Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review: Path of the Archon

And now we have the third part in Andy Chamber's Dark Eldar Trilogy: Path of the Archon. And what a brilliant conclusion that it was! A very satisfying finale! And all-in-all, a very satisfying trilogy. Especially after reading this after I completed the reading of Ravenwing, This was superior writing, superior pacing, and just, well, superior.

+++Possible SPOILERS ahead, so beware!+++

This books begins pretty much were the previous book, Path of the Incubus, left off. Path of the incubus dealt with our assortment of protagonists (or is every character an antagonist? -it's really very debatable!) venturing on separate journeys through the war-torn Eternal City of Commorragh in the aftermath of the reality disturbing event called the Dysjunction. In Path of the Archon, we're picking up right where we left off as the tyrannical leader of the Dark Eldar, Asdrubael Vect, is tying up loose ends and killing those that defy him. Especially those who caused the Dysjunction in the first place. One suspect in particular is the Archon of the White Flames, Yllithian, who is returning to his fortress having just completed the mission he was sent to perform for Asdrubael Vext, and having failed to have been killed by his would-be assassins, is preparing to openly defy Vect, thus setting the stage for the rest of the book.

Unlike the other two books, this book never leaves Commorragh, and we focus on what will become a civil war between the forces aligned to Vect and those who have thrown their lot in with the upstart Archon of the White Flames Yllithian. I really liked how Andy described and brought to life this merciless and cruel ancient city. More importantly, how he described the machinations and schemes that Vect uses to hold onto his power and the ruthless methods in which we see him employ them. Vect is illustrated quite well in this book and we actually get closer to him than we have in this series so far. Indeed, he's virtually unattainable in the first book, only making a public appearance via hologram. In the 2nd book we see him when selected Archons are requested to meet with him in his palace in Corespur, way up in the dangerous reaches of High Commorrah. 

But in this book, we see lots of Vect, and get a sense of why Commorragh needs him. Much like in modern times where we see dictatorships ruling in opulence over a beaten down nation only to see said dictatorship end and the now divided nation falls back into age old feuds and rivalries. It's pretty clear by the end of the book, Vect is that allegorical dictator. Vect keeps the "peace" by sheer fear and presence alone. Without him, the Dark Eldar would gleefully slaughter themselves. Not that Vect truly cares about Commorragh as much as he does his own power, again, like that modern dictator. We are shown also the amazing lengths and the level of power-plays that Vect will resort to in order to hold on to his rule. Death-toll be damned. 

One such weapon, that I am eager to spoil -but won't- is so awesome, and so obvious, that I will be shocked if these don't become a unit type in the next version of the Dark Eldar codex. If it did, it would be an instant "must-take" unit!

Also there is a lot about the mysterious Mandrakes and the Shadowrealm of Aelindrach where they dwell. Indeed, the Mandrakes are having a civil war of their own which climaxes when we have a cameo from a character from the game, the Decapitator, who has a jolly good time doing what he does best!

  • Did I like it? I loved it! And the whole trilogy as a whole was quite good, even though the 2nd book had some sluggish moments getting at the characters from their points 'A' to their points 'B', it was satisfying as well, and allows this installment to move very quickly.
  • Was it hard to put down? It was! And I started it during a tough time and it was a well needed escape. 
  • Could I care about the characters? To a degree, yes. But understand, Motley the Harlequin is the only character resembling a "good guy" in these books, so by default I found myself rooting for his survival. 
  • 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?  Same answer as last time. I will say that with most of this lore released to the buying public after Andy left, it is amazing just how firm his grasp is on conveying how the Dark Eldar function as a society. 
  • Was I being talked down too? No. The tone in these books, as well as the pacing, are just right. 
  • How predictable is this story? To a degree, you got to sort of foresee the outcome here, just for the sake of status quo, however Andy throws enough twists and turns to keep you second-guessing the outcome. 
  • Do I recommend this book? Absolutely! 


    Anonymous said...

    Yeah, it's a solid piece of work. I could go for two or three more - path of the haemonculus, path of the harlequin ...

    neverness said...

    LOL! Yeah, I could as well. (Path of the Wych, Path of the jetbike guys, etc.)

    Archon Voril said...

    Reavers. And, yes... more books. I have not read the 3rd book yet, but have LOVED the first two, and I have to say that I felt for Morr.

    Ever think about getting into the Dark Kin, Joel?

    Man, I hope they make mandrakes useful in the next codex...

    neverness said...

    Oh very much so! I have a small, yet to be assembled, DE army. See my 'Other Armies' post over on the 'Popular Posts' sidebar for pic of the one model I finished painting. In fact, the day I met Warfrog,back in 2000, we were at the Going out of Business sale at 'Serious Hobbies' in JC, he saw the stack of DE models in my arms and said: "They die in droves you know," and it went on from there! So yeah, I have been very interested in them, but my other armies have just taken priority. I have more interest in them than I do in the very small Eldar force I have, but now with the way the allies rules work, I just might make them into once army. We'll see. ;)

    Archon Voril said...

    I dunno about dying in droves, but they are a tough army to play. Plus the added benefit that Cheef is already conditioned to cringe when they hit the table. :) He just LOVED seeing a dozen venoms on the other side of the table. :D

    SinSynn said...

    I actually own this book, but I can't find paperback copies of the first two anywhere...
    Am annoyed. I refuse to buy the ebook compilation of all 3.

    neverness said...

    I understand that viewpoint about ebooks. Don't get me wrong, the storage elimination is great, and yet when I pay that kind of money for a thing, I want to physically possess that thing!

    I suppose it boils down to different strokes for different folks.