The Legacy of Caliban: Ravenwing by Gav Thorpe – Book Review [Bane of Kings]


Bane of Kings reviews the first novel in the Legacy of Caliban Trilogy, entitled Ravenwing, the beginning of new Dark Angels focused stories written by veteran Warhammer 40k author Gav Thorpe.

“Fast paced, action packed, Ravenwing is a great opener to the trilogy that will leave fans desperatley for more.” ~The Founding Fields

I wasn’t quite as looking forward to Ravenwing as some people were. Whilst I enjoy the majority of Gav Thorpe’s works (The Purging of Kadillius aside), I’m not the biggest fan of the Dark Angels Chapter. In fact, every novel that I’ve read about their chapter (Descent of Angels, Fallen Angels and The Purging of Kadillius) were let downs, and I’m a fan of the Space Wolves, their rival chapter, and despite disliking a few of the actions of the Sons of Russ, I would take them as my favourite legion/chapter over the Wolves anyday. So I went into Ravenwing ready to not enjoy it. But as it turned out, not only did I enjoy it, Ravenwing was a powerful enough read to get the Dark Angels into the Top 5 of my list of Space Marine Chapters for the first time since… well, ever – alongside the Space Wolves, Ultramarines, Blood Angels and Salamanders. So – what made Ravenwing so good? This is what I’m going to be explaining in this review.

The Ravenwing stand apart from the rest of the Dark Angels Chapter – these dynamic Space Marines take to the battlefield upon steeds of adamantium and plasteel, and swoop from the skies in lightning-fast speeders to bring death to the foes of the Imperium.

When he joins their prestigious ranks, Brother Annael finds himself thrust into a whole new world of shadowy intrigue, and privy to secrets unknown to his common battle-brothers. In the wake of the conflict at Kadillus, hints of a dark conspiracy begin to emerge, and it soon becomes apparent that the Ravenwing has a sacred duty far more vital than hunting down orks…

Apparently, whilst Ravenwing is the first novel in a trilogy, it follows on from the events in Purging of Kadillius and Angels of Darkness by the same author. Whilst I have not read Angels of Darkness, I still managed to understand what was happening and got along without any issues in the book. As it’s been a while since reading Purging of Kadillius, I probably should go back and re-read it, but I didn’t like it a lot so I probably won’t. But whether you’re a newcomer to the Dark Angels or an old die-hard, you’ll be able to follow what’s going on in this book with little difficulty, as Thorpe manages to superbly introduce the Chapter to new readers whilst providing several references that will satisfy the older fans.

From the title, Dark Angels fans will know that this novel was always going to be fast paced. The Ravenwing are the Dark Angels second company, and as mentioned in the blurb – this particular company “stand[s] apart from the rest of the Dark Angels Chapter”, for they are the fast attack specialists, and a Ravenwing Dark Angels army will generally move a lot quicker than the Astartes from say… the fifth company. So for those expecting plenty of Space Marine Bike action won’t be disappointed – as Thorpe manages to write an entertaining action-packed novel that moves along at a lightning fast pace. There’s even some humour thrown in as well that proves the Warhammer 40k world isn’t always deadly serious – and whilst there is not the same level of humour as found in the Ciaphas Cain books by Sandy Mitchell, it’s still there. Just don’t go in expecting a book with several laugh-out-loud moments. This isn’t The Avengers in book form. This is Ravenwing. 

Thorpe manages to spend a lot of time on the action and introducing the reader to the Dark Angels Chapter and what makes them tick, but his weak spot is in the characters. I struggle to remember any of their names apart from Brother Annael, and that’s only because he’s mentioned on the blurb. But that doesn’t make it a bad novelit doesn’t just make Ravenwing a great one. It’s a good book and will satisfy Dark Angels fans for sure, but don’t go in expecting really developed characters. Then again – it’s the first novel in a trilogy, so maybe with future books we shall be able to become more familiar with our characters. Whilst Ravenwing may not be as good as Thorpe’s best novel, Deliverance Lost, it stands head and shoulders above The Purging of Kadillius. 

If you’re looking for an action-packed book with the Dark Angels as the main focus, you can’t go far wrong with a title like this. Dark Angels fans are in for a treat with the recent release of the Warhammer 40k Box Set with Dark Angels as the designated chapter – for alongside Ravenwing, you’ll soon be able to read the Dark Angels-focused Anthology that’s coming early 2013, as well as the novella (unless you’re an ebook reader), Dark Vengeance (named after the 6th edition Box Set) and the accompanying Audio Drama also by CZ Dunn, The Ascension of Balthazar, which should be listened to before the Audio Drama.

Verdict: 4/5

More Dark Angels: Descent of Angels by Mitchell Scanlon, Fallen Angels by Mike Lee, The Purging of Kadillius by Gav Thorpe, Angels of Darkness by Gav Thorpe, Dark Vengeance by CZ Dunn, The Ascension of Balthazar by CZ Dunn

More by Gav Thorpe: The Purging of Kadillius, Path of the Warrior, Path of the Seer, Path of the Outcast, Malekith, Shadow King, Caledor, Deliverance LostSpace Hulk, Raven’s Flight, The Last Chancers Omnibus, Catechism of Hate (LE)

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer