It’s been a while since I finished the second book in the trilogy, but now it’s time to look at the final book.
Following the events on Eustis Majoris, Ravenor and his retinue are asked to account for their actions and the destruction caused. Despite Ravenor’s hunch that Molotch is on Tancred, he agrees to stand down in his pursuit of the heretic, and another Inquisitor takes over the search. However, this team is compromised and most of the retinue is killed when they attempt to arrest Molotch, and Ravenor decides to go rogue in order to end his nemesis once and for all.
In order to gain some insight into where Molotch may strike next, Ravenor and his entourage travel to Utochre and the Wych House there, the idea being that he would potentially see into the future to anticipate Molotch’s next move. However, it turns into a trap, one engineered by Molotch and Orfeo Culzean. The Wych House used a three-way door to show people potential futures via the Warp; Ravenor met with Culzean where he offered an alliance between the inquisitor and the heretic in order to eliminate the threat posed by the daemon Slyte. Ravenor completely discounted this proposal, whence he and his team were attacked by Tyranid hormogaunts – for the extremely nerdy among us, the Tyranids were first officially recorded in the year 745.M41, although the Ravenor novels take place in 404.M41, so we can postulate that the door sent Ravenor and his retinue into the future at this point. Anyway!
They are only able to escape by the intervention of Carl Thonius manifesting Slyte once again, but the damage caused in turn leads to the destruction of the Wych House. Part of his team manages to escape, but Ravenor, Nayl, Angharad and the housekeeper once more go through the door to flee. There follows a bit of a ploddy narrative as they continually open the door and find themselves in different places and times, until Ravenor realises that a degree of psychic focus can allow them to determine their destination. Gravely wounded by the Tyranidattack, they manage to get fixed up to a degree before finally reuniting with the rest of the team in the right year, and so begin the final hunt.
Since the start of the book, Zael has been in a coma, watched over by Frauka to blunt any potential psychic outbursts. Worryingly, about halfway through, it seems as though Zael has managed to “turn off” Frauka’s blunting ability, and everyone is convinced that Slyte is going to attempt to manifest into realspace through him. Of course, we the readers know that Slytehas possession of Carl Thonius, and when Ravenor finally catches up with this, the whole team travels to Gudrun and the bolthole of Orfeo Culzean, where Thonius is leading a team in an attempt to dispatch Molotch once and for all.
When Culzean realises that Thonius is Slyte, he attempts to bring forth the daemon, with absolutely disastrous consequences, and it does indeed come down to a truce between Ravenor and Molotch, who combine together their psychic might to bring down the daemon, using the three-way door to finally send Slyteback into the Realm of Chaos. In the epilogue, Ravenor kills Molotch once and for all, and surrenders himself to the Inquisition for judgment.
I have got to be honest, this book was not the best it could have been, to my mind. I’m a big fan of Dan Abnett, and I have really loved the Ravenor series, but the final act here doesn’t feel like it really does everything justice. It’s a bit like the original Star Wars trilogy, where the build-up is amazing, with the second act far surpassing the first, then the third just seems to fall a little bit flat as it attempts to wrap everything up before the end. I’m not saying it was rushed, but there didn’t feel like the kind of payoff for some things that perhaps demanded them. Zael in particular fizzles into nothing, serving as little more than a distraction for the rest of the cast, despite the fact we as the readers know what is going on.
The middle part with the three-way door felt like it went on a bit too long, as well. I’m still not entirely sure why we needed to see the complete adventures of Ravenor and co. as they attempt to join up with the rest of the retinue – an abridged version would have been fine, if we could instead have had more on the Zaelplot, maybe? I don’t know. It also feels like some of the retinue characters are maybe a bit lost, with very little action for Kara Swole more than any of the others.
I don’t know.
It’s by no means a terrible book, and I’ve said before how Return of the Jedi is in fact my favourite Star Wars movie. If this is the Return of the Jedi of the Ravenor trilogy, then that is still pretty decent praise, I would say! There are some incredibly rich descriptions of worlds that we get, such as the sweeping vistas of Tancred at the beginning, which are pure and classic Abnett.
It’s better than a lot of the stuff that has been written for Black Library, and I don’t want you to think it didn’t keep me reading. I just feel like maybe the series could have been capped with a greater payoff in the end. But that’s possibly just me!