"An absolute smashing trilogy-closer filled with strong character development and wonderfully descriptive battle scenes that takes the epic story started so long ago in Angels of Darkness and brings it to a conclusion that will leave the reader stunned into silence while also exploring the deepest secrets of the Sons of the Lion. Fittingly the finest entry in the series and an absolute must-read for any fan of 40k and the Dark Angels Chapter." - Lord of the Night @ Talk Wargaming
It was on Saturday, after viewing the thrilling Jurassic World in the cinema, that I decided while killing time before my bus home to check out the local Travelling Man to see if they had any finest-detail brushes in stock. They did not and on a whim I looked at the bookshelf containing the Black Library books, and wedged between copies of Curse of the Phoenix Crown and Angels of Darkness I just happened to see the title The Unforgiven staring back at me. Needless to say I grabbed it instantly and checked to see if it was real, when I was satisfied that it was I took it and copie sof CotPC and Fall of Macharius (A 3-for-2 offer) and walked out with a cheshire cat grin on my face and a copy of a book not due out for about two months in my bag. I started it the very next day, after finishing The Dragons of Heaven by Alyc Helms as quickly as possible, and finshed it the day after that. Without a doubt this is the best novel of the Legacy of Caliban series and one of Thorpe's very best entries into Black Library.
An unprecedented act has occurred; Cypher, the thrice-cursed lord of the Fallen has been caught by the hunters of the Ravenwing. Surrendering himself to the Dark Angels the ageless and mysterious warrior claims that he has come to deliver a message to the Hidden Masters of the Unforgiven, a message that could either prove the salvation of the Dark Angels, or have their long-kept secret exposed to the entire Imperium and see the bloodline of Lion El'Jonson destroyed by the very people they fight to protect. But in order to save their Chapter and it's successors and ensure that the most dangerous plot ever hatched by the hated Fallen Angels does not succeed, Supreme Grand Master Azrael and the Dark Angels must not only fight like they have never fought before, they will have to face their past and determine what is more important; their duty to the Imperium and Emperor, or their honour and Hunt for the Fallen that has consumed their bloodline for ten thousand years of secrets and lies.
The story in Unforgiven wraps up the story that was begun so many years ago in Angels of Darkness. Now I doubt that when he wrote that novel Thorpe had planned the events of this novel, otherwise we'd have read this novel and its two predecessors a lot sooner. Where Ravenwing looked at the titular 2nd Company and Master of Sanctity looked at the Interrogator-Chaplains, the men who capture the Fallen and the men who break them respectively, Unforgiven looks at the Hidden Masters; the men who orchestrate the Hunt and make the decisions that drive the entire chapter in matters both public and private. But the focus of the novel is the story that picks up literally a second after Master of Sanctity ended, with the surrendered Cypher and Squad Tybalain in a stand-off over Astelan's cooling corpse. Thorpe allows things to slow down a touch as Cypher's arrival and motives throw the story a real curveball, and at the same time revealing quite a bit about the Chapter's previous interactions with the most infamous of the Fallen, which was quite interesting to read as it shows how the Dark Angels adapt to a unforseeable situation. As the story proceeds Thorpe continues to subvert expectations wherever Cypher is involved, nothing is as simple as it seems on first glance and so much from the previous entries begins to make more sense as the truth behind the Fallen plot that began with Astelan on Tharsis and led to the events on Piscina IV is revealed, and it is not until the end that everything, both the incredible and the horrific, becomes clear to the reader, although some secrets are left unanswered; which I felt was fitting for a novel about the secretive Dark Angels, we don't need to know the answer to everything. One thing that I particularly enjoyed was the scale of the events in the novel, Thorpe doesn't go small and when the truth of what is happening is revealed, it really made me feel as though for once the words "the Imperium is at stake" or "Our chapter will be destroyed" were not understatements; what occurred here could have seen the beginning of the end for the Imperium and the ultimate end for the Dark Angels; so kudos to Thorpe for going big and bold for the end to the trilogy, I say it worked out very well.
The characters from all of the previous entries, the survivors at least, all re-appear along with a few new faces as well. The character stories of protagonists Annael and Telemenus contine, though the latter receives a fair bit less page-time than before due to his new circumstances, however both stories show how far these two have come since their promotions into the Ravenwing and Deathwing respectively and how both of their characters have changed as a result of both the revelations given to them upon ascension and the events of the last two novels; it was rather surprising how both chose to deal with the "truths" they were given and what conclusions both drew from not only the specific "truths" but also the general idea of secret layers of knowledge within their Chapter. Supreme Grand Master Azrael becomes a prominent character in the finale and through him we learn the scale of the secrets the Dark Angels keep, what they have kept even from themselves and what they have forgotten all together; we also see that Azrael is a complicated character who embodies both the determination to see the Hunt complete, the burden of the knowledge of every dark deed the Dark Angels have commited to see the Hunt prosecuted, and the duty to determine when the Hunt comes first and when service to the Imperium takes precedence. Cypher however was the most interesting addition to the series; a character who offers truth and then calls himself a liar, a warrior who asks questions worthy of a scholar, and an enigma with a hundred mysteries that we only get hints about. Throughout the novel Cypher steals the show whenever he appears, whether it's just conversing with the various characters or fighting against warp-born monstrosities; but the part of him that was most enjoyable was getting to see what a 30k Dark Angel would think of a 40k Dark Angel, though Cypher's opinions can't be considered representative of the entire Legion. I think the proof that Thorpe did a great job portraying Cypher was that I was genuinely baffled by his actions and motives in the novel until right at the end when the truth came out, and I had a moment of dark clarity.
