Wednesday, August 20, 2014

REVIEW: Master of Sanctity

It's been awhile since Ravenwing, but Gav Thorpe finally came out with the second book in the Legacy of Caliban series, Master of Sanctity. While the first book was slightly underwhelming this one didn't have that problem at all. This is the first true sequel to Angel of Darkness.

It seems to me like Thorpe is most comfortable in the shoes of the Dark Angels' Interrogator Chaplains, which suits me just fine. This novel picks up pretty much right after Ravenwing ended, however, now the focus has switched over to the true hunters of the Fallen. Even though Asmodai features prominently on the cover, the real central character is Sapphon, Asmodai's boss and the Master of Sanctity. It is his job to hunt the fallen and maintain the secret of the chapter. Surprisingly, he is very level headed for someone in his position, which I assume is done so we can relate to him more as a reader. Sometimes this can come across as odd, especially for a Space Marine, but instead of ignoring it Thorpe tackles it head on. While there are other Chaplains who are more fanatical in their duties, Azreal appointed Sapphon to his position exactly because of his ability to stop and think before acting. He knows sometimes the best course of action is not to shoot the heretic in the face, but to bend them to your own needs.

This brings us to Asmodai, the Master of Repentance, who is the exact opposite of his superior. He is fanatical, strict, violent, and quite frankly, a bit of a dick. In a stroke of genius he is portrayed as being merely tolerated by the rest of the Inner Circle. They all know he is rash and more often than not his actions lead to failure or even to accidentally revealing the Dark Angel's secret to outsiders. Despite this they keep him around because he is really, really good at hunting, capturing, and torturing the Fallen. Scarily enough there are even members of the Inner Circle who would like him to take the position of Master of Sanctity, which Sapphon knows would actually be a disaster. I think it's hilarious that he is basically the Dark Angels' dick friend, the one who they all know is a dick, but hey, he can be fun sometimes. He and Sapphon play good cop, bad cop throughout the novel with Asmodai reluctantly agreeing to all of his superior's ideas.

We also get to see the two other main characters from the last book, although they don't feature as heavily in this one. Telemanus, formally a member of the fifth company with no knowledge of the chapter's terrible secret, has now been promoted to the ranks of the Deathwing. His story is a little weak since he basically underperforms at every task given to him and Belial doesn't see much promise in him. The most interesting part of his story is his training to become a member of the first company where we get to see how a suit of Terminator armor really works. In short, its just as awkward as it looks like it would be when you first try one on. His story really seems like it's setting up more for the last book so I am looking forward to some payoff there, although his last scene in this novel is pretty intense.

Anneal, formally a low ranking member of the Ravenwing, has now been promoted to the ranks of the Black Knights. His story is mostly action driven with very little deeper meaning, but it works well within the rest of the novel. Now that all of the main characters pretty much know the basic gist of the Dark Angels' secret, a lot of the tension that situation created in the first book is gone. Fortunately, the plot in this one more than makes up for it.

Without giving too much away, Sapphon is tasked with hunting down the last member of Astelan's group of conspirators. To do this, he must turn to the one man who can help them, the one man who knows the Fallen they hunt better than anyone else, Astelan himself. Yes, that is right, he makes his grand triumphant return here. I personally love the character of Astelan, and he continues to impress. His interactions with Sapphon and Asmodai are some of the best parts of the novel.

Astelan, Heresy era.

As they hunt their prey, the Deathwing and Ravenwing are sent to battle on a demon world of Nurgle. This is one of the weaker moments due to the Saturday morning cartoon descriptions of Chaos. The action is okay, but I just couldn't get past the way the demons were portrayed. Chaos is best when it's handled in a creepy, adult manner. Once you get past this the story picks up again as Sapphon uses lies and manipulations to track their prey to the final climatic battle. The ending is not to be missed and I am super excited for the final installment in the series, Unforgiven.  

I am pretty confident in saying this is Gav Thorpe's best novel since Angel of Darkness and recommend it to all 40k fans. It appears he works best from the shadows, and I hope after this he is given the reigns of the next Dark Angel centric Heresy novel. Who wouldn't love to see Astelan give that fateful command to fire on the Lion?

Final Score - 4.2/5

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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