Book Review: Soul Hunter

Soul Hunter by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

Aaron Dembski-Bowden is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. He has an incredible ability to draw the reader in to complex scenarios without getting bogged down on unimportant details while maintaining a rich atmosphere and intriguing characters, even when they are destined to die a chapter into their introduction. The other book I’ve read by him is Helsreach and, as with Soul Hunter, I had trouble putting it down.

Soul Hunter follows a company of Chaos Space Marines known as the Night Lords as they emerge from the warp pursuing the visions of a marine known as Talos. Talos is the main protagonist and the story evolves around his past and present. He deals with external threats, internal betrayals, and questions of loyalty to the chapter’s traditions while Chaotic corruption of his brethren grows. The company is under equipped and operating well below optimal numbers. To accommodate this, the human slaves owned by the company are given position and responsibility beyond that of typical Space Marine chapters (traitor and loyalist alike). Talos’ personal servants are an integral aspect of the story and help expose unexpected aspects of their masters. The depth of intrigue with the characters in Soul Hunter is excellent. While your initial exposure to some marines can portray them as one dimensional, Dembski-Bowden develops and exposes their additional dimensions at a healthy pace and I found myself warming up to characters that I initially didn’t care about.

One word that comes to mind when thinking how to describe Dembski-Bowden’s writing is ‘balanced’. Elements of political maneuvering, social interaction, space combat, melee combat, and everything else that comes that I can recall are all equally portrayed. While some books focus far too much on adolescent aspects of combat and get caught up in overly technical descriptions of character positions and movements in battle only to hit a brick wall when describing anything outside of combat, Soul Hunter has an consistent tempo and never seems slow or confusing. The portrayal of space combat was particularly refreshing because it was easy to follow and watch unfold in my head even though in involved many non-linear and unexpected events and maneuvers, which is not the case with many science fiction books I’ve read. The same can be said for elements of mystery and subtle social/political posturing the pace, where the pace wasn’t slowed but the intrigue and understanding remained equal.

I’m very happy that Soul Hunter was the first book in a series. The sequel audio drama Throne of Lies and the forthcoming Blood Reaver are definitely on my short list. I’d easily place Soul Hunter among favorite fiction and as I began this review, the same can be said for Aaron Dembski-Bowden being a new favorite author.

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