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Book Review: Eisenhorn – Xenos

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So, you want to make a Warhammer 40K television show. What’s more, you want to make it about the factions that have been the protagonists of the setting since the intellectual property took off — the Space Marines, the Imperial Guard, the Inquisition; humanity.

This puts you in a bit of a pickle, both morally and financially. The servants of the Emperor of Terra were originally something of a caricature of Catholic fascism, the Franco bent and its continental offspring that made its way, eventually, after some twists and turns, into British politics in the 1980s. Much like a lot of British pop-counterculture at the time — 2000 AD, for instance, and Judge Dredd, and the work of Alan Moore and Grant Morrison and many, many others — they were a satire. So what do you do when the world comes back around the other way, and you’re sitting on a veritable IP gold mine, but fascism’s back and good god, but it loves irony?

Morally speaking, well, we can’t speak to that, especially not under capitalism. Would that we could. Financially speaking, the people who love the Imperium of Man and all of its trappings, genuinely, and love the idea of grinning, hateful murder at the backend of history, in a future where there is only war — well, they don’t really sustain a streaming audience, probably. You need a lot more people tuning in than have invested in miniatures to sustain an expansion into this market. And even for the faithful, that particular flavor is a fun spice to drop on your tabletop game, but playing a game isn’t the same as watching a television show. In this format, you’ll be watching a vision presented to you by a group of professionals, from the writers to the directors to the crew to the cast. And something you have to grapple with when it comes to the fictive universe of the Warhammer 40K setting is that to adapt most of its best narrative works is mainly to be adapting a series of video game cutscenes.

The exception, as cited from those inside and outside the fandom, is the Eisenhorn trilogy of novels by author Dan Abnett. An incredibly well-respected trilogy, graded on the curve required for licensed genre fiction, the books Xenos , Malleus , and Eisenhorn track story of the titular Inquisitor through and across much of the near-strangeness of the 40K setting. It has been tapped as the source material for the first resolved attempt at a Warhammer 40K show, and so I, a 40K novice at best, undertook reading the source material to see if this might be a show I’d like to give whichever streaming service picks it up money. The verdict is: yes, with some rather obvious and formative changes.

We’ll begin with Xenos , which would likely form the basis for any self-respecting season one of this show. The plot, of course, is fine. It’s normal 40K fare. There’s heresy and Chaos building in the hideous ranks of man. Our hero Inquisitor Eisenhorn needs to suss it out. There are two factions presented in the Inquisition, the orthodox conservatives which purge heresy the moment they see it (and accordingly are all assholes) and the radical heterodoxes who think the Inquisition should keep an open mind (and accordingly always support doing stupid and reckless things). Our hero falls in the middle of both traditions — quite a both-sides centrist fellow — and spends the novel outing a decadent aristocratic merchant clan that has fallen to Chaos and then chasing it halfway across the sector to deliver judgment.

There’s a lot to like in the novel from an adaptation standpoint — quite a few setpieces, quite a few big meetings and summits where you can just hire respected British character actors and tell them to work broad to play, oh, Schongard or Molitor or Endor or Voke. In the visit to the saruthi planet there’s great material for a go-getting young television director with a CGI budget to really fuck with some perspective and create an unsettling, discordant visual world. The plot is utterly uncomplicated, with the betrayals being fairly flat and predictable and the factions being incredibly well understood. Abnett, for his part, is quite skilled at the genre craft and does first-person writing very well for the material, spending much of his time on sensory input and things happening out in the world rather than retreating into Eisenhorn’s mind — this will make it even simpler to adapt. Even better, Abnett devotes significant portions of his word-count to psyker business and astral-plane visions — even better for adaptation purposes.

One thing the book does for someone not particularly versed in 40K lore or storytelling that the video games can’t really do is that it impresses upon the reader the size and the severity of a Space Marine. There is a Chaos Marine named Mandragore who figures fairly prominently in the middle act of Xenos , and he is basically presented as your standard Lord of the Rings troll crossed with a serial killer crossed with a tank. The games, of course, are required to take the broader focus; Abnett does an excellent job of conveying the terror that just one of these great monstrosities inspires in a force smaller than an armored cavalry division across multiple scenes, and that’s well done on his part.

But this novel cannot be adapted to television without more women.

There are two women who matter in the novel in the slightest. The first dies in the very first chapter: Lores Vibben, the perfect adjutant, the pinnacle of what every human woman should be in the Imperium — a good custodian, loyal retainer, and faithful secretary. She’s trivially murdered and becomes mope material for the men of the plot for the next two-hundred some pages. The second is Alizebeth Bequin, quite another consideration altogether: she’s an actual character, for one, if not a particularly compelling one in Xenos . (I have read ahead a little bit and I know that this changes, to some extent.) Bequin is a sex worker who our heroes stumble upon in the middle of a raid, right before she’s about to be raped and murdered. Her whole thing is that she is a dead zone in the Warp, which has the knock-on effect of psychically influencing people to hate and mistrust her. It’s very odd: the book devotes a significant portion of its page count to playing out lore-related conversations in dialogue, but the scene in which she’s confronted with this information by Eisenhorn is…summarized in a paragraph, mostly; it’s then followed by a longer one that rubbernecks how visibly sad it makes her. Bequin’s biggest contribution to the plot that isn’t “standing somewhere and projecting a dampening field” is pretending to be Eisenhorn’s ditzy squeeze when they’re both undercover trying to figure out who the Chaos traitors are among the merchant class of one of the dozens of interchangeable Imperial worlds, all of which seem to have the same culture.

