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The Horus Heresy #12

A Thousand Sons

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Censured at the Council of Nikea for his flagrant use of sorcery, Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons Legion retreat to their homeworld of Prospero to continue their use of the arcane arts in secret. But when the ill-fated primarch forsees the treachery of Warmaster Horus and warns the Emperor with the very powers he was forbidden to use, the Master of Mankind dispatches fellow primarch Leman Russ to attack Prospero itself. But Magnus has seen more than the betrayal of Horus and the witnessed revelations will change the fate of his fallen Legion, and its primarch, forever.

558 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2010

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About the author

Graham McNeill

305 books725 followers
Hailing from Scotland, Graham McNeill narrowly escaped a career in surveying to work for Games Workshop as a games designer. He has a strong following with his novels Nightbringer, Warriors of Ultramar, Dead Sky, Black Sun and Storm of Iron.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 309 reviews
Profile Image for Markus.
472 reviews1,524 followers
June 26, 2021
From the moment I turned my other eye inwards, I knew they were there: The Eternal Powers of the Great Ocean, beings older than time with power beyond imagining. Only they had the means to save you all from hideous mutation and death, so yes, I supped from their poisoned chalice.

Another brilliant Graham McNeill outing. My first real encounter with Magnus and the Thousand Sons, and I am not disappointed. In fact, I think Magnus may be my favourite primarch. The additional exploration of sorcery, the Warp, and new and interesting planets and cultures was an added bonus.

Definitely one of the best books in the series so far.
Profile Image for Jeff.
24 reviews13 followers
January 6, 2010
Picked up the book last evening, finished reading and turned out the light at exactly 3:33am. Coincidence?
My review? Go out and buy the book, absorb it in one sitting.

That's it?

I have to admit that is this is a difficult book to read and review as I am forced to set aside any fanboy glee for what is my personal favorite Legion (1ksons) and the Horus Heresy novel I've been waiting for since the beginning. Deep breath. I'm a pro. Objectivity. GO!


A Thousand Sons is a story about one loyal son and his Legion versus another. If you're expecting this to be about The Thousand Sons being vile traitors...you will be surprised to say the very least.

Graham McNeill crafts a moving story about one of The Emperor of Mankind's most loyal sons. If anything this can be considered one of the greatest tragedies of the entire Horus Heresy. I think that Magnus, like all his brother Primarchs are flawed in some way. Arrogance, hubris, pride...just like their father.

You ever have a friend or know someone who is really a genius, and every time you tell them something...they "know it". Maybe they do, maybe not. Even if that person has the very best intentions...it's hubris.

That is Magnus.

If anything The Thousand Sons are the most personable Legion of Astartes I've seen yet. They have character. They are Astartes, so they are trained and hones like any other...but free thinking. Critical thinkers who question, evaluate, and delve in to all matter of knowledge. They are extremely disciplined in their learning. Magnus? Nicest and coolest Primarch you ever met. Ahriman? Great guy, love to share a glass of wine with him and talk history.

Graham McNeill makes the Thousand Sons very inviting. Very easy to like. You really do get to like them. Camaraderie and banter better than anything I've seen so far from "Astartes". Every single one completely and steadfastedly loyal to their Emperor.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions"

I swear that could be the byline of the novel and the XV Legion itself.

The novel tends to be fairly conversational. The Thousand Sons don't have the battle history that other Legions had. Where Russ and Lorgar tended to be largely weapons to be pointed at a target, Magnus and the Thousand Sons were considerate of the How and Why of battle. Winning hearts and minds. What is the point of conquering a place if everyone is dead? I am glad Graham McNeill was slotted for this novel because he does "conversational" well.

I don't mean to say that the author doesn't do action well or anything. He's just a very thoughtful, philosophical author. Take in to consideration the short story "The Last Church" in Tales of Heresy (a short story I consider to be absolutely fantastic). The author does a fantastic job at delving in to secrets (and being a frigging TEASE). I can't say much without spoiling things. Graham McNeill does a good job in expanding what is known about The Thousand Sons, The Emperor, the Emperyan, and the Horus Heresy and Warhammer 40,000 universe at a whole...without giving away the farm.

Quibbles? The naming conventions are flavorful, but alien to a modern day American...so I had to reference the up-front cast of characters often to avoid confusion on who's who. What can you do though? The Legion has a pseudo-Egyptian flavor.

There are some slow spots. Sometimes frustrating spots...but then when you consider that these guys deal in prophesy, visions and interpretations of possible futures...it can be a little weird. It fits though...it's not jarring or anything. I guess in a way you have to expect it. Maybe it was just anticipation wanting things to GO FASTER...but then we'd miss important plot points and bits of secrets. Mwahahahahah [rubbing hands together:]

Like most BL novels the reader needs to understand that the books are written from a certain perspective: In this case from the perspective (largely) of Ahriman's. The Space Wolves are wild barbaric beasts, cunning and ruthless in extremis. Almost mindless savages. Again...this is a matter of perspective. I'm interested to see what Dan Abnett does with the other half of the story.

Overall, the story is a vast landscape of knowledge to be absorbed. There's a lot of material here just in understanding of The Warp and how it works as a tool and just how pervasive it can be. The secret bits of Thousand Sons and Horus Heresy lore are tasty. Other secret bits of Warhammer 40,000 lore, like the Blood Ravens? Well...I'll leave that for you to read for yourself!
Profile Image for Gianfranco Mancini.
2,197 reviews754 followers
February 12, 2017

This was a blast of a re-read! Totally forgot the Cthulhu Mythos references to the Pnakotic Manuscripts and "Mad Alhazred", but the best one was the vision about the Dawn of War videogame series Blood Ravens!

