Last month, I finished reading the second book in Dan Abnett’s Ravenor trilogy, which I think in many ways surpassed its predecessor with just how brilliant it is! The book sees the Inquisitor return (unsurprisingly!) to Eustis Majoris, to further his investigation into the illegal Flect trade that seems to be centred on that world. The members of Ravenor’s team infiltrate their way back on-planet, and set up shop in a town house in order to continue their operation, each member working in a different role in the Administratum building to gain some insight into what the Magistratum is doing with the imported cogitators from the Mergent Worlds.
Patience Kys is working to transcribe what appears to be gibberish when she passes out, to be promptly hauled off for interrogation, being asked repeatedly for what word she saw or tasted when she fainted. It turns out that the Magistratum is attempting to unlock the Chaotic language Enuncia, and certain phrases and grammar can be found within the Chaos-tainted logic engines recovered from the Mergent Worlds. Enuncia gives the speaker the power to re-shape the world around him, causing reality to shift or allowing for a pretty powerful physical attack, although it does cause problems for the speaker, such as nosebleeds or worse.
Remember Ravenor’s arch-nemesis Zygmunt Molotch, from the prologue of the first novel? He was attempting to recover more of the Enuncia lexicon when Ravenor’s team caught up with him. As it happens, we learn that Molotch is indeed behind the goings-on here on Eustis Majoris, also! Through Chaotic means, Molotch had been wearing the face of the Lord Governor Barazan, and manipulating the Minister for Subsector Trade, Jader Trice, into using the power of the Magistratum to further his plans.
The second book in a trilogy can often lapse into “bridge syndrome”, where it exists purely to provide a bridge between the set-up of book one, and the conclusion of book three, and there are very few trilogies out in the wild that are able to handle a middle book well. Ideally, I suppose, the story should broaden out, we should get to see more character development, but the pace shouldn’t really slacken off from the first one – and this is exactly what we get here. Arguably, a lot of the character development went on in the first book, anyway, but we get location development, in that we learn more of the planet and its various organisations and institutions. We get some new characters, who seem to be set to continue on as part of Ravenor’s retinue into book three, as well, but the main thing that is notable about Ravenor Returned is the breadth of story in here.
There is a lot of intrigue going on, with competing Chaos cults on the planet and a deepening of the Contract Thirteen storyline from the earlier book. As was the case last time, we get the terrific sense of atmosphere from the hive world, as well, with some really evocative descriptions being given that bring the world to life. It’s all just delightfully gothic and incredibly evocative!
One of the plot elements of the story is that the hive itself is laid out in some deliberate manner by the heretical architect Thedor Cadizky, in a storyline very reminiscent of the original Ghostbusters movie, where the tower block is built along paranormal lines to specifically channel the occult. I thought that was quite a nice touch, somehow, as it lends a sense of history to the plot, somehow.
A secondary plot-thread deals with the Magistratum Marshall, Maud Plyton, who almost stumbles on to the conspiracy when investigating a supposed suicide. The storyline is actually really interesting, and serves as a nice counterpoint to Ravenor’s investigation, adding more pieces to the puzzle without revealing too much until we’re nearer to the end. Maud joins Ravenor’s retinue at the end of the book, so I’m expecting to find out more about her in the third novel of the series, anyway.
I’m not sure what else there is to say about this one, really, other than to go out there and read it! It’s such a good book, full of intrigue and rich in detail – it’s one of those things that just reminds me why I love 40k so much!