Book Review: Abakan 2288 / Author: Aaron Dembski-Bowden / Format: Paperback / Publisher: The Black Library / Release Date: May 24th
Aaron Dembski-Bowden has a reputation amongst fans of the 40K books for having a deep and powerful understanding of the setting. He has a powerful sense of the overarching themes of the world along with the grim atmosphere and the intricate details that make up the epic space fantasy setting. He also knows what the fans like and what they want to read. The Emperor’s Gift is a strong example of this skill; the author draws upon the myriad of sources generated from over 25 years worth of stories to craft a tale that anyone who likes reading books about space marines will love.
The Emperor’s Gift focuses on the trial and troubles of the paladin-like Grey Knights; demon fighting space warriors who serve an ancient and superstitious galactic empire. They are a secretive and elite cadre, and much of the tale hangs upon the nature of their secrecy and the duties they must perform. These duties come in conflict with the goals of the politically powerful Inquisition who, as the name suggests, are not the kindest of factions. Fans of other Black Library books that feature the Inquisition will get a lot of joy out of The Emperor’s Gift, as the author focuses on the more interesting elements surrounding this most compelling of groups.
Make no mistake, this is not a tense political thriller; big men in powered armour, armed with magical weapons fight creatures from the depths of hell and generally kick-ass. It just also happens that all this action is underlined with interesting characters that evoke the epic, space opera feel of the universe they inhabit. It also features everyone’s favourite littlest primarch, Angron. (I say little, he’s the size of a Titan; a giant robot killing machine. But one of the smaller giant robot killing machines.)
I am a jaded sort of chap and it’s rare for a book to evoke too many strong emotions in me. Emperor’s Gift made me shed a single, manly tear relatively early on, and then later, made my jaw drop in surprise and delight. Actually drop. I resembled the guy from the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark for a short moment. It’s solid, geeky fun for a very specific sort of geek. Those with at least a passing familiarity of the setting will love this; others will simply find it to be a fun action adventure novel with more than its share of weirdness.