The tragic tale about Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons fall is still my most favourite one Horus Heresy tale.
The last hundred pages with the Space Wolves assault and the razing of Prospero were a real page turner.
Just a shame Mcneill messed continuity later with "The Outcast Dead" but that is another story...
Profile Image for Matthew.
381 reviews137 followers
March 31, 2017
I recently re-read this book, and damn I'd forgotten how good it was. Tragic, enthralling, and filled with cool moments of action. Wonderful read.

4 out of 5 stars.
Profile Image for Patremagne.
223 reviews69 followers
September 7, 2014
The most misunderstood of the legions, A Thousand Sons provides an excellent tale of brotherhood and betrayal who showcase truly awesome feats of power. Definitely more human-like Astartes in the Sons, much to McNeill's credit. Their pursuit of knowledge and its preservation has me conflicted in my feelings for the Space Wolves, who are among my favorites, who seek to destroy it utterly. Favorite of the Heresy series so far.
Profile Image for Nikola Pavlovic.
276 reviews40 followers
February 26, 2023
Vidim da ovu knjigu hvali najveci deo, ako ne i svi fanovi Warhammer univerzuma. Razlog za to je nseumnjivo veliki broj jako bitnih dogadjaja koje ona ozivljava. Nekada iskrenost, postenje i najbolja namera nisu dovoljni da vas spasu stravicnih posledica, dok je arogancija gotovo uvek recept za katastrofu. Tragicna knjiga o tragicnoj sudbine jedne (vise od jedne) verne legije.
Profile Image for Chris Berko.
466 reviews115 followers
January 31, 2020
Wow, what a F'ing story.

This is some Bill Shakespeare up in this shit! A fantastically entertaining blend of about forty different genres, this book is one of the better Horus Heresy novels I've read, and I'm twelve deep now. I know I've dug pretty much every Warhammer 40K book I've read but this one is just that much better than those other ones, it's bigger and more complex than most of them and does a very decent job at emotion instigation as evidenced by heartbreak and disappointment as well as excitement and thrill. I like each one for a different reason but this one shines just a little brighter, it is very much an amazing book.
Profile Image for Jean-Luc.
269 reviews29 followers
September 14, 2016
What is wisdom without debate? Why condemn everyone around you in order to punish yourself? This book, which should've been named A Thousand Bad Decisions, all made with the absolute best of intentions, is Ahzek Ahriman's attempt to set the record straight about what his father did and why. In the 41st millennium, Ahriman is one of the most murderous sorcerors to ever plague the Imperium, but 10,000 years before that he was a loyal son and devoted scholar.

Long before the dropsite massacre, Amlodhi Skarssen Skarssensson, high jackass of the Wolf Wolves, journeys to the planet Aghoru to demand Magnus, primarch of the XV Legion (Thousand Sons), join Magnus' brothers Leman Russ and Lorgar, primarchs of the VI and XVII Legion respectively. Magnus refuses; there is archaeology to be done. Once the Thousand Sons and the Wolf Wolves finish shooting everything, it's time to head to the Ark Reach Cluster.

The citizens of Ark Reach made the mistake of not bending to the Emperor's will immediately and it is time for them to die. Leman Russ murders everyone, including those trying to surrender. Magnus is impressed by their technology and tries to stop the Wolf Wolves from destroying a library. Leman Russ and his Wolf Wolves howl like wolves to express their rage, but Magnus will not be denied access to books. Only the timely intervention of Lorgar, the Urizen, prevents space marine from fighting space marine.

With Skarssensson is Ohthere Wydrmake, a Wolf Wolves Rune Priest. Wyrdmake befriends Ahriman and Ahriman teaches the ignorant barbarian shaman the wonders of The Great Ocean. But Wyrdmake's friendship is a ruse! Leman Russ never forgot that one time Magnus stopped him from murdering everything, and the Rune Priest's real mission was to gather evidence against the Thousand Sons!

That evidence is presented at the Council of Nikea, a literal witch hunt. "No more sorcery!", the Emperor commands! The Thousand Sons, an entire legion of psykers (sorcerers), are forced to return to their homeworld of Prospero, to think about what they've done.

But but but! "We have done no wrong!" Magnus reasons. And The Emperor is in great danger from unexpected treachery! Surely The Emperor will forgive Magnus if he uses sorcery to warn him of that treachery??

And everything falls apart.

The Thousand Sons were loyal to The Emperor and the Imperium of Man. That The Emperor could err so disastrously as to unleash the Wolf Wolves, his executioners, upon the Thousand Sons has never been convincingly explained. Even now, this book is only one half of the story, and it creates as many questions as it answers. Tizca, the City of Light, was a glimpse of what the Imperium of Man should have been. Its citizens were a vision of what mankind could have become. If only The Emperor had completed the Golden Throne! If only Magnus had listened to his father and assumed his place on the Golden Throne to guide humanity to its shining future! If only! If if if...

If there exists a better written tragedy, then I haven't read it. The Thousand Sons should've stood shoulder to shoulder with their brothers, the Imperial Fists, on the walls of the Imperial palace. Hell, with the Thousand Sons firmly on the loyalists' side, Horus and his goons probably wouldn't have made it that far. I've said it over and over with every book in the Horus Heresy, and I'll say it again: it didn't have to be this way.
Profile Image for Simon Mee.
304 reviews12 followers
January 5, 2023
‘Nearly all men can stand adversity, but few can stand the ultimate test of character, that of wielding power without succumbing to its darker temptations.’

