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Lord of the Night reviews the thrilling and long-awaited Pariah by Dan Abnett, the first novel of the Bequin trilogy and the start of the final Inquisitor trilogy.
“A nail-biting and thrilling start to what, when finished, will surely become one of the greatest stories ever told in 40k and perhaps even in science fiction.” – The Founding Fields
It has been a long wait. Ever since Xenos was released over a decade ago the Inquisitor trilogy has been one of the greatest series available from Black Library. Eisenhorn and Ravenor, both stories set away from the war-front and the pounding of bolters and blades, in the dark(er) corners of 40k dealing with the “domestic” side of the universe. Now we are entering the end of that story, the story that started in Xenos will be finished in this trilogy. In that sense Pariah is the beginning of the end, and what a beginning it is.
Alizebeth “Beta” Bequin has led a strange life. Raised in an Inquisitorial school, dedicated to providing Pariah field agents to Inquisitors across the galaxy, the Maze Undue has been her home for near all her life. Learning the skills of covertecy and spycraft has been her trade, and now her true destiny has begun. Caught in a shadow-war, between two champions arrayed against each other, in the eyes of evil forces stirring to join the war and reap their reward and hidden to them all is the true enemy that lurks in the darkness, Bequin must decide who she will side with, which is the side that is right and just who is the real enemy that plots to harness a force as powerful as the Dark Gods themselves. But most of all, Bequin will have to decide who she is, and who she can trust.
Now any fan of Eisenhorn will immediately realise upon reading the first few pages of this book that something is wrong. This is different to what we know, something has changed, this is not as we were told it was. The story of Pariah is most definitely a mystery, one that slowly reveals itself as Bequin begins to meet the various factions and sides that desire to use her, recruit her or control her for their own plans. The story is jam-packed with surprises and revelations about the shadow war that will keep the reader fascinated and speculating all the while about what is really happening in the sector, and what is coming. And of course the ante has been upped considerably, this is not just a war between Eisenhorn and Ravenor. Other much more powerful, older and evil forces are entering the war and have their own designs upon the rewards it will bestow upon the victor, and on Bequin, and it makes the story all the more thrilling as the war has only just begun for us, and the possibilities are endless.
The characters, well-written and deep as we know and love from Abnett, are amazing, both the new and the old. Abnett masterfully brings back old characters yet is tricky about it, names not coming into play until later, leaving the reader guessing at who could that familiar figure have been?? But some are obvious like Ravenor and Eisenhorn both who return in top form, though it has been some time since we last saw them and both have changed with the events of both their own series still weighing at them. Bequin herself is the big mystery of the story, and the reader will be shocked by the answer to the question of her return, and which makes her a damn fine protagonist to end this story. And of course we get plenty of new characters such as the enigmatic Deathrow, the deadly Teke the Smiling One, and the ever-loyal Curst Renner Lightburn all of whom I expect to see again and greatly anticipate their return, especially Deathrow and his not-so-little dog too for reasons you’ll learn in the story.
Pariah is definitely a step-up from both Eisenhorn and Ravenor not only in story, but in action as well. The fight scenes of the story are beautifully described by Bequin, as a mortal witnessing great feats of strength, heroism and horror. One particular scene was described fascinatingly, for a mortal to witness certain things fighting each other and describe what it is like to witness and feel the effects of being so close to such a fight. And of course they are exciting, wondering who will win and continue to fight in this shadow war, and wondering what each side wants and plans to do to win. The action scenes that are truly enjoyable don’t start until later in the novel but they open up the floodgates and really make the novel more exciting as it inches closer towards the end of this first part.
The pacing is nicely written, as is the return to the first person format of Eisenhorn over the third person of Ravenor. It makes the story much more personal and allows for the innermost thoughts of Bequin to flow easier, even her writing feels like someone talking and remembering, describing rather than just exposition by an author. As with many of his stories Abnett starts off slow, building the world, story and characters and getting the reader dug in, and then over time the story gets faster and more tense until it explodes into the answer to many questions about Bequin, the events that take place and what is coming, and raises so many more questions that we’ll be waiting some time to learn the answers to.
Now unfortunately due to spoilers I cannot post my favourite quote here, despite how utterly and completely BADASS it was, nor can I post my second favourite for the same reason. So i’ll have to go with my third, which does not spoil anything.
“I’ve remembered what the word was.”
Pariah was a hell of a start to the end of this story, so of course it should have a shocking and tense ending. It’s a little abrupt and a massive cliffhangar, and a fantastic return for a much-loved character, and will definitely have you dying to read more and cursing the 2014 release date for Penitent, the sequel. But it’s a hell of a place to leave off and will have you speculating endlessly about what Bequin will think about it, what will happen next and above all, which is the side that is right and is on the right path.
For a fantastic story that contains not only a great mystery but sets the stage for a brilliant trilogy and one of 40k’s greatest stories, the return of beloved old characters and the introduction of new ones that will surely be as beloved and for several jaw-dropping surprises that still make me smile as I imagine what they could mean for the future of the series, I give Pariah a grand score of 9.0/10. The return of Bequin, Eisenhorn and Ravenor has not disappointed me and I don’t think it will disappoint any of the fans who have been waiting for so long, the somewhat abrupt ending may tick some people off as Priests of Mars‘ did but hopefully they will enjoy the story enough that it doesn’t matter.
Should you buy this novel? The answer is a definitive yes. Any fan of 40k can enjoy this novel and any fan of Eisenhorn or Ravenor does not even need to ask me the question. Buy Pariah. Read Pariah. Love Pariah. Wait for Penitent. You won’t be disappointed by the novel, and you’ll be on edge waiting for the sequel to come.
Well that’s it for this review. It’s been fun and I look forward to the day when I type up the review for Penitent and begin eagerly awaiting the third novel that will end this wonderful story of Inquisitors, Daemons, and the dark corners of 40k where the fate of the galaxy is decided away from the battlefronts and warzones. Next i’ll likely be journying to the past of Warhammer in the Time of Legends novel The Great Betrayal by Nick Kyme. Until next time,
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