Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Book Review: Master of Sanctity

Another painting by GW's "Armpit artist."
Master of Sanctity by Gav Thorpe. 

When I reviewed the previous books in this series, Ravenwing and Angels of Darkness, I think I did a pretty decent job conveying my irritation with Ravenwing's pacing and over heaped servings of "warporn".

So, fellow reader, I am satisfied to say here and now that Master of Sanctity is a far better reading experience than Ravenwing was. The pacing was better, the interest level was better, and the story was... well, I will get to that in a minute, but first:


Yes, sadly, in order to review this book it may be possible to reveal more than you might want to know if you're about to read this story soon.

Essentially this book is a sequel to Ravenwing, but really, it's the sequel to Angels of Darkness that Ravenwing failed to be. The story focuses more on Astellan the Fallen angel that was tortured (lots!) by Chaplain Boreas in Angels of Darkness, and the attempts of Sapphon, the Dark Angel's Master of Sanctity, to use Astellan as a means to catch more Fallen. We also catch up with some of the characters that we followed in Ravenwing, Telemenus and Annael, both of whom have heroic moments in this book, although one treads a more tragic path than the other. Another character is also followed, Chaplain Asmodai who some might know as a special character from the table-top game.

The story picks up pretty much where Ravenwing left off, but we get to meet Sapphon right away, and we get to see fairly quickly the friction between him and Asmodai. In fact, throughout the book Asmodai is pretty much a blood thirsty prick, petulant and insolent. I seriously recall remarking to myself that he was like a brat in power armor. But it all makes the tension between these two so much more intense. I really kind of craved Asmodai's demise quite honestly. However, his behavior, and interestingly enough, his fears, are explained and he proves to be a far more complicated character by the book's end. But still, I rarely like asshole interrogator's in any scenario, and wanted to see him lose. Asmodai, throughout the book, is constantly trying to upstage Sapphon and unseat him from his position as Master of Sanctity (he also stated a few times that he would like to torture him too, but Asmodai probably thinks this about everyone). The tension gets really crazy when Sapphon presents the idea to the Dark Angel Inner Circle his plan to use the Fallen, Astellan, in a ploy to root out more Fallen and also as bait. This is also, by the way, where the story gets really good!

Without touching too much on plot points, I would like to say that the pacing of the action scenes felt better in this book as opposed to Ravenwing, especially the description of the events that take place on the daemon world that the Dark Angels assault in an effort to track down another Fallen. That was an insane warzone and Gav does a great job handling this and he doesn't keep us in it longer than necessary, which feels like a lesson learned from his previous works. Also, if you like Nurgle daemons, you'll enjoy this I think.

The book really ramps up the tension and pacing as we get closer to the end, with a battle that is quite epic in scope, especially the space battles. One highlight was when Sapphon leads a Terminator assault onto a Chaos battleship that is just freaking awesome. The description of the Chaos bombardment of the planetary palace was also quite intense and made for a thrilling lead, and it continued right up to the final chase, and the surprise ending.
And now, the 3rd cover that this book has had! But at least it's back in print. 

  • Did I like it? I did! I didn't think the story had the pacing issues or the feeling of mindless warporn as the previous book fell into often. In fact, I very much enjoyed this installment. 
  • Was it hard to put down? Almost, but toward the final 1/4 of the book it very much was. 
  • Could I care about the characters? To a degree, yes. Sapphon mostly, as he seemed to be a very noble, sensible and humane character, unlike Asmodai who was damn near his opposite. Telmenus' story was the one I enjoyed the most in the previous book, and I was glad he had a role in this one as well, as we got to see him go through the rituals and training of being a Deathwing Terminator. His story takes a twist that Gav will no doubt wrap up in the next installment.  
  • Did the writer truly grasp how the 'world' of the 41st millennium works in the sense that it doesn't betray or retcon previously established (as I know it) lore?  It's Gav, so yeah. However Gav's writing can be hit and miss, but this one is surely one of his hits. It was fun to watch him squeeze in the new vehicles from the most recent Dark Angels Codex, (heheh)
  • Was I being talked down too? No. Gav's style usually has a good vibe about it. 
  • How predictable is this story? This one wasn't very predictable, which Ravenwing sort of was, this one was more of a "will this plan work?" intermixed with false paths and unforeseen twists, which makes a 40K book far more enjoyable than just endless scripture describing how a bolter works at killing things. 
  • Do I recommend this book? Yes I do! Sadly, in order to do so I have to recommend Ravenwing as well, as it is important to know who all of our protagonists are, however you could skip that but you must read Angels of Darkness first. In fact, Master of Sanctity is far more satisfying sequel to Angels of Darkness than Ravenwing was, and it greatly factor's into the success of this story. And since this book sums up a lot of what occurred in Ravenwing, yeah, skip it! 

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