Tuesday, June 10, 2008

REVIEW: Ravenor

Available from The Black Library
Written by Dan Abnett

Review This bit doesn't give the plot of the book away

Dan Abnett revisits the Inquisition in another trilogy of books. I gave his Eisenhorn books an excellent review and Ravenor compares favourably. Abnett re-uses some of the same characters from his earlier works; Ravenor himself was a pupil of Eisenhorn until he was crippled on Thracian Primaris. Despite being confined to a force chair he is a potent psyker and has made the rank of full Inquisitor. He is like a cross between Eldrad Ulthran and Stephen Hawking. Harlon Nayl also makes a welcome return.

We pick up the action in a grimy Hive city and this allows the author to flex his style muscles. He generates a dsytopian atmosphere that is so dark you can feel the grit under your fingernails. Dan writes in a hard-boiled, film noir way, reminiscent of Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy.

Away from the battlefields of Warhammer 40,000 Abnett can get at the motivations of his characters - and sex always seems like an option. There is a sexual tension between some of the Inquisitorial Agents, and Kara Swole and Patience Kys frequently use their sexuality to aid their schemes. I haven't read a Black Library book that felt as adult in a long while.

I got the feeling that Dan really enjoyed writing this book and the writing reflects that; it just flows off the page. His dialogue is excellent as usual, his settings are distinctive, the characters are well drawn and his scenes are memorable. He even finds the time to add bad puns 'Someone's going to have a really bad chair day!'

The book is very densely plotted despite being a standard detective story (everyone hunts down X, he gives them name Y, Y gives them name Z, etc). All the elements that have been carefully seeded throughout the book come together for a strong end - and that is one area I have criticised Abnett for in the past. Lots of threads are tied up while enough are left hanging for the second book.

If I had one complaint it would be that psychic powers in general, and Ravenor's powers in particular, are used too often as deus ex machina. It detracts from the predicament of the characters if we think that Ravenor will simply swoop in at the last moment to save the day. The range and power of the psychic abilities are immense and I'm not entirely sure if they hang together consistently with the 40k background.

These are small misgivings, though. This is a terrific book and comes highly recommended.

Ravenor is a rattling good walk on the wild side of the Imperium.

Score 9/10


All of my reviews end in a score out of ten for the product. The table below explains what that score means.

  • 10/10 Perfect, absolutely nothing better
  • 9/10 Excellent, highly recommended
  • 8/10 Very good, recommended
  • 7/10 Good
  • 6/10 Above average, some problems
  • 5/10 Average, some good points some bad points
  • 4/10 Below average, some redeeming features
  • 3/10 Poor, major flaws
  • 2/10 Very poor, avoid if possible
  • 1/10 Absolutely appalling

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