The epic, the saga, the tragedy. The longest book in the Horus Heresy series so far, A Thousand Sons is also the most focused attempt to show a “good” character brought down by a flaw. McNeill already had a go at it with Fulgrim, which was good but had some issues around motivation. With A Thousand Sons, it’s very very close to Horus Rising as the best so far. As a complete story with some unexpected ambiguity, it's arguably better.

Magnus the One-Eyed is the sorcerer primarch, devoted to knowledge, particularly in relation to that ethereal realm known as the Warp. Loud in his proclamations of loyalty to the EMPEROR OF MANKIND:

The Emperor knows I am his most loyal son.

…he does questionable deals with mysterious entities; ignores clear commands; falls out with fellow primarchs; and compels the sacrifice of the lives of others for his goals. Yet Magnus ranks as the most sympathetic of the traitor primarchs, perhaps even redeemable, even if he loved a show:

He had the distinct impression that Magnus had not arrived here by accident, that this encounter was as stage-managed as any of Coraline Aseneca’s supposedly improvised theatre performances.


A reader will work out pretty quickly the broad strokes of what is going to happen. It’s hubris, Hubris, HUBRIS virtually every chapter, screaming for the nemesis. Magnus is a stage manager, most prominently when he reimagines the Parable of the Cave to suit his ideals:

'They heaped praise upon the man who had shown them the way to the light, and honoured him greatly, for the world and all its bounty was theirs to explore for evermore.'

…presuming no one will call him out on this manipulation. His subordinate Ahriman catches him lying multiple times about the Warp and Magnus’ dealings with it yet, again, Magnus sweeps on without regard. Finally, we have Magnus’ attempted warning to the EMPEROR OF MANKIND by way of warp trickery - the most extreme exercise of hubris meeting catastrophic results.

Oh, also Magnus takes his blunder badly and murders a number of his "Thousand Sons" in a tremendous sulk.

Now I read the narrative as clearly establishing “Magnus was wrong” and that he was not a nice guy. But this is where the characterisation is complicated (deliberately) by the setting. By our ethical standards, where Magnus essentially demands the immolation of the innocent prophetess Kallista, it’s an easy call to consider Magnus “evil”. However, in a universe where it’s rational to:

- lobotomise criminals and repurpose them as cybernetic slaves;
- exterminate virtually any other non-human form of intelligent life; and
- repeatedly recklessly cause the deaths of others similarly warp touched as Kallista,

...how bad or evil was Magnus? It’s not as obvious as with Horus, or Fulgrim, or even the “driven insane by his own visions of the Imperium” Conrad. Magnus is a guy who broke the rules of an incredibly bloodthirsty and fascistic society notable for rule-breaking by its other leading lights.

Magnus’ rule-breaking isn't justifiable, and there are awful consequences, such as breaking open protective barriers for daemons to run loose. However, just what are "evil" acts in the context of the universe one inhabits? Is evilness an objective thing that never shifts (the more comfortable option) or is it dependent what society accepts?

One unambiguous critical mark against Magnus is his interactions with his brother Primarchs. Mortarion and Leman expressly hate him, his “friends” Sanguinius and Fulgrim act deceptively towards him and, while not dealt with in this novel, Horus deliberately sets out to ruin Magnus. Magnus might not be evil, but he could be something worse: a loser.

On the side

‘I told you I was no artist,’ said Mahavastu, without opening his eyes.
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ said Lemuel. ‘It has some rustic charm to it.’
‘Would you hang it on your wall?’
‘A Kallimakus original?’ asked Lemuel, taking a seat. ‘Of course. I’d be mad not to.’

The Horus Heresy tends to rely on side characters of either Space Marines or humans to view the actions of the Primarchs. Despite, this A Thousand Sons nails them as being more than vessels for our perspective, using its greater length to reflect and build up interactions. There are actions scenes, such as the fight with the psychotic psyker psychneueins, but also time spent drinking wine and planning for the future, or remembering those lost.

When characters get angry with each other, or plead with each other, or betray each other, I can see why they do it, and why it might hurt those afflicted by those choices. The time spent on background, without being boring, lifts those characters from being conveniences of the plot, which is impressive considering this book is about the preening Magnus. Ahriman, Magnus’ loyal captain, justifies his separate trilogy here, a character worth knowing more about and who takes the time to think about what he sees and hears.

‘But why now?’ asked Ahriman. ‘When the Crusade is in its final stages.’
A shadow crossed Magnus’s face, as though Ahriman’s question had strayed into a region he disliked. ‘Because this in an epochal moment for humanity,’ he said, ‘a time when great change is upon us. Such times require to be marked in the race memory of the species. Who among us will ever experience a moment like this again?’
Ahriman was forced to agree with that sentiment, but as they drew near to the first checkpoint in the perimeter around the Emperor’s dais, he realised that Magnus had neatly diverted his question.

Duel of the Fates

A Thousand Sons is paired with Prospero Burns, so I’ll have to reserve judgement on the fall of Magnus until I read the latter. But the ambiguity in A Thousand Sons makes its epicness.
Profile Image for Josh.
158 reviews110 followers
June 3, 2018
Superb piece of 40k fiction, in my opinion the best of the Horus Heresy series.

