Friday, 12 October 2012
‘Ravenor Vs Eisenhorn: Pariah’ – Dan Abnett (Black Library)
What really bothered me about this approach, in ‘Dark Vengeance’, is that Black Library usually deliberately avoid it in their other books; preferring to actually tell a tale rather than use the book as something else that you should buy with the game. Black Library books usually concentrate on the setting and, for the most part, they do it very well.
It was good then that the other book I’d been reading, at the same time as ‘Dark Vengeance’, was Dan Abnett’s ‘Pariah’. Long term readers here will know that Abnett has serious form for writing top notch novels set in the Warhammer 40K universe. Click Here, Here, Here and Here to see what I mean. I’ve always meant to pick up the ‘Eisenhorn’ books but have been put off by the size of the omnibus edition (not a practical commuter read for me). That, in turn, has led to my never checking out the ‘Ravenor’ omnibus either. ‘Pariah’ though, that’s a different story. At a mere three hundred and seventeen pages long the book sits comfortably in the hand and the blurb suggested something sufficiently ‘stand alone’ that I could get into quickly.
‘Pariah’ does make reference to earlier events, something fans should get a lot out of as it continues on from the last two trilogies. However, the adoption of a new point of view character, as the lead, makes this a book that anyone should be able to pick up and get into fairly quickly. It’s the same universe but seen through different eyes and I can see that adding a refreshing twist to familiar surroundings, especially when Abnett gets going with some of the more intricate ‘ins and outs’ of the plot.
But I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit, here’s the blurb…
In the city of Queen Mab, nothing is quite as it seems. Pariah, spy and Inquisitorial agent, Alizebeth Bequin is all of these things and yet none of them. An enigma, even to herself, she is caught between Inquisitors Gregor Eisenhorn and Gideon Ravenor, former allies now enemies who are playing a shadow game against a mysterious and deadly foe. Coveted by the Archenemy, pursued by the Inquisition, Bequin becomes embroiled in a dark plot of which she knows not her role or purpose. Helped by a disparate group of allies, she must unravel the secrets of her life and past if she is to survive a coming battle in which the line between friends and foes is fatally blurred.
The bottom line is that I couldn’t put this one down, despite a little overindulgence (on Abnett’s part) in the descriptive passages surrounding the City of Queen Mab. There really is only so much that you need to know about alleyways before you just want to get on with the plot. Queen Mab isn’t a character by the way; it’s the name of the actual city, that one totally threw me for the first few pages…
‘Pariah’ is a story full of twists and turns; something that really kept me hooked. Just when you think you have a handle on proceedings, Abnett will throw you something right out of left field that sends the plot careening in a brand new direction. There are some huge surprises here that I never saw coming. The beautiful thing is that the plot is such a roller coaster ride (you would not believe what happens to Bequin in the space of just a few days) but comes together to make perfect sense by the very end. Not only does it all make sense but Abnett still finds time to round things off with another big question and the introduction of perhaps the most evil sidekick of all. I can’t wait to read ‘Penitent’ now.
Bequin makes for a most suitable character to see the story through. There is something almost Dickensian about this orphan who is left to fend for herself with the aid of several mysterious benefactors (who always seem to turn up at just the right moment…) The introduction of a strange woman living in a derelict manor hit the mark, in that respect, as well. I did have a little moan, earlier, about the amount of time spent describing Queen Mab but there are some deliciously atmospheric moments that really capture the feeling of just how deadly Bequin’s surroundings can be. I’m thinking about the Basilica Saint Orphaeus and what happens underneath.
The plot isn’t just twists and turns although readers expecting that confrontation between Ravenor and Eisenhorn will be disappointed (it’s the first book in a trilogy, give the plot a chance…) There’s plenty of action to make up for it though with more traitor Marines than you can shake a stick at and at least one Marine who might not be a traitor at all (I don’t know).
‘Pariah’ almost has it all, there is certainly very little not to like about this book and I had a great time reading it. You can count on Dan Abnett not to disappoint and I’m really looking forward to ‘Penitent’ when it is released.
Nine and a Half out of Ten