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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2012
I am not one to review books, I just read them. However this book was so unique compared to the other inquisition books I came to see what others thought of it and why.

Let me just say this book is very different from the other two series in that, for the first time, we are not seeing things from the perspective of a super powerful inquisitor with vast abilities and a good command of the situation. This is written from the peon's point of view, all be it a potentially very powerful peon. Beta,the main character, has no idea what is going on anymore than the reader does. In contrast you always figured Ravenor and Eisenhorn had a secret plan behind what you were reading...in fact I often was reading gleefully looking forward to how that plan would unfold. Beta has no such plan she is caught in the middle of several conflicting plans and parties and just trying to survive. Ravenor wasn't always right but he always had more information and control of a situation than this main character does. It makes for a different flavor of novel.

Another difference that I really had to think about was the time frame. Ravenor and Eisenhorn sometimes had months or even years between books and chapters. Beta barely has time to sleep in this book. After the first two or three chapters the rest of the book rolls at a pace that has never been attempted in an Inquisition book or even a Dan Abnett book to my knowledge. You see the hands of all these groups and the tapestry of long drawn out plans and conspiracies, but always through the frantic eye of someone on the ground trying to survive one more hour.

It should also be noted that the end of this book doesn't leave you with many answered questions. You will probably have guessed already the major revelations, and indeed you are suppose to be able to do so, such as the nefarious nature of Beta's origin and the fact that some of her fellowship are not nice people. But honestly, those predictable revelations aside, it is definitely a cliff hanger ending leaving a lot to be answered.

What it does have in common with the other two series is
- A very up close take on the decaying urban hell that a human city in Warhammer 40k
- A guest appearance by powerful beings from the Warhammer Mythos, without letting them take over the story.
- The mystery/thriller combination of back room draconian dealings of the Inquisition, the force for good that often does very bad things to reach its objective.
- Secret evil forces of Chaos abound.

I think it is a more than promising start. I love the allusions to prior works, 40k fans will find plenty of eastereggs and cameos that make it worth reading as part of the larger 40k universe, however nothing is shoe horned in. This starts a little slow but doesn't slow down once it starts.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2012
I am a major fan of most of Dan Abnett's 40K novels. I believe 'Only In Death' to be an extremely well told sci-fi story irrespective of its sci-fi genre and 'Blood Pact' is one of my favourite novels ever. The Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies are the definitive description of the Inquisition in action. Abnett can bring cinematic vision, memorable characters, beautiful phrasing, a love of words and he also consummately expands the 40K canon - contributing more than any other 40K author.

I have been concerned that more recent works have varied dramatically from the high point of 'Blood Pact.' The sequel, 'Salvation's Reach' was in my view the most implausible plot to outwit a Chaos faction that I have ever read and there is much else about the book to be derided. Thankfully, 'Prospero Burns' was very good overall but not as good as McNeill's interlinking book 'Thousand Sons.' 'Know No Fear' I felt was a step down from 'Prospero Burns' but still a good, if not great, Horus Heresy novel. Added to that his recent short stories have been lacklustre.

I read 'Pariah' with the mixture of hope that it would reinforce the quality of the Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies but also with the trepidation that it could be series-impactingly bad as 'Salvation's Reach.' My view is that it comes between these two points. I consider this to be a disappointing start and hope the series gets better.

The novel purports to be the back story of Alizebeth Bequin. By turning to a team member rather than a team leader as the centre of the story Abnett is necessarily limiting the level of knowledge, authority and power that the main character possesses. That is not a flaw but it needs to be taken into account because a review of 'how does this compare to the other Inquisition stories' will be missing the point. This tack may prove more of a problem in the later books when Bequin rises above her initially junior status and we will see if Abnett then has her leading missions on her own.

More of a problem though is that Bequin is uncertain of her identity and the identity of the dizzying array of factions vying to work with her or capture her (or both). This causes much of the novel to be about fleeing from one group into the clutches of another whilst being pursued by several others, not being sure who any of them really are. This is very unsatisfactory and causes the reader to disengage because you know so little about the motivations of the characters you meet, in contrast to the strong team and individual identities in Abnett's better novels.

The city of Queen Mab itself is well detailed with memorable social classes like the Curst (who take sinful actions on behalf of others in penitence) and the Warblind (augmented, battle scarred veterans who live as outcasts in a permanent state of aggression and mental trauma) as well as evocative districts and institutions.

