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The Inquisition War (Warhammer 40,000 Novels) Paperback – October 5, 2004
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"'Highly recommended. RPG United"
About the Author
Ian Watson started writing science fiction while teaching in Tokyo years ago. His books have appeared in 13 languages so far and he has won a slew of awards for his work. Currently Ian is coediting an anthology to help save the Asian Elephant from extinction.
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The story is told as a narration (in the third person) by Inquisitor Jaq Draco. This is a story about him and his personal trials. Even though major Universe-altering subjects are brought up in this series, keep in mind that the story is really only about Draco. His character reminds me in some ways of Abnett's Eisenhorn, but being much more melancholy and doubting of his ideals. Both Draco, his companions (Meh'Lindi, Grimm, and Lex), and the antagonists are extremely compelling characters that each hide their own secrets but are easy to fall in love with. They are, in my opinion, the best part of this series.
Ian Watson's view of the WH40K universe differs in many aspects from that of most other authors, and while it upsets many die-hard 40K fans, you have to keep in mind that these books were written when the universe was really underdeveloped (especially when compared to the present). His version is even darker than most, and the near-total despair and miserableness he portrays casts the universe in a very grim light. Grotesque piercings, tattoos, and scars seem nearly universal in these books, with every character having severe bodily alterations. Personally, I don't like this vision as much as those of Abnett and King, who tend to make the WH40K universe a lot more livable.
Draco is the first book of the trilogy. Here, you are introduced to most of the cast of characters as well as the beginnings of the extremely bizarre and complicated Hydra Conspiracy. Jaq and Co. doggedly follow the mysterious Harlequin Man, eventually becoming wrapped up in a plot within the Inquisition itself that threatens the very future of mankind. This is the only WH40K novel that I know of that actually gives the reader a peak into the very heart of the Imperium. In the Emperor's palace on Terra, you get a rather disturbing glimpse of the Emperor himself as an almost Wizard of Oz type character.
The second book of the series, Harlequin, delves into some of the most obscure aspects of the WH40K universe. Probably the first book to provide a good look at the Eldar, HARLEQUIN gives some detail to the ancient enigmatic race. A significant part of the book takes place within the Eldar interdimensional Webways, where the heroes face unstoppable-seeming adversaries as they travel to discover the mysterious Black Library. Also, some of the inner workings of the Inquisition are uncovered, revealing the shadowiness of the galaxy's secret police.
The concluding volume of the series diverges significantly from the first two. In Chaos Child, the primary focus switches to Jaq's obsessions and away from the overall plot presented in the previous volumes of the Hydra conspiracy and such. This is the book that has disappointed the most people, who feel that Watson should have done a better job of concluding all the various plot threads previously introduced. Instead, it turns out the entire story is about Jaq Draco, and only Jaq Draco. Events that impact the entire galaxy are left for others to relate, as Watson follows his intentions and focuses on the story of Draco's fate and his trials with Chaos. To me, this last book is the best and most important of the trilogy.
The Inquisition War is a non-stop, action-packed thrill ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat with brutal battles and intriguing riddles. Death and brutality are widespread throughout the books, with entire worlds being destroyed and characters coming and going quite frequently. Nearly every aspect of the WH40K universe is somehow involved in the tale, with Eldar, Tyranids, Space Marines, Imperial guardsmen, Titans, and all sorts of chaos beasts and demons playing roles throughout. Ian Watson has received a lot of criticism from fans of WH40K because of his somewhat lofty writing style and his slightly altered view of the WH40K universe, but I'd recommend giving him a try.
I mention the age of the book, since there are squats in the book (think space dwarves), which as far as I know used to be in the game but have since been completely removed. It's a little odd seeing an inquisitor working with a non-human.
There is some great backstory on the assassin involved in the story that shows training and recruitment.
That said, I found Watson's writing style to be too florid and meandering for this sort of story. A paragraph of plot/action, then two paragraphs of exposition on some aspect of the preceding paragraph, then he's off on a tangent about that.
Draco and Harlequin were the best two of the three, with Chaos Child bringing up a very distant rear. The plot finale was weak/lame and, as is the case with most current Black Library authors, very little resolution to follow it.
I didn't rip through this trilogy like I have some others (Space Wolves, Eisenhorn, etc.), and I won't be picking it up again anytime soon.
It'd mid-level at best, but the insight at the earlier stages of the Warhammer 40k universe is worth a read. Especially to see where it has ended up over the years.