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In short, every Black Library enthusiast knows Dan Abnett is a fucking legend. His books have plots like knots and language that is a pleasure to read, coupled with a stylistic maturity that makes him one of the best authors I have ever read.

The first and second trilogy in Abnett's inquisitorial trilogy of trilogies Eisenhorn and Ravenor follow the actions of the Inquisitors Gregor Esienhorn and his pupil, in the second trilogy raised to a fully fledged Inquisitor, Gideon Ravenor. Both stories are well known as works of a genuis yet there is much debate over the better novel and consequentially the preferred inquisitor. In this review i intend to disect and discuss both novels, comparing and contrasting in order to discern very little.

Basic plotlines

Eisenhorn follows puritan Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn's investigations into the chaotic activities that lead him from the dastardly acts of the emperors children to a renegade inquisitor and the consequent abominations of his creation, most noteably the daemonhost and Eisenhorn's nemesis Cherubael. We follow Eisenhorn and meet his team, most notably his savant Aemos, old and wise with a bumbling fascination into the most pertubatory, former prostitute and untouchable Alzibeth Bequin and the pilot family of the Betancores who give us the immortal line "Never argue with a gun cutter, you asshole"?. Over each book as the plot evolves and mutates onto new avenues more of the team including the stars of the later series Ravenor, Harlon Nayl and various others.

Though ultimately a tale of detective investigation and brutal action Eisenhorn is focused upon the divisions between inquisitors, in particular the line between puritans and radicals. Eisenhorn begins staunchly puritan and thus we see his initial scorn of those that believe chaos can be used to destroy chaos however we see the changes in his mind.

Ravenor follows Gideon Ravenor's investigation into the substance better known as flects. A drug chaotic in origin his investigations lead him onto the trail of his nemesis the unkillable Molotoch and into the path of a forsighted heretical cell desperate to bring about a daemonic incursion through Ravenor's movements. Once again we mieet his team, reaquainting ourselves with Harlon Nayl, the ruthless bounty hunter and Kara Swole the acrobat and meeting Interrogator Carl Thonius, the flamboyant coward with a mind beyond many and the murderous telekine Patience Keys.

Once again an inquisitorial tale Abnett gives another subtheme with Ravenor's position in the radical department rarely wavering due to his flamboyant use of his psyker powers and consultations with the eldar. The story gives more information on the beauracracy that is already surrounding the workings of the inquisition and also upon the blind trust inquisitors have in there own staff. It shows the fragility of humanity and how even those trained and honed can become corrupted from within. Less thematic and subtle in transitions it is none the less a grim show of the cultural fragility of the imperium and the corruption that is embedding itself within it.

Also as a trilogy linked by the short stories between them, Ravenor flows very well from piece to piece, whilst Eisenhorn jars somewhat, Midas Betancore's random dissapearance for example, jumping in time and space with very little filler. However admittedly both do this and it is a minor nitpick.

Both stories are action packed, their is enough drama in each to make Paris hilton feel upstaged and enough bad ass action to make Arnie's muscles shrink. Comparititively i think eisenhorn has a more realistic plot line, there are less dramatic escapes, do or die actions and bad ass bastards doing crazy shots, however we all realise that harlon nayl is one bad ass mofo. Eisenhorn is indeed a cold blooded bastard but we understand he has his limitations and when an alpha plus psyker tells him to blow his own head off he damn well goes to do it, how he escapes is explained beautifully.

It is close indeed yet I believe i felt though both story lines were engaging and entertaining, I felt Eisenhorn won the battle for the storylines for me, the added realism and the indepth view of how thin the line between puritan and radical is really gave the novel and extra depth that Ravenor couldn't match.



Eisenhorn uses a first person style exclusively to give us more of Eisenhorn's emotions and opinions, hence we gain a full perspective of Eisenhorm;s feelings, his need for revenge whilst the grim circumstances which make it impossible for him to smile again are a beautiful bit of characterization Overall we gain a very good view of Bequin's charactor,the loveable bumbling of Aemos, however as a savant he is naturally one dimensional and the internal conscience of Fischig but unlike Ravenor we do not gain full charactors from all of his band.

