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Friday, August 3, 2012

Review In Brief: Void Stalker

Hey there Chaos fanatics! I'm back with a brief review of Void Stalker by Aaron Dembski-Bowden. I have a few other things I'm cooking up, but I've had a few rough things going on too, so I have been delayed in some of my postings. At any rate, away we go...

Void Stalker is the third and apparently final book of ADB Night Lords trilogy, and boy, is it good. If you have been reading the exploits of Talos and his brothers of First Claw, you simply cannot miss this one. ADB ties up all the story threads that he has been spinning since his first book. The best part is that it all comes together so smoothly, so well, that you just keep turning those pages. As much as I love Abnett and McNeil, I believe that ADB is the best writer that the Black Library has. His work flows so well, the action is brisk, the characters are very well drawn and developed, each with their own arcs through the trilogy. I am actually considering going back and re-reading the trilogy. Now, I rarely do that, and since I have so many other books I want to read, I may not get a chance to. However, the fact that I WANT to should say something towards how good this trilogy is. I just want to hit a few points:

Characters- You must be a truly special author to make people as morally repugnant as Talos and his Night Lords as sympathetic as they are here. You like these characters, but you would never want to hang out with any of them. They do horrific things in this book, reminding you beyond all doubt that they are Chaos Marines. Yet, you want Talos to succeed- even if he is cruel and twisted, he also has a noble side to him- talk about Anti-Hero! He's a marvelous character. So are his other First Claw members- each of them are worthy and have a lot to do: Xarl, Uzas, Mercutian, and of course Cyrion. Their camaraderie (or lack thereof) is a real highlight of the series. Then of course, there's the Red Corsair who is at heart a Night Lord, Variel The Flayer- a fascinating character who shows how somebody from one renegade Marine chapter might join a different renegade chapter/Chaos legion- great stuff. Not to be outdone, there's Septimus and Octavia- the "regular" people of the book, whose plight is complicated by a (un)expected turn in their relationship- again, great stuff, and their quirks make them sound like a real couple, instead of a plot device, which only adds depth to the series. Malcharion makes a great impression as the re-awakened war sage, and then there's Lucoryphus, the twisted leader of the Bleeding Eyes raptors, whose actions in combat are questionable at best (and highly amusing- I wonder how Spirit Stones taste?). Overall, the fate of these characters are excellently done, and you feel for them, even if most of them are horribly evil.

Action- all of ADB have great action sequences, and this book is no exception. Indeed, looking at the whole series, they have an almost "cinematic" quality (I hate using that word since GW is currently obsessed with the notion, but here I mean it with utmost respect). The action is clear to follow, and each has consequences and importance- not just "bolter porn" as some BL books are. The past books have had great action scenes- Crythe, the Cauldron of Blood fighting at The Exalted's command, the "heist" at the Marines Errant monastery,etc. In this, the war is even greater, with The 10th Company invading "Darcharna" (and massacring so many innocents), a tight quarters battle against the Genesis Chapter (absolutely riveting conclusion) and finally a cat and mouse game and last stand against the Eldar, which leads to an incredible conclusion to the series.

40K Fluff- one of the great things about ADB is how he ties his story to the greater 40K universe. He does a great job of making the Night Lords true to the fluff. They are evil, broken demi-gods, who did not ask to be this way but simply are. ADB also does well showing how Nostramo and Konrad Kurze shaped the legion in big and subtle ways- again, playing off the fluff while adding new dimensions and layers. ADB really puts this 10 company warband into the bigger history of the 40K universe, showing all writers that there are parameters for this bleak universe, but its a big sandbox with lots of room for new ideas. ADB takes his new ideas and simply makes sure that they gel with the 40K storyline. Thus, I have felt that reading his books has made the 40K universe come alive away from the tabletop (only a few BL books have done that, but ADB seems to do it consistently, in these, in Cadian Blood, and in The First Heretic, which is phenomenal).

The Ending- I don't want to spoil it, so I won't, though I will say that ADB ends the story of the 10th company, but has left a brilliant ending in place, so that he could revisit the Night Lords. I don't know if he should, perhaps he should leave it here, letting the imagination of his readers run wild with the possibilities of his conclusion. The ending is great- foreshadowed, but still turning out different from expectation.

So, of course I'm giving this four out of four Marks of Chaos. If you have read the previous two, you MUST read this one. If you haven't read any, I would strongly recommend that you do. Any Chaos fan worth his salt should read them; indeed, any 40K fan will find them exciting and a great addition to the 40K world.

Until next time...