A vivid and fascinating depiction of the events that led Magnus the Red and his legion of the Thousand Sons away from the imperium. A tragic story that sympathises with the fallen legion.
Profile Image for Tim.
51 reviews3 followers
May 29, 2017
The first part of a duology, followed by Prospero Burns. The duology focusses on an event in the Horus Heresy where the Space Wolves are sent to sack the homeworld of the Thousand Sons, Prospero, to punish them for practicing the forbidden arts of sorcery.

Interestingly enough, the writers switched places while doing the preparations and brainstorming. Although the rough Space Wolves chapter was more McNeill's 'thing', he took on the challenge to write the subtle Thousand Sons. While Dan Abnett would do his best to add new twists to the 'wolves.

In the WH40K universe Magnus the Red is an evil Primarch-turned-DaemonPrince, and Ahzek Ahriman the cruel champion of Tzeentch, the chaos power that revels in secrecy, subtleties and change for the sake of change.

But it wasn't always like this, and McNeill fleshes out the characters before Tzeentch forced them to go their evil ways.
I use the word "forced" deliberatly, even though in the Heresy, each chapter and primarch in the end makes their choice to go 'evil' very consciously and (most times) willingly.

The Thousand Sons where damned from the beginning, and knowledge of what is to come makes you want to scream at the pages where the legionaries willingly practise various types of sorcery, let them be guided by 'helpful spirits from the Great Ocean, or Tutelaries', and dabble in all kinds of forbidden knowledge.
Magnus, the primarch, is the most arrogant herein: having saved his legion from wild mutations by consorting with 'benevolent, old forces of the Primordial Creator'... which only cost him an eye...

Magnus and Ahriman are characters you start to sympathise with, even though you see (with that perfect hindsight) the big trap Tzeentch has set for them. And when that trap slams shut, the reader is still sympathetic even when the legion behaves like a full-blown chaos marine legion.

Even at the end, after close to 500 pages, where the cursive text hints at that other important event in the Thousand Sons's history, after Ahriman and Magnus have committed their first atrocities against the Wolves, there's still that pang of sympathy, that feeling that they couldn't help it...

Great, awesome story! Reading back-to-back with Prospero Burns now.

It cannot be read by WH40K novices, although I guess you don't have to go through the full Horus Heresy... knowing enough of all legions' subtleties should be enough to start the Heresy at this tome.
Profile Image for Thomas.
242 reviews10 followers
April 24, 2022
It’s back to my 40k reading project and this time I had the pleasure of another Graham McNeill novel. Besides Magnus, The Thousand Sons have only featured sparsely in the last couple of Warhammer novels I’ve read. I was intrigued to learn more about this Legion and Mr McNeill gave me just opportunity I was looking for.

A Thousand Sons focuses on the Legion’s activities prior to the events of the main heresy. Feared by his brother Primarchs, Magnus the Red is called to Nikaea to answer for crimes of sorcery. Having foreseen the treachery of his brother Horus, Magnus tries in vain to warn his father, who in turn unleashes the brutal Space Wolves upon the Son’s home world of Prospero.

Graham McNeill’s novels I often find to be hit and miss due to his writing style. This one, fortunately, was a hit. There were some very well written sequences in the earlier sections, especially with the interaction between the Primarchs. McNeill still needs to work on his battle scenes though, as I still feel he loses his way when it comes to these.

In terms of characters, there were some intriguing ones to be found throughout. I enjoyed the relationship between Lemuel, Camille and Kallista. It was also a pleasure to see the Custodes return to the story. The highlight of the novel for me though was Ahriman. There were so many entertaining passages with his character throughout my reading experience and I’m very eager to learn more about him.

Another very enjoyable addition to my Horus Heresy collection. I’m pleased to give Mr McNeill a solid 4 stars for this one. For now, I’ll return to another fantasy series, but I’m very excited to read both James Swallow’s Nemesis and Dan Abnett’s Prospero Burns going forward.
Profile Image for Ken.
186 reviews28 followers
September 2, 2013
After the last few duds in the series, A Thousand Sons provides a strong comeback for the series. The richness of the Horus Heresy history flows through this book as we're treated to both the Coronation of Horus at Ullinor and the Council of Nikaea. Unlike the Dark Angels books where we're only told of their Primarch from afar, in this book we not only have Magnus, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons, but also plenty of scenes with the Emperor, Lehman Russ and also minor appearances of other Primarchs.

The inclusion of Space Wolves in the novel provides a strong contrast to the Thousand Sons and shows just how vastly different the legions are. A legion of raw savageness versus a legion of cool, calm intellect. It was amazing to see how the relationship between the two legions devolve from mistrusted ally to all out hatred of each other.

The remembrancers are skillfully added to the story without feeling like a drag. The interaction between the Thousand Sons and the remembrancers show what a great leader Magnus could have made if only he understood better what malevolent forces are at work and what price he had to pay. I wonder how things would be if Magnus had helped Horus or if he used another way to inform the Emperor of Horus's betrayal.

The only thing that’s stopping this book from getting full marks is the slightly slower pace of the book.
Profile Image for Noah Hallett.
22 reviews
April 14, 2012
I read this immediately after reading Nick Kyme's Tome of Fire Trilogy. I was willing to read this entirely because I liked those books so much. This one was also recommended to me by the same friend who lent me the Tome of Fire Trilogy, because he knew I liked the Thousand Sons.

In short, I was a little underwhelmed. This story is VERY slow, which I don't usually mind, but this is a very long book where remarkably little actually happens. And while the battles are described in excruciating detail, it was somehow hard for me to picture it clearly.
The description of Magnus, the Primarch of the Thousand Sons, is quite good. The portrayal of Ahriman (the protagonist, and my main reason for wanting to read the book in the first place) was very disappointing.

