The Dark Eldar Trilogy: Path of the Renegade by Andy Chambers – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

Path-of-the-Renegade

Bane of Kings reviews the first in the Dark Eldar series, written by Andy Chambers, and published by Black Library.

“A fantastic look into the realm of the Dark Eldar. Not to be missed by any xenos fan.” ~The Founding Fields

I’m going to start this review by informing you about the author, Andy Chambers. Whilst he may not be familiar to any newcomers to the Black Library Universe, and indeed, I hadn’t heard of  him before reading Path of the Renegade. But when I google’d his name to see what other works he’d done, if any, it came up with the following: He’s worked on many, many Codexes from various editions of the Warhammer 40,000 game, including Codex: Craftworld Eldar (Third Edition), Codex: Tyranids (4th Edition) and Codex: Necrons (3rd Edition), and has already written one Black Library-published novel, the ancient Survival Instinct, which can nowadays be found in the first Necromunda Omnibus. So, Andy Chambers was already a veteran to the Warhammer 40,000 universe, right? Let’s see how he handled what is I believe the first novel focusing on the Dark Eldar, one of the most twisted races ever to sail the stars of the grimdark far future. Here’s the blub, borrowed from our friends at Black Library, below:

For millennia, Asdrubael Vect has ruled the dark city of Commorragh, crushing any who dare to cross him. His reach is long and his position unassailable… or so he thinks. Yllithian, an ambitious archon with the desire to unseat the tyrant, joins forces with a twisted haemonculus in an attempt to revive a long-dead warrior and challenge the might of the overlord, both racing to achieve their goal before Vect discovers their treachery. But a cataclysm is coming, and Yllithian’s actions may in fact be the cause…

So, pretty interesting, right? I mean, this has managed to get me wanting to read the book, and the only time I’ve encountered Dark Eldar before was in the occasional novel as the enemy faction (Firedrake by Nick Kyme), and the occasional game on Dawn of War: Soulstorm. And, when I read the book, I’m going to say that I really enjoyed it. Andy Chambers has kept me hooked right from the get go, and I’m really looking forward for the second novel in the Dark Eldar Trilogy, Path of the Incubus, which should be coming out in March 2013, and presumably follows directly on from Path of the Renegade, which was a huge enjoyment and I would love to return to Commorragh, the home city of the Dark Eldar.

Well, I wouldn’t love to actually go there, as judging by the background and in the novel, Commorragh is a dark, brutal, torturous place where the Dark Eldar make their home.

Before Andy Chambers even started this novel, he was facing a question. And that question, is how do I write something that’s utterly, and completely alien? There’s a reason why the majority of novels and short stories that come out focus on the Space Marines and the forces of the Imperium, folks, as quite simply, they’re the closest things in this universe that the author can relate to. Dark Eldar are literally impossible to relate to. Even somebody like Graham McNeill, and dare I say it, Dan Abnett – would face a challenge in getting the Dark Eldar written in a way that not only gets across their perspective, but also pleases the fanbase.

And, from my opinion at least, Andy Chambers does both of those things. He doesn’t just do both of them, he does them both well. He brought across a culture that was rich with information to draw upon, made the characters believable and interesting, as well as not making them seem too human. There isn’t really going to be a ‘hero’ in this novel, one that the readers can relate to, but then – that’s never going to be the case with any Dark Eldar novel.

However, Path of the Renegade, as much as I wanted it to be, isn’t perfect. It does have some flaws, and chief among which is the pacing – it’s a little  uneven, building up a little slow, with the occasional burst of action. And the ending also happened a bit too fast, making you wonder what Andy Chambers could have done if he had written more, and made the conclusion a tad more satisfying. However, this is the first in a trilogy though, and these two flaws will not stop me from reading Path of the Incubus as soon as it arrives on my doorstep.

The background of the Dark Eldar race is explored fantastically in this novel, and we’re really given an insight into their culture, and what makes them tick for the first time in novel format in the world of the Warhammer 40,000 Universe. A lot of factions that are used in the Army List in the game are explored here, and at no point does it feel like Andy Chambers is trying to fit in all of them just because he can. And indeed, the battle scenes are no different. From aerial duels to small skirmishes on the ground, Path of the Renegade has no ‘wasted’ action within its pages, and that’s another plus for Andy Chambers there.

Path of the Renegade is a nice story that could easily, despite a few plot holes, be read as a standalone novel. There are a few minor aspects that Path of the Incubus and the final novel in the trilogy could tie up, and I’ll be waiting to see how the author tackles them.

Verdict: 4/5

The Dark Eldar Trilogy: Path of the Renegade, Path of the Incubus (March 2013), To Be Confirmed 

More Andy Chambers on TFF: First Looks (of Path of the Renegade), Path of the Renegade (Lord of the Night’s Review)

 

 

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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  • Abhinav Jain

    Good review. Going with your comment that the Dark Eldar have been portrayed as NOT too human, how believable and realistic are their motivatons really? That’s the challenge of writing xenos POVs of course!

    Also, how does the novel compare to Gav’s Eldar novels and to the the short story from the GD anthology (not sure if you’ve read that one)?

    • LordoftheNight

      Indeed I found that to be very enjoyable as well. Dark Eldar are more understandable than most other aliens as their drives are largely the same as humanities, at its worst of course. Pleasure, self-preservation, power and fear. Dark Eldar crave these things and since many humans do as well its easier to understand them.

      Yet at the same time we are reminded of just how alien they are by their callous disregard for anything that isn’t themselves.

      Good review Bane of Kings, I look forward to your next one. By any chance will you review Void Stalker soon?

      • BaneofKings

        Yeah, I’m going to read that after I’ve read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, unless anything arrives in the post between now and then. My next review is Chris F. Holm’s Dead Harvest, and after that, probably something Star Wars-y.

        • http://twitter.com/abhinavjain87 Abhinav Jain

          Star Wars-y eh? What did you have in mind?

          • BaneofKings

            Probably Red Harvest by Joe Schrieber as it’s the only Star Wars novel that I’ve read (recently) that I haven’t reviewed yet.

          • http://twitter.com/abhinavjain87 Abhinav Jain

            Interesting, a Star Wars horror novel!

          • BaneofKings

            Yeah, it was pretty good. Death Troopers (The sequel) was quite good as well, if I remember correctly.

    • BaneofKings

      I haven’t read the GD Anthology yet, but I reckon the novel itself is around the same as Gav’s Eldar novels in awesomeness, I enjoyed both of them equally really, struggling to pick a favourite.

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