The action scenes in Unforgiven continue to be as visually impressive and filled with what make the Dark Angels unique as a chapter beyond their secrets and philosophies as the previous books; lots of Terminators armed with an esoteric array of weaponry, and plenty of Bikers, Land Speeders, the void-worthy Nephilim Jetfighters and the unsettingly strange Dark Talons of the Ravenwing. The fast-paced Ravenwing combined with the pondering but powerful Deathwing nicely breaks the novel's battle scenes up so that none feel repetitive or copies of what has come before. We have battles in Chaos starships, war-torn cities and abandoned warehouses, and some locales that would be far too spoilery to reveal. But Thorpe does a very good job of keeping each scene interesting through impressive visuals and easy to follow direction, at no point did I feel confused about what somebody had done to somebody else or what was happening around the protagonists as they dispatched a foe. The void battles were also done very well, the power behind the Dark Angels ships vs the versatility and otherworldlyness of the Chaos armada made for some very good scenes that, when combined with the locale and the plot reasons for the battle occuring, kept me glued to the page right until the very end. The only flaw in the scenes is a common one in Black Library books, I felt that the strengths of the enemy were underplayed in favour of the protagonists; considering who and what the Dark Angels fought in the final chapters I expected to see the enemy being a lot more formidable and providing a much stiffer challenge to the characters then they actually did. While this let down the battle scenes a bit, the pros did make up for it, but they could have been improved.
The pacing of the book is similar to the other entries in the series; compromising 446 pages of story Unforgiven is split into three parts based on the location that each part is set in. I liked this because it allowed the story to be separated into parts of importance and for Thorpe to skip unnecessary travel and avoid padding the novel or awkward skips from one chapter set on Tharsis to the next set on Piscina. The first third of the novel focuses on settling the conflict on Tharsis while focusing on the character development of Brother Annael and showing the ramifications of Cypher's capture for both the characters and the story, the second third of the novel focuses on unravelling the reasons for Cypher's surrender and the plot hatched by the Fallen trio Astelan, Methelas and Anovel that was first seen in Angels of Darkness and has been hanging over the Dark Angels for the entire series while also showing the results of certain characters actions in the previous book and the previous third of this book and how these results change this particular character's outlook on both the Chapter and the Hunt, while the final third shows the culmination of everything that has happened so far in the series and sees the Dark Angels drawn into what might be their darkest hour since Caliban fell. Each section is paced very well; Thorpe keeps the readers interest through engaging story, likeable and complex characters, and exciting battle scenes, and at no point did I feel bored by the novel or like a scene was dragging and it needed to end quickly.
For my favourite quote, I think I will go with this one that becomes a great deal cooler and quite a bit sadder with context;
"Not just witnessed, brother. It would be much easier if we had been merely witnesses."
The ending was nothing short of shocking. The final few pages reveal something that I never saw coming, never would have even guessed at or believed could be possible; but Thorpe made it happen, and not only that he made it happen in a way that was believable and well-written, and it defintely changed the way I look at the Dark Angels Chapter and certain events across the length of the series. Unforgiven ends the story that began in Angels of Darkness and does it in a very satisfying way, one that really increased the final score of the book in my eyes. Unlike the other entries in the series which felt more like the end of a single part of a wider adventure, Unforgiven definitely does feel like an ending, and because of that it feels a lot more momentous as character stories come to an end, the events of the series come to a conclusion and the final truths of the series are revealed so that we can understand not only what happened but why it happened and why certain characters did what they did. A few loose ends are also left with the potential for more adventures down the line, though I suspect these will be adventures we'll have to guess at since it does feel as though this is the ideal point to leave the Dark Angels on the final dawn of the 41st millennium and everything that happens beyond this point isn't something we'll ever get to see.
For an exciting and exhilarating story that had me on the edge of my seat for quite a while, likeable and complex characters that showed the differences and nuances of each aspect to the Dark Angels, and battles that were visually amazing and each felt as if it could be portraying no other Space Marine Chapter than the Dark Angels; I give The Unforgiven a score of 8.7/10. The final book in the Legacy of Caliban series is definitely the best out of all the entries, and on that note I will also score the series as a whole. I give the Legacy of Caliban, comprising Angels of Darkness, Ravenwing, Master of Sanctity and The Unforgiven, a grand score of 8.4/10. This is definitely a novel that both Dark Angels fans and Gav Thorpe fans should make it a priority to read when it is released, it closes off the series very nicely and will have you hooked until the final pages when you'll be trying to process that final revelation that the book gives and realizing exactly what it means. It's been very fun to see the Dark Angels given the series they deserve, and I do think that over the course of the series I went from disliking the Dark Angels to respecting them and finally to actually liking what they were, what they are (in ways), and what they have the potential to become again one day. This was quite a series and I look forward to seeing what Gav Thorpe comes up with next now that he's done with the Lords of Caliban for now.
That's it for this review, thanks for reading. Until next time;
AVE DOMINUS NOX! REPENT! FOR TOMORROW YOU DIE!