Lord of the Night reviews the long awaited sequel to Angels of Darkness, the first in the Legacy of Caliban trilogy Ravenwing by Gav Thorpe.
“Thorpe and the Dark Angels bring a promising start to an exciting new series rife with intrigue and surprises, and one that will only improve with each new release.” – The Founding Fields
Ravenwing has been a highly anticipated title for me, ever since I read Angels of Darkness earlier in the year when Gav was kind enough to give me a copy when I mentioned that i’d never read it. I absolutely loved the stories of Boreas and Astelan, and so when I read that Ravenwing would be a continuation of the events of that novel I was overjoyed. And after finishing the book I am only more excited for the next book that will continue the story that Ravenwing continued and took to whole new heights.
The Dark Angels are a twilight chapter. With one foot in the light and one in the dark they walk in the hidden places of the galaxy, hiding a shame 10,000 years old that not even all of their brethren are aware of, for one purpose and one purpose alone. To hunt those who betrayed them, to expunge the sins of their chapter’s past and restore their honor. And always at the lead are the Ravenwing, the eyes and hunters of the chapter. Their grim task is to hunt the Fallen Angels wherever they go, to run them to ground and work towards redemption. When Brother Annael joins the Ravenwing he finds himself thrust into the middle of a conspiracy involving the dead, the captured and the free. Faced by a task he does not fully comprehend, squad brothers who are unsure of him and a suspicious 5th company in tow, Annael will soon find himself tested by all three, and will face the darkest secret of the Dark Angels.
The story that continues from AoD is expertly woven, using the events that occured on Piscina IV and taking it to a new level. The Fallen take a much larger role in this story, as the primary crux of it is a hunt for them. Gav uses the elements of secrets and lies in the chapter to tell multiple stories, from those who know of the Fallen to those who do not and how these forces interact with each other and how those who do not know handle being tasked such an assignment. But above all the conspiracy and reach of the plot are the best part, the implication that a much wider net has been cast and that this is only the beginning of something immense really makes the story shine, as it keeps the reader thinking about what could be going on and where the story will lead the Dark Angels. And of course the infamous message from AoD is received and the reactions will both surprise you and have you nodding your head having expected this.
Ravenwing is, in my opinion, the start of the definitive Dark Angels trilogy.
The characters in Ravenwing are quite different from what we’re used too. The Ravenwing themselves are much more informal and easy-going than other Space Marines, and some could call them insubordinate. Annael and Sabrael are the two that most stick out, one a veteran of the chapter whose questioning nature and ignorance of the chapter’s true history make him the perfect protagonist for the novel as a way to introduce readers into the hierarchy of the Dark Angels and the secrets and lies they tell each other, whereas Sabrael best exemplifies the loose nature of the Ravenwing and just how different it is from other chapters and companies. Sammael and his command staff are also a major force in the novel and they provide good insights into just what it means to hunt the Fallen and what it is like to do questionable things to preserve their chapter, and Sammael himself has quite a subtle sense of humour that is most welcome. The last major character is Brother Telemenus, whose perspective shows the reader what an uninitiated Dark Angel is like and what it is like for them to interact with the initiated and to be kept in the dark about the true history and mission of their chapter. Gav makes all of these characters feel unique and does a very good job of broadening the character base so that we can see all sorts of perspectives and try to understand each one.
The action is of course fast paced and very exciting, it being mostly on Bikes and Land Speeders after all. The Ravenwing get to make war in their own way and Gav shows them off in plenty of different locations from open fields to a space station to a contested city, and the challenges that come with fighting in such a specialized way in such environments. Gav writes his action scenes well and manages to make the high speed chases and close quarters Bike action feel fast and powerful, yet at the same time understandable for the most part. I occasionally had a bit of trouble picturing the landscape in the space station but that was probably just me. The one issue I did have though was the Space Marines did not feel as powerful, physically, as we have seen them before. They could kick and punch mortals just to knock them out whereas in other books a Space Marine punching you in the back of the head would send your head and part of your chest across the room. I suppose they were holding back but a mention of that would have been good, just to clarify the reader that they are trying to knock them out rather than kill them.
The pacing is quite good, though the chapter format is different to normal. Rather than a set number of chapters Ravenwing uses short named sections to tell the story, some around 5-10 pages and the largest being around 20 pages. This can make the book feel shorter than it is, and reading it can feel faster. Aside from some slower sections in the final third of the book I thoroughly enjoyed the pace that the book travelled at, spending just as much time in intrigue and chapter goings-on as it did the battles. Ravenwing is an easy read and I did not feel overly bored or sped along at any point.
Now for my favourite quote, only one really comes to mind, the others being too long to post here, but this one is definitely my favourite,
“Not just a Space Marine, brother. A Dark Angel.”
The ending is definitely a cliffhangar, but not one that will have you feeling let down. The next book, Master of Sanctity, will likely pick up immediately after the events of Ravenwing and will continue the story that Sammael and his brothers began. I particularly enjoyed the event that the story ended on, surprised at how it went and thinking how very very different it would have gone in any other chapter. But the Ravenwing and the Dark Angels are unlike any other chapter and this book shows that beyond a shadow of a doubt, and I have no doubt that Master of Sanctity will continue this great story and make it even better as it delves into the shadowy world of the Interrogator-Chaplains and their leader Sapphon.
For a great continuation to a story I love very much, and the introduction to some of the most memorable Space Marines I have ever read I give Ravenwing a grand score of 8.5/10. All Dark Angel fans should immediately have this book on a reminder and then pre-order asap. You will not be disappointed by this deep and revealing look into the Dark Angels and the Ravenwing, and the start of what is sure to be a great trilogy that promises great things to come.
That is it for this review. My next review will be for C.L Werner’s 40k debut, the first Chaos Space Marines Battles book, The Siege of Castellax. Until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!