Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review: Blood Reaver by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Blood Reaver by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
A Night Lords Novel
416 pages

Driven on by their hatred of the False Emperor, the Night Lords stalk the shadows of the galaxy, eternally seeking revenge for the death of their primarch. Their dark quest leads them to a fractious alliance with the Red Corsairs, united only by a common enemy. Together with this piratical band of renegades, they bring their ways of destruction to the fortress-monastery of the Marines Errant.

To be fair I have been anticipating Blood Reaver for a long time. I read Soul Hunter and loved it. Best book of 2010. I had some reservations on whether ADB could top his previous novel in the series. They were totally unfounded.

Blood Reaver as a sequel or part of an ongoing series of novels, short stories, audio dramas works beautifully. Mr. Dembski-Bowden does a fantastic job with characterization. You can't help but dig the characters. They all have a distinct voice. I think it is fair to say that these stand up nicely as stand alone stories too. The author does a fine job in keeping the plot largely contained and anything referring to previous plots/ stories is nicely explained without violating the show vs. tell "rule". Really nicely done.

The plot is pretty tight. Everything comes together nicely. Almost too nicely. There were instances where I felt that the author loved his characters too much: they were just too good. They fight better, plan better, do all the right things. For the most part I was wrong. The characters DO get in trouble. ADB does an excellent job in giving the reader surprises without resorting the the lame swtcheroo, or last minute twist. Important characters do die.

The characters we all know and love are all there. Talos is of course stellar. Cyrion, Xarl, Uzas, Mercutian, Septimus, Octavia. The old crew, still present. New faces arrive on scene and become crucial. You can't help but feel for them. All of the characters get some attention, but most especially Uzas, which was surprising, and most excellent. The Exalted has an excellent part in this, and the expansion on him is most welcome. I was very happy with how he was fleshed out. Ruven as well. Some wonderful scenes with him. Overall, Aaron Dembski-Bowden makes wonderful characters we all admire/ hate, laugh/cry with. These aren't two-dimensional cardboard cut-out characters that are easily created and tossed away. These are lovingly crafted, detailed characters that the author puts through the wringer.

There are some juicy secrets illuminated in this novel. A little more of the curtain around the Eighth Legion pulled back. It's all good stuff. ADB is a horrible tease. You can't help but feel that Talos is fighting a losing battle: trying to restore the legion to former glories in some way. It is SO interesting to see how the night Lords aren't a Chaos Legion per se. They certainly are no Word Bearers, but you can see how so many of the Legion's finest have fallen from the original path as renegades, traitors. So many have been twisted in to something monsterous (as if being a post-human superman killing machine wasn't monsterous enough). So many are compromised by chaos in one way or another.Uzas is just an obvious example, but all of them are in some way compromised. You can't help but love Septimus and Octavia. Both now faced with this corruption daily, living with it...surviving in spite of it. Haven't I mentioned that the characters are awesome? Yeah, they really are.

I was discussing with a friend of mine about how Aaron Dembski-Bowden has a very unique writing style. In some ways it almost feels anachronistic. he writes so succinctly, direct, in your face. His descriptions feel very personal, real and in many cases fit today's language and nuance. Something young adults and adults in 2011 would easily recognize and understand, but in relationship to the "Grim Dark Future" are almost out of place. Almost. I can't explain why, but it works. Maybe it's just his style, and we forgive it because he writes everything else so beautifully. I don't know. I think if someone else tried it it wouldn't necessarily work, or work near as well. It's THE ADB STYLE, and like the Dan'verse, it is unique to the author. I think it is brilliant. It totally works. I think it is part of what makes ADB the rockstar he is today.

We get some fun glimpses in to the Red Corsiars, Marines Errant, their characters, and their vibe. Now I want to see more about the Red Corsairs and the Tyrant of Badab, Huron Blackheart. Fantastic character. I hate him.

Cover art by Jon Sullivan is of course excellent. Jon never fails to satisfy.

Aaron Dembski-Bowden has proved again that he is a powerhouse of a writer. A damn fine tale of betrayal, regret and vengeance.
Ave Dominus Nox.

4.5 out of 5 Stars.

1 comment:

Matthew James Stanham said...

Sounds like a good series to get into. Thanks for the review!