Well, this review is well overdue, but I’m finally getting my act together now that the nights are drawing in!
A kind of tie-in to Dan Abnett’s Eisenhorn series, Ravenor is the first book in the eponymous trilogy, following the Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor. As you may know, Ravenor appeared for a brief time at the start of Malleus, the second novel in the earlier trilogy, where an attack left him at the brink of death. It’s actually been a fair few years since I read that book, though I feel like the novel left it a bit open as to whether Ravenor had in fact been killed.
Ravenor begins with a prologue that shows Ravenor and his crew pursuing the heretic leader Zygmunt Molotch as he investigates the Enuncia carvings (this isn’t very important to the novel in question, but comes to prominence later in the series). The main meat of the novel begins with the squad on the hive world of Eustis Majoris, the subcapital of the Angelus subsector. Ravenor and his team, comprising Carl Thonius, Patience Kys, Kara Swole, and Harlon Nayl. They are investigating the illegal Flect trade, a kind of narcotic glass that seems to be rife throughout the hive. During the course of their investigations, Nayl comes across the young Zael, an addict with psychic potential, while Patience and Carl attempt to inveigle themselves into the confidences of a local dignitary – both lines of inquiry leading to different dealer names, however during the course of their investigation the dignitary overdoses. The official Magistratum investigation into this death is observed psychically by Ravenor, but he is attacked on the astral plane by the Magistratum psyker Kinsky.
Ravenor himself makes planetfall, now confined to a life-preserving suspension chair, along with further members of his team, Mathuin and Frauka, the latter a psychic blank along the lines of Bequin. The trail leads to the Carnivora (CAR-CAR-CARNIVORA!) and the team infiltrate the spectacle in an effort to find Duboe, the man implicated in the Flect trade. They apprehend Duboe, but then are themselves taken to Lord Govenor Barazan’s palace, where they meet with Jader Trice, head of the Ministry for Subsector Trade. He offers them the information that has been officially gathered on Duboe and the Flect trade, which seems to lead into Lucky Space – so-named because you’d be lucky to survive a trip into the area. They are also given Magistratum liaisons, including Kinsky.
Things begin to unravel in Lucky Space, and the team learns that the Flects are brought in by a cartel of Rogue Traders (calling themselves Contract Thirteen) from the interdicted Mergent Worlds, planets that had disappeared in a Warp Storm, but have since recently reappeared with the irrevocable taint of Chaos. The Flects are basically Warp-soaked shards of glass that shattered from the windows of the hive world of Spica Maximal. Kinsky inevitably turns on Ravenor and his retinue, but the Inquisitor is able to overpower the Magistratum officials and the team defeats the Rogue Trader Kizary Thekla, who had been operating under the Magistratum’s authority to recover logic engines and cogitators from the Mergent Worlds, revealing a level of corruption that leads back to Trice. While the authorities believe Ravenor and his team to have been killed out in Lucky Space, the Inquisitor arranges for passage back to Eustis Majoris. In secret, Carl Thonius tries a Flect…
Ravenor is excellent. It’s one of those books that just screams to me with everything that I love about the Warhammer 40k universe. The first part of the novel takes place on the hive world, where the claustrophobic feel of the place comes across just so well, it really feels like a grey and miserable, heavy place, from the acid rain to the hive scum. In very short order, we really feel the oppression of the place, it’s really quite remarkable. I suppose around the same time that I was reading this in July, I was deep into Necromunda again, trying to get my head around the rules, and so on, so that was a real bonus for me as I was really in the mood for that kind of story. As the story moves on, it doesn’t give much opportunity for rest, as the conspiracy continues and the mystery deepens. Things are a bit cramped on the journey to Lucky Space, but the action never lets up, and things get pretty explosive at the end.
I just can’t recommend this book enough. It definitely ticks the boxes for me as a fan of the wider lore of the 40k universe and, while there may not be a space marine in sight, it’s just fascinating to see the story of an Inquisitor and his retinue unfold with the “little people” of 40k along for the ride. It certainly has that Necromunda feel to it, although of course that’s not really the point of the book, but it will definitely appeal to those sensibilities. I’ve recently started to read the second in the trilogy, Ravenor Returned, and it’s interesting to see how, only a short way into the novel, some of the things that were set up earlier are being developed, in a much more tight-knit manner than the earlier Eisenhorn trilogy. I feel like the Ravenor books might prove to be more akin to the one-long-story type of trilogy, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!