The fix here is obvious and easy: don’t kill off Lores Vibben. It adds nothing to the plot — Eisenhorn has a lot to be sad about in the first place, and the whole cringey conversation about how Eisenhorn’s pilot Betancore loved Vibben but wants to fuck Bequin (again, she’s hot, not sure if you picked up on that) can play itself out as an actual love triangle if the writers so choose. Bequin is a quite independent nobody who has to become a competent somebody; Vibben is a competent and loyal servant who needs to figure out how to be more than her office. The character interactions basically write themselves, and again, these are basically the only two women in the entire book — and Bequin disappears for long stretches of time that she very much should not.

Moving from a first-person perspective novel to a television show necessitates more characters anyhow; you can’t just sit in Eisenhorn’s head for the entire season, obviously. Vibben being a real character in the story instead of a fridge-case would improve an adaptation of Xenos all around — and you can still kill her off in the second-to-last episode of the season, if you want! Why would you play that card in the pilot, especially when death very explicitly is not common or permanent for heroes across much of the rest of the novel; even guys like Fischig or Heldane get to survive encounters with extreme violence through tech prosthesis.

Other than that, in the hands of a modern writer’s room with good TV directors, I think Xenos can be a really good first entry in a streaming adaptation of the series. Next time I do one of these, I’ll be looking at Malleus . I’ve been told to watch out for a “Kara Swole” and try not to judge too harshly? We’ll see how it goes.

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Track of Words

A Guide to Dan Abnett’s Inquisition Series

Dan Abnett’s trilogy of Inquisition trilogies – the Eisenhorn , Ravenor and Bequin novels – are among the best that Black Library has ever published, and certainly some of my personal favourites. With the upcoming release of Penitent , the second Bequin novel, there are now more than twenty individual stories across the overarching Inquisition series, with the nine novels (with at least one more still to come) accompanied by a dozen or so short stories. As with many Black Library series, the tricky part is knowing where to start if you’re keen to check out these stories, or where to go next if you’ve read some of them and are keen for more!

I’ve put together this guide to help with that – I’ve included a chronological reading order for the whole series (based on the information provided in The Magos ), along with a few thoughts about each story and links to my reviews and interviews where appropriate. I haven’t reviewed every single story, but I’m not far off, while I’ve spoken to author Dan Abnett for interviews about the two most recent instalments in the series (with the latest interview due to be published very soon). As and when I publish any further reviews or interviews, I’ll make sure to update this article with the new links!

Reading Order

Dan Abnett kindly provided a reading order for pretty much the whole series in the front of The Magos , which I’ve reproduced here. It’s not essential to read them all in order, but if you do want to start at the beginning and work your way through then this would be a good way of doing it – and the short stories really do add a lot of extra detail and texture to the overall series.

Even if you’re not planning on reading the short stories, I would personally recommend you at least read the novels in order – Eisenhorn , then Ravenor , then Bequin .

Titles in bold are the novels.

  • Pestilence (short story)
  • Master Imus’ Transgression (audio drama/short story)
  • Regia Occulta (audio drama/short story)
  • Xenos ( Eisenhorn #1) – START HERE
  • Missing in Action (short story)
  • Malleus (Eisenhorn #2)
  • Backcloth for a Crown Additional (short story)
  • The Strange Demise of Titus Endor (short story)
  • Hereticus ( Eisenhorn #3)
  • The Curiosity (short story)
  • Playing Patience (short story)
  • Ravenor ( Ravenor #1)
  • Thorn Wishes Talon (audio drama/short story)
  • Ravenor Returned ( Ravenor #2)
  • Ravenor Rogue ( Ravenor #3)
  • Gardens of Tycho (short story)
  • The Keeler Image (short story)
  • Perihelion (short story)
  • The Magos ( Eisenhorn #4)
  • Pariah ( Bequin #1)
  • Lepidopterophobia (Medea Unbound) (short story)
  • Penitent ( Bequin #2)
  • Pandaemonium ( Bequin #3 – TBC)
  • Born to Us (short story)

NOTE: you’ll notice that I’ve included the micro-short Born to Us (released as an e-short back in 2012) at the end of the list, off on its own. That’s because this one doesn’t really fit with the overall canon – it’s an Eisenhorn story, but not exactly part of the overall narrative (hence why it wasn’t included in The Magos). It clearly takes place after Xenos (there’s a reference to the Glaws, and Harlon Nayl appears in it), so if you want to fit it into the reading order then you could maybe read it somewhere around Malleus/Hereticus.

