Asdrubael Vect has ruled the dark city of Commorragh for millennia, ruthlessly disposing of any who would dare cross him. His reach is long and his position unassailable... or so he thinks.
The ambitious Archon (highest ranking member of a Dark Eldar Kabal) Yllithian thinks otherwise and joins forces with a twisted Haemonculus (Dark Eldar masters of pain and agony) in an attempt to revive a long-dead warrior and challenge the might of the overlord.
But a cataclysm is coming, and Yllithian’s actions may in fact be the cause.
This is the first novel I've read that feature the Dark Eldar and I must admit being quite impressed. Their cruelty and barbarous manner is captured very effectively, providing an insight into the world of this twisted and monstrous race.
I loved how the author manages to elevate the Dark Eldar above that of humanity by describing games played with human captives as they watch them around a human size maze, the humans think they are really escaping but in reality being directed at every turn and watched over by their Eldar masters - very much like mice overlooked by people in white coats. This manages to set the scene perfectly and provides an effective measure against humanity.
There aren't many novels that focus purely on the evil and even fewer that manage to pull it of effectively but Chambers does an excellent job here, it's one of the best examples I've read. There's clearly a lot of work gone into balancing the regular acts of atrocity with keeping the reader interest high (there is only so much blood and guts one can take) and this is provided by a very intriguing story and some excellent characterisation.
The real power though comes from the way the author has managed to capture the very essence of the Dark Eldar, from their propensity for violence - which is nicely explained as a requirement for their continued existence - to their speed, grace and dynamic athleticism. This insight also extends to their culture too, where life is a commodity to be bought or sold and asking for help is seen as a weakness (and weaknesses are used to a rival's advantage). Many places within this world don't seem to operate the same as we are used to either, the city seems to almost be it's own reality where the laws of physics can be bent or even broken and where in places even time itself cannot be relied upon.
The plot is managed very effectively, with a slow build towards a faster pace after the reader becomes more comfortable with Dark Eldar society and there is a very effective mixture of battles spotted throughout the book, each of which is described in a vivid and terse manner which provides an excellent sense of immersion and tension. The ending, when it arrives, seems to happen quite suddenly, somewhat abruptly and yet highly effectively, managing to create an effective finale and yet still setting the stage for the next novel in the series.
Despite the fact that each of the characters in this novel are inherently evil (at least from our perspective) I did still find myself forming a bond with many of them. Any fan of Warmammer 40K should enjoy this novel, even those who have no real interest in Eldar, recommended.
Written by Antony, 10 April 2012.