for any fault or on his mood whim. How many legionaries have rebelled – we simply don’t know. His own Legion ‘loves’ and hates him:
«Dogma is no substitute for wisdom…’ Try telling that to our primarch,’ said Zolan».
But Perturabo himself view them as expendable meat (through author tried to show it from a better view – but failed in that):
«Perturabo gave no thanks or valedictory words to his captain. He expected his warriors to die for him without question».
And through his IW SM are ready to die for him (again – totally unexplained why. Reasoning he is our Primarch totally doesn’t work here – cause he is a sadistic tyrant) rank and file humans in his fleet is another matter. Why nobody ran to Terra to tell the Emperor how his son butcher everyone who displeases him? Why they simply does not rebelled against him – his own serfs?
Through it’s much better than how he views everyone else – with a sense of totally insane ‘honor’:
«Death is the greatest peace of all,’ said Perturabo. ‘Unending and total. I prefer other lands, but I can give you death’s peace, if that is the peace you would prefer.»
And biggest Perturabo issue of all is his desire to ‘drown the shame this news brought in blood’. Sometimes like half of all the Perturabo appearances in different shorts, novellas, novels he is more mad with rage and bloodthirsty than Angron himself. To be honest – Angron seems more sane than Lord of Iron with all his ‘cold logic’ most of the times.
The problem of Perturabo as a character, a being, a warlord and a Primarch probably best shown through his dialog with his step-sister during a decimation of Olympia.
As his ‘sister’ said:
«Bo, a tomb lord. You cannot achieve the impossible so you rage like a child, and now you have unleashed this horror upon us because you can accept no compromise… You waste your men to prove a point that needs no proof, and then grow angry when no one notices and praises your self-sacrifice. Your petulance has cost this planet whole generation of youth…»
And that’s the first and biggest truth ever said to the Primarch. Because that’s exactly who Perturabo is. In all his errors, in all his flaws, in all his issues – he is a perpetrator. And all of it is overshadowed by his dogmatic view of the Master of Mankind and the Galaxy.
«The Emperor of Mankind makes no mistakes!’ shouted Perturabo. He powered to his feet, towering over the ruined warsmith. ‘His plans are flawless – how could it be any other way?»
Which eventually leads to absolutely errored and horribly wrong deduction:
«This pointless, ruinous campaign was the fault of the Emperor’s vanity.»
As his sister said – maybe he was given he hardest tasks cause he was able to overcome everything?
Or maybe if Horus weren’t the Warmaster, forcing Primarchs into his own camp by exploiting their flaws. In Perty’s case, knowingly sending him against threats like the Hrud that are obviously not going to work out well with Perturabo’s approach to war. I think Horus was doing that before he even knew he wanted to rebel against the Emperor, too. Just manipulating things his way out of pride and vanity.
And thus that leads us to the greatest tragedy of the Iron Warriors. It wasn’t the perfidious influence of Chaos or anything that broke them. Just years and century of thankless grinding and a perfect storm of cultural circumstances. It’s at least a little heart-breaking to see the Perturabo from Magnus, where he seems confident and wise and the Great Crusade is a fresh thing to believe in for him, and to compare that to the Perturabo by the end of this novel.
Guy Haley did tried to make a whole and believable Lord of Iron personality from all the previous shards which were left by his predecessors.
And for that only he deserves respect and fans appreciation.
But in general, as I said before – he was able to create a vengeful, spiteful curmudgeon, who he sees himself very differently, as a misunderstood genius.
I will rate it as 4 out of 5 stars (through I was going to give it 3 due to really hard road while reading it) – because hrud, the last chapter’s dialogues and Perturabo’s egocentric, horribly direct bluntness saved the story for me.
I think if Guy Haley was able to least partly save Lord of Iron ‘depiction’, he would be one of the best candidates to write a Mortarion Primarch novella.