I should say, there are a few very memorable moments. Those parts are very cool, especially interactions between the Primarchs and the different Space Marines chapters. And how the Imperium deals with the issues that spring up immediately before the Horus Heresy.

Overall I thought it was well worth the read, and despite the slow progress of the story, I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Steve.
204 reviews1 follower
March 29, 2019
Previously, I said that Fulgrim (another Graham McNeill novel) was the best depiction so far of a Legion's fall to Chaos. Thousand Sons has now claimed that throne. Both the Emperor's Children (from Fulgrim) and the Thousand Sons are in large part undone by their own hubris, but the Thousand Sons are a bit easier to relate to (as, spoiler, the fall of Fulgrim stems from being psychically poisoned by a sentient artifact). Indeed, much of the Horus Heresy setting revolves around individuals or groups being crushed by their own pride - whether that's Astartes believing they are above mortal men, Primarchs believing they can control the powers of the Warp (or outsmart the Gods therein), or even the Emperor believing that he can create a utopia by conquering the galaxy. In the best tragedies, you can sympathize with the heroes, cringing as they make poor decisions, even while knowing that you'd likely make the same ones. Thousand Sons is the closest yet the Horus Heresy has come to such greatness.

It started a bit slow, but once it got rolling, it was an excellent ride.
Profile Image for Brian.
211 reviews5 followers
September 3, 2012
I love how Chaos just leaves you guessing about how much they really influence these "gods" aka Primarchs. I also felt incredible sympathy for the Thousand Sons and like the return of the Rememberancers. I wished there was more about Ahriman's Rubric though it just mentions that he has this powerful spell that will help his brothers resist the flesh change. All-in-all one of my favorite Horus Heresy books!
Profile Image for Rob.
Author 1 book
September 18, 2018
Drivel. Here's a sample sentence: "Its princeps was killed and its moderati crushed when the engine fell during the bloody campaigns of extermination waged in the middle years of the Great Crusade against the barbaric greenskin of the Kamenka Troika." A poorly edited book, contains numerous mistakes, obscure phrases and moves very slowly.
Profile Image for Christian.
74 reviews
November 21, 2022
Knowledge, secrets, betrayals, loyalty.

A Thousand Sons is a fat book, one of the biggest of the Horus Heresy, but the price in size balances it with a solid quality in narrative, stories and characters, as intriguing as it is fascinating. Like Horus Rising, this book has a sweet collection of regular human characters that allows us to observe the epic proportions of the Thousand Sons from a more central and deadly POV. The characters are entertaining and each possesses a distinctive role that makes them, in their own way, victims of circumstance (or fate?). The character of Lemuel Gaumon in particular is quite an entertaining one to read, with an amusing personality and dry humor that is lashed by terrible suffering.

Magnus and Ahriman are the two central characters of the story, and each is a coin of the same side, offering us a balance between different narratives that are seen to intertwine, but then diverge when secrets come to light. Magnus is a fascinating character, and I may be a bit biased, but I greatly enjoy the trope of characters obsessed with knowledge. Magnus ends up suffering in the face of such obsession, and his decay, unlike other traitors, is more humanized and tragic, and sees him loyal to the last moment. Ahriman, on the other hand, is a victim of his primarch's ego and arrogance, being thrown into a tumultuous storm where he must risk and sacrifice everything for his legion and world.

Both are, ultimately, the characters of a tragic tale that, while similar to other HH stories, manages to still shine due to the simple yet delicious execution of it.

And what an execution! This novel is big, but with good justification. It takes a hella of a buildup, to give you a hella of a payoff, and it's glorious.

One of my favorite 40k novels, and made me fell in love with the Thousand Sons.
Profile Image for Dylan Murphy.
592 reviews26 followers
March 22, 2016
A Thousand Sons.
The Thousand Sons are perhaps one of the most interesting and tragic Legions to fall during the Horus Heresy. Their Legion organization and operation was amazing, having all the different cults work together was phenomenal to read. There were many really key events in this novel, and it really stretched to cover a lot of time, and I would have definitely liked to see a lot more of the in-between such astounding events.
At the same time, getting to see The Triumph at Ullanor first hand, even if only briefly, was quite literally awe-inspiring. I feel that Graham McNeill did a superb job at this novel, perhaps even better than with Fulgrim, as the novel keeps building and building in glory and wonder, right up to the Council of Nikaea. This part of the novel was extremely heartbreaking, and it was a great debate, right up to the end, when the Emprah made his decision.
The discovery of Horus' corruption, and the quest to save him was great and terrible. So many lives lost of nothing, and Magnus' fly to Terra and Emprah were equally great and terrible.
The battle for Tizca was downright amazing, and I feel it was even better than Istvaan III, or possibly even the Dropsite Massacre! Though that is doubtful.
Anyway, one thing that really stood out for me in A Thousand Sons(Oh the irony of that title), was the remembrancers. They were extremely well done, very much so their own personality, and I really felt for them as characters and what they were going through (which doesn't happen too often in Warhammer for me). They were amazingly well done.
And lastly Ahriman. Oh god Ahriman. He was so amazingly well done. So perfectly done, he could have been an Emperor's Children marine. God damn, I really hope we see A LOT more of him, and I CANNOT WAIT to read his 40K series!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
29 reviews
September 25, 2012
"Gut wrenching" and "Insane" describe this book for me. It's so awesome and awful at the same time. An AMAZING book, but you'd better be really prepared. It's like "OMGSH! Why must they be so screwed in every possible way chaos can invent." And in the end you seriously wish they'd all died and be spared such a horribly extensive fate. Oh what a roller coaster! Fulgrim was still worse though(as in sadder), don't worry. WHY DO YOU HAVE TO LOVE MAGNUS AND THE THOUSAND SONS SOOOOOOO MUCH!?!?!? Magnus loves his sons so much it melts my heart! *BAWL* I can honestly say I could NOT sleep that night.

