Exclusive prequel novella to the Soul Drinkers series by Ben Counter.
Held prisoner by the Imperial Fists and on the brink of being condemned by their fellow Astartes, the once proud Soul Drinkers are a pale shadow of what they once were. Daenyathos is the story of how, over millennia, the seeds of their damnation were sown and how a single corrupt librarian became a canker at the very heart of a Space Marine chapter.
If like me your were lucky enough to get hold of a copy of Daenyathos or were foolish enough to splash out that much on a small book, depending on your point of view, you’ll know there is something different about the way this book is put together. Just like the Iron Warriors book before it this limited edition book is smaller in foot print then a normal Black Library hard back book and is a lot thinner. That been said it really doesn’t take away from the content of the book! The book was a limited run of 1000 and was signed by Ben Counter so I’m happy own it in that respect as I always get a bit excited about signed items!
The book charts the rise of Daenyathos from the roll of Battle Brother to the spiritual father of the Soul Drinkers chapter. Despite being only 6 chapters and 126 pages long the book crams a lot in and follows his swift path through the ranks. The book opens with a letter to what I can only assume is a serving member of the Imperial Fists or an Inquisitor explaining that the novel is evidence in the trial of the remaining Soul Drinkers.
The first chapter deals with the assault on the Ecclesiarchal Palace during the reign of Vandire and the part Daenyathos plays in it. The opening chapter sets much of the scene and introduces most of the main initial players as well as some characters that appear again. My favourite part is the appearance of the Brides of the Emperor, it’s nice to see them get the pre Sisters of Battle history brought out in to the open. This chapter deal with how Daenyathos and his squad interact and how “initially” they were righteous and were on the right path.
The second chapter concentrates on the chapters dealings with an Inquisitor, his prey and the exterminatus of a planet. This chapter is the most important when it comes to reoccurring characters and starts to deal with the slow fall Daenyathos starts upon. It is at this point that Daenyathos begins to question the part humanity is playing in its own downfall and his place, and that of his chapter, within that scenario. This chapter basically signals the beginning of the end, at least in the eyes of the imperium, for Daenyathos and the Soul Drinkers.
The third chapter is where Daenyathos takes these thoughts to heart and decides to become a Chaplain within the ranks of the Soul Drinkers. The novel primarily deals with the trials and rituals that are used by the Drinkers to induct their chaplains and to ensure their purity, though the way in which they do it seems intrinsically flawed and hence why it seems Daenyathos passes and moves on to become a chaplain. This is where he also decides to codify his beliefs in what goes on as we all know from the Soul Drinkers novels the founding tenants of his chapter.
In the fourth chapter Daenyathos is a fully fledged chaplain and on a mission with the Reclusiarch the threads begin to unravel and it seems that the manner in which he rose to power is more than just a little stained with the blood of the innocent. It is in this chapter that he takes the first step of no return on the path to downfall. Initially during the mission the teachings of his book is questioned and its wide spread acceptance amongst the Soul Drinkers is also raised. Daenyathos uses this as a chance to appear humble but also to trick those who might unravel the plan in to a suicidal attack which when it doesn’t quite work he then completes the task of their eradication himself. This leave him free to take up the mantle of Reclusiarch himself and ultimately damns the chapter!
The fifth chapter concludes the pursuit of a heretic by Daenyathos and his eventual torture at the heretics hands. This is one of the overall story arcs of the book and helps tie the whole novel together. It is here whilst at his weakest and strongest that the whole corruption of his ideals is revealed and is ultimately committed to being enacted. We also see him reduced to a shell of a marine but in this he still proves he is stronger and better than most humans, and this alone seems to cement his beliefs.
The sixth and final chapter sees Daenyathos reduced to the living core of a Dreadnought, although as far as the chapter is concerned he is dead, and his three prodigies being entrusted with his legacy. We also learn more of his plans as he reveals them to one of the heroes of the imperium and also how he intends to enact these plans from his sarcophagus. This chapter is the most important chapter in the future of the Soul Drinkers and goes a long way to explain just how they could become so misguided and ultimately corrupted. The final part deals with him leaving the chapter to its dark future.
The novel is extremely well written and deals with and explains well all the things that caused the great Soul Drinkers Heresy. The prose is flowing and most importantly doesn’t get confused between past and present even when it does need to refer to past events in the present. The descriptions although at some points truncated really do make the book work, that in itself is one of the joys of Black Library novels in how they have a wealth of imagery and background to draw from. The thing however that makes this book stand out from its Iron Warriors counterpart and from all other Black Library novels are the notes and sketches interspersed throughout the book. Ben Counter has gone to great pains to make it look as though the recipient or sender of the evidence has gone to great pains to annotate the book and contradict/correct comments. The sketches of marines, books, weapons and forces make the whole book pop and virtually every few pages there has been something included to make you look at the sketch and think how it might fit in to the “legend” of the Soul Drinkers. I have included some of the sketches from the novel that are available on the Black Library website below this review. A great novel and great filler piece to explain how and why the chapter fell, if one crops up on eBay or anywhere all I can say is get it!
An excellent bit of historical novel writing from the 40,000 point of view and well deserving of 5 out of 5 stars.
Daenyathos - Ben Counter
128page hardback, numbered, with marker ribbon, custom artwork and hand signed by the author • ISBN 9781849700085