Path of the Renegade by Andy Chambers – Advanced Review [Lord of the Night]

Lord of the Night reviews the very first in the brutal Dark Eldar series, Path of the Renegade by writer Andy Chambers, but thankfully not the last.
“Brutality, cruelty and intrigue abounds in this dark novel that for the very first time shows the inner workings of Commorragh and its twisted denizens. Chambers has really brought them to life in all their monstrous glory.”The Founding Fields

Now I’m not sure if Andy Chambers has written a novel for BL before but if he has I’ve never heard of it. So this was my first taste of his writing and I must say, i’m eagerly awaiting more. Chambers has weaved a great story that wraps up nicely and sets the stage for the future at the same time.

Commorragh is under a tyrant’s heel. The brutal and calculating Asdrubael Vect rules the Dark City with an iron fist, crushing all who become powerful enough to challenge his dominion and lording over the rest with barely hidden contempt. Many desire a return to the old days of the nobility, chief among them Nyos Yllithian of the White Flames Kabal. He and his allies, the bloodthirsty Xelian and the wizened Kraillach, in their quest to dethrone the tyrant prepare to resurrect an ancient warrior, the only one who ever resisted Vect before meeting his untimely end, and the end of his realm. But dark times are coming when Commorragh’s citizens will be tested, fragile bonds and tenuous alliances will be shattered, and war will engulf all in its path. But the most dangerous of all is not what could happen, it is what will happen when the Dysjunction comes.

Dark Eldar are not easy to write. Same as the Eldar they require a different approach to characterization, I feel that Chambers pulls it off nicely in this. Yllithian, Kraillach, Xelian and all the other Commorrites are suitably alien, revelling in pain and suffering, yet sometimes feeling alien emotions like empathy or kinship, strange to them yet brushed aside easily by centuries of schooled paranoia. Through their actions you get a real sense of their society where asking for help in anything is weakness, where life is a commodity to be bought and sold and where even the most well-laid plans can be undone in an instant.

For Commorragh!

Yllithian is a good protagonist. Through him we see the majority of the conspiracy against Vect and learn a lot of Dark Eldar society and the culture of the Kabals. Other characters include Malixian the Mad, from whom we get a very good look at the madness that can prevail in the Archons and some very cool aerial battles; the Haemonculi Bellathonis and Syiin who have their own game to play and show a teaser of the shadowy Haemonculi covens. Of course not all characters are Dark Eldar, but you’ll have to read the novel to find out about them, though my personal favorite has to be the mysterious Motley.

Now onto the action. No bolter porn here, each battle is different and well-written. From the aerial battles Malixian favors to the brutal swordplay of Morr the Incubus every battle in the novel is written favoring the Dark Eldar credo of speed and stealth, though the former more than the latter. Wych duels in staggeringly strange arenas, Kabalites battling amongst themselves and plenty of strange and alien weaponry, we even catch a glimpse of just what a particular kind of Eldar are capable of, and its quite scary.

I felt the pacing of the novel was spaced quite well. It builds up nicely if a bit slowly, which fits the cautious approach of some of the characters, and eventually ends in an instant at the ending, which I will discuss below. As for the background we don’t just learn about the Dark Eldar in this novel, we learn about their home too. Commorragh is almost like another reality, where the laws of physics mean little and there are places even worse than what we’ve seen so far. Satellite realms where time cannot be predicted, where the dead rise again to murder their own murderers, where shadows writhe with a life of their own, or where the barrier between material and immaterial is at its thinnest. We also see several different palaces that show each Archon can essentially command his own fiefdom in his own style, I enjoyed Malixian’s realm the most as I felt it was the most unique and warped, plus I like birds… make of that what you will.

Now the ending took some thought. At first I felt it was very abrupt, that the build-up to the finale came almost instantly and that it was too quick. However after some thought and re-reading a few pages I feel that the build-up began much further back than I had thought. And that the abrupt ending is appropriate for the novel, after all in Commorragh plans that take centuries to bear fruit can end in an instant, and the ending exemplifies that I think.

Plus I feel it offered a good variety of endings for the characters. Some met their fates, some we are only offered hope and hints, and some even got a happy ending in their own way, mainly I was surprised at who got the hope of a happy ending since characters like that never get them in 40k, but I suppose sometimes it happens and I enjoyed it as I felt they deserved it.

But of course this is a trilogy and at the same time the book wraps up these characters it sets the stage for the next part. Path of the Incubus is set for a March 2013 release, and in it we will learn what these events have unleashed upon the Dark City.

I give Path of the Renegade a well-earned 9.1/10. I can’t give it a 10 in confidence as I feel it hasn’t earned that, though it comes close and its score is nothing to laugh at either. For a great story, a memorable cast of characters some of whom I hope we see again, and for delving into the Dark City and its inhabitants for the first time in real-depth, I feel this book has more than earned its score.

Should you buy this novel? If you’re a fan of all-things Eldar the answer is yes. Any Eldar fan will buy this and enjoy it. But can a die-hard Imperial or Chaos follower enjoy it? I think the answer to that is yes if you are willing to try it. But if you hate the Eldar then this novel is not for you, though I would encourage you to try to get over that hate as I feel you are missing out.

Well that’s it for this review. Next will be Legion of the Damned, late since I didn’t get the ebook at xmas like most of you, but it’s still getting a review. Until next time.


Lord of the Night

Lord of the Night is one of TFF’s original reviewers. He’s done quite a few for TFF and that number keeps expanding. You’ll enjoy his diverse mix of book reviews. Always a treat.

  • Anonymous

    nice review LotN :). I’ll probably read this after the Iron Warriors Omnibus. And I have to say, you finished that pretty quickly.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks BoK :)

    Well its a novel about my favorite race in the entire 40k universe, what do you expect? 😉 That said i’ll likely have the sequel finished in a day, its a novel about my favorite group of my favorite race. Its like a dream.

    I won’t be reading the IW omnibus, except for the short stories, or reviewing it since i’ve already done a review for both Storm of Iron and Iron Warrior separately, so it’d be redundant to do it again. That and Storm of Iron has a cooler cover than IW omnibus does.

  • Noemail

    Nice review. Good to hear there will be a trilogy the Incubi are my favorite aspect of the Dark Eldar. So I shall be in for a treat.

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