As other reviewers have stated, the premise of the novel as the back story of Bequin the Pariah swiftly becomes open to question as the reader is confronted with chronology that does not fit the expected timeline. This is deliberate and is resolved. I do not like how it is resolved as I found it an unnecessary gimmick and made much of the novel rather unnecessary but that is a matter of taste only. The 'school for pariahs' idea seems to be a big stretch as Abnett's own stories have recounted how vanishingly rare Pariahs are (think of the effort Eisenhorn went to in collecting the Distaff) yet here is a school of them drawn from just one planet. This inconsistency may be resolved by the reveal at the end of the book but is not clear at all that the reveal does sort this problem out and actually the whole story did not need all of the school to be Pariahs anyway.

The novel certainly lacked cinematic moments with the exception of the appearance of one dangerous adversary. There are many disappointing scenes, of the many big chases, one is around a massive cathedral that felt like a retread of the recent 'Angel of Fire.' Another chase scene around a dilapidated mansion has a massively powerful adversary blundering around in an improbable way that diminished that character. Yet another adversary group wields weapons better left in the Chuckie movies and this felt really unoriginal (and very prolonged too). I also thought the discovery that a minor shop owner was in fact head of one of the oldest noble houses in the sector that was capable of securing prohibited items for very powerful families to be implausible, we have seen how Abnett can demonstrate the temporal power of noble houses and it did not previously involve manning the cash register. I found each of the factions, other than the two we are aware of from the front cover, to be thinly drawn due to the problem of the narrative perspective and as a result quite uninteresting (and putting to one side the very questionable presence of their powerful hidden allies too). It is very refreshing when we finally meet the pre-existing characters once more and the books gains markedly from that point.

I fervently hope this series gains a lot more quality in the next release as I felt it was overall rather bland and un-engaging. As a big fan, these are not terms I associate with Dan Abnett at all. I hope those that enjoyed the novel more than me and therefore disagree with my rating do not down vote this as I have tried to explain why my feelings diverge from theirs.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 1, 2012
Let me be clear. The Eisenhorn triology are among my favorite books ever; not just 40k novels. I have read them at least 5 times. Gregor Eisenhorn is, in my opinion, one of the most compelling characters I've ever read about. The Ravenor series was fantastic as well, but all the while I was hoping beyond hope for good old Gregor to show up in more than a passing reference.

MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW! CONTINUE AT YOUR OWN PERIL!

The whole draw to this new series, dubbed "The Bequin Trilogy," was to find out Alizabeth Bequin's origins, and what happened to her following the Eisenhorn and Ravenor books. I will only say this: the "twist" over who the protagonist actually is left me feeling duped. Tricked. Manipulated. Did I still care for her? Sure I did. But the whole reason I was so looking forward to this book was because I wanted more about the real Bequin.

Also, for the majority of the book, the characters from Eisenhorn and Ravenor were left in the dark, merely being shadow players. The eventual return of Gregor Eisenhorn, while triumphant and engrossing, came far too late. In the meantime, we follow Beta running from one group to the next, without truly caring about anyone with the exception of Renner Lightburn, her Curst bodyguard, and Deathrow, the Warblind chief.

Now, this is a good book. A great book, even. Mr. Abnett is one of the best writers out there, and he is at the top of his game here. The atmosphere is incredibly vivid through his intricate descriptions, and the action sequences play out better than some of the best action movies. Sometimes, however, I felt that he got a little to wrapped up in the minutiae, but that could have been just me thinking his taking time away from a possible cameo by Gregor and his gang.

Is the story compelling? Absolutely. Fantastically thought out, he brings back old enemies (the Cognitae, and another that felt like a bit of a waste but I'll let your surprise be complete), and puts a new spin on it. One aspect of the city Queen Mab that I found very compelling was "the Warblind," veterans that were genetically and chemically altered to be berserkers without off-switches. They live in a permanently enraged, bloodthirsty state, roaming in gangs within the undercity. The chieftain of one of these gangs (or so we're led to believe) is the hulking, broadsword wielding Deathrow and his trusty canine friend. He is a fantastic character, one doesn't quite get the development he deserves (but I am sure will be back in the next two books).