Next up, I’ll take a look through all of these stories with a few observations and links out to my reviews. I’m not going to list these following the reading order, but rather break them up as well as I can into each of the three series – Eisenhorn , Ravenor and Bequin . I’ll start off however, with the one story which doesn’t feature any of the main characters who appear elsewhere…

eisenhorn xenos book review

Pestilence One of the oldest stories in the series, published roughly the same time as Xenos , this is a great little investigative mystery following recollector Lemuel Sark as he searches for a cure to a terrible illness. You wouldn’t necessarily know it was linked to Eisenhorn and co. unless someone pointed it out, but there’s both a thematic connection and a small, direct link in there!

Check out my review of Pestilence .

While Ian Watson’s Inquisition War trilogy was the first ever series of 40k Inquisition stories, Abnett’s Eisenhorn trilogy (in four parts) is unquestionably the most popular, well-loved and most influential of them all. The novels are all told in honest first person and provide a gripping depiction of the lengths Eisenhorn is prepared to go to in order to do his duty, while the accompanying shorts explore a range of stories from Eisenhorn’s youth to the adventures of Magos Biologis Drusher (who plays an important part towards the end of the series).

eisenhorn xenos book review

Master Imus’ Transgression Originally released as part of a trio of short audio dramas, this is one of my favourites of the whole series. It’s a clever, characteristically Abnett tale of young interrogator Eisenhorn as he listens to the confession of the ageing Master Imus, a scared but honest book-keeper who believes he has stumbled across something he shouldn’t have.

Check out my review of Master Imus’ Transgression .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Regia Occulta Another story first released in audio, this one features a still-young Eisenhorn, not long after rising to the rank of inquisitor, investigating a relatively low-key mystery while trapped by electrical storms on a dreary planet. I can’t think of many – if any – other stories which essentially detail the life of a travelling inquisitor doing his rounds!

Check out my review of Regia Occulta .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Xenos (novel #1) This is where it all started, with a novel that’s still – twenty years later – widely held as the quintessential ‘domestic 40k’ story and one of the best entry points into Black Library fiction. It introduces Eisenhorn himself, many of the key characters from the rest of the stories, not to mention the first-person, hardboiled detective stylings of the whole Eisenhorn series. It’s a stone-cold classic, simple as that.

Check out my review of Xenos .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Missing in Action A direct sequel to the first novel, this fits in nicely between Xenos and Malleus and shows a little bit of what Eisenhorn and the gang got up to after their first major adventure. It’s perhaps not one of the most crucial short stories to read in context of the wider series, but it offers a nice look at the emotional cost of life in service of the Inquisition.

Check out my review of Missing in Action .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Malleus (novel #2) 2001 was a great year for Inquisition fans, with this second novel coming hot on the heels of Xenos . It skips ahead a fair few decades further into Eisenhorn’s career, taking the characters out of their comfort zones, ramping up the danger and the tension in that classic second-novel fashion. By this point you can start to see the changes that Eisenhorn goes through over the course of his career, while it also introduces the character of Gideon Ravenor who would go on to big things himself.

Check out my review of Malleus .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Backcloth for a Crown Additional Not only does this have one of my all-time favourite story titles, but it’s also one of my favourite Eisenhorn stories. It’s essentially a paranormal investigation story, as Eisenhorn and Alizebeth look into the suspicious death of an old friend, and its low-key location and style lend it a quiet, personal tone that’s really satisfying.

Check out my review of Backcloth for a Crown Additional .

eisenhorn xenos book review

The Strange Demise of Titus Endor One of the most interesting secondary characters in the series, Titus Endor’s story continues with this ominously-titled tale, which doesn’t feature Eisenhorn himself but is nevertheless an important part of the overall narrative. It’s a strange, melancholic story that’s very quiet and unlike most other 40k fiction, but is very much worth reading.

Check out my review of The Strange Demise of Titus Endor .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Hereticus (novel #3) If Malleus saw Eisenhorn’s path turning dark, this really ramps things up to 11 as the inquisitor – once such a hardline puritan – is forced to compromise yet further on his principles in order to track down an old enemy. It’s the natural extension of his arc, and forms a powerful, emotional conclusion to the story – if you stopped here, you’d have a brilliant trilogy in and of itself. Of course there’s also a fourth novel ( The Magos ) and the other series, if you still want more!

Check out my review of Hereticus .

eisenhorn xenos book review

The Curiosity (Drusher) One of two short stories featuring Magos Valentin Drusher – who plays an important role in The Magos – this was originally published back in 2003 and presumably wasn’t intended, at the time, to be part of the Inquisition series. It’s a natural fit though, and while Drusher’s reluctant hunt for a beast on the loose takes a different form to an Inquisitorial investigation, it’s no less gripping!