This book demonstrates what heresy is doing to all the legions you love, in the most dreadful, impossibly awful way. McNeill, you are an AMAZING writer, this book is a masterpiece, and I understand heresy is not all "hunky-dory fluff", but OMGSH, OMGSH, OMGSH, OMGSH, OMGSH, can I cry now?

Note: I will shoot the next idiot who says the Thousand Sons are gay.
Profile Image for Carol Zafiriadi.
28 reviews
January 9, 2023
Easily among the best entries in the HH 1-12 books so far (it matches the first three books and Fulgrim in its grandeur).

It shows that Graham McNeill can actually write good Warhammer books (unlike that disappointment called Mechanicum I am currently forcing myself to finish). Fulgrim is McNeill's most beautiful accomplishment so far, tightly followed by A Thousand Sons and False Gods.

Even though they keep adding useless and boring human characters, this one actually manages to give them life, substance, and depth. I really found myself weeping for the remembrancers during the later half of the book and the fact that Ahriman seems to really have viewed Lemuel as a friend is really touching.

The entire Burning of Prospero event can be viewed as a drama, a poetic apocalypse, it's as heartbreaking as the Drop Site Massacre and the tragedy of Fulgrim and Ferrus. Even though the book has pacing issues (hence 4/5 stars) and long, descriptive passages, as in Tolkien-big passages, reading and feeling Mangus' pain upon breaking his father's heart, his idiotic hubris combined with real, authentic human emotions, was enough to make me shed tears near the end of the book and consider re-reading it for further documentation. I think of this novel as more than a 40K book. It feels like a Mahabharata or Bardo Thodol type of text.

And listening to it did half of the magic. At first, I was unimpressed and cringed at the narrator's impersonations, but later on, he did an amazing job of capturing the characters' emotions. My eyes are getting watery as I am writing this, as I remember the pain in Ahriman's and Magnus' voices. Truly, truly a great HH novel. I admit I should have paid more attention, and now I feel guilty. But in the grander scheme of the universe, this novel is amazing.

Definitely worth reading. I am looking forward to God Master Dan Abnett's Prospero Burns. I never knew I would grow to hate Space Wolves :(
15 reviews
December 28, 2022
My Video Review - https://youtu.be/49S_Bw4W5G0

'All is dust…’

A Thousand Sons follows the story of Magnus the Red and his legion of warp enhanced Astartes. Overall I thought this book was great, another really solid installment of the Horus Heresy series written by Graham McNeil. I had a few issues with it but the flow of the plot kept the book moving and the final 150 pages were riveting. The fact that I had recently read Prospero Burns only enhanced the experience. I know you can read the Horus Heresy books out of order but I would really recommend reading these two back to back. They play off each other so well.

The inclusion of the remembrancers is important to these books. They bring a human perspective to a universe that is overwhelmed with incredibly powerful characters. I connected most with Lemuel in this book, his perspective fleshed out the Ahriman’s character in ways the other Space Marines would not have been able to. There were times where I felt the book lingered on Kallista or Camille’s perspective a bit too much but it didn’t detract from the greater experience of the book.

‘Because knowledge is a deadly friend, if no one sets the rules.’

Magnus and his pursuit of forbidden knowledge is the most important thread to follow ‘A Thousand Sons’. The actions he takes in this book have massive ramifications for how the rest of the Horus Heresy plays out and the whole time Magnus thinks he’s acting in good faith. He’s trying to make the Emperor proud. Attempting to prove himself as the superior to all of his brothers. He knows that his actions border on heresy in the eyes of the rest of the Primarchs and maybe even the Emperor but he thinks it’s worth the risk. If he can change their perspective, open their eyes to the powers he’s found, the benefits will be limitless. Eventually he pushes to far… and the consequences lead to a very bittersweet conclusion.

This book gets an 7/10 from me. Tons of great lore, good character development, and a fantastic battle sequence at the end of the book. I’ve already read the Ahriman omnibus but this had me itching to dig back in now that I’m more familiar with the origin story of the Thousand Sons. Looking forward to reading the rest of the Magnus focused books to see how his path ends.
Profile Image for Jason Ray Carney.
Author 26 books49 followers
July 12, 2021
This is the twelth book in the Horus Heresy. It follows the Thousand Sons legion and their descent into corruption. It is similar in structure to McNeill's earlier book, *Fulgrim,* the fifth book in the series, which focuses on The Emperor's Children legion. Like that novel, this one employs two sets of characters: (1) a group of "mortal" rembrancers, the sociologist Lemuel, the archaeologist Camille, and the historian Kallista; (2) a group of genetically-altered, posthuman space marine sorcerers. I really enjoy McNeill's writing style. It is baroque and epic and has something of the emotional intensity of opera or heavy metal music (and is occasionally ridiculous). There were several memorable characters: Magnus the Crimson King, Primarch of the Thousand Sons; Ahzek Ahriman, Chief Librarian of the Legion; and Photis T'Kar. The judgment of The Thousands Sons, which features the mysterious Emperor of Mankind, was a great scene that will stick with me. McNeill seems to have a deep love for the lore of Warhammer 40k and the game settings' unique genre blend of cosmic horror, military space opera, and sword and sorcery. I really appreciate his work. I hope he has written more Horus Heresy novels. I'll read them eventually. Alas, I'm twelve books into the series and need a change of imaginative scenery.
Profile Image for Jenn Howlett.
Author 4 books22 followers
January 24, 2021
There is a lot of ground covered in A Thousand Sons when it comes to the over-arching story of the Horus Heresy. At the moment it feels very much a case of ‘Two-steps forwards, one step backwards,’ as the story here takes the reader back to before Horus Lupercal has become Warmaster of the Great Crusade and the inevitable betrayal. Magnus the Red, Primarch of the Thousand Sons, is dallying in joining his brother Leman Russ on the compliant world of Aghoru seeking to further his knowledge of the unknown.

