In the grim far future, the Inquisition moves amongst mankind like an avenging shadow, striking down daemons, aliens and heretics with uncompromising ruthlessness.
This is my second year reading Black Library novels and I consider myself still very inexperienced in the 40k lore. So to broaden my perspective, I decided to visit one of the all-time classics, the Eisenhorn Omnibus by Dan Abnett.
For those who don’t know already, the Eisenhorn Omnibus is about the exploits of Gregor Eisenhorn, Imperial Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos. Eisenhorn was originally just a character in Games Workshop’s Inquisitor game but Dan Abnett found the concept artworks and liked them so much that he decided he must write the backstories for the character.
The omnibus consists of three books and two short stories. The books are all named after the three major orders of the Inquisition, Ordo Xenos; Ordo Malleus and Ordo Hereticus and the general theme of each book echoes its title.
Before I get into the details of each story, I must say that this omnibus is an absolutely amazing and exciting piece of work. I don’t know why I waited so long before I picked up this series. There are explosions, plenty of deaths and battles with Chaos Marines, daemons and even a Titan! I can see why it is held in such high regards by the fans.
After giving some time to reflect on these stories, I came to the conclusion that Eisenhorn is the Jack Bauer of the 41st millennium. Eisenhorn and Bauer are alike in that they have both given their lives to serve a greater purpose, which is to protect the lives and stability of those around them. They both have to make morally ambiguous choices and plenty of people die along the way but everything they do is for the greater good. Also they both suffer a fair amount of brutal injuries but still manage to pull through in the end.
Coincidentally, Eisenhorn’s retinue is like the CTU. He always has someone with the right skills close-by and the members rotate like clockwork. If they die, Eisenhorn will just pick someone else to do the job and continue with his mission. So as a word of warning, don’t get too attached to Eisenhorn’s crew.
The pacing of the entire omnibus is excellent, fast and action-packed, and never a moment that left you feeling bored. All three books begin with a scene that leaves thousands dead and the stories follow Eisenhorn’s journey as he gathers the clues and searches for the masterminds behind each of the mass destructions.
In Xenos, we are introduced to Inquisitor Eisenhorn, young and in his prime. During his investigation on Gudrun, Eisenhorn is captured and the torture leaves him permanently expressionless. The subsequent chase leads Eisenhorn to an alien world where he realises that there’s more at stake than he imagined and even Chaos Marines are involved.
I think it’s an excellent touch to add Chaos Marines in this story. Reading about the fear induced by the Chaos Marine on Alizebeth Bequin reminds me just how truly fearsome and terrifying these creatures of Chaos are.
In Missing in Action, the short story that follows, Eisenhorn investigates a series of ritual murders on Sameter. The story again is wonderfully written and tells the horrors of war and the lasting effects it can have on you.
After this we come to Malleus, the Inquisition thinks that Eisenhorn is consorting with daemons and declares him Heretic and Extremis Diabolus. Eisenhorn decides to go rogue in order to gather the evidence needed to prove his innocence.
This story surprised me in a few ways. First the story begins ninety eight years after the events of Xenos, which is a pretty big time jump and somewhere in the middle one of the crew members have died but not much is said of that particular event. Second, in this book we also meet Eisenhorn’s protégé, Interrogator Gideon Ravenor. I know there is another set of trilogy featuring Ravenor and thought he would play a bigger part in the story but didn’t expect him to be taken out so quickly. Maybe it was done on purpose but I felt there wasn’t enough time to become familiar with him and the other new characters and their dismissal doesn’t have that much of an impact on the story.
My overall thoughts for Malleus is that it’s a little too predictable and the ending wrapped up too perfectly but it’s still a satisfying and exciting story.
Afterwards we have another short story, this one titled Backcloth for a Crown Additional. Eisenhorn investigates the mysterious death of an old friend which appears to be a simple open and shut case. However with further inspection, Eisenhorn and his retinue finds that there is a certain pattern leading to the death. This is another entertaining short story, one with a little less action but more than makes up for it with its eeriness.
Last but not least, we have Hereticus. In this book we witness Eisenhorn’s change to radicalism, almost crossing over to becoming heretical as he goes against the very thoughts he once believed in and uses the power of the Warp against agents of the Warp. We see him struggle with his choices and the decisions over the use of the tainted knowledge. His organisation is destroyed and is hunted by a man know as Khanjar the Sharp. To make things worse, Eisenhorn is once again declared as a Heretic by the Inquisition for his involvement with the Malus Codicium.
There is great deal of emotion in this book, we see a man who is pushed too far and finally breaks because of it. Eisenhorn finally gets his revenge but at what costs? His former friends and allies are now gone or dying and he no longer has a place he can call home. A sad but satisfying ending that fits well with the grim dark future setting of the 40k universe.
This omnibus is really a great solid piece of work and once again shows why Abnett is considered one of the best writers at Black Library.
Finally I leave you with this wonderful drawing depicting Eisenhorn’s past and present retinue by Nicolas R. Giacondino aka Aerion-the-Faithful.