Xathrodox86 reviews: "The Serpent Beneath" by Rob Sanders

This post was supposed to be about the awesome "Black Death" movie with Sean Bean, but a small band of sea green-armored space marines has kidnapped me, and forced me to write a book review!

Well, not a book per se. It's actually a novella, and one of my favorite Horus Heresy novellas at that! It's one of the reason why I currently have a 6000 points Alpha Legion army for Warhammer 30K, and why I love the XXth Legion so much. Without further ado, here's the review of "The Serpent Beneath" by Rob Sanders.

A simple, unassuming cover. Just as planned...
The story has apparently a pretty simple premise - the top secret Tenebrae 9-50 installation has been compromised and it's up to the Alpha Legion to save the day! Omegon (the lesser known Hydra twin) assembles a crack team of operatives, both from the Legion and the vast network of operatives, which the XXth cultivates for its own, nefarious use. Both the Legionaires and normal humans are a bunch of cool and unique individuals. Sanders writes a fantastic bunch of unlikely heroes, not only showing the legion warriors of the XXth as cool, professional specialists, but also making the reader care for them and for the human operatives as well. Of a particular note are the characters of Xalmagundi, a powerful human psyker, and Volkern Auguramus, an adept of the Mechanicum. Omegon, who's leading the mission, is shown in a very stoic, very professional manner. It's a refreshing thing to see a Primarch who's not a pompous ass, but acts as a calm and composed soldier, solely focused on his mission.

As in the previously reviewed "The Harrowing", the Alpha Legionaires in "The Serpent Beneath" are portrayed in a very cold, dispassionate and ruthless way. To them the mission takes precedence over everything else - including their lives. It's actually worth mentioning that the target of their mission, the mysterious Tenebrae base, is also garrisoned by the Alpha Legion and overseen by a Legion Librarian! This makes this novella a true dance of deception and counter deception, as Omegon's infiltrators try to outmanoevure and outsmart their (loyal?) brothers, led by the inquisitive Ursinus Echion and experienced Arvus Janik.

It's a fantastic experience, trying to guess what new, dastardly ploy will our heroes use to gain the upper hand over their rivals. Rob Sanders never loses the tempo and tension of this story, and that's why "The Serpent Beneath" is such a great read.

What can I say? I love this story. Every, single part of it just oozed atmosphere and the feel of a true, spy work could be found on every page of this masterful work. Rob Sanders once again proves that he is a true son of the Hydra, or maybe even the Alpharius himself! "The Serpent Beneath" ties in nicely with a few other Horus Heresy books and stories, mainly those concerning the White Scars Legion. There's also something for the HH conspiracy theorists, but as usual, I won't spoil anything. You'll just have to check it out yourselves, to discover the double truths and hidden meanings of the most mysterious of the Emperor's Legions.

"The Serpent Beneath" can be found in "The Primarchs" anthology.

Until next time! (when I'll finally review the "Black Death"... or will I?)

Sean here would probably, very much like for me to do so!


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