A Thousand Sons follows events as they progress, more or less chronologically; aside from a few background flash-backs. Including an additional insight into well-known events of the Horus Heresy, including the gathering at Ullanor, and takes the reader on such a rollercoaster ride of emotions throughout the entire read!

Essentially, A Thousand Sons, is tragic. Magnus the Red is steadfast in his loyalty to the Emperor of Mankind and the story herein is one of bitter betrayal. Magnus is shown as a flawed character, arrogant, prideful and honestly a bit of a ‘know it all,’ the tragedy is that he doesn’t know nearly as much as he thinks he does and ends up ‘getting it wrong.’ As a character, Magnus is partially enjoyable and wholly frustrating. His arrogance is well portrayed but like his subordinates, there is something the reader can relate to. All he desires, beyond knowledge, is to do right by his father and look out for his sons, like most of the Primarchs.

After reading Ahriman: Exile, I wasn’t sure what I would think about the characters in this book. I really struggled with the John French characterisation of Ahriman and knew he was a central character in A Thousand Sons. I am more than happy to report that the offering of him in this book was much more to my liking. There was an earnestness about him that was more appealing and made him a lot easier to digest. I was somewhat disarmed with my preconceptions about the Thousand Sons themselves – I assumed them to be aloof, stuffy, scholars that assumed themselves better than those beneath them – I was surprised to see that this wasn’t always the case. The Thousand Sons were personable, relatable characters. Certainly as deadly as any Astartes, but they were a pleasure to read about and the relationships they held with one another and the mortals surrounding them was a welcome surprise. The relationships they form with others was not only vital to understanding them but also endearing.

As with many Horus Heresy books, there is focus beyond that of the Space Marines in the form of the Remembrancers that accompany them. Early on in the novel, I was reminded of how well the author writes characters with depth. One of the Remembrancers, Camille, is out at an archaeological dig with her camera. There is a lovely description of the heritage of the camera that she is using, and while this depth behind the object plays into the character’s story, it just made me appreciate the richness that this attention to detail brought to the characters as a whole.

This attention to detail is carried over into other aspects of the novel also; the plot of flawless in its execution and rolls along nicely. There is a fair amount of set-up in the early pages where the groundwork is being established, but a lot of information is imparted over to the reader – the intricate details of how the Legion differs to their kinsmen, the ranks and hierarchies they have within their own order and the different cults for different classes of their skills.

I couldn’t help but feel relieved about the Space Wolves in A Thousand Sons, prior to this novel in the Horus Heresy series we’ve only been introduced to one other member of the Space Wolves Legion; Brynngar Sturmdreng, in Battle for the Abyss. I detested this particular character so please imagine my relief to find out that Space Wolves aren’t just drunken, brawling idiots! There’s much more to them than has previously been written and I am eager to learn more about them when we next see them. They are a savage bunch in, not only the way they make war but also their convictions. Their hypocrisy runs rife and I felt for Ahriman as his connection with Space Wolf Librarian Ohthere Wydrmake turned for the worse.

There are a lot of masterfully written events within A Thousand Sons. The Triumph of Ullanor where the Emperor passes the mantle over to Horus, the Council of Nikea as well as the Desolation of Prospero which contributes to the page-length of the book, but not a moment of it feels rushed. The combat scenes are well-paced and certainly enjoyable but where I found A Thousand Sons shone brightest was in the descriptions of the powers of the Thousand Son Legion. Previous Black Library publications that I have read relied on contradictions in order to describe the warp, but A Thousand Sons employs a different take on the immaterium. One that I found to be much more agreeable as a reader, the descriptions, based on seafaring and navigation, felt easier to grasp but still had an air of mystery about them. It is a strange, unknowable place that is wrapped in an enigma, but McNeill’s handling of it left vivid imagery rather than vague fripperies that leaves the reader confused.

One aspect of A Thousand Sons that I found of particular interest was the lack of The Emperor himself. Considering there are three pivotal moments in the history of the Imperium of Man covered in the novel, there is a distinct lack of solidity surrounding the Emperor – I assume this has been done purposefully considering his God-Like status. I’m still trying to figure out if this is something that works for me or not. If the Emperor is meant to by this all-seeing, mystery figure, then why have stories that revolve around him as per The Last Church? And, how will he remain so ‘behind-the-scenes’ during other pivotal moments further down the line?