When Gregor and the gang finally show up and become major players, it was pure joy. FINALLY! WHAT I BOUGHT THE BOOK FOR! His return is something to behold, and the fight scene is wonderfully satisfying. From there on out, it was what I hoped the first two-thirds of the book were.

I sincerely hope the next few books bring back our Lizzie in the way we all wanted. But I can't truly fault this book for that alone. It was a great read, and I have great expectations for the next one.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon November 4, 2012
Unsurprisingly, the first volume of Dan Abnett's new trilogy - Ravenor versus Eisenhorn - brings to mind comparisons with his previous volumes where one or the other of these senior Inquisitors happens to be the hero. In Pariah, the hero is one Alizebeth Bequin, an orphan with a specific power who is being raised in a rather special school and who attracts much too much interest for her own good, without really knowing what is wanted from her.

So, unlike with the previous volumes, the story is told from Bequin's perspective. She does not know what is happening and neither does the reader. Both will discover that almost everyone is after her little by little, as the story develops. This is where Dan Abnett had attempted to be original, once again. It seems to have confused some reviewers, while others did not seem to like the effects that the author has introduced and would want the book to be more like the previous Eisenhorn and Ravenor tomes, easier to understand and perhaps more predictable. I found it great and this kind of effect worked very well with me. Whether you like it or not, the way the story is told is supposed to make you see and feel what Bequin may see and feel. It "puts you in her shoes", in a way, so do not be surprised and hold on a bit if you are confused at the beginning: you are meant to be, just like the hero is meant to be with everything happening to her and everyone trying to get at her.

Another of Abnett's ploys is to introduce little by little the characters of the two Inquisition teams. Readers of the Ravenor and Eisenhorn volumes will have meet most of them before. The reason for these staged appearances is that the reader meets them as Bequin comes across each of them. Here again, this makes for a few surprises, especially towards the very end of the book. Again, having the story told from Bequin's perspective, and the main characters appear as and when she comes across them deliberately creates some suspense and makes the book rather fast-paced. Concerning the cast of characters, Abnett also brings in two rival teams of Traitor Marines (Word Bearers and Emperor's Children) who are both also after Bequin and her talent.

Then there are the rather decadent settings: the decaying city of Queen Mab, the Maze Undue school where Bequin is being trained along with others that share her talent, the streets haunted by the Warblind, discarded augmented and half-crazy veterans of past wars that may remind some readers of pre-Astartes gene-enhanced warriors on Pre-Crusade Earth, the decrepit noble house in the countryside contrasting with the glorious, huge and corrupt cathedral of the Ecclesiarchy. All of these are meant to show one of these run-down, declining and brutal planets of the Imperium and this also worked out rather well.

While I found this book great, liked Abnett's ploys and twists and found the book was well structured and well-written, there was at least one problem. When racing through the book alongside Bequin, you get the impression that you are drawn into a film. Unfortunately, the book/film ends rather abruptly. I found this a bit frustrating, as everything seems to stop in mid-air, in the middle of an escape scene and as one of the most significant characters of all has made an appearance. While done perhaps in a more original way than other authors, it is nevertheless somewhat artificial and annoying to cut the story short for the next episode, especially when it is such a good one. So, four stars, but not five.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2013
A must-have for anyone who's been enthralled by the previous exploits of Inquisitors Eisenhorn and Ravenor. If you've read those books, then bless Dan Abnett for continuing that storyline and run--don't walk--to your cart and buy this novel. You will not be disappointed. Reading this novel was more fun than going to the movies.

Abnett is remarkably prolific, yet it seems to me--having read much of his non-Inquisitor material--that he saves a very special verve for these characters, that his Ravenor and Eisenhorn novels stand above the rest of his oeuvre in terms of construction, detail, intricacy, and idiosyncrasy. It isn't military SF, yet the battles are all the more thrilling because we've known some of its fighters for so long.

No spoilers here, but don't expect this book to be the cage match that the title implies. Perhaps later in the series. Abnett gives us not what we want, but what we need. There is plenty of action, as well as the introduction of some new characters to the Inquisitorial mythos Abnett has so painstakingly created.

