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  • Mortarion: The Pale King

  • The Horus Heresy Primarchs, Book 15
  • By: David Annandale
  • Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
  • Length: 5 hrs and 34 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (152 ratings)

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Mortarion: The Pale King

By: David Annandale
Narrated by: Jonathan Keeble
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Summary

A Primarchs Novel

"Banish all thoughts of mercy, because mercy is the plaything of the coward and the lie of the tyrant. Today, the blade descends on tyranny's neck."

Mortarion makes his debut in the fifteenth Primarchs novel, and wastes no time in bringing his own brand of grim justice to the galaxy.

Listen to it because....

The fifteenth instalment in The Horus Heresy Primarchs series, The Pale King tells of the atrocities committed by the Reaper in the name of justice—and the consequences of challenging his methods.

The story:

Once, the Galaspar System suffered under the cruel regime of the Order. Billions of people toiled endlessly to enrich their masters, enduring short lives of poverty, squalor and fear. But Galaspar’s sins did not go unnoticed by the Imperium, and so Death itself sentenced the Order to annihilation.

Mortarion, newly uplifted to commander of the Death Guard, descended upon the world, and with him came a slaughter of untold proportions. The sheer brutality of Mortarion’s campaign left the Imperium appalled. Seeking to understand its horrors, two noble primarchs have come to Galaspar, summoning their brother to account for his actions. But the Pale King brooks no challenge to his methods, for when the scythe falls, it reaps a gruesome toll.

Written By David Annandale. Narrated by Jonathan Keeble. Running time 5 hours and 34 minutes (approx).

©2022 Games Workshop Limited (P)2022 Games Workshop Limited

What listeners say about Mortarion: The Pale King

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

The Reaper Cometh

I'll admit I was sceptical when this book was announced. Mortarion has been on the end of some... questionable treatment recently in the novels so I was half-expecting that slightly woeful track record to continue. Then I saw that David Annandale had been announced to pen the book and my hopes sank a little further. David is a great writer on his day and his horror entries are fantastic but his Heresy stuff is of mercurial quality to say the least. This book really seemed to be leaning away from his strengths as an author and more towards what I perceived as his weaknesses.

He silenced my doubts pretty quickly.

The first thing that's immediately apparent is that David really did his research for this book. I'll avoid giving spoilers but he really ties in themes and arcs from all parts of Mortarion's story and synthesises them expertly into a relatively short runtime while still managing to reframe Mortarion's overall lacking narrative in the Great Crusade and early Heresy. Genuinely impressive. You don't need to have read other Mortarion stories like The Buried Dagger, Lantern's Light or Verdict of the Scythe whatsoever to understand this book but whether you're a diehard Death Guard fan or a complete beginner to the Legion, there's plenty to enjoy here.

Mortarion's characterisation was overall pretty fantastic throughout the novel. Though I don't think Morty's "voice" as written by Annandale quite matches the one I have in my own head. No doubt this wasn't helped by Keeble given him a somewhat posh British accent more reminiscent of a villain like Ramsay Bolton than a Demi-God like Mortarion.

With all that being said, Annandale nailed the substance of Mortarion's character perfectly. He's exactly like you'd expect him to be before his first campaign with his newly baptized Death Guard. Bitter and frustrated from being unable to complete his mission in Barbarus, eager to prove himself to his brothers and newly unified Death Guard and most of all, absolutely ready to decapitate some tyrants. The balancing of his two "personas" in the Liberator and Death was an interesting dichotomy and does wonders towards explaining why Mortarion cleaves so strongly to his convictions and acts so brutally in the wake of Galaspar and beyond. The ending really adds an element of tragedy to his story and much like my other favourite books in the Primarchs series, it leaves you with this tantalising thought of "What If?"

The plot itself was compact, full of tension and pushed the narrative forward with every single page. A large section of the book could easily have been labelled as merely "Bolter-Porn" but through leveraging Mortarion's character arc, several interesting side characters and the evolving character of the nascent Death Guard, none of the constant butchery seems gratuitous at all. In fact, it seems perfectly on brand with the reputation the newly formed legion would soon build.

The side characters that appear were pretty well done too. The standout was a newly introduced character named Digger but there's a few familiar faces that make an appearance. While the focus of this book was always going to be on Mortarion, the novel actually does a solid job for its pagecount of adding depth to those characters that do make a cameo. It's a bit of a shame we didn't get quite as many Barbaran viewpoints as I'd have liked though. The addition of a newly ascended legionary like Vorx or Caipha Morarg would have rounded it out a bit more smoothly.

Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel with The Pale King, Annandale instead decided to fix a wonky axle and put the cart back on the road again. Gets an easy 4/5 from me. A solid entry to the Primarchs series that definitely earns itself a place in the upper strata of the bunch.

Keeble delivers a great performance, While his choice in Mortarion's voice surprised me, it never irked me. He brought the cast of characters to life as he always does and conveyed the barrage of emotions brought to bear in the finale perfectly. On the ball as usual.

