Monday, 25 January 2016

Horus Heresy Novella Review: Ravenlord by Gav Thorpe

This is a novella I have been awaiting for quite some time. I have greatly enjoyed Gav’s take on Corax (he has assured me that there is more coming) although i am eagerly awaiting his work on the 1st Legion too. Corax is one of the primarchs that i feel has been given a very rounded and(ironically all things considered) grounded portrayal. Gav’s previous Corax stories have always been enjoyable reads and with the release of the new FW model (love the figure, hate the head) it has been deemed time for non limited edition buyers (though I must confess I am tempted to magpie on the Ltd ed Horus Heresy covers book - Im a sucker for Neil Roberts Art) to get their claws into Ravenlord. So does it measure up to previous standards? Less about magpies more about Ravens! Let’s have a look.

The first thing i should mention is that there appears to have been a change in the manufacture/quality of the novellas, thankfully it is an improvement. The dust jacket and pages are noticeably thicker, I thought this was a feature of the Ltd edition versions (i did pick up the special Betrayal at Calth books as my first foray into Lt editions) but it appears to be a change going forward, the spine is more squared than rounded and overall its a welcome change, making these premium priced novellas seem to be all the more worth the £15.00 you lay out for them. Purists may well complain that they look different on the shelf but in all honesty the difference is minimal.

Ravenlord finds Corax and the remnants of his legion conducting a guerrilla war against traitor forces, hitting convoys and supply lines to deny Horus’s forces the resources they need to make their assault on Terra. In addition to the Ravenguard Corax has gathered elements from the other legions (and not just the shattered ones) in order to conduct his sabotage operations. Facing no small measure of discontent from the other marine legions over his decision to remain out in deep space and not return to Terra, Corax continues to seek out isolated loyalist elements in order to bolster his forces.

One such discovered legionnaire, a Ravenguard of some renown presumed lost at Isstvan, reports of a prison planet where other survivors of Isstvan have been taken. Despite the risk of a trap Corvax decides that this is a mission that must be undertaken. Suspicison wars within him however, as he has been betrayed by one of his sons before. Can this new arrival be trusted? With shadows everywhere he looks, Corax must wrestle with his own doubts and learn who to trust.

One of this things i really like about Corax is that he is not infallible. I detested Vulkan and his perfection. An immortal with no discernible flaws, he was infuriating. Corax is much more rounded, subject to pride and arrogance, capable of making errors. It makes for a much more interesting character and makes the Ravenguard Primarch more identifiable. Unlike Corax: Soulforge however here Gav gives a little more attention to the other characters in the book, some of which work as a moral foil to the Lord of Ravens.

Gav doesn’t stint with the action either although it is later in the book. There is a rather satisfying ship engagement detailed as the Ravenguard ambush a Sons of Horus supply convoy, with the assistance of some Imperial Fists. The Ravenguard strike and then slip away, ravaging Horus’ supply lines with hit and run tactics. It’s well written and full of punch, escalating the pace of the book nicely, it is however, just an appetiser before the main course as we enter the final third of the book which is dedicated entirely to the raid on the prison planet.


Here, Gav highlights the stealth nature of the Ravenguard with a sneaky insertion mission before they launch the final assault. The action is well written as Gav works in all the different Ravenguard units, such as the Raptors, painting a vivid picture of the assault. However, it is once Corax comes to the field of battle that things really heat up. As the Primarch's fury is unleashed upon the traitors his sons discover a treacherous secret that places Corax in mortal danger. It was actually at this point the novel started as Gav teases the reader with a pseudo cliff-hanger before taking us back before the assault and commencing with the build up. Though this is a spoiler free review I have to say it was very interesting to see Corax bested and humbled, it’s not often that we see a Primarch in this position and it further adds to Gav's realistic portrayal of the Ravenlord.

Overall, Ravenlord is a good read, though by no means essential. I am much enjoying the ‘shattered legions’ arc of the Heresy as opposed to Imperium Secundus and the Perpetuals which seems to have somewhat overextended its welcome. The early stages are slow build up where Gav deftly juggles different themes and builds upon Coraxes character and indeed that of the Ravenguard. It is fascinating to see how Corax marshals the different legions and pursues his campaign against Horus of a death by a thousand cuts. There is nothing particularly outstanding or novel (if you’ll excuse the pun) about the story, for the most part it is much the same as we have seen before and are likely to read again, but it is certainly worth your time. When the pace explodes the action is also very good and visceral with some intriguing traitor weaponry being used. But it is the work done outside of the action that intrigues me. Gav has always excelled at characterisation and this is no exception and although he does dwell a little more on non Primarch figures it is all too brief and I fervently hope that he will do another full length Ravenguard novel so that he can do all these characters justice. The Ravenguard may well be bedecked in black and white but Gav presents them in fascinating myriad shades between and I look forward to reading more about the sons of the Ravenlord soon.

8 out of 10 - Recommended

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