Wednesday, August 6, 2014

REVIEW: Ravenwing

Gav Thorpe returns to the helm of the Dark Angels chapter with the first novel in the Legacy of Caliban series, Ravenwing.

When I first read Angels of Darkness I was blown away with how good it was. It was one of the first books that dealt with the Heresy in such a direct manner via the Fallen Astelan and started to shed some light on that most mysterious of times. Of course now with the Horus Heresy series some 20 books in with 2 full novels and a novela on the Dark Angels themselves it has lost a bit of its impact, but nonetheless Boreas' tale raised a lot of interesting questions about the chapter and its ideology. When I heard that Gav Thorpe was continuing his Dark Angel tale indirectly through Ravenwing I had high hopes and it fell kind of in the middle.

This story takes an interesting format in that it primarily follows three different main characters, a new recruit to the 2nd company, Annael, a tactical marine of the 5th company Telemenus and the Master of the Ravenwing himself Sammael. The story opens on an entirely random and unimportant battle within the context of the story. It is used mainly to set up the characters and the unique way in which the 2nd company fights and interacts with the other companies. We get to see all the new toys in play here with the new flyers and land speeder variants introduced in the codex but luckily they are merely there. They don't really play much of an important role and actually the Thunderhawk takes over as the primary air support as the story progresses.

Things get interesting when Sammael receives a distress call from Piscina IV and Boreas. The 2nd and 5th companies arrive to investigate and not much has changed since the end of Angels of Darkness on the planet. They discover all of the bloody aftermath and the involvement of the Fallen within the chapter keep. This is where the 3 different characters really come into play. Sammael is of course fully indoctrinated within the inner circle and privy to all of the Dark Angel's dirty secrets where as Annael knows the bare minimum he needs to operate within the ranks of the 2nd and Telemenus knows nothing. We get to see the way the chapter works to achieve its goals of capturing the fallen while keeping the vast majority of its' warriors in the dark on what is really going on. This conflict provides the real meat of the story as we see the different factions almost come to blows on several occasions due to the secrecy. To be honest this seems like a horrible way to run a chapter and it astounds me that apparently the basic line trooper doesn't even know that the Heresy happened at all and knows nothing about the traitor legions, only that there are some rogue astartes. It seems to me that every other Space Marine chapter out there in the 41st millennium is fully aware of the Heresy all the way down to the lowliest tactical marine. They must think the Dark Angels are complete dullards whenever they have to fight together. This isn't really Gav's fault as it is something established within the fluff which makes no sense like how no one knows about the Grey Knights (except apparently Sammael's entire command structure does know about them seeing as how they are mentioned).

After picking up the trail of the Fallen they are lead to a rogue space port that Astalen used to frequent which leads to some interesting combat as we get to see the Ravenwing use their bikes within an enclosed and confined space. The combat is your standard fair and nothing really stands out in my mind from it. Like I said before the main meat of the story comes from the conflict caused by the secrecy. The rest of the story as a fairly straight forward Space Marine book with out much of the depth and anguish we saw from Angels of Darkness

Gav seemed like his main goal was to explore the way that the differing elements of the chapter interact and how the Ravenwing operate in environments that you wouldn't normally consider to be bike friendly. In this regard I would say he was highly successful and I really hope he continues to follow at least 2 of the characters in the next 2 books in the series. At the end of the day Ravenwing seems to be about the equivalent of a Space Marine Battles book with some interesting mechanics layered on top. 

Not the best book I have read recently from Black Library and it failed to live up to some of the potential it had but still plan on finishing the series.


Until next time,

Tyler M.

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