Check out my review of The Curiosity .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Gardens of Tycho (Drusher) Magos Drusher’s second appearance, originally published in the Fear the Alien anthology, this is another tale of amateur investigation as Drusher is called in to help once more when a series of bodies turn up with the apparent signs of animal attacks. It’s more of the same really, but that’s not a problem when it’s as much fun as this!

The Keeler Image

The Keeler Image Eisenhorn meets the Horus Heresy! Well, sort of. There’s certainly a lovely link here – the ‘Keeler’ part of the title will be familiar to most Heresy fans – but it’s very much its own story too, as a post- Hereticus Eisenhorn attends an unconventional auction and finds himself caught up in the action.

Check out my review of The Keeler Image .

eisenhorn xenos book review

The Magos (novel #4) The unexpected fourth part of the trilogy, The Magos is both an anthology collecting together all (well, almost all) of the short stories in one place, and a short-ish novel in its own right. It’s sort of a bridging novel between the other Eisenhorn books and the Bequin series, and heavily features Magos Drusher as well. It’s also the only one of the Eisenhorn novels to not be told from Gregor’s POV.

Check out my review of The Magos .

Check out my interview with Dan Abnett about The Magos .

Forming the second of the three trilogies, the Ravenor books take a secondary character from Malleus (ok, technically Hereticus too) – Gideon Ravenor, once Eisenhorn’s promising interrogator but now an inquisitor in his own right – and tells a different kind of Inquisition story. These are much more about the ensemble, with some familiar faces forming part of Ravenor’s warband, and with a different tone of voice to the first trilogy…but they’re fantastic too!

eisenhorn xenos book review

Playing Patience While some of Ravenor’s warband will be familiar to Eisenhorn readers, other characters are brand new, including the unusually-named Patience Kys. This story tells the tale of how she came to be working with Ravenor, and while it’s suitably action-packed it’s also long enough to be able to really dig into this character in a satisfying way.

Check out my review of Playing Patience .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Ravenor (novel #1) It’s worth reading the Eisenhorn novels first if you can, but if not then this would still be a decent place to start, and the Ravenor trilogy has its own unique voice that some readers prefer to Eisenhorn . It’s pacy, inventive and brilliantly characterful, and kicks off a story – centred around Ravenor’s investigation of an illicit narcotics trade – that goes to different places than the first series, maintaining the same sense of ‘domestic 40k’ but expanding things out to a slightly different scale.

Check out my review of Ravenor .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Thorn Wishes Talon The last of the three shorts to have originally been an audio drama, this is very much a Ravenor story but ties in very closely with the Eisenhorn stories too. Fans of the series will probably be able to figure out the gist of things from the title (depending on their grasp of Glossia), but suffice to say it involves a mysterious meeting on a dark and stormy night, with enemies all around.

Check out my review of Thorn Wishes Talon .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Ravenor Returned (novel #2) Where the second Eisenhorn novel is set a considerable amount of time after its predecessor, this picks up pretty much straight away after the conclusion to Ravenor , with the Inquisitor and his warband working undercover to continue their investigation away from prying eyes. The three volumes of this series feel more closely linked than the Eisenhorn novels, so this is very much setting things up before the finale.

eisenhorn xenos book review

Ravenor Rogue (novel #3) This does pretty much what it says on the tin – Ravenor goes rogue, acting against orders to continue his hunt, track down his prize and prevent a disaster from occurring. It’s hard to say more without giving spoilers – read it and enjoy! (I imagine it’s unlikely that we’ll get a fourth part of this particular trilogy.)

The third (and presumably final?) of the three trilogies, this one started with a bang back in 2012 only to be put on hold for years to follow. The second novel is now (at the time of writing) about to be published, so let’s hope the third one follows soon! Even from one short story and one novel it’s clear that this series is taking a very different approach to the other two, focusing on a deeply ambiguous character who interacts with the Inquisition in a very particular way, and who knows much less about the realities of the galaxy than either Eisenhorn or Ravenor. Mysteries abound, let’s just say that.

eisenhorn xenos book review

Perihelion The Bequin series was originally pitched as “Eisenhorn vs Ravenor” – it’s even on the cover to this short story – and that’s exactly what this particular story deals with. It’s an opportunity to catch up with both inquisitors before the main series kicks off, giving an idea of where each of them stands in terms of loyalty and attitude.

eisenhorn xenos book review

Pariah (novel #1) With a fresh voice and an unusual angle on the idea of an Inquisition story, this launched back in 2012 and blew minds with its mysteries and unexpected ideas. The name Alizebeth Bequin will be familiar to readers of the Eisenhorn series, but a bit of a puzzle too. The city of Queen Mab, the identities of various characters, the nature of allies and enemies…very little is what you expect, and while some readers aren’t so keen on all the twisted world building and ambiguity, I loved it! Just don’t expect answers…

eisenhorn xenos book review

Lepidopterophobia (Medea Unbound) This is a Medea Betancore short story that was included in the Special Edition of Penitent , and subsequently released in the anthology Inferno! Presents: The Inquisition . I asked Dan where it fits into the timeline and he suggested reading it between Pariah and Penitent , which I think makes sense – it’s hard to say too much about this one without giving spoilers, but it’s a fun little story and definitely worthwhile for completists.

