Deliverance Lost by Gav Thorpe – Book Review [EJ Davies]

deliverance-lost

EJ Davies – new to The Founding Fields – reviews the latest in the New York Times Bestselling Series, picking up the threads laid in Raven’s Flight (audio drama), and The Face of Treachery (Age of Darkness anthology).

“Despite this being his first Horus Heresy novel, Gav Thorpe delivers a solid story with great action set pieces and twists aplenty.” 

Here’s the blurb (courtesy of Black Library): “Raven Guard escape the massacre at Isstvan V. Tending to their wounds, the bloodied Space Marines endeavour to replenish their numbers and return to the fray, taking the fight to the traitor Warmaster. Distraught at the crippling blow dealt to his Legion, Corax returns to Terra to seek the aid of his father – the Emperor of Mankind. Granted access to ancient secrets, Corax begins to rebuild the Raven Guard, planning his revenge against his treacherous brother primarchs. But not all his remaining warriors are who they appear to be… the mysterious Alpha Legion have infiltrated the survivors and plan to destroy the Raven Guard before they can rebuild and threaten Horus’s plans.”

I’ll start out by saying that I’m not a huge Gav Thorpe fan.  That must be understood from the outset, or else whatever follows could be seen as being a bit mean.  His first novel, Angels of Darkness, was exceptional but having read his Sundering trilogy, his Space Marines Battles novel The Purging of Kadillus and his short stories in the various Black Library anthologies I have been similarly non-plussed with each,  and a even a little disappointed, and in some cases frustrated.  So I approached this novel with some trepidation.  Also with the memories of Descent of Angels (Mitchel Scanlon) and Battle for the Abyss (Ben Counter) – in my humble opinion two of the most lacklustre Horus Heresy novels in the series – firmly in the back of my mind as I turned every page.

The Raven Guard are a tragic legion.  Their losses were significant (from around 75,000 Astartes prior to Isstvan to just 3000 in the opening section of the book) and Corax’s own humility and sense of vengeance is a theme that runs constantly through the narrative.    Corax is not the only major character in the piece, we also have Branne, Agapito (first seen in Raven’s Flight) and Solaro – all commander level – and Vincente Sixx, and Nestil, all of the Raven Guard.  This is really their story, how the legion seeks to rebuild its strength after the tragedy as Isstvan, though it would seem that this serves nothing more than to exact vengeance on behalf of their primarch.

Though this is not the only action of the piece.  For the first time since Dan Abnett’s Legion we see much more of the Alpha Legion and how they operate.  The twin primarchs, Alpharius and Omegon, both appear in the story – the former on the Vengeful Spirit – under the gaze of the Warmaster himself, and a few of his cronies – particularly Erebus.  Omegon’s narrative takes place mostly on Kiavahr – the planet around which Deliverance revolves.

Now, all these threads are dealt with well, though much of the focus of the novel is on the primarch of the Raven Guard himself – his feelings, his motivations, his work, his narrative, particularly in the first half of the book.  The latter half deals with the legion’s reconstruction and the ramifications this has on the legion, and how the plans of the Alpha Legion are slowly drawn against the Raven Guard.  The story lines are dealt with deftly, and the twists and turns are gripping and visceral in the main.

Yet my issues with the novel run to more that just how the story lines are handled, and are the pay offs set up early enough.  It’s more structural, and functional; and these are common issues I’ve had with Gav’s work from the start.  I think it might just be down to my reading style clashing with Gav’s writing style, and in no way should these concerns effect your enjoyment of the novel.  If you don’t want to know – skip the next paragraph.

At times the descriptions and dialogue is clunky – heavy handed if you will.  Each character has their own voice, and their own manner of speaking – but the common tongue is just a little too poorly arranged for me.  Similarly, explanations of past experiences influencing the present action is clunky, almost an afterthought.  Example:  “He crouched low, bullets flying overhead.  His previous training with the Belsamor Grenadiers allowed him to map the battlefield by sound.  When the fusillade ceased, the gunners reloading, he leapt from cover – accessing his own regiment’s  sniper’s training – firing bullets into the foreheads of three of the enemy squad.”  Now, these are things that could have been set up in earlier scenes, and it happens to frequently for my taste.  As does the repetition of key phrases – something that rankles me about other novels too – in this one it was cannonade.  In Age of Darkness it was the phrase Legionnes Astartes.  I also have questions about whether telling this story through the eyes of a primarch is the best means to tell the story.  There are few authors who could adequately give us the character of a primarch – and although Corax is depicted as a shadow, as a grief stricken and vengeful creation – there is an over reliance on a few key devices that too easily explain difficult-to-escape situations.  The final battle is also too rushed – almost the novel equivalent of the ending of Titanic – and should have been dealt with over the course of at least another chapter, maybe two.

Right – moans over.  This novel is no Battle for the Abyss (a book where almost every scene I though ‘What the hell?’) and this is no Descent of Angels (a book where on second inspection I felt deflated and disappointed.)  But also this novel is no Fulgrim, or The First Heretic.  This is a solidly written, though not flawless, novel and is a good entry into the Horus Heresy series; though it has done little to enlighten me on anything I didn’t know (save for the Palace of Terra.)  While this hasn’t done anything to endear Gav to me any more – it hasn’t done any damage either.

I will rate this as Good with some Great features.

EJ Davies

EJ Davies: reader, reviewer, writer; and an avid lover of Black LIbrary products since the release of the seminal Horus Rising. EJ is currently working through the massive back catalogue of Black Library titles, and plugging away at his own fiction-based efforts in the vain hope of cracking his way into the author pool.

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  • Anonymous

    Nice review :). Welcome to the site. If you don’t mind, I edited the format of your review a bit to match the rest of the reviews on TFF. No changes to the text, just to the layout.