NOTE: Path of the Warrior was a free review copy provided to Luke Reviews by the Black Library.
It has been a while since I last dove into the universe of Warhammer 40,000 (by my reckoning, it was on May 13th, with The Book of Blood, edited by Christian Dunn). I finally made it back, with a new novel from Gav Thorpe, Path of the Warrior, the first of his Path of the Eldar series, which is only the second novel from Black Library to be entirely from an alien perspective (the first being C.S. Goto’s The Eldar Prophecy). Intrigued, I began.
Korlandril is a sculptor of some renown on the craftworld of Alaitoc. However, when his best friend returns from a long time in space, his life takes a turn for the worse, leaving Korlandril with a rage he can’t control. Needing help, he has to turn to the one place he never wanted to go: the path of the warrior. Joining the Deadly Shadow shrine of the Striking Scorpion, Korlandril works to control his depthless rage, and to focus it on a constructive task: destroying the enemy of the elder.
This was quite easily one of the best Warhammer 40,000 novels I have read. Thorpe takes the character of Korlandril and fleshes him out fully, making him a complex character without ever turning him into an alien that is an exact mirror of humans. The aliens are alien, but complete and with their own logic that is neither better nor worse than humans, just different. His novel begins in a way that most 40k stories don’t, with a long period without war and violence, building his character as a sculptor, and while at first I was worried that this would flop, Thorpe pulled it off without a hitch, giving a deep emotional reasoning behind all of Korlandril’s actions that made the novel all the more powerful.
The exploration of the world and of the warrior system was also very well done, creating great depth without endless pontification on what each and every aspect was. The world and its culture was seamlessly woven into the plot, making it feel organic rather than stilted. The war scenes were exciting but not over the top, and they never felt thrown in simply for the sake of having a fight scene.
Thorpe’s novel has started a series of novels that I can freely say I am more excited about than anything else currently on the table in 40k. Many people bandy around Dan Abnett and Graham McNeill as the best of Black Library, and Aaron Dembski-Bowden has started to get mentioned in those circles as well, but with the publication of Path of the Warrior, it would be a travesty for Thorpe’s name to not be right up there as well.