If you're new to this story cycle, you won't be lost. The book flows seamlessly and won't leave you floundering; everything is explained well enough for newbies to have enough traction. But if you haven't read the previous two trilogies--both the Eisenhorn and the Ravenor omnibuses--what are you waiting for? They're glorious and original, and set the stage for this new trilogy beautifully.

I have only one problem with this novel: waiting for the next installment to be published.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 17, 2013
Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn trilogy remains one of the best things the Black Library has published. While the sequel Ravenor was a bit weaker it's still one of my favorites, so after several years I was really psyked for Ravenor vs Eisenhorn. And... it's a good start, but it really feels like a padded prologue and not a stand-alone story.

First off just a warning out front, this a book about Beta Bequin, a psychic 'untouchable' trained as an Inquisition operative who discovers everything she knows is a lie. The guys on the cover - Ravenor and Eisenhorn barely show up, not really playing a role until the final act.

But Beta's story is well-told, she's a developed character, written as intelligent and clever and her story moves along quickly. The city of Queen Mab is another great setting and given tons of character by Abnett.

So although the plot feels thin and the stars are MIA for most of the book it's a good read and made me hungry for more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2013
First, it's the continuation of Eisenhorn and Ravenor. Second, it's written by Dan Abnett. What more do you want?! But for those not in the know, without spoiling anything: conspiracies, references to the Cthulhu Mythos, and interfaction struggles where all sides believe they are right and the only solution is to kill everyone else (with some exceptions). All the good stuff, but it is impossible to get into more detail without spoiling,so I will stop here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 17, 2014
Start of this book was strange and confusing, yet it was probably needed and after i have finished i wanted more. So good job. Still it take its time. But closer you are to end, faster it gradate. And of course. If you have read Eisenhorn and Ravenor, you need to have this book. :)

Btw. It have realy beautiful cover. Hardcover is just amazing and well...i adore how it looks...really.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2012
I love 40k inquisitor fluff, but this was a tough read. As it is clearly designed to be 3 parts, it took ages to get up to speed. I will say it was worth it in the end, as they have prepared us for one heck of an adventure (I hope). It is very different than either the Eisenhorn or Ravenor trilogies, so be warned.
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on September 1, 2013
It has been a few days since I read this book and am writing this review. I wanted to take some time for it to sink in. Although I am not sure that this is a book that needs to be re-read, unlike all of the Gaunt's Ghost books which I have read multiple times, but similar to most of the Heresy books, for which I sometimes feel that the authors are being paid by the word, as opposed to spending the amount of time necessary to truly craft what they are trying to accomplish, I do feel that this is a book that should be read and is more than up to par when compared to the body of Dan's work (and higher than par when compared to the entire body of Warhammer 40k material). In short, this book weaves together a multitude of Warhammer 40k related elements (from other books and other authors) and then, to heighten the suspense even more, gives it to us from a perspective that does not in any way provide us with the answers that we desperately want. When looked at from this perspective, a whole host of scenarios present themselves in which people can be seen running around with rosettes claiming to be part of the inquisition and demanding goods, services, information and action to any number of uninformed persons. How does one go about confirming the identity of an inquisitor when there is a late night knock at the door, a rosette is displayed, and there is a gaggle of thugs pushing their way onto your premises? Here, though, I am very intrigued about the motivations of both the chair and his former master. What is going on in Gregor's mind? Why is he rogue? How did he ever hook up and ally himself with Alpharius (assuming that it is Alpharius and not his twin or another member of the Alpha legion)? And, if it is Alpharius, how is he not corrupted? Did he abandon his legion? And, given all else that occurred to Bequin, what is the role of the church in this affair? Are they corrupted, too or, like many of the other well crafted characters, are their true motivations not clear? Again, this intentional interweaving of plots and plans and undisclosed motivations caused me to finish the book in under a day and left me wanting more. I truly applaud Dan's efforts to bring together so many different Warhammer 40k related elements and I hope that the rest of the series is just as good. I mean, seriously, who else can bring together rival traitor legions, a primarch, the Inquisition, the church, a (possible) rogue Inquisitor, reincarnation (intentional or a fluke?), children's toys from communist Russia, enuncia, and the Emperor's true name (and identity)?! And, for that matter, will we finally learn what that "dragon" is that the Emperor slew when he was a knight in medieval times and what that thing is he was storing on mars when the heresy began? Dan, I leave it up to you.
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