Indeed we gain some full charactors yet this cannot compare to the depth with which we descend during Ravenor. Abnett changes his style somewhat, mixing and melding third and first person and we gain more perspectives, amongst Ravenor's band and amongst his enemies, giving us more developed characterization. We feel the love between Kara Swole and the physician, feel Harlon Nayl's innermost insecurities and Nayl's childish bewilderment. Even the enemies, Orfeo and molotoch engage us and baffle us with there talents, the clash of two genius's both striving for the same goal yet pulling in seperate directions.

Every single charactor is developed rounded and finished off, though some die too quickly for us to feel the true impact of their deaths, a slight flaw in some utterly impeccable writing. Overall the sheer mass of developed charactors means Ravenor wins the war on characterization hands down.

Language and style

Linguistically the style is almost identical, the wording insanely mature, beautiful manipulations of pace and emotion, truly the abnett we all know and love. Truly there is no one better at making a story rise and fall like an escalator, building tension and slapping us in the face with it. Both stories do it effectively, the menace of Cherubael and Slyte both effective and tense, the language evil with spurts of high pitched giggling at points.

There is truly no difference between , each book easy to read, and pleasurable to devour and thus this category all comes down to the success of the use of exclusivly first (eisenhorn) and first and third (ravenor).

Ravenor gave us more characterization, various viewpoints however I feel at points ravenor got confusing and you struggled to discover the exact perspective the writer was coming from, whilst Eisenhorn, was very focused driven, abnett striking the very heart of his theme, the transition between puritan and radical. It also helped to exemplify the hard coolness needed to be an ordo xenos inquisitor, yet showed that to do so did not mean you must surrender your humanity completely, shown by his ability to love. Eisenhorn, perhaps because Ravenor, being essentially a fancy dreadnaught (thanks euphrati) does not seem human, he is merely a mind, a staggering intellect directing his plans, encased by his armour protected by the wroth of his mind.

Hence for me Eisenhorn wins the battle of the language and style,though in truth there is very little to choose between them.


Sheer badassery

Though we all like a good gripping realistic novel, there are always points in a novel where you go, fuck that was just badass. I think the villain of the piece the hidden menace has to live up to expectation, and in Ravenor Slyte seriously did not.

He was vanquished too easily, the deaths he caused underplayed, his form undermagnified, unlike cherubael whose power was horrific, his menace amplified to scary levels by Abnett and thus Eisenhorn in turn was forced to raise his game to match this menace. Thus in Eisenhorn we had the style, we had the oh no he didn't moments and the fuck thats just awesome, whilst Ravenor was never truly allowed to look spectacular, never really won a psyker battle and was always fleeing a stronger opponent, which in truth made him look weakened, underwhelmed by the apparent power of his enemies who in the end failed to do justice to the hype.

In truth Kara Swole sums this up

"I'd rather face Ravenor unarmed than ever cross gregor eisenhorn"

Eisenhorn wins hands down.

Overall both books are worth buying reading and putting on your book shelves however if I had to choose between them I would pick up Eisenhorn. The book is a fantastic piece of fiction and a credit to an author that is truly the cream of the black library.

I give eisenhorn a spectacular 9/10, ravenor a giddy 8.5/10

2,628 Posts
Thats a rather solid review, Deathbringer, I`ll be honest. I haven`t read either Omnibus, rather stupidly, but even so the way you`ve made comparissons from a range of differing ''ingrediants'' neccessary for a fitting book has been well displayed. Great snyopsis and a good header for those who are yet to read the zenith of Abnett`s genius, some great work :)

3,406 Posts
Excellent review, and I almost agree with your scores..I give Eisenhorn a slighter larger winning margin over Ravenor than you - 9/10 v 8/10. Abnett at his finest.

I have an inclination to re-read both Trilogies after reading this, starting with Eisenhorn of course....plus make a change of pace from the HH series I'm in the middle of. It's been a few years so it should all be fresh.

Entropy Fetishist
4,224 Posts
Only read the Eisenhorn books, but I'm glad to have gotten the better out of the bargain.

Though I'll have to read the Ravenor books too, to be able to read the third trilogy when it comes out... (y'know, the Bequin one...)
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