The Solar War by John French is the opening book in the Siege of Terra series – which in itself is the climax to the absolutely humongous (54 books!) Horus Heresy series. So, with all that, it feels like writing this book would bring a lot of pressure and that it is juggling a lot of different balls. But you know what, John French smashes it out the park for me!
The plot revolves around the massive war in space for the solar system surrounding Terra (our Earth). Horus and his traitor forces have finally untied for a final thrust towards the heart of the Imperium of Man. They have the numbers to defeat the loyalists defending the birth place of Mankind and the seat of the Emperor, but with more loyalist forces nipping at their heels, can they do it quick enough before they are crushed between the Dorn’s defences and the approaching legions of Guilliman, The Lion, Russ and Corax?
The war in space we get is brutal and kicks off pretty quickly. This is the chance for Dorn and the Imperial Fists to shine as they’ve certainly been one of the quieter legions in the Heresy so far. But they get a chance to kick some butt now, and boy do they do that as they fight Horus’s larger forces tooth and nail. The action sequences are brilliantly done and never feel repetitive or formulaic despite the sheer size of what is going on.
Despite the massive scale of the conflict here, French really strikes a great balance between the ‘epic’ and human aspects of the conflict. Naturally a lot of the action comes through the eyes of the Space Marine and Primarch characters – Sigismund is especially awesome as always. While the human costs and consequences are best highlighted through Admiral Su-Kassen’s and Mersadie Oliton’s plot lines. Abaddon and Ahriman pop up for some great cameos amongst the traitor forces that show not everything is rosy within the traitor’s ranks as certain legions and factions embrace the powers of Chaos more than others – and not everyone is happy with where that is leading them.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book – with the massive caveat of having read a significant chunk of the Horus Heresy books. You’d be pretty lost otherwise! It’s fast-paced, bold, brutal and the sense of a net closing in around the defenders really escalates the tension throughout. It felt exactly like what I wanted from the start of the Siege of Terra!