Blood Reaver by Aaron Dembski-Bowden – Advanced Review [LotN]

Lord of the Night reviews the thrilling second novel in the Night Lords series by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, Blood Reaver.
“Dire straits! With old enemies as allies and new allies they must betray, the 10th Company face their darkest hour thus far. Just surviving may no longer be enough… now they must win.”
~The Founding Fields

(Note: This is an advanced review of Blood Reaver. It is scheduled for release in May 2011.)
The Night Lords are back and better than ever, though their situation is far worse. ADB has only further improved the Night Lords with traditions age old and elements new and fierce. ADB is a king with the Astartes, particularly the Chaos Astartes, he has given them depth and made them not only likeable, but sympathetic. Its very easy to root for the Sons of the sunless world, (awesome title), even over the heroes of the Imperium that they tear down with bolter and blade and claw. And of course the human element is never neglected, I didn’t think it was possible but ADB has actually written a not only convincing, but rather interesting, love story into the darkest depths of 40k.
The 10th Company is facing the abyss. With barely any supplies remaining, the Covenant of Blood just waiting for one more component failure, and Claws killing each other in the pitch black halls, the Night Lords are given an interesting opportunity. Allied with the Red Corsairs, both sides having little love for each other, they are given a chance to wage war their way. But the true fight still awaits the Night Lords, to retake what was stolen from them, and to salvage their dying legion they must look to the future, rather than wallow in the past. But whom can they trust and whom can they call enemy, in this battle when foes may be allies and brothers are enemies.
This is a hell of a novel, already cutting its way into my favorites. I was very surprised by several events in the novel, namely what First Claw is shown when they arrive at Hell’s Iris, what Talos learns at the novel’s end and by the void warrior’s ultimate revenge. ADB may not focus on the battle but that only makes the novel better, focusing on the Eighth Legion and what is driving them forward, and tearing them apart, as they sail the stars in their never ending war, just trying to survive. And one mystery is resolved in this novel, the fate of Secondus, the slave whose death Talos refuses to speak of.
The characters that ADB made us love in Soul Hunter return in Blood Reaver, even better than before. We take a look at what drives the other members of First Claw, chiefly Uzas whom we see to be a far deeper character than anybody, including myself, suspected. Xarl, Mercutian and Cyrion all return, and we of course get more humor from the most latter, including another “So… how are you?” moment, it was quite a good laugh. We gain more of Talos’s world view, and see what seems to be the defining belief of the Night Lords legion from the others, in direct contrast to Talos’s beliefs. And as the prophet of the Eighth Legion grows we see his past, which was surprisingly warm, and only makes a scene in Soul Hunter all the more tragic, I do hope we’ll see a continuance of that scene in the future. And with new characters added to the mix like the half-crazed Lucoryphus, who has some really great moments, particularly his scene near the end of the novel, and the Apothecary Variel the Flayer, who is quite frankly sheer detached coolness, and the most bad-ass Apothecary in Black Library.
The human element of the story is always present. Septimus and Octavia return and we see how their positions fare now that things are growing darker for the legion. Octavia struggles with her new charge, the Covenant of Blood, that rebels against her at every chance, while the life of a heretic is beginning to affect Septimus as he commits acts that while ensuring the legion’s future, make him finally doubt the life he has been cast into. ADB has created a very interesting and unique story in 40k with these two characters, and the ending of the novel only makes it more interesting as we see what might be coming. And of course the scene somewhere in the later middle when Septimus, Octavia, Nonus and Hound are confronted by a legionnaire is surprising, and very impressive for them. I will watch their story with great interest.
One particular character that drew my eye is the Tyrant himself, Huron Blackheart. ADB has given us an interesting take on the Red Corsairs’s lord and master, a wretch of a creature constantly in pain from wounds suffered centuries ago, and barely kept together by extensive machinery. Yet his tactical genius is unharmed and he reminded me of a younger Abaddon, but more aware of the troops under his command, the courtesies he must pay and the prizes he seeks. One day the Blackheart may rival the Despoiler, that will be something to see, and if they should ever ally to each other.. the Imperium would bleed.
The action is very well done, the Night Lords finally get to wage war their own way and it shows in the terror inducing, fast paced and lightning stealth that the Night Lords favor, but the carnage isn’t left behind as they get plenty of chances to vent their rage and bloodlust on the enemy, and we get to see some of the methods the legion uses to inspire fear in the enemy, some of which are quite inventive. And the Bleeding Eyes are a joy to read as they scurry across walls and ceilings in their unique method of combat, it was like the Alien if it were armored in adamantium and ceramite.
The pacing of the novel is very good. ADB doesn’t slow down as he keeps giving us hits and quotes worthy of a lexicon entry. The story proceeds on and on and never slows down, I only put this book down to take a break from reading so that I could process what I had read. We get to see more and more POV’s in the story and they blend very well together, only adding to the story and quality of the novel.
The ending is ominous to say the very least, the future is always in flux and we know that prophets can be wrong, but they can also be right… the third novel is going to be a bloody affair, wrought with treachery and heresy. But the coming novel Void Stalker will definitely be a not-to-miss book, I’m already envisioning it.
I give Blood Reaver a grand total score of 10/10. The story is grand, the old characters are still complex and likable despite being renegades, the new characters are interesting and cool and in some cases quite funny, the surprises are shocking and game-changing, the battles are epic and one in particular stuck out in my mind as historic, and the ending is tense and only makes you want to read the next novel even more. And yet despite taking place in the shadow of the Fall of Vilamus, the battle that rages within the Eighth Legion is far more gripping and exciting.
Should you buy this book? The answer is yes. This is a must-read for all Black Library fans, hell the Night Lords trilogy is a series that I would recommend even to those who aren’t fans of BL, they are a very great read.
Next for me is the Heresy Anthology Age of Darkness, its gonna be a good read.

David Ploss

I’m a bit of an awesome person. :) I’m a semi-famous 40k Intellect and the Business Manager of Chique Geek Entertainment, LLC. I’m a book reviewer and the owner of Beware my wonky-ness…