Check out my review of Lepidopterophobia

eisenhorn xenos book review

Penitent (novel #2) It’s been a long, agonising wait to find out more about these characters and the mysteries surrounding them, but that wait is nearly over! Penitent is due to go up for pre-order on the 20th February as part of the 2021 ‘Black Library Celebration’, so it won’t be long until we can see what happens next!

Check out my interview with Dan Abnett about Penitent .

Pandaemonium (novel #3 – TBC) The title of the third novel has long been known, but it’s been too far off to really consider. Now though, it doesn’t look so far off. As soon as I hear more about it, I’ll make sure to update this page!

eisenhorn xenos book review

Born to Us As I mentioned earlier, this micro-short (it really is very short), which was released as a standalone e-short back in 2012, is sort of non-canonical. It features Eisenhorn thinking back to a time when he and Nayl were mid-investigation on a world named Koradrum, and is essentially just a few pages of musings on the importance of an inquisitor being able to sift myths and legends for the core of truth that they might contain. It doesn’t tie in to any other stories, and is far from an essential read, but if you’re planning to read it for the sake of completion it’s a fun little extra.

How to get hold of these stories

As usual with Black Library there are, theoretically at least, three formats that some or all of these books are available in – physical, ebook and audio. Most of the stories in the various Inquisition series are available in most formats, with the exception being that if you want hardback editions of the novels (as opposed to paperback) then you’ll have to look for most of them second hand (and I may be wrong, but I’m not sure the first three Eisenhorn novels were ever released in hardback).

eisenhorn xenos book review

Ebooks All the novels are available as individual ebooks, with Penitent coming soon, while there are also the Eisenhorn and Ravenor omnibuses. From a value perspective, getting a whole series as an omnibus seems like the obvious choice. Most of the short stories are available as individual ebooks, with the exceptions seeming to be Master Imus’ Transgression and The Curiosity , but your best bet is to find them in anthologies. The Magos includes all of them except Born to Us , so that would be my suggestion.

eisenhorn xenos book review

Physical copies At the time of writing you can either get hold of now – or will be able to soon – all of the novels in one physical format or another. All of the Eisenhorn books are available as individual paperbacks (including The Magos , which has all of the short stories too) – there used to be an Eisenhorn omnibus but it looks like that’s only in ebook now. The three Ravenor novels, meanwhile, are no longer available individually in paperback, but there is still a paperback Ravenor omnibus (even if it does have terrible cover art, in my opinion). Pariah was originally released in hardback and then paperback, but that edition (with the black and red cover) has been out of print for a long time – but there’s a new hardback edition coming to match the hardback of Penitent .

eisenhorn xenos book review

Audio None of the Eisenhorn or Ravenor novels received the audiobook treatment when they were first released (I don’t think BL did audios back then) but they’ve all been released in audio over the last few years, all of them narrated by the excellent Toby Longworth. The audiobook of The Magos covers the whole book, so not just the novel but the short stories too, which is great! It looks like Penitent is going to be released in audio at the same time as the ebook and hardback editions, so the only one I’m not sure about is Pariah – you would hope it would get an audiobook at the same time as Penitent , but I haven’t heard either way as yet.

There you go, then – I hope this has been useful, whether you’ve read most of this series already or you’re planning on making a start with it. If you haven’t already, do take a look at my reviews of these stories, and give them a go – you can always check out the samples on the BL website if you want to try before you buy.

Have you read some or all of these stories? Do you have a favourite, or are you looking forward to seeing what happens next with the Bequin series? Let me know in the comments below, or over on Twitter .

If you enjoyed this article and would like to support Track of Words, you can leave a tip on my Ko-Fi page .

eisenhorn xenos book review

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Thank you very much for an excellent and impressive survey of this rather wonderful series.

No problem at all, glad you liked it! 🙂

This is very helpful, thanks.

I actually skipped Magos because I thought it was just the short stories rebundled. I’ll have to pick it up.

Cheers Mark, glad it’s been useful! Yeah The Magos is definitely worth reading, hope you enjoy it 🙂

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At Boundary's Edge

At Boundary's Edge

Alex Hormann

BOOK REVIEW: Xenos, by Dan Abnett

eisenhorn xenos book review

-Click here for a full index of my Black Library/Warhammer 40,000 reviews-


Publisher: Black Library

Genre: Grimdark SF

Publication Date: 2001

Verdict: 4/5

The Inquisition is all that stands between mankind and its many enemies. Heretics, Demons, Xenos. All pose an existential threat to the God-Emperor’s people. Gregor Eisenhorn is one Inquisitor among thousands, but something has marked him for greatness . . .

Eisenhorn is one of those names that will be familiar to most Black Library readers. Along with Ibram Gaunt, Gregor Eisenhorn is a creation of the legendary Dan Abnett . The Eisenhorn trilogy (four books if, like me, you include the Magos collection of short stories) is one of the most famous series Black Library have ever put out. A little surprising then, that I’ve never taken the time to read it. I’m a big fan of Abnett’s work, particularly the Sabbat Worlds material. That being said, I didn’t enjoy his  Ravenor trilogy all that much. Since Ravenor is the successor to Eisenhorn , perhaps it’s not so surprising  Xenos has taken me this long to read. But with the upcoming rerelease of  Pariah and the release of  Penitent , I can’t hold of any longer, and Dan Abnett has once again pulled me back into the grim dark world of the forty-first millennium.

It’s a good book, I won’t argue that. Abnett’s prose is tight, his grip on characters and plot are great. A lot of the names are familiar to me by reputation, but there are unfamiliar ones too. Though I went in knowing the broad strokes of Eisenhorn’s tale, the twists and turns of Xenos kept me guessing. An entertaining way to spend a few hours. Like a lot of the earlier Black Library releases, there’s a very pulp sensibility to things. Blood splatters acros the page, characters snarl and bark. Larger-than-life figures lurch and lumber through implausible actions.

And yet. When a book is as famous as this, you can’t help but build up an image of it in your mind. No matter how good a book is, it’s almost impossible to live up to that reputation.  Xenos , like many others, is a victim of its own success. At least it is for me. Short of goin into every book blind, I don’t really see a counter for a problem of this sort. But now that I have an accurate baseline to work on, I’m more excited than before for book two. It’s not that there was anything wrong with  Xenos , it’s that my expectations were too high. Yes, it’s a tad unfair, but these things still have an impact.

If you’ve heard of  Xenos , you’ve probably read it. If not, then dive right in. It’s a great little book, and one of the best jumping on points for the Warhammer 40,000 universe.

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7 responses to “BOOK REVIEW: Xenos, by Dan Abnett”

BOOK REVIEW: Pariah, by Dan Abnett – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

[…] trilogy forms a part of Abnett’s larger Inquisition set of novels, following on from the Eisenhorn novels and the Ravenor trilogy. If you haven’t read these prior works, then first of all you […]

BOOK REVIEW: The Complete Rafen Omnibus, by James Swallow – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

[…] are Blood Angels. This is what Chaos is. This is the grim, dark future. Just like the original Eisenhorn, it’s entry level stuff, while I have been spoiled by a universe that has existed longer than […]

BOOK REVIEW: Divination, by John French – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

[…] you enjoy this book? If so, you might also like:Xenos, by Dan AbnettResurrection, by John FrenchInferno! Presents: The Inquisition, by Various […]

Warhammer 40,000 Is Every Genre, And That Is Why It Works – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

[…] Xenos, by Dan Abnett – One of the earliest Black Library novels is still a masterpiece. It’s positively bursting with grime, grotesque characters, and all the blood and guts you can handle. […]

Where To Start With Black Library? – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

[…] SF on the market, while Dan Abnett’s Inquisition Cycle is a multi-series arc (beginning with Xenos) that is almost complete after over twenty […]

THEORY TIME: What Will The Warhammer 40,000 TV Series Be About? – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

[…] Eisenhorn, by Dan Abnett […]

AT BOUNDARY’S EDGE ESSENTIALS: Warhammer 40,000 – At Boundary's Edge Avatar

[…] Xenosby Dan AbnettWhy it’s Essential: Xenos is arguably the most famous Warhammer novel out there. Written over twenty years ago, it set the tone for a lot of the next decade. It introduces readers to Inquisitors and heretics, placing paranoia and corruption at the forefront of the setting. every Inquisition novel since has lived in Abnett’s shadow, and Eisenhorn himself is the model against which all Inquisitors will inevitably be compared, for better and for worse. […]

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Eisenhorn: Xenos Review

Eisenhorn: Xenos Review

In the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40,000 universe there is only war. War and endless licence tie-ins. Games Workshop recently changed their videogame tactics from “no one gets anything” to “everyone gets everything”. A result has been a veritable tidal wave of games surging from the ether. Development teams have been snapping up sections of the Games Workshop IP with hungry abandon. Eisenhorn: Xenos is a result of that goldrush.

Gregor Eisenhorn is a name familiar to most, if not all, Warhammer 40k fans. Rising from the pages of fan-favourite author Dan Abnett’s book series, the inquisitor takes his first videogame steps. Developer Pixel Hero Games is a canny studio, putting its weight behind a character with an established story to tell. Eisenhorn is a man with near limitless authority, implacable and stern on the outside, troubled on the inside. He’s a complex character and the studio goes someway to capturing the man by casting British actor Mark Strong to voice his lines. Unfortunately, despite sticking as close to the story as possible, Eisenhorn: Xenos doesn’t really succeed in bringing it to life.

As a character piece, the game needs to warm the player to Eisenhorn from the get-go. The model for the inquisitor is accurate to his in-lore descriptions, complete with seals, armour and shining medallions. Strong, while a solid voice actor, seems to suffer from a lack of direction. Most of his deliveries are flat and toneless regardless of the situation. There’s little to no emotional weight to his statements and in sections where you would expect him to be shouting or loud Strong’s voice is kept at the same register as if he were having polite conversation at dinner.


Alex Hamilton

Staff writer.

Financial journalist by trade, GameGrin writer by choice. Writing skills the result of one million monkeys with one million typewriters.


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  • REVIEW: Xenos (book 1 of the Eisenhorn trilogy)

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eisenhorn xenos book review

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Xenos (Eisenhorn)

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Dan Abnett

Xenos (Eisenhorn) Paperback – June 18, 2015

  • Book 1 of 4 Eisenhorn
  • Print length 416 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Games Workshop
  • Publication date June 18, 2015
  • Dimensions 5.12 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • ISBN-10 9781849708722
  • ISBN-13 978-1849708722
  • See all details

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  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ 184970872X
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Games Workshop (June 18, 2015)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 416 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9781849708722
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1849708722
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.12 x 1.1 x 7.8 inches
  • #31,296 in Science Fiction (Books)

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About the author

eisenhorn xenos book review

Dan Abnett is a novelsit and award-winnig comic book writer. He has written twenty-five novels for the Black Library, including the acclaimed Gaunt's Ghosts series and the Eisenhorn and Ravenor trilogies, and with Mike Lee, the Darkblade cycle. His Black Library novel Horus Rising and his Torchwood novel Border Princes (for the BBC) were both bestsellers. He lives and works in Maidstone, Kent.

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  1. Eisenhorn Book 1: Xenos

    eisenhorn xenos book review

  2. Eisenhorn: Xenos (Paperback)

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  3. Xenos: Eisenhorn: Warhammer 40,000, Book 1 (Audio Download): Dan Abnett

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  4. Xenos (Eisenhorn, #1) by Dan Abnett

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  1. КГ играет. Eisenhorn: XENOS

  2. Get To Know Eisenhorn #shorts #40klore #Eisenhorn


  4. Quick EISENHORN walkthrough #shors #eisenhorn #workout

  5. The Eisenhorn Omnibus



  1. Xenos (Eisenhorn, #1) by Dan Abnett

    9,256 ratings628 reviews The Inquisition moves amongst mankind like an avenging shadow, striking down the enemies of humanity with complete ruthlessness. Inquisitor Eisenhorn faces a vast interstellar cabal and the dark power of daemons, all racing to recover an arcane text of supreme and abominable power - an ancient tome known as the Necroteuch.

  2. Book Review: Eisenhorn

    The plot is utterly uncomplicated, with the betrayals being fairly flat and predictable and the factions being incredibly well understood.

  3. Xenos (Eisenhorn #1) by Dan Abnett

    12 ratings1 review The Inquisition moves amongst mankind like an avenging shadow, striking down the enemies of humanity with uncompromising ruthlessness. When he finally corners an old foe, Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn is drawn into a sinister conspiracy.

  4. A Guide to Dan Abnett's Inquisition Series

    Malleus (novel #2) 2001 was a great year for Inquisition fans, with this second novel coming hot on the heels of Xenos.It skips ahead a fair few decades further into Eisenhorn's career, taking the characters out of their comfort zones, ramping up the danger and the tension in that classic second-novel fashion.

  5. [Review] Eisenhorn: Xenos by Dan Abnett : r/Fantasy

    r/Fantasy • 6 yr. ago LynchWriting [Review] Eisenhorn: Xenos by Dan Abnett Review Another review from me. A word of caution, the start is a bit rambley as I explain what Warhammer 40K is. Not to worry, as I've bolded the start of the actual review for those in the know!

  6. XENOS (EISENHORN #1) by Dan Abnett

    XENOS (EISENHORN #1) by Dan Abnett - Book Review iWizard 1.89K subscribers Subscribe 33 740 views 1 year ago #Warhammer #iWizard In this episode, Jordan reviews Dan Abnett's Xenos,...

  7. Eisenhorn (Eisenhorn, #1-3) by Dan Abnett

    Dan Abnett. 4.43. 8,641 ratings374 reviews. Inquisitor Eisenhorn is one on the most senior members of the Imperial Inquisition. With his warband he scourges the galaxy in order to root out heresy. When that heresy is found to infiltrate the hierarchy of the Imperium and the Inquisition itself, he must rely on himself alone to deal with it ...

  8. Xenos (Eisenhorn #1) by Dan Abnett Review- A Fantastic Intro For

    Xenos (Eisenhorn #1) by Dan Abnett Review- A Fantastic Intro For Someone Who Knew Nothing about Warhammer Review I had recently started a game of Rogue Trader (an rpg which features playing stupidly wealthy merchants in the 40k universe) and wanted to learn more about the crazy lore of this game.

