The Ravenor Trilogy by Dan Abnett

Werthead

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Ravenor

Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor is one of the finest agents in the Inquisition, the former protege of the infamous (and now missing) Gregor Eisenhorn. Badly wounded in the catastrophe on Thracian Primaris, Ravnor is restricted to a life-support chair but his formidable psi-powers remain undimmed and his allies and agents are among the best in their fields.

Ravenor's latest case leads him and his team to Eustis Majoris, capital world of subsector Angelus, on the trail of 'flects', a new drug that induces a form of psychic ecstasy in the subject. Believing the drug trade is being influenced by Chaos, Ravenor joins forces with the planet's law-enforcement agencies to bring the ruinous trade down but discovers many different competing interests are involved in the case.

The Ravenor Trilogy is a successor work to the earlier Eisenhorn Trilogy, spinning off several supporting characters into a new story (although there are some story connections to the earlier work). It is also a more developed, much deeper tale than the former. Whilst Eisenhorn was three separate stories linked by some continuing subplots and elements, Ravenor is a much bigger, more epic story split into three acts. As a result Abnett has more time to develop the stories, characters and the background setting (in this case the pollution-wrecked hive world of Eustis Majoris), achieving a deeper and more resonant story than in any of his previous works (although the accumulative narrative drive of the twelve Gaunt's Ghosts novels is impressive).

Whilst the action and consequences are large-scale and epic, this is also correspondingly Abnett's most intimate story, with more of the story focusing on Ravnor's team (the psi-warrior Patience Kys, the acrobat-turned-assassin Kara Swole, street-smarts urchin Zael, the cultured data-miner Carl Thonius, and more) and their interrelationships rather than excuses to blow stuff up (although there's enough of that to satisfy most action fans). The supporting cast is also well-defined, with some excellently-portrayed villains and some great secondary roles (Sholto Unwerth and his tendency to quasi-Vancian dialogue in particular).

On the negative side, Ravenor doesn't really stand up as a stand-alone novel with a lot of the story left unresolved at the end (although as the first book in a trilogy this isn't entirely surprising), and arguably the promise of the first half where Abnett's prose is markedly superior to what has come before (as solid as that was) is dissipated in the second where explosions and gun battles become more prevalent.

Overall, however, Ravenor (****½) sees an already-decent author upping his game to new heights and delivering one of his best novels to date. The book is available now in the UK and USA as part of the Ravenor Omnibus.
 

Werthead

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Ravenor Returned

Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor and his team have evaded a lethal trap and returned incognito to Eustis Majoris. Aware that some of the planet's law-enforcement agencies are involved the flect trade, Ravenor invokes Special Condition status, going deep undercover and gaining the ability to deal with the crisis any way he sees fit.

Ravenor Returned is the second novel in the Ravenor Trilogy and, unusually for an Abnett WH40K novel, does not stand alone, instead picking up almost immediately after the events of the previous book (the omnibus edition incorporates a short story where Ravenor is briefly reunited with Eisenhorn and receives a dire warning of events to come). Ravenor and his team are back on Eustis Majoris, able to operate only on their own with no official assistance, whilst their various adversaries are continuing to forward their own plans.

One of the more notable changes to Ravenor Returned from the previous novel is that there are two factions opposed to Ravenor with their own complex plans in motion and we get POV chapters in both camps, building up a much more complete picture of what is going on. This gives rise to some of Abnett's better-realised adversaries, such as Lucius Worna and Revoke, as their agendas also clash (rather amusingly, in one case) with one another as well as the Inquisition. But once again the main focus of character development is on Ravenor's team as they continue to face their own challenges and issues (some pretty major ones, in one case).

Complaints are few. Sholto Unwerth and his splendidly entertaining diction gets disappointingly little page-time, whilst Ravenor himself is a little bit of a blank slate compared to his very well-realised team-members and Eisenhorn.

But overall, Ravenor Returned (****½) is a very fine continuation of the series. It is available now as part of the Ravenor Omnibus in the UK and USA.
 

Rodders

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It's such a shame that a lot of people consider this sort of thing to be a tie in and pretty much look down on it.
 

Werthead

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Ravenor Rogue

Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor is hot on the trail of his resurrected nemesis, Zygmunt Molotch, but faces criticism from his fellow inquisitors for the death toll his operations on Eustis Majoris have caused. With Molotch on the run and millions of lives still in danger from the prophesied rise of the daemon Slyte, Ravenor is forced to go rogue to complete his mission.

Ravenor Rogue concludes the Ravenor Trilogy in fine style. As usual, Abnett delivers a superior slice of action and adventure, but here engages in some unexpected meta-commentary on how long quests (including series climaxes, like this one) often end in an anti-climax due to expectations being raised. Both Ravenor and Molotch discuss how their seventy-year feud will end in one of their deaths, but as they are both defined by this rivalry that day will not necessarily be a triumph for the victor. A pretty well-established idea, but here treated with a degree of thorough seriousness which is unusual.

Of course, this does not slow down the furious pace (as usual, Abnett packs a hell of a lot into 250-odd pages) or interrupt some well-handled character development (although, after two books of being built up, Zael doesn't have a lot to do). On the more negative side, the book does end in a somewhat over-the-top (even by Warhammer 40,000 standards) sequence which feels like the author had binge-read the entire Cthulu mythos before writing it. Expect tentacles. Lots of them.

Ravenor Rogue (****) brings the sequence to a generally satisfying climax, although there are a few unanswered questions for the eventually-promised third Inquisitor trilogy. The book is available now as part of the Ravenor Omnibus in the UK and USA.
 

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