Review: Blood Reaver by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Posted by DarkChaplain at 5/17/2012
After finishing the prequel Soul Hunter incredibly quickly, I've been waiting for Blood Reaver to arrive on my doorstep, eager to claw myself back into the Night Lords trilogy. Apparently, though, I was not meant to finish it quite as quickly as I had wished to, but at last, here's the review. Let me just say that this was a fantastic successor to Soul Hunter, and left me shivering and chuckling alike. The new contributions to the series really added even more depth to the scenario, and I appreciated every chapter. A lot of neat details featured in the book tempt me to order some boxes to convert a few Chaos Marines models for my shelf...

First Claw is hunting again. In search for prey, they stalk the night once more.

The Story:
"Driven on by their hatred of the False Emperor, the Night Lords stalk the shadows of the galaxy, eternally seeking revenge for the death of their primarch. Their dark quest leads them to a fractious alliance with the Red Corsairs, united only by a common enemy. Together with this piratical band of renegades, they bring their ways of destruction to the fortress-monastery of the Marines Errant."

General Information
Blood Reaver is the sequel to Soul Hunter - don't read it without having read that one first. Most things said in the earlier review still hold true; the story still brings up Heresy-era moments once in a while, which makes sense given most of the cast's involvement in the Siege of Terra. The Night Lords are still screwed, even more so than in SH, with their ship critically damaged and their supplies at rock-bottom, and they are still treacherous bastards.
If you have enjoyed Soul Hunter's depiction of the 8th Legion, you won't be disappointed.

Structure & Plot
The Night Lords of the Exalted's warband are struggling for survival. Their supplies are almost at an end, their ship is critically damaged after the events at Crythe told in the prequel, and their ranks are diminished. In-fighting takes its bitter toll on the Legion and their new Navigator, Octavia, the eighth of Talos's slaves, has to fight for control over their vessel, the Covenant of Blood, who rejects her guidance through the warp. Desperate actions lead to the warband striking for Ganges Station, an Imperial deep-space refinery, to plunder supplies, slaves and technical components to keep the Covenant going. When Imperial reinforcements are inbound, the Exalted has to give another shameful order to ensure the Company's survival - retreat. Given the circumstances, there is only one way to repair the ship and become hunters again: sailing into the Maelstrom, begging for a Tyrant's assistance.

Lufgt Huron, called Blackheart, Blood Reaver, the Tyrant of Badab is a broken creature, yet still holds together in his hatred for the Imperium and is planning his greatest assault to date when the unlucky Night Lords arrive at the docks of Hell's Iris: Attacking the fortress-monastery of the Marines Errant Chapter to plunder their precious gene-seed to cripple the loyalist Chapter and swell the ranks of Huron's Red Corsairs even further. The Tyrant's ascendancy and the richness of his renegade warband show a strong contrast to the crippled Night Lords Company, and Huron knows fully well that he may use them as a vital pawn in his war. But the Exalted and First Claw are just as treacherous as the Blood Reaver, and are aiming for something far different for the siege - the Red Corsair's spoils of war. The former Night Lords vessel Echo of Damnation will be their prize for helping Huron. He just does not know it yet...

Final Words & Verdict
All in all, I loved Blood Reaver, probably even more than Soul Hunter, which makes it quite exceptional. The Night Lords are changing, which gets clear throughout the whole novel. Some things will end, others will begin, and nothing will be quite the way it was before this story. Characters are getting a lot of development, either directly or passively, and BR even explores some more emotional tunes, which build up a solid balance to the presence of the Tyrant of Badab and his minions. I even think Huron has been a more impressive leader than Abaddon the Despoiler in Soul Hunter, and almost wished for the Blackheart to lead a 'Red Crusade' to rival Abaddon's black ones.
Incredibly enough, some of the new characters made me laugh heartily at times, from Octavia's attendant 'Hound' to the ninth slave of Talos and the strange chemistry between some characters. Not only that, but it also managed to make me grieve the losses this book brought with it and the sacrifices made by some members of the warband. The end was quite bitter-sweet and the epilogue promises some exciting events to happen in Void Stalker, when Talos's visions of the Eldar finally become a reality.

Blood Reaver is full of surprises and draws you into the setting. Aaron proves yet again that he's the mastermind behind the 41st Millenium's heretics and feeds the reader with a high amount of tension and action. If you've read Soul Hunter, you simply have to read the sequel, and if you haven't yet, this book is just another damn-good reason to catch up with the trilogy. It is dark, it is full of treachery and even hope for a change.
The second Night Lords novel is definitely worth the time you will spend on it.

Next up for me is either Atlas Infernal, Empire or, you guessed it, Void Stalker, the last book about Aaron's Night Lords. I'll have to make up my mind today.

Blood Reaver on the Black Library Website

About the Author
DarkChaplain is a big nerd who spends too much time reading and thinking about books, organizing them on his ever-growing shelves, and yet increases his backlog by the month. DC is also an avid Gamer and owns more PC games than he'll ever be able to play. He is certainly spoiled for choice!
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain

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