Daemon World by Ben Counter – Review [Lord of the Night]
Lord of the Night reviews the maliciously enjoyable novel Daemon World by Ben Counter.
“An exquisite tale of revenge and manipulation and the game between gods and mortals that 40k does so well.” – The Founding Fields
Daemon World was one of the first 40k novels I read after Lord of the Night and Fulgrim, likely it was the prospect of more Chaos Space Marines that attracted me to it. But I was surprised by the tone of Daemon World that proved to be very unlike other 40k novels, and thus stood out as unique and very enjoyable for taking the risks that it did.
In the heart of the Maelstrom lies the jewel of the warp, Torvendis. A Daemon World that has been ruled by millions of civilisations, each of the Chaos Gods has held it at one point and left their mark upon it’s history. But what is even greater is the tale of Arguleon Veq and The Last, the story of a great hero of Chaos who claimed Torvendis for the gods and whose name is legend across the Warp, or so history claims. But the real story is coming to a close as a tribesman seeks to overthrow the cruel champions of Slaanesh that rule Torvendis, as Astartes of the Word Bearers Legion approach on a mission of revenge, and as the Queen of Torvendis plans to keep her planet in the hands her of God. And all the while a simple old man watches, and smiles at what is to come.
Daemon World is, in my opinion, a story about three things. Revenge and manipulation and Chaos. The revenge element is obvious, every character desires it for some reason. Golgoth desires vengeance on the Slaanesh worshippers for ruining his way of life. Amakyre seeks it upon Karnulon for betraying his Legion. Lady Charybdia seeks revenge on those who dare defy her rule. The manipulation however is a little different than what you’d expect, rather than see it through the eyes of the master we see events through the eyes of those being manipulated, without their knowing of it of course. When more of the story is revealed it becomes apparant that things are much more than they appear and that something big is coming, and of course the story does not disappoint weaving in ancient legends and tying each character’s story together through one common element. Chaos is also examined from many perspectives, those who worship it, those who do not and those who used to worship it, and through that the reader is granted a deeper look into Chaos from all corners.
The characters are as unique as the story and setting. We have primitive tribesmen in the form of Golgoth of the Emerald Sword, who I found to be a very interesting character for being almost an evil mirror of a fantasy hero and for showing what it is like to live on a Daemon World and yet not worship Chaos or even be aware of the universe around you. Amakyre and his Word Bearers provide the most solid link to the outside world and each is an interesting character, though Amakyre the most as a revenge-driven and faithful member of the Word Bearers. And Lady Charybdia I found interesting for her desire to be the last ruler of Torvendis, to not become like the rest of the civilisations that have lived and died on the planet, but to be the ruler that never falls. It goes without saying that no character here is good or even anything less than pure evil, though one character will probably have you scratching your head trying to figure out whether he was a hero, a villain or somewhere inbetween the two.
The battle scenes admittedly read more like a Warhammer novel because of the lack of bolters and tanks. Indeed the only battles that are truly 40k involve Amakyre or Commander Demetrius and his Violators, but I don’t think that truly detracts from the novel. Rather it makes the novel feel unique, the Imperium and beyond is a vast place and we hear about feral, feudal and medieval worlds all the time, so why not show one of these worlds for the first time. I think that this is what the novel truly depicts, a primitive culture in 40k and how just because it isn’t technologically advanced does not mean that it doesn’t have that 40k grimdark feel. Nevertheless the battles are bloody and enjoyable, particularly when the Violators enter the field and as the plot advances the action becomes darker and darker until the final battle which is just epic, both the battle, the environment and the plot behind the battle.
The novel paces nicely, with good sized chapters filled with mystery, character development, visceral action scenes or just an interesting world and backstory to keep the reader hooked on every page. Daemon World has a unique feel to it because of all the factors i’ve listed above and you really feel that when you read this novel you are not reading a typical 40k novel, but rather a novel that has taken a lot of risks and has turned out very nicely for it. Admittedly somethings are not outdated, and the Obliterator Vrox does not even compare to Merihem of The Siege of Castellax, but these small details can still mesh with the newer 40k if you think about them.
Now for my favourite quote, quite a few good ones are present but none more epic than this declaration.
“What is Chaos? Chaos is a lie.”
The ending is as dark as you can expect from a 40k novel with only renegades, Chaos Space Marines and Daemons for characters in a story set in the heart of the Maelstrom. But it can be taken as a little ambiguous on one or two details and is fitting to the plot and nature of the novel. I think you can choose to take this ending however you choose to, it can be a happy (in a fashion) ending for those who root for a certain character, it can be a sad ending for the reveal of the final intentions of that character, or it can just be an ending that makes you think about heroes and evil, two things that become very important near the end as the novel will really make you think about them, and about what makes a hero turn to evil, and about how mortals can fight gods.
For a dark and unique story, characters who really made an impression, some particularly powerful action scenes, including a duel i’ll never forget, and for holding up strongly against the changes that have occured in 40k since it’s release I give Daemon World a score of 8.3/10. Admittedly not everyone will enjoy this novel, it’s rather light on full 40k content such as Space Marines, bolters and other such things. Xenos and the Imperium are completely absent and at times it can feel like a Warhammer Fantasy novel. But I enjoyed every part of it because the links to 40k’s wider universe are there, and they keep the story anchored to it’s world while the rest of the story explores strange and interesting places. I can only say that 40k fans should definitely try this novel, you’ll either love it or hate it really. I know that I love it and that it’s still one of my Top 10 novels.
That’s it for this review. My next review will be up soon, and will be a series of reviews on the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy and Soul Hunter by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. So until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX!