Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Ravenor

Go To

A mind without purpose will wander in dark places...

A trilogy of novels set in the Warhammer 40,000 universe featuring the heavily disabled psyker Inquisitor Gideon Ravenor and his retinue, written by Dan Abnett.

The first of the novels, Ravenor, features the team's investigation into a suspicious drug known as Flects on Eustis Majoris. Ravenor Returned leads the heroes deeper into a conspiracy encompassing the whole world, and begins Carl Thonius's fall into Chaos. The third novel, Ravenor Rogue ties the threads together and finishes this particular arc. There are also two short stories, collected along with the three novels in an omnibus edition. The first, Playing Patience, is set between the Eisenhorn trilogy and this one, and the second, Thorn Wishes Talon, is set between Ravenor and Ravenor Returns and fills in some extra backstory. The author has begun a third Inquisition trilogy, Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn.


Ravenor was first mentioned as an aside in an early Gaunt's Ghosts novel. He was developed as a secondary character in the Eisenhorn books, during which he suffered the horrendous injuries which led to him being confined to his life support chair.

These books feature examples of the following tropes:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Thonius. Definitely The Dandy in clothes and manner, and various other characters imply it; still, the setting expects a degree of such behaviour among the upper classes, and he never admits attraction to anyone.
  • And I Must Scream: Ravenor has a mild form of this all the time, reliant entirely on his chair for sight and sound and unable to touch anything. The classic Nightmare Fuel example is his default state without the chair - a limbless, blind, deaf, mute lump of burned flesh that the surgeons had to cut a hole in just to feed him.
  • Badass Normal: Numerous characters, but Harlon Nayl and Kara Swole stand out the most in Ravenor's retinue. Nayl is one of the few nonpsychic, (relatively) unaugmented characters in the series that can kick some serious ass, but is more than capable of going toe to toe with anyone. Swole is some kind of awesome, for a woman who first joined the Inquisition as a dancer acrobat with absolutely no combat training. Even Ravenor takes notice of this.
    • Other characters like Matthuin and Molotch stand out pretty well, but between augmetics and some incredibly unusual skills, they edge into Badass Abnormal territory.
  • Baldof Awesome: Nayl's shaved/oiled scalp mentioned a few times
  • Baldof Evil: Lucius Worna (above) is also similarly described.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of the trilogy, Ravenor essentially loses his entire team. Those that survive either leave the team or are arrested by the Inquisition. Ravenor himself has to face a trial to answer for his actions while he went rogue. It would have been pure Downer Ending material if they hadn't actually put a stop to Molotch's plans and saved the Imperium from Slyte.
    • The sequel series, Ravenor vs. Eisenhorn, reveals that Ravenor, Kys, and Swole were eventually allowed back into the Inquisition.
  • Blood from the Mouth: ...and eyes, and ears, and nose... This tends to happen when people are exposed to psychic power and/or the warp.
  • Captured Super-Entity: Ravenor's backstory involves a few, where an arranged tragedy allowed some incredibly powerful psykers to escape Inquisitorial custody. The incident, along with killing thousands and damaged an Imperial hive permanently, left Ravenor extremely handicapped and disfigured and he remains so in the present.
    • There's also Slyte, but that one happens to be an "Incubating" Super Entity.
  • Continuity Nod: Numerous, to Abnett's other novels, among others. Also, much nodded to, by Abnett as well as by Mitchell in the Ciaphas Cain books. Ravenor is a pretty famous writer in that area of the Warhammer 40000 universe.
    • Inquisitor Lillith, a fairly important minor character in Gaunt's Ghosts is encountered late in the series.
    • In another series, flects are sold by a street dealer on Red Corsair held world during the Skull Harvest.
  • Continuity Snarl: The prologue to the first book has Zygmunt Molotch excavating ruins on a world where they had to chase off a Tau Warrior cadre. Given that the books are all set in the Scarus Sector (on the other side of the galaxy to the Tau Empire, who have very limited warp travel), it makes it highly unlikely but not utterly impossible that the Tau could have got so far across the galaxy.
  • Cool Sword: A vampiric one, and a "shivered sword." Ravenor himself can explain the shivered sword best: "Forged so hard by the hammers of master smiths, the blade had been knocked slightly sideways in time, so it resonated and shivered against the mundane now." Apparently that makes it cut better, or something.
    • It's implied the blade is partially phased out of existence, allowing it to bypass physical matter.
  • Disability Superpower: Ravenor is crippled in every physical sense of the word. He can't walk, talk, or even breathe without his support chair. This doesn't stop him from being able to read the minds of an entire city at once or being able to telekinetically crush a man though. It's implied that Ravenor's separation from his body made him a more powerful psyker. (Compare Stephen Hawking and his mathematics?)
  • Divided We Fall
  • Dramatic Irony: Belknap's reactions to them when he did not know Ravenor was an Inquisitor.
    • More seriously, Ravenor spends the entire third book and most of the second believing that Zael is the host of Slyte. The readers have known since at least the climax of Ravenor Returned that it's really Carl Thonius.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: A large brood of Tyranid Hormogaunts appears in Ravenor Rogue, when Ravenor & co. use the tri-portal to travel to another world. This is a few hundred years before their "official" first contact with the Imperium. Suitably, everyone's reaction is some form of "What the hell is that?!"
    • May also be a continuity snarl; Uber Aemos mentions the Tyranids in the Eisenhorn Trilogy, set many years earlier.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Slyte. His first manifestation is as a black skeletal humanoid glowing with a baleful red aura; Molotch claims that this form is only Slyte's "harbinger". When he really arrives, Angharad decapitates this form, and gloats a bit. Molotch says, "You stupid bitch. Weren't you listening? That wasn't Slyte. That's Slyte." And he points to the enormous fleshy mass of spines, mouths, and writhing tentacles breaking through the wall.
  • Enemy Mine: Molotch and Culzean want to recruit Ravenor to stop Slyte. While they are affiliated with Chaos, they make their living off exploiting the Imperium, and if a huge swath of it was destroyed by Slyte, they don't feel it would be in their best self-interest, so they want to keep Slyte from being entering the Materium. Ravenor refuses their offer, but circumstance later forces them all to work together to stop Slyte.
  • Eviler Than Thou: Jader Trice vs. The Divine Fratery.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Molotch and Culzean's reasons for opposing Slyte boil down to this. Culzean himself puts it best:
    Culzean: You don't really understand us, do you, Gideon? You don't really understand our beliefs and our ambitions. We're just evil, an evil to be stopped. And all evil is the same to you. It carries the same weight... me, Zygmunt, Slyte. You're so blinkered. You've been through the door, Gideon. I'll wager it showed you a future or two. Pleasant?
    Ravenor: Inconclusive. But no, not pleasant.
    Culzean: I know what Zygmunt and I saw when we went through the door. A galaxy in flames. An age of apocalypse. Daemon time. No Imperium except a burning shell populated by the last dying dregs of mankind. You don't want that, I know you don't. You've spent your life defending society against just such a doom. We don't want it either. Our ambitions are wildly different to yours, Gideon, and in definite conflict. But Zygmunt and I can only flourish, prosper and achieve our own goals so long as the Imperium persists. The Imperium is our playground, mankind our instrument. We weave our schemes through the complex fabric of Imperial life, to benefit ourselves. I'm not pretending you'd like what we want from our lives, but it would be nothing compared to Daemon time. Slyte must be stopped. The alternative is too awful for any of us to contemplate.
  • Eye Scream: Members of the Divine Fratery cult are required to put out one of their eyes as part of their initiation, and they are not allowed to receive medical attention for it until they finish making the silver mirrors that are their trademark, which can take years. If they survive, they receive an augmetic replacement and an Eyepatch of Power to cover their real eye, which they use exclusively for scrying.
  • Fantastic Drug: Several. Lho-sticks, a narcotic which are analogous to, and as common as cigarettes. There are others mentioned, including yellodes, grinweed, baby blues, redlines, and obscura; the exact nature of most isn't exactly known beyond a street name, but obscura can obscure somebody from psychic perception.
    • The most fantastic and most story-relevant are the "hallucinogenic" flects, shards of glass saturated with energy from the Warp, used by looking into them to see a "reflection" of something in the warp. One addict, who, beside going through a psychological and physical breakdown, had visions of the future while under the influence.
  • Gaia's Lament: Petropolis is a sterling example. Generations of dirty industry left enough air pollution that a slightly ravenous acid rain a common occurrence, rain exposure-induced cancer are the biggest killer just behind pollution-related emphysemas. And with some shades of cyberpunk to go with the rest of the Wretched Hive.
  • Genius Breeding Act/Super Breeding Program: the Cognitae was partially this. Lilean Chase created the Cognitae school to develop, "by means psychic, eugenic and noetic" an entire generation of highly intelligent and competent heretics, and many of their modern agents are descended from her in one way or another.
  • Gladiator Games: Carnivora Circus, particularly when they dispose of intruders.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Toros Revoke. If he weren't so inexplicably loyal, Trice would be in trouble.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Belknap. It's what causes him to leave Kara at the end when he finds out that she partly hid Thonius's demonic possession (and was healed by him and not an Emperor derived miracle as Belknap had hoped.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Used occasionally by Nayl and Kara, particularly when Ravenor isn't around to read a mind or just Mind Rape the information out of somebody.
  • Language of Magic: Enuncia. When Kys infiltrates a decoding process, even the partial decoded stuff is enough to make her ill. She's pulled away from the cogitator by two managers and they discover her identity, but she is able to use the phrase that made her sick against her captors, which causes them to be violently ill, giving her a chance to escape.
  • Malaproper: Sholto Unwerth.
  • Male Gaze: In the descriptions of Patience Kys and Kara Swole. Subject to either Fridge Brilliance or Author's Saving Throw in the third book, which reveals that Ravenor (whose point of view much of the series is written from) is actually kind of creepy at times.
  • Man in the Machine: Ravenor, though he's rather less humanoid than most examples of the trope; his life support chair makes him look something like a particularly angular Dalek.
  • Mind Rape: Everyday part of the job for Ravenor, and his People Puppets ability, 'waring, is described as exactly this. It's also in the repertoire of other psykers in the trilogy, especially Kinsky. The flects are basically a Mind Rape narcotic with extra dimensional nastiness added.
    • Said word-for-word when Ravenor wares Carthaen warrior-ess Angharad after they're attacked by Tyranids on the un-named planet that the tri-portal takes them to. Angharad is unhappy about this, to say the least.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Similarly to Abnett's previous series, Ravenor's investigation into the flect trade leads to him discovering that a cartel of rogue traders are smuggling Chaos-tainted computers onto Eustis Majoris, which in turn is part of an even larger scheme to reconstruct the dead, reality-warping language of Enuncia (which is so alien and unnatural that normal computers will melt just from trying to process even a few syllables of it), which the villains mean to use as part of a ritual that will make themselves into gods. The flects were just a lucrative way for the cartel to make more money on the side.
  • The Mole: A common tactic, since the story is fundamentally about secretive organizations waging war on one another.
  • Mythology Gag: In Ravenor Rogue, Sholto Unwerth is explaining why he is so short and bearded to Patrik Belknap, the medicae. " is much derailed, in places high and low...that there ever was a race of beings of the name the squats, and many scholams and those of the high mindful claim it's just a myth, a thing that never was..." He goes on to explain that his great grandfather stated that his family has squat-blood in his lineage. The lampshade is on the fact that until the 1990s, the Warhammer 40,000 game included an army of "space dwarves" called Squats. In the interests of removing 40k from her fantasy sister, Games Workshop removed them from the game. Many fans want them back, calling it "The Squat Question," and Dan Abnett is likely one of those.
  • Never Found the Body: The Divine Fratery never found Eisenhorn's after they "dealt" with him. They were very, very wrong.
  • Not So Above It All: For most of the first book (and his prior appearances in Eisenhorn) Ravenor gives every impression of being educated, civil, and pragmatic in person. His education and study post-internment made him an even more perceptive scholar. Attempting to kill everyone he cares about, rendering him helpless with a psy limiter, trying to break into his chair with a boarding axe whilst threatening to kill those he cares about? His first action after being freed will be to reduce you to a fine red paste against a bulkhead with absolutely zero pity, a hint of vindictive pleasure, and no finesse whatsoever.
  • Noodle Incident: The previous disastrous encounter with Molotch that cost the lives of some of the few survivors of the Eisenhorn trilogy has yet to be explained, but is frequently referred to. Abnett has recently hinted that one of the short stories in an upcoming Inquisition collection will be this very incident.