As tragic as A Thousand Sons is. The very last sentence of the book promises that the worst is yet to come for the Thousand Sons Legion.
Profile Image for Dave.
242 reviews18 followers
July 28, 2017
When you read a series of books that you enjoy a sense of complacency can start to set in. You can almost become accustomed to certain things and after you read an entry you’re left with a feeling of like, “Okay. That was fun. On to the next one.” Sometimes though an entry comes along in a series that is so good it’s like a refreshing blast of cold water or even slap in the face. It wakes you up and reminds you of why you fell in love with a particular series in the first place and shows you just how special, exciting, and powerful a book in that series can be. I just finished “A Thousand Sons” by Graham McNeill, which is book 12 in Games Workshop/Black Library’s “Horus Heresy” (a prequel storyline that sets the stage for their Warhammer 40,000 line of novels) series, and I’m happy to report it’s just such a book.

The titular characters of “A Thousand Sons” are a Space Marine Legion and McNeill was given a gift in these characters because they’re one of the most fascinating and unique Space Marine Legions in all of 40k. I’ve mentioned in other reviews that the great thing about Space Marines novels is they allow the author to take a deep dive into the diverse martial cultures of a particular Legion, and what makes the Thousand Sons so compelling is the fact they combine the transhuman bad-assery of your typical Space Marine, with the academic bent and powers of your archetypical sorcerer from fantasy stories, and add just a hint of Marvel Comics X-Men to make things extra tragic and poignant.

That’s because unlike most Space Marine Legions that feature a handful of members with psychic powers many of the Thousand Sons are capable of incredible mental feats. It’s part of the culture they hail from, and their godlike primarch/father, Magnus the Red, is one of the most powerful Psykers in existence. Unfortunately for them though, in the reality of 40K psychic powers are linked to the unstable reality known as the Warp, a tumultuous dimension of demons, psychic monstrosities and malevolent, power-hungry, gods. So. the Sons are feared and distrusted by many of their brother Legions who label them Warlocks.

Over the course of “A Thousand Sons” we meet an eclectic cast of the titularGraham McNeill characters and we get to bond with them and see them live, study, and of course fight. My favorite legionnaire was chief Librarian, Ahzek Ahriman, who I knew was one of the most beloved anti-heroes in 40K, but now I know why. In “A Thousand Sons” Ahriman is a charismatic and compelling character constantly questing for truth and plumbing the warp with his precognitive and astral projection powers to serve his Primarch, Legion, and the Imperium of Man.

Magnus the Red is of course is a fascinating character too, but I like that McNeill didn’t make the Primarch the focus of the story. It makes the scenes with him extra special. When Magnus makes an entrance the only way to describe it is to quote Sargent Nicholas Angel from “Hot Fuzz” and say, “Shit just got real.” That said, Magnus remains a very human character in “A Thousand Sons.” Despite his vast power and good intentions he makes mistakes, big, powerful heartbreaking ones. He’s a tragic figure in the classical sense.

My other favorite group of characters in “A Thousand Sons” were the three Human scholars/remembrancers that are traveling with the Thousand Sons when the book begins. Each of them have a psychic gift and a unique back story that draws them into the larger world of the Thousand Sons. It’s a lot of fun to see these characters bounce of the Space Marines and observe how the behavior of the human and posthuman characters impact each other. Another cool aspect is that one of the Remembrancers, Camille Shivani, is the first LGBTQ character I’ve encountered in the world of 40K. We even get to see her with a significant other at one point in the book.

Over the course of “A Thousand Sons” we travel with the titular Space Marines and human characters to a variety of worlds and watch as they take on a whole host of foes including one of their brother legions, the barbaric Space Wolves. The rivalry between the Wolves and the Sons is a believable and tragic one. I’m actually a pretty big fan of the Wolves so the fact that I was actively rooting against them in “A Thousand Sons” is a testament to the characters McNeill created and the narrative he weaved together.

The narrative is a fascinating one too. We get a handful of big battles, but we also get the equivalent of a court room sequence, which was fascinating and something I’ve never really seen before in a 40K book as McNeill chronicles one of the big events in the pre-history of 40K. The novel then follows a series of shocking revelations and tragic mistakes that climaxes with one of the most epic and poignant battles I’ve read about in a 40K or “Horus Heresy” book. Long time fans will know what I’m talking about, but I don’t want to say too much and spoil things.

Another fun aspect is that McNeill peppers the novel with little Easter Egg nods to other classic tales of fantastic fiction. I’m sure I missed all of them, but two that I caught were fitting and organic nods to the works of Mary Shelly and H.P. Lovecraft.

So, “A Thousand Sons” is one of my favorite entries in “The Horus Heresy” series For me it’s right up there with Dan Abnett’s “Legion” and Ben Counter’s “Galaxy in Flames.” It’s a big novel full of fun, fascinating and powerful stuff. Best of all it’s made me especially fired up to get to some other 40K and “Horus Heresy” novels that are sitting on my “to read” pile like John French’s Ahriman: The Omnibus,” and Dan Abnett’s “Horus Heresy” novel, “The Burning of Prospero,” which I understand is kind of companion novel to “A Thousand Sons.”
33 reviews
January 16, 2023
Was expecting a Graham McNeill ending. you know absolute bs covered in "mystery" it sort of ended that way but you can't be reading a thousand sons book without knowing about the rubric, so not as bad as other McNeill endings. that being said this was a pretty good book with way nore fluff than needed though. gave some insight into the aether and its temptations, as well as fleshing out the thousand sons and Magnus.
Is a sad story all things considered, the thousand sons are simply the nicest Astartes, more than the Salamanders. But the path to hell is paved with good intentions and sprinkled with a lot of arrogance in the 1k sons case.
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