Path of the Incubus is the second novel in Andy Chambers’ Dark Eldar series. The book continues the story from Path of the Renegade and the series will conclude in the upcoming Path of the Archon. One of the key characters – the Eldar Harlequin Motley – also plays a central role in Andy Chambers’ spin-off novella and Edgar-Allen-Poe-homage The Masque of Vyle.Path of the Incubus by Andy Chambers: 3 / 5 stars
The eternal city of Commorragh has been cast into turmoil by the Dysjunction, a cataclysmic disturbance in the very fabric of its existence. As the streets are inundated with horrors from beyond the veil, Supreme Overlord Asdrubael Vect battles to keep his enemies in check and maintain his stranglehold over the riven city. Kabal turns upon kabal, archon against archon as the fires of hell are unleashed. Redemption for Commorragh rests in the hands of a disgraced incubus warrior wrongly accused of triggering the Dysjunction itself. His efforts to reclaim his lost honour could save the city or damn it forever – assuming it can survive the daemonic invasion and the archons’ deadly battles for supremacy.
The following review will inevitably contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.
#1 – The Plot
The story of Path of the Incubus follows directly from Path of the Renegade, though I wouldn’t say it truly moves the story forward.
In Path of the Renegade, a group of Dark Eldar conspirators plotted an elaborate, and ultimately doomed coup against Commorragh’s Surpreme Overlord Asdrubael Vect. As part of their arcane plan, they abducted an Exodite Worldsinger from the Eldar maiden world of Lileathanir. The Dark Eldar raid of Lileathanir is one of the main action-set-pieces in the first book.
Path of the Incubus, in a nutshell, is about the Commorragh and its denizens going through a Dysjunction – a cataclysmic, metaphysical “earthquake” of sorts, where all the arcane boundaries that form the Webway and Commorragh in the Warp are shaken and weakened. This Dysjunction is caused by Lileathanir’s raging world spirit, reacting to the ravaging of its maiden world.
In short, it’s a convoluted way of saying “the world (i.e. Commorragh) is about to end and only two heroes can save it“.
#2 – The Incubus & The Harlequin
The highlight of the book are the two main characters of the book, the Incubus Morr (a former bodyguard of one of the conspirators from Path of the Renegade) and the Harlequin Motley.
They form an unlikely couple of opposites. The grim, taciturn and, at times, obsessive Incubus Morr and the quipping, fast-talking and inscrutable Harlequin Morr. Their constant quarrels are easily the best parts of the book and rightly made both characters fan-favourites.
That said, Morr and Motley don’t take up as much room in the book as one might expect. The entire (non-dead) cast from Path of the Renegade returns, Kabalites and Archons, Wyches and Hekatrixes, Wracks and Haemonculi, all basically trying to make it through the chaos of the Dysjunction (and to come out of it with more power and less enemies) in their on little sub-plots.
#3 – Much Ado About Nothing?
As much as I enjoyed Morr and Motley, and the general romp through all the remote corners of Commorragh, the book (in my opinion) greatly lacks the kind of tight storytelling that made Path of the Renegade stand out.
Path of the Renegade had a huge cast of characters, but all of them were in one way or another woven into the story of plotting the downfall of Asdrubael Vect. Andy Chambers’ first Dark Eldar novel thus masterfully combined the wide sweep through all the insidious layers of Dark Eldar society with a story that kept moving nicely towards a climax.
Not so Path of the Incubus. There are a lot of characters, and they all do … things. There are fights, intrigues, assassinations, and much more.
But it really doesn’t add up to anything more than, well, filler. Even Morr’s and Motley’s quest to Lileathanir doesn’t truly get on-track until about page 300 or so (out of ~400 pages).
Don’t get me wrong. It is all fun to read. The action is great, the jaded cruelty of the Dark Eldar spot-on, and there are even “guest appearances” from Special Characters from the Codex.
Andy Chambers certainly knows his Dark Eldar!
… Spoiler (again)…
To “get” the story of Path of the Incubus however, it would probably be enough to read the last 50 pages or so. And even there, Andy Chambers sort of cheats by pulling a Tzeentch-corrupted Farseer out of thin air, in the final chapters, to wrap the story (which, btw., left me wondering what plan the Harlequin Motley originally had, when he started tagging along with the Incubus Morr, given that he couldn’t have foreseen the ending – the taming of Lileathanir’s world spirit – in the way it goes down, even though the result was the one he was going for all along).
#4 – The Verdict
All in all, I felt Path of the Renegade was the better book, even if Path of the Incubus may have had the better characters.
If you enjoy the Dark Eldar in the Warhammer 40K universe, Path of the Incubus is a safe buy. It is (!) a fun romp through the Eternal City, much like Path of the Renegade was. Morr and Motley in themselves make this a worthwhile read.
As the “middle third” of a (still incomplete) trilogy, however, Path of the Incubus too often also feels like padding. The actual story, as it is, could have easily been told in 40-pages or so, instead of 400, and it ultimately does end up where Path of the Renegade left off (minus the Disjunction).
Depending on where Path of the Archon takes the story, it may not even be strictly necessary to have read Path of the Incubus to know what’s going on. That, in itself, is a pity, because Path of the Renegade proved that Andy Chambers can craft better stories than this.