  9. Amazon.com: Customer reviews: Xenos (Eisenhorn)

    1,241 total ratings, 94 with reviews From the United States Mark Marcum Re-reading the book Reviewed in the United States on April 10, 2023 Verified Purchase One of the first books I read years ago. I knew it was good and hadn't intended to pick it up again but I bought the Magos book and am reading things in the order Dan Abnett laid out.

  10. Xenos (Eisenhorn): Abnett, Dan: 9781849708739: Amazon.com: Books

    4.6 1,307 ratings Book 1 of 4: Eisenhorn See all formats and editions Part one of the epic Eisenhorn trilogy returns The Inquisition moves amongst mankind like an avenging shadow, striking down the enemies of humanity with uncompromising ruthlessness.

  11. Xenos (Eisenhorn Book 1) Kindle Edition

    4.6 1,310 ratings Book 1 of 4: Eisenhorn See all formats and editions Book 1 in the Eisenhorn series The Inquisition moves amongst mankind like an avenging shadow, striking down the enemies of humanity with uncompromising ruthlessness.

  12. Review: Xenos (Eisenhorn Trilogy, book one) by Dan Abnett

    Review: Xenos (Eisenhorn Trilogy, book one) by Dan Abnett. I haven't done this review thing much but I have Thoughts and hopefully this won't be completely terrible. First off, this is a Warhammer 40K book. I want to mention that first both because it immediately gives some sense of themes and tone (literally the term "grimdark" comes from 40K ...

  13. Eisenhorn: Xenos Review & Discussion


  14. BOOK REVIEW: Xenos, by Dan Abnett

    It's a good book, I won't argue that. Abnett's prose is tight, his grip on characters and plot are great. A lot of the names are familiar to me by reputation, but there are unfamiliar ones too. Though I went in knowing the broad strokes of Eisenhorn's tale, the twists and turns of Xenos kept me guessing. An entertaining way to spend a ...

  15. Xenos (Novel)

    As events unfold and he gathers allies - and enemies - Eisenhorn faces a vast interstellar cabal and the dark power of daemons, all racing to recover an arcane text of abominable power: an ancient tome known as the Necroteuch . Synopsis Part One: Hubris 240.

  16. Eisenhorn Series by Dan Abnett

    4.15 · 9,269 Ratings · 628 Reviews · published 2001 · 1 edition The Inquisition moves amongst mankind like an aven… Want to Read Rate it: Book 1.5 Missing in Action by Dan Abnett 4.08 · 872 Ratings · 43 Reviews · published 2001 · 5 editions Investigating a series of murders leads Inquisitor… Want to Read Rate it: Book 2 Malleus by Dan Abnett

  17. Eisenhorn: Xenos by Ryan O'Sullivan

    58 ratings2 reviews Everyone's favorite Games Workshop character is back in this one-shot stand-alone comic! Set in the years leading up to the Eisenhorn trilogy. Eisenhorn: Xenos Issue #0 reveals secrets about some of Eisenhorn's closest allies, and darkest villains! Not one to be missed for fans of Games Workshop! Genres Comics 22 pages, ebook


    My review of Xenos! The first book in the warhammer 40k eisenhorn trilogy! New Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9tQc_K_LtoCiVGx7_R3FRA Patreon: htt...

  19. Eisenhorn: Xenos Review

    // Reviews // 29th Oct 2016 — 7 years ago // By Alex Hamilton Eisenhorn: Xenos Review In the grim darkness of the Warhammer 40,000 universe there is only war. War and endless licence tie-ins. Games Workshop recently changed their videogame tactics from "no one gets anything" to "everyone gets everything".

  20. REVIEW: Xenos (book 1 of the Eisenhorn trilogy)

    He discovers that the contents of the casket - the Pontius - are of secondary importance compared to the 'true matter' which involves the Saruthi, a Xenos race. Eisenhorn is discovered and then tortured by Gorgone Locke, a ship master in the pay of the Glaws. Eisenhorn escapes a pit fight and, with the help of Voke, destroys the Glaw household.

  21. Xenos (Eisenhorn): Abnett, Dan: 9781849708722: Amazon.com: Books

    Xenos (Eisenhorn) Paperback - June 18, 2015. by Dan Abnett (Author) 4.6 1,281 ratings. Book 1 of 4: Eisenhorn. See all formats and editions. Book 1 in the Eisenhorn series. The Inquisition moves amongst mankind like an avenging shadow, striking down the enemies of humanity with uncompromising ruthlessness. When he finally corners an old foe ...

  22. XENOS ️(Warhammer 40k) REVIEW

    My review of the first book in the Eisenhorn series of Warhammer 40k, Xenos! Get the book: https://amzn.to/3dsOIjMBREACH OF PEACE LINKS: Amazon: https://amzn...

  23. Review

    A terrible, terrible game. Full disclosure: As a fan of the original book series, I have to say that I am a little bit biased. Take this review with that grain of salt. (Also there will be names and terms from the game and the wider lore used, I will try to explain some things, but just roll with it.) I love Warhammer 40k, everything about it.