Monday, 29 October 2012
Pariah: Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn - Dan Abnett
When the first Harry Potter novel came out, I found the idea of a school for wizards fascinating. Who would not want to study the arcane, young or old? Pariah is also a coming of age story about children with special abilities, who are whisked away at a young age to attend a school, the Maze Undue. Pariahs are not gifted with magic, rather the opposite in fact. They are psychic nulls, meaning, their presence negates the psychic abilities and powers of the warp. I much prefer Dan Abnett's place of education, you see, it's where the Inquisition train the inquisitors of tomorrow.
Alizebeth Bequin is a student at the Maze Undue, but instead of Quidditch she takes part in a far more serious game. The whole city of Mab is their playground, and the game is one of espionage and intrigue. The missions vary from the mundane to much more serious, but it's always a question of information, and information is power.
Pariah is too good a journey to bring along a guide, so I won't tell you much more. Alizebeth Bequin, who knows nothing of her past or her parents, will soon find out everything she thought she knew might be false. She will need all of her training to survive and make the right decisions. When nothing is as it seems, who do you trust?
There are so many reasons to like Pariah, I barely know where to start. The world building is great, and not just because it's straight out of the Warhammer 40k box, but because Dan Abnett has made it into his own. This is my first visit to the city of Queen Mab, which almost immediately felt like a real city, teeming with life and secrets of its own. It is a city touched by legends and forged in battle and conflict. A living Saint once walked through it, and the streets his feet touched are closed off. Only the warblind go there. They are soldiers from wars long since concluded, kept alive by their modifications. The only thing the know is how to fight. I can't imagine a better setting for any book.
The characters are great as well, which goes without saying when Dan Abnett's name graces the cover of a book. Alizebeth Bequin is a well rounded character, who is very easy to like. I felt we got to know her well by following her from an early age. Sometimes, Warhammer characters can be too one dimensional, which is not unrealistic since they tend to be indoctrinated, and bred for a single purpose. With out heroine this is not the case. She might be a believer in the cause and the need for her organisation, but she is capable of thinking, and she does have a personality. Alizebeth Bequin herself could carry the book on her own, but she does not have to as there are several great characters. Ravenor and Eisenhorn both take a supportive role, this is the Alizebeth Bequin's story after all.
And what a story. Somehow, Dan Abnett takes all the usual elements of a Warhammer 40k story, but ends up with more. Pariah has a fantasy feel to it, which I think comes from the cloak and dagger and the marvellous setting. Technology is there of course, but often it remains unobtrusive in the background. It's also a more character driven story, instead of just dropping a squad of space marines in front of a group of chaos marines and have them battle it out. It's a immersive read, one of those rare novels where you are sucked straight in, and it just seems to be played out before your eyes.
Pariah is one hell of a read by Dan Abnett, the Warmaster himself.
Pariah: Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn weighs in at 320 pages, and is published by the Black Library. It is scheduled for release in November 2012.