Also as a final note, props to David for having some really cool ship names in this one. The Fourth Horseman is so on brand.

3 people found this helpful

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awesome stuff

my 1st audio book and I loved it !! wanted to get into the heresy books but with a young family o struggle to find the time to actually sit down and read but with some head phones its possible to listen to the death guard doing what they do best while I put the washing out 😁

1 person found this helpful

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Enthralling and I want more

Refreshing story and my first time listening to David Annandale. I felt he did an excellent job on writing the Death Guard, Mortarion and especially the antagonists.

Fantastic narration by Jonathan Keeble. You can feel the passion he puts portraying scenes of frozen panic, and especially the scenes of combat from both sides' perspective. And of course, a few of his BOOMs™ which are always welcome to induce the imagination.

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliant

I had little interest in the Death Guard until I listened to audiobook. now I am looking at GW website, thinking about starting an army.
this is definitely one of the best primarch novels. as always Jonathan Keeble is a master of his craft. The story is very well written.
give it a listen! you will enjoy.

1 person found this helpful

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great history.

a brilliant view into the making of mortarian, fantastically read as ever by the great Keeble.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A great exploration of an often maligned character

Mortarian is a Primarch that has been given thw thin edge of the wedge in recent years, all too often the villain that gets shown up, foiled and humiliated.

This story takes him back to his first campaign in the Great Crusade, and manages to balance his bellicose personality with the military genius and greater than mortal passions all primarchs should have.

hopefully once the Primarch novels are done, we get more Great Crusade era tales like this one, because they add so much to the setting and it's main players.

1 person found this helpful

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Alright at best

The story is pretty much entirely of a single battle with a bit of background before and after. Quite good if you are a fan of action, but constant action can't keep the story alive

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Good listen but sadly too short

Really liked the narration and tone of the book and its purpose. However, it is a shame that it focussed very heavily on certain subjects with very few mentions of others which I had hoped would make an appearance. Interesting Primarch interactions and battles which are most definitely worth the listen

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  • James gGllagher
  • 19-09-22

Great Conquest Story

I had a lot of fun with this one. It showed Mortarion's resolve and also some of his relationship with his sons. The details of Galaspar's society painted a pretty good image of the life of the slaves and Comptrollers which made for an great background. Honestly, it seems Mortarion was destined to serve Nurgle from the start.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Alex Mercier
  • 17-11-22

Death Guard flavored "bolter p*rn"

Going in, I was expecting a sort of deeper character driven story for Morty, similar to Konrad Kurze's Night Haunter book. But alas, this book is about 4 hours of space marines doing battle with humans. A few stand out moments, but nothing spectacular. If you like the DG, like I do, go for it. Keeble was a great narrator as always.

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  • Joshua
  • 10-11-22

The pale king

Loved this book it definitely highlights a character you don’t hear from very often during the great crusade other than in the book the flight of the Eisenstein. I like hearing about the primarchs before they were compromised so you can get an accurate measure of how far they fell and why.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • brewsmith
  • 09-11-22

The worst warhammer narrator

This is so boring. Honestly one of the worst stories. The narrator is easily the worst performing voice actor to disgrace the warhammer audio books. Seriously. Just stop putting keeble in front of the mic.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Kevin Konopka
  • 25-10-22

Gritty, 40k, but not much character driving

I liked listening to it but it would be akin to like a cheap action movie. It just didn’t have that depth of characters I wanted. Still enjoyed it

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Sam Breitenbauch
  • 17-10-22

Fun and engaging.

loved it. 4 out of 5on story only because it was a bit easy to space out for me atleast around a few middle areas. Yet very well done.

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  • David J Ray
  • 29-09-22

An action packed romp

Very entertaining telling of a brutal compliance (and Morty being knocked by Sanguinius and Horus for said brutality, which may or may not have been justified). He emerges as being very sympathetic and you really can understand his reasoning.
The book is very well written and fun, it was cool seeing Typhon and Garro when they were just legionnaries, and we get brief glimpses of their personalities

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Hendrick
  • 25-09-22

One of the good ones

Plotwise, this story has a similar premise to the Ferrus Mannus primarch book. Mortarion wants to prove himself and his Legion, and so takes on a totalitarian civilization. But unlike Ferrus Mannus and some other Primarch books, Mortarion is very active throughout the story. There are some excellent combat scenes throughout the book, hateful villains, and excellent supporting characters whose stories pay off in the end.

Overall, this story is more well-rounded than most of the Primarch books, with enough combat, characterization, and worldbuilding to make a satisfying stand-alone read.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Spencer
  • 24-09-22

Great early Death Gaurd read.

Interesting tidbits about Garro before he was a Captain…also some early foreshadowing of Typhon’s corruption by papa Nurgle.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • G. Marcelin-Williams
  • 22-09-22

One of the better ones

I don’t like Mortarion, for a variety of reasons, However I did like this book. It was definitely one of the better Primarch novels.