BOOK REVIEW: The Ravenor Omnibus by Dan Abnett (Warhammer 40K)

REVIEW SUMMARY: A thoroughly enjoyable reading experience marked by it’s unstoppable narrative drive, realistic character portrayals, gripping action sequences, and expertly delivered plot developments.

MY OVERALL RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Follows Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor on a mission, initially to investigate the existence of evil-tainted drug-like substance, but that investigation uncovers an even greater conspiracy against a powerful enemy.

MY REVIEW:
RAVENOR

  • MY RATING:
  • PROS: The final act was non-stop, page-turning fun; Abnett juggles multiple story threads effortlessly; central characters evoke love/hate emotions in the reader; all characters are distinct; superbly written action scenes; the universe is well-drawn and alluring.
  • CONS: The story stalls a bit in the second act.

RAVENOR RETURNED

  • MY RATING:
  • PROS: The arc of the trilogy shifts gears to a greater conspiracy, upping the stakes; completely engrossing from start to finish; Abnett is not afraid to write off characters.
  • CONS: A couple of scenes where innocents are killed without question.

RAVENOR ROGUE

  • MY RATING:
  • PROS: Excellent presentation of action and drama; Ravenor being held accountable for his actions; delivers an epic finale.
  • CONS: One mildly-jarring time jump when Ravenor actually goes rogue.

The Ravenor Omnibus by Dan Abnett — comprised of the books Ravenor, Ravenor Returned and Ravenor Rogue as well as a pair of related stories — is my second foray into the written Warhammer 40K universe. I enjoyed Abnett’s Eisenhorn Trilogy immensely and the Ravenor trilogy, a sequel of sorts, takes place several years later and focuses on Gregor Eisenhorn’s pupil, Gideon Ravenor, former Interrogator and now himself an Inquisitor.

In the Eisenhorn stories (spoiler alert!) Ravenor actually makes an appearance and is horribly wounded and left crippled. He ends up disabled, confined to a Force chair (the 42nd millennium equivalent of a wheelchair), which is essentially an armor-plated, wedge-shaped enclosure that moves around on anti-gravity plates and carries his brain and what’s left of his body.

Though his appearance may indicate otherwise, Ravenor is far from disabled. Oh no, no, no. He is, in fact, a powerful psyker, able to project his mind outside his body and perform various abilities backed by astonishing power: he can read minds and control them. It’s not free — it takes some effort and weakens him if used extensively — but Ravenor’s psychic abilities, suitably boosted by his Force Chair, is nevertheless rightfully known as a force to be reckoned with.

That’s a good reputation to have when you are a member of the Inquisition, the secret police force of the Imperium. Ravenor’s mission (as detailed in Ravenor) begins on the planet Eustis Majoris, where there is a high amount of heretical activity involving Warp-tainted glass known as “Flects”. Flects have narcotic properties (among other supernatural abilities) and thus are a futuristic stand-in for drugs, though the implications of their use means much more dire consequences for the galaxy at large since they are inherently tied to the evilness that is the Warp.

But Ravenor and his team — all able-bodied men and women, who each possess the ability to kick some serious butt, yet are not without their faults, both individually and working together — follow the leads from one clue to the next, moving the story along at a good pace (with a minor exception in the first novel where the pacing briefly seems to stall when the team arrives at a trade planet).

After a long and perilous inquiry Ravenor discovered that the Flect-trade was just a by-product of a far greater conspiracy, one that ups the stakes (and the danger), as explained in the sequel, Ravenor Returned. This brings them back to Eustis Majoris and, by necessity of the newly-discovered corruption in the government, Ravenor’s team operates undercover and independent of their order. (It’s a “The God-Emperor will disavow any knowledge of your actions” kind of thing.) That’s a believable plot device used for informing readers that the team is on their own, with no expected backup coming to the rescue at the last minute. This is bad news for them because the bad guys are numerous and extremely powerful. To his credit and the reader’s perverse enjoyment, main characters are expendable. But the dramatic impact is huge because Abnett draws them so realistically, warts and all.

Although Ravenor uncovers the corruption, and at great cost, the story is not over. In Ravenor Rogue, the Inquisitor is asked to account for his actions and the harm they have caused. After his repeated failed attempts to capture the enemy, his commanders feel it’s time for him to move on. That doesn’t quite sit well with Ravenor, so after a slightly jarring time jump we learn that Ravenor has gone rogue, operating outside the auspices of his holy office, and worse, trying to hide from them. His mission is as dangerous as readers would expect it to be and his team takes some serious hits along the way. The culmination of the story — which begins on the first pages of the trilogy — is both epic and satisfying.

Rather than mention the specifics of what the writing itself achieves, I will direct you to the Eisenhorn review because what Abnett achieves is consistent in both trilogies. Memorable and distinct (and expendable) characters you care about, completely engrossing, excellently written action sequences, juggling multiple plot lines, unexpected plot twists…it’s all there. And it’s all done very, very well.

Included in the Ravenor omnibus are two short stories that feature the characters in the timeline of the main story arc. The first one, “Thorn Wishes Talon”, occurs between the first two Ravenor novels and features the return of Ravenor’s mentor, Eisenhorn, who comes bearing a warning for Ravenor. It takes place on a planet of prophet seers, a culture that figures all-too-prominently in Ravenor Returned. The second story “Playing Patience”, is the back story of how Ravenor came to meet Patience Kys, the young telekinetic girl who was sold to rich men just for the sport of hunting. Although the story is situated between books two and three of the trilogy, it takes place before the start of book one. That’s a good decision as it’s perhaps not the best introduction to the trilogy. The best intro to Ravenor is to start with the Eisenhorn trilogy, not only because of the chronological series of events, but also I highly recommended reading both trilogies.

7 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: The Ravenor Omnibus by Dan Abnett (Warhammer 40K)”

  1. It has been a while since I read them, but I remember being slightly disappointed in the Ravenor trilogy/omnibus compared to Eisenhorn (which I really enjoyed). It was almost like I could predict the story, and whenever there was a twist I had less sense of jeopardy for the characters.

    Plus the ending seemed a bit rushed.

    I have been debating picking up Pariah, or waiting for that trilogy to be finished…

    1. I wish! I read the first book in November, and the final 2 over the holiday. I used to read a book a week, but time demands have sadly scaled that waaaaay back.

  2. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t pick up a copy of the Eisenhorn ominbus when it was on the shelf as its hard to find now, and expensive. I skipped the spoiler, but the rest of this review makes me want to avoid that mistake and pick this up now while I can find it.

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