Path of the Incubus by Andy Chambers – Review [Lord of the Night]
Lord of the Night reviews the dark and gripping second novel in the Dark Eldar trilogy, Path of the Incubus by Andy Chambers.
“A delightfully malevolent and twisted sequel that surpasses it’s predecessor and leaves the finale with a tough act to follow.” – The Founding Fields
It’s been some time, too long, since I read a Black Library book and what better thing to return with than Path of the Incubus. A book about my favourite race in fiction, the Dark Eldar, and focusing on a character from my favourite group, the Incubi. It’s like this book was tailor made for me and I enjoyed every page of it, and every surprise that many of those pages contained.
Dysjunction is here. Commorragh is in flames as the dregs of the Warp flock to it’s wounded cities for a feast of souls and pain. As the consequence of the actions of a renegade group of Archons finally arrives Commorragh becomes a warzone, with only two things on the mind of every single inhabitant. Survive, and prosper. With enemies in front of them and at their backs, the Dark Eldar face the catastrophe that could finally spell the end of their twisted empire of suffering. And their only hope lies in a disgraced warrior and his irreverent new hanger-on, and though outnumbered vastly and facing enemies the likes of which they have never seen before, only they can stop the Dysjunction and prevent the ultimate end of the Eldar race.
The story that PotI tells continues on from Path of the Renegade, some stories are picked up once more and some are left alone, perhaps not to be revisited or perhaps to be resumed later, I cannot say. But new stories are introduced as well, tales of survival and strange bedfellows as Commorragh burns, and of honour and the teachings of the Fallen Phoenix. Now of course I loved the segments with Morr, learning more of the Incubi and seeing them in action was a dream come true for me, but I also rate the other stories just as highly. Chambers resumes some stories in ways I didn’t see coming and crafts new ones that I dearly hope to see resumed in the third novel, and weaves each story together and even if the characters never realised it, each story affected the others, some more than others admittedly, but it’s still impressive.
The characters are one of the two highlights of the novel in this reviewer’s opinion. Each character is very memorable and stands out from Morr the Incubus, who I found to be a very revealing look at the Incubi who are Dark Eldar yet are unlike most other Dark Eldar yet we see very clearly in this novel that though they may be different in ways, they are still Dark Eldar at heart; Motley the Harlequin who makes this novel worth reading for his dry humour and sardonic commentary alone, he had me laughing so many times through the novel that I rate this as one of the funnier BL novels; and a good cast of side characters including the unlikely yet effective duo of Xagor and Kharbyr, the lower-class Archon Bezieth whom I hope to see again in the third novel and the Warlock Caraeis whose story took some very unexpected turns, including a reveal that shocked me. Chambers writes his characters very strongly, his Dark Eldar, Harlequins, Exodites and Craftworld Eldar all feel distinct from each other and yet still retain a common theme of Eldarishness.
The action is nicely done, though is a bit less in frequency than the last book. Sadly there is no giant bird battle like in Renegade, that will always be a stand-out moment, but Incubus has many impressive moments of violence that are all written very well and showcase what the different types of characters are capable of. My personal favourite was of course the Incubi Klaives and their sword-fighting style, as Chambers did not downplay how good warriors as obsessive as the Eldar who train constantly would be, yet he made it clear that they are far from infallible. One fight in particular had the potential to be a spectacular mess, yet Chambers pulled it off amazingly favouring neither the protagonist nor the cameo character, and it would be very easy to favour the latter, but he manages to not only showcase them both but also their differing fighting styles and the strengths/weaknesses of each one versus the other. And of course with Harlequins and Haemonculi in the novel there’s plenty of gore exploding everywhere and esoteric weaponry that produces some truly startingly effects.
The pacing of the novel is a good mix of slow moments where we can learn a lot about the Eldar, the Dark Eldar mainly of course this being their series after all, and fast-paced moments where all seems lost and the action has exploded to a whole new level. I feel that Chambers does a good job in capturing Commorragh in that pace, it can have it’s slow moments but ultimately life in the Dark City is fast-paced and you need to keep up with it or be left behind. The world-crafting is the second highlight of the novel, Chambers really brings the Dark City to life in this series and infuses it with all the wickedness, cruelty and insanity that we expect from the Codexs and all the horror stories that BL fans have heard about it. Yet he also manages to infuse one or two light-hearted moments into the world, even in Commorragh amusing things that aren’t about torture occur, and these funny moments and commentary help break up the evil and torture quite nicely.
My favourite quote, I have decided not to use a Motley quote here as 98% of what he says is awesome, so I go with this stand-out,
“Arhra remembers! And so will you!”
The ending is a good resolution to the story that this novel and at the same time continues but does not end the overall story of the trilogy, though it does seem to close the book on a few things that I thought for sure would not be resolved until the very end. But Chambers ends the stories of a few characters, though in Commorragh you never can tell if somebody’s really dead and gone, and continues a few others to move into the third book, and I think managed to set up one or two new characters to play a big role in the finale, and ends the novel on a very powerful epilogue that gave me chills, Chambers really moved up a scale on the epic meter for those final few words.
For a great continuance to the trilogy that is giving my favourite fictional race it’s long overdue moment in the spotlight, and hopefully not for the only time, strong and fittingly alien characters that I hope we haven’t seen the last of and for adding even more life to the madhouse that is Commorragh I give Path of the Incubus a score of 9.2/10. This is a fantastic novel that any fan of the Eldar can enjoy, and is one I would recommend to anyone who is tired of seeing humans dominate sci-fi or who wants to see a novel filled to the brim with bad guys with scarcely a good guy in sight. Of course I fulfill all three of those criteria, I do love reading about villains so much more than heroes, it always makes for a better experience.
Well I think that’s it for this review. Next i’ll be reviewing Warhammer Heroes: Van Horstmann by Ben Counter who I have not read in an age, looking forward to it. Until next time,
AVE DOMINUS NOX! ARHRA REMEMBERS!