The Night Lords Trilogy: Void Stalker by Aaron Dembski-Bowden – Advanced Review [Bane of Kings]
Bane of Kings reviews the epic conclusion to the Night Lords Trilogy, entitled Void Stalker, written by New York Times Bestselling Author Aaron Dembski-Bowden and published by The Black Library. Void Stalker is currently available as an ebook, and will be released in paperback in May 2012.
“Wow. Aaron Dembski-Bowden not only manages to keep you hooked from the first page, but manages to make the predictable unpredictable. Void Stalker is a fantastic conclusion to the Trilogy, and is the best book so far. Not to be missed.” ~The Founding Fields
I’ve read pretty much everything from Aaron Dembksi-Bowden, from Aurelian to Cadian Blood, and even the upcoming The Emperor’s Gift (Which is awesome, I might add), and I don’t think I haven’t liked a single thing by him. Each novel and short story is epic, and indeed, two of his short stories (At Gaius Point, which can be found in The Legends of the Space Marines Anthology and Savage Weapons, his addition to Age of Darkness, another anthology,) made it onto my Top 5 Best Black Library short stories, which the full list of can be found here on my own personal writing blog. He’s so good that he’s the only author on there to have two short stories out of the five slots available. So, naturally – I had very high expectations for Void Stalker.
And Aaron Dembski-Bowden did not just meet my expectations, oh no. He did the impossible, and exceeded them, which makes Void Stalker one of the best novels that I’ve read in 2012 so far that were released in the same year. This stands alongside novels such as Anne Lyle’s superb The Alchemist of Souls. But I’ve rambled for too long. Without further ado, after the blurb, let’s explain why I felt that the conclusion to the Night Lords Trilogy is as good as I felt it was.
The hunters have become the hunted. The Night Lords flee to the dark fringes of the Imperium to escape their relentless pursuers – the eldar of Craftworld Ulthwé. Their flight takes them to the carrion world of Tsagualsa, where their primarch died and their Legion was broken. There, history will repeat itself as a deadly assassin stalks the shadows, and the Night Lords are drawn into a battle they are destined to lose.
Aaron Dembski-Bowden is my second favourite Black Library author, ranking just behind Dan Abnett. However, there are times when he almost surpasses Abnett as my favourite BL author, and Void Stalker is one of those times. Everything about the novel was just… well, awesome. I couldn’t put it down, and I don’t think there is a single thing that I disliked about Night Lords #3. This is truly a must buy novel.
The author himself has seemingly, over the course of the Trilogy, done something that shouldn’t have been possible. He’s made Night Lords likeable. For anybody who knows their background, then you know that the Night Lords Legion were originally recruited from their homeworld, Nostramo and the Night Lords didn’t just pick anyone to fill their legion before the Horus Heresy, oh no. They picked the most vicious, bloodthirsty and violent of the criminal underworld to fulfil their ranks. Murderers, Rapists, Serial Killers, the lot, possessing no unifying belief, honour or martial creed. They are some of the most ruthless of all the Space Marine Legions, and not only has the author presented them well, he’s made them likeable. Before reading this trilogy (Soul Hunter, Blood Reaver & Void Stalker) I’d never thought that I’d be actually rooting for Chaos Space Marines – as Soul Hunter, if I recall correctly, was my first CSM novel.
And not only that, but let’s mention Uzas here, one of the members of the Night Lords First Claw. In the past few books he’s been portrayed as a bloodthirsty follower of the Blood God Khorne, but in Void Stalker, we get to know more about his background. And, of all the Night Lords that we’d be feeling a little bit sorry for at the end, Uzas was the one that I would have least expected to have sympathy for. Aarom Dembski-Bowden has achieved this spectacularly well, and has done more things besides. Character development is frequent not just in this epic conclusion but also the whole trilogy, and I think that no member of First Claw that we saw in Soul Hunter has emerged the same by the end of Void Stalker.
On top of all that, Dembski-Bowden has managed to include romance. Not only romance, but well written romance between two characters (non-Astartes, mind you) in a place and time that we didn’t expect. Come on, this is Warhammer 40k, a Universe where there is only war. It takes a nothing short of a genius to get believable romance on the paper in such a grim-dark future, and the author has hit top marks here, again.
If you thought that some characters were going to remain safe throughout the whole Trilogy, think again. Nobody is safe in Void Stalker, and when I say nobody, I mean nobody. In this book, even Talos himself is just as likely to be slain as a minor character. With the tension so high in the last Night Lords novel, every fight scene is made gripping, heart-pounding, and you’re left wondering if this could be the last fight for the character(s) involved. The action is of course, well-written consistently throughout Void Stalker. The novel is action-packed, and is not all bolter-porn, oh no. This is how Chaos Space Marines should wage war, intense, brutal action that will have you hooked right the way through. Trust me when I say this, you will not want to put Void Stalker down.
Aaron Dembski-Bowden has made the Night Lords trilogy as a whole not just a must read novel for Black Library fans, but all readers of science fiction. If you don’t mind anti-heroes, then there shouldn’t be a reason why you should read Void Stalker, or the previous novels and accompanying short stories. The pace is even throughout the novel, fast and relentless, and there isn’t a dull moment in the novel itself, no moment where you will want to be skipping forward a few pages. Void Stalker is a novel that you will want to cherish every moment of it, as it is the final novel in the trilogy after all. In fact, the only bad point that I can find about this novel is that it, well – ended the trilogy. I would have loved the author to continue writing more Night Lords, as Void Stalker only left me wanting more and more. I may have to re-read this trilogy at some point now.
Having already read The Emperor’s Gift (You’ll see a review closer to its release date, and let me tell you – that is something special), I will look forward to whatever Aaron Dembski-Bowden brings out next, and I hope that he continues to match the quality that he puts out.
The Night Lords Trilogy: Shadow Knight, (Short Story), Soul Hunter, Throne of Lies (Audio-Drama), Blood Reaver, The Core (Short Story), Void Stalker
More Aaron Dembski-Bowden on TFF:
Djinn24: The First Heretic
EJ Davies: Butcher’s Nails