  • One Bullet Left: At the climax of Ravenor, Mathuin saves Nayl's life by shooting his would-be executioner with one of Kara's nearly-empty guns.
  • Parrying Bullets: Averted at one point as when one character attempts this Harlon Nayl's answer is to switch to full auto and shoot her to bits.
  • People Puppets : A commonly used ability by many psykers, such as Revoke and Kinsky. Ravenor instead "wares" the members of his retinue, a subtly different technique, and one that also magnifies their physical capabilities.
  • Porn Stash: Frauka's porno slates. Though not much of a stash, as he reads them in plain view and purely for comedic value.
  • Portal Door: The Tri-Portal, a mystical wooden door that sends anyone who walks through it to anywhere in space and time.
  • Predecessor Villain: Lilean Chase, a former Inquisitor who went rogue and founded the Cognitae school of heretics. Chase herself is long dead by the time the story takes place, but her legacy lives on in the various Cognitae agents who bedevil the Scarus Sector. Or as very strongly hinted in the Magos, is actually still alive and at large.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The final conclusion of the trilogy. Molotch is dead and Slyte has been vanquished, but Mathuin and Thonius are dead, Nayl and Belknap have left the team, and Ravenor and everyone else are facing the wrath of the Inquisition for their actions.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Like every other Inquisition warband in the history of the ordos, ever.
  • Reality Warper: Enuncia
  • Red Herring: Ravenor, and initially the readers, are led to believe that Zael may be Slyte. However, it's actually Thonius.
  • Right Hand vs. Left Hand: The Inquisition in a nutshell, to the point that Ravenor considers the possibility that flects are possibly the work of a rival Inquisitor.
    • Also the various heretical factions, leading the Secretists and the Divine Fratery developing a deadly rivalry.
  • Room Full of Crazy
  • Sealed Badass in a Can: Before his confinement to his force chair, Gideon Ravenor was a prodigy in just about every area of Inquisitorial duties. Occasionally we get small glimpses of what he is capable of when he Wares a member of his warband; extreme acrobatics and Matrix-style martial arts usually ensue.
  • Secret Police: The aptly-named Secretists, who work for Jader Trice and make sure that anyone who stumbles upon the secret of what he's up to never live to tell about it. Their known activities include murdering street punks who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, shutting down an entire Magistratum department when one of their officers starts sniffing around the wrong place as part of a case, having the members of this department secretly killed, and launching a raid on the headquarters of a rival cult when their actions threaten their boss' life.
  • Sherlock Scan: Molotch while at a restaurant at the beginning of Ravenor Rogue. With the added bonus of using it to identify several different ways he could destroy the government of the entire planet, cripple economies across several nearby worlds, etc.
  • Show Within a Show: Ravenor's a famous writer of philosopher and commentaries, making his writings a Type 1 in this trilogy, though it never becomes a plot point. His writings and books are sometimes referred to by various characters in the 40K canon, though particularly in Abnett's work, making him a Type 2 in most other works, though Culzean first recognizes his name as "that writer".
  • Street Urchin: Zael, a flect-addicted kid who gets caught up in Ravenor's investigations. He turns out to be a mirror psyker. And later becomes a Grey Knight, of all things..
  • Talking in Your Dreams
  • The Ace: Ravenor's role as Eisenhorn's Interrogator.
  • Turn in Your Badge: A detective on Eustis Majoris is required to do this when her case is taken away by another, secretive, department during Ravenor's investigation.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Usually averted. Although the novels have significantly large sections written from Ravenor's first person perspective, he tends to be remarkably honest and Genre Savvy, even pointing out some of his unflattering habits. Examples include his inappropriate attraction to Kara Swole, his jealousy of her relationship with Belknap, and his outrage that Nayl would dare try to hide a secret from him.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: The psyker Kinsky, from the first book, has more raw power than Ravenor, but Ravenor's training gives him an edge. It's still only Frauka's intervention that saves Ravenor in their final confrontation.
  • Urban Segregation: Petropolis, capital of Eustis Majoris, is a particularly interesting example, in terms of layout.
  • Wizard Duel: A few occur when psykers fight each other.
  • Waif-Fu:
    • Patience and Thonius are both remarkably deadly in unarmed combat despite a very light build.
    • Averted with the strongly-built Combat Pragmatist Swole.


Example of: